November 22, 2021

Thankful for Our City Staff

Last week Interim City Manager Brant Gary announced his resignation, having accepted a job offer elsewhere.  His last day with the City of Bellaire will be December 3.  We appreciate his service to our community over the years, as Public Works Director in his prior stint with us, and then as Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager.  Brant truly rose to the occasion in leading the City through some tumultuous times—made all the more challenging by his indeterminate status in the role, and on top of his regular duties no less—quite capably and always with the utmost poise and professionalism.  We’re better off for it (as is he), and we wish him all the best in his new position.

While at first his leaving may seem a major disruption to the organization, it really doesn’t change things all that much considering we’re about to begin the hiring process for our next permanent City Manager anyway.  With a new Council set to take office in January, this is already at the top of our to-do list.  Brant’s departure does mean that the current Council will need to appoint a replacement to serve as Interim in the meantime.

It also highlights, along with other high-profile resignations of late, we’re at a critical juncture with our staff.  It’s no secret that morale is low, and has been for some time.  The organization has surely been affected by all the prolonged uncertainty (16 months is an unusually long time to operate with an Interim City Manager), an often-hostile political climate, and more recently a particularly dispiriting budget process.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  The opportunity to hire our next City Manager is also an opportunity to begin repairing our relationship with staff, to rebuild mutual trust and respect, with an appreciation of our respective roles in working together on the same team.

This week of Thanksgiving let’s remember how fortunate we are to live in Bellaire, and acknowledge the hard-working, dedicated professionals who help make our special town what it is.  The people who show up day in and day out, to provide the municipal services we all rely on but frequently take for granted.  Let’s assure them their efforts don’t go unnoticed, and that we value each and every one of them.  Want to recognize a staff member who has gone above and beyond?  I know they’d love to hear from you!

I wish you and your families, and our staff and their families, a Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed holiday season.

November 17, 2021

CRS Restoration Update

City staff have been working diligently toward the restoration of our Community Rating System classification, and with it our flood insurance discount.  They recently provided an update on their progress.  As shown below all of the required activities are proceeding on schedule and according to plan.

October 26, 2021

Bellaire Citizens Academy Finance Presentation:  How Do We Compare?

After taking a year off because of COVID-19, the Bellaire Citizens Academy is back in session.  Last week the group received a presentation from the Finance Department, which included among other details some comparative data showing how we stack up against other cities in terms of taxes, water and wastewater rates, and indebtedness.  Given there’s been a lot of interest recently in this very subject, I thought I would share the comparative data handout with the broader audience.


October 18, 2021

Let’s Get Out the Vote, Bellaire!

Though it doesn’t always get the same amount of attention as the state and federal, your local government has more of an impact on your overall quality of life than at any other level.  It’s all the things we rely on day in and day out, without even thinking about it.  Public safety, water and wastewater, trash collection, streets, drainage, parks and recreation, and so much more.  And, it’s at the local level your vote counts the most.  So don’t you owe it to yourself to take just a few minutes to ensure your voice is heard?

In addition to the City of Bellaire general election, featuring three contested City Council races, our ballot also includes the HISD District V trustee election and eight propositions to amend the state constitution.  Please take the time to carefully study all of the candidates and issues, so that you can make an informed decision in choosing those that best represent your views and preferences.  Check out the candidates’ individual websites, read their responses to questionnaires in local media, and watch the recording of last week’s Bellaire Candidates Forum.

Early voting is now underway, today through October 29, at any of 90 early voting locations across Harris County.  Election Day is Tuesday, November 2, again at any countywide polling place.  Voters who are eligible to do so may also vote by mail.

One of the major advantages of living in Bellaire is that we control our own destiny.  As an independent home-rule municipality, we enjoy the privilege of self-governance and can make our own decisions on the local issues that most affect our daily lives.  With that privilege comes the responsibility of participating in the electoral process, and I urge you to do so.  The future of our town belongs to all of us.  Let’s get out the vote, Bellaire!

