City of Houston Agenda 8-22-06

Curiously, this week's Requests for Council Authorization and backup to the Agenda were ready and posted before the Agenda itself. Normally, I copy the Council Agenda from the city's website, and then add notes from the backup. The .pdf file that includes the RCAs and other information includes a copy of the Agenda. This time, for whatever reason, the agenda was not posted online (as of Sunday), nor is a a copy available in the backup, although the backup itself is available. Since the backup is often missing certain items, this means that for now, the public has no easily available record of what Agenda items 24, 29, 49, 51, and 52 are. Nor do I, even though I have access to the city's intranet. I can only hope that the Agenda is posted prior to Tuesday's meeting, and I can update this article.

Readers' attention is directed especially to items 5 (oopsie!), 46 (what loan?), and 62 (we have always been at war with Oceania) of the agenda. In particular, item 62 is one of the most reprehensible pieces of Orwellian doublethink from any recent administration, and I am just suspicious enough to wonder if it is the real reason the agenda was not online at the usual time. If you read nothing else of the agenda, read that one.

Normally, I delete what I judge to be extraneous text, and often paraphrase in order to make the legalese a lot more readable; also that comments added are a mix of my own opinions, best guesses, snarking, and judgments, and therefore may not be entirely accurate. In this case, I'm pretty much having to create the agenda from scratch, and cannot refer readers to it until it is posted online here.

2:00 P. M. - PUBLIC SPEAKERS -- Not listed in the backup this week.
5:00 P. M. - RECESS


Items 1-3: Mayor's "civility" (anti-vagrant) initiatives, as discussed in last week's mayoral report.

The Civility Ordinance prohibits certain conduct on sidewalks (lying, sitting, or depositing personal possessions) during most daylight hours. It is currently applicable only to the Central Business District and Midtown, but the ordinance contains provisions for a citizen petition procedure to extend the restrictions to other areas of the City.

These items are to authorize holding a public hearing, based on petitions by local residents and businesses, into extension of Chapter 40 Civility Ordinance into three areas:
1. The Old Sixth Ward neighborhood.
2. Avondale.
3. Hyde Park.

Because we all know how important it is to have more un-enforced laws on the books. So much for getting over pass-a-law syndrome.

Item 4: Ego item approval
The new Southwest Multi-Service Center is an umbrella facility run by the Health Department, designed to bring together multiple assistance agencies under one roof, as well as provide space for certain community functions. As a public building, a dedication plaque will be placed on site with the names of all council members and prominent city functionaries involved in its construction and departmental operations. This is to approve the appearance, wording, and placement of the plaque.

Because we all know how important it is to immortalize public officials -- plus the architect and contractor -- on every little public building.

5: Whoops! Our bad -- heheh, don't see how that happened...
Readers may recall from a prior agenda item, that when the city abandons property for development, the new owner is supposed to "cut, plug, and abandon" any water mains on the property, as well as remove any water meters in that area. There is a specific procedure to follow for this progress. Sometimes, though, the contractor is less than conscientious with the paperwork and arranging for the city inspection. Other times, the city recordkeeping and procedural discipline or training is less than complete. (See this comment for remarks about training in PW&E.)

Well, in this case, something went wrong on one or the other end of the procedure, and two accounts for lawn irrigation never got shut down. Of course, the city didn't let the fact that the meters were gone (or covered by concrete) stop them. PW&E proceeded to estimate the bills and continued to send invoices every month -- and Luel P/S, landlord of Wal-Mart, continued to pay them for years before noticing something was wrong. By the time someone asked the city exactly where these meters supposedly were, Luel had paid the city $238,036.40 in bogus water charges!

Apparently, in any given month, for various reasons (including occasional customer interference), the city estimates 12,000+ water meter reads, out of nearly 450,000 total, and the customers are not notified when this happens. An unknown number of them have not been read in months or years.

Because... ah heck. Sometimes, no comment is adequately scathing.

