Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Woodlands Texas Township Meeting March 26 2008

Since many residents do not have the opportunity to attend these meetings, I wanted to share my impression of and the contents of the Township Meeting today. This was the first meeting I have attended. These meetings are scheduled early in the day, at 7:30AM, making it impossible for residents commuting to Houston or early workers to attend. The meetings are open, but the conference space is relatively small. Today, the room was filled. There was probably more interest than normal due to the coming elections. Several of the board candidates and/or their representatives attended. Or perhaps, these folks attend normally.

General Meeting - Township

Overall, my impression is that some members of the board do not speak loud enough for visiting residents to hear their comments or questions, especially if the visitor sits in the back. There were microphones available, but it seemed that some speakers used them more than others. This fast moving large agenda meeting had few comments or questions by individual board directors. Their question or comment was pertinent to the subject. The pace set by the chairperson (Nelda Blair) led the group to a rapid conclusion. Prior to the meeting, a book of reading material was distributed to each director. More often than not, the directors were asked to make and approve motions to keep the meeting as short as practical. I assume everyone not only had the chance beforehand to read the material, but also to seek answers to their questions. The book of documents had well over 100 pages of material. Two separate meetings were conducted, for a total duration of about 90 minutes.

Financial report: consisted of budget plan variances and explanations of those variances. Projects might start late or the timing of certain payment transactions might not be as expected. "We are seeing a tax receipt slowdown." However, the Township remains on budget, and the receipts are larger than last year.

Fire Department Capital Project Status in Economic Zone 4: This $11.9 million dollar project is within budget and on time. Station #6 is 75% complete with an expected opening in June. Its equipment has already arrived and is being circulated through the other stations to shake out the bugs. The training center is 68% complete and should be operational by September. These two projects will open the path to a better rating and a lower resident insurance rate. Fire Chief Benson presented an excellent review of the projects, complete with photographs.

In Waterway Square, the grand opening is scheduled in April. A maintenance agreement process was proposed and approved, to enable a contract for the contractor Progressive Inc to maintain the fountains and equipment for about $15,000.

A proposal was made and approved to add a standing agenda item for reporting Woodlands Association issues and progress when needed.

There are various marketing initiatives and events coming. The Logo contest closes at the end of April. A celebration of the local "public heroes" will be in April. The Waterway Festival will be a good one with lots of activities April 12-13. An RFP (Request for Proposal) is almost ready for Ambassadors to print directions for visitors and to print coupons. Continental Airlines will soon have an article for The Woodlands, a campaign partnered with the development company. Texas Highways magazine will have an article about The Woodlands. Austin American Statesman will have an article on weekend getaways to The Woodlands. A new website for visitors will come out in April. This will contain a guide for visitors that will include the villages.

Montgomery Transportation Plan - presentation for information:
1. Countywide paratransit/demand system: this is a means to transport people by prior arrangements using county vehicles to destinations. There are several programs already in operation.
2. New county service to Sam Houston State University: from south county to SHSU up the I45 corridor with various pickup points along the way. This is an exciting initiative. There are many obstacles (hurdles), but we are making progress. Only two more hurdles must be jumped before we can implement. We are optimistic. The cost of this service is $23 per passenger but passengers will not have to pay that much.

Public comments are allowed and encouraged, but there were none.

Board gave their support in an initiative to acquire funds from a Texas Wildlife Commission grant for building a new park in Sterling Ridge. The development company is working with MUD 386 to acquire these funds. Maintenance of the park will be by the MUD district. The park will be very similar to other parks here in The Woodlands.

Board approved the operational rules for the Waterway Square. Hours of operation will be 6AM to 11PM daily. This can be changed later if needed. Generally the rules are the same as Town Green Park. There will be a wade pool.

Economic Development Zone Boundaries: Exclude Harris County until surveyed. This will have no impact on tax receipts since there are no businesses in Creekside Village Park. The 1% sales tax will be collected. However, the second 1% will be postponed indefinitely in Harris County until this issue is resolved.

Second meeting - Economic Development Zones

A list of 14 items were proposed and approved. Most were required for the operation of the Economic Zones. Those were modeled after the Township operational processes. Exceptions to those seemingly routine items included the combining of financial Year 2007 reports of the four zones into one report, and a reimbursement agreement between the Township and the economic zones for the Waterway Square project.

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