Flour Bluff residents, Dan Hogan and James Skrobarczyk, organized the Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting held on January 12, 2016, at the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Innovation Center located at the corner of First National Drive and South Padre Island Drive. A group of about 125 people showed up to hear from several community leaders.
Justice of the Peace Thelma Rodriguez started the meeting by fielding questions about the duties of her office and how she works with school officials to do what is best for the students.
State Representative Todd Hunter followed her with a presentation on the local implications of state legislation for windstorm insurance. Hunter said that James Skrobarczyk accompanied him to Austin and stood with him as they battled the Department of Insurance. “After 12 years, we got the bill passed. Finally, Nueces County is going to be treated like human beings,” Hunter said. He told the audience that insurance companies are already creating policies as they begin to compete for business in the coastal areas. “They’re high, but they’re coming down. You are going to see a rate reduction, but there will be a 12- to 14-month transition period.”
Hunter also addressed the possibility of cruise lines in Corpus Christi. He said that the problem is that Brownsville wants it, too. “We’re going to bring travel tourism here. We’re going to set up a local group – a resource group from my area – to back us up when we start having these State hearings,” Hunter added. He encouraged interested parties to contact his office if they want to be part of that group.
Hunter ended his part of the meeting with information on the expansion of Hwy 361 and the safety issues related to the roadway leading from Port Aransas to Flour Bluff.
Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who has served 9 years as sheriff, said that nothing is as important to this community as a safe, sanitary, secure jail. “People need to understand that inmates in the jail have been accused of crimes. Any one of us could wind up there. Penitentiary inmates have been convicted of crimes.” Currently, 900 of the 1068 beds are filled. Kaelin said that increasing capacity has been slow, but the bed count has grown by 50 since he took over. He is currently working on adding 144 beds by opening two areas in the annex. The construction plans have been approved and that renovation could get the county through the next 10 or 15 years without added expense to the taxpayers.
An audience member asked the sheriff to talk about the inmate commissary. “Our ratio of officers to inmates is 1:48.” Kaelin said that in order to get chronically non-compliant inmates to follow rules, certain privileges are offered: use of pay phones, weekend visitation by family members, television in the day room, co-mingling with other inmates, and commissary privileges. The inmates use their own money to purchase items at the “jail store.” The 42 cents made from each dollar goes into an inmate benefit fund that pays for shoes, uniforms, mattresses, bedding, and cleaning supplies. $400-$500 thousand per year goes into the account. Currently the balance is around $800,000. “This saves the taxpayer from footing the bill for these items,” Kaelin said.
Kaelin finished with offering advice to the attendees on using cell phones to take pictures of suspicious cars, people, and activities to help monitor what is happening in their neighborhoods. Skrobarczyk added that the Next Door website is another way to connect with neighbors and look our for each other.
Cdr. Todd Green with CCPD, addressed concerns raised by audience members on several topics, including stray dogs, ways to protect their own property, knowing their neighbors, and calling the police. Green responded to questions and concerns about ongoing problems in the Turtle Cove neighborhood. He encouraged all to call the police every time something occurred, which one man said they had already been doing. Another officer suggested that citizens take advantage of the CCPD social media websites and form Neighborhood Watch groups.
Captain David McCarty introduced himself and said that he took over the Bravo District on January 11, 2016, and wanted everyone to be able to put a face with a name. He said he looked forward to working with and getting to know the residents of Flour Bluff.
Andy Taubman, Chairman for the Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee for Corpus Christi, addressed the group on what the committee is finding as they research the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) and the standard practices. “The phase the City is in right now is truly reactive. There’s not a lot of planning, record keeping, or accountability in the system. The committee is trying to get the City to emerge from this reactive behavior to a proactive behavior,” said Taubman. They are trying to convince the City to repair the streets in a neighborhood rather than addressing pot holes only as they are reported by residents.
Other problems include master plans that have not been digitized and have missing elements, such as a missing sewer in the plans for Flour Bluff Drive. One man spoke of his street that has 47 houses and not a single fire hydrant, which is a problem with the master plan according to Taubman. To report problems, Taubman suggested that residents use the City website so that a work order can be made. Questions were raised about various streets, including Caribbean and Purdue. James Skrobarczyk, who also serves on the committee, said, “There’s a lot issues where Flour Bluff has just been left behind.”
Greg Smith, longtime resident of Flour Bluff and member of ISAC (Island Strategic Action Committee), said, “Several communities are putting together an Area Development Plan, which falls under the Comprehensive Development Plan. It would be a good idea if Flour Bluff got a group together and met and NOT be left behind. That would allow the people of Flour Bluff to come up with their own plan instead of the people from Massachusetts coming up with a plan.”
The final minutes of the meeting included Melanie Hambrick, President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, who spoke about the Homeless Commission and the concerns surrounding the new ordinance to ban panhandling downtown. She said the concern of many residents and businesses is that enforcement of the new regulation could actually bring more homeless to Flour Bluff.
A representative from Brent Chesney’s office (Precinct 4 County Commissioner) was open for questions from the audience. After several comments about people fishing from Mud Bridge on Yorktown in Flour Bluff, she offered to talk to them after the meeting. She also volunteered to help create the Flour Bluff area development committee through Chesney’s office.
Since many questions were left unanswered, Dan Hogan suggested later in the meeting that another gathering be held in February just to address concerns of crime with Chief Markle and to cover other city issues with the Council members Magill and McIntyre who were unable to attend.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.