2016 has been a great year for Friendswood.
This year the City Council of Friendswood focused on economic development, infrastructure and capital projects.
The downtown area has been targeted for improvements, new growth, and beautification. It was there that the first annual Texas Music Fest took place in March. The community celebrated Texas Independence in Friendswood with a live music festival at the corner of FM 518 and FM 2351.
The free event featured country singers Zane Williams, Bri Bagwell, Friendswood’s own Neil Austin Imber, Bruce Courtney and Saints Eleven. The Texas Music Fest was presented by the Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association (FDFA).
It was the same group who invited the community to step back in time for the 1st Annual Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social sponsored and hosted by FDFA and Friendswood Historical Society on Labor Day.
The social was held Sept. 5 on the grounds of the Frank J. Brown Heritage Museum. Volunteers served ice cream, cookies, lemonade and root beer while live music played on the historic museum’s porch.
This fall FDFA with international artist Anat Ronen brought the first mural downtown to the city. On the outside wall across from the Brown Museum on Skyview, a large 22’ by 86’ vintage postcard looking mural depicts the many facets of the city, both past and present.
FDFA worked with Friendswood Fine Arts and Friendswood Historical Society in presenting the project. Donations by the community made the mural possible.
In the fall a ribbon cutting was held in Stevenson Park for the new bridge that connects it to Old City Park. In Old City Park, there is a new type of park for Friendswood: a dog park. Friendswood High School student Caden Fischer made the dog park his Eagle Scout project, and earned $16,330 to build it. The City allocated some funding and Fischer and the City received a grant from PetSafe for $25,000 for the park.
Two Friendswood graduates who became marines were honored with two City Sportsparks dedicated in their honor in May. The Corporal Steven Schulz Sportspark on FM 538 at Moore Road was dedicated and for the 2002 graduate who served in Iraq twice. In 2005 he was severely injured and is now an advocate for other injured service members.
The Lance Corporal Wesley J. Canning Sportspark on Baker Road was named for 2002 FHS graduate who, on his second tour in Iraq in 2004, was killed in action.
A new community playground and park is being created at 4100 Friendswood Link Road by Wedgewood Elementary. The school was one of five schools in the Houston area to receive a new park funded through a $5 million donation made to SPARK, a Houston-based non-profit that develops neighborhood parks on school grounds.
In May, voters elected to raise the sales tax within the city by 3/8 of one percent to fund street maintenance as well as another 1/8 of a percent sales tax hike to fund downtown improvements.
Voters also re-elected Carl Gustafson to City Council and elected Mike Foreman who ran unopposed. Incumbent Council member Pat McGinnis chose not to run again.
Friendswood ISD had a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) that passed in the fall. Voters elected to increase the district’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate above $1.04 to balance the budget and include a $1500 salary increase for teachers to stay competitive.
Four members of the FISD School Board won their election without having to have one. All four were unopposed. Three were returning as members and include Rebecca Hillenburg, Matt Robinson and Tony Hopkins. New to the board this fall is Laura Seifert.
A NEW LOOK
The Friendswood Public Library received a makeover that included construction, renovation and landscaping. A ribbon cutting was held in December and for the first time, the community could watch the Christmas Parade from inside the new area of the library.
Medians in the downtown area from Stevenson Park to the Pearland Border on FM 518 are undergoing a new transformation as City Maintenance workers plant new landscaping and an irrigation system.
The project is funded by a grant from TxDOT given to Keep Friendswood Beautiful. KFB was awarded $210,000 for the work which is underway.
Participation in events around the city were amazing this year.
Downtown businesses got involved in the fun of the first Scarecrow Decorating Contest.
Both Fall Haul and Spring Sparkle, the two annual recycling events for the city had record drop offs and participation.
Easter in the Park, Halloween in the Park and Santa in the Park brought thousands to Stevenson Park where vendors and events took place.
Heritage Gardeners celebrated their 50th anniversary this year and their annual Christmas Home Tour broke previous records in attendance.
Hundreds of residents and visitors lined the streets for the 125th annual Friendswood Fourth of July Parade. This is the longest running parade for Independence Day in the nation and patriotism soared along South Friendswood Drive.
Six awards were given to the City of Friendswood this year. Wide Open Country named Friendswood the 4th Safest City in Texas; Niche 2016 named the city the 11th Best Suburb in the Houston Area; Safewise 2016 named the city the 10th Safest City in Texas; Value Penguin 2016 named Friendswood the 3rd Safest City in Texas (population 20,000-50,000); Neighborhood Scout 2016 named Friendswood the 44th Safest City in the United States.
For 13 consecutive years, Friendswood has been awarded the TX Government Finance Officers Distinguished Budget Presentation.
Story by Karolyn Gephart