May 2015

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City wastewater capacity being stretched

MEDC anticipates additional funding

Developers deal with combative council

Council to see one new member

Health Fair this Saturday

Manvel EMS sees increase in calls

Manvel's Pickren newest AISD Trustee

Council debates revised Thoroughfare Plan

City promotes motorcycle awareness

 

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City wastewater capacity being stretched

May 6, 2015

 

According to the developers of the Lakeland community in Manvel, city officials have known since last August that wastewater capacity to service Section 3 and beyond of the development would be insufficient to meet the additional homes that would be constructed.  Several discussions among council in recent months have brought to light that not only is the capacity for the Lakeland community strained, but capacity to accommodate potential new development is compromised as well.  The recent completion of the long needed water and sewer line to service SH 6 to SH 288 was tempered by the realization that even if a large commercial/retail  tenant was ready to establish a presence in the city it would be unable to do so due to the insufficient capacity the city can currently provide.  In February council was presented with four options to meet the immediate need for Lakeland and future needs for other potential customers.  No action was taken by council due primarily to the aversion to assuming debt that would necessarily result in a tax increase to Manvel taxpayers.  Council has no enthusiasm for such an action.

 

The matter as it concerns Lakeland has been a point of contention and came to a head at a recent city council meeting.  Cervelle Homes is the sole builder in Lakeland and according to its president and owner, Jeff Payson, the city has shut down his business.  He says he has no product to sell and no lots to start after June.  He says it is due to the city’s failure to honor their agreement in not following through on the provision of wastewater capacity for a new section of homes.  Payson says negotiations with the city have been on-going since August 2014 and that it was known by all that insufficient capacity would force construction to cease.  MUD 61, which services Lakeland, is prepared to build a dedicated plant with a 250,000 gallon capacity at the site of the city’s current facility off Corporate Drive.  It would meet its immediate needs, provide additional capacity to the city, and would require no investment from the city. 

 

It will take a year or more to complete the project and Payson says he needs a commitment from the city to make available on a temporary basis 122 connections.  Once the new treatment facility is on-line the 122 connections will revert back to the city for use at its discretion.  The city, however, will commit to just 48 connections based on original estimates on the time required for construction.  Mayor Martin explained that the city would be open to possibly granting additional connections as the need arises up to the time the new plant is on line.  Payson considers that a tenuous commitment for a builder requiring greater assurance in planning a program.  Payson takes particular exception that the current capacity available in the plant is “way more than we need even before we add to it.”   The city will not make those connections available as they are committed to another development which Payson characterizes as “hypothetical” and will not be required in the time period he is requesting the temporary capacity.  Payson hinted at legal action against the city saying “real damages are mounting up every day.” 

 

The developer of Lakeland, Dan Rucker, characterized as “odd” that city staff seems to capriciously set aside certain rules that in the end result in compromising the city’s own interests in satisfying their infrastructure requirements.  Mayor Martin says the city is trying desperately to work with the developer but Rucker sees those efforts falling woefully short, gravely expressing his sentiment: “In thirty years of doing this I have never run up against something that was supposed to be so easy to do that has been compounded and made so complicated to take over a year to drag through this process.”

 

As is expected in such matters things are not necessarily so definitive and two sides to the issue emerge upon investigation.  City Manager Kyle Jung explained the Development Agreement, beginning with Section 3, grants the MUD authority to construct its own plant if the city did not have adequate capacity.  But another requirement in the Developer Agreement mandates the construction of a road to access the plant, which Rucker is not at all keen to construct and characterizes as a “road to nowhere.”  Because the five acres required for the facility would have to be subdivided from a larger 20-acre plot, it falls under the city’s subdivision ordinance, thereby requiring the extension of public infrastructure, which includes roads, into the subdivided land.

 

Regarding the connections already committed to another development, Jung concedes that the need for those connections is not looming in the near future but explained that while the risk is minimal the city cannot afford the potential legal ramifications of a new plant not being completed in Lakeland if and when the new development would make a call on its committed connections.  “We are cognizant of the fact that it is a small risk, but how would you go and unplug a house’s sewer connection?  You’ve already issued a Certificate of Occupancy saying they have capacity and then you are going to make it conditional that in the event we need it we are going to cut off your sewer,” is how he explained the indefensible possibility.

