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Galveston hopes $11M project will ease street flooding


An $11.2 million bond-funded project to improve drainage along 18th Street might also allow the city to install a system of stormwater pump stations that could greatly reduce flooding, officials said.

The 18th street work is the largest drainage project to be funded in next round of planned general obligation bond sales, officials said.

The city plans to sell $37 million in general obligation bonds this year to finance street and drainage projects to be contracted in 2019.

These projects are part of a $62 million general obligation bond package voters approved in May 2017.

This project on 18th Street is an important one, Assistant City Manager Brandon Cook said.

Crews install pipes along 18th Street from the bay to Avenue N; along 19th Street from Avenue N to Avenue O½; and along 17th Street from Avenue N to Avenue O, City Engineer Daniel Christodoss said.

The project will put larger underground pipes from the bay to Market Street and put underground pipes from Market Street south, where there aren’t any now, Christodoss said.

Christodoss expects about a 300 percent increase in stormwater drainage capacity above Market Street, he said.

While streets will still fill with water during a storm, it will drain much faster, he said.

South of Broadway, the improvement will be immeasurable, Christodoss said.

The city was originally planning to install drainage pipes only along 18th Street, but if there’s enough money, officials now want to install a few other pipes on streets perpendicular to 18th, Cook said.

The additional studies that led to this decision caused some delay in the project, which was originally slated to begin construction this year, Cook said.

But even more significant benefits will come if the city gets funding for a pump station at the north side of 18th Street, Director of Public Works Kyle Hockersmith said.

The stations would pump water out of the drainage system to help keep stormwater flowing.

“The drainage master plan of 2003 does not really consider alternative drainage other than gravity,” Hockersmith said. “Once you introduce pumps, that changes everything.”

Pumps are the ideal solution to Galveston’s drainage woes, but are extremely expensive, Hockersmith said.

The federal government recently awarded the city a grant to pay for the first steps toward building a pump station at 15th Street, which the city hopes will be the first of several, Cook said.

The exact amount of the award is yet to be determined, but the total cost for construction of the pump is estimated at $32.5 million, according to city records.

The city’s taking flooding seriously, Hockersmith said. In the past, the city designed drainage systems to handle a two-year storm, but now projects are designed to handle 25-year storms, he said.

The work has paid off, he said.

The city’s community rating score, which indicates flood readiness has increased from a 7 to a 6, indicating improvements to the overall system, Hockersmith said.

La Marque residents rally to stop the violence

La Marque residents, city leaders and supporters gathered Sunday afternoon to protest gun violence, including a shooting on Sept. 1 that killed 19-year-old Derrick Phillips while he was driving his car near La Marque High School.

Organized by resident Tracie Steans, who lost her brother-in-law a little more than two months ago in a Texas City shooting, the Stop the Violence 409 rally started with a group prayer and ended with a call to action.

“Today is about prayers and coming together,” Steans said to a group of about 50 people, standing in two circles, hands joined. “Everybody coming together on such short notice says a lot.”

The idea for the rally, held at Walter Feigle Park, 1009 Bayou Road, was born late last week and word spread over a matter of days.

A table set up near the circle was covered with photographs of people in the community lost to violence in recent months and years.

Mayor Bobby Hocking took the microphone before the group dispersed to sign-up tables for various community organizations, expressing his support for the event and what it represented.

“As the mayor of this city, I speak peace,” Hocking said. “We have to meet families and loved ones of those lost at their point of need and we’re prepared to do that.”

Tables were set up for voter registration, with information on CrimeStoppers and its cooperative efforts with the La Marque Police Department and on various activist groups aimed at stopping the violence, including the newly minted organization Stop the Violence 409.

“We need you, we need you, we need you,” Steans said. “We need your help.” A second gathering will be held on Sept. 22, she said. The Sept. 22 event is planned for Yariz Party Hall, also on Bayou Road, organizers said.

