NOTE: As of December, 2020, the Bolivar project has still not been completed.
Bolivar and Pembrook were two lovely, quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sacs off Jessamine just outside the Loop. The streets were in reasonably good condition with no history of flooding. In fact, according to the City’s list of flooded homes only one home on Bolivar and one home on Pembrook flooded during Harvey.
However, long before Hurricane Harvey the City Manager and City Engineer decided Bolivar, along with the 4500 block of Maple and Spruce/Fifth around H-E-B, all needed to be rebuilt, at a final cost of $5.2 million dollars. Construction for Bolivar and Maple began in April of 2019 with a schedule completion date of December, 2019.
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Thanks to the plans by Costello Engineering, promoted by city manager Paul Hofmann and approved by six City Council members, two of whom were voted out in the recent election (but the Mayor, Council members Verma, Pappas, and Fife, and Mr. Hofmann remain) Bolivar and the 4500 block of Maple were chosen for updated drainage, removal and replacement of the existing roadways, and sidewalks to be added to at least one side of the street. A $1.76 million contract was awarded to the construction contractor, A Status Construction, LLC, a company new to Bellaire, for the Bolivar and Maple project. Find more information on the contracts to A Status here.
Residents along Bolivar now fear the loss of large oak trees due to the carelessness of the contractors and the poor oversight of the project by the City. Chopped and mangled roots of the oaks are now exposed well above ground level, and apparently no arborist was involved in the excavations. The damage is devastating, but it takes years for trees to die. By then the City Manager and those elected officials who approved this project will be gone.
Similar to the Spruce and Fifth project, the street has been lowered a foot or more. But these lowered streets are not revealed in the original Costello contract for any of the streets. Who made that decision, when, and why? To deliberately hold water during heavy rains? Were home owners on those streets advised of the plans to lower the pavement almost 2 feet in some areas? See the Costello Engineering contract at the end of this article – the highlights are mine.
Some of the curbs are now replaced by retaining walls, which preclude opening doors of vehicles. Even lawn maintenance will be a problem. Driveways have turned into ramps, storm sewer drains are blocked, and trash and debris are scattered along the yards. Residents fear the street will become an impassable detention pond during heavy rains.
Is this what Bellaire residents expected when they approved the 2016 bond funds? Is this responsible management of our City and our funds? Weren’t there more serious drainage problems that required attention, other streets in much, much worse condition?
Take a drive, check out the changes on Bolivar. Would you want this along your street? Just because it’s not happening on your street now doesn’t mean it may not turn up on a future set of plans. What harms one property owner harms us all, and loss of mature trees means loss of value.
At least we residents can gain some control this coming May with the election for the Charter Amendments to allow residents to choose how sidewalks are installed. The Bolivar oaks may be lost, but we can save some beautiful trees in other areas of the City.
Costello Engineering Contract (with my rectangle highlights) Who was in charge of the Tree Protection (pg 3)?
Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that your email be forwarded.