Katy officials deliver state of the city address

R. HANS MILLER
Posted 1/28/20

Katy area business owners, politicians and residents gathered Jan. 23 at the Embassy Suites at 16345 Katy Freeway to hear Katy Mayor Bill Hastings, Katy’s City Administrator Byron Hebert and …

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Katy officials deliver state of the city address

Posted

Correction Jan. 31 at 3:23 p.m.: Katy Mills provides about $3 million to the city. The story below has been updated to reflect that figure.

Katy area business owners, politicians and residents gathered Jan. 23 at the Embassy Suites at 16345 Katy Freeway to hear Katy Mayor Bill Hastings, Katy’s City Administrator Byron Hebert and the city’s Director of Tourism, Marketing and Public Relations provide an update on the state of the city at a presentation hosted by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We hope today to convey our dreams, what we’re going through now, where we’ve been and where we hope to be,” Hastings said in his opening remarks.

In a presentation that discussed partnerships with other governmental entities, drainage, recreational development, public safety and mobility, the three officials laid out projects they discussed growth and maintaining safety. Development of the city in relation to growth and safety is dependent upon the city’s strategic plan – a document that outlines the city’s priorities.

Hebert said he learned early to look to planning to help residents and to make sure administration had experience, longevity and stability. Hebert gave examples of how commercial development such as Katy Mills – and in later mentions, Amazon – help the city to grow while keeping the related tax burdens off residents.

“I walked in [the city’s] doors the first day that they got the check from Katy Mills and thank goodness we have that because that [financial] engine has helped us create what we have today,” Hebert said.

Retention relationships

Hebert stressed the importance of building relationships with Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties as well as federal and state officials in order to address drainage concerns – a topic of concern in the city and throughout the Greater Katy area. Relationships with influencers in the area were also important, he added.

“Being in three counties, we’ve got a lot of opportunities to have relationships,” Hebert said.

Drainage was the top concern that Hebert listed in working with area stakeholders. Federal and state funding are being used in combination with local grants to develop projects like a potential third reservoir that would control waterflow into the city and subsequently into Addicks and Barker reservoirs which are located near Hwy. 6. Hebert said the city is working with Congressman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) to try to move the reservoir forward and mitigate flood risks for Katy.

He also said partnerships at the city to county levels would help with smaller projects to increase detention.

“We’re working right now with Harris County and I know Costello [Engineering] is getting involved too. They’re trying to help us get an 80-acre pond so where we can hold the water before [it flows into the city],” Hebert said.

Since Harvey, the city has been pursuing drainage projects quickly. During its Jan. 27 meeting, Katy City Council approved a new drainage sewer along Golden Eye in the Hunters Terrace subdivision. It has also completed the Town Park detention pond, which serves as a park and detention area. The Pitts Road detention pond at the intersection of Pitts and Morton Roads is also being expanded. A Gradall dredging machine was purchased to clean out silt in drainage ditches throughout the city shortly after Hurricane Harvey as well, according to city records.

“We definitely take drainage seriously. We still talk about it morning, noon and before we leave – because it’s serious,” Hebert said.

Recreational returns

During her discussion on parks and recreation for the city, Reina – whose job includes managing the city’s recreational facilities, museums, media relations and promoting the city throughout the region – focused on projects that are currently underway in the city.

Reina said the city has just purchased land to expand Thomas Park – a small facility directly across Avenue D from Katy City Hall. Work continues on the Katy Boardwalk Project just to the south of Katy Mills with a large lake encircled by a 2.5-mile walking path and greenspace.

Loft apartments are currently under construction at the facility as well and a hotel and conference center with hundreds of rooms is planned for the Boardwalk, Reina said.

While maintaining the city’s ten parks, Reina is also working on the finishing touches to Harvest Plaza, she said. The plaza is a recent addition to the city that includes civic and visitors centers, public restrooms for downtown visitors and an outdoor walking museum underneath the old Katy water tower.

“When Katy was mapped out back in the early 1900s, the 1906 city map has this square listed on the 1906 map as the public [square],” Reina said. “So, when we built the new City Hall, we wanted to bring back something that was important to us and it’s the gathering place of our residents.”

Reina said the Katy Downtown Plaza – which will be used for park space, a revenue source as events are hosted at the civic center, general recreational space and to support traditional events like the Katy Rice Festival – is fundamentally complete with only a few items needing to be touched up.

Landscaping on the facility is also pending completion, but Reina said the plaza will help honor the city’s heritage.

“We’re very happy with our past and that’s something we look to as we make decisions,” Reina said.

Hebert said the revenue the city receives from Katy Mills will also continue to provide the city with funding. An agreement with Simon Malls has set the city up to receive about $3 million per year from the mall in city revenue, Hebert said.

Mobility and safety

Hebert pointed out that partnerships with the counties have led to street development that would have been very expensive without partnering with Metro Next. This included roads around Katy Mills and other places in Katy. The city has even signed an agreement with METRO to obtain $6 million per year through 2040, he added. Hebert said the agreement would help offset road development costs for Katy taxpayers. Metro funding has already paid for roads in the city over the last 20 years, including streets around Katy Mills.

“Everybody wants to come to Katy, so we’ve got to be able to move people around,” Hebert said.

The Texas Department of Transportation is also adding flyovers to I-10 between Katy and Brookshire starting this year, Hebert said. He anticipated the project may cause some traffic problems along I-10 in the short term but would be beneficial in the end.

“I guess three years from now when I’m doing [this] presentation, it won’t take five hours to get from Katy to Brookshire,” Hebert said.

Hastings said the city’s public safety services had grown since he first began with the city. He served as a firefighter, EMT and police officer – eventually becoming police chief.

Public safety is 53% of the city’s budget, Hastings said.

The Katy Fire Department recently received an ISO 1 rating from the Insurance Services Organization, after converting from a volunteer to a full-time, professional firefighting agency under Fire Chief Rusty Wilson who came to the city in 2016.

The Katy Police Department has grown from a small operation when he first started with the city more than 30 years ago, Hastings said. Nine officers were hired in 2019, he said. Additional recent additions were commercial vehicle enforcement functions and a new substation at Katy Mills to respond quickly to crime at the commercial center, Hastings added.

Katy City Council also approved the addition of 11 license plate readers to install throughout town – mostly near Katy Mills – to help investigators identify vehicles in the city when crime occurs at its Jan. 27 meeting.

Katy Police Chief Noe Diaz said via email that the department currently has 65 officers, with two more starting Feb. 3. Applications have been received for another three open positions he hopes to fill in late February or early March.

“We have the finest police department,” Hastings said. “Second to none.”

All three pointed to the city’s history and heritage as a small community and the preservation of as much of the city’s history as possible in the way planning was being addressed.

“We’re very positive about all these things that we have and we feel like we’re definitely a destination,” Reina said.

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