Lake Houston - Humble - Kingwood Edition | February 2021

LAKE HOUSTON HUMBLE KINGWOOD EDITION

VOLUME 5, ISSUE 10  FEB. 27MARCH 25, 2021

ONLINE AT

Texans struggle through ERCOT power grid strain

IMPACTS

6 TODO LIST

WEATHER

FIRECRAFT BBQ

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FRANKLIN

FINDING

Kenn Franklin, New Caney ISD’s former superintendent, is accused of stealing from the district by submitting false expense reports. A Texas Rangers investigation, which was detailed in arrest warrant adavits, showed Franklin had not gone to some events he claimed to attend.

Tyler

Waco

KEY

Claimed locations

Actual locations

New Caney

San Antonio

The city of Humble quietly initiated the act of acquiring properties around downtown Humble in 2020 with the purchase of an asbestos-lled home. Although seemingly random, city ocials said the small purchase—and its early February demolition—is just a piece of the puzzle in the city’s long-term plan to revitalize downtown Humble. So far, the city has spent about $150,000 to acquire property, and it will spend almost $250,000 this year to demolish three properties. The city is also seeking to purchase and demolish another smaller property, but the sale has not been nalized. CONTINUED ON 18 A home o Main Street undergoes a paint job in early February. (Kelly Schaer/Community Impact Newspaper) Humble keeps eyes on future downtown redevelopment BY KELLY SCHAFLER

SOURCE: MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE ARREST WARRANT AFFIDAVITSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

NewCaney ISD looks for newsuperintendent after fallout of former leader’s alleged crimes

BY ANDY LI

Montgomery County District Attorney’s Oce. Booked into the Montgomery County Jail on Jan. 7 and released on a $40,000 bail bond, Franklin was charged with aggregate theft by a public servant and tampering with a government record, according to Montgomery County Jail records. In a three-month investigation, the Texas Rangers CONTINUED ON 16

Kenn Franklin, New Caney ISD’s former superintendent, served the district for 11 years before resigning in mid-November. Now, the district is searching for his replacement as he heads to court for allegedly stealing more than $2,500 from the district and ling false expense reports, according to arrest warrant adavits from the

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LAKE HOUSTON - HUMBLE - KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

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THIS ISSUE

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Owners John and Jennifer Garrett launched the rst edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 with three full-time employees covering Round Rock and Pugerville, Texas. We have expanded our operations to include hundreds of employees, our own printing operation and over 30 hyperlocal editions across three states. Our circulation is over 2 million residential mailboxes, and it grows each month with new residents and developments.

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

FROMKIM: With freezing temperatures, school closures and empty shelves at grocery stores, one thing that always resonates during dicult times is how our community comes together: Neighbors helping neighbors and people volunteering to deliver water and other essential needs to our senior community. The ice and snow has melted, and spring is right around the corner. Kim Giannetti, GENERALMANAGER

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FROMKELLY: A news report in this print edition looks at Winter Storm Uri’s eect on Texas; it includes insight from Houston-area experts on how the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ power grid failure could have been avoided (see Page 10). With Gov. Greg Abbott calling for an investigation of ERCOT, readers can expect more on the storm in the March print edition as well as at communityimpact.com. Kelly Schaer, EDITOR

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LAKE HOUSTON  HUMBLE  KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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LAKE HOUSTON WILDERNESS PARK

1485

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99 TOLL

494

PORTER

1314

SORTERS MCCLELLAN RD.

Italiano’s Restaurant

Crust Pizza Co.

GLADE VALLEY DR.

COURTESY ITALIANO’S RESTAURANT

COURTESY CRUST PIZZA CO.

ROCK CREEK DR.

