July 2015

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Pomona development to open soon

Economic Development Corporation to discuss budget

County urges preparedness for hurricane season

Council discourages Southpoint Crossing Development

Mayor Martin recognized for years of service

Kelledy Cofer passes

Council focused on lot sizes

City's building inspection process under scrutiny

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Pomona development to open soon

July 1, 2015

 

Manvel is expected to soon see the opening of the master planned community known as Pomona.  City council is expected to see numerous agenda items for next week’s meeting that will ask for authorization that, if given, will essentially open the project for business.  Already a temporary sales office is open on site, five model homes are under various stages of construction, and major roadways are ready for traffic.  As explained by Manvel’s City Manager Kyle Jung, once the roads are officially open, “the residential sections will be ready for builders and the subdivision will be firmly underway.”
 
The development comprises approximately 1,000 acres and will contain 2,100 single family homes along with various multi-family residential and commercial structures upon its maturity.  The development’s Master Plan also shows two reserves established for an elementary school and a junior high school within its boundaries.  The development will be served by the Alvin Independent School District (AISD).  Development boundaries are not exact, but generally follow the American Canal on the north, CR 48 on the west, SH 288 on the east, and CR 58 on the south.
 
Hillwood Communities is the developer of the project and is a company in the portfolio of Ross Perot.  Builders with model homes currently under construction that show identification include Highland Homes, Plantation Homes, and Trendmaker Homes.  David Weekly Homes and Coventry Homes are also expected to be part of the project’s first phase of 300 homes.  As stated on the project website, “Hillwood’s vision for this project is to bridge today’s modern lifestyle conveniences to a simpler, laid-back character found in the charming Gulf Coast communities of the South.  The Mustang Bayou, a river that will serve as the heart of the community, defines Pomona and features amenities, schools and gathering spaces linked by an extensive trail system. More than 300 acres of the property will remain open space in the form of wetlands and protective waters. Improvements to the bayou include planting native grasses and trees.”
 
Pamona was the original name given the current city of Manvel.  Around the time of the railroad coming to town in 1877 it was learned that an existing Pamona in West Texas already had claim to the name.  Citizens decided on Manvel at the suggestion of a railroad representative who stated that was “the name of the railroad president, an important man, and the railroad would make Manvel important to this community.”  Allen Manvel was an official of the railroad who resided and worked in Chicago.  It is not at all clear whether he ever even visited the city.  Allen Manvel was born in 1837 and died in 1893.  He had three daughters and left no descendants carrying his name.
 
A couple of miles south is another large master planned community that also is steadily moving forward.  Meridiana held an official groundbreaking ceremony last April at the development’s primary entrance on SH 288, currently designated as CR 56 in Iowa Colony.  The road is to be renamed Meridiana Parkway and will work its way east through Iowa Colony to CR 786 and then meander in a northeasterly direction through Manvel eventually terminating at SH 6 where it meets McCoy Road across from Manvel High School.  Plans call for a bridge on McCoy that will cross over the railroad track that runs parallel to SH 6.  The 2,700 acre master-planned community reportedly includes more than 5,500 single family homes.
 
Developers have been disinclined to share project details but did announce this week that construction is well underway on Meridiana’s on-site elementary school.  It describes it as a “21st century, two-story design that will feature exterior windows, creating an open concept, as well as offering ample natural light and great views.  The school’s signature feature will include a stunning centrally located library spanning the full height of the building with soaring, clerestory windows.”  The project website describes the project as “the ultimate in premier luxury living!”  It goes on to explain the project: “From extraordinary schools to extraordinary amenities, Meridiana is more than an exceptional place to call home, it’s an utterly engaging experience alive with the spirit of exploration and discovery.”  The website promises updates to be posted soon.
 
Meridiana had been percolating for years before finally getting under way this year.  Originally to be called Seven Oaks, back in November 2009 Manvel city council approved preliminary plats for the project.  Public hearings were held on the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and city council ultimately approved its creation in May 2010.  Developers then expected homes to be on the ground in Late 2010 or early 2011.  City council granted the developer’s request to change the name to Meridiana in December 2010.  A national economic recession resulted in the project being put off.  Developers returned to city council to renew plats and development agreements according to requirements but were generally non-committal on their intent to break ground until just before doing so.
 
