The Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors today approved participation in the funding of three projects totaling $4.5 million. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who chairs the H-GAC Projects Review Committee listed the projects, which include $2 million for Buffalo Bend Park, "multi-generational, passive use, outdoor recreational use" park that includes outdoor recreational facilities such as trails, a boardwalk, restrooms, landscaping, a teaching station and interpretative signage; $100,000 for The Pelican Market, a farmer's market development by the Seabrook Economic Development Corporation that will be built on a three-acre waterfront site in Seabrook; and a 2.4 million water infrastructure project for the City of Cleveland.
Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark voted for the projects, but expressed reservations about the use of tax funds for the farmers market in Seabrook.
"I wholeheartedly support farmers markets," Clark said. "But the trend seems to be that we are going to a lot of farmers markets. I know Kemah's developing one, there is one in Clear Lake Shores, League City is looking at one, Pearland is looking at one. Various communities are out there looking at farmers markets and a lot of these are, how shall we say, maybe supported by the cities but they are really private initiatives."
The board voted unanimously to approve the H-GAC Internal Audit Report and heard a presentation of the draft 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report presentation by Todd Pruitt of Pattillo, Brown and Hill. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
"We have an unqualified opinion on this report,"said Nancy Haussler of the H-GAC staff. "That is the highest form of opinion that you can get on an audit report; and it is commonly referred to as a clean opinion."
The final CAFR will be presented to the board for approval at next month's meeting.
A request for authorization to approve a contract, not to exceed $220,500, for a Livable Centers Study for Downtown/East Downtown Houston was removed from the agenda. Commissioner Garcia said that she supports the study but that it was removed from the agenda to allow time "for more community stakeholder involvement".
All other agenda items were approved. All votes were unanimous. Agenda
H-GAC Executive Director Jack Steele updated the board on Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
"Until yesterday, I thought this would be a relatively routine and brief report," Steele said. "However, there have been some additional developments that I wanted to make you aware of occurring literally right into the evening yesterday."
Steele said that the Housing and Urban Development Department has requested some additional technical changes in the conciliation agreement that was developed to appease housing advocacy groups, which has already been approved by the parties to the agreement.
"Whenever you have an agreement that has been negotiated by phalanxes of lawyers, a request for a change gives rise to other requests for change," Steele said. "So when HUD requested its change, the attorney general decided that it would be an appropriate time to also try to get some additional protection written into the agreement from any further litigation or threatened litigation by the advocacy groups on either the same set of facts or a similar set of facts into the future."
Steele said when those proposed changes were brought forward the advocacy groups brought up changes that they want to make.
"So in effect, that matter has been reopened and it is now under discussion," he said. "I don't think any of these issues are deal breaker issues, and they are certainly not our issues - they are at the state level - but we are urging that this move forward and be resolved as soon as possible because if it is not it will impact the receipt of these funds by local governments."
Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal, who chaired the meeting in the absence of H-GAC President Kerry Neves, welcomed recently elected Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski and Texas City Commissioner Rick Wilkenfeld and Friendswood City Council Member Michael Barker who have joined the board. Resolutions for former members Lyda Ann Thomas of Galveston and Andy Rivera of Friendswood were approved, but neither was present at the meeting.