October 2014

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Council discusses goals and objectives

Manvel Barber Shop gets makeover

CTE Center in old Manvel JH moves forward

Brazoria County Judge Joe King to be feted

Voters to decide new County Commissioner in Precinct 4

Council Members promote Charter Review Commission

City's finance director defends performance

Rodeo Palms nears water improvements

 

 

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Council discusses goals and objectives

October 1, 2014

 

Manvel city council held a special meeting this week to discuss a goal setting process and the establishing of objectives and priorities. City Manager Kyle Jung explained the goal setting process and suggested council put forth broad goals on the direction the city should go and then identify the objectives required to accomplish them.

Member Adrian Gaspar said he would like to see the city finish what it starts. He considers the city “stuck in a rut and nothing gets done. We keep setting goals for next year and the year after and we never finish.” Reciting a litany of items he claims have been deliberately cast aside, he expressed the feeling that some people in this building (city hall) don’t like the recommendations of council members and/or PD&Z and “are wasting my time because you all want all these goals but nobody here is doing what council wants to do. Whose goals are we going to talk about tonight? The council’s goals or the Mayor, City Manager, or City Attorney? Or the developers who come here and buy the land to build for a high profit? That is my number one question.”

Jung responded to Gaspar that efforts have been made to schedule joint workshops and meetings with council in an effort to move along with the revised Comprehensive Plan and residential zoning districts but that members of council have been lax in committing to possible meeting dates. He explained that the committees want to get council’s input and understand its goals and objectives rather than go back and forth on issues that may or may not meet council’s wants.

After the expression of initial passions members developed numerous ideas for city goals. Among the important issues to consider are water, sewer, roads, drainage, parks, and future city personnel requirements. City attorney Bobby Gervais told council that “the things that really count the most start at the top. You get down to the details about facades and stuff later on. You have to make sure you’ve got the proper development, you’ve got the water and the sewer, you will need a wastewater treatment plant and an elevated storage tank to pressurize everything.” He considers Manvel fortunate in that it still has a considerable blank slate to work with. “The Comprehensive Plan is where it starts and now council needs to prioritize their goals.”

Unanimously agreed was the need for better communication among city administrators, council, and city committee members. Mobility both inside and outside the city with an ability to adequately move people was another issue consistently agreed to. Mayor Delores Martin said she would like to see the city acquire fifty acres to house a satellite campus for the Alvin Community College and all agreed education infrastructure is important to the city.

Seemingly most essential to council members and garnering the greatest discussion is the critical need to secure sufficient water resources to meet the future growth. City manager Jung says “water is the key and it is the greatest problem that the city has. The city has to develop plans in order to capture the water that is running through the city. The city has to be able to capture both on storm water and treated effluent.”

City attorney Gervais shared with council that Manvel has a benefit of taking advantage of planning from the Gulf Coast Water Authority (GCWA). He suggested council authorize the city manager to talk with GCWA because “we are going to have to start putting some serious big numbers on anything they find they can get for us; it’s going to cost a lot of money. It’s only going to get worse and more expensive. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a poor investment for a city.” Gervais believes surface water is the key and says the city is blessed with two GCWA canals coming through the city on either side of sand pit that was acquired a while back. The pit is well situated for possible use as a water treatment facility and elevated storage tank.

Council will continue to discuss these issues in the coming months as two important documents are expected for consideration before year end. The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee and PD&Z are likely to present a revised comprehensive plan and the city engineer will be presenting an updated capital improvements plan. Both documents lend themselves to spelling out the city’s long term goals and objectives.

 

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Manvel Barber Shop gets makeover

October 1, 2014

 

After nearly 18 years the Manvel Barber Shop on Hwy 6 and Russel will see a new look. Shop founder Steve Moore passed away in August and his longtime friend and business partner John Cox recently bought the business from Moore’s widow and assumed the lease. Cox said the place will soon “look like a brand new building.”

Moore outfitted the shop to replicate the feel of an old small town barber shop. He had an impressive collection of fishing rods and reels as well as myriad old-time barber fixtures and equipment displayed on walls and in a glass cabinet. That same cabinet held an old-style cash register that rang up a maximum sale of just $5.99. The shop earned a TV news report earlier this year touting its unique atmosphere. In a recent interview following up the TV report, Moore described his collection of old things barber related: “I was single for a lot of years and didn’t have anything to do on weekends and I would get in my car and make like a 300-mile radius, stopping in little town antique shops. That was my weekend event.”

