City Council Update on Spruce/Fifth St Leads To An Unpleasant Exchange; The 4th Quarter Financial Report Is Available

At the November 19th City Council meeting, Denton Ragland, CEO of the Bellaire Business Association, made a presentation promoting a campaign to encourage residents to ‘Stay Local to Bellaire Resources’  and stay loyal to their local businesses, then City Manager Paul Hofmann presented his report. 

Among his future plans he advised Council that due to media and other public attention over the last few months a presentation on the Spruce/Fifth Street Project will be included on the meeting agenda for January 7, 2019, and of his intent to submit the project for approval at the subsequent meeting on January 28, 2019.  This project is part of the 2016 bond issue, part of our debt.

Mr. Hofmann said nothing much had changed since the initial presentation in March of 2018, that staff had been working with the business owners regarding their concerns, and that the professional engineers (all paid by the City) have done a good job. 

But business and property owners say they have had no contact from City staff since the project presentation and council tour of the area this past summer.  They had explained at the summer meeting about the damage to their businesses if this plan is implemented.  However their concerns seem to run a poor second to staff and the engineers.

An overview of the proposed project is available in the link to the Costello plan below.  Besides narrowing the commercial street to less width than most residential streets, the public parking will block current parking spaces in private parking lots. 

Jax Grill stands to lose at least 6 parking spaces, Bellaire Auto Repair loses 1 or 2.   Same thing for several other businesses along Spruce and Fifth.  Deliveries will be difficult and O’Reilly’s stands to lose access for their deliveries since most arrive via an 18-wheeler.

Costello Engineering Overlays

Council member McLaughlan had some questions about the project, which led to a disturbing response from Mr. Hofmann.  Please watch the short exchange, note the City Manager’s attitude towards a longtime resident and member of City Council.  Apparently Mr. Hofmann doesn’t like anyone to question his plans.

As Council member McLaughlan pointed out, taxpayer money will be used for this project, and as far as can be determined no business owner or resident asked for this redesign, nor any Bellaire citizens.

“It seems to be a block that works well to support businesses that are there and it is definitely commercial, there are no residences on this block.”  “We say we’re a business friendly City, well let’s be business friendly with those people that own businesses on those streets.”

Once again this raises the question, who is running this City?  Who answers to the electorate?  When a City Manager makes statements that are at best disingenuous, responds with disrespect to queries from a member of City Council,  and then spits out the word “facts” as though saying it makes it so – when does this sort of behavior justify termination of employment?

Access the video here.  The exchange begins about 38 minutes into the meeting, you can fast forward to that point.   

How do you feel about a less restrictive alcohol restriction at Evelyn’s Park? Discussion will ensue at the Council meeting on December 17th.

Click to view the Report.

The 4th Quarter Financial Report was presented by Jim Harrison, our Assistant Director of Finance.  He stated that amounts discussed and presented in the FY 2018 Fourth Quarter Report are preliminary, unaudited amounts and will not match the final amounts in the FY 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which will be available early next year.  A few takeaways:

Water rates – no further increases for 2019 but still on track to increase in future years to provide increased revenue to the Enterprise Fund.

Hurrcane Harvey costs – $631,000 estimated non-reimbursable cost from Harvey, but not all costs and revenues have been completed.

Park Signage Master Plan and Implementation Project:  The Cash-Funded Park Signage Master Plan has been defunded and the funds were reallocated to the $315,000 North – South Drainage Systems and Cypress Ditch Study in the FY 2019 budget.*

Bellaire Family Aquatic Center Pool Area Improvements: The Cash-Funded project has been defunded and the funds were reallocated to the North – South Drainage Systems and Cypress Ditch Study in the FY 2019 budget.*

You can access the November 19, 2018, meeting agenda here:

*$ 315,000 Study – North / South Drainage Systems and Cypress Ditch – Determine partners, study alternatives, and develop cost estimates for improvements to increase capacity of the north/south drainage systems and Cypress Ditch. Study would include development of a model of Cypress Ditch, which would form the framework for later studies as well. Recommended improvement projects to interior systems, trunk systems, and interior detention ponds would be evaluated. Evaluation of structure buy-outs options and building code standards would also be included.

Current City Debt is $124.8 million, but including the interest it is closer to $180 million.   A $47 million bond issue is under discussion for 2019 and another for $36 million in 2022.

Email your comments on City issues to the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at and ask that your email be forwarded to City Council.

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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