Currently existing developments carry on at strong paces as well.  Lakeland continues to sell homes nearly as fast as they are built and with the recent resolution of its wastewater capacity a new Phase 3 is expected to break ground any time.  Sedona Lakes recently won council approval to alter their development plan to include a larger number of smaller lot sizes as the project’s developer argued that is where the current market demand is.  Additional phases of that project are already under construction.  Rodeo Palms is also seeing increased activity with the completion of a new water well that is supposed to easily supply future development needs for the project.  City council recently approved plats for new subdivisions that are currently under construction.
 
With the new rooftops coming, it is hoped that a large grocery store will more seriously consider a location within the city.  In an effort to help along that decision, the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has funded the construction of water and wastewater infrastructure along a large portion of both sides of SH 6 so that capacity now exists essentially from SH 1128 all the way to SH 288.  Another infrastructure improvement that will encourage commercial development is the putting in of high-speed fiber optic cable that Comcast is currently installing on Hwy 6 through Manvel.  According to city manager Kyle Jung, they are also planning to install it from Hwy 6 north on FM 1128.  Jung said he was told that four businesses have already contacted Comcast about obtaining high speed internet and possibly phone service from them.  Looking ahead proactively, Comcast said they are building their infrastructure prior to the growth so that when it is needed, they are ready to provide it.

 

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Economic Development Corporation to discuss budget

July 8, 2015

 

The Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is scheduled to discuss the 2016 fiscal year budget at its regular monthly meeting this week.  Corporation members are pleased to expect a significant increase in revenue in the coming year due primarily to city voters authorizing the return of a full ½ cent sales tax allocation as was provided upon the Corporations inception.  Voters supported the repeal of a temporary ¼ cent sales tax that provided revenue for maintenance and repair of municipal streets that was approved by voters in 2011.  The repeal allows the full portion to be returned to MEDC to promote positive development opportunities for the city.  MEDC will also see improved revenue resulting from the general increase in sales tax receipts in Manvel.
 
This year’s budget was approximately $300,000 with project expenditures nearing $1 million for water and sewer infrastructure on both sides of SH 6.  Revenue for the next fiscal year should be well in excess of $600,000 giving the corporation increased opportunities to promote economic development for the city.
 
In 2013 MEDC committed $1.6 million toward water and sewer infrastructure improvements along SH 6 that are vital to the city’s ability to land a large grocery store or other big box retail establishment.  For years prospective commercial developments were turned away due the city’s inability to fund the construction of the needed utility services.  MEDC members generally consider continued infrastructure development as a primary focus in the near term.  The city’s wastewater treatment plant is nearing capacity and current volume would prove insufficient to accommodate a large retail or commercial development.  MEDC members favor a proactive approach to impending development and the critical need of increased water and sewer capability well displays the type of improvement a better funded MEDC is expected to focus on during its budget discussions.
 
Projects funded through MEDC produce real benefits to tax payers that go beyond mere physical improvements, such as a grocery store, that citizens would enjoy for many years. The tax burden on residents is diminished as the city does not have to fund the project through bonds or debt obligations that usually result in an increase in the local property tax rate.  MEDC is funded by sales taxes; a significant portion of their projects are funded by non-citizens. 
 
The public is always welcome at MEDC meetings and encouraged to attend.  Meetings are customarily held the second Wednesday of each month at Manvel City Hall.  Meetings begin at 7PM.

 

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County urges preparedness for hurricane season

July 8, 2015

 

Hurricane season is one month in progress and runs through the end of November.  Recent catastrophic flooding in parts of the Houston area well demonstrates the need for citizens to be prepared and ready should a hurricane affect northern Brazoria County.  County officials have produced an official guide to help citizens in that process.
 