Cox described his relationship with Moore as “like brothers.” The collection of rods and reels and barber equipment was not included in the sale so will no longer define the atmosphere. Cox admits the shop was looking tired and was due for a facelift. He says he wants the place to look bright and have a clean look. The walls and ceilings will be painted and new flooring installed. He hopes to either recover or replace the waiting chairs. “I have work to do and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he says.

Cox is hoping to hire another barber to help him meet the demand. Since Moore’s passing he has put in grueling hours covering the load the two of them used to meet together. He said, “by 5:30 or 6 in the afternoon I am dragging. I’m not 30 years-old anymore. Steve and I never wanted to do more than about fifteen or twenty cuts a day. Here lately I’ve been averaging 35 or 40. That’s why I need another barber.”

Cox did not want to see the shop close. He said “losing a business that has been here eighteen years is kind of tough.” He considers the shop as “a fixture of Manvel. It’s been here so long. I just did not see the clientele that we had just have to go wherever.” He says the hours of operation and costs will remain the same and the business will carry on much as before, just with a different look.

 

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CTE Center in old Manvel JH moves forward

October 8, 2014

 

The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) approved the Construction Manager at Risk Contractor for the Career and Technical Education Center that will be housed at the former Manvel Junior High campus. Gamma Construction was awarded the contract based on their credentials best meeting the required criteria and scoring the district requires. Interim Superintendent told the Board that the company offered the best combination of qualifications and value to the district. Funding for the design of the project was provided in the 2013 bond approved by district voters.

Last August the Board of Trustees heard administration plans to increase the offerings of the CTE program. CTE programs have seen increased emphasis in high schools across the country in recent years due to skyrocketing costs associated with earning a college degree and a more accepted notion that not all students are suited for higher education. Recent findings that skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill are all driving the renewed focus on what was previously known as vocational training.

Three years ago AISD began looking at their overall CTE programs with a goal of developing a five-year district-wide program that would establish the best utilization of district facilities. AISD has presented their plan to Manvel’s Planning, Development, and Zoning Commission that develops an Auto Tech and Collision component in the existing Manvel Junior High Gym building. Future plans for the main Manvel Junior High structure, Phase 2, are in the design and conceptualization stage. Any construction on Phase 2 would be dependent on future funding. The Board of Trustees will authorize the establishment of a committee to determine the likelihood of a bond election in 2015. The CTE Center would represent a key part of the package. If the bond is accepted by voters and all goes according to current plan, the new CTE Center would be ready for students beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.

 

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Brazoria County Judge Joe King to be feted

October 8, 2014

 

The Brazoria County Library System Foundation is sponsoring their seventh annual Author Dinner on Thursday, October 30. This year’s dinner will feature the co-authors of Warden: Texas Prison Life and death from the inside out. The event will honor outgoing Brazoria County Judge Joe King in recognition of his retirement.


Former college roommates Ron Rozelle and Jim Willett recount Willet’s history of a thirty-year career in Texas prisons. According to on-line descriptions the book begins “from his first night as a shotgun-wielding guard to the last man he accompanied to the death chamber. Willett remembers not just the big events of his career but the small ones that give prison life its texture. In measured but powerful prose, he describes the efficient actions of the tie-down team, the prisoner's often meandering last words, and the way that he himself lifted his glasses from his nose to signal the executioner to start the IV flow.” The book has been well received according to Amazon customers whose review score is 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Joe King is stepping down as Brazoria County Judge after serving eight years in the highest elected position in the county. King has a long and distinguished history in Brazoria County. A veteran having served two years in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, he returned to Brazoria County and embarked on a long law-enforcement career that included 12 years as a DPS Trooper, 2 years as a Lieutenant with the Brazoria Police Department, and 24 years as Brazoria County Sheriff. He retired at the end of 2004 to run his family’s ranching operation.

