Mayor Pro Tem Martin also discusses city budget, flood gates
In the four weeks in June that the Texas Department of Emergency Management conducted COVID-19 testing at the Kingwood Community Center, the number of people testing positive continued to rise.
“The more tests you conduct, the percentage of positives should go down, but they didn’t,” Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin told Humble Rotarians at their weekly meeting held virtually on Zoom July 8.
Of tests conducted by Texas National Guardsmen at the community center, Martin said during the first week, 1.6% tested positive, 8% the second week, 12% the third week, and 14% the fourth week.
The number of tests dropped dramatically in the last week, he said, and emergency management has no plans at this time to resume testing in Kingwood.
The Lake Houston area surpassed 1,000 positive coronavirus cases the week of the meeting, the largest increase in cases since the start of the coronavirus. The region reached 1,077 positive cases that week, up 94 cases from the prior week, according to Harris County Public Health data, Martin reported.
“My appeal,” Martin told the Rotarians, “is that we get back to what we were doing. From March 17 to May 1, we did what we were supposed to do. After May 1, people relaxed. I understand that, but the percentage of positives has gone up dramatically.”
Testing sites and COVID-19 updates are available at houstonemergency.org/covid19.
Most questions from the Rotarians concerned COVID-19. Memorial Hermann Northeast COO Noel Cardenas reminded them to mask up, socially distance themselves, practice good hygiene, and avoid large groups. He said every household should have a thermometer and a pulse oximeter which monitors the oxygen in the blood and can be purchased online.
“Oxygen level should never be below 92%,” Cardenas said, one of the possible indicators of coronavirus.
Younger people are beginning to show symptoms, Martin said as he related the story of a 20-year-old woman with no pre-conditions who died recently.
While COVID-19 took up a major portion of Martin’s time, he also discussed Houston’s recently passed $5.1 billion budget.
“Half of that budget is related to our airports while the other half is everything else: police, fire, parks and so on,” he explained. “We were expecting a major deficit but thanks to the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), it helped us financially and we can classify most of the fire and police efforts under the COVID-19 funds we’ll receive.”
The CARES Act will allow the city to fund five new police cadet classes and four new fire cadet classes, he said.
Martin also discussed what he termed the Taylor Gulley Flood Reduction Plan, a detention pond that will replace the homes that Perry Homes had planned to build just north of Elm Grove in Kingwood.
“We’d come to an agreement with the county to trade $7 million worth of land as the city’s part of the $14 million purchase of the land,” Martin explained, “and then Commissioner Ellis brought up at the last minute something we hadn’t discussed before. Responsibility for half of the development costs of the land.”
Martin praised State Rep. Dan Huberty and State Sen. Brandon Creighton for the funds through Senate Bill 7, which will be used by the city to develop a detention pond on the site.
At least 212,000 cubic yards of sediment has been removed from the mouth bar in the San Jacinto River where it flows into Lake Houston but, as Martin explained, another hurricane like Harvey could deposit additional sediment, creating more flooding. That is why he is working with Huberty to file a bill during the 2021 Session that would create a funding mechanism to initiate a long-term, ongoing dredging operation.
“My most important project, though, is the 10 additional gates we’re adding to Lake Houston,” he said. “By 2021, we’ll begin building the gates which will take 12 to 18 months.”
Also, the city has identified 600 trees along Kingwood Drive medians that are dead or could cause accidents, Martin said. There are additional trees along either side of the drive which should be replaced but those are homeowner association land.
“There are associations that don’t want us to cut the trees, not even dead ones,” he said.
As the Rotary Zoom conference ended, Martin emphasized that while death rates are going down, the number of 20-to-39-year-olds who are infected is increasing.
Older folks got the message but when Martin went into a popular restaurant/bar in Kingwood recently, he saw young people without masks and certainly no social distancing.
“Who knows what the long-term consequences are even if you don’t show symptoms. We’ve got to get back to what works,” Martin concluded.
The Rotary Club of Humble meets virtually on Wednesdays at noon. To learn more about the advantage of being a Rotarian, visit humblerotary.com.