April 2016

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City Manager defends performance

Alvin Community College explains bond proposal

Council approves development agreement

Developers propose 380 Agreement

Jerome Hudson seeks council position

Voters to select ACC Regents

 

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City Manager defends performance

April 6, 2016

 

Recent council meetings have seen local business leaders expressing dissatisfaction with the city and its performance in attracting and retaining business development.  As the city manager, Kyle Jung is ultimately responsible for the city’s administration.  At a recent council meeting, council’s diligence in holding the city manager responsible for the actions he has undertaken in his nearly four year tenure was called into question.  “Not much has happened here in the last twenty years, let alone the last four years since we hired a city manager,” Frank Hagdorn said as spokesman for a disgruntled business community.  According to public records the city manager has negotiated a 34% increase in his salary over the last four years and has earned some $568,000 in compensation during that time.

 

Jung responded to the attention put on him on a variety of topics.  Regarding the pay issue, he explained that in 2013 council included a standard insurance benefit for him and his family that was overlooked in his initial employment agreement.  Subsequent years saw a 3% raise in 2014 (“the same as the rest of the city staff”), 2.5% in 2015, and 3% in 2016.  “As you can see, the largest increase was something that was supposed to be in the initial employment agreement and was added by the Council in the first annual review.  I think the 34% increase comment was made without context, possibly in an attempt to overstate compensation.”  Jung said that he provides “accomplishment sheets” at each annual review that council refers to when evaluating his annual performance.

 

In an effort to refute the claim that little economic activity has occurred in Manvel since 2010, Jung produced a report at the last council meeting showing total housing permits for new construction totaling 1,502 with 757 of those inside the city limits.  City property tax revenue increased 34.76% and sales tax revenue 100.38% from 2010 through 2015.  “I would think that this increase would indicate significant commercial activity is taking place in the City at a level much higher than just a few years before,” he said.  He also showed certificates of occupancy permits issued to 102 businesses since 2010.  As Jung explained it, “This means that they were able to successfully negotiate all the rules, regulations, inspections, and requirements of the city and opened their doors for business.”  Partly in response to a question by council member Adrian Gaspar wondering where all those businesses are, he speculated that business or economic issues could have affected their ability to remain open and “not city regulations or requirements because all of those were addressed prior to the Certificate of Occupancy being issued.” 

 

Continuing on the theme of new business in the city, Jung said, “I wonder if there have been any efforts on the part of the Manvel business community to assist, foster, or guide any new businesses through the first difficult years.  I would think that existing business owners have the expertise to help create and improve the business climate in the city.  As that climate improves, all businesses would benefit.  I wonder how many of the businesses in Manvel are members of the Alvin Manvel Chamber of Commerce or attend networking events that would help foster closer business relationships with other entities that could help the Manvel businesses.  Is there a separate organization that businesses in Manvel belong to or participate in that could improve the Manvel business climate?  If so, I would be very interested in learning about and participating in such an organization.  Are there specific regulations that the business owners want changed, how would those changes affect future development and the City, and would the Council want the results of those changes?”

 

Regarding the creation of a business liaison position, Jung responded that he sees it as requiring “two very different activities.  The first activity is for a city staff member to be the point of contact for new development.  The Director of Development Services position was proposed in 2013 and included in the city organization chart at that time, but the position has not been funded yet.  This position would oversee all development related activities of the city.”  The second activity would be someone to go out and look for new businesses to come to Manvel.  Jung believes that activity would be best accomplished by someone the MEDC Board would hire, direct, and supervise.  “As Manvel is a rapidly growing city, there are processes and regulations that will need to change.  If there are better ways to accomplish a task, I am open to exploring the alternatives and ensuring the best way is implemented.”