In 1974 King earned an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement from Alvin Community College and in 1977 he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Criminal Justice from the University Of Houston at Clear Lake. Both educational institutions honored him with outstanding alumni awards, Alvin Community College in 2007 and the University of Houston at Clear Lake in 2011. He is a Graduate of the 145th Session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia and taught Law Enforcement classes at Brazosport Community College for 8 years.

King was elected Brazoria County Judge in 2006 and took office January 1, 2007. He is married to Jackie Marshall King and has two children, Sheri and E.J. Jr. Sheri is a Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for Pearland ISD and E.J. Jr. has followed his dad’s footsteps serving as a DPS Trooper in Brazoria County. He also enjoys four grandsons. King resides in Angleton, Texas and is a member of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church. He has served the community for many years with involvement in Associations, Organizations and Boards too many to describe.

In addition to the dinner, author presentation, and the acknowledgment of Judge King, the evening will include a silent auction of book-themed baskets. The authors will be available to sign books which can be purchased at the event. Proceeds go to the Brazoria County Library System Foundation with the intention of using the funds to acquire computers loaded with special software for children ages 6-12. Each of the twelve county library locations will benefit from the event.

Tickets can be purchased from any Brazoria County Library or by calling Library Administration at 979-864-1505 from 9 am to 5 pm weekdays. The Foundation requests reservations be made not later than October 24.

 

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Voters to decide new County Commissioner in Precinct 4

October 15, 2014

 

Brazoria County voters in Precinct 4 will decide on a new commissioner on November 4. Current Commissioner Larry Stanley did not seek re-election after serving one term. Democrat Alan Kolodny is contesting Republican David Linder.

Linder is a lifelong Brazoria County resident living in Bailey’s Prairie. He has nearly thirty years’ experience as a successful business owner in varied interests including, construction, ranching, and retail markets. He also is a licensed peace officer serving the state in that capacity for 18 years. He plans to leverage the knowledge he has gained from each of his life experiences, along with input from Precinct 4 residents, to guide his actions as Brazoria County Commissioner.

Linder considers himself blessed to have been born and raised in Brazoria County, having attended wonderful schools and churches and enjoying many great opportunities the region has afforded. Believing the time is right to involve himself in public service he wants to give back to the community he loves. If elected he plans to work to provide continued opportunities as he benefited from to our kids and grandkids and believes Brazoria County can provide even greater possibilities to future generations.

Recognizing that Brazoria County has and will continue to experience many changes, Linder claims excitement about the opportunities the changes will provide county residents in the years to come. Linder elaborates: “Industry is expanding and employment is on the rise resulting in positive growth. We must prepare for the impact of this growth by proactively addressing the increased traffic and infrastructure demands as well as positioning ourselves to deal with any increase in crime. Strong, steady, conservative leadership is important to address these challenges. I believe county government needs to be run like a business, providing results with fiscal accountability. I promise to vote on every issue as a taxpayer, not as a politician.”

Linder has been married for 29 years to Mollie, an elementary school teacher, and has three children and one grandchild. He is a member in numerous civic organizations, Chambers of Commerce, associations and clubs, and is a trustee of First United Methodist Church.

Alan Kolodny has been a Brazoria County resident for three years living in Rosharon. He grew up in Houston, earned an undergraduate degree form Rice University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. He is married to a chemical engineer working at the Dow Chemical Company in Freeport. Kolodny is a proud democrat and plaintiff’s attorney. As he describes it, “In my job as a plaintiffs’ attorney, I advocate, represent, defend, and stand up for those who deserve a stronger voice. As your Commissioner, I will do that very thing for the people of Precinct 4.”

While acknowledging the challenge of a democrat winning an election in Brazoria County, Kolodny says he “trusts the people to vote for the person they believe in – not the party.” He believes the work of a commissioner is mostly non-partisan: “This is a job that requires advocacy for people to help solve problems. It is not a job where you legislate or set policy in any dramatic way.” Kolodny says he will “put people first.”

Kolodny does not feel the current court is sufficiently looking at every transportation option and expresses a desire to talk with every relevant agency about transit solutions for commuters. He would like to explore greater park and ride and rapid transit possibilities that would provide better access to Houston. He would like to see the unpaved county roads in the northern part of the precinct be upgraded: “People are paying significant taxes and it is not fair for people in the north to have poorer roads than people in the south.”

