Manvel Council approves new Building and Standards Commission

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Manvel City Council approved the first of two required readings for a new ordinance that would create a Building and Standards Commission. The new commission would provide additional options in enforcing the city’s building codes. City attorney Bobby Gervais explained that currently two remedies exist for dealing with code violations. Minor violations are dealt with through the Municipal Courts and may take several months to work through the system that ultimately results in no more than a fine as remedy. Major violations require litigation which is expensive and time consuming. Gervais described the new ordinance as providing something in-between those two remedies and that is short of full scale litigation.

The commission would be a separate board of the city that would have the authority to fine violators up to $1000 per day in the form of a civil penalty and could issue writs to sheriffs to evict people from premises that are unsafe or unfit for human habitation. Appeals would be taken to civil court so that city council would be taken out of the process. The current ordinance call for council to act as a code enforcement body in addition to its usual duties. Gervais describes that arrangement as “antiquated” as it does not make for the best use of members time.

After formal approval of the commission’s adoption, five members would need to be appointed by council. They would serve two-year terms and up to eight alternate members could be named. Commission members would require training in order to properly and adequately consider the cases. There will be prescribed procedures to follow and thorough notices will be required for delivery to appropriate respondents. Gervais describes the commission as “powerful with a big hammer” that will cease the requirement of having to litigate everything.

City Manager Kyle Jung suggested council members start thinking about people that have building and/or code related knowledge or experience that could serve as commission members. He said appointees “probably should not go into this totally unexposed to building standards or nuisance violations, and perhaps some law exposure would be good as well.”

In other city news, council approved a lease-purchase agreement for the acquisition of three Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles. The payout terms would be spread over four years at $30,392.03 per year. Council tabled a motion for a finance agreement with Ford Credit Municipal Finance at 7.95% for a two year lease purchase arrangement for the acquisition of a 2014 Ford F-250 4×4 for the public works department. Members directed city staff to inquire of a more favorable interest rate on the transaction.

Council adopted a revised Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that includes one project to be funded from reserves, three from the current budget which provides for $100,000 for CIP projects, and one from impact fees. Kyle Jung told council that he does not expect an HR staffing plan or the equipment replacement plan to require the $25,000 as budgeted. A city hall parking lot improvement is included that will provide a second access from the front parking lot on Hwy 6. There is also a provision of up to $75,000 for the city to acquire the two parcels of land that are immediately adjacent to city hall. Jung suggested that if council does authorize those land acquisitions that he would expect that $75,000 would need to be increased. The Charlotte water line loop will be funded from impact fees. Also planned are improvements to the city’s two lift stations that will be funded from Texas Water Development Board money that has already been earmarked to the city.

Approval was granted for the final plat for Section Two of the Lakeland subdivision. According to the developer’s engineer, Stephanie Canady, the new section consists of 116 lots with a variety of sizes, all at least 80 feet in width. Construction on the dirt work portion is expected to begin in early November.

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