 

Jung said the city engineer re-worked the number of connections available based on historic usage and industry norms so that a satisfactory offer can be prepared and submitted to Lakeland for consideration.  “I assume they will all be happy with this if we can get to putting all of Section 3 temporarily into the plant,” he posited.  The attorney for MUD 61 is reworking the agreement and Jung expects council to be able to vote on it at the council meeting scheduled for Monday, May 11.

 

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MEDC anticipates additional funding

May 6, 2015

 

Members of the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and a unanimous city council are in support of a ballot proposition to return a full ½ cent sales tax allocation as was provided upon the Corporations inception.  Voters will decide this Saturday, May 9, a proposition that would repeal the temporary ¼ cent sales tax that provides revenue for maintenance and repair of municipal streets that was approved by voters in 2011.  The repeal would then allow the portion to be returned to the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to promote positive development opportunities for the city.
 
In 2011 when the measure was approved by voters, the city was challenged with stressed budgets and citizen demands that repairs be made to the many road problems in the city.  In response council approved a ballot proposition that would siphon ½ of the sales tax dedicated to the MEDC and pledged it instead to the road fund.  MEDC board members were generally unsupportive at that time making the argument that the funds could be better invested in longer term benefits to the city.  The decision voters will decide comes at a critical time for the city as three significant home communities will be delivering many rooftops within the city’s limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction in the coming years. With those rooftops comes the need for increased infrastructure improvements and retail/commercial developments to service those many homes.
 
Today city roads are in a far better state and the funds budgeted to their maintenance are greater in amount and more secure in availability than ever before. With new development contributing to city tax rolls, recent budgets are significantly less strained than previous years.  City Manager Kyle Jung says the amount in question in the current budget would approximate $275,000.  As city sales tax revenues increase in coming years that amount will go up correspondingly.
 
MEDC last year committed $1.6 million toward the water/sewer infrastructure improvements that are nearly complete along SH 6.  That infrastructure is 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 also funded the installation of water/sewer infrastructure that allowed the ProBuild facility to locate in the city.  For many years, when city budgets were strained, sales tax revenue generated by that business were essential to the city’s budgetary needs.
 
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.  And because MEDC is funded by sales taxes, a significant portion of their projects would be funded by non-citizens.  A portion of every sales tax dollar earned in the city will go toward economic development endeavors and as sales tax revenues increase still more improvements to the local economy can be realized.  Another benefit to a healthy and adequately funded MEDC is that it can typically act on projects more quickly and with less bureaucracy and administrative requirements than is typical for the city administration.
 
MEDC members see infrastructure development continuing to be its primary focus in the near term.  The city’s current wastewater treatment plant is nearing its capacity so while the new water/sewer lines will soon be complete along SH 6, the reality is that insufficient capacity exists for a prospective business to take advantage of it.  MEDC members encourage a proactive approach to impending development and this critical need well displays the type of improvement a well-funded MEDC would likely participate in.
 
Thanks to a recently approved program adopted by Brazoria County, voters will now be able to cast their ballot at any county voting location on Election Day.

 

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Developers deal with combative council

May 13, 2015

 

City leaders are working to manage growth and prepare the city of Manvel to be a place where people will want to live, work, and play.  Guiding the vision is a myriad assortment of plans, policies and procedures; some comprising of sub plans within master plans.  Citizens clamor for a grocery store and other retail options and look to a future with well-planned roads and infrastructure, parks, bikeways, and even horse trails.  All are laudable intentions for a young city on the precipice of expansion.  Yet the very ones with the wherewithal to transform those wants and desires into tangible outcomes are more often than not feeling unwanted and unduly tested by a city governance that some describe as dysfunctional and unseasoned.  Recent exchanges in the city council chamber well demonstrates the frustration incurred by developers wanting to build in Manvel.  One council meeting saw three disgruntled developers making their case to members who, in their view, often appear uninformed, unprepared, in some cases indifferent, and at times just short of hostile toward development in general and particularly any deviation from their perception of what an ideal community should be.  Requests for modifications to agreements that may have been negotiated years prior are routinely considered with suspicion and scorn.
 
