June 2015

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New council members sworn in

City to study options for "sand pit"

Manvel 8th Grader earns recognition

City on spending spree

City seeks increased citizen involvement

NewPort Lake Estates lumbers forward

DelBello recognized for service

 

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New council members sworn in

June 3, 2015

 

Manvel Mayor Delores Martin ceremoniously swore in two council members at a recent meeting.  Adrian Gaspar won reelection and will assume his second consecutive term on council.  Lorraine Hehn beat incumbent Maureen DelBello and will assume her first term on city council.  Hehn has been active in city affairs having served previously on the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z).

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City to study options for "sand pit"

June 3, 2015

 

In early 2013 the City of Manvel executed a purchase agreement for a commercially operated sand pit on CR 58 (Croix Rd) just west of CR 90 (DelBello Rd).  The total land area acquired was 108 acres with the actual pit consisting of 100 acres and the remaining land with frontage along CR 58 containing the sand mining equipment.  The pit is estimated to have a depth of 70 to 80 feet.  The city paid $2,160,000.00 for the property; $160,000 was paid in cash with the balance to be paid over twenty years at a cost of approximately $140,000 per year.
 
At the time of purchase, City Manager Kyle Jung described possible uses for the property as detention for storm water, storage of surface water, a possible location of a surface water treatment plant, storage of water from the Gulf Coast Water Authority, and/or a city recreational facility.  Jung claimed then another benefit to the acquisition as likely preventing its possible use as a landfill.  It was explained that the seller preferred it not be used in that way and the city’s acquisition stopped that prospect.
 
According to information from Wesson Sand, the company managing the mining operation, most all of the available sand has been mined from the property and their operations will cease shortly.  The City will assume full control of any activity on the property as soon as the operator removes their equipment and ceases operations.
Kyle Jung explained that the City has received approximately $28,000 in payments from the operator in 2015, the first year the City has received any payments from activity on the property.  The earning of those funds will sufficiently cover the costs to contract a study on development options for the pit.
 
At its recent meeting, Manvel city council authorized INTERA Geoscience & Engineering Solutions to prepare a report presenting short and long term goals for the property.  The short term goal is to determine the most beneficial use of the available water produced from the pit by determining state permitting requirements, water quality, and available volume of water.   The long term goal is to develop the site to the greatest benefit for the city and is necessarily dependent on the results of the short term goal just described.  Possible site development options could include on-site treatment facilities to serve local customers, or to use the site as a water supply reservoir/recreational facility, or a combination of the two.  The group will begin their work June and it is expected to require approximately 4-6 weeks to complete.

 

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Manvel 8th Grader earns recognition

June 3, 2015

 

Mayor Delores Martin presented a plaque of recognition to Eric Li who was named one of America’s top ten youth volunteers of 2015.  Eric, 14 years old, resides in Manvel’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction and is an 8th grader at Pearland Junior High West.  Along with his siblings, Eric founded a non-profit organization that has collected over $200,000 to help children recover from disasters in various places around the world.  His interest in helping began at the young age of 7 when he learned of an earthquake in China that killed nearly 90,000 people.  He gathered is life savings of $94.87 and solicited donations from classmates and friends to eventually contribute $4,500 to the Red Cross for their disaster relief efforts.  Soon thereafter he visited China with another $1,500 in funds.
 
That experience led Li to found his non-profit charity that has organized more than 400 activities that have raised funds or needed items for young victims of ten disasters, including the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the devastating typhoon that destroyed much of the Philippines in 2013.  Currently Eric is teaching local students to refurbish computers that are then sent to orphanages in third world countries.

