The year 2014 saw classes conducted by the Homeland Preparedness Project in emergency response training at the Manvel EMS station. A program certified by FEMA known as CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) presented a myriad of topics on personal and family preparedness for natural disasters and potential acts of terrorism.
Manvel city council member Lew Shuffler spearheaded the effort to get the program established. Upon receiving his certificate in March he commented: “This was a wonderful class. It is not just for the major disaster that may occur in the community, but also in your own home. It is good for young families that have kids around the house. It shows you exactly what you have to do in an emergency and what actions you can take to make sure that emergency may not happen in your home.” A second class graduated in June.
The Manvel barber shop experienced some good fortune and some misfortune. In January the shop was recognized in a television story on Houston’s Channel 13 newscast. The story was prompted by a customer who described the shop as a step back in time. The shop was opened in 1997 by Steve Moore who described his collection of old things barber related as not having anything to do on weekends so he would drive a 300-mile radius, stopping in little town antique shops. Unfortunately, Steve met with misfortune in August when he succumbed to cancer. His long time business partner and friend, city council member John Cox, assumed the business and transformed the shop from an old-timey feel to a more modern and clean one.
In February city council unanimously agreed to raise the pay of the city manager, Kyle Jung. The amendment extended his contract to January 2017 and provided a 3% increase to his base salary, one additional week of paid vacation, and payment of the employee portion of his retirement package. Jung began working for the city in January 2012 on a three-year contract. In January 2013 council awarded him a raise of $2,000 per month and agreed to fund the total cost of the health insurance premiums for his entire family. City employees typically are covered only for their individual premiums. The 2013 contract amendment provided annual compensation of $124,000. The 2014 revision provides Jung a total of 3 weeks paid vacation and will see city taxpayers fund both the employer and employee portions of his retirement contributions to the Texas Municipal Retirement System. Altogether, Jung realized a salary increase approximating 10%.
The Police Department was pleased to accept delivery of three new cruisers. At a cost of approximately $37,400 each including the communications and electronic equipment, Chevy Tahoes replaced older vehicles. An additional three Tahoes were included in the current budget and the department should be receiving the vehicles early in 2015.
City council agreed to accept a new agreement for city trash service that included a recycling component. Customers were issued two trash cans, one for regular trash and one for recycling with each being picked up once each week. Some citizens expressed little enthusiasm for the recycling program and were not happy about the reduction of their trash pickup to once per week. In an appeasement effort the new agreement provided customers the option of taking two regular trash cans with no recycling but trash still would be picked up only once each week.
In March the Lady Mavericks won the state basketball championship. Manvel overcame an early 18-4 deficit to win the game. The city celebrated with a parade and pep rally with many local dignitaries in attendance. The team played to a 38-2 overall record. All-American Briana Turner led the team and was awarded the MVP trophy. She also was named the National Gatorade Player of the Year and was recognized in Hollywood as part of the ESPY awards. She also participated in a national competition where she won a gold medal. Turner received many basketball accolades and will be attending Notre Dame under a full scholarship.
In April Manvel High School made regional news for two incidents at the school. Before the first bell a call was received alleging a student bringing a weapon to campus. The school was locked down for about ten minutes until the named student was intercepted before entering the building. No basis was established to substantiate the report. Later the same day two male students got into an argument with the dispute eventually escalating to a physical confrontation. The perpetrator was arrested by AISD Police and a District spokesman emphasized the two incidents as “totally isolated from each other. It just so happened they were both on the same day.”
May saw Manvel Fire Marshall and Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Bell leave his position with the City after 16 years of service. Bell began work for the city’s police department in 1998, eventually reaching the rank of captain. In 2010 he was appointed as the city’s first Fire Marshal and Code Enforcement Officer. City council honored his years of dedication by hosting a going-away event in his honor.
Also in May city council authorized the acquisition of heavy road building equipment. Formerly the city depended on Brazoria County to provide the necessary equipment and machinery to maintain its roads. The county continues the road rebuilding, which is more intensive than the typical paving overlays that city crews do. It is estimated that about 60% of city road maintenance entails just an overlay and not a rebuilding. Even with questioning by some on council on the obtainability of the funds, council was unanimous in its approval of the purchase. Member Lew Shuffler acknowledged that the equipment should “go a long way as we have heard a lot of people say that we don’t take care of our roads.”
In July Manvel Mayor Delores Martin, having become increasingly fed-up with the amount of illegal dumping occurring in the city, took the initiative to arrange for the installation of cameras in the most violated areas of the city. Police Chief Keith Traylor explained a violator would be ticketed and arrested and subject to a fine ranging between $500 and $2000.
August brought sad news to the community when the husband and son of Manvel High School Principal Charlene Liptak were killed in a plane crash. According to reports, the plane was attempting a landing when it crashed in a field and burned. In a show of support a crowd gathered outside Manvel High School to conduct a prayer vigil.
In September the new Dr James “Red” Duke elementary school was opened to help alleviate crowded conditions at other west side schools in the fast growing Alvin School District. Duke Elementary houses classrooms for 800 students in grades Prekindergarten through fifth grade, and includes areas for physical education, art, music and special classes.
In other AISD news, Superintendent Fred Brent resigned his position. AISD Trustees named a new Superintendent in November after an “exhaustive search.” Dr. James “Buck” Gilcrease will assume his new position in January.
Also in September city council became disturbed that city finances may not be accurately presented by the city’s finance department and that the approved 2015 budget may be based on errant numbers. Questions surfaced as a result of the annual audit being significantly late in completion. Auditors reported several issues of concern, most notably that monthly reconciliations had fallen behind. It was explained that no evidence of impropriety was present. Nonetheless, the matter led to several contentious discussions among the city manager, city council, and the city’s finance director. The city is poised to make the position full-time in 2015 and the current part-time director will not be in consideration.
In December Manvel lost one of its longtime residents when Buddy Williams passed away. Williams was active in city government having served on city council two different times, first from 1992-1994 and then from 2005-2011. He recently was involved in the committee charged with revising the city’s comprehensive plan.