 

Jung explained the process when a prospect inquires about development in the city: “When the staff is contacted by a prospective developer (developer essentially includes any new economic activity), we invite them to come to city hall to discuss their project.  We coordinate the appropriate staff (permits, building official, fire marshal, public works, utilities, city engineer, city attorney, and police/finance/city secretary, if needed) attendance at the meeting to hear the project and answer any questions the developer might have.”  The first issue to address would be zoning requirements.  Is the proposed land use in the correct zoning district?  If not, the prospect can ask the council to rezone the property to the correct designation.  The second issue would be subdivision requirements.  Does the property need to be platted, are there dedications for additional rights of way for streets, drainage, utilities, etc.?  A third issue is the submission of construction and site plans.  Do they comply with all city requirements (setbacks, building codes, drainage, façade for commercial, etc.)?  A fourth issue is the assurance the development will be built according to the approved plans and that inspections occur throughout the project.  “If there are public utilities (streets, drainage, water, wastewater, etc.) those systems have to be accepted by the Council before the project is completed.  Finally, after the project is completed and all public infrastructure is accepted by the Council, the approved final plat is recorded with the County Clerk’s office.”

 

Responding to a question on what council is made aware of regarding pre-development meetings, Jung explained that he regularly prepares a development sheet that the staff uses to track meetings with developers and that the information is provided monthly to Council.  Concerning follow-ups, he said, “As prospective development contacts the city, the staff stays in contact with them to provide any assistance they request, provide any documentation or answer any questions about the requirements or process that their development requires, or to set up any meetings they need.”  He refutes the allegation that he picks and chooses what council is informed of: “The City’s Home Rule Charter and the Council Rules of Procedure allow the city manager to participate (but not vote) in the council meetings.  The Mayor or any three Councilmembers can call a special meeting to discuss any topic.  Any member of the Council or the city manager may place an item on the Council meeting agenda.  Therefore I do not control or limit any topics on a Council agenda.”

 

In answer to claims that his negotiation style hampers business creation, Jung took issue, “As city manager, I was hired by the Council to ensure that all state laws, city ordinances, and regulations are effectively enforced and that the city was well managed.  The zoning regulations, subdivision requirements, and building codes are all laws adopted by the Council to guide how the City develops.  The staff does not have any flexibility to allow a developer to build a development that does not conform to the laws and regulations approved by the Council.  The staff has and does recommend changes to the various city ordinances, but it ultimately is up to the Council to approve any changes.  When dealing with any proposed development, my primary responsibility is to get the best deal for the City.  I hope that the negotiations the staff undertakes will lead to positive outcomes, but the staff has no authority to waive most rules, regulations, and requirements.  In many city ordinances, there are variance or waiver procedures that the Council could consider.  Therefore, it would be up to the Council to decide if a specific project would warrant exemption from a rule or regulation the Council approved in the first place.”

 

On accusations that the city discourages current business from expanding with the myriad requirements they are faced with and a lack of flexibility from the city, Jung responded that “all development, whether current or new, is required to follow the same development regulations.  It would be improper and possibly illegal for the City to impose different regulations on an existing business versus new development.”

 

Asked about the demand by the city that any new development pay for the infrastructure required to service its project, Jung said, “Contrary to the comments expressed at the recent meetings, cities do not normally build new infrastructure.  New development that needs that infrastructure normally includes those expenses in their cost of site development.  A very good example of this is the CR 58 storage development.  They informed the city that their total development costs (land, building, etc.) is $5.5 million dollars and they have just agreed to escrow $100,090.45 for the one-half of the required concrete road (approximately 725’ long) and curb and gutter drainage required for a perimeter road on the east side of their development.  If there are areas located between developments that infrastructure is determined to be needed, cities may fill in the gaps.  There are many financing tools that developers use to pay for the infrastructure needed for their development.  These include: 380 agreements, TIRZs, TIFs, municipal management districts, just to mention a few.  The infrastructure projects are funded by the developers and the city reimburses the developer by increments based on the property or sales taxes generated by the new development.” 

 

More specifically, Jung defends himself on claims of the Town Center project at SH 6 and SH 288 and Meridiana not establishing in Manvel because of burdensome and inflexible city demands.  He explained that last week a meeting was held and that “the developer commented that this project is still moving forward and mentioned a tentative date for breaking ground in the second quarter of 2017 and an opening approximately 12 months later.  No request for utility connects was made at the meeting and their engineers specifically pointed out where the planned water and wastewater plants and the elevated water storage will be located in the development.”