Hurricane Ike was seven years ago this September.  Most residents who were residing here then surely remember the storms intensity.  Ike was of abnormally large size and at one point in its development had a diameter of over 600 miles.  The storm left in its wake significant flooding and extensive damage to infrastructure and agriculture along the entire Gulf Coast of the United States from Florida to Texas.  Ike proved to be the third costliest Atlantic hurricane and resulted in an estimated $29.5 billion in damages and 112 deaths.  Damage from the storm is surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina, which inundated New Orleans in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the New Jersey shore in 2012. 
 
In making available the Preparedness Guide, Brazoria County Emergency Managers explain that “preparedness is the key to protecting your family and property.”  Making plans in advance will “ensure you and your family will survive any hurricane that may threaten our area.  Knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take will prepare you to handle most any emergency situation.”
 
The guide stresses the importance of residents with special health care or transportation needs to register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (S.T.E.A.R).  Those with a disability or who may be medically fragile and who do not have friends or family to help in an evacuation should register in advance of a storm in the Gulf so that authorities will have a record of the individual requiring assistance.  Registration is available by dialing 2-1-1 or on line at https://STEAR.dps.texas.gov.
 
If a resident requires public transportation for a ride out of town in case of an evacuation, they are requested to meet at one of two county evacuation hubs.  Northern county residents should meet at the Pearland Recreation Center and southern county residents at the Angleton Fairgrounds.  These residents will be driven to a pre-arranged shelter in Belton, Texas.
 
For residents with their own transportation, officials urge they leave as early as possible.  Mandatory evacuation orders will be based on zip codes and issued before a storm makes landfall.  “As hurricanes can be extremely unpredictable and can become much more dangerous in a matter of hours, it is not safe to wait.”  There are no mandated routes to use and any destination is acceptable.  Designated evacuation routes from Brazoria County include SH 36, SH 288, and SH 6.  Officials emphasize that choosing alternate routes may result in essential services such as food, and fuel being unavailable.
 
Those with nowhere to go or who may have financial challenges should drive to Belton, Texas, which has been assigned as the public shelter for Brazoria County residents.  Belton is in Bell County about mid-way between Austin and Waco on IH 35.  Residents are urged to keep their vehicle in good repair with at least a half tank of fuel, they check on friends and neighbors who may have special needs, and that a disaster supply kit be prepared in advance that will be ready to go when an evacuation order is given.
 
Brazoria County has established a partnership with an internet radio provider (www.kbraz.com) that will deliver information wherever an internet connection is available.  This will allow up to the minute information on any smart phone or computer.  Instructions on downloading a free app are on the website which otherwise provides important information, current weather conditions, news and sports, and several locally produced live shows and podcasts.
 
The guide emphasizes that those who choose to ignore an evacuation order do so at their own peril.  There will be no shelters in Brazoria County and there will be no public or utility services available.  “Hospitals will close, ambulances will not run, and police and fire cannot respond until the storm passes.” 
 
The guide offers considerably more information than can be presented in this article.  Greater detail on available public shelters and what can and cannot be taken to them is presented.  How to facilitate animal evacuations is addressed for both small domestic animals and livestock.  Tips to prepare your home and vehicle for storm water impact is also presented as is a Family Disaster Check List.
 
The Brazoria County Hurricane Preparedness Guide can be accessed on line at the Brazoria County website (www.BrazoriaCounty.com).  Hard copies are also available at most local and county government offices.  Additional information can be had by calling any Manvel emergency official or city hall.

 

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Council discourages Southpoint Crossing Development

July 15, 2015

 

Developers representing the proposed Southpoint Crossing project presented their plans to city council this week in an effort to gain comments and input.  The program as presented was generally not well received by council and the developers were dismissed having to reconsider their concept.
 
Southpoint Crossing is comprised of 13 acquired tracts of land totaling 271 acres and offers significant frontage along the east side SH 288.  The contiguous property runs from just north of SH 6 to just south of the Sedona Lakes project with the eastern border following generally the planned Manvel Parkway, which extends approximately from Iowa Lane.  The primary entrance to the project would be across SH 288 from Rodeo Palms Parkway.  TxDOT is currently considering a final plan that would join the road on either side of 288 that developers expect by the end of the year.  The project is described as a “boutique community” by the developers and plans provide for mostly single family homes that are claimed to be “a little bit nicer.”  The planned detention facilities will be designed to hold water; the resulting lakes would then be utilized as amenities with fountains and a series of connected walking trails throughout the subdivision. 
 
