The action never stops, no wonder we ordinary Bellaire citizens can’t keep up! Read this post item by item, or drop down to your area of interest. All of this affects our future.
The Southwest News recently reported that the contractor on the Group C Phase 2 Street/Drainage/Sidewalk project, A Status Construction LLC, is suing the City of Bellaire. Which is an odd turn of events, since the contractor is months behind on the projects.
The $4.25 million dollar project included these streets:
- 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce and the 700 block of Fifth, scheduled for completion on February 15, 2020, at a contracted cost of $2,490.502. Incomplete as of 10/12/2020. An earlier request for public information revealed that the contractor had received payments of $1,259,305 through May of 2020.
- 500 block of Bolivar, and the 4500 block of Maple, scheduled for completion on December 24, 2019, at a contracted cost of $1,763,703. Incomplete as of 10/12/2020. As of May, 2020, the contractor had received $1,198,490.
The only street that appears to be completed is the 4500 block of Maple.
By early 2020 A Status had claimed over 300 delay days on a 300 day contract for Spruce and Fifth, due they say to errors and oversights by Costello Engineering and ARKK Engineers. ARKK stated that A Status Construction ‘is slower than most’ and that they would not approve many of the delay days. Wherever the blame may lay, the project isn’t close to completion.
A Status Construction clearly lays the blame at Bellaire’s door. Meanwhile, during the contract period for Spruce/Fifth and Bolivar/Maple, A Status Construction stayed quite busy working on University of Houston contracts.
Most of their contracts are for parking lot construction or lot maintenance, however three of them are open-ended contracts, based on billing for services rendered. One is styled ‘if-as-when requested’ and two are for disaster response and emergency recovery services.
A Status Construction invoices to UH from June, 2017, through July 6, 2020, total almost $13 million dollars. About $6.5 million of that amount covers the period of time they have worked as a contractor in Bellaire, where most of their projects remain unfinished. Find the complete list of UH invoices through 7/6/2020 here.
THE HISD BASEBALL FIELDS
After a Public Hearing was held by City Council on September 21, 2020, HISD was back in front of Council on Monday, October 5, 2020, to request approval of their revised application for a change from 1 to 2 baseball fields to be built on the Gordon Elementary land.
The discussion focused on the negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood, which has suffered flood damage in the past several flood events. The two field plan would remove more mature trees, including those along Avenue B, increase the loss of green space, and create a less permeable surface. Flood mitigation and underground detention were prioritized by Council members, as well of a re-design of the main field. Written comments from residents were 14 in favor of the plan, 21 against.
Council voted to postpone and to form a committee of three Council members (Lewis, Pappas, and Verma) to work with HISD to address the residents’ objections to the new plan.
THE WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT (WWTP)
At the September 14, 2020, Council meeting an agenda item was posted by Development Services to submit an application for a Community Development Block Grant – MIT to finance the abandonment of our wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).
Interim City Manager Brant Gary went into more detail at the October 5th Council meeting. The premise of the grant is to provide flood mitigation to Bellaire by providing flood detention in the current Public Works area along Edith Street. The size of the area has not been determined.
If approved, the $60 to $65 million dollar grant would be a years-long project, and completely change our Public Works Department. It would do away with our WWTP and move all wastewater treatment to the City of Houston’s Almeda Sims WWTP.
A lift station and an eight to nine mile-long pipeline would be built from Bellaire to the Almeda Sims plant to facilitate the change, for the use of Bellaire and Houston. The City of Bellaire would be reliant on the City of Houston and pay for the wastewater treatment based on usage.
Brant Gary explained that Bellaire would not qualify for the grant, which includes requirements for benefits to low to moderate income areas, without partnering with the City of Houston. It’s obvious that considerable input from the City of Houston for the preparation of this grant has been required.
Houston would would benefit from the grant by upgrades to their system and assistance with the pipeline and lift stations once the Houston WWTP on Beechnut is abandoned.
Maintenance of the City’s lift stations and all equipment and sewer lines within the city would remain Bellaire’s responsibility, and City personnel would still be required to oversee operations. The cost to reclaim the Public works area and remediate as necessary would be borne by Bellaire and is not included in the grant.
The grant would provide funds to relocate the Public Works operations, including the cost of land, a new Public Works building and operations building, storage and shops, and space for all Public Works equipment.
