By KAROLYN GEPHART
Hurricane Harvey will be the dominant memory for many in Friendswood when they look back on 2017.
Friendswood experienced over 52 inches of rain in areas of the city over the four day period of hurricane damage. The rainfall turned in to a 500-year flood following Clear Creek all through Friendswood. More than half of all residences experienced damage from the hurricane.
Volunteers worked long hours alongside home and business owners who experienced damage to return Friendswood to normal and the words Friendswood Strong were visible throughout the city.
Community spirit remained high and patience, kindness, determination and hard work were evident wherever rebuilding was happening. From civic organizations, to high school students and church groups, volunteers appeared all over the city to help others get through the devastation.
Communication from the City continuously provided information residents and business owners needed to get them through the recovery period. Yet, many homes have not had all their rebuilding completed at this time.
The year 2017 had begun on a great note with Friendswood being named the Safest City in the Houston Area, the sixth Safest City in Texas and the 60th Safest City in the nation, according to NeighborhoodScout.com website.
Keep Friendswood Beautiful hosted its tree giveaway and presented 100 trees to residents in the city in January.
Lake Friendswood opened to the public in February. The 40 acre lake offered amenities such as a boardwalk, fishing pier, kayak launch, a 1-mile walking trail, exercise equipment at five stations, picnic benches and barbecue pits. The lake and park have sole access through the West Ranch subdivision off Davis Prairie Lane.
Rain and cold temperatures couldn’t take away the great vibes coming from the Texas Music Fest in Friendswood in March. Held outside in Downtown Friendswood at Captain’s Corner Shopping Center, the second annual celebration of Texas Independence Day offered country artists Cory Morrow (headliner), Josh Ward, Two Tons of Steel and The Junior Gordon Band. The event is hosted by the Friends of Downtown Friendswood.
April brought the Classic Car Show by the Friendswood Chamber of Commerce and Spring Sparkle by Keep Friendswood Beautiful. Heritage Gardeners held their 50th Spring Home Tour, Through the Garden Gate.
The Friendswood Police Department Crime Victim Assistance Program hosted a remembrance ceremony in Stevenson Park in honor of Laura Smither on April 3. That day was the 20th anniversary of 12-year old Smither’s disappearance while jogging near her Friendswood home. Her body was recovered 17 days later. A large crowd gathered together in a triangle of trust composed of family, community and law enforcement.
The Friendswood ISD regularly scheduled meeting April 10 of the FISD School Board was held in their new board room at the Annex, the building adjacent to the Administration building on Laurel. The Annex was formerly Friendswood Junior High School.
Sally Branson was elected to Friendswood City Council in May along with the re-election of incumbent John Scott.
Schools in Friendswood, Pearland and Alvin ISDs were in the top 20 of the Best School Districts in the Houston Metroplex, according to online research group Niche. In the Best School Districts in Houston Metro category, all three city’s ISDs were listed.
Friendswood ISD was listed number one with an overall Niche grade of A+. FISD rated #16 of 937 in the 2017 Best School Districts in Texas; #14 of 697 in Best Teachers in Texas and #83 in Best Places to Teach in Texas.
FISD also named Thad Roher as sole finalist for the office of Superintendent of Schools following Trish Hanks who retired.
A Memorial Day Ceremony was held inside City Hall due to inclement weather May 29. The city of Friendswood honor each year its military families for their service, past and present, at the Friendswood Veterans Memorial next to City Hall.
In July, the City of Friendswood ranked 11th in the Top 50 of cities in the state determined by The SafeWise Report to be ranked safest cities.
Summer saw new work begin on a road that would lead to fall work on homes in the new Trails of Friendswood, formerly the golf course at Sun Meadow.
This year residents received decreases in both school and city taxes.
A decrease in the tax rate in Friendswood ISD of 2 cents was approved when the tax rate was adopted at the Aug. 14 meeting of the FISD Board of Trustees. The new 2017 tax rate for FISD was $1.367.
Friendswood City Council approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18 that lowered the tax rate by 1.87 cents from the current year. Over the last 39 years, the City’s total tax rate has decreased by 20 cents.
The nonprofit Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association presented a project to reinvigorate a strip of South Friendswood Drive at the Aug. 7 City Council meeting. FDFA President Brett Banfield unveiled a plan for a carousel plaza near Stevenson Park. FDFA will fundraise the amount needed for the project and present the carousel to the city as a gift.
The Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department moved from Station 1 next to City Hall to the new Kenneth M. Camp Fire Station, next to the Public Safety Building on Whitaker Drive. The new station is larger than the Station it replaces, allowing more firefighting equipment to be kept indoors when not in use. The new building is also designed to withstand severe weather, allowing more fire and EMS personnel to remain in the City through a storm. Local dignitaries, FVFD volunteers and the community gathered Saturday, Oct. 14 for the dedication of the Kenneth M. Camp Fire Station (Fire Station 1).
Expansion and improvements at Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department Fire Station 4, 111 Woodlawn Drive, were also completed.
In November, the Galveston County bond election was approved by voters. Proposition A will issue $56 million in bonds for the construction, maintenance and operations of country roads, including $3.75 million to the city of Friendswood, which will be spent on Phase 1 of Friendswood Lakes Boulevard.
Fall Haul Away was successfully held by KFB and the Heritage Gardeners held their 51st Christmas Home Tour featuring the Perry Home along with residents’ homes decorated for the holiday.
December brought with it the Christmas Parade, real snow on Dec. 8, Flap Jack Fun Run, Deck the House contest, and the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Santa in the Park. Fireworks lit the sky.
While many were affected by Hurricane Harvey and continue to work during recovery, the year 2017 offered many new projects and programs for the city as well as continuing to offer community activities and plans that all are invited to enjoy.