A woman charged Thursday in connection with an early April car crash that killed an 8-year-old girl was driving with a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit, according to arrest records.
Erika Diebel, 41, of League City, was arrested about 10 a.m. on a charge of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle, police said.
Her arrest came after an investigation into the April 6 crash that resulted in the death of Kelsey Nalepa, 8.
The investigation found probable cause to suspect Diebel was intoxicated at the time of the accident, police spokesman Kelly Williamson said.
Intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle is a second-degree felony. Diebel’s bond was set at $100,000.
The crash occurred as Diebel was driving a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee east in the 2600 block of West Main Street, police said.
Eastbound traffic was stopped in that block, and a 2001 Ford Expedition was stopped directly in front of Diebel’s vehicle, police said. Diebel drove her Jeep into the back of the Expedition, seriously injuring Nalepa, police said.
Nalepa was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston for treatment. She was pronounced dead April 8.
Diebel consented to a blood-alcohol test and was taken to a University of Texas Medical Branch clinic in League City, where she gave the sample, according to an arrest affidavit released Thursday.
The alcohol content report from the Texas Department of Public Safety crime laboratory showed Diebel had a blood alcohol content of 0.249 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, according to the arrest affidavit. The legal limit is 0.08.
No one else was injured in the crash.
Dozens of people and organizations from the League City area and elsewhere turned out April 9 and contributed to a memorial on the fences surrounding Ross Elementary School in memory of Nalepa, who attended school there.
The 79th Galveston County Fair & Rodeo officially opens today, but action was already in full swing at the fairgrounds in Hitchcock on Thursday. Livestock show participants and cook-off hopefuls began checking in, and organizers opened a late-night sneak peek of the carnival.
Gates open at the fair at 4 p.m. today. Bull riding begins at 8 p.m. and concert headliner Roger Creager is scheduled to take the stage at about 10:30 p.m.
The fair and rodeo goes through April 30.
The Galveston Economic Development Partnership is supporting the city’s $62 million bond proposition, partnership President Jeff Sjostrom said Thursday.
The partnership’s executive committee last week voted unanimously on a resolution in favor of the tax-supported bond, which would go to street and drainage improvements in the city.
The Galveston Economic Development Partnership, which has more than 100 members, supports the bond because the group trusts the leadership in the city to “put its money where its mouth is,” Sjostrom said.
“A lot of it has to do with confidence,” Sjostrom said. “Our board in general is looking at the present moment, looking at the leadership in place. We felt now was a good time.”
The bond sale would, in part, be paid off by a 3.5 cent increase in the property tax rate. A Galveston property owner who owns a $215,000 home — the median value on the island — would see a $60 a year increase in property taxes, according to city estimates.
The bond proposition is also a good deal financially, Sjostrom said. If the bond doesn’t pass, city officials have said they would complete the city’s street and drainage capital improvement plan with a pay-as-you-go method, and construction would be complete in 15 to 20 years. A bond sale would put construction within a five-year time frame, officials said.
Completing the projects within five years would be less expensive because of construction cost inflation, city officials have said.
Some of the proposed plans include the complete reconstruction of 45th Street; a drainage project on 18th Street, from the Ship Channel to Avenue K; and the repaving of 25th Street from Broadway to Seawall Boulevard.
These improvements could have the effect of improving business on the island, Sjostrom said.
“We’re always concerned about the cost of doing business on the island,” Sjostrom said. “Part of Galveston being a tourism destination as it is, the better our streets, the better the drainage, the better the experience people come to Galveston to enjoy.”
The bond issue faces organized opposition from the Galveston County Apartment Association and from some owners of multiple island properties.
Election Day is May 6. Early voting will take place from April 24 to April 28, and from May 1 to May 2.
All that’s left is next month’s big reveal: Which new retailers are coming to Kemah’s now approved $17 million shopping center?
The city council on Wednesday agreed to an incentives package with a Tennessee-based developer to build the 83,900-square-foot retail center at the southeast corner of state Highway 146 and FM 518 adjacent to Wal-Mart.
Jeff Pape, managing director of Brentwood, Tenn.-based GBT Realty Corp.’s shopping center division, said he expects to release the tenant list next month when the 11-acre purchase, now under contract, closes.
The Shoppes of Kemah will include five large stores and four or five smaller shops, Pape said.
“We’re deep in,” he said of negotiations with retailers. “We have about half the leases signed, and we expect to have most of the others signed in the next week or two. Our goal is to close on the property by the first week of May, and at that point, we’ll be over 90 percent leased.”
Site development is expected to begin shortly after the closing.
“The goal is start work next month and begin to go vertical with the buildings in late summer, early fall and continue through the winter,” Pape said. “We expect stores to open in late spring next year.”
National, local retailers
The Shoppes of Kemah will include both locally owned and nationally known retailers, Pape said.
The incentive package the city and developer agreed to involves sales tax revenue going to the developer to pay lenders that are financing the project.
The arrangement falls under Chapter 380 of the state’s Local Government Code, which allows cities to offer sales tax-generated incentives to developers for economic development projects such as commercial and retail centers.
Joiner cited the deal’s benefits for shoppers and for the city’s finances.
“Right now, we have 100 percent of zero sales tax there,” he said, referring to the currently undeveloped parcel west of Wal-Mart.
The incentive package expires in 10 years at the most; Joiner said it could end sooner, contingent on when the developer recoups the costs of the project.
In the meanwhile, Kemah will receive other, non-sales-tax benefits.
“The Shoppes of Kemah will generate $17,000 annually in property taxes,” Joiner said. “Plus, we didn’t waive building permit fees, and those will generate $60,000.”
“There’s also a 1.3-acre piece of property behind the Shoppes of Kemah that the developer is giving to the city.”
He valued that tract at $237,000.
Additionally, under terms of the agreement, GBT Realty will build a two-lane road along the west side of the property, the first length of an eventual corridor between FM 518 and state Highway 96.
Pape and Joiner would not disclose additional details regarding the incentives package.
An attractive market
While Kemah’s full-time population comprises just 2,000 or so people, the bayside city attracts roughly 4 million tourists a year, making it attractive to retailers.
That awareness brought Kemah to the developer’s attention.
“We maintain close relations with a number of national retailers,” Pape said. “One of them told us they wanted to be in Kemah and gave us some intel as to a possible location, and we went from there.”
When the incentive package expires, all sales tax generated by the shops will accrue to Kemah’s coffers. The city’s budget largely depends on such revenue, which allows it to levy — at 21.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value — the second-lowest municipal ad valorem tax rate in Galveston County.
Joiner said the shops’ combined sales taxes are projected to generate roughly $500,000 a year.