 

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City on spending spree

June 10, 2015

 

Manvel city council authorized the appropriation of funds for various departmental expenditures approximating $750,000 at its recent meeting.  A significant piece of the extensive list of things to be acquired consists of $275,000 for the purchase of just over 7 acres of land on Corporate Drive.  The subject property sets just west and across the road from the city’s current wastewater treatment plant.  The expected use of the property will be to accommodate expansion of the current plant or possibly the construction of a new stand-alone plant to provide additional capacity to meet the need for future development.  The acquisition of the land seems prudent as the city’s wastewater infrastructure is nearing capacity and is currently unable to accommodate a significant demand from new development.   The lack of capacity led to a recent agreement between the city and the Lakeland development that resulted in the MUD servicing the project having to construct its own plant to meet their future needs.   
 
Public Works will enjoy the greatest part of the acquisitions.  It will receive a new F-350 truck valued at $45,000 that will replace a 2004 F-250.  An additional $17,500 will be spent to obtain a new trailer that is able to accommodate the asphalt lay-down machine that the city acquired last year.  Kyle Jung, Manvel’s city manager, explained to council that the current trailer used to transport the machine has incompatible ramp angles that require awkward loading and unloading of the machine.  Public Works will see a permanent stand-by generator installed at its facility at a cost of $25,000 and will realize new radios at a cost of $15,000.  Public Works employees will enjoy a new shower, bathroom, and locker facility that will be constructed at their current headquarters on Uzzell Road at a cost of $8,000.  Public Works will also see $230,000 spent on its various lift stations, on water taps and meters, and on an “auto dialer” at its waste water treatment plant.
 
The police department will realize the next greatest part of the acquisitions.  Chief of Police Keith Traylor will see his department get a new vehicle valued at $25,000; four new radios will be acquired at a cost of $12,000; four computers are to be purchased at $6,000; and a new laser radar unit will be acquired at $3,000.   The chief defended the laser radar as needed to properly identify speeding vehicles on a heavily travelled multi-lane road such as SH 6.  The chief explained that traditional radar is not able to isolate the speeding vehicle when it is part of a group of vehicles.  The laser radar allows the officer to positively identify which vehicle is in violation in such situations.  Traylor also defended the use of the laser radar as being for public safety and not as a toll to add to city coffers.
 
Remaining items include varied computer equipment, furnishings, and supplies for various departments.  A sound system to be used at city council meetings that also will be portable for use at other venues will be bought at a cost of $10,000.  Visitors at city council meetings regularly complain of an inability to hear the dialog among members and presenters.  It is expected the sound system will resolve that issue.
 
The city manager justified the significant non-budgeted expenditures as being well within the city’s ability to afford explaining that the city currently enjoys a fund balance equal to 81% of expenditures.  A fund balance of 25% is recommended for a city to maintain.  The fund balance serves essentially as a reserve in case of emergency or for some reason city revenue is reduced.  The recommended 25% means that the city would be able to fund its on-going operations for a period three months, or 1/4 of the year.  Both the city manager and the city’s controller told council the reduction in fund balance resulting from the expenditures would have no adverse impact on the city’s bond rating.
 
In other council news, Member Larry Akery requested the city begin the process of annexation of approximately 275 acres that resides in the northwest part of the city’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).  The land is bordered by CR 59 on the north, CR 48 on the west, the American Canal on the south, and the Southfork subdivision on the east.  Akery feels the area is primed for development and if the city wants to have some control of what is developed there it must be in the city’s limits.  Public hearings on the proposed annexation will be conducted as part of the city council meeting scheduled for July 27 and a second will be held at the council meeting scheduled for August 10.  The public hearings provide an opportunity for affected property owners and any other interested parties to voice their support or opposition to the proposal.

 

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City seeks increased citizen involvement

June 17, 2015

 

City council regularly debates issues with long term consequences for the city and its residents.  Many of their choices are guided to some degree on recommendations from citizen committees.  The Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) is perhaps the most influential in affecting council decisions as they analyze and consider most every plan and program submitted by citizens and developers who are looking to construct some form of improvement, be it a small home extension or a multi-home development.  PD&Z is also instrumental in the development and revision of the city’s various guiding plans that lay out a vision for future growth and development.  Significant documents such as a Comprehensive Plan, a Master Thoroughfare Plan, a Master Drainage Plan, and other similarly important documents are in place largely due to PD&Z efforts.  Volunteer citizen involvement is a critical cog in the practice of a more enlightened city council.
 
