POWC’s meeting held Saturday February 24, 2018 was significantly different from previous Quarterly Meetings.  Attended by over 200 people, a “call” came loud and clear from participants concerned about the threat to the image of South Padre Island and public safety during the upcoming Spring Break 2018.

Although, informative presentations came from City Officials abundant with encouraging information about city plans, ongoing projects and marketing efforts to enhance the island; the question begged to be asked, ‘why are self-proclaimed criminals being invited to “entertain” on the island?’  With preparations for Spring Break being insurmountable this year due to the national exposure and reputation of the element being lured to “perform”, again,  ‘why would we as a community invite this behavior into our neighborhoods?’

A powerful message come from those in attendance, both POWC members and non-members, ‘If the City is unable to correct the situation legally, then, we, the people, need to stand up and assert our first amendment rights’.  Significant majority input from attendees resulted in a unanimous decision to form a Citizen Committee, independent of POWC, to do just that.

In addition, it was decided a letter will be sent to City Officials formally expressing the consensus of the citizen voice heard in the meeting:

·        requesting that everything possible be done to support the year-round family friendly image illustrated by the presentation given by CVB Director, Keith Arnold.

·        requesting that a Statement of Image for the island be included as a section in the Comprehensive Plan.

·        requesting that no public monies be provided directly or in-kind to any group or business that does not conform to this Statement of Image

If you are concerned, then you are encouraged to join this grass roots effort.  For more information contact Kim at 956-346-4431 or kimberly@powc-spi.org.

Plans for Spring Break “Texas Week” 2018 was this month’s topic at the Chamber’s Coffee and Conversation on Feb 8th.

Over 50 attendees came to hear from both Police Chief Randy Smith and Fire Chief Doug Fowler.

Chief Smith began by expounding on the all the additional meetings, analysis and preparation done this year, many due to leadership techniques of City Manager, Susan Guthrie.  He stated the most critical issues in the past have been Special Events thus a sub-committee was formed last year to determine the best practices for permitting Mass Gatherings. These events are the most taxing on his department’s resources, yet it is important to note when these events shut down, people often relocate into private homes.  Private house parties present the biggest problem in that a warrant must be obtained to enter the premises.  Hense, the Short Term Rental sub-committee was formed to help address the language needed in rental agreements to alleviate this impediment.  Owners can appoint a Person of Authority, through specific language in the rental agreement, which allows a designated representative entrance to the property.  This then affords the police an opportunity to perform “civil standby” so, while the owner’s representative inspects the property for violations of the rental agreement, the officers are able to enter with the representative and take action if necessary on any legal violations observed such as underage drinking.  Now, he continued, we have a responsibility to insure intoxicated individuals do not leaving the party by getting behind the wheel.  “It may seem to take time to get things under control, but there is a lot involved” Chief Smith explained.  The city has stepped up and gotten competitive with pay allowing a more professional caliber of personnel to be hired.  In addition the IT department is working hard coordinating camera views island wide, developing a drone team, an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), social media monitoring and more.  Reviews will be done each day to “polish procedures” as needed.  The Chief cautioned he did not want to give a false hope, “Some things we don’t expect can always happen.  We plan for one thing and another happens” the need to adapt and adjust is important.

Fire Chief Fowler then referenced statistics of normal EMS services on the island as 1 to 2 transports daily, each transport taking 2 to 3 hours to complete.  Transports during Spring Break can increase to 25 – 30 daily which effects resources of the entire region.  This year, a Mobile Medical Unit staffed with 17-18 personnel including a doctor will be located at Claytons Beach Bar and an AmBus with the capacity to hold 15 patients will also be here.  Chief Fowler expounded on the EOC explaining it gives us “situational awareness” allowing management of resources at an overall higher level.  Law enforcement will have a wider range of observation, social media will be monitored, there will be direct communications with hospitals via Health Protection Program, Air Evac, Cameron Co. Emergency Manager and others … the EOC will be a working hub reaching all the way to Austin requesting resources when needed.   Cameras will provide visuals all over the island allowing for centralized and more efficient management of on-going activities and needs.  In closing Chief Fowler remarked “We have beefed up the planning and penalty process to ensure the safest events possible. We plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Currently 1 Large Event Permit has been issued and 2 more are in process.  It was noted this does not mean only 3 Large Events will be on the island.  Regular, routine business can take place without a permit.  For example what is considered the regular course of business within the footprint of that business, does not require a permit.  Louie’s events for example, do not require permits as these are a normal course of business.