The project appears to consider the so-called millennials as a prime market they would like to capture, explaining that millennials are setting the “market trend” in looking for a “nicer home with a nicer finish, with some yard but not a whole lot of yard.”  Millennials are generally considered as born between the years 1980 and 2000.  The plan calls for 46% of the lots to be 50 feet in width, 30% to be 55 feet in width, and the balance consisting of mostly 60 foot lots.  Though some 70 foot lots are included in the plan, the developer explained they would necessarily require a higher price point than the market would likely support, intimating that size product would likely be small in number.  The expected starting price would be in the range of $264,000 for the 50 foot lots, which are described as “nicer and upscale.” 
 
Maintaining consistency in the prevailing attitude among council that small lots are anathema, the developers quickly learned their plan of over 70% in lots less than 60 feet would be a hard sell.  Mayor Martin described Manvel as still primarily a rural community and claims “people we talk to actually prefer a larger lot.  That people are tired of living on a postage stamp and want to move where there is green grass, a blue sky, and stars at night.”  Another part of the development plan that received a steadfast rebuke was the provision of a 250 unit multi-family apartment complex as part of the project.  Council has consistently discouraged, and even in some cases outright denied, apartment development within the city.  Exceptions were made for the Pomona Development, much to the chagrin of neighboring developers, ostensibly because of significant other amenities that would make up for any perceived detriment the apartments would deliver.  An apartment project is just breaking ground south of CR 59 between SH 288 and the Southfork Parkway, but because the project is in the city’s Extra-territorial Jurisdiction and not the city limits, council had no authority to prevent the construction as it met all compulsory permitting requirements.

 

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Mayor Martin recognized for years of service

July 15, 2015

 

Mayor Delores Martin was caught unsuspecting at this week’s council meeting as member Adrian Gaspar surprised her with a proclamation from the Texas State Senate.  In making the presentation Gaspar admitted that he and the mayor “bumped heads” when he took office four years ago.  “I think that over time we learned our differences, we learned how to discuss issues, and we learned how to come to an agreement and work together for the better of the populace of Manvel.  In my opinion I think she is a good mayor, and even though we have differences I do like the mayor.”   The proclamation recognized the mayor for her leadership of the city and for her commitment to public service.  Martin has served as Manvel’s mayor for fourteen years.  The proclamation went on to credit her for bringing together communities from across the region through her work on numerous committees and leadership positions for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, on which she has served for twelve years.  She also is involved in a wide range of church and philanthropic activities in the Houston area.  The mayor was credited for demonstrating integrity, generosity, and an enduring commitment to good governance.
 
The Senate proclamation read “that the Senate of the State of Texas, with high regard, hereby commends Mayor Delores Martin on her many contributions to her community and extend to her best wishes for continued success in all her endeavors.  The proclamation was signed by State Senator John Whitmore who also presented a Texas flag that was flown over the State Capitol on June 26, 2015.  The mayor exclaimed excitement saying “that was very nice, thank you” and received a well-deserved ovation from her fellow council members, city staff in attendance, and citizens in the audience.

 

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Kelledy Cofer passes

July 15, 2015

 

Kelledy Kay Cofer, daughter of long time Manvel residents John and Patty Cox, passed away on July 7 in Houston from complications resulting from a stroke.  Mrs. Cofer was 33 years old, born December 6, 1981 in Houston, Texas.  She lived in the Manvel-Alvin area all her life and for the past 13 years worked alongside her mother and best friend as co-owner of the Make It Personal Embroidery shop in Alvin.  She is preceded in death by her daughter, Georgia Cofer.
 