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!

July 15, 2021

Hats Off to Our Top Cop

Throughout the course of his distinguished career, he hasn’t just been a police officer, department leader, and ultimately chief.  He’s been one of our neighbors, actively involved in numerous community organizations giving freely of his time and energy, and above all, a friend.  As he now retires after 45 years of dedicated service to the City of Bellaire, we salute Chief Byron Holloway and celebrate all that he has meant to us.

Byron began his career with the Bellaire Police Department in 1976 as a dispatcher, and rose quickly through the ranks, being promoted to patrol officer in 1977, senior patrol officer in 1986, sergeant in 1988, lieutenant in 1992, assistant chief in 1997, and then chief of police in 2012.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the FBI Command College, and his commendations include the High-Five Award in 1995, special recognition in 2008 for his work on the Bellaire Centennial, and an invitation to the White House as an advisor on implementation of the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, along with many other awards and accolades.

June 21, 2021

Bellaire’s Celebration of Independence is Back!

The swimming pools and Library are open, Camp Paseo is in full swing, and one of our biggest and best annual traditions is back!  Bellaire’s Celebration of Independence will be our first major citywide event since the pandemic took hold and we couldn’t be more excited to bring the community together again as #OneBellaire.  Whether you’ll be riding in the parade or lining up along the route, come on out and join the fun on Saturday, July 3!

To encourage social distancing, and with the added benefit of bringing it more into the neighborhood, the parade route will be different this year.  It will start on South Rice adjacent to Bellaire High School and run north to Linden, ending at Bellaire Town Square where we’ll have the festival as usual, featuring live music, food and entertainment.  The children’s bike parade will start a bit further north, at Evergreen, and will lead the big parade.

Registration is still open for parade entries and festival booths.  Please visit the event page on the City website for more information, or call the Rec Center at (713) 662-8280.  A big thanks to our generous sponsors, and to the Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department staff and special events team, for making this year’s Celebration of Independence possible.

May 26, 2021

North Bellaire Special Development District

The most important thing to know about the newly established North Bellaire Special Development District (NBSDD), which rezones the former Chevron property, is that it’s a planned development-only district.  That makes it the most restrictive (i.e., protective of the neighbors) zoning district anywhere in the City.  With planned developments (PD’s) nothing is allowed by right, and any proposal could be considered only after two levels of review including two public hearings, and with no guarantee of approval.  Simply put, once there’s an actual development application on the table we’ll all get another bite at the apple (two bites, really).

That last part is significant and highlights a common misunderstanding in much of the public input Council received.  Many of the comments—both for and against—seemed targeted at “the developer’s plans” or at a particular outcome, as though it’s already a done deal.  However, we’re just not at that stage of the process yet.  We could have been, had the zoning district been proposed to allow by-right development, thereby preauthorizing anything that complied with its regulations.  But it wasn’t, and that’s the point.  Zoning the property as a PD-only district was merely the next step to soliciting development proposals for future consideration, maximizing the protection of the neighbors’ interests by reserving the right to say no.

May 17, 2021

Departmental Overviews Enhance Budgeting and Transparency

This budget season, our city staff have newly introduced departmental overview presentations in a series of pre-budget Council workshops, to better inform our budgetary decision making and increase transparency.  The idea is to provide Council and the public with a greater understanding of what the budget actually funds in each area of city operations, with the goal of prompting questions and helping everyone involved to be more prepared for the upcoming budget process.  It’s also just good stuff to know for anyone interested in how the City functions.

Each director will give a brief overview of their department, including at a minimum the following:

  • Why statement – department’s purpose
  • Who the department serves – customers
  • What the department does – functional org chart
  • Who is in the department – positional org chart
  • Operating budget overview / history
  • Performance indicators
  • Potential management projects
  • Points to ponder – FY 2022 budget considerations

The Finance Department presented on May 3, and tonight’s pre-budget workshop will feature Parks, Recreation and Facilities, and Public Works.  We’ll hear from Fire and Library on June 7, Police and Development Services on June 21, and the City Manager’s Office, Human Resources, and Information Technology on July 19.  The proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 is also scheduled to be presented that night.

