Pearland infrastructure needs represented in $80 million bond 

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On May 4, Pearland residents will vote on a bond with five propositions focused on drainage, roads, parks, a new animal shelter and a new fire training burn building. Together, the five propositions come out to an $80 million bond. However, the propositions will be voted on separately.

“There will be five propositions, each considered on their own merits. We will have a pot of money for the projects. … There is an option to spend less. That’s typically what happens in the real world,” Pearson said.

The proposed increase to the interest and sinking rate is $0.0375.

The last bond Pearland passed was in 2007. The $162 million bond helped build the Pearland Recreation Center and Natatorium, extend Pearland Parkway and widen Cullen Road. The wrapping up of 2007 bond projects, combined with the city’s  population and property valuation growth, has made this the perfect time for a bond, City Manager Clay Pearson said.

“Bonds are just one way we finance projects,” Pearson said. “This is not the only funding source or the end of the [capital improvement plan].”

Project Details
One of the most expensive projects on the bond is drainage improvements—totaling $15.9 million—in the Willowcrest subdivision, where Harold Isidori lives. Isidori has been a Pearland resident for more than 40 years and will likely at least be voting for the drainage improvements and the animal shelter, he said.

“I saw the drainage item on the bond, and I’m probably going to vote for it and the animal shelter, too, because I trust the city has done its research,” Isidori said.

The city’s research includes prioritizing projects based on need, time and expense. Each of the items is something that was originally on a five-year capital improvement plan and needed substantial funding and time rather than just maintenance work, Pearson said.

“There is always more projects that everyone would like to do; we make choices and recommendations, and the process goes back and forth,” Pearson said.

The projects are also determined by department heads and are narrowed down depending on the funding needed and the time the project would take to get up and running, Director of Engineering Robert Upton said. But ultimately, the decision is made by council, he said.

“City Council had us look at what it would be for a $70 million bond, a $90 million bond and a $120 million bond,” Upton said. “Our goal is to get the projects started and nearly completed within the first five years.”

The three projects with the biggest price tags are the drainage in the Willowcrest subdivision, the Bailey Road expansion and the animal shelter, coming in at $16 million, $19 million and $13 million, respectively.

The city completed Bailey reconstruction in 2017, but there is more work to be done. In the past, the city received outside funding from the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Improvement Program.

While it is a possibility the city may receive money for these projects to help offset funding, the bond money prepares the city to pay for these road projects as a whole, Pearson said.

The project would widen Bailey from a two- to four-lane roadway from Hwy. 35 to Veterans Drive, and add a second bridge, arguably making Bailey another major horizontal thoroughfare for the city.

Another facility included in the bond is the new fire training burn building, which would provide a training space for the city’s firefighters, according to the city’s bond proposal. The new burn building would include stairs, rooms and a sloped roof.

The bond also dedicates $2.5 million to the park equipment replacement program.

Restoring and repairing drainage
The Willowcrest drainage project will include replacement of curb inlets and a storm system, as will other drainage projects on the list, according to the bond proposition presented in December.

The bond also includes drainage projects on Piper Road in the Mimosa Acres and West Lea subdivisions and Phase 2 of the Hickory Slough detention pond.

“After [Hurricane] Harvey, the engineering staff went through and saw all of the areas that were inundated with Harvey. We also looked not just in light of Harvey, but areas that have still repeatedly flooded,” Upton said.

While the city looked at areas that flooded after Harvey, the bond projects will address 10- and 25-year storms, or storms that have a 10 percent chance and a 4 percent chance of happening each year, respectively. There is no way the city could ward off the flooding the older areas saw during Harvey, longtime Pearland resident Robert Wagoner said.

“It’s a difficult subject, and everybody wants something done about it, but unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything they can do about it,” Wagoner said.

The drainage improvements will restore the road side ditches to the original design capacity and will look for ways to provide improved capacity in those areas, Upton said. Undersized storm sewer systems will be replaced with a system that meets city standards, Upton said.

“We can’t fix everything, but we want to return the drainage facilities in these areas to their original standard, or if we can improve them, we will then do those improvements,” Upton said.

Animal shelter woes
One of the most expensive and contentious items on the bond is the new animal shelter, rounding in at over $13 million. While the city needs a new animal shelter, the $13 million price is too steep, Council Member David Little said.

“I would say we’re at $13 million; I would think we need something in the $9 million range,” he said.

While Little said the price is high, the animal shelter is a necessity, he said.

The new animal shelter will include heating, ventilation and air conditioning, sound control, and proper drainage, as well as natural light in the animal cells and exercise areas for its $13 million price tag. The location of the new shelter has not been determined.

The new shelter, as well as a new location, are essential, Pearland resident and veterinary technician Rachel Alder said.

“I actually live on the street that the current animal shelter is on. It’s very hidden; a lot of people don’t know it’s there,” Alder said.

The shelter, located on Old Alvin Road, is at capacity most days, according to the city’s bond proposal.

“The animal shelter is antiquated and undersized for the city of Pearland,” Pearson said. “We want to provide a safe and clean environment not only for the animals but for the people that work there as well.”

The shelter holds 83 animals, and typically houses 63. Because of this, the shelter has had to turn away strays to avoid euthanasia, Alder said. The new shelter will hold close to 134 animals, catering to the city’s needs now and in the future, according to city staff.

“I don’t know how big they are trying to make it, but Pearland is huge. For such a large area, this one is really small,” Alder said.

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Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. In her tenure as a reporter, she has primarily written about education, health care and transportation.
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