You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
News
Dallas' Vernon Hale picked for Galveston police chief

GALVESTON

Galveston’s next police chief will be Vernon Hale, deputy chief of police for the Dallas Police Department, City Manager Brian Maxwell announced Wednesday.

Hale has accepted the city’s offer, which will be taken to city council for confirmation Dec. 14, city spokeswoman Jaree Fortin said.

His salary will be $130,000 a year, plus $2,500 year in residency pay if he chooses to live on the island, Maxwell said.

Hale’s first day with the Galveston Police Department will be Jan. 2, 2018, pending council confirmation, Fortin said.

He’ll work alongside Police Chief Richard Boyle until Boyle retires in February, she said.

“I truly believe that Deputy Chief Hale is exactly who the Galveston Police Department needs as its chief,” Maxwell said.

“He brings a multitude of diversified experience and skills, and we are honored that he has accepted our offer and look forward to seeing all that can be accomplished under his leadership.”

Hale, 47, said he was drawn to Galveston because the city is large enough to present a challenge but small enough to allow a direct effect on the community.

“Obviously, I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” Hale said. “I can’t wait to jump into it and give these guys what I know and also learn from them.”

Hale has worked for the Dallas Police Department since 1992, his entire career, he said. He will leave his post as deputy chief of police of the Southeast Patrol Division, where he oversees 320 personnel policing an area of 65 square miles containing 176,000 residents, according to his resume.

Hale led the police department’s narcotics division from 2014 to 2016, and he is the commander of the Dallas Underwater Recovery Team.

He holds a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of North Texas. Hale is an adjunct professor for several Dallas-area universities and an instructor for Sam Houston State University’s Incident Command Simulation Training Program, his resume states.

Hale was picked in part because of his reputation for being “firm but fair” and for his strengths in community policing, Maxwell said.

“I think his community involvement is going to be probably head and shoulders above anybody we’ve ever had,” Maxwell said.

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall tweeted out her support of the pick Wednesday.

“I would like to congratulate Chief Vernon Hale for his appointment as Chief to The Galveston PD!!! So very proud of you!!! Many blessings!!” Hall said in the tweet.

The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that a city near Orlando named Hale police chief last year, but he withdrew his application just days later. Hale told the city that he didn’t feel right leaving Dallas that soon after the July 2016 shooting that killed five police officers, Maxwell said.

The city received 46 applications for the position, and a panel interviewed seven candidates, Fortin said. The two runners-up were George Buenik, formerly executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department, and Galveston City Marshal Michael Gray.

The panel didn’t take a vote on the candidates, but its members offered Maxwell their opinions and full support of choosing Hale, he said.

“I’ve never been on a panel when the pick was just 100 percent unanimous,” Maxwell said. “Everybody pointed and said, ‘That’s your guy.’”


News
centerpiece
Local Boy Scouts council prepares for girls to join

Local leaders are working out how to incorporate new rules after Boy Scouts of America in October announced it would admit girls into the organization starting next year, marking a significant and historic shift in policy.

The girls would join an all-girl Cub Scout den, while boys would remain in all-boy dens, officials said. It was unclear whether the organization intended to integrate groups of older children.

“The details are not out yet,” said Charlie Tinsley, scout executive of the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which is based in Galveston.

Boy Scouts councils also plan to recruit older girls to join in 2019 and to allow them to earn the Eagle Scout rank, but it wants them also to stay in an all-girl troop while the umbrella organization would retain the gender-specific name of Boy Scouts of America.

“The Boy Scout program is all about leadership, life skills and character skills,” Tinsley said. “The organization’s mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices.”

The move to recruit girls did not surprise Galveston resident Kevin Moran, who is a Troop 177 committee member and a former assistant Scout leader. Scout leaders in the Galveston area have been talking about the inevitability of including girls for years, he said.

“It didn’t come on suddenly,” Moran said. “The program itself would be as good for girls as it is for boys.”