These overviews will be published to the Additional Departmental Information section of our new CRAFT page (City Reporting and Financial Transparency) on the City website, an ongoing effort guided by the Texas Comptroller’s Transparency Stars program.  While much of the page is still under development, we’re proud to have recently been awarded our first Transparency Star, for the Traditional Finances section!  By including the Additional Departmental Information, which goes beyond the five topical areas identified by the program, we’ve taken our commitment to financial transparency still further, and hope you will find this information useful in understanding our city finances.

Budget season continues through adoption of the budget in September and the tax rate in October.  Residents are invited and encouraged to submit questions and feedback, at any point in the process, by e-mail to fy2022budget@bellairetx.gov.

April 23, 2021

The Oasis at Loftin Park

If you’ve driven by during the past week, you’ve surely noticed the art tree temporarily on display in Loftin Park just north of City Hall.  Its colorful, gold-flecked leaves shimmer and dance in the sun, and at night it glows by the light of color-changing LEDs.  “The Oasis,” created by Bellaire resident Paul Robertson, will be there for all to enjoy through the end of July before (hopefully) heading to Burning Man in Nevada if it happens this year.

Having garnered positive attention on social media and attracted lots of passers by to see it in the artist’s front yard, The Oasis was relocated to public property at the invitation of our citizen Culture and Arts Board.  Working with staff they made all the arrangements, and the piece is now on loan from the artist at no cost to the City.  In presenting its recommendation, the Board did a play on the tree theme, tying it to this month’s Planting Palooza.  The installation was formally celebrated yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the Robertson family, friends and neighbors, and city representatives.

The Oasis enhances public art in Bellaire, contributing to our quality of life and serving as a focal point for community building and civic pride.  It’s uplifting and fun, and comes to us at a time when we can all use some good cheer.  That the artist is one of our own makes it that much more special, and we’re pleased to have this opportunity to showcase his talent and to share it with a wider audience.

April 1, 2021

Planting Palooza–30 Days of Planting!

Our citizen Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Bellaire Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department welcome you to Planting Palooza–30 Days of Planting, throughout the month of April.  We hope you’ll take part and come together with us in growing and improving our community from the ground up, as #OneBellaire.  Planting Palooza will be celebrated daily on social media and the City website to showcase our efforts to keep Bellaire healthy, beautiful and green.  To participate, simply share pictures of your planting projects, no matter how big or small, and enjoy those of your neighbors as well.  Residents, local businesses and organizations are all invited to join the fun!

Planting Palooza will also feature lectures, how-to’s and other informative presentations from area experts.  Several of our community partners including the Nature Discovery Center and Evelyn’s Park, as well as the Bellaire City Library, will host interactive educational and planting events for kids and families.  The Bellaire Business Association will be sponsoring a Family Planting Day on April 10, Patrons for Bellaire Parks will have a pecan tree dedication and seed giveaway on April 14 in the greenspace at the Library, and Trees for Houston will be supplying free seedlings for distribution on Earth Day, April 22, at Evelyn’s Park.  And there’s also a coloring contest for kids, brought to you by our citizen Culture and Arts Board, with prizes to be awarded in each of the pre-K, elementary and middle school categories.

For more information and event updates, keep an eye on the City website and follow Bellaire Parks and Rec on Facebook.  To get involved and share pictures of your planting projects, e-mail palooza@bellairetx.gov and post them on social media, using the hashtag #OneBellaire.  Let’s get planting!

March 4, 2021

Kind Cards, From Your Neighbors

As I emphasized when I first introduced it as our theme for the year, and again in my State of the City Address last month, #OneBellaire belongs to all of us.  While the City will be offering several opportunities for us to come together and reunite as a community, residents are expressly encouraged to bring forward their own ideas as well.  I’m delighted that a group of our neighbors have answered that call, and are reaching out to all of us to ask for our participation in creating and sending Kind Cards.