Roderick Dozier, a youth pastor at New Glory Outreach Ministry in West Texas City, wore a T-shirt with his organization’s name in bold, block letters: “My Brother’s Keeper.”

“We’re here for young men and kids of any age, for people who might have gotten on the wrong track,” Dozier said. “We are a mentoring group and we are open to people who’ve gotten off course through abuse, drugs or gangs, and who need to change paths.”

My Brother’s Keeper takes children to football games, teaches young men how to tie a tie and generally provides mentorship and friendship to keep them out of trouble, Dozier said.

“I lost my brother three years ago,” Dozier said. “If I can reach one person, I’ll know this work matters.”

Jacqueline Steans Lamb of La Marque was one of several women at the event who have lost sons to violence. Richard Anthony Steans, 39, was shot and killed in Texas City on June 22.

“I want to see justice for my son first, then I want to do what I can to keep this from happening to someone else,” Lamb said.

She wore a red T-shirt with a photograph of her son on it, and embraced another woman, Rachel Ornelas, who lost her son, Rogelio Ornelas, in March 2017, the day before his 22nd birthday.

“I just heard about this about 30 minutes ago,” Ornelas said. “I just had to be here.”

Waymon Stubblefield of West Texas City wrote a poem for the occasion, sharing sentiments that spread around the circle and beyond as residents lingered and visited.

“The pain caused by senseless violence is felt not only by the victims,” Stubblefield wrote.

“Together we can produce change starting with ourselves. For love is the only thing that can conquer hate.”

Coming soon

Years ago, private windstorm insurers fled the Galveston County market, pushing thousands into a state program of last resort. But private companies now hold a majority of policies.

After fatalities, League City leaders look for traffic fixes


Traffic projects, signal changes and even public transportation are all options leaders are considering as Galveston County’s biggest city copes with more and more traffic jams, accidents and even roadway fatalities in recent months.

“It’s part of a growing community, I agree, but there’s been a lot of inattention to transportation over a long period of time and we’re trying to play catch up,” Mayor Pat Hallisey said.

Traffic problems aren’t new, but after a rising number of vehicle-related deaths, city officials are seeking possible solutions.

“We’ve had in the last month or so some pretty serious accidents resulting in fatalities,” said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city. “It’s disturbing for the police department, street and traffic employees who all see it.

“But, until the work is done, and we look at the data of before and after, we won’t know whether we’ve succeeded in our efforts or not.”

Just in August, League City police responded to two deaths involving vehicles, officials said. In one of those, on Aug. 30, Christopher Stevens, 24, of Dickinson, died after a sedan crashed into his motorcycle on League City Parkway while using an eastbound turn lane to drive in, investigators allege.

Prosecutors are planning to present that case to a Galveston County grand jury, said Matt Maggiolino, spokesman for the League City Police Department.

Even before those deaths, however, city crews had taken some steps toward remedying an uptick in accidents, erecting barrels and barricades at the intersection of state Highway 3 and FM 518 and League City Parkway.

Those barrels were only a temporary solution, however, and city officials are working with the Texas Department of Transportation to create longer turn bays on the north and south sides of state Highway 3 at state Highway 96, Greer Osborne said.

Crews also will perform similar work near FM 518, said David Tickell, public works manager with League City.

The cost to make the improvements will be minimal, said Danny Perez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

The city also is studying traffic light timing at FM 270 and state Highway 3 to see whether those can be readjusted to better improve flow during periods of peak congestion, Tickell said.

That study should take about four weeks to complete, and readjusting the lights should follow soon after that, he said.

Along with immediate fixes, city leaders also are considering the longer-term solutions, Councilman Larry Millican said.

“It’s a process,” he said. “No one waves a wand and it’s done.”

City leaders last week met with area transportation experts to discuss different transportation opportunities for League City and the greater region, Millican said. The group decided to eventually send out a survey to area residents asking them about all the different options, public transportation being one of them.

