Park rules, fiber internet: 10 takeaways from Shenandoah’s Jan. 10 City Council Meeting

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City park rules, the fiber internet project and the creation of an audit committee were just a few topics of discussion during Shenandoah City Council’s Jan. 10 meeting.

All council members were present for the meeting. All items not acted upon will be brought back to council at a future meeting.

To view the entire Jan. 10 agenda, click here.

1. Organized sports could be allowed to utilize Shenandoah city parks.

The highly-disputed park rule was first discussed at a council meeting on Oct. 12, 2016, after a local youth football team was told it could no longer practice at Shenandoah’s main park.

Although the rule itself was not a new one at that time, it was being newly enforced and has been in place since.

During last night’s meeting, the park rules were revisited.

“I would like to see the prohibition against team activities done away with,” Council Member Byron Bevers said. “I think the design of the park is going to prevent wide-scale use by high school football teams—I think really, anybody but the youngest of children aren’t going to use the park because it’s just not set up for that.”

While Mayor Ritch Wheeler agreed with Bevers on the possibility of abolishing the rule, the two did not agree on whether a reservation system for the park’s field should be implemented.

Council also discussed implementing rules at the Toddler Park, the possibility of enabling online reservations for the park pavilion, whether inflatables should be allowed at city parks and the installation of permanent rule signs at each park.

2. Citywide fiber internet installation could begin as early as February.

The council authorized the internet committee to continue final contract negotiations on the fiber internet project with Tachus, LLC, which would provide high-speed internet access citywide, during its July 26 meeting.

The service was first discussed by council in 2015.

Last night, council discussed the preliminary master service agreement presented by Tachus, LLC—an expenditure of $1.5 million.

Council Member Ron Raymaker said he was not in favor of pursuing fiber internet for the city, in favor of wireless internet.

“$1.5 million is a lot of taxpayer dollars,” Raymaker said. “Google is getting out of the fiber market—they’ve learned what every other ISP has learned: that traditional broadband is not a great way to make money. Home broadband adoption has plateaued in the U.S. as Americans are turning to wireless solutions… which is easier to install and maintain.”

However, Hal Brumfield with Tachus LLC, said that although Raymaker was correct that wireless is easier to install and maintain, trees remain an issue with that option. Brumfield also said that the contract would guarantee Shenandoah residents a minimum internet speed of 500 megabits, which Council Member Mike McLeod said is 10 times faster than what residents are currently experiencing.

“If [the contract is] approved Jan 24, our hope is that we’re ready to go—digging the dirt, starting in February,” Brumfield said. “We have a 16-month plan to get everything done.”

3. The council is looking into forming an audit committee.

As a best practice of the Government Finance Officers Association, an audit committee would serve as an independent reviewer and to provide oversight of financial reporting, internal controls and independent auditors.

The goal of the committee would be to enhance transparency.

“I think it’s important that we [form an audit committee],” Bevers said. “I think it falls within the best practices and it’s something that we should be doing. I like this policy… I think we should move forward [with this] quickly.”

4. Council unanimously approved a request for pricing for human resources, consulting services

The RFP will be broken into two parts: an audit and assessment of current human resource practices and potential outsourced functions.

The audit and assessment would look at the city’s hiring practices, termination process, performance appraisal, disciplinary process and benefits assessment. The potential outsourced functions would include complaint investigation and payroll administration.

5. Council unanimously approved a RFP for automated license plates readers for the Shenandoah Police Department.

As included in SPD’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget, the city will put out a Request for Proposal for the purchase of two fixed and three automated license plate reader systems.

SPD Police Chief Raymond Shaw said that the three mobile license plate reader systems would be on three police vehicles and the two fixed automated license plate readers would be pole cameras at the intersection of Shenandoah and Savannah Drives and Wellman Road and Tuscany Woods Drive.

6. The council unanimously approved a Metro Park Public Improvement District resolution.

The MetroPark PID was first created by council March 22, 2017, enabling council members, staff and the city attorney to meet with the developer of MetroPark Square, Sam Moon Group, to work through details about the development.

In December, the council adopted a resolution to accept the Preliminary Service and Assessment Plan for authorized improvements in the MetroPark PID and set a public hearing date. The public hearing was opened during the council meeting last night, during which Daniel Moon, Sam Moon Group Vice President, addressed council.

I am appearing on behalf of all the landowners of the property within the MetroPark PID and we’d like to speak in favor of the levy of assessments on our property,” Moon said.

The public hearing will remain open until the Jan. 24 council meeting.

7. The council unanimously approved the purchase of a pool shade for the Mary Pat Case Municipal Pool from McKenna Construction for $15,485.

The project will include the installation of a multi-dome cantilevered sun shade from the east side of the bathroom building and extend to the wooden fencing on the east side of the property, and is expected to last roughly 10 years, according to Public Works Director Joseph Peart.

8. In a 3-2 vote, council approved a Payment in Lieu of Tax agreement with Addice Birthing Center.

The request is for a 5,425-square-foot space on the first floor of a development, which has a requirement to be a retail site that generates sales tax revenue.

As the proposed tenant, Addice Birthing Center, may not generate enough sales tax revenue, a PILOT agreement would allow the proposed tenant to make payment of an agreed upon dollar amount—$6 per square foot—that will be paid directly to the city based on a tax projection for the lease space location.

The city has previously entered into PILOT agreements with two other tenants—Memorial Hermann and one that is no longer in business.

Council members Bevers and Ted Fletcher voted against the item.

9. The council unanimously approved a bid for ground maintenance service with Land Care for two-years for $226,486.54.

The bid includes all of the same services included in the city’s current contract with BrightView with additional cutting services along Wellman Road, Research Forest, Six Pines and Pinecroft drives.

The two-year contract will begin as soon as the month-to-month contract with BrightView ends, and the city will have the option to renew on an annual basis following the two-year timeframe.

10. In a 4-1 vote, the council approved a contract renewal with Republic Services for solid waste collection and recycling services.

The existing contract expires Sept. 30 and the new contract will take effect Oct. 1. The contract allows for a 4 percent increase in rates year to year for seven years since the contract began.

Bevers voted against the item.

The contract includes backdoor pickup, weekly unlimited household collection and weekly bulk collection and subscriber-based recycling.

Fees beginning Oct. 1 will be $20.06 per month per household for solid waste collection and $6.58 per month per household for subscriber-based recycling services.

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Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a full-time reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. She covers business, transportation, health care and other local news, specializing in Shenandoah City Council and Montgomery County nonprofit organizations.
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