As an attorney Kolodny claims to solve problems and intends to use those skills to solve people’s problems in Brazoria County. He believes in not passing the buck and says he will try his hardest to advocate for residents when they have dealings with entities outside a commissioners defined purview.

Kolodny says he is not opposed to tax abatements for companies to spur economic development but he favors negotiating more firmly to achieve real jobs. “If we want to provide the abatement to better compete with other sites I would want in return a specified number of good paying union type jobs. Otherwise we are not getting a benefit for taxpayers.” He claims to be pro-business “when it helps people.”

He also favors expanding the sheriff’s department to provide a greater presence in areas affected by growth, particularly in the northern part of the county. He feels coordination among the many entities in the county could be improved. He uses the multiple volunteer fire departments serving the western part of the county as an example. “I think there are way to achieve more efficiency with coordination among the various departments.” He thinks libraries provide a place for children and adults to go and do effective work and would be a strong advocate for the library system. He would help along efforts to build a stand-alone facility to serve Pearland’s west side.

“I really can’t stand waste,” he says. “I feel there is always something that can be done better and more efficiently and thus saving taxpayer dollars.” He believes government “governs best when it facilitates the workings of the economic engine, not as the economy’s fuel but rather as its lubricant. Prosperity for all of Brazoria County residents hinges on a diversified economy. I will use the office of Commissioner to promote business development and job opportunities.”

Kolodny believes good planning can provide residential and commercial development that minimizes the impact on our natural habitats. He “refuses to believe that we have to trade clean air, clean water, our health, our children’s health, our environment, and the future of our communities for jobs in Brazoria County. As your Commissioner, I will tirelessly advocate for better industry standards and compliance.”

Early voting begins October 21 and runs through October 28.

 

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Council Members promote Charter Review Commission

October 15, 2014

 

Manvel council member Adrian Gaspar would like to see a better balance within the city’s administration. Supporting his fellow council member John Cox in promoting the appointment of a Charter Review Commission, Gaspar expresses concern that the City Manager maintains authority that is not sufficiently scrutinized by city council. Making changes to the city charter, he believes, would address that concern.

Cox has expressed his desire for a Charter Review several times but only recently have his fellow council members more seriously considered the issue. Cox was on the original commission charged with crafting the document. As he explains it, “All we did was put the foundation on the ground. There are so many thing we hashed out that the sixteen members couldn’t agree on. Cox feels the charter is in need of “tweaking.” He makes the case that “there are some duties the mayor could probably take over that she used to do in the past before we had Kyle and would relieve Kyle to give him more time to spend with contractors, developers, engineers, and different things.” Cox went on to say that he does not favor changing the structure of the charter but feels there are a lot of gray areas that need to be eliminated. The current charter was approved by Manvel voters in May 2011. It provides for a mandatory review at least every five years but can be done sooner if authorized by city council.

Gaspar feels council “needs more of an opportunity to be involved, and especially when you bring me a packet and I have to make a decision tonight. The charter stripped the mayor of all her power and gave it to Kyle; we don’t have a balance and that is what I am looking for. In the past the council was more involved in public works, the police department, in different areas of the city. Now the council just sits here and we get briefed on stuff and it happened before in council we found out later information that we didn’t have when we made a decision and we got caught with our pants down because the information did not come to us completely. That is why I agree with John (Cox) that we need to modify this charter, maybe not much, but we need more input. It cannot be one leader who does it all and Kyle just telling us whatever he wants to and briefs us on whatever he wants to.”

One issue Gaspar feels strongly about is the city’s hiring and firing process. He favors greater transparency and council involvement in the employment of city personnel. He thinks allowing the city manager to have sole authority over who is hired could lead to workers “being loyal just to the city manager rather than doing the right thing for the community.” He recalled the process went through when the city manager was hired: “The whole council looked at the applications and made a decision on the final 4 to 5 applicants before hiring Mr. Jung. I believe that this is the right way to hire people, not just one person reviewing the applications and deciding this is who I want.”

