Preface: On August 15, 2016, City Council approved a motion to call a bond election for November 8, 2016, for $53,980,000. Four propositions were initially discussed: 1) street and drainage facility improvements for $20 million); the construction of new municipal buildings for $5.9 million (City Hall/Civic Center and Police/Courts Building), 3) water line improvements, for $20.38 million and 4) sidewalk improvements for $4 million.
However Council member Pollard proposed that Prop 4 for sidewalks be included in Prop 1, and that proposition be changed to 1) streets, drainage, and sidewalk improvements for $24 million, effectively removing the opportunity for Bellaire residents to approve funding for stand-alone sidewalks. Mayor Friedberg objected to this change. In addition, the $12.8 million Siemens no-bid contract was included in Prop 3, not listed as a separate proposition.
It appears that at least some members of City Council were listening to Bellaire residents who attended last week’s Council meeting. Discussion during the Special Session on August 13th focused on financial concerns and about flood mitigation rather than adding more concrete to the City.
Also about the possibility of a decline in the assessed Bellaire property values for 2018 due to the Harvey flood, which would lead to a decline in tax revenues. The City Manager seems to think the total value on the tax rolls will remain the same. We’ll know more in late August when the final numbers are distributed by Harris County.
Council member David Montague had some questions during the Council meeting, and he’s certainly paying attention. He noticed that the cost for a proposed $1.3 million dollar sidewalk project had ballooned to a $1.8 million contract for 15 blocks, which he then pointed out was almost half the $4 million from the bond issue that was supposed to cover 50 blocks. Someone actually questioning costs!
Public Works director Michael Leech could provide no explanation for the increased cost. Later in the meeting Council member Pollard mentioned that projects always seemed to end up costing more than the original proposals.
The $4 million is supposed to be for 4′ wide stand-alone sidewalks like the one proposed for my street, not ones tied to street reconstruction. Mr. Montague said what he heard at the earlier meeting was that a lot of people opposed plain sidewalks as well as Pathways. That’s when the Mayor suggested that considering how many people have objected to these sidewalks, coupled with the need for more pressing street and drainage projects, the $4 million might be better spent on those.
The vote was 4-3 to postpone a vote on the $1.8 million dollar sidewalk contract until more input is gathered from the community about sidewalks in general. Mayor Friedberg, Neil Verma, Pat McLaughlan, and David Montague voted to postpone it.
Gus Pappas, Patricia Pollard, and Michael Fife voted to proceed. Council member Fife opined that a “number of the comments they had heard last week were from people knocking on doors getting people riled up with information that was not strictly correct. Some well informed and some less than well informed” However the plans and the costs speak for themselves. She also stated that Council didn’t hear from people with small children who couldn’t make the meeting. Guess she forgot about all the emails.
You can always submit comments to the Mayor and Council by sending them to City Clerk Tracy Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org and request that they be forwarded to Council. Let them know what you think!
Watch some or all of the meeting here: http://bellairecitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=1880&Format=Agenda