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Kingwood. The business oers smoothies in wellness, slim, break time and tness blends as well as snacks and supplements. 832-644-1930. www.smoothieking.com 4 Northern Tool + Equipment opened a new store Jan. 28 at 18780 Hwy. 59, Humble, in the Park Air 59 development. The store is the ninth Houston-area location for the Minnesota-based hardware store oering various construction tools. 832-412-1818. www.northerntool.com 5 Marco’s Pizza opened Dec. 16 at 21636 Aldine Westeld Road, Humble, according to a press release. Owners Keith and Rocio Sizemore operate two other Marco’s Pizza locations in Spring and Tomball. Marco’s Pizza serves traditional and specialty pizzas alongside salads and sub sandwiches. 281-973-5599. www.marcos.com 6 Eden Salon Suites opened Feb. 22 at 255 Assay St., Ste. 100, in Redemption Square. The salon oers a collection of suites for beauty professionals. Twelve businesses operate from the salon, including hair stylists, barbers and an esthetician. Body contouring and laser hair removal services are

restaurants as well as in grocery stores under the company’s brands. 800-745-3236. www.jslfoods.com 8 Crust Pizza Co. , a franchise based in The Woodlands, will open a new restaurant in June at 30129 Rock Creek Drive, Kingwood, in the Kingwood Place shopping center. The Chicago-inspired eatery will oer specialty thin-crust pizzas, pastas, hot subs, wine and beer, and feature an outdoor patio. The eatery is one of ve new locations opening across Texas this year, according to a news release from the PR Boutique. www.crustpizzaco.com 9 Marble Slab Creamery will open a new location in early March at 12230 W. Lake Houston Parkway E., Houston. The business will feature numerous avors of ice cream, sorbet and low-fat yogurt as well as sundaes, cakes, smoothies, shakes and brownies. Cookie company Great American Cookies will also serve fresh-baked cookies from the ice cream shop. www.marbleslab.com 10 Planet Fitness will open a new facility this summer at 20185 Hwy. 59, New Caney. The opening was pushed back from this spring, a company spokesperson said. The gym will oer cardio and strength training equipment, free tness training and a spa for PF Black Card members featuring massage beds, massage chairs, and tanning beds and booths. www.planettness.com EXPANSIONS 11 The Village Centers is expanding its living options, having opened a new o-site group home in late February.

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HAMBLEN RD.

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ATASCOCITA

MCKAY DR.

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LAKE HOUSTON

CARPENTER RD.

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ASSAY ST.

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REDEMPTION SQUARE RD.

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MAP NOT TO SCALE N TM; © 2021 COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

N . L A K E H O U S T

NOWOPEN 1 Italiano’s Restaurant , a local

2 DECA Beer Co. , a new Porter brewery, opened its taproom Feb. 12 at 25428 Loop 494, Ste. G. The family-friendly taproom features a bar with 14 beer taps, indoor and outdoor seating, food trucks and beer to go. The brewery is owned by Je Angell, Cody Evans, Heath Cleaver and Jason Dornik. 281-747-7746. www.facebook.com/decabeer 3 Smoothie King opened a new drive-thru store Feb. 20 at 2710 W. Lake Houston Parkway, Ste. 200,

also oered. 713-830-8212. www.edensalonsuites.com COMING SOON

family-owned restaurant, opened its fourth Greater Houston-area eatery Dec. 23 at 1414 Northpark Drive, Ste. I, Kingwood. Located in the Centre at Northpark shopping center, the Italian restaurant features a full-service bar and serves New York-style pizza, pasta, calzones and the eatery’s signature garlic knots. 281-747-7243. www.italianosrestaurant.net

7 JSL Foods Inc. , an Asian food manufacturing company, will open its Humble facility in March at 1219 Carpenter Road, Humble. JSL Foods manufactures precooked Asian noodles and wrappers, rice and grain blends, and baked goods. The items are sold to U.S.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY ANDY LI & KELLY SCHAFLER

services, including nutritional weight-loss guidance and personal training. Body contouring services include laser liposuction, vacuum therapy and ultrasound cavitation, among others. 346-263-4593. www.itsalyfstyle.com REBRANDINGS 13 National dentistry practice DDS Dentures + Implant Solutions rebranded several locations on Jan. 1 to Aordable Dentures & Implants , including the Humble location at 9360 N. Sam Houston Parkway E., Ste. 800. The practice continues to oer general dentistry and tooth replacement services including extractions, dentures and implants, according to Sean Malloy, vice president

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The Village Centers

Taste of Gnome opened in late November in Kingwood Town Center.