Jung explained that “in a council-manager form of government, the city council does not have much if any role in hiring the staff other than the city manager, city attorney, and the municipal judge. The form of government sets up the council’s role as a policy making body. Under a council-manager form of government, having more input on hiring is not your role. Your role is to set policy, to set vision, to set direction for the staff and the city, and you provide the resources in order to do that. If something is not getting done the way that you want, you address it to the specific people you hold accountable, the manager, attorney, and municipal judge. You don’t have direct interaction with the staff. If you want to change that, you can do that.”

Gaspar expresses unhappiness in other matters too. He considers the $50,000 spent on a Master Drainage Plan as money “down the drain” as the plans authors are now demanding more money to respond to council’s concerns and questions. Other members express similar frustration feeling their concerns and questions are being stifled from the demand for more money. The city manager explained at a recent meeting that the Plan’s author has met the terms of the contract in both its preparation and presentation and reminded council that it had two occasions to discuss and question the Plan’s recommendations.

Gaspar feels the desire of citizens is being ignored on the discussion of lot size requirements in favor of the subdivision developers. After accepting public comments PD&Z recommended council amend the subdivision ordinance to require larger lot sizes. Current discussions are leaning toward a more diverse offering of lot sizes including smaller 50 foot widths that PD&Z claims are not wanted by current citizens. As Gaspar puts it, “What is hypocritical to me is that we have heavy restrictions on the businesses that come to build here, but god forbid you place restrictions on the subdivisions. To me it’s not about all that (building density and profit), but about giving people the freedom to purchase the home on the lot that they want and not what is imposed on them by the subdivision builders.”

Cox previously expressed his interest in changes as well: “I think we stripped the mayor of all her power and I think she needs to have some of her authority back. I think with the city growing the way it is we are putting too much load on Kyle (City Manager Kyle Jung). I think some of the load needs to be split.” Cox also believes the city should consider compensating the mayor, saying “the work the mayor puts in to this town, there is no reason she should not be compensated something.” Jung told council that it would not be good to split authority between the mayor and the city administrator as nobody would recognize whose role the day-to-day running of the city would fall to.

He also would like to see discussion on possibly paying council members some form of stipend citing most nearby communities that already do so.

Cox believes a review could be accomplished within ninety days. He explained that the original commission took much longer as the group started with nothing and had to sort through numerous examples from other cities to craft the charter that was ultimately presented to voters. “The foundation is there, all you have to do is go through each chapter and if you see something you are not happy with you talk about it.” Each council member has been asked to submit two names for consideration to serve on the commission. Council is expected to decide on the appointment of an 11-member Commission at its next council meeting.

 

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City's finance director defends performance

October 22, 2014

 

At a previous council meeting Manvel’s director of finance was accused of inadequately administering her responsibilities. Most notable among the denunciations and receiving the bulk of discussion among city council was the assertion by the city’s auditor, and affirmation by the city manager, that monthly bank reconciliations had not been done since late last year.

Phyllis Herbst took the opportunity to defend herself at last week’s council meeting. Reading from a prepared statement, she first reiterated what the auditor affirmed that the audit resulted in a clean opinion; no indication of impropriety was present. She pointed out that such has been the case in each of the 11 plus years that she has been contracted by the city.

Herbst took issue with the audit report being presented to council prior to her reviewing it. If given that opportunity, she says, she would have been able to answer the concerns. Herbst insinuated that the auditors did not care to discuss with her “the bad things she had done” and felt the need to “bring them out in the open.” She accused the auditor’s presentation of being contrived and deliberate “to make council question my ability to oversee the city’s finances, opening the door to changing finance directors.” She went on, “In the blink of an eye a stranger walked in without adequate knowledge of the subject and with a few words and the assistance of the media tarnished my reputation and ability to perform the city’s accounting.”

The “stranger” Herbst apparently refers to is Chris Breaux. He has performed the city’s audit since at least 2005 and one would assume he is familiar with the city’s finance department, its personnel, and its procedures. In considering the media complicit in her adversity she fails to acknowledge that she declined an opportunity to respond to the issues before the previous story in this paper was submitted. She likewise declined to provide any comment for this follow-up article.

