John Kelley: County/City Fight Continues

TIRZ#4 Meeting

The meeting was chaired by new district 1 Councilman Billy Lerma. The City Council members are joined on the board by Tom Schmidt from the Texas State aquarium, Steve Banta from the Lexington Museum, Ken Berry the newly appointed citizen member, Carol Scott from Del Mar, and Vice Chair Barbara Canales County judge.

A presentation was made on the economic projections by the Perryman Study for the full canal project. No projections were done for any of the three other alternatives. It did not include costs to the City.

The report projected during the construction period, 4,520 job years and $401 million in gross product would be produced. Their projection of the expected ongoing economic activitypredicted 3,551 jobs per year and the gross annual product of $264 million, including both operations and incremental tourism. The projected tax revenue was $19 million during construction and afterwards $17.3 million per year in incremental tourism.

A big reason to doubt the report’s credibility lies in one footnote, “1. Information on the North Beach development plans was obtained from North Beach fact sheet and Blackardcompany renderings.” The problem is the Blackard renderings are an engineering impossibility.

The report assumes that the 1.2 mile canal in Blackard’srenderings would be built by the public along with breakwaters and 10 bird islands offshore. Also sports venues with soccer fields and softball fields beach and water volleyball and boat tours along the canal. He also lists art installations, a military service memorial and a 40 foot Tony Amos Memorial dolphin fountain. The report fails to mention how much any of those things would cost or who would pay for them.

Current funding for North Beach drainage projects is included in the storm water fee on your water bill. The total tax base on North Beach is $140 million.

Councilman Greg Smith brought up the need to fork focus on short-term issues like how to solve problems close because by closing the Burlison Avenue exit off of the highway.

A bit of a spat broke out when Councilman Pusley made a point of order about future agenda items being the meeting agenda. He thinks that is a violation of the open meetings act and people should follow the normal process to make sure citizens know what is going to be discussed. Canales objected, saying people shouldn’t be muzzled as far as their comments to the board. Guajardo set a boundary by saying no one is muzzling anybody and we have a process to follow.

City Council Meeting

The City Council meeting started off with the City Manager’s report describing a violent fight at Cole Park videotaped between two women that was making the rounds on social media. Chief Markle discussed the need for improved security at the parks and it was pointed out that Corpus Christi has no Park Ranger force. It will be discussed again in the future as staff develops a plan.

It was announced that the residential street plan for the next several years has been posted on city site and this year we had 45 projects that completed, 29 in-house were done by in-house personnel. They hope to increase that in the coming years to make more timely and cost-effective approach to residential street repair.

The weekly Covid report was presented by Health Department Director, Annette Rodriguez. The availability of vaccines will continue to increase and the options for where people receivethem will work. We are reducing both the cases and hospitalizations but there are concerns about the impact of spring break, loosened restrictions and the new variants.

Councilman Pusley expressed his concern over limiting sites to the fairgrounds location and not making it available within the City. This reflects the concern that the County Judge and refusedto consider other locations in the early days of vaccination andinsistence that she had total power over that determination. It was later found out that she didn’t.

Item 2 on the agenda raised some dissent on the contract that was given to Clark pipeline who was not the low bidder to do the Leopard Street project. Councilman Barrera, Hernandez, and Smith all voted against the measure because they felt the bidding process was flawed.

The second most controversial was Item 25. on the agenda. The hiring of LAN engineering to complete cost studies on the North Beach drainage options. The options are 1) replacement of the existing drainage system with an updated plan, 2) the development of an improved ditch with green space along each side of it, 3a) a canal exiting on the north end of the landmassand 3b a canal exiting on the beach.

Councilman Hunter, Lerma and Hernandez all tried to get Blackard inserted to the engineering task. Both Zanoni and other Councilman objected. Miles Risley, City Attorney said the reason was he wasn’t an engineer. 

There was also an argument over clause that was asked for by LAN to restrict them to consulting with the City Manager or theengineering firms involved in the past proposals with the City manager’s permission. Hunter was more animated and involved the he has been on any subject in four years.

Peter Zanoni, City Manager stated that the reason for the clause was the attempted interference in Phase 1 by both the developer and the county. The measure passed 8-1 with Hunter opposing.

The City County conflict came to a head in Executive Session with the result being a resolution that was passed opposing legislative attempts by the Port and the County to create development authority that would impinge upon the city’s prerogatives rights. Interestingly after he weighed in on the issue Hunter abstained and Molina and Martinez voted against the measure reinforcing the suspicion that the three are working on the side of County.

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