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Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors
by Garrett Bryce w/photos courtesy METRO
Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors today voted 5-1, with Jim Robinson opposed, to approve a 6-month interlocal agreement with the City of Houston for the use of a portion of the Buffalo Bayou operating facility as a temporary homeless shelter, with options to extend for two additional 6-month terms.

The motion included approving up to $100,000 in minor modifications to the property, including fencing and a commercial gate.

The City of Houston is seeking to utilize a portion of the METRO bus shelter to a temporary outdoor, “safe-space” for homeless individuals under a pilot program. News Release

The item was discussed at length by board members, who heard several comments from the public regarding concerns with the possible temporary homeless shelter.

Board Chair Carrin Patman noted those concerns from the public.

“I really appreciate and understand the comments that you have made today,” she said, discussing the timing of the issue, as the item had not been publicized prior to Monday. Listen (56:29)

However, Patman said that she had decided to move forward with the item.

“I wanted to make sure that if in fact, after thorough vetting, and after hearing from all of you, city council of Houston decided to move forward with the agreement, METRO wouldn't be the one holding them up,” Patman said.

She stressed that the program was ultimately the city council's decision, and that it would be the city to consider the feasibility of the program. Patman also pointed to the security measures being put in place to address safety issues with the homeless in the area.

Robinson stated that the impact of issues with the homeless in the city already exist, and that he agreed with those who spoke with concerns.

“Value is really a state of mind on the part of purchasers, and the fact that it's there is going to further, I think, diminish the value of those properties,” he said.

Board Member Christof Spieler also said he had concerns.

“Fundamentally, it feels to me like this board is not the appropriate venue for deciding what the best solution to the homeless problem is,” he said, stating that the city council is the entity that should decide on how to handle the homeless.

Board Member Lisa Gonzales Castaneda echoed concerns about the short notice of the item, and questioned whether the item could be postponed.

“It seems like the city could get the pilot program established and then talk about locations,” Castaneda said.

She continued to favor additional community input.

Other issues that came up were concerns of long-term use of the facility, though it is considered to be temporary. Spieler stressed the need for use of the property as METRO grows.

The board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to approve the extension of existing commercial paper credit facilities with JP Morgan and with State Street.

The board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to issue debt instruments to refund existing debt through a private placement purchase.

The debt will refinance existing debt at a lower interest rate, resulting in cost savings to METRO. Robinson noted the importance of issuing the debt now, due to possible requirements under tax reform being considered by Congress to make refunding bonds only callable under certain dates.

The board voted unanimously to approve a contract with Brown Consulting and FTI Consulting for legislative coordination services.

The board voted unanimously to approve a lease extension with the Harris County Sheriff's Office for 810 San Jacinto.

All other items were approved by unanimous vote. Board members Cindy Siegel, Troi Taylor and Don Elder were absent. Agenda

During the meeting, the board recognized Leang “Terry” Ear, a METRO employee who pulled two victims out of a burning car following an accident near the 66th Street rail crossing on November 20.

Dannenbaum Engineering BayTran
Remembering Jim Guidry

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