The Boy Scouts of America isn’t giving interviews on the topic, but an Oct. 11 announcement from the organization stated the shift was inspired by requests from families to include girls.

“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing,” Randall Stephenson, the organization’s national board chairman said at the time. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”

GOLDEN GIRLS

Meanwhile, Girl Scouts of the USA, which is separate from and independent of the Boy Scouts, has not responded warmly to the Boy Scout announcement.

And its leaders point out that Girl Scouts also produces leaders.

Connie Chavez, chief external affairs officer for the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, can rattle off a list of leaders who were Girl Scouts.

“Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout,” Chavez said. “Every female Secretary of State was a Girl Scout. Eighty percent of female tech leaders were Girl Scouts, and 50 percent of female business leaders were Girl Scouts. And they got their start selling Girl Scout cookies.”

Chavez declined to comment about the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls.

“We don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about them,” Chavez said.

The Girl Scouts organization also has values it teaches its members: service, courage, confidence and character. And the top Girl Scout honor is the Gold Award, comparable to the Eagle Scout rank. Earning the Gold Award can lead to scholarships, college offers and the ability to enter the military one rank higher than others.

Danielle Thompson, student body president at Texas A&M University at Galveston, earned her Gold Award when she was a sophomore in high school. Her professional adviser recently reviewed her resume that listed her top achievements, Thompson said. At the bottom of the long list was her high school-era honor of getting the Gold Award.

Thompson’s adviser told her to move it to the top because it was her most impressive honor, even more impressive than being a college student body president, Thompson said.

“I always come across that,” she said. “I could credit almost every bit of confidence I have to the Girl Scouts.”

Thompson is studying maritime administration and plans to study admiralty law in the future.

IMAGE ISSUES

It seems odd that the Boy Scouts would recruit girls to join them but keep the word “boy” in its name, said Elizabeth Gregory, director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Houston.

“As a former Girl Scout mom of a girl who was also in coed Little League, I see no immediate benefits,” Gregory said. “The Girl Scouts have great camping facilities.”

Except for fathers who had been Boy Scouts and now have daughters, the market isn’t obvious to Gregory, she said.

“Is this an attempt to seem more ‘progressive’ to cover over their misstep with gay boys and leaders?” Gregory said. The Boy Scouts banned gay youth and openly gay leaders.

It’s possible the Boy Scouts of America is aiming to improve its image. If that’s true, it’s a good move, Moran said.

The Boy Scouts of America cites internal surveys it said it conducted online for its decision to admit girls.

It also cites a Pew Research Center study from 2015 that found most parents are working and more households only have one parent. The organization also said that because of that, convenient programs that serve the whole family are more appealing.

HISTORY

Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are imports from the United Kingdom. It all started with the 1907 book, “Scouting for Boys.” Robert Baden-Powell wrote the book and founded the Boy Scouts.

“Girls were writing in asking how they could be Scouts,” said Tammy Proctor, a historian at the University of Utah who has researched those letters and other documents. She is author of “Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.”

Girls wanted the same sense of adventure and camping experiences, and the Girl Guides organization started in 1909 in the United Kingdom, Proctor said.

“It was created to keep girls out of Boy Scouts,” she said.

Girls might want to join Boy Scouts because it’s convenient, or they find it exciting, or their brothers are doing it, she said.

“In practice, it will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Proctor said.


News
Texas City approves tax abatement for ammonia plant

TEXAS CITY

Work on an anticipated $800 million ammonia plant in Texas City will begin in 2018 after city commissioners on Wednesday approved a 10-year tax abatement.

An attorney hired by the city to execute the abatement agreement briefly laid out its basic details before commissioners voted on the plan. No residents spoke about the project, nor did commissioners make any lengthy comments.

The Texas City Commission voted unanimously to approve a Chapter 312 tax abatement agreement and a Chapter 380 Economic Development and Performance Agreement with Gulf Coast Ammonia LLC and Eastman Chemical Texas City Inc.

Commissioners also voted to amend the boundaries of Texas City Gulf Coast Reinvestment Zone 1, where the plant will be built.