 

On the claim by some that Manvel’s difficult array of rules and regulations coerced Meridiana to move their primary entrance from McCoy and SH 6 to Iowa Colony instead, he says, “The comments I heard from the developer not long after I came to Manvel were that the bridge over the railroad tracks and GCWA canal was estimated to cost between $12-15 million dollars and the mile of major thoroughfare to go from Hwy 6 to their property would cost between $2-3 million dollars (between $15-20 million dollars of infrastructure would be required before they got to their first lot).  I assume the decision to build in Iowa Colony did not have these upfront development costs to get to their first section of housing because the developer owns the property adjacent to Hwy 288.  The majority of the $110 million dollar reimbursement to the developer through the TIRZ will come from the development in Manvel.  Because of this agreement, I think the developer will continue to move the development along and should probably be in the Manvel city limits in the next 2-3 years.”

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Alvin Community College explains bond proposal

April 13, 2016

 

Alvin Community College (ACC) held an information session at the college last week to explain the $88.5 million bond referendum district voters will decide in the coming election on May 7.  The decision to present a bond resulted from a strategic plan that the college’s board of regents authorized in 2015.  The plan looked forward five years from 2016 to 2021 and addressed a variety of important areas.  The primary focus was “…to plan and develop a campus in the vicinity of the west side of the college taxing district and address facilities needs and technology updates for the existing campus.”  A presentation was given by the college president, Christal Albrecht, providing background on the college’s 68 years of service to the region and an explanation of the reasons and intentions of the proposed bond program.  A question-answer session followed.

 

The college’s Board of Regents appointed a Long Range Facilities Planning Committee that met during late 2015 and early 2016.  The committee was tasked with reviewing the Facilities Master Plan to determine a priority of projects and a recommended bond program to fund the improvements.  The college must depend on district taxpayers to fund facilities and infrastructure projects as state funding is allowed only for instruction related activities.  The original recommendation from the committee was for a $122 million bond.  The Board scaled back the recommendation to the current $88.5 million.

 

The current tax rate for ACC is .204009 per $100 valuation.  If the bond is approved that rate would increase 34% to .273979.  The ACC tax rate has actually declined since 2002 when it was just over .25.  The college has had only two bonds approved in its 68-year history.  In 1961, $1.5 million was authorized through AISD which allowed the acquisition and initial construction of the current campus on Mustang Road.  In 1975 the college was then independent of AISD and issued $8 million in bonds which constructed the bulk of the current campus, essentially the horseshoe structures that comprise buildings A, B, C, and D.  In 2005, $19.9 million was authorized for the construction of the Science/Health Science building.

 

Approximately 60% of the proposed bond would fund improvements to the current Alvin campus.  A new technical education building would be constructed to house the school’s successful technical programs such as CNC operations, welding, and pipefitting.  It also would provide additional space for new program offerings such as engineering and supply chain management.  The structure would create up-to-date labs to mirror real-world workplaces to provide the best possible job training environment.  Classrooms in the older buildings would see upgrades to increase flexibility and make scheduling more efficient.  Technology, equipment, and furnishings would be modernized and designed for flexibility to support multiple teaching styles.

 

In an effort to provide students a more modern and welcoming environment plans call for various updates to help keep students on campus.  The Student Center would be renovated with a reconfigured interior and improvements to the food service area to create a visible, attractive destination at the heart of the campus.  Selected spaces on the campus would be renovated to create areas for student study, collaboration, and social interaction.  Outdoor areas would see additional furniture in public and student areas.  Building HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems in various buildings have been in place for many years and are at the end of their lifespan.  Energy efficient upgrades to these systems are planned as are addressing the safety code and accessibility concerns in existing buildings.  The current Liberal Arts Building will be demolished as studies indicate the building is not cost effective to make the necessary repairs.

 

As safety has become increasingly important various campus safety features are planned.  Electronic card readers are contemplated for exterior doors to better control who comes and goes and a record of that access will be available.  Lighting will be added to parking lots, emergency call stations will be installed at various locations around campus, and pedestrian walkways will see improvements.  The school’s successful culinary arts program will see considerable expansion.  Plans call for additional facilities to allow increased program offerings for both day and evening students.  Additional work station types will offer a wider variety of culinary classes.  And improvements to the culinary teaching areas will better reflect the real-world work environments students will encounter.

 

Approximately 40% of the bond would fund a new campus to serve the significant population increases that have been realized on the west side of the district.  Funds would secure a site in the vicinity of the 288 corridor that would provide sufficient infrastructure for anticipated future campus growth and would provide a more convenient commute for west side students.   Initial construction would consist of one multi-use building that would include general purpose classrooms, computer labs, and multi-purpose science and health labs.  Population is expected to continue its increase on the west side as new master planned communities are either under construction presently or are expected in the coming years.