COURTESY THE VILLAGE CENTERS

KELLY SCHAFLERCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

FEATURED IMPACT NOWOPEN Taste of Gnome , a cookie shop and bakery, began its soft opening phase in late November at 20 N. Main St., Ste. 20, Kingwood, in the Kingwood Town Center. The business celebrated its grand opening Jan. 29. The shop sells cookies, cupcakes, custom cookie cakes, hot chocolate bombs and Houston-based Katz Coee. Manager Lindsay Stephens said the shop is a new business for Mary Beth Baker and Sally Kelly, owners of the Gnome Sweet Gnome gift shop next door. The dessert shop also features a variety of specialty cookies inspired by the gnome brand, such as The Deuce

The Kingwood nonprot provides day programs, job training and nearby independent- and assisted-living options for adults with developmental disabilities. The new assisted-living group home in the Oakhurst neighborhood is already booked with three individuals. Founder Kim Brusatori said the nonprot plans to break ground late this year on six single-family homes next to its administration building at 3946 Glade Valley Drive, Kingwood. 281-358-6172. www.villagelac.org ANNIVERSARIES 12 LifeStyle , a locally owned business, celebrated its one-year anniversary Jan. 14 at 1210 Hamblen Road, Ste. 900, Kingwood. Owner Stephanie Harris said the business oers noninvasive body contouring and weight management

or Gnome Poo—which is homemade marshmallow u that is dipped in chocolate and coated with graham cracker cookie crumbs. Stephens said the shop also makes fresh cinnamon rolls to sell on Saturdays, but the rolls can be purchased frozen any day of the week for patrons to bake at home. 281-883-4814. www.facebook.com/tasteofgnome

of operations. 281-868-8474. www.aordabledentures.com/ locations/tx/humble NEWOWNERSHIPS 14 Best Western Houston Bush

Intercontinental Airport Inn completed renovations on the former Baymont Inn Humble in December. Located at 18032 McKay Drive, Humble, the 52-room hotel oers a 24-hour tness center and meeting space and is pet friendly. The hotel, which was purchased by Best Western, features new furniture, carpets, paint and a remodeled lobby area. 281-446-0343. www.bestwestern.com

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LAKE HOUSTON  HUMBLE  KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

TODO LIST

February & March events

COMPILED BY ANDY LI

FEBRUARY 13 THROUGH 28

COMPETE INAVIRTUAL RACE Lake Houston Family YMCA is hosting a virtual Bridgefest race, where participants can compete for several weeks and record their own times, which can be uploaded anytime between Feb. 13-28. This year’s charity recipient is Humble ISD’s physical education department. $30. 281-360-2500. www.ymcahouston.org MARCH 01 THROUGH 31 PARTICIPATE INA 5K, 10K Partnership Lake Houston hosts a monthlong race event for children and adults. The race features a 10K, 5K and one-mile run for children. Participants may run alone or as groups and will post their times online. $35. 281-446-2128. www.runsignup.com/race/tx/ lakehouston/lakehouston5K10K 13 GO CANOEING Harris County Precinct 4 invites people age 16 and older to canoe along the lower portion of Spring Creek at the Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. Participants must bring their own

MARCH 0203

ATTENDADRAG SHOW DEERBROOK MALL

MARCH 2021

BECOME A BETTER HOMEOWNER HUMBLE CIVIC CENTER

Former contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” perform at a Drag N’ Drive event at the Deerbook Mall. The socially distanced event allows attendees to watch the show from their vehicles. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary. Deerbrook Mall, 20131 Hwy. 59, Humble. 888-885-8677. www.vossevents.com (Courtesy Je Eason/Wilson Models)

The Lake Houston Home and Outdoor Living Show features events and speakers on landscaping, gardening and organizing. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (March 20), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (March 21). $5. Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble. 832-274-3944. www.lakehoustonhome.com (Courtesy Lake Houston Home and Outdoor Living Show)