“What can we do to help?” an audience member asked.  If you/your Neighborhood Watch sees a house party about to get out of control call

956-761-5454

SEE IT > REPORT IT.

City Council met February 7th with 16 items posted on the agenda.

Public comments began with Council Member Alita Bagley mentioning the Ground Breaking Ceremony for Isla Blanca Park stating it was ‘very heartwarming celebrating such an amazing addition to the jewel of the Texas Coast… soon to be Jewel of the entire Gulf Coast’.  Mayor Dennis Stahl echoed Alita’s sentiments.

City Manager Susan Guthrie announced that Chief Fire Officer Credentials have been reconfirmed noting this is a wonderful achievement. She also explained the role of the variety of City Attorneys attending Council Meetings stating, depending on subject matter, the City can tap into experts from the entire firm which specializes in representing local governments.

Sherry Pindard of Friends of Animal Rescue reported on this month’s statistics: Coming into the shelter were 13 dogs, 13 cats, 8 possums, 4 birds and 1 bat.  10 cats and 5 dogs were adopted out, 4 dogs were reunited with their owners and all possums, birds and the bat left the shelter.

Presentations and Proclamations involved notification that Assistant City Manager Darla Jones received the Credentialed City Manager Designation.  Darla has 27 years of professional experience in the RGV.

Consent Agenda Item 5(a-o) were next, Items (a & g) were pulled.  All other items were approved and subsequently (a & g) were approved individually.

A public hearing to approve the second and final reading of ordinances adding for an option of a sidewalk in-lieu fee, was next.  Item 6(a) No public comments came forth. 6(b) Ordinance amendment was approved.

Item 7 involved a request by PIISD to support “It’s Time Texas Community Challenge” with a pledge/challenge by the Mayor and Council Members to promote health and wellness by partnering with the community and businesses.  President and Vice President of the Port Isabel High School Junior Class gave an informative presentation of the Community Challenge.

Administrative Services Director Wendy Delgado gave a thorough PowerPoint presentation on the Internal Training DMAIC.  Wendy Saldana has been named as Training Coordinator in addition to her City Hall receptionist position.  A budget adjustment of $2K related to SPI Connect Training Program was approved by Council.

First reading of the ordinance to abandon a 10’ wide utility easement on property known as Lot 1A Skipjack Bayfront Subdivision was approved.

Item 10 gave approval for a new 64’x4’ paver walkway, replacement of an existing propane tank and relocation/repair of an existing gas line at 1400 Gulf Blvd (Sangria Condominiums).

After an in-depth PowerPoint from Susan Guthrie explaining Performance Management, a 5-year contract with STW, in the amount of $17,653 for initial set-up and annual service for performance metric dashboards, was approved. This is expected to create a higher level of transparency between the City and citizens.

The 2017 TIRZ Report was approved.

The City’s operating budget was amended to incorporate prior budget amendments and modifications from Oct 1, 2017 – Jan 31, 2018.

Item 14 renamed the Development Department to Planning Department in an effort to better reflect the responsibilities of this city department.

A Dune Ridge Construction Permit application submitted by Isla Del Sol Condominium Association was approved and will now go to the GLO for approval.

Meeting adjourned just after 6:45pm.

City Council met on February 21, 2018 in front of “a nice group of people” welcomed Mayor Stahl.

Public comments began with Council Member Ron Pitcock announcing the Indoor Kite Fest is now the largest in the nation.  Council member Alita Bagley mentioned the Retiring of the Flag Ceremony and hopes are for an annual ceremony as over 400 flags were brought out to be honor.  Sea Turtle Inc. Grand Opening was mentioned by Council Member Theresa Metty, stating “what an amazing facility… what an incredible attraction”, Paul Munarriz echoed the praise and  Mayor Stahl thanked Former Mayor Pinkerton for “stepping up” whenever “called back to duty” for ceremonies such as this one.  Stahl also mentioned former Alderman Rick Ridolfi and asked he be kept in your prayers after a recent fall.  Stahl also declareded that Council Meeting are viewed by over 150 cities with over 900 page views per day and over the past 6 months meetings are viewed by 8 times the amount of people who have attend. Finally the mayor commented that we are 3 weeks away from making a “go/no-go” decision on the cruise ship destination project.

Citizen public comments began with the Plant of the Month presentation by Native Plant Center representative Teebs Thorbjornsen:  the Texas Ebony, a beautiful plant, used to make furniture, used as a food, coffee substitute and bird habitat, although underappreciated this plant even makes a great bonsai.  Teebs also noted the saving of 2 large Palm trees by transplanting and asked that the City bring notice to developers when they are clearing native plants.