Historically it has proven difficult to get qualified residents of Manvel to volunteer their time and service.  Part of an explanation is due to a general sense of malaise that seems to have infected US citizens from coast to coast.  Manvel seems an embodiment of that malaise as voter turnout traditionally hovers around 10%.  In the most recent election last May to place two council seats, less than 5% of registered voters took time to exercise their privilege to vote.  Manvel citizens turned out just 271 voters from 5,466 registered.  Another part of an explanation is that Manvel residents are pretty much the embodiment of a “leave me alone” mentality.  Rarely do citizens take time to familiarize themselves with on-going issues.  Many are unaware that a city newspaper even exists.  Attendance at city council meetings is scant save for a hot-button issue such as annexations.  Then will citizens decide to involve themselves in the process.  The problem with being a reactive citizen is that often it is too late to change an action that has already been put in motion.  The time to effectively influence decisions and have a real impact on the city’s actions is to be involved in the process as matters are being discussed.  Serving as a city volunteer on one of its commissions or boards is an excellent way to be proactive in influencing council actions.
 
Long-time council member Melody Hanson says she “firmly believes that citizen involvement is key to strong government.”  She wonders if the lack of involvement on city boards is due to apathy or ignorance in not knowing what the position entails or when there is a vacancy.  “Our city is growing and changing as new residents move into the community.  We need to draw from the experiences and qualifications of a wider base, and bring some fresh faces and new ideas to our meetings,” she says.
 
Manvel mayor Delores Martin requested city council last week to consider amendments to the process of selecting and approving citizens volunteering to serve on the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z).  The mayor said the current process has not been reviewed since 2006 and feels “it is always good to go back to see if the best purpose is being served and if it is still functioning as well as it should.”  Changes to that process will likely filter through the other boards and commissions as well.
 
City Manager Kyle Jung explained four requirements currently in place for a new appointee to the PD&Z commission: a prospective new members will be required to attend two consecutive PD&Z meetings, submit a resume to the city secretary (though a city produced application has been used in place of a resume), allow for a background check, and be favorably recommended by PD&Z and subsequently approved by city council.  If a prospective member does not receive a recommendation by PD&Z, city council is unable to appoint them.  Council member Adrian Gaspar feels city council should be able to consider an appointment irrespective of a recommendation by the sitting commission.  Additional qualifications to be considered for appointment to PD&Z include being a citizen of Manvel, have no outstanding debts owed to the city, over 18 years of age, and be a registered voter.  A felony conviction precludes any involvement in city business.
 
A background check is not done routinely but is allowed should sufficient reason present itself.  Tammy Bell, Manvel’s city secretary, explained that the application asks the applicant to affirm they have no felony convictions.  She says the cost for a background check can run several hundred dollars and many applicants do not want their private records, even if no felony is present, to be open for anyone to see just for the privilege of sitting on a city commission as an unpaid volunteer.  City attorney Bobby Gervais added that applicants are aware that signing the official application knowing it contains false information can result in a charge of tampering with a government document and could result in criminal penalties.
 
The City of Manvel is always looking for volunteers to serve.  Applications are currently being accepted for the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Planning, Development and Zoning Commission (PD&Z), Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals, and the newly established Parks Board.  Appointments are made annually and as vacancies occur and most terms are for 2 years.  Volunteers play a key role in keeping the City government close to the people it serves by providing ideas, feedback and suggestions and serving as a sounding board for proposed policy.  Manvel City Council depends on the input from residents serving on boards, commissions and committees which advise the City Council, City Manager and City Staff.
 