In her presentation Herbst went on to explain several numbers and accounting procedures contrary to the auditor’s conclusions, in effect accusing the auditors of shirking responsibility in catching errors and ensuring that everything was reported properly. She did concede an error on her part but claimed it worked in favor of the city and was not of significance due to the small dollar amount relative to the overall budget. “These items were not presented in a very good light” and “could be really bad things if you don’t have all the facts,” she said. Herbst says she was “not asked about these items nor given a chance to respond before the presentation. There was no support from management.” She proceeded to castigate “management”, presumably meaning the city manager, as possessing insufficient knowledge to adequately respond to auditor’s questions due to the fact he is not a CPA and does not possess the broad knowledge of the city’s finances as does she. “If the appropriate questions had been asked by management, certain conclusions would not have been made,” she suggests.

Regarding the undone bank statements, Herbst claims they were completed but simply not printed. She says the auditor was resolutely uninterested in allowing her the opportunity to produce them prior to the presentation. “I never gave it another thought” and “didn’t realize people would think that we really had not been reconciling the accounts at all,” she said. Herbst went on to declare that the day following the disparaging report to council the city’s bookkeeper, Brenda Derouen, printed out the reports and spent some five hours reconciling the August 2014 statement. “There was no way Brenda could have reconciled all those months in less than two days if they had not already been done. It would have taken at least a week to reconcile each month from start to finish.” Derouen’ s comments at the previous council meeting seemed to confirm the auditor’s claims that reconciliations had not been done, which she blamed on a change in accounting software. Later comments on her part, however, indicate reconciliations had been completed through April on the computer and that subsequent months had been done manually.

On the lateness of this year’s audit, Herbst explains it as too many demands placed on her and being directed to work on other needs. On assertions the lateness of the audit further delayed the long anticipated water and sewer infrastructure project along Hwy 6, Herbst declares that to be untrue and merely served as an appearance that she was responsible for the delay due to being “so behind on the work.”

Herbst believes the pretense of wrong-doing on her part was an opportunity by management to promote a change in finance directors. Herbst is a contractor and not a city employee. She likes that status, she says, “Because I enjoy a certain independence.” She explained to council that two years ago she asked for help in the finance department and did so again in this year’s budget negotiations. She admits the department has struggled to keep up with the increasing workload despite her increasing the hours she puts in, claiming to be at city hall “almost every day.” She would like to see a part-time person about 60-hours per month added to the department to help with the day-to-day work. “I need to be reviewing and directing the department,” she says. Herbst would like to have equal opportunity as other city department heads to ask for new employees and make her own decisions about how to run the department.

Herbst feels “management desires another person,” and seemed to express irritation that the position had been posted for outside applications when other city positions have moved from contract to full-time without such posting. She goes on to say that she has not submitted a resume because she does not feel it would be seriously considered. She believes changes in the department are needed conceding her vision differs from what “management has planned.” It appears she favors maintaining her contract status while employing lower level staff to take on more of the load. She concluded her statement essentially leaving her position to city council discretion, seemingly wanting them to overrule “management” on wanting to hire a full-time director.

It is unlikely council will see things her way based on comments that suggest a general accord on the idea that it is time for the city to have a full-time finance director. Member Maureen DelBello said, “Our city has grown so much that it is time we have a full time director that is there every day overseeing the department and handling items that need to be addressed as well as being accountable for our finances.” Mayor Delores Martin feels “the time for commitment is now. I do think it is time we hire a full-time finance director, whoever it may be. If she or he has part time help, he or she would have to be here full time.”

Kyle Jung feels “the increasing amount of work in the finance department has demonstrated the need for a full time finance director.” He went on to say that “any implication about plans to deliberately replace her (Herbst) are incorrect.” On at least two occasions, according to Jung, inquiries to Herbst regarding her moving to a full-time position yielded her desire to remain a contract worker.

The auditor, Chris Breaux, was not present at the workshop as Herbst made her defense. Asked later at the council meeting for his take on the matter he steadfastly denied there was or is any collusion to cast a bad light on Herbst and her department. Mayor Delores Martin said she has known Breaux for many years and “I never had any type of problem before with him or his work.” Neither the mayor nor other members of council that offered comment believe the accusation by Herbst that she was deliberately denied an opportunity to answer the issues presented.

Another agenda item at the meeting resulted in council putting off a decision on naming an auditor for next year. Given the current conflict along with a desire to spend less money and the feeling among some on council that a fresh assessment of the city’s finances and procedures would be favorable, it appears likely the city will hire a new auditor when council next meets.