Shane Wilson, Sea Turtle Inc. Chair thanked the Council for coming to the Grand Opening and invited everyone to come see the $7. 3M expansion which is now open, “truly a World Class facility.” Phase III is starting which will facilitate rehabilitation, internships, education and much more, “please feel free to donate”.  Councilman Munarriz added, Sea Turtle Inc. Curator, Jeff George, was nominated to the RGV Walk of Fame.

Municipal Services Manager of Republic Services, the company “tasked with keeping the island as clean as possible”, came to the podium to reassure Council that “this is a welcomed challenge” and meetings have been taking place in prep for Spring Break.

Next up to the podium was a full-time resident voicing concern about the performer booked to come for Spring Break noting “he is a convicted felon and gang member.”  He asked if anything could be done considering the newspaper articles and media reports of death threats, stating residents are concerned for their public safety.  Mayor Stahl thanked him for his comments noting Council had heard some of the concerns, Alita reiterated “legally we cannot respond to public comments” although sometimes it’s “a little hard not to”.

National Skip the Straw Month proclamation was read by Victor Baldovinos, Environmental Health Director.  Citizens are urged to be mindful, give up the straw habit and help spread awareness about the damage caused by disposable straws.  Bada Bing Bagels, Painted Marlin and Café Karma have taken initiative to buy paper straws on their own, many thanks were given to these businesses.

Javi Gonzales, Naturalist at the Birding and Nature Center, revealed the Bird of the Month: tiny yellow throated warbler, “a really cool bird” who we are lucky to see through the Winter time here.  Listen for their harsh chirping calls and look up in the Palm trees as they love to peak around the frowns and eat insects.

Consent Agenda Item 5(a-g) was approved unanimously.

Numerous new City members and recently promoted city staffers were introduced to the Council and community.  A big group of people made their way to the front where City Manager Susan Guthrie introduced each citing their position and qualifications.

Item 7 involved a budget amendment to purchase a new custom Rescue Pumper from Hall Buick GMC.  Fire Chief Fowler explained the condition of the current 10 year old engine.  Discussion and questions from Council ensued.  A cash purchase was approved for $431,470 with a contingency, total expenditure not to exceed $450K.

A budget amendment for the construction of Moonlight Circle Walkover, and mitigation of Moonlight Circle and Ocean Circle plus other future beach access capital projects was approved in the amount of $75K.

A $22.9K budget amendment was approved to allow for provision of Mobile Intensive Care Units during Spring break.  The City Manager will enter into a MOU with Los Fresnos EMS, Willacy County EMS, Intercity Ambulance, Transcare Medicare Transport and Weslaco Fire Department in an effort to efficiently deal with the workload of Texas Week.  Chief Fowler noted a Mobile Medical Unit/ER Tent will be located in the area of Clayton’s Beach Bar.

Item 10 entailed discussion regarding the appointment of a member to Shoreline Task Force to fill a vacancy that expires in December 2018.  Council Member Metty requested normal procedure be followed and citizen participation be encouraged via applications.  Council member Bagley cited 5 applications are already on file and she felt the procedure was complete.  Metty reiterated the need to take a fresh look and stick with the normal procedure; motion passed to table 4:1.

Consideration to reschedule the March 7 City Council Meeting resulted in comments from the City Manager expressing concern for lack of a Council Meeting in March.  It was confirmed a quorum would be available and no action was taken to reschedule the meeting.

Council recessed to executive session at 6:23pm to discuss (a) lease associated with wind sporting venue (b) economic development venture associated with cruise lines

Upon return, Council directed the Mayor and CM to continue exploring negotiations as far as development of a wind sporting venue with a unanimous vote in favor.

Motion was then made to continue economic development venture associated with cruise lines phase 1, also passing unanimously.

Meeting adjourned…

The EDC meeting held on February 20th had a couple of interesting project presentations.

Dr. Mostafa Malki with Aaron Economic Consulting revealed a litany of economic information on the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Reef Project, a private project spearheaded by the Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef.  The RGV Reef Project is roughly 13 nautical miles north of the South Padre Island jetties and less than 8 miles offshore.  An unprecedented innovative large-scale multi-year project that plans to combine low, medium, and high-relief structures over a 1,650 acres area.  Dr. Malki remarked that projects like the RGV Reef Project are undeniably valuable as cited some following:

·        They restore and preserve habitat and boost fish population and other marine life

·        They also enhance the attractiveness of a tourist location.