6. Accept and pay for work.
Pay $127,000 to C.F. McDonald Electric for installation of an emergency generator for a police radio tower on the Northwest Freeway. No information on M/WDBE performance or whether the contract was over or under the contracted amount.

7. Accept and pay for work.
Pay $8,619,984.95 or 2.90% under the original Contract Amount to Texas Sterling Construction, L.P., for installation of a 66" water main along Greens Rd. near West Hardy. M/WBE performance was over 20% (17% required) and received an Outstanding rating. The underrun was due to work that turned out to be unnecessary being dropped from the contract.

8. Accept and pay for work.
Pay $13,515,302 .52 or 1 .19% under the original Contract Amount,to Texas Sterling Construction, L.P., for installation of a 66" water main along several roads in the Greenspoint area, totalling over 13,000 linear feet, and tying into the existing 84" water main. Cost underrun was due to unnecessary items being eliminated from the contract. M/WBE goal for this project was 17%., but the actual participation was 15.83% for a Satisfactory rating.

9. Purchase land for a Hike and Bike trail.
Pay $42,000 for land between Lamar and Walker streets for the Columbia Tap Hike and Bike trail, just east of downtown.

Because we all know how many people ride their bicycles to work in Houston.

10. Extend fuel card agreement.
Where the city does not maintain its own fueling facilities for HFD and HPD equipment (Kingwood and Greenspoint areas) the fuel cards permit purchase from retail gas stations. The city has extended the original 2004 agreement several times.

11. Purchase new Hazmat vehicle.
The city maintains two fire stations with vehicles specifically equipped for Hazardous Materials spills or dangerous situations. The new $545,000 unit will go into service at the Harrisburg station (No. 22) replacing a 10-year-old unit, which will be placed into reserve. A 14-year-old unit (the current reserve, I assume) will be sold as surplus.

12. Purchase new pollution monitors.
Accepting a bid for $49,065 for new analyzers to capture data on nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions around the ship channel. The current monitors have outlived their life expectancy.

13. Purchase influenza vaccine.
Purchase 6,000 doses of flu vaccine at $62,400.

14. Purchase a two-year maintenance agreement for McAfee Anti-Virus software.
Enterprise licensing for 14,000 nodes, costing $153,853. The current software has been used for three years already; this is the renewal. Or as one of my instructors used to say: "Computer software companies aren't in the business of selling software. They're in the business of selling licenses to run their software."

15. Purchase various lawn and landscaping equipment.
This purchase ($347,473.34) consists of one gasoline-powered rotary riding mower, one diesel-powered flail mower, one diesel-powered wide area mower, twelve diesel-powered tractors and one diesel-powered skid steer loader. The mowers will come with a full one-year warranty and have a life expectancy of seven years. The tractors and skid steer loader will come with a full one-year warranty and have a life expectancy of twelve years.

16. Purchase software license/maintenance/upgrade.
Akanda Solutions, LLC, is the sole source of software used by the Planning and Development Department for subdivision plats. In addition to one year's maintenance, a module used for online submittal is being upgraded. Cost is $34,050.00.

17. Purchase software for HPD.
Foray Technologies is the sole source of an Authenticated Digital Asset Management System (ADAMS). The ADAMS will allow the Department's Latent Print Laboratory personnel the ability to acquire digital images from multiple sources, enhance the acquired images, archive them for latent print comparison and eventually search through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The ADAMS will also maintain a digital audit trail by logging user access and actions, thereby maintaining an unimpeachable chain of custody of records. The purchase ($51,500.00) will eliminate the need to purchase chemicals currently used to develop film for the Latent Print Laboratory. The ADAMS is currently being used by the Harris County Sheriff's Office as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Someone ask Bromwich what he thinks of the city finally getting around to entering the digital fingerprint age.

18. Purchase software for PW&E.
R7 Solutions is the sole source of a software license for GeoRoom 3.0, a web-based mapping application, for the Public Works & Engineering Department. Amount of the purchase is $48,750.00. This will allow easy scanning and online posting of documents such as plans, profiles, and reports from any source into an easy-to-use web-based Geographical Interface System.