Mrs. Cofer’s life was celebrated with an overflow crowd at Crowder Funeral Home in Pearland as friends and family paid respects.  She leaves behind to cherished memories her husband of 12 years, Charles Cofer; son, Cash Cofer; parents, John and Patty Cox; grandmother, Doris Jordan; sister, GiGi Wallace and husband Keith; brother, Geno Lightfoot and wife Stephanie; nieces and nephews: Dakota Oehlert and husband Colby, Reagan Norwood, Payton Norwood, Brooklyn Norwood, Chey Lightfoot, Mason Lightfoot, Ava Lightfoot, Shelby Lightfoot, Jordan Barajas, Piper Lightfoot, Sidney Lightfoot and one great niece Realyn Oehlert.
 
The family requested contributions be made to the Kelledy Cofer account at YouCaring.com.

 

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Council focused on lot sizes

July 22, 2015

 

Recent months have produced several instances of residential developers experiencing Manvel city council’s persistent view of what development should like in the city.  A recent council workshop included a presentation by principles in the proposed Southpoint Crossing project which is comprised of 271 acres offering significant frontage along the east side of SH 288.  With many future residents anticipated to commute to Houston and to the Lake Jackson/Freeport area, SH 288 will be the primary transportation corridor feeding those job centers.  The strategic location of the Southpoint Crossing property dictates it being a pivotal piece to the city’s impending growth.  The joining of the development’s primary corridor to Rodeo Palms Parkway will provide convenient access to and from SH 288 and the planned toll road that will run from CR 58 to US 59 just south of downtown Houston.  Latest projections call for completion of that toll road by 2019.  The toll road will eventually extend further south to CR 60 where it will meet the planned Grand Parkway. 
 
The project’s boundaries extend from just north of SH 6 to south of Sedona Lakes.  The eastern boundary follows generally the planned Manvel Parkway, which extends from Iowa Lane.  Southpoint Crossing’s vision as presented to council anticipates most of the 288 frontage including commercial/retail development and a multi-family apartment complex.  The bulk of the project would consist of single family homes that the presenters described as a “boutique community” and claim their product to be “a little bit nicer” than the usual offerings.
 
Similar to other developers who have recently visited with council, the presenters explained the current market trend as they see it being toward smaller lot sizes that are below the city’s minimum 60 feet as provided for in the subdivision ordinance.  Southpoint Crossing, as it was shown to council, would offer 76% of its lots at either 50 feet or 55 feet.  The balance of the project would consist of 60 foot lots with only a small number of 70 foot lots being offered.  In making their case, the presenters referenced the millennial generation as a prime focus of their market expectation. 
 
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) looked at generational housing trends and found that millennials (or Generation Y), those born between 1980 and 2000, comprise the largest segment of the home buyer market at 32%.  Generation X, which covers those born between 1965 and 1979, follow at 27%.  Additional findings in NAR reports return the realization that young professionals today desire different home features, interior design, and outdoor space than what their parents had and what many of them grew up with.  As related to lot sizes and seeming to support developer preferences for smaller lots, various NAR reports showed a preference for “a turnkey home that needs little or no work.  They want their weekends to themselves and don't really want to be cleaning gutters or cutting the grass.  While spending time outdoors still matters, having a large space to maintain is not of interest to this group.  A small balcony or terrace will do nicely with gravel and some cactus rather than labor-intensive grass and rose bushes.”
 
Another not insignificant market that desires less property to maintain are older buyers and empty nesters.  NAR reports indicate older baby boomers comprise about 15% of home buyers and that they desire smaller homes.  The older boomers also tend to favor new homes that they can customize to their preference and not have to worry with renovations and/or maintenance concerns that can be part of acquiring an older home.  These buyers also place high importance on low maintenance landscaping and energy efficiency.
 
Yet another motivator toward smaller lot sizes is the increasing median price of a home.  Houston and Texas for years enjoyed low home prices offering far more “bang for the buck” when compared to most other metropolitan areas in the United States.  That price advantage is not near what it once was.  Home prices in the Houston area grew 12.3% in 2014.  According to the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) July 2015 MLS report, home prices achieved historic highs, with the median price—the figure at which half the homes sold for more and half for less—rising 4.9 percent to $225,000.  By comparison, March 2015 numbers showed the median price in the Northeast at $240,500, the Midwest at $163,600, the South at $187,900, and the West at $305,000.  A consequence of higher prices is affordability.  Smaller lot sizes make available a lower price point for builders wanting to appeal to a diversity of buyers.  While many on city council are enamored with the ideal of a Friendswood type community with large lots and expansive open space, the current economic reality suggests that affordability is an essential driver of residential development offerings.  Many buyers simply are unable to afford a big lot for their home to set on and/or they value a lower monthly housing obligation.
 