This is a strictly citizen led initiative, brought about by the recognition that much of what we have in mind for #OneBellaire will involve in-person interaction, once it’s safe to resume public gatherings.  Until then, or even concurrently, the organizers see Kind Cards as a way to reinforce our interconnectedness through a simple act of kindness among neighbors.  Their goal is to reach every single household in Bellaire, as well as every member of the city staff, by creating and distributing postcards with original art and messages of kindness.  They’re on a mission to unite our community and spread the neighborly spirit throughout Bellaire.

March 1, 2021

A Winter Storm Lesson Learned

The City has released, and at tonight’s Council meeting staff will formally present, an After Action Report on the winter storm response.  The Report includes a detailed chronology of emergency operations and departmental activities throughout the event, and identifies both strengths and areas for improvement.  Public Works features prominently in the Report, given the issues we encountered with our water system, and these are documented with full transparency as previously promised.

One thing in particular I want to highlight—(1) because folks have asked about it, and (2) frankly, I’m sensitive to it given my role as the messenger—is the Report’s open acknowledgement that there could have been other causes for the initial loss of water pressure (before the systemwide drop), beyond what was included in our messaging at the time.  “Retrospectively, it is very fair to assume that there [were] other causes” that “should have been considered in the messaging regarding this issue.”  So, it seems, we didn’t get that part quite right.  We take responsibility for that, and count it as a lesson learned.

February 21, 2021

Boil Water Notice Lifted

Great news!  Our test results have come back from the lab and we’re good to go.  Bacterial and chemistry testing, performed by an independent certified laboratory following TCEQ-mandated protocols, have confirmed Bellaire’s system water quality to be of the same high rating as it was prior to this week’s disruption due to the severe winter weather event.  The boil water notice has now been lifted.

Because regional subsidence regulations allow us to source only 50% of our water supply from groundwater, the other half is surface water purchased from the City of Houston.  For so long as their boil water notice remains in effect, we will not be using any water coming from Houston.

To safely resume your water use, turn on both the hot and cold water at each tap (all faucets, showers and bathtubs) and let it run for at least five minutes.  Please note that the water may initially appear cloudy or discolored; this is normal as sediment will have collected in the pipes during the service interruption.  If you use a water dispenser, whether in your refrigerator or mounted on a sink, run it until clear or consider changing the filter.  Inline water filters should also be changed.  Automatic ice dispensers should be cycled and the ice discarded for a full 24 hours.  Run your dishwasher empty one cycle to flush the supply line.  Clothes may be washed as usual.

Being able to use our water again without restrictions is a big step toward regaining a sense of normalcy.  Kudos to our Public Works crews for everything they’ve done this week to bring the system back online as quickly as possible.  We thank you for your patience during this extraordinary time, and should you have any questions or need assistance, please feel free to contact Public Works at (713) 662-8170.

February 20, 2021

Bellaire Bottled Water Distribution - 1:00 p.m. Today

Just a quick post to help get the word out.  The City of Bellaire has received a shipment of bottled water for distribution to residents who need it.  One case per household, first come, first served.  We’ll be out in the parking lot beneath the water tower, across the street from the Fire Station, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. today while supplies last.

Our municipal water system has been flushed, and pending test results we hope to be able to lift the boil water notice sometime tomorrow.  In the meantime, please do not assume the water is safe to drink.  Continue boiling city water before using it, or use bottled water as an alternative.  For those residents with their water currently shut off due to broken pipes—and there are a tremendous number of you all across Bellaire—please do come pick up a case of bottled water if you’re running low.

As we have only a limited supply of bottled water, this distribution is for residents urgently in need.  We are working to secure more shipments and will announce additional distribution opportunities if and when available in the coming days.  Be sure you’re signed up to receive our updates through PrepareBellaire and Notify Me.