Members of city council and some on PD&Z generally refute that contention by claiming just three developers continually complain the city is unfair.  While they ask for multiple variances from zoning regulations, the parks plan, the comprehensive plan, the drainage plan, and/or the thoroughfare plan, the city is standing its ground on the vision in place for Manvel’s future.  Responding to the accusation of being uninformed and unprepared, council member Adrian Gaspar says, “The council is much more informed than ever before.  The problem then comes from receiving information at 3:45 pm the day that information is to be discussed.  As a council member, I want to make informed decisions so I will move to table the issue which will allow council to have time to look into the matter thus ensuring a smart decision.”  Gaspar was the sole member of city council or the administration that responded to requests for comments on this story.
 
A key reason for much of the animosity is that projects approved years ago have yet to be started and development agreements negotiated years back have been subject to an evolving set of rules and regulations.  Things that are important to the city today in many cases were not in consideration when the agreements were executed.  That is a point council drove hard on with the developer of the planned Blue Water Lakes project that is just west of the high school.  Al Parrish and his family acquired the acreage and executed a development agreement in 2011.  According to Parrish, he has paid $600,000 in property taxes since owning the property, he’s paid $50,000 to the city in fees for various studies, consultants, and lawyers and delivered another $50,000 to the city to meet a commitment in the development agreement for a public safety facility waiver.  Parrish considers his contribution to the city significant as he requested of council a seemingly minor change in the development agreement that would provide for a 30-year term on MUD bonds rather than 25 years.  He explained the request for the additional term as reflecting a different economic environment than was the case in 2011, that it would have no disadvantage to the city, and that it ultimately would benefit MUD taxpayers with a lower tax rate.  Council did ultimately approve the request but not before Parrish received an earful from Mayor Martin and some on council who expressed exasperation with the more than four year delay in starting a project that he pressed council in 2011 as ready to proceed.  Saying she has “a problem with that” Mayor Martin belabored the request by pressing Parrish on a start date.  Parrish responded that he has tried to sell the land: “it’s very difficult to sell land in the city of Manvel and the reason is because the people who do development think you’ll are very difficult; you’ll make it very hard to do business here.”  He continued, saying “my family has a $6 million investment and we would like to get started and I’m trying very hard to get started.”
 
Another older development agreement being at the root of conflict is the situation just resolved by the developer of Sedona Lakes.  Buck Driggers received considerable skepticism from council in his appeal for an alteration to his program that would allow a greater number of 60 foot lots on the east side of the project.  He requests the change due to DelBello road being required to utilize a 120 foot right-of-way when 100 feet was the expectation at the designs inception.  He told council that the 70 foot and 80 foot products are not selling and that the demand is for smaller 60 foot lots.  City ordinances mandate a minimum 60 foot lot width and Driggers told council that he is not “requesting anything that is less that what you are allowing right now.  We are not trying to bring down the quality of the community and are trying to do what the city wants us to do.”
 
Driggers was not receptive to a notion from Mayor Martin that the right-of-way on DelBello may be reverted back to 100 feet thereby allowing the larger lot sizes to remain.  “You’ve got to do what the market tells you to do.  An 80 foot lot would probably be priced in the $500’s and I am really pushing it right now to sell (in that price range).  You’ve got to put the product on the ground that the market will accept.”  Mayor Martin went on to say that she is “worried that the diversity of the market seems to be lopsided and we have tilted too much to the 60 foot lots.”  Driggers again took exception, saying “I see it a little differently.  Almost half of the development (comprises larger lots) and is really nice looking and its right up in front and it really does set the tone when you come into Sedona Lakes.  We can put really nice product on the ground with 60 foot lots.” 
 