The city charter grants to the city manager the hiring decision on the finance director position with “the concurrence of the city council.”

 

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Rodeo Palms nears water improvements

October 29, 2014

 

Manvel city council took the necessary steps to renew a building moratorium that has been in place for Rodeo Palms since June of last year. The action was a necessary formality as council must renew the moratorium every 120 days to preserve its enforcement. City Manager Kyle Jung told council, however, that the engineer for MUD 29, which serves the Rodeo Palms subdivision, is hopeful of a new well coming on stream for residents maybe as soon as this week.

The engineer wrote an email to the city explaining the well construction as substantially complete and now waiting only on CenterPoint to establish power to the well. The engineer says they will exercise the well immediately to run the necessary tests to ensure passing inspection from the city. Jung said “we are hoping that will all be done and that well will be up and running by the end of this week.”

Water problems at Rodeo Palms surfaced first in the summer of 2011 when residents were subject to water rationing, initially attributed to the statewide drought conditions. A local news station aired a story in August 2011 of threatened fines to Rodeo Palms homeowners of up to $10,000 for violating its water restriction rules. The planned opening of the new Junior High School in August 2012 brought the water concerns to greater scrutiny when preliminary tests at the school failed to produce sufficient water volume in order to earn an occupancy certificate from the city. Subsequent tests, however, did prove adequate to meet code requirements and the school opened as scheduled.

The attorney for MUD 29 conceded at the time that the MUD was “undertaking significant efforts to expand its water supply sources, including the design and construction of an emergency interconnect water line to a nearby water supply system and the design of a third water well.” Minutes obtained from the MUD Board’s March 2012 meeting showed efforts at improvement were ineffective and a consultant for the MUD explained the loss of well capacity as “an emergency condition.”

The moratorium on development was not put in place until July 2013 after a MUD attorney addressed council regarding the construction of a new water well to service the development. Council was told then that capacity remained for “maybe a couple dozen taps to be connected”. The city’s attorney explained the moratorium: “Because there is not water capacity to service any more property development from MUD 29 at this time, we are going ahead with the moratorium to preserve the status quo by not accepting applications for Certificates of Occupancy, development permits, or plats for land located within the boundaries of MUD 29 until such time that MUD 29’s Board of Directors can certify in writing that additional capacity is secured.”

In October 2013 a MUD attorney told council that District engineers felt they could increase the well capacity and requested council authorize the issuance of building permits for 32 new connections. Council took up the appeal in executive session and seemed poised to agree to the request upon receipt from MUD 29’s engineer a report certifying that there is sufficient water capacity to meet the new construction without compromise to existing system users. No report was produced, however, and the moratorium remained in place.

Rodeo Palms residents will be pleased to have the added capacity, which MUD representatives claim “should take care of all the water needs throughout the complete build-out of the development.” Homeowners were burdened with a tax increase to pay for the new well and most property owners already consider themselves overtaxed as they are obligated to pay not only the MUD 29 tax but also the customary tax rate charged to Manvel citizens.

A consequence of the moratorium, which many residents favored, was a delay of a plan from a Legend Homes subsidiary that set forth their intention of building a 200 home community consisting solely of rental properties. Residents gave an earful to council in April last year opposed to the plan and wanted something done to stop it. City Manager Kyle Jung explained the city would not approve or disapprove the plan as “it has already been platted, Legend already owns the property, and they can build the houses whenever they want to; there is nothing the city can do.”

Residents were not satisfied with that explanation and several town hall meetings were held to explore options on halting the plan. Manvel’s City Attorney, Bobby Gervais has said that “there is very little you can do to stop someone from being able to rent their house as that is an inherent right when you own property.” Gervais crafted an ordinance that has been approved by council that will require a property owner to register their rental property so that the city knows who the landlord is in case the tenant fails to keep the property up. The ordinance also gives the city some ability to go after people who may not be keeping their houses up to code. Gervais explained further that the ordinance would provide some entry powers and will call for regular inspections of the houses. He made clear that the city is not able to pass a law forbidding a property owner from renting their property.

With the moratorium expected to be soon lifted, the status of that plan by Legend Homes is unclear.

 

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