February 19, 2021

From Response to Recovery

With the power back on and staying on (though we should continue to conserve), and the worst of the freezing weather behind us, the City has transitioned from response to recovery.  Here is what to expect over the next few days:

Boil Water Notice Remains in Effect Through the Weekend

System pressure is back up, and repairs to the chemical feed lines and other water production equipment are proceeding as planned.  Public Works anticipates they can begin flushing the system sometime this morning, and continuing throughout the day.  You will see large volumes of water draining from a number of fire hydrants across the City.  Bacteria testing is scheduled for tomorrow, with the results expected on Sunday.  Once we’ve gotten the all-clear the boil water notice will be lifted, and at that time we’ll communicate instructions for safely resuming water use.

February 18, 2021

Thank You, Bellaire Emergency Response Team!

They’ve got their own problems to deal with like everyone else, but they’re always there for us, especially in times like these when we need them most.  We’re often quick to think of our first responders in Police and Fire, but emergency response also involves personnel from other city departments who have been hard at work, many of them behind the scenes, doing everything they can to help us through this terrible ordeal.  We’re lucky to have them and appreciate all they do for us.

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel

Literally.  We’re in the homestretch and the finish line is in sight!  Most of Bellaire currently has power, and if there are any further rolling outages they should be of much shorter duration.  There has been substantial improvement overnight in statewide electricity generation and millions more Texans have power again.  Here in our area, CenterPoint is reporting over 98% of its customers are back online as of this morning.

Our water pressure is looking good, too.  We still feel we’re on track to be fully operational by the end of today, but importantly, the boil water notice will remain in effect until the system is flushed and tested to ensure the water is safe to drink.  We will of course let you know as soon as the notice is lifted.

This is all welcome news, but we’re not out of the woods just yet.  We’re under another hard freeze warning for tonight, and though we’ll warm up a bit during the day tomorrow temperatures will be back below freezing again tomorrow night.  Please continue taking precautions for yourself, your family and your plumbing, and let’s all keep doing our part by conserving electricity as much as we can.

Also, we’ve got a massive number of homeowners throughout Bellaire with busted pipes, and many may not even know it.  Public Works is assessing the situation and assisting those who need help with shutting their water off.  Please check for leaks around your own house and your neighbors’ as well, and call Public Works at (713) 662-8170 or the EOC non-emergency line, (713) 668-0487, if you’re unable to stop the flow.

February 17, 2021

Water System Progress, CenterPoint Resumes Rolling Blackouts

Bellaire Public Works crews have made good progress today in bringing our water production facilities back online, and system pressures are steadily increasing.  We’re optimistic service will be back to normal by later in the day tomorrow, but different parts of the City may see improvement at different times.  For now, the boil water notice remains in effect.

All of our wells are at least partially operational again and currently have power.  We’re also starting to get some surface water from the City of Houston and hoping that will continue.  Crews are working to thaw out frozen chemical feed lines, and the boil water notice cannot be lifted until that’s done, the system is flushed, and the water is confirmed to be safe.

So overall the prognosis is pretty good, but if we should lose power again at these facilities all bets are off.  We have identified to CenterPoint these locations as critical, and thus far they’ve been able to prioritize them and have kept us up and running.  Public Works is closely monitoring every aspect of this situation.

There are no known problems with the sewer system.  Our wastewater treatment plant and all lift stations are operating normally.  Any residents experiencing blockages should contact Public Works at (713) 662-8170, or the EOC non-emergency line, (713) 668-0487.

Although there are still operational issues preventing power restoration for some customers in our area, as statewide electricity shortages continue CenterPoint has begun implementing rolling blackouts again.  Though it’s obviously hugely frustrating to get power back, only to lose it again, hopefully this means each outage will be of shorter duration than what we endured earlier in the week, and residents will have an opportunity to warm up a bit and charge their devices.  CenterPoint cautions, however, that outages could persist longer or even expand if ERCOT orders further load reductions, and customers should be prepared for that possibility.  Earlier today the City passed along this CenterPoint press release providing additional details.