20 LISTEN TOACCORDIONMUSIC Renowned Mexican accordion player Ramón Ayala performs at the Humble Civic Center. The outdoor, socially distanced event features a bar and a dance oor. 2 p.m. $30. Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble. 713-588-9700. www.facebook.com/manleyproductions

Humble Gun Show, organized by Premier Gun Shows. Attendees can shop at 250 tables selling guns, ammunition, knives and shooting supplies. Face masks or coverings are required at all shows. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (March 13), 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (March 14). $9. Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble. 817-732-1194. www.premiergunshows.com

otation devices and wear face masks. Two people may ride in a canoe at one time, and an adult must be in each canoe at all times. 9 a.m.-noon. Free. Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, 20634 Kenswick Drive, Humble. 713-755-6444. www.hcp4.net/tapevents 13 THROUGH 14 SHOP FOR GUNS The Humble Civic Center hosts the

Find more or submit Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood events at communityimpact.com/event-calendar. Event organizers can submit local events online to be considered for the print edition. Submitting details for consideration does not guarantee publication.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES Harris County Precinct 4 begins study phase of HamblenRoad realignment

ONGOING PROJECTS

PROPOSED REALIGNMENT

PROPOSED BRIDGE

KEY

KINGS PKWY.

SORTERS MCCLELLAN RD.

FERNBANK FOREST DR.

BY KELLY SCHAFLER

with roadside drainage. “If there is a stopped train on that railroad, there is no way to get in Kingwood unless you go to the back and cross over the [West] Lake Houston [Parkway] bridge,” he said. “So there are some serious safety and mobility issues in the community.” Cagle said the project will also improve mobility for pedestrians who can take advantage of the hike and bike trail that will be created in Edgewater Park’s expansion and the San Jacinto Greenway. The study phase—which began Jan. 11 and will take 12-18 months to complete—will identify and address environmental and flooding issues and traffic impacts, said Pamela Rocchi, director of the capital improvement projects division at Harris County Precinct 4, via email. Harris County aims to enter a joint partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation to

494

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The study phase for Harris County Precinct 4’s Hamblen Road realignment project began in January. The project aims to expand the road to four lanes between Loop 494 and Laurel Springs Lane and realign it to connect to the Sorters McClellan Road and Loop 494 intersection. It will also create a bridge over the Union Pacific Corp. railroad. The project has been controversial among some Kingwood residents who live along Hamblen Road. Some residents oppose the project because they fear expanding the road to a boulevard with a median and realigning it will increase traffic along the corridor, city of Houston and county officials have said. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said the realignment will improve safety by diverting traffic around the railroad at Hamblen Road and reduce flooding by fixing issues

BOUNDARY WATERS LN.

MADERA RUN PKWY.

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Madera Run Parkway expansion Construction on Harris County Precinct 2’s Madera Run Parkway expansion began last May and will finish this year. It expands the road from two to four lanes between Kings Parkway and Boundary Waters Lane, adds a median and creates a bridge

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fund construction as well as apply for federal funding through the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Rocchi said. H-GAC’s next call for projects in its Transportation Improvement Program is expected to take place in the fourth quarter of 2021; however, Rocchi said the call for projects could be delayed due to federal funding availability. She said an estimated timeline for the project cannot be determined, as it is dependent on funding availability. The county does not have a cost estimate for the project.

near Fernbank Forest Drive. Timeline: May 26, 2020-third quarter 2021 Cost: $3.75 million Funding source: Harris County Precinct 2

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF FEB. 17. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT LHKNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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LAKE HOUSTON - HUMBLE - KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

WEATHER Winter stormslams electric grid

Separated from other interconnections that provide power to the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas came under re in February when millions of Texans lost power.

