Council Meeting Summary: June 2018

I am going to start a regular series of posts each month to summarize the actions and discussions that occur at City Council meetings. I know a lot of people are very busy and cannot attend, nor can they devote enough time for a Facebook Live session, so I’ll start with a brief summary, followed by more detail if folks feel like they need more information on a topic.

So, yesterday evening was the June 2018 Regular Session meeting.

What you need to know:

  • In preparation for the expected heavy rainfall, the City Public Works crew has cleared storm drains in low-lying and staged other equipment to help drain water as fast as possible.
  • A zoning change was approved (following a public hearing and P&Z final report) for property on Jones Road. You may know the area as the spot with the donut shop with the office/warehouse complex behind it. The change was almost purely procedural, simply allowing more uses for the land in compliance with surrounding uses. [YouTube Video of Discussion]
  • Executive Session was held to discuss ongoing litigation (no action taken) and also a potential real estate transaction for a new Public Works building. We authorized the City Manager to negotiate the purchase of a facility to house a new Public Works facility.
  • We authorized the City Manager to proceed with applying for a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to help cover the city’s 25% matching portion of a larger grant applied for earlier this year. If both grant applications are awarded funding, 100% of the golf course berm and Wall/Capri/Crawford neighborhood stormwater system improvement projects would be paid for by grant funding. Important to note: regardless of grant funding, these projects are moving forward, are funded already with our own budget dollars, and are currently in design/engineering phases. Grant applications are not, have not, and will not delay these projects in any fashion.
  • A bid to repair a clarifier and add a 2nd one at the Castlebridge Water Treatment Plant was awarded. The budgeted amount was $2,000,000 and the awarded bid was almost $500,000 below that (yay!). This plant is very important to the growth of JV, especially in the Jersey Crossing area and any future ETJ annexations.
  • A grant application by the JVFD Chief for a community warning siren/speaker system was approved. This will be placed at Carol Fox Park and will warn citizens within a 1.5 mile radius of dangerous conditions (tornados, flooding, etc.). I live 6 houses down from this location and I made sure this speaker would not harm the peace of the immediate homes or the families playing at the park. The Chief anticipates testing the speaker once every quarter, and nearby residents will receive ample warning of these tests.
  • A grant application for $5,000 for the future dog park was approved. The dog park is coming along, delayed by Harris County Flood Control District approvals (shocking, I know!) , but should be completed in July. If our grant is approved, better equipment for your pup will adorn the interior.
  • A new Commissioner for the TIRZ District was appointed to replace Councilman Singleton as he resigned to serve on Council. Andrea Grimm, a local real estate broker and 20+ year JV resident, was selected.
  • New health insurance rates were approved for city staff.
  • Changes were made to how city departments purchase some equipment, moving from a check system to a p-card/credit card system that integrates with the city’s new software system.

more detail:

Public Works Building

Quite simply… the JV Public Works building, located in the ETJ area on Taylor Road, is in deplorable condition. It floods with the slightest heavy downpour and stays that way for days. There’s literally a permanent puddle with catfish in it. The offices and bathrooms are not hospitable to any form of productivity. Visiting the facility is just one step above visiting a 3rd world country. It’s that bad and I’m embarrassed we’ve allowed workers to continue on at this location. Last budget cycle we planned to demolish the current buildings and rebuild a new facility on the same land. However, after taking a field trip and touring the facilities, it was decided a better option would be to find a simple metal building and land nearby for a build-to-suit type of purpose. This offers a few advantages. First, the department could move equipment from the old facility to the new facility at their own pace, meaning little to no downtime. Second, the “old” facility and land can be sold at some point to help recoup some of the cost of this purchase. The Council action was to allow the City Manager to negotiate a purchase of a building. At a future meeting, if a deal is made, Council will deliberate the actual purchase.

Grant Applications

This meeting had 3 different grant applications considered. First, and most important, was the Community Development Block Grant application. This is a grant application to help cover the City’s responsible portion of another, much larger grant we applied for earlier this year. When the City applies for grants, the vast majority require some sort of local matching funds, usually about 25% of the overall cost. For example, when the City applied for FEMA grants to elevate 18 flood-risk homes, we were required to put forward 25% of the total cost in matching funds. Earlier this year the City Manager applied for a large grant to help cover up to 75% of the project costs to build the golf course berm and the Wall/Capri/Crawford neighborhood stormwater improvements (estimated at $6.23 million). The City’s responsible portion, 25% ($1.56 Million), is what last night’s grant application was for. Very important to note: these projects– the berm and stormwater system improvements– are moving forward independent of these grant applications. They have been fully funded by our regular budget process and will go forward regardless of grant funding or not. The berm project is currently in design/engineering with our City Engineer and will likely be ready for construction bidding this August. The stormwater system improvements are also in design and will follow completion of the berm since that system will integrate with the berm and new detention capacity. [YouTube Video of Discussion]

The Long-Term Flood Recovery Study, completed and accepted last year, has been instrumental in making our grant applications competitive. Most grant programs are highly competitive, with applications pouring in from across the state and country from cities much larger than Jersey Village and staffed with people who’s jobs are specifically to write and obtain grant funding. Our flood study cost JV taxpayers about $610,000. Without the study and the resulting hydrologic and hydraulic modeling data, applying for grants would simply be a waste of staff time. It has enabled our staff to create grant applications on-par or even better than those much larger cities with dedicated grant-writing staff. The total amount of grant funding applied for by the City is around $9.6 million ($3.35 million has already received preliminary awarding, waiting on final word any day now). Should JV receive funding awards on all of those applications (and that’s a big “if”), the return-on-investment would stand around $15.70 for every $1 invested in the study. It could turn out to be the best investment we’ve ever made (**knock on wood**).

