The recent national election, bringing Donald Trump to the presidency and with him a host of proposals to “Make America Great Again” found a bit of a listening ear at the most recent Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority (also known as TIRZ 10) meeting.
The appointed group is moving forward quickly to oversee the rebuilding and expansion of Northpark Drive in Kingwood [see Tribune, Oct. 24], an estimated $52 million project.  More than a year has gone into the preparations to seek funding and common interests for the project from the many entities involved in the roadway. Initially board members explored the idea of a bond issue, thinking they would have to pay the total amount, but midway through the year, they learned TxDOT would match part of the money and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) was a strong option for money also. 
Authority board members have hired numerous consultants to help prepare the voluminous documentation for federal funds administered through the H-GAC. They have met over many hours with TxDOT, as well as consulting landowners and representatives of Harris County, the City of Houston (COH), the Union Pacific Railroad, Montgomery County and the Corps of Engineers, among others. 
During the routine meeting last week, status reports were heard from the engineering firms hired to prepare the project. 
Jim Webb, principal with the Goodman Corporation, experts in transit and mobility planning, said, “With the new administration, it is likely we will see new dollars through his (Trump’s) proposed infrastructure stimulus package.”
In fact, one of President-Elect Trump’s top campaign promises is a trillion-dollar program to rebuild highways, tunnels, bridges and airports.  He said often that most would not come from federal dollars but would rely instead on policy strategies like tax credits to spur private investments in transportation projects.
Goodman also went on to say that there has been significant discussion that Congress would return to the practice of ear marks, a congressional directive that states funds should be spent on a specific project. 
“We have a very solid package in regard to ear marks,” Webb said. 
The Authority took this news in without comment, but finding financial assistance from a new administration was, no doubt, welcome news.
Houston City Council Member Dave Martin commented that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked many of Houston’s TIRZs to return a portion of their money, a notion he opposes. 
“I want our development money to stay local and it doesn’t make sense to me to send money back,” Martin said. 
Allen Brown, a resident, spoke for the public as the sole citizen present, and agreed with council member Martin opposing returning any money to the COH. 
“The TIRZ/Authority was designed for our neighborhoods. Giving money back circumvents the revenue cap and according to recent mayoral candidate Bill King, Kingwood sends $53 million a year to the city. We do not need to return funds.”
Authority Chair Stan Sarman and Authority Manager Ralph de Leon shared news that the city has changed terms of the Municipal Service Agreement. The city now has struck the provision requiring them to refund any unused monies back to the Authority, a provision inserted by then-Councilperson Mike Sullivan. Ally Altemose of Crouch Environmental and Griselda Gonzalez of Edminster, Hinshaw, Russ and Associates, each  gave brief updates about their pieces of the Northpark Project which now moves to studying driveways, curb cuts and median openings (Edminster) and high water marks (Crouch). 
Bryan Brown of Walter P. Moore and Associates reported that the city has given 90 to 100 percent approvals on the three other smaller transportation improvements for Kingwood (Tribune, Oct. 24, 2016) and presented documents of crash data in Kingwood (Tribune, Oct. 24, 2016) he originally explained at the October Authority workshop.
Friendswood Development Company Representative Sawyer Blackburn was happy to announce that the pedestrian tunnel on W. Lake Houston Pkwy. will be complete this month and that the new Kingwood village of Royal Brook has 58 sales on the books. 
The Authority has an October balance of $3,959,063 after disbursement during September of $189,197. The Authority has $228,499 in bills to be paid in November.

Cynthia Calvert
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A trained journalist with a masters degree from Lamar University, a masters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a masters of science in psychology from the University of New Orleans, Calvert founded the Tribune Newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an investigative, award winning reporter (She won Journalist of the Year from the Houston Press Club among many other awards for reporting and writing), professor and chair of the journalism department for Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover every aspect of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.