City officials say they have not forgotten about planned projects around the area – but caution that progress may be held up as the city works to balance those needs with Harvey recovery needs.
During last week’s District C community meeting, councilmember Ellen Cohen, Mayor Sylvester Turner and a multitude of city officials joined dozens of residents for the annual discussion, focusing on Harvey recovery efforts and the progress of projects that are part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan.
“Hurricane Harvey has changed a lot – it’s impacting how we roll out CIP projects and other plans,” Turner said, noting more than 6,300 homes and businesses in District C were impacted by the storm, and more than 3,000 Houston families remain living in hotels or homes in need of reform. “We would have liked for dollars to be rolling out much quicker.”
As a result of that, Turner said city council has modified the ordinance to allow families to apply for RVs, mobile homes, and similar arrangements on a temporary basis.
In Harvey’s wake, Turner said he firmly believes the way to proceed is build in a new way that makes the city stronger and more resilient – and some of that change is already happening. Turner has requested that city council consider amendments to Chapter 19, which would require the building of a new structure to be guided by the 500-year flood plain – as opposed to 100-year – and then build two feet higher. City council took the amendment under consideration earlier this week.
“The goal is that, as we move forward in future development of this city, we are asking that people to build higher,” he said.
Local projects to move forward, delays expected
During District C’s meeting last week, Turner also reiterated the city’s urgency with regards to moving forward with planned CIP projects, and officials have advised against adding additional work to the budget until funding for both Harvey recovery and existing projects has stabilized.
“The reason it’s impacting the CIP is that in many cases we’re having to pay the money out first and get it reimbursed later. Many of the projects within the CIP that will go forward, but some will be delayed – the emphasis will be on Harvey recovery,” he said. “We can rightfully say that other storms will come, and it’s important for the city to be stronger and more resilient, and for us to put people in a much better position.”
One project that will move forward, coined Neighborhood Street Reconstruction Project 460, involves building concrete pavement with storm drainage, curbs, sidewalks, street lighting, and necessary underground utilities Impacted areas will include several areas of the Heights, including East 10th Street, East 12 ½ Street, West 17th, East 25th and East 26th as the project proceeds north.
Further, the project scope includes work on Arlington, Ashland, Laird, Granberry, Harvard, Oxford, and West 18th Streets.
Projects such as the Watonga Boulevard drainage and reconstruction and Garden Oaks/SPP road work will also continue according to officials.
According to Afolake Adeniyi, Community Ombudsman for the city’s Public Works – Capital Projects department, city officials do not yet have a specific anticipated timeframe to provide as of press time due to Harvey recovery and funding challenges that have added significant uncertainty to the current CIP cycle.
“We have to spend this money up front, so it creates this ripple effect as we go through these five years that it’s pushing projects we’d have done this year back into next year,” Public Works Director and Oak Forest resident Carol Haddock said at the meeting.
“Everything is still in line, it just may take us longer to reach that line. We want to make sure we address the projects that are here, get through the Harvey reimbursements and meet the commitments we made to you.”
Full audio of the meeting be found on the city’s website at houstontx.city.swagit.com/ and clicking on the Committees and and Commissions Tab.