During an April 30 League City Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Henry shared the positive things happening in Galveston County.
As far as COVID-19 goes, the county has been seeing a dramatic decrease in daily new cases since mid-January. A hospitalization rate of 15% is a cause for concern; as of April 30, the hospitalization rate is 2.5%, Henry said.
The recovery rate is three times the rate of new infections. The county has not seen a daily new case count over 100 in weeks, he said.
“We’ve got the smallest numbers we’ve seen in a long time,” Henry said. “We certainly feel like we’re on the way out of this thing.”
Galveston County has been a leader in COVID-19 testing, thanks in part to University of Texas Medical Branch being on Galveston Island. UTMB was able to put out one of the country’s first testing programs at the start of the pandemic, Henry said.
Once UTMB perfected its program, testing opening to the entire county. To date, the county has tested over 360,000 residents, which is more than one test for every resident in the county, he said.
The county used Walter Hall Park in League City as a mass distribution site for COVID-19 vaccines. On 4 p.m. May 1, the site will close after months of operation; the demand for vaccines is low, meaning the county can now rely on pharmacies and doctor’s offices to administer vaccines, Henry said.
“The demand is no longer there because we met it,” he said.
The county has given out 250,000 vaccine doses so far, Henry said.
Henry thanked the volunteers who helped the Walter Hall Park vaccine site run so efficiently.
From an economic standpoint, Galveston County is doing “better than most.” Hank Dugie, League City City Council mayor pro tem, runs the county’s COVID-19 Business Taskforce, which formed in the summer of 2020 to help local businesses remain open safely, Henry said.
One large project in the county is the Gulf Coast Ammonia project, through which over 1 million tons of ammonia will be produced annually in a plant in Texas City. This project, which will eventually be a $1 billion investment, was the fifth largest in Texas in 2020 and the third-largest new project last year, Henry said.
Additionally, La Marque will soon open an Amazon delivery station, bringing hundreds of jobs to the area. To sum up, Galveston County offers businesses access to rail, interstate and water at a fraction of the real estate cost of Harris County, making it attractive to businesses, Henry said.
In terms of budget, the county’s tax rate has been reduced every year since at least 2011, when the rate was $0.62875 per $100 valuation. Today it is $0.4759, Henry said.
Still, that does not mean residents pay less taxes. Property appraisals are increasing significantly, prompting the county to request the state Legislature reform the appraisal process, which is done at the state level, Henry said.
Henry owns Texas City land that was appraised at $90,000 at purchase. Now it is worth $299,000, he said.
“I am not immune,” he said of high appraisals. “It happens to everybody.”
With a growing population, the county is investing in drainage and transportation projects. The federal government is giving the county $66 million, and while there has been little guidance so far on what the money can be spent on, the county plans to invest it in drainage and transportation, Henry said.