After the departure this past July of Development Services director ChaVonne Sampson, Interim City Manager Brant Gary has proposed a plan to orchestrate a temporary reorganization of Public Works and Development Services into one department on a trial basis. This reorganization will be reviewed in 90 days. Melding these two departments into one might lead to a reduction in staffing costs. If it works out, hopefully we stand to save millions on a new Public Works building, too. Time will tell.
Many Bellaire residents are unaware that our Public Works building, built in 1984, was demolished in 2016. City management and six members of City Council decided that after a second flood it was not worth renovating and so it was torn down. Estimated cost at that time to repair the building was $619,750, with no additional flood prevention measures.
A second option was repair and improvements, then adding a concrete wall, in essence a dam, around the structure to hold back future flood waters, at a higher cost. There is no record of discussion about elevating all or part of the original building.
Insurance proceeds of approximately $300K would have paid for part of those repairs. Instead those proceeds were used to demolish the structure and Council chose to plan on a new building, at an estimated cost of less than $3 million dollars. Five years later, per the most recent list of proposed Capital Improvements FY2022-2026, the estimated cost is $11.5 million.
The loss of our Public Works building is just one of the many choices made by recent City Councils that have affected our finances. In 2016 Council also approved a $54 million dollar bond issue. Which is how the City has accumulated $110 million dollars of debt, one of the highest debt-per-capita in the state.
Prior to the Council election in 2019 a plans were underway for another $47 million or more in bonds, however for now bond issues are no longer under discussion.
Find some background the recent bond issue here: Bellaire’s Future & the Status of the 2016 Bond Funds
Due to oversights in the Development Services Department, as of October 1, 2021, Bellaire residents lost the 15% rate discount on flood insurance. Now FEMA is moving to a new methodology, Risk Rating 2. Check with your insurance agent.
New policies beginning Oct. 1, 2021, will be subject to the new rating methodology. Also beginning Oct. 1, existing policyholders eligible for renewal will be able to take advantage of immediate decreases in their premiums.
All remaining policies renewing on or after April 1, 2022, will be subject to the new rating methodology.
A $200,000 Dog Pound Proposal on the Council Agenda for November 15, 2021. An average of 3-4 dogs per month are impounded. If a dog is not picked up by its owner, after 3 days the dog will be taken to a local vet for vaccinations and a checkup. After the dog has been seen by the vet, the Animal Control Officer will work with outside agencies for adoption. Estimated cost to construct a new pound is $400,000. Estimated cost to purchase a modular building is $200,000.
Meanwhile, Council approved up to $150,000 for a new bathroom to replace the use of a porta-potty at Mulberry Park. Construction may include a prefab building and will require sewer and water line connections.
You can email comments to the Mayor and members of City Council to our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, and ask that they be forwarded. firstname.lastname@example.org