BY BEN THOMPSON

past, although its disconnect from the continent’s larger grids has left it prone to isolation issues during high-demand events, such as February’s winter storms, experts said. “Staying independent keeps the management of our power systems within Texas. But it means that we can barely import any power when we need it most,” Daniel Cohan, a Rice University civil and environmental engineering professor, said via email. Press releases prior to the storm showed ERCOT expected a record-breaking demand. Although ERCOT began rotating outages and asked customers to reduce electricity, more than 4.3 million Texans were without power the morning of Feb. 16, chemical engineering professor and chief energy ocer at the University of Houston, said he believes reliance on market conditions to manage supply and demand partially caused outages. He and Cohan also cited a according to poweroutage.us. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a

Widespread power outages prompted by severe weather across Texas in February led to increased focus on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages statewide electric power ow. The failure of portions of the state’s power grid left millions of Texans without electricity the week of Feb. 15-19. As blackouts and power restoration eorts continued, public ocials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, called for an investigation of ERCOT. ERCOT did not respond to phone calls or email requests for comment. Texas’ power grid has long been controlled within the state, separate from eastern and western North American interconnects. Founded in 1970, ERCOT is supervised by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature and manages most of the state’s electric system and retail market. ERCOT ocials have highlighted benets of the insular system in the

WESTERN INTERCONNECTION Includes El Paso and far West Texas 1 EASTERN INTERCONNECTION Includes portions of East Texas and the panhandle region 2 1 2 3

ERCOT INTERCONNECTION 3

ERCOT’s grid provides electric

ERCOT manages 90% of the Texas electrical load.

ERCOT provides for 26 million customers.

ERCOT’s grid includes 46,500 miles of transmission.

power to the majority of Texans.

SOURCE: ELECTRIC RELIABILITY COUNCIL OF TEXASCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

low natural gas supply. “The shortfall in natural gas supply is about 20 times as large as the shortfall in wind supply compared to expectations for a winter peak cold event,” Cohan said. The outages were the fourth such event in ERCOT’s history. A result of the most recent event in February 2011, also caused by winter weather, was a federal report outlining past

failures of power generators and advising ERCOT and other authorities to make winterization upgrades. The state of Texas and power suppliers also could have further incentivized preparation for the record-breaking conditions experienced, Krishnamoorti said. “We knew that this polar vortex was coming at least a week ahead. We could have planned,” he said.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

NEWS BRIEFS

Humble ISD targets regression from ‘COVID slide’ Many elementary students in Humble ISD have regressed in literacy comprehension in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, district assessments show. Educators have deemed this regression, or lack of academic progress, as the “COVID-19 slide.” HISD determined 52% of rst- and At the Jan. 12 school board meeting, Melissa Mayhurst, HISD’s assistant superintendent of middle schools, said HISD plans to oset the slide by identifying students who need more support, improving professional learning and designing checkpoint assessments to monitor learning. BY KELLY SCHAFLER

FIGHTING THE SLIDE Humble ISD’s fall 2020 literacy assessments showed elementary students are falling behind amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The district is attempting to combat this slide and continue tracking academic progress. Humble ISD plans to: conduct meetings to identify students or areas in need of additional time and support; improve professional learning to increase student achievement; and design checkpoint assessments to monitor student learning. 24 of 29 elementary campuses had fewer students meet their literacy grade-level targets compared to last year. ASSESSING STUDENTS NEXT STEPS

District ocials agreed it was too soon to speculate whether socioeconomic status or virtual learning aected progress, but HISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said at the meeting the district will knowmore when it releases the spring 2021 assessment. “It’s the worst set of circumstances for learning for these young children,” Fagen said. “But if you are genuinely afraid for someone in your family or household to get sick and not make it through, those are tough decisions to make.”. The district nished its spring assessment in January, and ocials will present the ndings during the March school board meeting.

second-grade students who were assessed in reading comprehension, uency and phonics in fall 2019 did not meet their reading targets when measured against their own performance as second and third graders in fall 2020. Luci Schulz, HISD’s assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said via email that the district conducts the literacy and math assessments in the fall, winter and spring for kindergartners through fth graders. The assessments provide teachers with information so they can develop targeted plans to respond to each student’s needs, Schulz said.