 

Proponents of the bond feel the current campus in Alvin is past due for modernization to a more efficient, flexible, and engaging learning environment that better meets current student expectations.  The west side of the district provides significant constituent population that will grow still larger in the coming years.  A campus on the west side would better serve that constituency and allow the college to better meet the future needs of its district.  The Board of Regents have proven responsible with college finances and have been conservative in its operation.  Eight of its nine members voted in support of the bond proposal.

 

Opposition to the bond is centered generally on two issues: the west side investment and the effect on property taxes.  Some consider the commitment to the west side as premature and not justified given the poor utilization of the current campus facilities.  ACC Regent Mac Barrow was the lone dissenting vote on the Board of Regents.  He cited a consultant’s report that determined the utilization rate at the Alvin campus is approximately 36%, or 16 hours per week, compared with a goal of 65% and 32 hours per week.  He sees no justification for building a new west side campus when so much capacity is idle in Alvin.  Another argument against a west side campus is that the planned programs would mostly duplicate current course offerings such as the current High School dual credit program, on line courses, and those offered in the classrooms on the Alvin Campus.

 

The tax impact is also a reason for opposition.  Claims are that approving the bond will raise taxes by 34%.  While that claim is technically accurate, stating it in such a way that fails to provide explanation serves to mislead many voters who may not realize the various components of an annual property tax bill.  Additionally, many voters are not property owners and may never have seen a tax bill.  A random tax bill for a Manvel property in 2015 showed seven (7) taxable jurisdictions.  The jurisdictions include AISD (48.2%), City of Manvel (19.7%), Brazoria County (14.5%), ACC (6.9%), C&R 3 (5.1%), ESD 3 (3.4%), and Road & Bridge (2%).  The appraised value of the property in the random bill was $3800.  The total tax due was $111.61 or just over 2.9% of the appraised value.   The portion of the bill that ACC claims was $7.75 of the total $111.61 (6.9%).  The 34% increase opponents tout is only on the ACC portion of the tax bill.  Adding that 34% to the example, the ACC tax would increase $2.63 to approximately $10.38.  Taking that increase as a portion of the overall bill cited in the example, the tax would be $114.24, an increase in the overall tax bill of just over 2.3%.  That would be a more accurate depiction of the overall tax impact.  Converting that analysis to a more meaningful number for taxpayers, assuming a home value at the county average of $175,000, the increase in taxes resulting from the bond would be $10.20 each month or $122.45 on an annual basis.

 

Two additional information sessions will be held prior to the election.  Manvel will host one at 7PM on Wednesday, April 13, at 6911 Masters Road.  Pearland’s Shadow Creek Ranch will host one at 7PM on Wednesday, April 20 at the Reflection Bay Event Center, 12234 Shadow Creek Parkway.  Information can also be had at the college website, www.alvincollege.edu/bond2016.

 

Election Day is Saturday, May 7.  Early voting begins April 25 and runs through May 3.  District voters can now vote in any county precinct location, both during the early voting period and on Election Day.

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Council approves development agreement

April 13, 2016

 

Manvel city council approved a development agreement with the Manvel Seafood Restaurant at this week’s meeting.  The agreement should allow the restaurant to move forward with its plans to relocate to a new location on SH 6 generally across the street from city hall.  The agreement comes after considerable debate among council on city policies that have discouraged business development in the city.  Attention to the matter was raised when it was learned the restaurant would likely look elsewhere for its expansion because of the city’s requirements that the business fund 100% of its needed water/sewer infrastructure, a road, and its drainage requirements.  Those requirements added significantly to the overall project costs and incited the local business community to rally behind an effort to bring attention to the city’s poor record of business development.

 

With the agreement in place, the city will pay for the mandated roads and the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has begun the process of authorizing the funding for the water/sewer installation.  Drainage issues remain to be addressed as the city is in negotiation with the Drainage District to determine a plan for off-site capacity.  Costs for the off-site drainage will be borne by the restaurant.  No timeline for construction has yet been announced.