Driggers company, Landeavor, acquired the Sedona Lakes development in mid-2013 and has implemented significant upgrades and improvements.  He has struggled to find a viable commercial venture for the developments frontage along SH 288 and the current housing market, he says, shows a demand for smaller lot sizes and lower priced homes.  His original proposal provided for an apartment project and smaller lot sizes for single family homes.  He explained a desire for a fair playing field with the neighboring Pomona development across 288 which has been authorized to construct apartments as well as a collection of smaller lot sizes of 50 and 55 feet in width.  Resident reaction convinced him to remove those proposals and resulted in the one change he requested. 
 
After contentious dialog with members, Driggers was emphatic in declaring that he would not change the plan.  “I’m not putting any more 80 foot lots on the ground that I can’t sell.  I’m already dealing with that.”  He also responded testily to an accusation that he was reneging on the original contract; “I don’t want to go to what we agreed to originally.  I came in and talked about what we had and was told definitely not multi family, definitely not less than 60 foot lots.  You said you don’t allow it.”  Referring to the Pomona Development he continued, “I buy (the project) and you changed the rules on me.  We didn’t change anything after we bought it, you did.  You have seen what we do as a developer and you are treating me like we are trying to put a trailer park out there.  We are trying to continue a quality development and if you don’t like it then vote it down.  We took over a dying community and we are trying to make it better and I have capitulated on everything.  I don’t know what more I can do.”   
 
Council members make the case that each development agreement is unique and believe it insupportable to compare one to another.  But that logic seems flawed upon an objective look.  Likened to a football season, one could claim that each game is unique.  But if in one game the teams are allowed five tries to earn a first down while the other games allow just the traditional four tries, then an obvious inequality exists.  Driggers essentially makes a similar case that Pomona was allowed the very things he was told would never be allowed when he initially approached the city before acquiring the Sedona Lakes project. 
 
Thoughtful analysis on Drigger’s proposal was encumbered by a myopic desire among members for larger lot sizes and because members were provided inaccurate maps and received the information only hours prior to the meeting start.  Some members expressed a desire for time to further consider the plan and hearing resident feedback before making a decision.  That sentiment led to an increasingly predictable occurrence from this council, and another significant complaint among developers trying to solidify plans, that the matter would be tabled for a later meeting.  And indeed that is what ultimately occurred.  A collective prudence did ultimately prevail as a majority of council did approve the request at a subsequent meeting.
 
City officials enjoy the luxury of looking at expensive plans, drawings, and appealing renderings that are paid with taxpayer money and often prepared by consultants with little practical experience in the work produced.  They can look at other communities, learn from their missteps, and pick and choose the types of development they want for Manvel’s future.  Ordinances and plans can be relatively easy to amend as economic conditions and/or personal desires change.  But developers are bound by their agreements.  They must balance the high ideals of council with a pragmatic investment of tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, often which they are personally liable for.  Economic conditions continually evolve and a successful business must be able to adapt to those changes.  If it is just three developers claiming unfairness, those three will nonetheless have a significant impact on Manvel’s growth and will be contributing significantly to its long term quality of life.  While council did ultimately approve these developer requests, it begs the question why the process seems to necessarily entail such discord.  Perhaps council could better serve their community through a more cooperative approach in their dealings with developers.

 

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Council to see one new member

May 13, 2015

 

Manvel voters selected Lorraine Hehn to replace Maureen DelBello on city council.  Hehn ran on a theme of making thoughtful decisions today that will define the city for decades to come.  “Our town is facing major decisions, decisions like where shopping malls and roads will go, and the citizens deserve a council that has the time and interest to dig deep into these issues, not make snap decisions based on gut feelings.  These are things that once they are done cannot be undone.  Good development will make us into a great place to live, work, and play.”
 
Incumbent Adrian Gaspar won re-election over challenger Jerome Hudson.  Gaspar ran on a theme of being a voice for citizens and promoting business development: “I want to act on behalf of the average citizen.  I want to make it so that the city doesn’t infringe on a citizen’s rights in his or her own home.  I want to make the city more open to businesses, in addition to expanding the city’s revenue so that our city can benefit and grow.”
 
Voters also approved the MEDC sales tax allocation that will return full funding of 1/2 % of the city’s collected sales tax revenue to promote investments in infrastructure and business development.


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.