Well, I don't know about easy.

19. Purchase chemicals for treatment of sewage.
Purchase liquid sodium bisulfate from Southern Tonics Incorporated, in an amount not to exceed $5,728,500.00, for a 60-month period. This award is to be used by the Public Works & Engineering Department to de-chlorinate treated wastewater effluent.

20. Purchase traffic control system cabinets.
Purchase from Computec Traffic Systems, in an amount not to exceed $437,400.00, 60 traffic controller cabinets and adapter bases for the Public Works & Engineering Department. These will be used to replace damaged or failed traffic signal controller cabinets at various intersections throughout the City so that traffic control and public safety can be restored quickly on City streets. These cabinets will come with an eighteen-month warranty from the time of installation on materials and workmanship, and will have a life expectancy of twenty years.

Because we know how important traffic safety is in Houston.

21. Approve Price List bid for Prentice Loaders for Solid Waste
Award Texas Timberjack, Inc. the contract for Prentice loader replacement parts and repair service for the Solid Waste Management Department in an amount not to exceed $614,043.11 for 36 months and two one-year options to extend, for a total 60-month term. This award consists of various replacement parts which includes, but is not limited to, grapples, cartridge valves, lock hex pins, hydraulic filter caps, nuts and other items, will be used by the department to repair Prentice loaders. This award is a price list contract. The best discount, which determines the low bid for a price list, is the best bid received for quantities of high-use items selected as sample pricing items based on previous purchasing history. The bid total for sample pricing items does not represent the total estimated to be purchased; rather, this award recommendation is for the total estimated expenditures projected over the life of the contract.

22. Approve bids for uniforms and badges
Award several companies a contract for uniforms and name badges, in an amount not to exceed $1,072,000.13 for a 36-month period, with two one-year options to extend, for a total 60-month term. These awards consist of various types of clothing to outfit the Parks & Recreation and Fire Department personnel.

23. Approve Price List bid for heating, ventilation, and A/C parts
Award United Air Conditioning Supply, on its low bid in an amount not to exceed $102,817.00, the contract for various HVAC replacement parts; including, but not limited to, duct venting, recovery machines and tanks, vacuum pumps, electronic leak detectors, adapter sets and replacement packs. Term is for 36 months and two one-year options to extend. Items are to be used by the Building Services and Parks & Recreation Departments to repair and maintain heating and cooling systems at City facilities. This award is a price list contract. The best discount, which determines the low bid for a price list, is the best bid received for quantities of high-use items selected as sample pricing items based on previous purchasing history. The bid total for sample pricing items does not represent the total estimated to be purchased; rather, this award recommendation is for the total estimated expenditures projected over the life of the contract.

24. The backup for this item is missing.

25. Resolution in Support of History
I was going to quote this item in full, but my absurdity breaker tripped. Simply, take the area from Shepherd Drive in Houston to, and along the Ship Channel -- the National Park Service is studying designating it as a National Heritage Area. "Such a designation will require our area to be deemed historically, naturally and culturally significant on a national level." Reasons: the energy industry and the Battle of San Jacinto. If the NPS thinks it's a good idea to waste federal money on establishing the Buffalo Bayou National Heritage area, we get a local heritage council that the mayor can appoint a busybody to, and up to $1 million per year for ten years to squander on plaques and "heritage area activities."

Because we know how important pork, uh, history, is in Houston.

26. Designate the Connelly home in Avondale as a Historic and Protected landmark

"William L. Connelly, who owned the house at 218 Avondale Boulevard, was one of Houston's most famous oil entrepreneurs . His business acumen and determination when combined with others like him, would eventually transform Houston into the energy capital of the world. His Prairie style home, built on Avondale Boulevard in the fashionable and exclusive Avondale Addition, was originally built by J. J. Carroll, a partner in the lumber firm of W. T. Carter and Brothers. J. J. Carroll married the daughter of Carter, who was one of Houston's leading citizens and businessman. The Russell Brown Company, which built the home in 1917, was a leader in Texas home design and construction, which provided prestigious homes for many of the elite citizens of Houston as well as Texas."