SOURCE: HUMBLE ISDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Harris County, Houston partner on rental relief program

Humble to appoint vacant Place 3 seat

Harris County and the city of Houston are partnering on a $159 million rental relief program to help residents pay overdue rent from as far back as April. The program is mostly funded with money from the U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program, approved as part of a federal stimulus package passed by Congress in December. Ocials expected to begin accepting applications from landlords Feb. 18 and residents Feb. 25, according to the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Galveston- Houston, which is running the program with BakerRipley. The program also allows BY SHAWN ARRAJJ & EMMA WHALEN

applicants to seek help for up to two months into the future and apply for some past-due utility bills, including electricity, gas and water. The rental relief program run by Harris County in 2020 required tenants and landlords to work together on an application to be approved. Ocials said they still encourage landlord participation, but program funding can also be awarded directly to tenants if landlords refuse to sign on. At the Feb. 9 Harris County Commissioners Court, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said helping people pay rent for two months into the future will be a “game changer” for landlords and tenants alike.

HOWTOAPPLY Residents living in the city of Houston or Harris County can apply for the county and the city’s $159 million rental relief program. • Applicants must have an income lower than 80% of the average family median income. • Applicants must be able prove the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative eect on their economic situation and housing stability. PRIORITY APPLICANTS • Those who have an income lower than 50% of the average family median income • Those who have been unemployed for 90 days or more SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

BY KELLY SCHAFLER

The city of Humble accepted applications from residents Feb. 12-18 to ll the vacant Place 3 Humble City Council position. A candidate will likely be appointed in March, city ocials said. Place 3 was left vacant by Norman Funderburk, who resigned to run for mayor in the May 1 election. Funderburk and Arliss Bentley led for the mayoral position. Places 1 and 2 will also be on the May ballot. Incumbent Charles “Andy” Curry and Eric Lacy are in the race for Place 1, while incumbent Charles Cunningham and Linda Greenan are vying for Place 2.

Construction begins onKingwood’s newSan JacintoGreenway

BY KELLY SCHAFLER

Forest Cove community, according to the Houston Parks Board. The $3.94 million greenway will feature hike and bike trails, seating areas, native ora, directional signage, trash cans and recycling bins. Ocials said the rst phase will take roughly 12 months to complete, and the parks board plans to extend the trail to 3.25 miles in the future. The greenway will one day connect to Phase 2 of Harris County Precinct 4’s Edgewater Park, but construction has not started on Phase 1 of the park.

In mid-January, construction began on the Houston Parks Board’s San Jacinto Greenway project. The project, which is funded by the city of Houston and the Houston Parks Board, will create green space in an area that has historically ooded along the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. This phase of the greenway will consist of a 2.5-mile trail between Woodland Hills Drive at River Grove Park to Burning Tree Court near the

Construction on the San Jacinto Greenway kicked o in mid-January. (Rendering courtesy Houston Parks Board)

11

LAKE HOUSTON  HUMBLE  KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

BUSINESS FEATURE Making It Crafty Vinyl Retail and Supply Craft store nds new way to operate during pandemic F or more than four years, Making It Crafty Vinyl Retail and Supply has oered vinyl and other craft items to the Atascocita-area community. But when the pandemic hit, owner Jennifer Pittman had to change everything. Pittman opened Making It Crafty in December 2016. Although she originally oered embroidery services, Pittman said she pivoted to vinyl when she saw a rise in demand. “There wasn’t really a lot of local places that sold the product, so people were having to buy online,” she said. “So I decided to open this store.” The store oers vinyl items that can be used to create original designs on cups, shirts and other products by local businesses, artists, teachers, school athletic groups in Humble ISD or Girl Scout troops. Pittman said she had hoped 2020 would be the year her business could take o. But when the pandemic began, she made the painful decision to temporarily end in-store sales and switch to curbside due to a medical treatment that left her immunocompromised. Now, Pittman said she often takes video and phone calls from customers to talk about the store’s products and will talk to customers through the door of the store. She said she plans to launch a website for customers to shop online. Pittman said she hopes to reopen her store when it is safe to do so but is grateful to continue to serve customers in the meantime. “There’s no time that we won’t help you. I’ve done tutorials at 11:30 [p.m.] before, helping people,” she said. “We pride ourselves on our customer service.” BY ANDY LI

“THERE’S NO TIME THATWE WON’THELPYOU. I’VEDONE TUTORIALS AT 11:30 P.M. BEFORE, HELPING PEOPLE. WE PRIDE OURSELVES ON OUR CUSTOMER SERVICE.” JENNIFER PITTMAN, OWNER OF MAKING IT CRAFTY

Making It Crafty serves local artisans, businesses and Humble ISD employees. The Atascocita craft store is oering curbside pickup during the pandemic. (Photos courtesy Making It Crafty Vinyl Retail and Supply)

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Although Making It Crafty is not open to walk-in customers, Pittman said she oers pickup orders.