 

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Health Fair this Saturday

May 13, 2015

 

The Manvel Lions Club and Manvel EMS are sponsoring a health fair this Saturday, May 16, at the Manvel EMS station at 6931 Masters Road (FM 1128).  The event will run from 10 AM to 3 PM.


Dave Ferguson, the director for Manvel EMS, explained that the Lions Club has sponsored eye sight screening for children in the past but wanted to expand the offerings to include a more general health fair.  The group approached EMS to participate with them in the event and Ferguson said his department “was excited to do that.”


Ferguson said there would be a number of activities at the event from One Sight Spot Vision testing courtesy of the Manvel Lions Club to injury protection tips for children in and around cars to bicycle safety tips.  Bicycle helmet fittings will be available for children and some helmets will be given away to boys and girls at the event.  There also will be a raffle for one each of a girls and boys bicycle for those who participate in the day’s activities.


Representatives from Pearland area hospitals will be there as well as representatives from health related businesses throughout town.  Manvel and Iowa Colony Police Departments and the Manvel Public Library will also have a presence at the event.  Other activities include door prizes for children and adults, blood pressure and blood sugar checks courtesy of the Manvel EMS staff, “Spot the Tot” interactive demonstration, and Alzheimer’s awareness and early detection.

 

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Manvel EMS sees increase in calls

May 20, 2015

 

Manvel EMS Director Dave Ferguson says call volume for the EMS ambulances has increased from around 100 each month when the facility first opened in 2011.  Ferguson explained that EMS has not received fewer than 100 calls in more than 18-months.  In March a record 158 calls for service were received and he says that is the case throughout the county.  Of the eleven services Ferguson interacts with he says they all are experiencing from 10 to 20% increases in their call volumes over the past year.  He attributes the increase to the increased amount of construction occurring in the southern part of the county along with the increase in population growth that is most prevalent in the northern part of the county.

 

Currently Manvel EMS staff operates one truck 24-hours every day.  As Ferguson explains it, “we are trying to cover peak times with a second truck.  We are not quite at a point of needing a second truck 24-hours a day but we are trying to add coverage with a second truck where the demand is highest so that we can cover those calls.”  Peak time is varied, but March data shows Tuesday and Wednesday as the busiest days.  Friday is a close third with Monday and Thursday showing little demand.  “Typically our calls come early in the morning, around rush hour, and into the mid-morning and then they start happening again about the time school is dismissed.  We are trying to cover that.”

 

Manvel EMS currently employs nine full-time positions and twelve part-time positions.  Ferguson said the service just brought on a couple additional part-timers in anticipation of the extra shifts being added and expects to add still more positions as demand grows on the primary service vehicle.  The Emergency Services District has budgeted a new truck for Manvel that is expected to be delivered in early 2016.  Ferguson explained that he is not yet sure if that will be a remount of an existing ambulance or an entirely new ambulance added to the fleet.  “The box is not what wears out, typically on the ambulance it is the chassis.  We try to get about seven years’ service out of them.”  Three ambulances are currently in the fleet.  The newest vehicle is a 2008 model, the others are a 2006 and a 2002.

 

Ferguson says his group is busy and describes their purpose as staying “ahead of the demand and putting the resources there so we can serve the public when those calls do come in.  The challenge is marrying your response to the demand with the funds that are available.  Funding challenges is part of what we do; it’s typical of the industry anywhere you go.  It’s particularly hard when you are growing as it is sort of the cart before the horse scenario.  You know that when the growth comes the tax dollars will be there to help subsidize the business but so will the call volume.  The trick is balancing the two.”

 

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Manvel's Pickren newest AISD Trustee

May 20, 2015

 

Manvel resident Julie Pickren will become the newest Trustee for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD).  Three seats were up for election this May but all seats were uncontested and no formal election was conducted.  In addition to Pickren assuming the Position 1 seat to be vacated by Mike Lansford, two incumbents return for second terms.  Cheryl Harris will maintain the Position 3 seat and Regan Metoyer the Position 2 seat.  Both are residents of Alvin.
 