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Developers propose 380 Agreement

April 20, 2016

 

A group of developers and land owners with a combined control of approximately 1340 contiguous acres has presented the Manvel city council and its Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) with a proposal that would spur development activity in a key part of the city.  The acreage consists of frontage on both the north side of SH 6 and the east side of SH 288 with the bulk of the area being inside those two primary thoroughfares. 

 

The agreement sought after is known as a 380 Agreement.  The name derives simply from the part of the Texas government code that allows cities to participate in public-private partnerships with a purpose of encouraging development.  The gist of the agreement provides for the costs of particular infrastructure within a prescribed area, or zone, to be paid from tax revenue that is ultimately generated from the resulting development.  Agreements of this type are made possible by state law with the intent of giving both the developer and the city benefits.  Essentially the developer fronts the costs for expensive infrastructure such as roads, drainage, parks, and the like, with an expectation of future reimbursement from collected tax revenue.  Water and sewer infrastructure would be funded by Municipal Utility Districts (MUD’s).  If a development resides outside the city limits and is not subject to the city’s property tax levy, a MUD enjoys greater capacity to contribute to other vital infrastructure as well.  A MUD serving a development that is burdened with a city tax, however, as is the circumstance of all the property in the area proposed by the group, faces limitations in the amount of infrastructure it can finance. One of the key reasons developers consider this agreement important is to help level the economic playing field between in-city development and out-of-city development, with examples being Pomona and Sedona Lakes.

 

The developer benefits in gaining relief in the high cost of the infrastructure that is essential for any development to occur.  Manvel presents particular challenges to the economic viability of development in that the city’s adopted development ordinances mandates large lots, wide thoroughfares, and considerable parks and green space.  Additionally, the city’s well known issues with drainage presents still more costly infrastructure investments.  Every acre of land required to meet public infrastructure demands dilutes the developer’s ability to spread those costs among the various components of their project.  The end result is that the costs for public infrastructure makes too expensive the end product to the consumer thereby rendering the project not worthwhile.  The history of the many acres included in this proposal would seem to expose that reality as many developers have “kicked the tires” only to eventually walk away.

 

The city benefits in that it is able to attain its aggressive mandates for public infrastructure in a timelier manner and at no direct cost to the city’s taxpayers.  A particular development would pay the initial cost of the improvements and would bear one hundred percent of the attendant risk.  Reimbursement for those costs would occur only when sufficient property tax valuations within the 380 zone are realized and collected by the city.  The negotiated agreement would clarify a certain percentage of collected tax revenue that would be deposited to a fund with the purpose of reimbursing the authorized infrastructure costs.  The city would retain a portion of the revenue to cover its on-going maintenance obligations.  Because reimbursements would derive only from the tax revenue collected within the zone, taxpayers outside the zone would see no accordant impact on their tax bill.

 

The proposal follows considerable debate in recent months among city officials and private business and land owners on the city’s performance in regards to economic and business development.  City council has demonstrated recently some flexibility in the enforcement of its stringent demands on economic development and business creation within the city.  The proposal for the 380 Agreement was generally well received with a willingness to consider its merits.  An agreement would almost certainly motivate development in a key part of the city that for too long has been disregarded.

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Jerome Hudson seeks council position

April 20, 2016

 

Jerome Hudson is vying for the Place 6 seat on Manvel city council in this May’s election.  He is being contested by incumbent Lew Shuffler who is seeking his third term on council.  Hudson is retired and currently serves on the city’s Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z).  He also serves on various other city committees and boards.

 

In promoting his efforts for the position, Hudson says, “Being a resident of Manvel and former business owner, I desire to see continuous growth, economic development, and prosperity within our city boundaries.  I currently serve on some of the city's committees and boards.  Manvel is a growing city.  The population has grown by 40% over the past 5 years.  We need to have experienced leadership on City Council who will work to develop policies to sensibly manage our continuous growth.  As a city council member, I will champion policies, strategies, and implementations that allow for our residents to raise families in a safe and prosperous community; provide an environment where responsible businesses can thrive and grow; and maintain our open space lifestyle.”

 

Election Day is Saturday, May 7.  Early voting begins April 25 and runs through May 3.  District voters can now vote in any county precinct location, both during the early voting period and on Election Day.

