Pearland deals with annexations, aftermath in 2018
Issues that were a magnet for attention in northern Brazoria County in 2018 included the city of Pearland’s repeal of annexations of adjacent land and an intense focus on school safety following the Santa Fe mass shooting.
Annexation fight and EMS election
Pearland repealed the annexation of about 2,000 acres in its extraterritorial jurisdiction in March amid lawsuits and protests from residents and after a written reprimand by Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, who said that procedures followed by city in acquiring the property were unlawful.
Pearland had annexed the land in November of 2017 before a new state law took effect in December that would require cities get approval from residents in targeted areas through a vote. Pearland is subject to the law because it lies partly in counties that met the population requirement of 500,000 residents.
“Our i’s weren’t perfectly dotted,” City Councilman Tony Carbone said when the repeal occurred. “The city didn’t provide timely notification to school districts.”
Once Pearland’s annexation effort was repealed, its council voted to stop providing emergency medical services to areas outside of the city effective Dec. 31, saying it could no longer justify using city funds to provide those services to people who don’t pay city taxes. As a result, in November, county residents voted to create two emergency medical services districts that will tax property owners in those areas to fund contracts with EMS providers.
Emergency Service District No. 4, which includes about 900 acres in Silverlake, and Emergency Service District No. 5, which encompasses 6,400-acre area along the southern edge of Pearland, each could tax residents up to 10 cents per $100 home valuation to pay for a contract. Providers could include the city of Pearland, although the city is not obligated to enter into an agreement. After boards for the districts are appointed by Brazoria County Commissioners Court, the districts can begin negotiations for service contracts.
Heightened school security
Pearland and Alvin school districts, along with others across the country, reacted to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead at the hands of a teenage gunman and the subsequent Santa Fe High School shooting in May when 10 people were killed at the hands of a student.
Pearland ISD board members voted to fast-track security measures approved for funding through a 2016 $10 million bond package and began installing secured entryways on campuses in June.
At the entrance portals, a receptionist seated behind bullet-resistant glass checks visitors’ drivers licenses or government ID cards in a database before pushing a button to open a door allowing guests into the school.
Manvel aims to create town complex
Spurred by rapid population growth and the lack of a dedicated downtown area, the city of Manvel took steps this year toward creating a town center complex in coming years.
The city paid a little more than $4.6 million this year for 150 acres east of Texas 288 and north of Texas 6. City officials expect the space to eventually include institutions like the local library, town hall and police station in addition to opportunities for retail, commercial and hotel developments. The city also would like the space to include sports fields, a community center and a facility for special events.
In 2010, the city’s population was 5,000. Now, the population is estimated at around 12,000, not counting substantial residential growth around the city.
Town hall meetings OK’d
In October, Pearland ISD officials announced that town-hall-style meetings would begin in 2019 to boost communication with the public, with the first one to occur in the spring.
The district will conduct two annual community meetings, one in the spring semester and one in the fall semester, at campuses. Parents and residents will be able to ask questions directly to board members, who will be allowed to answer them because they won’t be held to normal rules that apply at regular board meetings.
Push for the change initially came from trustee Mike Floyd, who conducted his own town hall gathering in March at Spring Creek Barbeque on Broadway.
Alvin ISD sees changes
In Alvin ISD, Superintendent James “Buck” Gilcrease, who oversaw the opening of seven schools during four years in his position, announced that he will retire in the early spring on 2019.
Gilcrease, who has led the district since 2014 and became eligible for retirement last year, announced his decision at a Nov. 13 board meeting.
Days before the announcement, Alvin ISD voters approved a $480.5 million bond package on Nov. 6, along with an accompanying measure to prevent an increase in the district’s overall property tax rate .
The bond money will go for projects including two new elementary campuses, two junior high schools and a new high school.
Pearland Fire Department grows
The city of Pearland announced that it is moving to expand its emergency response capabilities at an unprecedented rate, with plans to add several stations, replace two others and hire additional fire staff.
“It’s the most significant growth of the fire department since it was created in 1946,” said Fire Chief Vance Riley, who has led his department for seven years.
A major goal in the plan is to add a second station in the part of the city west of Texas 288, which has seen rapid residential growth.
The city approved the projects, totaling about $45.2 million, in its 2018-19 budget adopted on Sept. 24. Pearland is also adding six positions in 2019 to its current staff of just over 100 firefighters, Riley said.
Another of the planned new stations will go near Texas 35 and Bailey Road, with a target completion date of September 2020, and the other will be built on County Road 100 near Harkey Road once service needs warrant construction, possibly within five years.
The fire department operates out of six stations and responds to more than 10,000 calls per year, according to the department’s web page, serving an area of more than 75 square miles with a population of more than 130,000.
Historic depot marked for update
The city also agreed to provide funds for renovations to the historic Sante Fe Railroad Depot through a $500,000 appropriation from hotel and occupancy taxes it collects. The plan is to develop the depot as a museum and tourist attraction. Organizers are seeking donation of historical items related either to the depot itself or to the Santa Fe Railroad in general.
The group is interested in items from any point during the depot’s operation from 1900-1972 near Main Street or after the building was donated to the city and moved to 3519 Liberty Drive in 1980, where it for a time served as the office for the Pearland Chamber of Commerce. Organizers would like to time the opening of the facility in 2019 to coincide Pearland’s 125th birthday celebrations.