Gulf Coast Ammonia was formed in a partnership between Miami-based Agrifos and Borealis AG, Europe’s second-largest producer of polyethylene and polypropylene. The company plans to build an ammonia plant on land it’s leasing from Eastman Chemical Co. at 201 Bay St. S., Mayor Matt Doyle said earlier this week.

Once completed, the facility would produce about 1.35 million metric tons a year of ammonia, according to documents released to The Daily News. The plans also include a terminal dock to ship ammonia products to and from the plant, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit application.

Texas City’s 10-year tax abatement agreement with Gulf Coast Ammonia includes a stipulation that the company pay the city a lump sum of money during each of those years, said Chris Nichols of Nichols Firm, a Houston law firm hired by the city to execute the contract.

The tax abatement will begin 2021, Nichols said. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will pay a lump sum each year for the 10 years to the city in lieu of paying property taxes so long as the value of the property is at least $450 million, Nichols said.

Those payments each year could range between $750,000 and $1 million depending on the value of development, Nick Finan, Texas City director of management services, said earlier this week. The payment to the city would be equal to about 40 percent of what the company would otherwise pay, Nichols said.

It works out to an effective 60 percent reduction in taxes the company would pay to the city, Nichols said. Gulf Coast Ammonia officials have not specified how many jobs would be created by the facility, but it could range between 25 and 50 full-time positions, Finan said.

The company is making few public statements about the operations now, said Alberto Cardenas, an attorney for Vincent & Elkins, a Houston law firm representing Gulf Coast Ammonia.

The abatement is based on economic capital created, not the number of jobs, Cardenas said. But the plant would provide jobs during construction and an unspecified number of full-time positions once built, he said.

The company will begin construction in 2018 with plans to begin operations in late 2020, Cardenas said.


News
Coming soon

A fast-food eatery owner in League City is fighting city hall to keep a tall sign by Interstate 45.


News
Storm-hit, tax-starved city halts hiring, projects

Damage from Hurricane Harvey and precipitously declining sales tax revenues have led Hitchcock officials to institute a hiring freeze and halt capital projects and have inspired calls for a deep dive into the city’s finances.

Commissioners on Aug. 21 approved a balanced general budget of about $4.58 million in both total revenues and expenditures, documents show.

But that was before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast.

Parts of Hitchcock, just north of Galveston Bay and west of Interstate 45, were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, 200 miles south of the county and moved up the Texas coast.

The storm dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some areas, swelling creeks and bayous and flooding an estimated 20,000 homes in Galveston County.

More trouble came when Mayor Anthony Matranga was briefly hospitalized following the hurricane and eventually resigned Nov. 27.

City commissioners in a 3-1 vote appointed Dorothy Childress, who was mayor during Hurricane Alicia in 1983, to replace Matranga.

Meanwhile, some commissioners are calling for a close look at the city’s books and for the cause of a 55 percent decline in sales tax revenue that began well before the storm.

“We need a clear idea of where income is coming from and going,” Commissioner Monica Cantrell said. “We just need a clear budget process that is audited properly.”

Childress vowed Wednesday to keep Hitchcock’s budget in order through a difficult time for the city.

“I’ve looked at the budget, which is balanced, and intend for it to remain that way,” Childress said. “It’s a pet project of mine to do right by those projections.”

Since taking office, Childress has instituted a hiring freeze for open city positions and has temporarily halted all capital improvements as city officials work through the Hurricane Harvey recovery process, she said.

Hitchcock has about a month to produce all the necessary paperwork to get reimbursed for Hurricane Harvey damage through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Lucy Dieringer, Hitchcock’s city secretary, said in an earlier interview with The Daily News. It needs the help of an engineering firm to get that done, officials said.

As city officials work to complete FEMA-related deadlines, they are also coping with declining sales tax revenues.