Does this mean Metro can't build light rail next to it? At least it qualified on four of the eight criteria.

27. Annual re-adoption of after-school program standards as required by the State of Texas.

Houston Parks & Recreation Department (HPARD) requests that City Council re-adopt Article XII Chapter 32, Code of Ordinances, City of Houston, in order to comply with 42.041 (b) (14) of the Texas Human Resources Code. The standards of care are intended to be minimum standards that HPARD will operate our after-school enrichment program. The program offers a wide range of recreational activities including arts and crafts, sports, games, field trips, and cultural and special events.

28. Amendments to Chapter 47 of the Code, dealing with Storm Water Discharges.
This is the first of an entire package of changes to this Chapter that will appear before council in the next several weeks. Some segments of this chapter are over 50 years old and seriously outdated. This part deals with more recent matters; specifically, the city's implementation of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. Standards for rainwater runnoff are being revised; these are fairly technical, but the major changes are to add language to include threatened pollution situations, remove the minimum acreage impact requirement and extend the ordinances to non-industrial sites. As it stands, the law could be argued not to apply to potential pollution hazards, or those not classified as industrial, even if significant danger of pollution existed, and discharges affecting less than five acres were exempted.

29. The backup for this item is missing.

30-33. Approve sales of four properties.
Each of them received bids higher than appraised value.
30.Sole (High) Bidder: Carlos Marquez; Bid Amount: $85,555.00 for 3200 Block Soway Street.
31.High Bidder: Capital Real Estate Investments LLC; Bid Amount : $221,501.50 for 4400 Block Clark Road.
32.High Bidder: Kamfan J. Li; Bid Amount: $43,210.00 for 7599 Crownwest Drive.
33.Sole (High) Bidder: Paula Tuvet Nauven; Bid Amount: $225,000.00 for 13900 Briarworth Drive.

34. Amend lease with the FAA.
The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that it needs to relocate the access entrance road and guard sites to the East of the current Air Route Traffic Control Center at George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston. When the alternate access road is constructed, a new metes and bounds will be prepared and added to the exhibit showing the location. There are no other changes to this lease.

35. Lease with sale option to Boeing, of facilities at Ellington Field.
Boeing will rent 3.55 acres for ten years, place a modular building to handle mail and other receivables, and construct parking facilities; approximately $525,000 in improvements. They also have an option to purchase the land.

36. Three-year lease of space at IAH.
Metrocall, Inc. will rent non-exclusive space on the roof of Terminal C penthouse at IAH for its operation of transceiver equipment for ground paging service to airport users, at a cost of $500.00 per month, with an increase of 4% per year.

37- 40: Addition of land to Utility Districts, and creation of one new district.
37. Addition of 3+ Acres to the Dowdell P.U.D, located in the vicinity of F.M. 2920, Kuykendahl Road, and Rushing Stream Court.
38. Creation of Harris County M.U.D #415, covering 691.25 acres of land, located in both the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction and the city limits, around Magnolia Point Drive, Commons of Lake Houston, Lake Houston and Huffman-New Caney Road.
39. Addition of 6.5+ Acres to the Kleinwood M.U.D., located around Cypresswood, Champions Forest, and Louetta.
40. Addition of 11.4 Acres to the Northampton M.U.D, located in the vicinity of Root Road, West Rayford Road, Kuykendahl Road, and Gosling Road.