Pickren had considered running for the school board for over a year and explains her desire to be on the Board: “I believe it is a great opportunity to serve our community.  Because I have a passion for business and for children this seemed to be a wonderful way to combine the two.”  She has lived in the Pearland area all her life and has been on the west side for 8 years.  She brings a variety of experience: “First, I am a business owner and tax payer.  Because of this, I will do due diligence when working with the board and administrators concerning budgets.  I understand the responsibility we have as a district to our tax payers to provide the best education possible for our children while being responsible with their tax dollars.  Second, my husband and I have worked/traveled extensively around the world. Because of the growth on the west side of the district, we need to have a world view that embraces people of different cultures.  One thing that I have learned in my travels is no matter where you are from, we all love our children and want the best for them.  Third, I am nursery director at my church.  My love for children is evident in the hours I volunteer in our church's children’s ministry.   Last, but most important, I am a mom.  I know when my little boys leave to go to school in the morning that I expect for them to have a safe, structured, and exciting learning environment to prepare them for the future.”
 
Pickren thinks the greatest opportunity for the district is its rapid growth: “In the short term, the growth on the west side presents the opportunity for us to create an exciting culture of learning and new opportunities for athletics and fine arts. It is wonderful to see the pride in our schools from the administrators, teachers, parents, and students.  Long term, we need to consider the growth that will be happening on the east side of the district with the expansion of the grand parkway.  As a school board we need to work cohesively with the administrators and community to make sure we are doing all we can to build schools, recruit and train staff, and foster classroom learning so we can be the best district in Texas.”
 
She describes her representation on the school board as being filtered through three core beliefs, “All kids matter, empowering teachers with the tools and resources necessary to have a successful classroom, and responsible spending in our district.”  She believes in “servant leadership and will welcome parent and community input concerning the district because we all want to see our children succeed.”
 
Cheryl Harris graduated from Alvin High School in1984 and received an Associates Degree from Alvin Community College in 1987.  She says she is passionate about education and is grateful for the opportunity to serve the community and the school district as a trustee for the past three years.  She considers herself a unique trustee as she served as Secretary to the Director of Special Education at AISD for nine years.  As she explains it, “I gained experience working with students with disabilities, the school district budget process, and an understanding of federal funds and special program applications.”  Being the daughter of a 25-year AISD teacher provides the viewpoint from a teacher’s perspective and being a parent to two former AISD students provides a perspective from parents, alumni, and taxpayers.  “With these experiences I believe my input is valuable and will benefit the district as the decisions the board makes reach far, affecting jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all children.”
 
Harris considers the greatest challenge facing the district is “keeping up with the fast-paced growth and providing permanent seats for each student as well as ensure that existing campuses are equitable to the newly constructed campuses so that all students have access to quality learning environments.”  She would like to continue the expansion of the career and technology center course offerings at the high schools and annex because CTE is not all about learning trade skills but rather it is the cornerstone for bachelor and master degrees with classes that set the foundation to careers in nursing, education, veterinary medicine, and many others.  I also believe that equipping students with skills to graduate with marketable trades, if they choose not to pursue a four year degree, is a commitment to success for every student at every school.  She is “proud that the CTE is expanding its master plan to include course offerings in oil and gas, medical, and the re-investment into the automotive trades.”
 
Regan Metoyer says she has “proudly served (as a Trustee) for the past three years and cherish all of the relationships I have made with the staff, students, parents, and community members in Alvin ISD.”  She looks forward to continuing to serve the community saying, “Student success is my focus and will continue to be.”  Metoyer has worked in higher education for over 17 years.  She is the mother to two AISD students, one graduating this year from Alvin High School and another at Passmore Elementary.
 
Metoyer says she has learned valuable lessons during her first term as a Trustee, “mainly that the board establishes the tone, direction and goals for the district.  The school board, the team of seven, sets policy, approves the budget, approves contract, and hires and evaluates the superintendent.  I believe that our board and our new superintendent have established a trusting working relationship and I want to remain a part of the team.”  She would like to see “continued focus on academic performance, retaining quality teachers and staff, and keeping up with the fast-paced growth of the district.”
 All three candidates will be sworn in at the June 9, 2015 regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.

