About 400 attendees gathered at the State of the Region luncheon on Dec. 17 at the Merrell Center in Katy to hear leaders discuss key issues such as managing population growth and public safety.

Fulshear Mayor Aaron Groff, Katy Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls and Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith were panelists at the event, sponsored by the Fulshear-Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. Rosenberg Mayor William Benson and Simonton Mayor Laurie Boudreaux were also panelists.

Nehls said Fort Bend County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas with roughly 30,000-45,000 people moving in north of the Westpark Tollway to the Cinco Ranch-Fulshear-Simonton area.

Groff added Fulshear is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., jumping from 758 residents in 2008 to over 16,500 residents in the city today. The population currently totals about 35,000, including unincorporated areas, he said.

“We’re doing our best to manage that growth through making sure that we are staying on top of mobility ... infrastructure for water and wastewater ... through developer agreements,” Groff said. “There is also an effort to bring broadband to the area.”

Nehls said the solution to managing growth is to hire more city employees. He thanked residents who voted in the bond election about four years ago, when the department asked for a free-standing sheriff’s office in the Cinco Ranch area because of the growth.

The bond was passed overwhelmingly, he said, and the office is anticipated to be completed by the first quarter of 2021. Fort Bend County will send about 50 patrol officers and 12 detectives to service the area.

Meanwhile, the 17-square-mile city of Katy has a population of about 18,000 and is expected to be nearly 30,000 by 2030, Harris said.

“We’ve had great population increase because of the great quality of the schools in KISD,” Harris said. “We are a zoned city, so we try to keep our residential areas residential, and commercial growth in commercial areas.”

Harris said the city of Katy has increased the number of patrol officers by about 20% in the last two years. He added that Katy Police Department Chief Noe Diaz has instituted different patrol cycles designating officers to specific areas to allow residents to build a relationship with them.

“It helps keep the neighborhood’s small-town feel, getting to know the officer you might see on Saturday who is making his rounds through your neighborhood,” Harris said. “It makes you feel like a community. We are a community.”

He added part of the city’s plan to manage growth is to focus on diversifying its tax revenue through generating more sales tax revenue at Katy Mills mall and ultimately avoid relying solely on property taxes.

In Waller County, Smith said there are 160,000 vehicles passing through the county each day.

He added a bond election passed for Waller County to receive a new administration office for the sheriff’s office, a new jail, and a new court.

“Waller County is starting to grow," Smith said. "Unfortunately, some growth does bring some crime with it, but we feel like in Waller County, we are prepared, and we are going to be ready for that.”

Harris said flood mitigation is his priority for 2020 and believes the region should get together to grow in the same direction.

“The word that comes to mind is collaboration,” Groff said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s flooding or transportation, Fort Bend Water Authorities or any of these different agencies. The collaboration happens across the board. The essential element is to foster strategic partnerships across agencies, cities and counties.”