The 2nd grant item was for a speaker/siren system to warn JV citizens of impending danger (tornado, flooding, coyote packs, etc). The Tax Day Flood exposed a weakness in our reverse-911 system. Many residents, myself included, did not receive a call in time to wake up and save precious valuables. The reverse 911 process takes hours to reach all of the folks on the list. Many people have cell phones that are on silent/do not disturb at night and do not wake up to the call anyways. This siren/speaker, which will cost about $30K total with the potential grant covering 50%, would be placed at Carol Fox Park. The system has an auditory range of about 1.5 miles. Having lived in Tornado Alley for several years, I can personally vouch for these types of systems being a lifesaver. I also live just 6 houses down from the park and I voiced concerns about the volume (~148 decibels) impacting nearby residents and kids playing at the park. During an emergency, like inclement weather, I doubt there would be children at the park and I’m sure nearby neighbors would appreciate the warning of impending danger no matter how loud. However, during quarterly testing of the system, the sudden sound may come as a shock to some families both at the park and within a quarter mile of it. Fire Chief Bitz committed to providing ample warning to park patrons and nearby residents prior to testing so it does not catch too many people off guard. I hope to not spill any beers. [YouTube Video of Discussion]

Lastly, a grant application for $5,000 from PetsMart to pay for equipment at the dog park was approved. If awarded, the city would need to add their logo to the dog park signage (probably on the rules sign). The equipment would likely be agility structures, so maybe we can get our lazy dogs to be a little more agile. Maybe JV can produce a future Westminster Dog Show champ? [YouTube Video of Discussion]

I’m very proud of our City Staff for recognizing the need to apply for these grant programs and bringing them to our attention. Our City has a very healthy fund balance and as stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, it is our responsibility to explore all available funding avenues no matter how large or small the project.

TIRZ Board Appointment

With the election of James Singleton to City Council last month, a vacancy was created on a very important citizen advisory board, the TIRZ District. This board will be instrumental in the future of the Jersey Crossing district (the area on Jones Road south of Hwy 290) and the ETJ (Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, which is the land JV has the right to pursue annexation in the future, all of which is south of Hwy 290). As development moves in, this board will advise Council on reinvestment of property taxes from this zone to fund required infrastructure improvements, tax incentives, financing, and more. So far the board has only submitted a preliminary funding plan, much like an investment prospectus, but will undoubtedly become an important voice in years to come. Of the 2 applications submitted for the board vacancy, Andrea Grimm stood out as the most qualified. Previously I’d seen Andrea’s application for the TIRZ board when it was first formed, then again when we considered applications for a Planning & Zoning Board vacancy. It was very hard not to choose her both times, so I’m very glad her application was still there this time around. I look forward to seeing her at the meetings and hearing her perspective as a local real estate broker. I also want to say that I’m very glad to see so many new applications coming in for various City boards. During my first year on Council, there were not very many applicants to consider. My wife and I have reached out to various social and civic groups in JV encouraging participation and it appears to be paying off. If you would like to submit an application for consideration in any future board vacancies or new boards formed, please visit the City Secretary’s page. [YouTube Video of Discussion]

Castlebridge Water Treatment Plant Bid

Council approved a budget item for this fiscal year to perform much needed maintenance on the Castlebridge Wastewater Treatment Plant facility. This facility was acquired by Jersey Village from a MUD District in a previous annexation. The facility is not in great shape and, as City Engineer Frank Brooks put it last night, it is “on borrowed time”. During inspection it was determined the clarifier (the big circular container that contains all of the… you know…) needs a total overhaul, but also a 2nd clarifier should to be considered. Originally a temporary clarifier was considered while maintenance on the original clarifier was performed. However, the cost-benefit just didn’t make sense, and a 2nd clarifier was officially added to the project. This plant services the immediate area as well as the Jersey Crossing area (south of Hwy 290) and will likely serve any future ETJ annexation. Having a 2nd clarifier adds required capacity, introduces for the first time the ability to shutdown a clarifier for maintenance (extending it’s usable life and reliability), and provides a failover in the event either of the two clarifiers fail. The original budgeted amount for this project was $2 million and, to our pleasant surprise, the low bid was $1.5 million. While it would be nice to complete this far under budget, we were reminded last night by City Engineer Frank Brooks that the current facility is over 30 years old, never maintained in a meaningful way, and could hold surprises and unforeseen challenges. Either way, this is an important project that will allow JV to expand required services into new territory. [YouTube Video of Discussion]

 

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please contact me at amitcham@ci.jersey-village.tx.us

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