The cost to the City of Bellaire would be 1% of the grant funding, somewhere in the neighborhood of $650,000. Some members of City Council seemed to believe it was too good to pass up. The mayor sees a return of 99 to 1. Another Council member suggested that demolishing the WWTP would improve quality of life for residents in that area. But another questioned the wisdom of losing our WWTP and relying solely on Houston. The City would have few options if the Houston costs increased.
The Interim City Manager listed several small cities as linking to Houston’s WWTP, the largest being Galena Park with a population around 11,000 residents. However, Galena Park has it’s own WWTP and has no intention of connecting to Houston’s, though about 340 homes in one subdivision are connected to Houston’s WWTP. Spring Valley has a population of 4,300, and Hillshire Village, the third city mentioned, has a population of 819. Presently Bellaire residents pay a monthly fee of $3.18 per thousand gallons, but no cost benefits or comparisons for wastewater treatment were available at that meeting.
Should the grant application be approved it will be up to City Council to accept or reject it. Regardless, the City would have to continue to pay down the $7.5 million dollar debt for the bonds that were approved in 2016 to renovate the WWTP. Find the October 5, 2020 CDBG presentation here.
Residents are encouraged to send their comments on this plan to the City by October 27, 2020. Send emails to City Clerk Tracy Dutton at email@example.com and request that they be forwarded to the Mayor and City Council.
THE SIEMENS CLOSEOUT
City Council voted 7-0 on October 5, 2020, to close out the $12.8 million dollar Siemens contract. Time will tell whether the work performed by Siemens and their sub-contractors is satisfactory and whether the City will benefit from the promised savings.
Water continues to pool around leaks from meters or adjoining water lines in Bellaire. Neither the problems with water meters nor copies of final inspections were discussed by Council members at the Council meeting. I hope to acquire copies of all third party, independent inspection reports on the $7.5 million of bond funds spent on the equipment and repairs for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Find the October 5, 2020, presentation here.
EVELYN’S PARK & THE LOT AT 4300 BELLAIRE BLVD
At the end of the October 5, 2020, City Council meeting (which lasted almost 5 hours) Council retired to a closed meeting with the City Attorney to discuss options concerning the resolution of a legal demand and the expedited removal of the parking lot on the CenterPoint easement at the railroad tracks. The Mayor advised after the meeting that no action will be taken on the items discussed in the closed meeting.
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, the Planning and Zoning Commission met to discuss, consider, and take possible action on the three applications filed by Evelyn’s Park Conservancy regarding that parking lot. ChaVonne Sampson, the director of Development Services, had recommended against the approval.
The sound for the meeting was terrible, but residents have been assured that the first two applications by EPC were denied. What I could hear regarding the application for a special use permit was unanimous approval to postpone the motion to recommend denial of the SUP. Evelyn’s Park Conservancy can still request approval of the applications by City Council, but for now the EPC effort to have the illegal parking lot approved appears to have failed.
After a little more than a half-hour the subject was closed with no word on the future of the parking lot, when or if it is scheduled to be removed.
For a Future Meeting: Towards the close of the October 8th meeting P&Z members agreed to revisit the 30 foot minimum height requirement in the UV-D at a future meeting. O’Reilly Auto Parts requested a variance from the Board of Adjustment this past August and was turned down. They had hoped to build a new 19′ tall building.
The current zoning in the UV-D not only requires a minimum 30-foot tall building, to contain 2 working stories, it also requires a zero front setback for at least 75% of a commercial structure, built at the front property line. The remaining 25% can be a public plaza, pocket park or other public open space, or an outdoor seating area associated with a restaurant use, which is situated between the building and along a public street. Which means no parking space.
Clearly the current one-story businesses with pull-in parking would not be allowed in the revised zoning, since they would not meet the minimum height or zero setback requirements. Hopefully these issues will soon be on the P&Z agenda.
Find an earlier article on the parking lot here: No Logo, No Welcome Sign
And on the 2014 downtown rezoning: What’s The Point Of Our UrbanVillage-Downtown? regarding the height and setback requirements
Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org and request that your email be forwarded to them.
Total outstanding bond debt on 9/30/2020 stands at $116.4 million.
$6 million in bonds remain unissued.