Friendswood bond meant to fund drainage improvements, capital projects

Image description
Friendswood bond meant to fund drainage improvements, capital projects
Image description
Friendswood bond meant to fund drainage improvements, capital projects
Updated Oct. 18, 3:06 p.m.
Editor's note: Information stating that the city of Friendswood adopted a rollback tax rate this year in anticipation of the bond election in November has been removed from this story. A print correction will run in the November issue of Community Impact Newspaper. 


In November, Friendswood citizens will vote on the largest bond in the city’s history at a total of $76.7 million.

The bond includes money for capital improvement projects as well as seed money for Clear Creek flood mitigation efforts, or money to entice other governing entities to help pay for the projects.

The bond has six propositions: drainage, transportation, a public works facility, a public safety building, a community center and parks. The propositions were split up due to a state law, city staff said.

The drainage proposition, the largest proposition on the ballot, will include buyouts, City Manager Morad Kabiri said. This is leaving some residents hesitant to support the proposition until they know whether they will get bought out.

“Who could support something that is so up in the air,” resident Cheryl Johnson said.

The bond propositions


Friendswood City Council broke the projects into several propositions so voters could choose the biggest priorities to them, council members said.

Because the drainage bond is so large and so needed in the city, citizens may opt for only voting for the drainage proposition, council members said.

The projects were proposed by a citizens advisory team, or CAT, with guidance from city staff. The CAT has since been disbanded. Some of the projects, particularly Friendswood Lakes Boulevard, were guided by staff.

All of the projects must be in a bond, rather than paid for through the city’s general fund, Kabiri said in a written statement. This also allows more users of the final products to pay into them, Kabiri said.

“Bonds provide a mechanism for those big-ticket items to be completed,” Kabiri said.

Addressing drainage


The last bond the city of Friendswood put forward to voters was in 2013 and totaled $24 million. The drainage proposition on the 2019 bond totals $41 million alone.

“This is a huge leap for the citizens of Friendswood. I think that will be shocking to our citizens,” Council Member Sally Branson said.

The council ultimately decided on the $41 million number unanimously. The entire proposition will require financial support from other governing bodies, which could potentially include the Harris County Flood Control District, Galveston County Consolidated Drainage District and the Army Corps of Engineers. Some council members were hesitant to agree on a number, as the amount could not pay for the entirety of the drainage projects regardless.

However, the amount of seed money the city can offer would improve its chances of getting help from other entities, said Ron Lovely, a member of the former CAT.

The drainage work would total closer to $173 million to get completed, more than the entirety of the city’s bond and the city’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget combined. The projects for the bond include terracing and de-snagging along the  creek.

The $41 million  takes into account inflation and an amount for buyouts, with the city planning to contribute 30% of the total cost for drainage projects, city officials and council members said.

The city anticipates needing to buy out 60 properties around the creek.  After Tropical Storm Allison, the city bought out 136 homes. The city was awarded federal grant money to buy out 26 properties this year. While the city has seed money for buyouts, officials do not anticipate having enough money to conduct buyouts alone.

“The $41 million that is in the bond proposition is insufficient. It only represents seed money in the projects. We will have local partners,” Kabiri said.

The buyouts would allow the city to use more land alongside of the creek for terracing and de-snagging. However, the city does not know what properties would have to be bought out and will not know prior to the election, as the terracing project will not be completed by that time, Kabiri said.

For Johnson, whose home is located along the creek, whether her family will be bought out is a factor in supporting the bond.

“I think that the city right now is nonspecific and I don’t vote for blank checks,” she said.

Buyouts can be conducted through federally funded programs, which the city has used in the past. If there are not applicable grants, then the city will have to go about fair market negotiations.

“Any and everything is a possibility,” Kabiri said.

When it come to fair market negotiations, there is less the city can know about what it has to pay, members of the former CAT said.

“In general, people don’t want to just give the government their houses,” Lovely said.

The fear of lacking money to complete projects along the creek is that not enough money or local partnership could stall the process of getting projects accomplished.

“The longer you wait, it doesn’t get better. If we don’t finish this project in total, you don’t get any of the benefits, former CAT member Gail Lovely said.

The drainage projects are estimated to take 15 years to complete, a longer timeline than any of the other propositions by a decade. In that time, several things could change, including council and its priorities, Council Member Trish Hanks said.

“A lot can change in 15 years—leadership at the council level, at the state level, at the federal level, bond rates, taxable value,” Hanks said.

Talking taxes


The bond could raise the tax rate an estimated $0.05 to $0.10, city staff said. However, once bonds are no longer being sold, the rate would decrease over time, Kabiri said in a written statement.

Council decided on the tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year Oct. 7. The rate, $0.521439 cents, is greater than the effective rate, but less than the originally proposed rate of $0.5324. If the bond is approved by voters, the tax rate increases will depend on when the projects go out to bid.

“Voter approval of a bond proposition only authorizes funding for the project,” Kabiri said in a written statement. “Depending upon the type of project, the process from planning to construction may take a number of months.”
By Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. She was promoted to editor in February 2019. Haley primarily covers city government.


MOST RECENT

The seven-day rolling average of deaths per day in Harris County has increased from 3.86 on July 8 to 8.29 on July 12. (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: After three weeks of surging cases, death toll starts to rise

The seven-day rolling average of deaths per day in Harris County has increased from 3.86 on July 8 to 8.29 on July 12.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

Here are Brazoria County's coronavirus updates for July 10. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Brazoria County reports 99 new coronavirus cases July 10

The county is also reporting 43 recoveries.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

Texas Medical Center reports only 4% uptick in ICU bed use despite continued COVID-19 case increases

Compared to 1,350 total intensive care units in use June 30, Texas Medical Center has seen only a slight uptick in occupancies since then, with 1,394 reported July 9.

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments. (Source: Matt Frankel/Community Impact Newspaper)
Refinancing a home, police departments address protests: Popular news this week from Greater Houston

Read popular stories from the Greater Houston area on Community Impact Newspaper’s website.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Harris County. (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 907 cases, 12 deaths confirmed July 9

The 12 deaths—the largest single day total in Harris County since the pandemic began—brings the total COVID-19 death count in the county to 423.

Here are the coronavirus case counts in Brazoria County for July 9. (Community Impact staff)
Brazoria County reports 84 coronavirus cases, one death July 9

The death was of a Pearland nursing home resident.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.