The Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors today voted 21-5, with Dickinson City Council Member Kerry Neves, who is serving as president of the H-GAC; Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell; Walker County Commissioner B.J. Gaines, Jr.; Baytown City Council Member Brandon Capetilo and Liberty County Commissioner Todd Fontenot opposed; to defeat a motion to negotiate a contract with the Greater Houston Partnership, for an amount not to exceed $400,000, to provide “layoff aversion services” to at risk businesses in the region. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
“As a former small business business owner, I can tell you that if I was looking at layoffs, calling H-GAC or the Greater Houston Partnership for help would be probably way down on my list,” said Houston City Council Member Anne Clutterbuck.
Colorado County Judge Al Jamison also questioned the wisdom of the program.
“Four hundred thousand dollars won’t buy breakfast for those who will become affected by the curtailment of offshore drilling,” Jamison said. “I’m not suggesting more money; I’m suggesting no money.”
“This is almost like trying to put out a house fire with a fire extinguisher,” added Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
President Neves said the opposition to the program is shortsighted.
“I think that this is an excellent program,” Neves said “If you look at the portfolio of services, we are talking about debt restructuring training, finance issues, even potential buyout, labor management issues, all those kinds of things that could go to help a business that is potentially in danger.”
Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, who made the motion to not approve the program, did not agree with Neves.
“We have to remember that, to approve this, we would be spending $400,000, pardon my pun, on a make-work program for a consultant,” Clark said. “There is nothing that says there is going to be resources to be able to implement a number of these particular items that are listed here.”
The board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with a qualified housing construction management services firm, on a list of five firms that responded to a request for qualifications for services associated with the H-GAC Ike Disaster Recovery Housing Program, for an amount not to exceed $9,697,896. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
“H-GAC is administering the Ike Recovery Program in Austin, Brazoria, Matagorda, Walker and Waller Counties,” explained Alan Clark of the H-GAC staff. “This contract is to provide basically turnkey services to procure and manage construction contractors for repairs, elevation, reconstruction, mobile home replacement and/or demolition services.”
Clark introduced Miles Arena, who recently joined the H-GAC staff as disaster recovery coordinator.
H-GAC Executive Director Jack Steele updated the board on CDBG Disaster Recovery Second Round Funding. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
“We have relatively good news,” Steele said. “The state has resolved its differences with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have submitted a plan and we are in the process of looking at what it will take to promulgate a method of distribution on the Round Two funds.”
The board approved a resolution in honor of former Friendswood city council member Andy Rivera for his service on the H-GAC board.
All other agenda items were approved by unanimous votes. Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, Conroe Council Member Toby Powell, Friendswood Council Member Michael Barker, Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, La Porte Council Member Chuck Engelken,Jr., Missouri City Council Member Bobby Marshall, Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, Sugar Land Council Member Thomas Abraham, Meadows Place Alderman Terry Henley and Houston Mayor Annise Parker were absent. However, Council Member Sue Lovell, a Houston alternate member, was in attendance in Parker's place.