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Voters to select ACC Regents

April 27, 2016

 

Three positions on the Board of Regents for the Alvin Community College (ACC) are being contested this year.  Normally generating little interest or enthusiasm, this year’s election is seeing increased attention on the part of district voters due mostly to the $88.5 million bond referendum the college is asking voters to support.  As one of the contenders said at a recent candidate forum in Manvel, essentially the key difference among the candidates is whether or not they support the bond.  It provides for a clear choice for voters as each seat sees one candidate strongly in support and one candidate strongly opposed.

 

Only one seat (Position 9) sees an incumbent seeking reelection.  Karlis Ercums is seeking his third consecutive term on the Board.  ACC Regents serve six-year terms.  Ercums is a successful businessman and life-time Alvin resident who attended and graduated from ACC.  He feels now is a critical time for the future of the college.  He says the college “is in critical need of technical/facility maintenance upgrades” for campus buildings that are more than 50 years old.  He believes “the evolving needs of technical, job training, course, and student requires us to take a positive step so that we don’t become irrelevant.”  He “emphatically” supports a west side campus that “caters to the unique needs of today’s students and the diversity of the west side.”  He considers the argument put forth by the opposition that just the current campus be improved and “everyone on the west side can just drive to Alvin” as “uninformed and shortsighted.”  He goes on to say that “taxpayers on the west side deserve an accessible college facility that is convenient and is one that meets their needs.  It’s just the right thing to do.”

 

Ercums is being contested by former Alvin City Council representative Roger Stuksa.  Stuksa served eight years as a council member and now feels “there is a need for some guidance in the college area.”  Stuksa opposes the bond but says he does support vocational training and full-time teachers.  He believes full-time teachers provide a better level of commitment and dedication and is opposed to the college’s increased reliance on part-time positions.  He says the bond includes a lot of money that will take 25-years to pay off and expresses a belief that the college will most certainly ask for still more money some time during that 25-year payback period.

 

The Position 7 seat is being contested by former ACC Dean Patty Hertenberger and Kam Marvel.  Hertenberger is a graduate of Alvin HS and ACC.  She spent 32 years in the classroom and 19 years as an administrator serving as the college’s Dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development.  She claims to “maintain a passion for the college and would work to ensure the college remains focused on student success and instruction.”  She believes one of the greatest challenges facing the college is ensuring students receive the highest quality of instruction available while keeping tuition affordable and costs down.  She would like to see the college expand the number of skilled workforce training programs but acknowledges the current facility is unable to support the addition of new high demand programs.  She also supports the expansion of existing workforce training programs.  Currently, she says, many students are forced to go to other colleges to get this training.  In addition, she says, “the college is faced with the challenge of meeting the demands of a growing taxing district to provide more services, while ensuring the college remains fiscally responsible.”

 

Hertenberger concedes the need for some elements in the proposed bond, such as the Technical Training Facility, but she is not in favor of supporting it at this time.  She says that ACC has “always been good stewards of taxpayer’s dollars and in the past have found ways to build new buildings, remodel existing buildings etc. without raising taxes or passing bonds.  Perhaps with more thought, planning and creative leadership, many of the elements listed as needed in the bond could be accomplished in other ways.”  She realizes the west side of the district is seeing rapid growth and does favor the college expanding access to the area.  But she believes better access can be accomplished without building another campus, at least at this point in time.  She favors teaming with AISD, which will be opening the new Shadow Creek High School campus in the fall of 2016.  She believes ACC could partner with AISD to offer college courses at the new facility in the afternoons, evenings and on weekends.  “This would be one way to provide access to the taxpayers in that area while also finding out how much interest there really is before investing money in another campus.  This is not a new concept, ACC as well as other community colleges have done this in the past.  As a taxpayer myself, I think this is a better use of our tax dollars.”

 

Marvel says he is running for a regent position because his family has benefited so much from ACC.  Both he and his wife started their careers at ACC.  His 19-year old son earned considerable dual-credit hours from ACC so that he is now a senior at Texas A&M Galveston.  Both of his other children also benefited from the school’s dual-credit program.  Marvel believes in what ACC does and says he has dedicated his time as a volunteer on various committees over the years.  He serves as a senior project director for Communities In Schools (CIS) in Alvin.  His primary function is the management of grant programs from state and federal sources.  CIS provides a comprehensive program offering students the opportunity to overcome obstacles thus making it easier for them to stay in school, successfully learn, and prepare for life.  Marvel says it is important to balance the needs of taxpayers, existing staff, and the administration, but he emphasizes the college survives to promote student success.  He says he now wants to see the continuation of his students from grades 1 to 12 progress into adulthood.

