September 28, 2021

Workshops Streamline Budget Adoption

The perhaps surprising takeaway from Council’s adoption last week of the fiscal year 2022 budget is how little discussion there was, and how few amendments were offered, before the final vote.  Of course, Council had previously spent long hours thoroughly reviewing and debating various aspects of the draft budget through a series of workshops, and in doing so certain cuts had already been made.  There’d been a lot of talk about further cuts, setting the stage for a contentious vote, but ultimately when the time came virtually none were proposed, even by those who voted against the budget.  And of the two that were, the one amendment that didn’t pass represented less than one half of one percent of the total.  Overall, the process worked and led to a fairly straightforward outcome.

September 14, 2021

Cleaning Up After Nicholas

It got a bit rough at times last night, but overall Bellaire fared pretty well.  Tropical Storm Nicholas, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, was for us a wind event more than anything else.  City crews have been out this morning conducting their initial damage assessments and assisting residents as needed.

While the majority of Bellaire did not lose power, we do have some isolated outages, apparently resulting from fallen trees.  CenterPoint reports some 440,000 customers are without power across its service area, and that the restoration process is already underway.  The natural gas distribution system is functioning normally, although residents with uprooted trees should check to ensure their underground gas lines were not affected.

Solid waste and recycling collection and other non-essential services remain suspended today, and city offices are closed.  We should be back to business as usual tomorrow.  For the latest updates please check our emergency alert page, and keep an eye out for further announcements by Notify Me.

On the whole Nicholas could have been much worse for us.  We’re thankful for that, but also stand ready to help our neighbors who weren’t as fortunate.  We also appreciate, as always, the dedicated professionals in our Bellaire Emergency Operations Center, which include not only our first responders and Public Works crews, but employees from all departments who step up to keep us safe through extreme weather events like this.  When you see them out on the street today, be sure to say thanks for all they do for us.

September 13, 2021

Ready for Tropical Storm Nicholas

We should all be taking this storm seriously, but as of now there’s no reason to panic.  The most likely scenario is localized street flooding—remember, our streets are designed to hold excess water during periods of intense rainfall—and there’s no indication of widespread structural flooding in our area at this time.  Conditions can change rapidly, though, so we mustn’t let our guards down.  Today you should be finishing up your preparations if you haven’t already, ahead of the heavy rains expected later tonight and into tomorrow.

Planning for the storm’s impacts has been somewhat of a challenge over the past few days, with divergent models pointing to markedly different outcomes.  The Bellaire Emergency Operations Center has been monitoring the forecasts all weekend and has begun implementing our emergency management plan.  This morning the EOC will transition to a Level II—High Readiness activation, and then we expect by this evening to be at Level I—Maximum Readiness.

City services, including solid waste collection, are proceeding as normal today, at least through the early afternoon.  So if today is your trash day (outside the Loop) you can go ahead and put it out.  Tomorrow and Wednesday, however, are looking doubtful.  Please be sure to bring in any uncollected trash bags and other loose items, to keep them out of the storm drains.  Report any blocked inlets to Public Works at (713) 662-8170.

While the worst of Nicholas isn’t expected to reach us until the overnight hours, this evening’s City Council meeting is being canceled as a precaution, and to help keep people off the roads.  The City Council is next regularly scheduled to meet a week from tonight, September 20.

Stay tuned to city communications for updates on facility closures and service interruptions.  We’ll be posting information as it becomes available on our Tropical Storm Nicholas emergency alert page, and will send out mass notifications as necessary through PrepareBellaire and Notify Me.  Above all else, please be safe.

September 10, 2021

Never Forget:  Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Photo courtesy of Lone Star Flight Museum

Reflecting back on that terrible day in 2001, we each have our own memories and experiences and stories to tell.  We remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news, and the innumerable ways the terrorist attacks impacted us all and forever changed our lives.  Glued to our TV sets for weeks and months after, we witnessed the capacity of mankind to do evil, but also the power we possess to do good, to unite and come together in response to tragedy and to support one another through difficult times.  Reflecting back on that terrible day in 2001, it still gives me chills.

Now 20 years on, I find I’ve gained the added perspective of a parent trying to make this critical event in our history more relatable, more personal to my kids, who weren’t yet born when it happened.  What came to be defined as our post-9/11 world is, in fact, the only world they’ve ever known.  As Americans, and as human beings, I want them to recognize and understand this is part of their story, too.

September 3, 2021

CRS Open House and Community Discussion - Sept. 8

City staff continue working to correct the deficiencies that resulted in the temporary downgrade of our Community Rating System classification and loss of flood insurance discount for the coming renewal year.  Direct public engagement is an important part of the response, and to that end the City will be hosting an Open House and Community Discussion next Wednesday, September 8, at City Hall.

Representatives from FEMA, Tetra Tech (the City’s CRS consultant) and Development Services will be on hand to answer questions and provide detailed information.  Residents are invited to sign up for an appointment, in person or virtual, to talk with the experts about their concerns and review their individual circumstances, or may simply stop by anytime during the Open House, from 1:00-5:00.  The Community Discussion is scheduled for 5:30-6:30, and will feature a presentation followed by an opportunity for two-way dialogue.  (Instructions to participate remotely in the Community Discussion are provided on the City website, here.)

