March 9, 2023

Putting Policy Into Action

Strategic planning is an ongoing process, as city staff constantly look to Council’s policy direction to guide their day-to-day activities.  It also benefits Council’s own decision making by providing structure and promoting consistency, serving as the essential link between individual decisions and our identified, broader objectives.

This year, the City Manager moved up on the schedule the professionally facilitated planning sessions typically associated with the start of budget season.  Her purpose:  for Council to build upon and flesh out the Strategic Focus Areas we adopted last year, and to develop specific goals, strategies and tasks that will help staff put Council’s policy direction into action.

February 7, 2023

Forward Progress

This year’s State of the City celebrates the team of dedicated professionals who day in and day out provide the high-quality services and amenities we depend upon, and which are at the very core of why we choose to call Bellaire home.  In reviewing their recent accomplishments, what really stands out is how city staff have managed to overcome persistent staffing shortages and leadership changes in maintaining our “Forward Progress.”  That’s the theme of my presentation, and it represents both their significant achievements and the promise of even more good things to come.  It’s my pleasure to share with you the highlights of the past year for each of our city departments, and a preview of what we can expect for 2023.

February 3, 2023

Verification Report for Restoration of CRS Rating, Flood Insurance Discount

More good news!  Following the recent cycle visit that FEMA required for our application for a two-class modification, the Insurance Services Office has tallied the results and determined we’ve met all prerequisites to be restored to our prior Community Rating System classification of 7.  Once ISO’s verification report is accepted by FEMA, we’ll be getting back our flood insurance discount—15% across the board—and we’re told it should go into effect this October 1.

That we were able to gain reentry into the CRS program within just one cycle (Class 9, last April), and then to qualify for this reclass (to a 7) so soon thereafter, is truly unprecedented.  It is the direct result of untold hours of hard work put in by our Building Official and Interim Assistant Director, Christian Somers, and his team including our consultants at Tetra Tech.  We’re talking about a very detailed and time-intensive process, and the significance of their accomplishment cannot be overstated.

As noted above the flood insurance discount associated with Class 7 is 15% for all policyholders.  Previously that’s what it was in Zone AE, covering the vast majority of Bellaire, but it was only 5% in Zone X, outside the special flood hazard area.  Under Risk Rating 2.0, which is completely independent of our (or any community’s) CRS classification, there’s no longer that distinction.  However, each property is now priced based on its own unique risk, and so individual results, even within the same flood zone, may vary.

The swift restoration of our CRS status brings to a close what has been an unfortunate chapter for our city.  Of course it doesn’t excuse the mistakes of the past, but at least they’ve been rectified at the earliest possible opportunity.  Christian and his team are to be commended for taking ownership of this problem they’d inherited, and for their tireless efforts in getting it resolved.

January 13, 2023

Another $3.3 Million in Grant Funding Coming Our Way

A great way to start the new year, we’ve recently been informed that several of our federal and state grant applications have been approved.

With sincere appreciation to Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher for once again going to bat for us, Bellaire secured $3 million in the latest round of federal appropriations:

Accessible and Inclusive Playground

$600,000 of that funding is to build an accessible and inclusive playground at Evergreen Park.  It will offer a range of play experiences for children of varying abilities and diverse needs, such as by utilizing wider, ramped platforms and structures designed to accommodate wheelchairs.  It will also incorporate sensory play elements involving touch and music, as well as interactive educational features.  Our non-profit partner Patrons for Bellaire Parks believes so much in the importance of this project it has pledged another $160,000 toward any local match (bringing to more than $2.1 million Patrons’ total contributions to date in support of Bellaire parks).

January 10, 2023

Regulatory Reporting Oversight Triggers Mandatory Public Notice

At last night’s City Council meeting, the City Manager informed Council and the public of the disappointing news that the City has been issued a pro forma Notice of Violation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), for Failure to Submit a Disinfectant Level Quarterly Operating Report.  This was solely a paperwork violation, which the City corrected immediately upon receiving the Notice.  Be assured there was never any threat to the safety of our water supply, a point that’s easily lost in the mandatory language (which I’ve cut-and-pasted below) of the written public notice TCEQ now requires be sent out to Bellaire water customers.  I offer the following, to let you know that it’s coming and to help put it in perspective.

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