41-45 Designation of minimum lot sizes and required setbacks.
41. The 400 block of Aurora, north and south sides, between Arlington and Columbia Streets, will have a required lot size of 3,000 sq.ft, so no dividing it up to build small houses. No protests, no hearing held.
42. Establishing a required 23' 0" setback on the 4100-4300 blocks of Clay Street, north and south sides, between Cullen Boulevard and Eastwood Street. No protests, no hearing held.
43. The the 500 block of East 25th Street, north and south sides, and the 500 block of East 24th Street, north side, between Columbia and Oxford Streets, will have a minimum lot size of 3,000 sq.ft.
44. Establishing a required 21' 0" setback on the 4500 block of Park Drive, north and south sides, between Woodside Street and Lockwood Drive. No protests, no hearing held.
45. The 2200 Block of South Boulevard, south side, between Greenbriar Drive and South Shepherd Drive will have a minimum lot size of 6,683 sq. ft.

Because not zoning Houston is important!

46. What guarantee? You mean I was supposed to pay that money back?
The housing department strikes again. In 1998, APTDF, Ltd, entered into a loan agreement with none other than our Housing and Community Development Department; a loan personnally guaranteed by Gary Gates, d/b/a Gatesco, to rehabilitate the Deerfield Apartments. Notes to the senior lender (Capital One) and insurance payments are up to date, but, after 8 years, only $291,006 has been paid back to the city on this $1,120,000.00 loan, which is less than the currently unpaid interest of $294,022.35 (at 7% annually). Actually, only $106,081.67 has been paid towards the principal, and the property is not in compliance with either city code or HUD regulations. Slightly over $1m remains due to Capital One, and repair costs are estimated at $1.8m. Appraised value of the property "as is" is $3,800,000. So, of course, the proposed solution is for Mr. Gates to refinance the property through Capital Bank to free up the money for repairs, while the city solution is to forgive all the unpaid interest and half the loan, then give Mr. Gates another 30 months (with two one-year extensions at the Director's option) to pay back the remainder. The city's loan must be re-subordinated to Capital Bank's. Which, of course, guranteees that if Mr. Gates is in default of the remaining city loan, the city still can't foreclose.

Wait for it....

"Because we all know how important community development is."

47. Contract approval for AIDS assistance.
Approval of a contract between the City of Houston and New Hope Counseling Center, Inc. providing up to $138,971.00 for the administration of a short-term rent, mortgage and utility assistance program under the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS ("HOPWA") Act.

48. Construct a new Gym.
Approval of a Contract between the City of Houston and the Community Family Centers for the construction of a new Gymnasium at 7318 Avenue F, Houston, Texas 77011. The city is funding $500,000, but this will not be a public facility.

49. The backup for this item is missing.

50. Six-month extension of grounds maintenance agreement at Melrose Park.
Walton Golf Management has expressed a long-term interest in continuing the operation of Melrose Golf Course as the private concessionaire. Extending the current contact for an additional 6 months (September 1, 2006 to February 28, 2007) will allow sufficient time for the Parks Department to develop a new comprehensive long-term contract.

51. The backup for this item is missing.

52. The backup for this item is missing.

53. Two-year extension of security guard contract.
For 98 city facilities, including City Hall, the Annex, the H.E.C., and the police memorial. Somehow, I find the fact that those four are guarded by "rent-a-guns" to be faintly ironic. Wait, isn't the latter always guarded by an on-duty officer too?

54. Landscaping for Hermann Park.
Approve a professional landscape architectural and engineering services contract with Lauren Griffith, Inc. to perform programming, design and construction phase services for Hermann Park Trail Improvements. Cost: $274,677.67.

55. Buffalo Bayou, Phase II improvements.
The project (at $278,130.00 from the Street and Bridge fund, not Parks and Recreation) consists of various landscape and hardscape improvements with some pedestrian amenities to be constructed along the southside of the Buffalo Bayou between Milam and Fannin. Included are site grading, bike trail, pedestrian pathway, retaining walls, promenade along the historical bulkhead, landscape planting, landscape irrigation, lighting, street furniture, viewing platform, drinking fountain, and signage with related additional services to complete the design.

Because it's more important to have something better than the Riverwalk than to have good streets!