Questions About the Water Supply

We’ve been getting lots of questions about the water supply.  Thank you, and please keep them coming—we’re doing the very best we can to disseminate timely and accurate information, and it’s helpful to hear from you what you’re experiencing at your location and what questions you have.  In this update I’ll attempt to answer some of them.

February 16, 2021

Boil Water Notice Issued as a Precaution

Things can change very quickly in the midst of a crisis.  After I posted what I thought would be my last update for the night, we’ve had a major new development.  Residents are being advised through our PrepareBellaire emergency alert system to boil water until further notice.  Please be assured no contaminants or unsafe conditions have actually been detected, but you are being asked to boil your water before use out of an abundance of caution.

Here’s what happened:  Early this evening one of our water wells went down due to the extremely cold temperatures we’re experiencing, and another is currently operating at a reduced capacity.  We rely on surface water from the City of Houston for half of our water supply, but at the moment we’re not receiving any, for the same reason.  The combined effect has been a sudden drop in system water pressures below recommended levels, and low enough to trigger a boil water notice.

Again, this being done as a precaution per TCEQ requirements, and we’ll let you know just as soon as the situation is resolved.  You should boil city water and then allow it to cool before using it, or use bottled water as an alternative.  Please help us spread the word to your friends and neighbors who may not be receiving our messages, and thank you for bearing with us through this incredibly challenging and frustrating extreme weather event.

Quick Update

Not a whole lot has changed since my last post early this morning, but here’s a quick update before we all settle in for another cold night.

Municipal Water Supply

Bellaire water is safe to drink, although you’re likely not getting much of it right now as residential connections remain mostly frozen.  (To be clear, as I’m hearing there may be some confusion about this, it’s the supply pipe running from the street to your house; the water mains are functioning properly with normal pressure.)  Public Works is monitoring the system and addressing any other issues as they arise.  What water you do use, please use sparingly.

Power Outages

CenterPoint advises that they have identified and are performing some equipment repairs that will allow them to begin restoring power to more customers.  However, they are also concerned about the next icy weather system coming in overnight and the possibility it could cause further outages.  Due to the ongoing statewide power generation shortfall, CenterPoint is required to follow ERCOT’s directive to reduce the load by continuing to implement controlled outages.

City Services Suspended

As you’ve probably guessed by now, city services will remain suspended tomorrow (Wednesday).  Please hold your trash and recyclables until your next regularly scheduled pickup day.  If the situation improves such that we can resume city services on Thursday, we will let you know as soon as possible.

First It Was Power, Now Water Too

Adding insult to injury, most of us are now without water, or have very low water pressure, on top of the prolonged power outages.  Once again this is a regional problem not limited to Bellaire, as the City of Houston and other area jurisdictions are reporting similar issues with their water systems.  Residents are asked to be patient and to conserve water as much as possible.  Bellaire’s municipal water supply remains safe to drink.

Bellaire water mains are functioning properly and water pressures within the mains are normal.  The reason homeowners are experiencing limited supply is that the smaller diameter pipes running from the mains to individual homes have frozen over.  Bellaire Public Works crews are working nonstop and doing all they can to ensure that the water will flow again once the residential connections have thawed.

As for power, we’ve maintained direct communications with CenterPoint but unfortunately don’t have much new information to share.  As of this morning, more than 4 million Texas households are without power, 1.3 million here in the Houston area.  CenterPoint’s online outage tracker, which crashed yesterday, appears to be working again but only tells us what we already know.  A few Bellaire residents have reported their power was restored last night, so that does give us some measure of hope.  We’ll of course keep you posted as new information becomes available.

Please continue to check in on your neighbors and stay safe.  We’re all in this together.