As fully acknowledged, this situation represents an unacceptable failure and Bellaire property owners are right to be upset.  But the City isn’t running away from the problem, has taken responsibility for it, and is working hard to fix it as soon as possible.  We hope you’ll come by on Wednesday, and please continue sending your questions and comments to the team at bellairecrs@bellairetx.gov.

September 1, 2021

Telephonic Participation in Public Meetings Now Limited to Advisory (Non-Statutory) Boards

Effective today, Governor Abbott has ended the temporary Open Meetings Act suspension that has allowed governmental bodies to meet telephonically during the pandemic.  This means you’ll have to come in person if you wish to speak during public comments at meetings of the City Council and of our boards and commissions governed by state law:  the Board of Adjustment, Building and Standards Commission, and Planning and Zoning Commission.  For our other boards, however, telephonic participation will remain available.

August 23, 2021

Coffee With a Cop

The Bellaire Police Department is hitting the streets in a whole new way this fall!  Chief Mo Lopez invites you to join him and his fellow officers for Coffee With a Cop, to be hosted monthly by different area businesses.  The idea is simple.  You just show up, grab a complimentary cup of coffee, and enjoy some good conversation with Bellaire police officers about whatever’s on your mind.  No speeches, no agenda, no limits on quality interaction.

Coffee With a Cop provides an opportunity for members of the public to get to know their officers in an informal, relaxed environment, to build personal relationships and foster mutual trust in furtherance of our shared objective of promoting a stronger, safer community.

Local businesses of all types and sizes are encouraged to participate.  All they’re asked to provide is coffee, light snacks and a space for people to gather and talk.  The Bellaire Business Association is helping by facilitating sign-ups, but businesses do not need to be BBA members to host an event.  It’s a win-win for the community and local business.

The first Coffee With a Cop was held last week, at The '401 Table and Tap, and was a great success.  Next month’s will be at the H-E-B Bellaire Market, date and time to be announced.  The Bellaire Police Department looks forward to engaging one-on-one with you!

August 19, 2021

City on Fast Track to Restoring CRS Classification

As you may have heard this week, unfortunately the City recently lost its status as a participant in the Community Rating System (CRS) of the National Flood Insurance Program.  Not because anything has changed with respect to our actual flood risk profile, but because of the City’s failure to timely file the required paperwork with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the program.  Effective October 1, our CRS classification will be downgraded from 7 to 10, thus eliminating—temporarily—the discounts we currently enjoy on our flood insurance premiums.  (For the majority of Bellaire, in flood Zone AE, that discount is 15%; for those in Zone X with standard policies it’s 5% because they already pay lower premiums.)

From the time the City was notified of the problem staff have been working diligently, and in close coordination with FEMA, on a plan to solve it.  They’ve made some good progress.  First, FEMA has approved fast-tracking our reclassification to a 9, which will result in a partial restoration of the discount, to 5% across the board, on flood policies that come up for renewal beginning April 1 of next year.  Beyond that, FEMA is allowing the City an opportunity to further improve our classification—back to 7 or perhaps lower—by next October, instead of having to start from scratch and rejoining the CRS anew.  This at least limits the damage in the near term, and potentially even puts us in a better position moving forward than where we started.

August 10, 2021

Informed Decision Making on Taxpayer Subsidies

Are we as Bellaire taxpayers subsidizing, more than we should be, fee-supported services and amenities?  Are our taxes, based on property values, offsetting the cost of our water and wastewater usage, and solid waste collection, on our utility bills?  The City’s recent user fee and cost allocation study, completed in time for consideration in the development of next year’s budget, confirms what we expected all along but previously could not well quantify.

The main takeaways from the extensive and detailed study report are that our current user fee schedules are lagging significantly behind the actual costs of providing services, and that the Enterprise (utility) Fund isn’t carrying its share of administrative and overhead costs.  If fully realized, the study’s recommendations would result in an increase of nearly $1.1 million in annual fee-based revenues, and an additional $449,000 in the yearly overhead transfer from the Enterprise to the General Fund.

Whether and to what extent the study results are implemented is ultimately a policy question for the City Council.  As are the decisions on where that extra money would go, and/or the amount of any offsetting reductions in property taxes.  The exercise isn’t so much about generating new revenue streams as it is about making sure we’re matching our costs to their appropriate funding sources.

July 19, 2021

Picnic in the Park This Thursday

The next installment in our 2021 community events series, continuing with the #OneBellaire theme, is happening this Thursday evening at Feld Park.  Modeled after the 2019 grand reopening of Lafayette Park, this Picnic in the Park will feature carnival-style games, food, music and more.  There will even be a giant inflatable waterslide for the kids!  It’ll be a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends and neighbors—and to connect with new ones—and representatives from several of our city departments and community partners will be on hand with helpful information and, of course, lots of fun swag.  We’re delighted to showcase Feld Park this time around, and for you to enjoy all it has to offer.

Other upcoming events include our Party at the Pavilion fall concert series, resuming August 6, and our 10th annual Dive-In Movie Night, featuring Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, on August 12.  We’re thrilled to be coming back together, in person, and look forward to seeing you!