If you are interested in volunteering your services, please print a Volunteer Application (PDF) from the city’s website, or pick one up from the city secretary's office during regular office hours.  More Information can be acquired from the city secretary at 281-489-0630, ext. 4.

 

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NewPort Lake Estates lumbers forward

June 24, 2015

 

Manvel city council approved a preliminary plat for the NewPort Lake Estates development to be located at the south east corner of CR 48 and CR 58 in the far north-west portion of the city.  The plat covers 64.14 acres and is comprised of 175 residential lots and 16 reserves.  Manvel’s Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) unanimously recommended the endorsement.  The approval follows a change to the zoning classification for the property which was authorized by council last March.  The project’s developer, Joe Watson, explained he will be back in front of council at its next meeting to request clearance to actually begin site work, and shortly thereafter, construction.  The plat excludes approximately 9.5 acres from the original site along the eastern boundary of the project, likely due to conflict with the city’s Thoroughfare Plan that calls for the location of Kirby Drive to run through that portion.  Watson has made several attempts to persuade council to rethink Kirby’s location making the argument that it will be underutilized and superfluous as it runs essentially parallel to CR 48, which currently is undergoing construction that will result in a four-lane boulevard from Broadway on the north to SH 6 on the south, and actually terminates at CR 48 just north of SH 6.  Original plans called for Kirby to run farther to the east as it comes out of the Pomona development and Watson favors that original path.
 
Watson describes the development as a “fairly high-end lake front community.”  It is designed with natural waterfronts that will encourage neighbors to build bonds with each other and to interact and enjoy the lakes, trails, athletic facilities, and many neighborhood parks.  The development is within easy walking distance to AISD schools: Don Jeter Elementary and Manvel Junior High School at Rodeo Palms.  As previously described to council late last year, forty-four percent of the lots will offer premium lakefront views at over 10,000 square feet with sizes of 70 x 150.  The balance of the off-water lots will be 60 x 110.  Home sizes are expected between the low 2000 to high 3000 square foot range with prices projected at the low end of $275,000 to $300,000 and an expected average from $350,000 to $450,000.  Gehan Homes and Chesmar Homes have been selected as the home builders for the project.  
 
The primary entrance will be from CR 58 and the design calls for scenic views of lake and park areas as residents and guest come and go from the development.  The lakes to be excavated for the project will differ than the customary water detention areas seen in most developments in that the edge of the waterline will front directly the back yard property lines of the lake lots.  There are three lakes spanning 10 acres.  Envisioned by the developer are boat docks and piers so that property owners can access their own water crafts and float around to visit friends and neighbors or the community amenities.  The lakes will be stocked with edible fish though there will be a catch and release program. 
 
There are several parks planned throughout the development and a main Community Center will be available for public gatherings and a play area for kids and will include a small marina for visitors to launch and /or tie up their various water crafts.  Also planned is an area designed more for middle school and high school aged children and adults.  It will be set up with nearly one mile of trails with individual exercise stations, a regulation sand lot volley ball court, and a badminton/croquet court.
 
Smaller “pocket parks” will be spread around the development providing different themes.  One will contain a regulation junior soccer field with bleachers.  Others include a hummingbird theme, one appealing to various bird species, and a butterfly park will be located near the west entrance on CR 48 which is expected to be used for easy access to the nearby elementary and junior high schools.  The planned parks do not meet the city’s current park ordinance but as the preliminary plat for the project was approved previously under different rules the development plan enjoys grandfather status.

 

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DelBello recognized for service

June 24, 2015

 

Former Manvel city council member Maureen DelBello was recognized by the current council for her years of service to the city.  DelBello served on city council from 2012-2015 and lost her bid for reelection last May to Lorraine Hehn.  She served as a council member previously from 1999 to 2005.  DelBello will continue her service to the city as a member of the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).  Council appointed her to a vacant position for a term expiring in December 2016.  DelBello encouraged council “to keep doing the good work you all are doing and look out for the citizens and our city and I think you’ll will do great.”

 

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