·        They attract visitors, and bring economic vitality to their host communities.

·        RGV Reef Project has the potential of attracting anglers year round and generating an increase in demand for the hospitality and tourism services.

·        This increase in economic activity especially during off-peak months can help smooth out the variability in business activity at the island and convert some seasonal employment into permanent year round employment.

·        The project has the potential to help improve the economic resiliency of the island’s economy by increasing the diversity of tourism attractions.

After several detailed slides, these economic conclusions were drawn:

·        provides 537 jobs for RGV residents.

·        generates $45.6 million of economic output.

·        accrues $13.9 million in income to RGV residents.

·        produces $3.6 million in state and local tax revenues.

 

Also on the agenda was a phenomenal Schematic Design for a Marine Life Center which would involve enhancements to the existing Birding and Nature Center (BNC), including a 2-story wing addition, interactive touch tanks, indigenous viewing tanks, indoor outdoor café, additional parking and more.  David Richter with Richter Architects quoted the current cost estimate at 5.3M.   Numerous comments, questions and concerns were voiced from the EDC Board and representatives of the BNC

Fishing In Texas

—  3 million Texas residents and nonresidents fished in Texas (2.4 million anglers 16 years old and older and 523,000 anglers 6 to 15 years old).

—   Texas residents accounted for 95 percent of all anglers in Texas and nonresidents accounted for 5 percent.

—  Anglers fished a total of 30.7 million days in Texas with an average of 14 days of fishing per angler.

—  Texans fished 29.6 million days (96 percent of all fishing days) and nonresidents fished 1.1 million days in Texas (4 percent of all fishing days).

—  Fishing-related expenditures in Texas totaled $1.5 billion in 2011.

—  Anglers spent 68 percent of total fishing expenditures on food and lodging ($423 million), transportation ($298 million), and other expenses ($325 million).

—  Anglers spent $471 million on equipment or 31 percent of all fishing expenditures.

CVB meeting held January 24th introduced 2 new members,

Tom Goodman, part of Padre Island Rental, who has over 20 years in business on the island and Daniel Salazar, of Isla Grand, who was born, raised and recruited back to the island.  Offices were elected: Wally Jones as Chair and Paul Curtin as Vice Chair.  Among other agenda items, Consent Agent item 9 (4.1-4.26) involved 26 Special Event Funding requests, 7 of which were pulled from the Consent Agenda (4.20-4.26).  All events are listed below along with the scheduled month and funding amount.

4.1  WOWE in January $2K
4.2  Splash SPI in April $25K
4.3  Sand Crab Run/Fat Tire Bike Race in April $4K
4.4  Shallow Sport Tournament in May $2.5K
4.5  Jailbreak in May $30K
4.6  Dargel Boat Fishing Tournament in June $2.5K
4.7  Texas International Fishing Tournament- TIFT in August $15K
4.8  Ladies Kingfish Tournament- LKT in August $5K
4.9  American Petroleum Institute- API Fishing Tournament in August $2.5K
4.10  Fish for Hope in August $2.5K
4.11  Wahoo Fishing Tournament in September $25K
4.12  JJ Zapata Fishing Tournament in September $2.5K
4.13  Shallow Stalker Fishing Tournament in September $2.5K
4.14  SPI Triathlon in September $3.5K
4.15  SPI Nature and Tourism “HalloWings” in October $35K
4.16  SPI Fishing Days in October $5K
4.17  Take a Kid Fishing Tournament in October $2.5K
4.18  Elite Redfish Championship in October $25K
4.19  Raul Alcala Gran Fondo in November $10K
4.20  Holiday Sandcastle Village in December $20K – pulled from Consent Agenda
4.21  SPI Art & Music Crawl in August $80K- pulled from Consent Agenda
4.22  BlackLight Race in August $35K- pulled from Consent Agenda
4.23  Veteran’s Day Program in November $15K- pulled from Consent Agenda
4.24  Tailgate Weekends, September through November $75K- pulled from Consent Agenda
4.25  Zombie Charge in September $35K- pulled from Consent Agenda
4.26  Astronomy on the Beach in October $10K- pulled from Consent Agenda

It was noted during discussion that events 4.1 through 4.19 had already been vetted and properly documented.  The 7 items pulled (4.20-4.26) are new efforts which will go through further staff review to insure they meet the requirements of the new guidelines before returning to the Consent Agenda for approval.  According to the guidelines adopted by Council, the majority of these events are to be on a “declining scale of support” over 4 or 5 years, to a level of independence, in order to free up monies to pursue new events.