 

He strongly supports the bond and believes that all the needs of district taxpayers should be met.  He wants to provide a strong foundation for the college and a balance of the needs for fiscal responsibility while meeting the needs of students on both the east and west sides of the district.  “The funding from the bond will allow families almost 30 minutes away who already pay taxes to ACC a more reasonable option for services.  It will also expand effective programs at the current campus and make much needed improvements.”

 

The Position 8 seat likewise sees contrasting opinions on the bond proposal.  Former ACC Chief of Police Andy Tacquard and Pearland attorney Monica Morgan are squaring off in that race.  Tacquard was born and raised in Alvin and earned a degree from the college in Criminal Justice.  He served as the campus’ Chief of Police for 30 years, retiring in 2014.  He cites two primary reasons for running:  “First is because the college has always been near and dear to my heart due to the fact that someone in my family has either worked for or attended ACC since it first opened its doors in 1949.  Second, I am concerned because the tax rate has gone up since the 2014 budget, eight new administrative positions have been added, eight full time faculty positions have been cut, and the budget has seen a $2.2 million dollar increase over 2 years while student enrollment has decreased.”  He believes “top quality instruction has been one of the college’s greatest strengths and should be maintained to ensure student success.”

 

Tacquard does not support the bond for several reasons.  He claims the buildings cited in the proposal as requiring infrastructure improvements “were remodeled after Hurricane Ike in 2009.”  He also does not support the demolition of a key building “where the heart of instruction is accomplished just to give the campus a more open look and improve the flow of pedestrian traffic.”  He does not think now is the time for the west side campus “due to the fact Houston Community College shut down a campus for lack of student enrollment less than 10 miles away from the new proposed campus site.  The HCC campus was built in a densely populated area while ours is being based on expected population growth.  The HCC taxpayers lost $9.6 million dollars even after the county bought the buildings for offices and the developer bought the excess land.”  He does support the acquisition of property along the 288 corridor for future expansion, but favors holding off on a new stand-alone facility until “we know for sure that there is student demand that justifies building a new campus.”  He believes a more prudent approach would be the renting of a vacant space and perhaps operating a store front campus like many other colleges do to see if student demand exists.  If the bond fails, he would like to see the college’s Board of Regent’s be more specific in their request for a future bond, such as specifying more precisely a Vocational technical building, infrastructure upgrades, and the acquisition of land for future growth.”  He believes the tax payers would most likely pass the bond if so.

 

Morgan is a native of Alvin and a current Pearland resident.  She is a practicing attorney and a member of the Board of Directors for the Brazoria County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  She has been a consistent volunteer in various educational and non-profit organizations believing participation helps to maintain high quality outcomes and to insure fiscal responsibility to tax payers.  A significant priority if she is elected would be “to improve and raise awareness of the great programs that exist at ACC and increasing the value of an ACC degree in the eyes of employers and residents in the region.”  She would like to work to “create a stronger presence for ACC across the entire district and marketing the college as a 21st century educational facility that possesses all of the technology and resources to prepare a diverse student population for the jobs that will allow them to lead a satisfying and financially secure life.”

 

Morgan supports the bond saying “the funds are needed to upgrade and enhance the Main Campus in Alvin, as well as, establish a west side location to provide greater access and convenience to the rapidly growing population of Manvel, Pearland, Rosharon and Iowa Colony.”  She is optimistic that “voters in the ACC district will see the value of investment in higher education for our community.  This is a critical time and preparation for the future needs to begin now.  The growth, improvement and expansion of ACC will have a long term positive impact on our local economy and on families that reside within the district.  Without the bond the Board will continue the great work of the college and will need to reframe the proposal to something that the voters will support.  The needs, goals and projects for ACC do not go away, we will find a way to get them done and will continue to trust that the community, when provided accurate information, will get out and support the bond projects that will benefit the entire area for generations to come.”

 

Election Day is Saturday, May 7.  Early voting is currently in progress and runs through May 3.  District voters can now vote in any county precinct location, both during the early voting period and on Election Day.

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