“Pride and Progress” was the theme of Mayor Bert Miller’s State of the City address Thursday, Jan. 9. He began with a review of business openings and redevelopment in 2019 such as Revival Barbershop, Burger King, T&S Enterprise RV & Sport Dealership, and the Western Steakhouse and Dancehall. Works-in-progress include the Smith Hotel, the Red Board Table and Tavern, and the Rail and Rye Restaurant in the former Noto’s building.
Addressing the Super Walmart property that has sat undeveloped for nearly five years, Miller said, “Breaking news! We’ve got some new signs at Walmart. That’s the end of the discussion about Walmart, but with events like the 4014 Big Boy Steam Train, record retail sales have been reported.”
Two hundred new home permits were issued in the last two years, 98 of those in 2019, compared to 28 in 2016. Thirty-one new rooftops were added in the Dove Crossing subdivision, an additional 100 acres were recently annexed in Pecan Lakes Estates and discussions continue with investors and developers about another need in Navasota, rental housing.
The City’s new public notice requirements and revised home occupation signage, “will better serve the public.”
Miller said a number of businesses have enhanced their facades and many old homes are finding new life through restoration and beautification. As of Dec. 4, 1,719 building inspections were performed by the City.
Miller expects the SH 249 extension to bring more opportunities for business and residential development, and in 2019, the Planning and Zoning Commission rezoned 538 acres of Agriculture/Open Space districts to streamline development.
Miller said, “Citizenserve has been implemented to provide new Cloud-based permitting, code enforcement, planning and development and business licenses.”
City on the move
Miller reported that Code Enforcement completed five demolitions, nine property maintenance cases, 20 junk vehicle cases with a total of 14 cases forwarded to municipal court.
The IT Department’s technology improvements with software, networking equipment and anti-virus upgrades provide added protection to City Hall and NPD.
The Marketing Department continues efforts to attract visitors to Navasota. The June Sounds of Summer Concert Series averaged 200 attendees each night and provided perks from sponsors like Blue Bell.
KidFish, the Keep Navasota Beautiful Trash-Off and Home for the Holidays “all brought the community together in great numbers.”
The rebuilt City of Navasota and Visit Navasota websites are now more attractive and user-friendly.
The City continues its partnership with the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley to administer grants funded by Navasota’s Hotel Occupancy Tax. Citing the lineup available on TexasBirthdayBash.com, Miller said it features “local talent” and plans to be better than the successful 2019 event.
Miller said, “The Artists in Residence Program took a giant leap with their production of ‘Navasota is Beautiful.’ What a tribute to our railroad heritage, to artists, local history and our people.”
The Navasota Grimes Chamber of Commerce wine and beer walks and Fourth Friday activities attract visitors. Navasota has been featured in Texas Highways, Insite Magazine, Texas Farm and Home, and the national publication, Authentic Texas and Business in Focus.
From training to representing the City in state and national economic development conferences to awarding grants, the Navasota Economic Development Corporation was busy in 2019! Grants totaling $5,000 were awarded to two downtown businesses for awning and general property improvements.
Miller said, “In collaboration with CEC Engineering, the Downtown Parking Lot and Drainage Improvement Project was funded by the EDC. This project will bring over a million dollars of investment, add more than 30 parking spots and improve drainage in the downtown area.”
The City has researched the feasibility of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) in downtown and in 2019 the EDC became a member of the Texas Economic Development Council and partnered with the Retail Coach to provide data and recruitment services.
Recognizing the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, Workforce Solutions/ Blinn College, Texas A&M, Mid-South Synergy, Entergy, Navasota’s Evening and Noon Lions’ Clubs, the Navasota Grimes Chamber of Commerce, TxDOT, MBC Management and “many more,” Miller said, “Partnerships are critical to our city.”
He added his thanks to “citizens like you” who serve on the City’s boards and commissions.
Miller said, “A lot of work was done in 2019, thanks to grants awarded the City.”
Those included a 2015 $1 million General Land Office (GLO)-Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) for drainage on Foster Street installing approximately 1,800 feet of underground storm sewer pipe and cleaning the drainage channel at Roosevelt Street.
The 2017 Downtown Revitalization Program grant of $250,000 from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) provided funds for the sidewalk improvements on West Washington.
The 2016 GLO CDBG-DR award in the amount of $2 million for Railroad Street drainage improvements and the 2018 $250,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant from the TDA for sanitary sewer improvements “are both underway and projected to be completed in 2020.”
Public works, streets
Reviewing improvements made by the Public Works Department, Miller said sewer rehabilitation was completed for 10 locations throughout the city, nine fire hydrants were repaired, 95% of the groundwater storage tank work has been completed and evaluation and rebuilding of all booster pumps at the water plant was completed. Design guidelines have been completed for installation of water, sewer and natural gas utilities.
Miller said, “New utility infrastructure was inspected and accepted in Pecan Lakes Estates and the Heritage Meadows and Dove Crossing subdivisions. Meter upgrades and the new SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) will provide remote control of pumps and motors for water and wastewater and lighting improvements and allow customers to monitor usage and improve accuracy.
The Street and Sanitation Department completed multiple drainage projects throughout the city and at the municipal airport. The 2019-2020 street rehabilitation program will consist of 12 different streets and include Brule from Brosig to LaSalle.
The department collected and disposed of 15,000 cubic yards of brush and 6,000 bags of leaves.
Miller said, “I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Evening Lions Club for the improvements that were done at Ketchum Park in a partnership. I appreciate very much keeping our parks useable for everyone.”
The Navasota Police Department, partnering with the City of Navasota, Navasota ISD and the Navasota Examiner, was able to fulfill the Christmas wishes of 30 children from 20 families through its Operation Blue Santa. NPD also hosted Treats on the Streets and National Night Out “while protecting our community 24/7.”
The Navasota Fire Department responded to 1,317 emergency calls, an increase of 10.5% from 2018 and an Inter-local Agreement with Grimes County allowed the City to provide emergency services outside the city limits.
Through another collaborative relationship with Grimes County, NPD and 9-1-1 Communications, NFD worked for full conversion to the 700/800 MHz statewide communication system to improve emergency communications. NFD and NPD jointly hosted First Responders Day and NFD received a $9,237 grant from the Texas Forest Service for fire and rescue equipment.
Miller predicts a bright future, citing Navasota’s strong “A” rating, completion of the Washington Avenue/Farquhar Street crosswalk and downtown streetscape from Tenth to Baylor Lumber as well as the development of a capital improvement project to replace 50-year old utility mains.
Miller closed by saying, “Continue beautification efforts. Continue infrastructure improvements. Continue ‘shop local.’ Continue selling Navasota. Continue support of college-bound academics and workforce training. Continue pushing to get the things we all want – right here in Navasota.”