A lack of public transportation was cited in January 2018 as one of the reasons League City didn’t make Amazon’s cut for a second headquarters. Mass transit has been unpopular among many in League City, but both Millican and Hallisey said they would at least ask residents about the possibility on the forthcoming survey.

The city does a little with the University of Texas Medical Branch and Park and Ride, but there’s little for the 5,000 to 10,000 going into Houston and the west side of Harris County, Hallisey said.

“We need to know what people’s attitude would be for that. Would they be willing to pay for the service if it was available? We know a good number go three exits north right now and catch the buses up there.”

Byram Lass, a League City resident, didn’t see a demand for public transportation, but would like to see more coordinated volunteer shuttle programs for seniors and others, he said.

Dorian lashes east Canada at hurricane force most of Sunday


The storm that already walloped the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and North Carolina lashed at far-eastern Canada with hurricane-force winds for much of Sunday, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people before beginning to weaken late in the day.

Dorian hit near the city of Halifax Saturday afternoon, ripping roofs off apartment buildings, toppling a huge construction crane and uprooting trees. There were no reported deaths in Canada, though the storm was blamed for at least 50 elsewhere along its path.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the post-tropical cyclone was centered about 25 miles east-northeast of St. Anthony, Newfoundland, in Sunday night. Its top sustained winds had fallen to 60 mph, after being above the 74 mph threshold of hurricane force earlier in the day. It was heading to the northeast, roughly up the St. Lawrence River, at 23 mph.

The storm swept over northwestern Newfoundland and southeastern Labrador during the afternoon and began moving out over the North Atlantic in the evening.

Nova Scotia officials asked people in the province to stay off the roads so crews could safety remove trees and debris and restore power.

The government said up to 700 Canadian troops would be fanning out across the Maritimes to help restore electricity, clear roadways and evacuate residents in flooded areas.

Nova Scotia Power Inc. chief executive Karen Hutt said over 400,000 Nova Scotia Power customers lost power at the peak of the storm and 50,000 had since been restored. About 80 percent of Nova Scotia’s homes and businesses were blacked out — the highest in the company’s history. Hutt said some customers could remain without service for days.

On Prince Edward Island, about 75 percent of homes and businesses had no electricity by Sunday afternoon, according to the province’s Public Safety Department.

Widespread blackouts affecting up to 80,000 NB Power customers were reported in southern New Brunswick.

By far the greatest devastation caused by the storm was in the Bahamas, where Dorian struck a week ago as a Category 5 hurricane with 185 mph winds, and then hovered just offshore for more than a day and a half, obliterating thousands of homes.

Planes, cruise ships and yachts were evacuating people from the Abaco Islands and officials were trying to reach areas still isolated by flooding and debris.

The country’s National Emergency Management Agency said it was sending in extra staff because operations had been hampered by the storm’s impact on local workers.

The agency said it was setting up shelters or temporary housing for the newly homeless across the islands and appealed for Bahamians to take in storm victims.

Health Minister Duane Sands said Sunday the death toll had risen by one to 44. Dorian was blamed for five deaths in the U.S. Southeast and one in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, floodwaters were receding from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, leaving behind a muddy trail of destruction. The storm’s worst damage in the U.S. appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches.

Residents who waited out the storm described strong winds followed by a wall of water that flooded the first floors of many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.

“We’re used to cleaning up dead limbs and trash that’s floating around,” said Ocracoke business owner Philip Howard said Saturday. “But now it’s everything: picnic tables, doors, lumber that’s been floating around.”

Gov. Roy Cooper said about 800 people had remained on the island to wait out Dorian, which made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the monster that devastated the Bahamas.

The governor said officials were aware of no serious injuries on the Outer Banks from the storm. About 200 people were in shelters and 45,000 without power Saturday, according to the governor’s office. Emergency officials transported fuel trucks, generators, food and water to Okracoke.

Dorian also lashed the eastern tip of Maine with heavy rain, strong winds and high surf as the storm passed offshore. Several hundred homes and businesses lost power.