 

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Council debates revised Thoroughfare Plan

May 27, 2015

 

Manvel city council will debate a revised Thoroughfare Plan at this week’s meeting which was moved back one day to accommodate the Memorial Day holiday.
 
The revised plan was presented to council back in March and suggested a more flexible street classification with a greater variety of road widths than was in the original plan.  Excluding SH 288, SH 6, and SH 1128 which are all controlled by TxDOT, roads within the city would vary from two lanes to four and would vary in width from 80 feet to as many as 120 feet.  The Plan is envisioned to comprise a range of transportation choices, described as multi-modal, which will offer opportunities to drive, bike, and walk. A focus on mobility choice will serve to promote a vibrant community and would support strong neighborhoods, employment centers, and activity centers.
 
SH 288 and SH 6 are the two major thoroughfares within the community and set the foundation for overall network development as they are the key focal points for future residential and commercial development.  Current traffic counts on each of those roadways are typically in excess of 20,000 vehicles each day.  A limiting factor the Plan contends with is the lack of contiguous connectivity through the city limits and its ETJ.  Croix Road (CR 58) is projected as a major east-west arterial roadway but it ends at the middle of DelBello Road (CR 90) and fails to continue east to Masters and even further east towards Pearland and Friendswood.  Bissel Road (CR 190) could be another viable east-west arterial to relieve SH 6 traffic but it is not contiguous throughout the city limits.  The growing number of master-planned communities presents the challenge of adding critical linkages in order to prevent system congestion.
 
The Plan considers it important to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle activity and includes a non-motorized network including both on-street and off-street bike facilities and the inclusion of sidewalks and pedestrian amenities along a number of corridors within the city.  These areas will provide access to schools, shopping, and transit stops, and will provide public spaces for people to enjoy recreational activities.  Along with the use of wider rights-of way and open space along drainage corridors, bayous, and undeveloped areas, the bicycle and pedestrian amenities will serve to better balance the city’s traditional rural character with future development.
 
Boulevard corridors were presented in an effort to help incorporate a desired small town that is shared by many on council and PD&Z.  Boulevards would provide up to 120 feet of right-of-way and offers wider medians and/or on-street parking to give a more spacious feel and would make available sufficient right-of-way to accommodate bike lanes, multi-purpose pathways, and potential equestrian trails.  Medians are encouraged to provide aesthetics such as landscaping, lighting, and urban design features.
 
Some on council and PD&Z do not favor the plan as submitted, claiming that every road in town gets smaller.  They cite the 2008 and the 2015 Comprehensive Plans as supporting their claim that Manvel citizens expressed a strong desire to keep a rural feel as the town grows.  PD&Z member Brian Wilmer explains his view that “the amount of space we set aside for roadways can never be made bigger.”  He refers to the city of Pearland as an example of the need to retain wide road ROW’s, “Pearland is contemplating purchasing (or using eminent domain) to acquire space along FM 518 to widen the road at a huge monetary and political cost.  Are we going to give away ROW’s now, for no real reason, and then have to fight to get them back in the future?”
 
He also feels the Plan does not sufficiently compare road widths as previously recommended with the new proposed changes and suggests “the space we used to allow for minor roads will now be the space we allow for important connections.”  He goes on to complain that “at no point does the plan mention what the ROW’s are for the Pearland streets where they meet our streets.  Our streets will be smaller than Pearland’s streets, and traffic will be more congested in Manvel than it is in Pearland.”  Wilmer believes the plan leaves little room for sidewalks, greenspace or bicycles and favors holding off on any decision until a planned Parks Board is created that will be tasked with making recommendations for a future bike and trail system.  “Why would we reduce ROW’s just before a Parks Board has been created?”

Saying “the plan is too flawed to be salvaged and should be rejected,” Wilmer suggests a new plan should be prepared that would not reduce ROW’s.  He feels “the ROW’s are the property of the citizens and it is irresponsible to give them away with nothing in exchange.  If in the future a need to make them smaller presents itself we can negotiate the reduction of our ROW’s in exchange for something that is a benefit for our citizens.”  He wants the Plan to adhere to the city’s Comprehensive Plan which keeps the city ROW’s as wide as possible.  “The city should use this space for trails, bike lanes and greenspace to reflect our rural heritage.  No major street should have less than 4 lanes of traffic and the option to install a bike lane.”

