Men's Breakfast, August 8, 2015

The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, August 8th with Norma Garcia, Freeport Mayor, and Sandra Barbree, mayor pro-tem.  Norma was raised in Freeport and got involved in local politics through the mentorship of John Smith III, who was a member of our group before he died.  She first served on a city board, then served on city council and is now serving her third term of mayor. 

The city is in fairly good financial shape with the new businesses opening up and expansion of local industry.  Norma says that they have six million dollars for infrastructure upgrades.  One of the upgrades being planned is repaving Second Street because of all the bumps in the road surface.  This needs to be done soon because the port will be sending more traffic down the street.  The state department of transportation plans to replace the Pine Street Bridge with a modern wider bridge more suitable for the expected high traffic from the port.  The original hope was that the DOT would just build a parallel span so that the present bridge could be used during construction.  However DOT plans to demolish the present bridge and replace it with a new bridge.  Therefore all the port traffic that would normally use the Pine Street bridge will be using Second Street and SH288 for the estimated two years needed for construction. 

There was also discussion about the East End.  Port officials have said that their purchase of property there is primarily as a service to the residents who do not like to live so close to the port.  Norma says that the purchases are driven by the port wanting the land for future expansion.  She says that people could still build in the East End as far as the city is concerned but little land is available that is not owned by the port.  This led to a discussion of building more housing in the city.  Much of the recent growth of the Brazosport population is due to temporary construction workers who are mainly living in RV parks and hotels.  However, there is a need for more permanent housing since there will be more permanent jobs with the new industry.  Freeport has a large number of vacant lots owned by the city.  Norma said that the city still has the program where a person can buy a lot from the city for one dollar.  The buyer then has eighteen months to build a house on the lot and get it onto the tax rolls.  This program could produce a good number of single family houses, but it is not attractive to large developers.  Also, houses in Freeport do not sell for as much as comparable houses in Lake Jackson, which also discourages development. 

There are some houses in Freeport that need to be demolished.  We discussed one in the 900 block of West 11th street that has almost fallen apart.  The public hearing to approve demolition of the structure occurred in February, but the structure is still there (“standing” is not a good adjective for the structure).  Norma said that bids for demolition were high, ten thousand dollars, and the city is looking into using city crews to doing the job for less, about five thousand dollars.  We hope that our nudging will get the city to move on demolition of unsafe structures. 
We asked about the pylons being built in the city park and near H

opper Stadium.  Norma said that these are being put up by CenterPoint Energy and probably for power to the liquefaction plant.  She also said that CenterPoint Energy has the right to put up pylons almost wherever they want to. 

There was a discussion of future plans for the city.  Willy Williams, an old black man who looks like he was just here for the free breakfast, pulled out a bound master plan produced for the city in 2002 and slapped it down on the table.  He said that the city has spent $100,000 to produce this plan and has spent comparable amounts on future plans.  He pointed out that very few of the goals of the plan have been achieved and that there does not seem to be any effort to achieve them now.  After the Mayor recovered from the shock, she said that with the final consolidation of the urban renewal zone and completion of the marina new plans will have to be prepared and that she intends to make sure that they are carried out.   

At the end of the meeting various minor problems in the city were discussed.  The mayor and Sandra Barbree, Willy Williams’s councilwoman, took notes and promised to look into them.  In particular Sandra Barbree took careful notes about Willy’s problem with a culvert about which the city was giving contradictory information.   Norma and Sandra told us to call them if we had and question or complaints about the city.

The men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will be Saturday, September 12th.