The city in 2015 received about $2.38 million in sales tax revenue from the state’s comptroller office, records show. That number declined to $1.53 million in 2017 and down to $1.06 million this year with one month left to go, records show. That was a 55 percent decline in two years.

Several city officials have blamed the decline on different companies not paying sales taxes.

“There is a company we were getting a decent amount from, and then all of a sudden it got cut in third,” Commissioner Mark Cook said.

Cook was uncertain which company was responsible and directed inquiries to Dieringer for more specifics.

Dieringer, along with Mayor pro tem Randy Stricklind, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about sales taxes Wednesday.

“I haven’t seen anything about the sales taxes yet,” Childress said. “But if I find out some of the rumors merit my time, I will spend it and do my own analysis.”

Before Childress was appointed to replace Matranga, Dieringer was the ranking city employee because Hitchcock does not have a city manager.

Multiple city officials, including Childress, said they were hopeful that a planned deal with a consulting firm to review the city’s organizational structure, financial operations and planning would help clear up some of the issues.

Commissioners on Nov. 7 authorized Mayor pro tem Randy Stricklind to negotiate a deal with C.B. “Bix” Rathburn, a former county economic development director who resigned in June to become an independent consultant.

That power has since gone to Childress, who said she was working on an agreement with Rathburn and hoped she would have something to present to commissioners soon.


News
League City names new planning director

LEAGUE CITY

Planner and developer David Hoover is League City’s new planning and development director with a salary of $130,000.

It is a key position in the largest city in Galveston County that has more than 102,000 residents and continues to grow at a fast pace. Officials and staff have been fighting a perception that the planning department makes it difficult for developers to do business in League City.

Hoover has been on both sides of the fence as a real estate developer and as a city planner. Guiding the future shape of League City intrigues him because of its location south of Houston and its proximity to NASA and Galveston Bay, he said.

“Clearly, good things are going on here,” Hoover said. “It’s a great location. It doesn’t get any better.”

Hoover replaces Paul Menzies, who left the planning director position in October to take a job as assistant city manager of Wichita Falls.

Hoover, who is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, was president of the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association from 2006 to 2007, and he has been an active board member for more than 20 years.

Hoover has spent much of his career working in planning departments of Texas cities.

Hoover was planning director for the city of Allen from 2001 to 2008. He was business development coordinator for the city of Rosenberg from 1998-2001. He also worked in planning for South Padre Island and Friendswood. He was a city planner for Galveston from 1988-1990, evaluating development proposals and design review and maintenance in the island’s historic districts, among other responsibilities.

The population of Allen almost doubled while Hoover was planning director, and he developed several high-end projects there, he said.

“Bad development is really hard to fix in a short amount of time,” Hoover said. “It’s important to know if there is going to be a potential problem.”

After leaving Allen in 2008, Hoover started two companies. One was Plan This LLC, a company specializing in planning and economic development consulting for public and private sectors.

The other was Isle Development LLC, a development and construction company in Galveston. That business has built several homes in Galveston, including four in Magnolia Court.

Hoover won’t be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business that is still building houses, he said.

His previous work with Plan This included a three-month stint as an economic development consultant for Galveston and preparing a master plan for Stewart Beach development in Galveston.

In 2015, Hoover ran for Galveston City Council, but lost the race to Norman Pappous.

The League City Regional Chamber of Commerce spearheaded an effort this year to work with the city to iron out the misconceptions developers have and fix problems and unnecessary roadblocks in the planning department. Part of that effort was a task force committee that has met for a year and is now completing a white paper with recommendations for a city master plan that addresses planning, zoning, transportation and utilities.

Hoover has the right background to help League City, Chamber of Commerce President Steve Paterson said.

“I was very impressed,” Paterson said. “He’s a great addition to the team.”

Hoover’s top priority is learning where League City is now with its planning so he can evaluate what needs to happen, what should happen and what should not happen, he said. Part of that evaluation includes the business community.

“It has to be a partnership,” Hoover said. “The city has to understand that developers need to make money. And the developers need to understand the city needs quality development. The two need to work together.”