 

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City promotes motorcycle awareness

May 27, 2015

 

In recognition of May being designated as Motorcycle Awareness Month, the city of Manvel joined states and municipalities from around the nation to educate motorists on recognizing motorcycles on the road and to encourage riders to be more careful while riding.  Mayor Delores Martin read a proclamation at a recent city council meeting to bring attention to the perils of riding a motorcycle along with a desire to promote a more positive image of motorcyclists among the public.
 
Motorcycle riding has become increasingly popular in recent years appealing to a cross section of society.  According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) there were 8.5 million motorcycles on the road in 2012.  A DOT report explains the inherent risks involved in riding a motorcycle: “Motorcycles are by their nature far less crashworthy than closed vehicles. They are also less visible to other drivers and pedestrians and less stable than four-wheel vehicles. Operating a motorcycle requires a different combination of physical and mental skills than those used in driving four-wheel vehicles. Motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to the hazards of weather and road conditions than drivers in closed vehicles.”  The DOT goes on to report that in 2013 motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities.
 
Injuries and fatal crashes as a percent of registered motorcycles has declined in recent years though 2012 still saw 4,957 deaths and 93,000 injuries.  “Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2012, 56.0 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 46.0 percent in 2003. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 63 percent from 2003 to 2012. In contrast, fatalities among young motorcyclists have declined, relative to other age groups.  NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 43 in 2012, compared with 38 in 2003.”  A research report put out by Brown University cited “declines in vision and reaction time, along with the larger-sized bikes that older riders favor, which tend to roll over more often, and the increased fragility among older people” as the primary reason older bikers are more likely to be killed or injured.  The report added that “while injury rates were rising for all age groups, the steepest rise occurred in the 60 and over group, who were two and a half times more likely to have serious injuries than the youngest group.  They were three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital.”
 
Alcohol and speed are primary reasons a motorcycle crashes.  In 2012, 29 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had a Blood Alcohol Content above the legal limit in most states.  Another 8 percent had alcohol levels below the legal limit.  Fatally injured motorcycle riders between the ages of 40 to 44 had the highest rates of alcohol involvement.  In 2012, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 22 percent for drivers of passenger cars, 18 percent for light truck drivers and 8 percent for large truck drivers, according to NHTSA.  Speeding and driver error are bigger factors among the sport bike category.  The most recent year’s statistics indicate speed was the primary cause in 57 percent of sport bike fatal crashes.  Sport bikes are favored by the youngest riders with the average age being 27 years old.  By contrast, speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes among riders of cruisers and standard style motorcycles, which sees an average age of 44 years old.  The largest bikes, known as touring models and generally favored by the oldest riders, saw speed causing 22 percent of fatal crashes.
 
In 2012 motorcycle helmets saved 1,699 lives, according to the NHTSA.  Their findings report that if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, 781 more lives would have been saved.  Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers.  Helmet use reached 64 percent in June 2014.  Texas mandates helmet use only for riders under 21 years old.  Riders 21 years old or over are exempt if they either 1) can show proof of successfully completing a motorcycle operator training and safety course or 2) can show proof of having a medical insurance policy.
 
The publicity generated through various motorcycle awareness month activities will hopefully bring greater attention to motorcyclists among the general public, thereby encouraging greater awareness of motorcycles on the road and inspiring car drivers to “always look twice” before passing through an intersection, making a turn, or changing a lane.  Riders too can be more aware of what is occurring in traffic around them and take a more proactive approach to their own safety.  Participation in a motorcycle safety course is perhaps the best way for riders to learn effective techniques that help manage and minimize the risks faced by riders on the road.  The course is required in order to earn a license to ride in Texas.  Alvin Community College offers a two-day course most every weekend and usually on weekdays at least once each month.  Additional information on the course and instructions for registration can be found on the course website: www.mscourse.net.

 

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