56. Improvements to Hobby Airport.
Award a construction contract to TJ&T Enterprises, Inc. in the amount of $4,254,123.67 for various technical improvments (mainly communcations duct work).

57. Change in codes for 1 & 2 family residences...only not really.
This is Item 10 held over from last week, which was originally listed in the agenda as if it were just minor code changes to single-family residences and duplexes, but actually halved a major fee for property development costing more than $50 million, retroactive to applications made since July 1st.

Because it's important to listen to the Steering Committee,

"which includes representatives from Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA), Associated General Contractors (AGC), American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Houston Council of Engineering Companies (HCEC)."

58. Expansion of Harris County Municipal Management District No. 1
This item (#15) was held over from last week, and will more than double the size of the district, aligning its borders with the Memorial City TIRZ.

59. Red-light-camera agreement with TXDOT.
Item 33 from last week; authorization to make an agreement with TXDOT to put red-light cameras at state highway intersections. It would be interesting to see how fast the city would drop this idea if the state demanded all the revenue default to it.

Because we all know how important safety is. Oh, wait. I said that already.

Items 60 and 61: Authorizations pertaining to the Umland Park development, dealing with Houston Habitat for Humanity.
60. Developer contract. Item #40 from last week.
61. Water and sewer utility development. Item #41 from last week.

62. Truth in Labeling... not!
This was item #47 from last week's ordinance, which is Mayor White's proposal to gut the city's revenue cap. After failing to fool the citizens with a duplicate proposition, then failing to overthrow the cap in court, the mayor is back with yet another attempt to break the limit citizens have imposed on the city's voracious appetite for revenue streams. Councilmember Green thought that the mayor's proposal could be improved just a bit through some shameless political pandering and deceptive wording of the ballot language. Of course, that's never been tried before has it?

The changes:

a. Changing the title of the ordinance by adding the bolded words following: An ordinance ordering a regular election to be held on november 7, 2006, for the purpose of submitting to the qualified electors of the city of houston, texas, a proposition amending the city charter retaining certain limitations on property taxes and water and sewer rates, and making certain changes applicable to city revenues and a proposition supporting public safety and a limitation on revenues, containing findings and other provisions related to the foregoing subject; providing for severability ; and declaring an emergency.

b. Amend the language on the ballot to read as follows: To pay for the public safety needs of an increased population, the City of Houston may collect revenues of $90 million for police, fire and emergency medical services and related communications and dispatch costs, so long as the Fiscal Year 2007 (Tax Year 2006) combined property tax rate is at or below the combined property tax rate in Fiscal Year 2006 (Tax Year 2005), notwithstanding any applicable revenue limitations in the Charter. Any amount collected under this authority must be spent on police, fire and emergency medical services and related communications and dispatch costs. This amount shall be added to any applicable revenue limitations in Fiscal Year 2007 (Tax Year 2006) and any base used to calculate revenue limitations in following budget years."

c. The proposal on the ballot to read: Shall the City of Houston be authorized to collect and spend $90 million for increasedpolice, fire and emergency medical services, without raising the property tax rate? "

Disgusting. This isn't supporting public safety or placing limits on revenues, it is ignoring safety and removing limits. Instead of funding the police, fire, and other emergency services first, Mayor White, with Councilmember Green's able assistance, proposes to fund everything else first (like conducting HUD's required inspections that they fumbled in the first place, and loaning money to developers who don't pay it back), and only then raise new revenues to pay for essential safety! Mayor White is supposed to be following the law and issuing the required tax rate rebate under Proposition 2. Instead, he's getting the council to pay for continued appeals while engaging in deceptive political posturing to eliminate it. George Orwell, eat your heart out.

And I thought I couldn't say anything scathing enough about losing water meters and estimating water bills for years. Maybe it's time for a better quality of commenter to appear before council. A lot of them, actually.

I'll return later with the posted agenda to fill in what I can on the missing items. One hopes no more classic bits of doublethink are to be found in them.

Posted by Ubu Roi @ 08/21/06 01:03 AM | Print |

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