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LAKE HOUSTON  HUMBLE  KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

DINING FEATURE

BY KELLY SCHAFLER

SLOWANDLOW FireCraft BBQ owner David Welch specializes in Texas barbecue, which has key features. • Red meat is coated with salt, pepper and spices. • Meat is wrapped in butcher paper to allow it to breathe and the fat to render. • Most meats are smoked at a low temperature of 225 degrees for at least 12 hours. • Meat is allowed to rest.

Cherry ginger cobbler ($5) is one cobbler oered. Cinnamon peach and bananas foster cobblers also appear.

Cauliower Parmesanaugratin ($3-$9) is made with with bechamel sauce and Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven.

The 2Meat Plate ($18) features a patron’s choice of brisket, pork ribs, sausage or chicken paired with two sides, such as jalapeno corn spoonbread and baked beans. The truck also oers one- and three-meat plates. (Photos by Kelly Schaer/Community Impact Newspaper) FireCraft BBQ Kingwood chef shifts from ne dining to barbecue food truck, catering D avid Welch is a ne dining-trained chef with 30 years of food service it on their own terms.’” David said his attention to detail and smoking style helps his are a family aair. David’s wife, Teresa Welch, teaches at Humble ISD

then helps run the truck on Thursdays; two of the Welch children also work at the truck. The Welches’ goal, however, is to break ground this year on a general store or restaurant on their property on Loop 494, Teresa said. “This was always intended to be an in between, but it’s really taken on a life of its own now,” she said. She said her husband’s food is popular because it is homemade and inspired by family recipes, as David’s mother and grandmother were known for their cooking. “Everything that David makes is delicious, ... even if it’s Asian food or scrambled eggs,” she said. “So this is in his blood.”

experience. He moved up the ranks of Houston-based Pappas Restaurant, graduated from two culinary schools and worked alongside Kingwood restaurateur Tony Raa for almost 14 years. Then David said he turned 45 and wanted to be his own boss, so he launched the FireCraft BBQ catering service in April 2015. It was followed shortly by his food truck in 2017, which serves traditional “slow and low” Texas barbecue. “That’s when the barbecue craze was just popping out,” he said. “Franklin’s Barbecue made his debut, and I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are killing it, and they’re doing

barbecue stand out among the Houston barbecue scene. Most meats smoke for eight to 12 hours at a low 225 degrees, and red meat is never seasoned with sugar, he said. The food truck parks at Kingwood Town Center’s weekly farmers market on Thursdays. Here, patrons can nd pork spare ribs, brisket and beef short rib—also known as “dino bones”—by the half pound; meat plates; or sandwiches. Additionally, the truck becomes a commercial kitchen for catering on weekends. David creates custom catering menus for weddings, parties and events. The truck and catering business

David and Teresa Welch run FireCraft BBQ with the help of their children.

FireCraft BBQ 8 N. Main St., Kingwood 281-546-0339 www.recraftbbq.com Hours: Thu. 4-7 p.m., closed Mon.-Wed. and Sat.-Sun. Catering available.