The Lakeland development in Manvel recently received council approval on a final plat that clears the path to begin a third phase of the project.  Lakeland has sold homes nearly as fast as they are finished and currently there is a lengthy list of buyers eagerly waiting for homes to become available in the new section.  Council members generally praise the project in expressing its value to the community and its visual appeal.  Mayor Martin uses the success of Lakeland to support councils claims that buyers want large lots.  Lakeland, though, offers a unique home buying product that appeals to a unique buyer and is offered at a relatively low price point.  Cervelle Homes, the only builder in the development, prides its offerings on large detached garage options that would not be allowed in a typical subdivision.  Some lots in Lakeland support two large garages on one lot.  Lakeland is also unique in not offering myriad parks and green space or neighborhood recreation centers with pools and such.  It is ironic that while most on city council praise the development, if today a new project was proposed offering a similar program, those same council members would very likely reject the program forthwith.
 
Disallowing multi-family and low cost cookie-cutter homes is a commendable goal that likely few in Manvel would object to.  But a diversity of offerings that better meet current market demand would seem to be a prudent course for council to consider.  Requiring new developments to adhere to a rigid set of parameters could result in the city losing, or at least delaying, vibrant new projects that would increase the tax base and deliver improvements to roads and infrastructure that all of the city would benefit from.  Old Manvel will maintain their acreage.  New developments wishing to cater to a clientele that favors large lots and pricey amenities should be afforded and encouraged to do so.  Likewise, developers who perceive the market differently and wish to more effectively meet the demand they see would like to receive equally objective consideration.  As one developer posited, “it is arrogant for this council to presume they know what my customer wants.”  Mandating a common formula ignores the considerable evidence supporting developer claims that smaller lots are in demand from home buyers.  Perhaps factors other than size should receive thoughtful consideration.  The price range of the product, what features and level of quality are being offered, and the overall benefits the project offers are important considerations that generally receive little or no thought once a small lot size is proposed.
 
Southpoint Crossing developers project the starting price of homes on their smaller lots to begin at $264,000; a price well beyond the typical starter home and portending a buyer that would more likely value their property and neighborhood.  Homes are contemplated with a higher level of exterior finish and interior features.  And the project envisions significant commercial/retail development and the construction of transportation and utility infrastructure that would go a long way to meeting essential components of the city’s master plan.  These elements would seem to earn the project a more thoughtful deliberation than was given by council.

 

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City's building inspection process under scrutiny

July 29, 2015

 

Recent meetings of the Manvel city council have included discussions on the city’s building permit process.  Council will soon begin negotiating a budget for the next fiscal year that commences October.  An item expected to earn considerable discussion is the amount of money spent by the city for contract building inspectors.  Some on council believe it time to add full time city employees to handle the increased call for building inspection services.  Prior years saw the need for inspections not warranting a full time position, but with the increase in building activity in Manvel and the expected new development on the near horizon, some feel the time is now to add city employees to assume the bulk of inspection demands.


Beyond financial considerations, some former and current members of council have publicly stated concerns that the current manner in which the city conducts its building inspections leaves some constituents perceiving the process as delivering the potential for inconsistent enforcement, insufficient oversight and accountability, and a perception that contract inspectors retain an inherent conflict of interest.  Mayor Martin expressed indignation that constituent complainants unwilling to produce their name offer little credibility in making accusations of impropriety from contract inspectors.  Member Adrian Gaspar responded that they likely are concerned about possible retaliation should their names become public.  Responding to the concern that contract inspectors could intentionally call for additional inspections to increase their compensation, Manvel’s city manager, Kyle Jung, said the facts do not bear that out.  He claims the number of inspections conducted in the last twelve months saw less than 5% of the total number of inspections failing and requiring a re-inspection.