February 15, 2021

Residents Urged to Shelter in Place

As those without power are painfully aware (myself and my family included), the situation has only gotten worse today.  What we were originally told would be rolling blackouts lasting maybe 30 to 45 minutes, are now prolonged outages that could continue through the night.  CenterPoint had earlier expressed some optimism that many customers would see their power restored sometime today, but that’s now looking increasingly unlikely, especially as a further drop in temperatures will only drive electricity demand even higher.

We’re obviously not alone here in Bellaire; millions of homes across the Greater Houston area (and indeed across the state) are without power.  These extremely cold temperatures for our region have at once caused both record demand, and severely limited supply as generating units have shut down.  Some one-third of Texas’ electrical capacity has reportedly been knocked offline, whether from natural gas supply disruptions or frozen wind turbines.

As the situation has worsened, it seems CenterPoint has been forced to give up on its intended rolling blackouts, which is why so many of us have been without power all day and might not get it back tonight.  There just isn’t enough available capacity statewide.  It’s not that they’re not trying, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

That being the case, emergency management officials are recommending people shelter in place and conserve as much heat as possible.  You are at far greater risk attempting to travel elsewhere, especially as the snow and ice that melted somewhat in today’s sunshine is only going to refreeze as temperatures drop again.  Plus, anywhere you might try to go could also lose power as well.  Instead, you are strongly urged to stay home, and to help your neighbors if you can.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like those of us without power are in for a rough night with no heat against the near-record cold.  Bundle up and do what you can to stay warm, and know you’re not alone.  Above all else be safe.  For non-emergency assistance contact the Bellaire EOC at (713) 668-0487, or for life-threatening emergencies call 911.

Stay Safe, Stay Warm and Stay Off the Roads

This severe winter weather system is living up to expectations.  The kids (and many adults) were delighted to wake up to a Bellaire blanketed in snow, but our winter wonderland has come with some real headaches, too.  So far, the primary impact has been widespread power outages in several areas throughout the City, as the constrained supply and delivery infrastructure struggles to keep up with tremendous demand.  Authorities have asked us all to do our part by conserving electricity as much as possible.

Some things to know, now and over the next few days:

February 3, 2021

The Importance of Community in Tough Times

In presenting my 2021 State of the City Address Monday night, it was my privilege to share with you some of the highlights of our activities and accomplishments in responding to the many challenges we’ve faced over the past year.  With all that’s going on across our nation, and the world, we’re reminded how fortunate we are to live in Bellaire.  Times are tough, but the City has been there for us every step of the way, doing what it takes to maintain the essential services on which we all rely and which have given us some measure of stability even as we’re surrounded by chaos.

Something I submit we can all take from the past year is a renewed appreciation and gratitude for our many blessings, and for each other, and a sharpened focus on what really matters.  Like maintaining our sense of community as #OneBellaire, especially when times are tough.  We have much to be thankful for, all things considered, and we’ll come through just fine.

I hope you’ll take a moment to catch up on the State of our City.  I invite you to view the playback at your convenience, and download the accompanying State of the City Report.

January 6, 2021

We Are #OneBellaire

Given the political climate across our country in recent years, it’s no surprise we too have become increasingly polarized here in Bellaire.  The sidewalks charter election in November, which was never really about sidewalks, only underscored the point.  Down-ballot of the presidential election, we achieved a nearly 84% turnout, with 2,000+ ballots more than were cast in our last three City Council elections—combined.  And our voters split pretty much right down the middle.

But even more than the incredibly close outcome, it was the conduct of the election that laid bare the depths of our division.  It got intensely personal, heated and sometimes downright nasty.  People said stuff online to and about their neighbors they’d (hopefully) never say to their faces.  And this has been going on for some time now.  Sadly, we’ve been allowing our political disagreements to tear at the fibers of our social fabric.

Our beloved hometown's turning against itself is for me a call to action.  We have so much to be proud of, and thankful for, and I know Bellaire can do better.  I ask you to join me, in resolving this New Year, to begin the process of healing our divided community.

Archive

Subscribe