City readys for budget, construction periods

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Sealy City Council was in the midst of some fine tuning during its July 26 meeting ahead of Fiscal Year 2016-2017, which is fast approaching.

Fiscal Year 2016-2017 discussions have begun. City council already held the first of many budgetary workshops to come yesterday. City Manager Larry Kuciemba said the plan is to “curtail all expenses and increase revenue” to maintain a balanced budget.

Pre-budgetary talks started at council’s July 26, but everything is still in the preliminary stages.

For the most part, Kuciemba said all of the general fund is essentially done. It’s the largest section by far. There still remains “about 138 pages to go through line by line,” he said.

Before council can get to the budget, some pocket-sized holes still need some plugging, such as the drainage options that might be available for the city. City leadership continues to weigh its options in regard to Sealy’s drainage dilemma, which saw some deliberation but stopped short at the City Attorney Lora Lenzsch’s table who needs to get back to council over a little legalese.

Another daunting challenge ahead are the continued rehabilitation efforts at Stephen F. Austin State Park, which remains closed after the last major flooding to hit the Houston-Galveston region during the tax day flood on April 18. Council declared itself in the park’s full support.

On Tuesday, the city met with the YMCA of Greater Houston and Mark A. Chapman personnel to iron out some final details on the proposed Mark A. Chapman Indoor Recreational Facility. With little to no hindrances left in planning, the conceptual building stands to see completion by a September 2017 target date.

And of course, the Interstate 10 Frontage Road project had to rear its head at some point during the meeting. After months of anticipation, the city finally received the deed to the right-of-way property, where advancement of plans was contingent upon receipt before major ground could be broken by Texas Department of Transportation. Now, the deed must be recorded before it can be transferred to TxDOT.

At the same time, Kuciemba received word that TxDOT has cleared the $200 million hurdle, the price point for the frontage road and highway expansion project beginning just west of the Brazos River and ending at FM 3538.

Council previously entered into a contract with Regency Desoto Pipeline, LLC, to perform a gas pipeline relocation under future construction areas in conjunction with the I-10 Frontage Road project. Since the company changed its name to Oasis Pipeline, LP, on Jul 1, it was compulsory to give Kuciemba the authority to work with them under their new legal name.

The wastewater treatment plant also graced the July 26 meeting’s center table, as it had gone underground for some point while permit approval undergoes technical review by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

At the back end of 2015, council made plans to construct a 2 million-gallon wastewater treatment plant and those at the helm of the planning stages believe it’s on schedule for completion by the end of 2017. “Hopefully we’ll have the permit by the end of the year. It only takes nine to 12 months to get the permit” through TCEQ, Kuciemba said.

The plant is a necessary element for growth in Sealy if leadership expects to take on more business.

Council is also considering the prospect of changing polling locations for city elections. Right now, W.E. Hill Community Center is used as the primary voting location, but early voting is held at city hall and Sealy Independent School District. City leadership believes it’s possible to hold voting solely at city hall, council is concerned by the number of people cramming into the building and wants to find a different place, altogether. “I feel we can split it up where we can have the school and city at the city hall,” Kuciemba said. No action was taken.

An amendment to Chapter 30 of the city’s code of ordinances — tree trimming standards — has been chewed upon by council for the last few meetings. Initially, passage of the amendment was delayed by varying height requirements, which swayed between 14 and 16 feet, along with some council members worried for elder citizens’ capabilities physically or financially in correcting inefficiencies. The item was tabled once again until the latter concern is addressed.

The city plans to revisit its fee schedule for paying for permits and inspections. “We are substantially lower than other cities, and were trying to get that back in line,” Kuciemba said. The item was tabled until more research is performed.

Council approved a contract with Net Sales Direct to protect city computers from dangers like spam. Formerly, the city used XperNet, a PC solutions company out of Katy. Currently, Net Sales Direct is approved for a monthly rate but the city wants to tie the company down to a discounted rate for other special projects, like linking all of its equipment together throughout all of the buildings, which will improve communication tremendously, Kuciemba said.

Council retreated to executive session with three topics listed on the agenda — economic development, real estate and consultation with city attorney — but no action was taken after council members reconvened in regular session.

Tracey Dorenkamp and Shirley Daniels were appointed to the Keep Sealy Beautiful commission.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 9.

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