Dollar amounts produced by city staff shows the process includes sizeable payments to the five contract inspectors, seeming to justify consideration of bringing the process in-house and fueling the perception of a system requiring examination.  Following are payments for June 2015:  building official $10,823.19; electrical $6,125; plumbing $6,755; concrete and masonry $4,865; and septic $330.  June payments to contract inspectors, excluding the engineer, totaling $28,898.19.  2015 year-to-date payments through June totaled more than $160,000, broken down as follows: $69,703.12 for the building official; $29,405 for electrical; $35,805 for plumbing; and $25,235 for concrete and masonry.  Numbers for septic inspections were incomplete but were by far the smallest category approximating $1,200 year-to-date.  Projecting a full year at double that amount, one would expect $320,000 being spent this year on contract inspectors, again excluding the contract civil engineer.  A total of five inspectors are contracted by the city, each with a particular area of expertise.

 
Manvel’s city manager, Kyle Jung, explained the inspection process as it currently exists: “The City uses an Internet-based program called MyGov to coordinate all permit projects.  The city inspectors receive e-mailed notices requesting inspections, conduct the inspection, and can result their inspections online when they have been completed.  Notes can be added online for each inspection detailing any issues that came up during it.”  He elaborated: “Inspectors are paid a flat rate of $35 per inspection.  Since they are independent contractors, all expenses incurred by the inspectors are paid by them.  The city does not furnish any equipment, vehicles, office space, or city benefits to the inspectors and all federal taxes (income tax, social security, FICA, etc.) are their responsibility.” In addition to the $35 fee, the contract building official is paid half the cost of the building permit fee for residential and commercial plan reviews.  A building permit fee is based on the value of the construction.  Additionally, the city contracts with a licensed civil engineer for some inspections.


Jung explained that one full-time city employee would be insufficient to complete all of the inspections required.  Supporting his contention, he cited the 595 inspections that were conducted in June averaging more than 27 inspections per workday.  He believes that workload would “probably require at least two or three full-time employees.”  Jung also makes the point that the city does not have the office space in which to house the inspectors should they be brought on as full time employees, saying the city’s “office configuration in city hall is maxed out with the current staff.”  Another cost requiring consideration would be the transportation needs of the inspectors.  Either a vehicle would need to be provided by the city or a sufficient allowance would need to be included in the overall compensation agreement.  “I am in favor of the City hiring full-time staff as needed and as resources for the positions become available,” Jung expressed.  Should council make the decision to add one or more inspector positions in the next budget year, Jung says, “The consideration of any new positions should include funding for all costs associated with the positions including salary, benefits, equipment, vehicles, and office space.”  Current salary ranges for building officials, building inspectors, and plan examiners range between $50,000 and $75,000 plus benefits, equipment, vehicles, and other costs.  Two full time employees paid $75,000 plus an assumed 30% for benefits would provide $125,000 to cover other costs.

   
According to Jung, the city realizes a revenue gain from the current permitting process.  He explained the building permit fees are based on the size and value of the house.  As an example he assumed a new house at 2,400 sq ft valued at $250,000.  Fees would be incurred for the initial permit application, the building permit, individual permits for electrical, mechanical, and plumbing, as well as a plan review.  He says the total fees would be $2,206.70 and the costs for inspections and plan review would be $1,085.00.  The net paid to the City would be $1,121.70.  Given that the city apparently makes money on the process and that currently there is insufficient office space to house full-time city inspectors, some consider the process as satisfactory and not in need of alteration.  Council member Gaspar most prominently argues that the city would serve its citizens far better by bringing the process in house, reducing the cost of building permit fees, and eliminating the perception held by some, whether justified or not, that the current process is inequitable and disposed toward exploitation by the contract inspectors.


The first budget workshop will be held prior to the next scheduled meeting of city council.  It is likely much discussion will be had on the current building inspection process.  The workshop will begin at 6PM on Monday, August 10.  The public is welcome to attend all council functions.

 

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