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LAKE HOUSTON  HUMBLE  KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

A three-month investigation by the Texas Rangers found that Kenn Franklin, New Caney ISD’s former superintendent, claimed reimbursement from the district for 31 trips between November 2019-October 2020 that were inconsistent with phone and toll road records. FOLLOWING THEMONEY

Franklin was booked in the Montgomery County Jail on Jan. 7 on charges of theft and tampering with a government record. The investigation leading to the charges, however, began months before. SOURCES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE ARREST WARRANT AFFIDAVITS, MONTGOMERY COUNTY JAIL RECORDS/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER THE ALLEGATIONS INVESTIGATING contacted the Texas Rangers in September. NCISD Police Chief Troy Wooten reportedly told Texas Ranger Derek Leitner, who conducted the investigation, that Franklin submitted expense reports claiming he traveled to events where other employees did not see him in attendance. Details of the district’s investigation into Franklin were not included in the affidavits. Scott Powers, NCISD’s executive director of public relations, said the district could not comment on its internal investigation nor Wooten’s communications with the Texas Rangers. Further investigation by Leitner corroborated the district’s suspicions. Leitner requested cell phone and toll road data and observed Franklin at his RV home in New Caney in October when Franklin said he was attending a meeting in San Antonio, according to the affidavits. Franklin also submitted travel expenses for other days he claimed to travel to Waco, San Antonio and Austin; however, license plate readers from toll roads showed he traveled to Tyler, where his wife lives, per the affidavits. Leitner spoke with Franklin during a Nov. 12 interview. “Franklin said he didn’t live up to his expectations and let the district down on where he was on some of those dates when [I] told him that he had yet to say he didn’t travel to these locations,” Leitner stated in his report.

September 2020 Sept. 21: The NCISD Police Department contacts the Texas Rangers, and Police Chief Troy Wooten meets with Texas Ranger Derek Leitner, who will investigate claims against Franklin. Franklin’s travel expenses and event attendance. His vehicles are seen in New Caney during a Waco event. Sept. 1: New Caney ISD employees notice discrepancies between Leitner notified Tritico about Franklin’s arrest warrant and allowed Franklin to surrender to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 7, Tritico said. The charges After Leitner’s investigation and interview with Franklin on Nov. 12, the official complaintswere submitted to Montgomery County on Dec. 7. Per the affidavits, Leitner concluded there was “well over $2,500 that was reimbursed to Franklin based upon fictitious expense sheets.” Darla Faulkner, the Montgomery County special crimes division chief, said although $2,500 is a state jail felony, Texas law requires Franklin’s charge to be increased to the next category—a third-degree felony— because he is a public servant. Faulkner said District Attorney Brett Ligon is passionate about crimes committed by public officials, having established the Public Integrity Division in 2009 when he was first elected. The division ensures “elected and appointed officials and their subordinates comply with the law,” according to its website. “They’re paid with public funds, and they have access to public funds. They’re put in positions of trust,” she said. “If they commit offenses in which they abuse that trust, abuse their authority for personal gain, then that is something that [Ligon] is very

New Caney ISD superintendent from 2009-20

with 16,081 students enrolled in 2019-20 Salary increased 116.76% to $334,538 Starting salary of $156,500 with 9,590 students enrolled in 2009-10

Kenn Franklin

According to arrest warrant affidavits, out of 31 trips, Franklin was reimbursed for: trips to Austin 11 trips to Waco 10 trips to San Antonio 6 trips to other cities 4

Based on the 31 trips, a general distance from New Caney to these cities, and the district’s policy of reimbursing $0.575 per mile, Community Impact Newspaper found Franklin could have received about

$2,900 .

SOURCES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE ARREST WARRANT AFFIDAVITS, NEW CANEY ISD SUPERINTENDENT CONTRACTS, TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

in Marshall and Marfa ISDs. In his 11 years at NCISD, enrollment increased from 9,590 in the 2009-10 school year to 16,081 students in 2019-20, according to the Texas Education Agency. He left with a salary of $334,538, per the TEA. NCISD must now deal with the fallout of his alleged wrongdoing by hiring a new superintendent before the end of the school year and auditing the district’s finances. The investigation The investigation into Franklin by the Texas Rangers, who receive specialized training to investigate public servants, began several months prior to his November resignation. According to affidavits fromtheDA’s office, the NCISD Police Department

CONTINUED FROM 1

discovered and verified 31 instances of Franklin submitting expense reports for travel to events and meetings when phone records show he was at his residence in New Caney or in Tyler, per the affidavits. “Mr. Franklin wishes the best for the students, faculty, administration, staff and board at the New Caney ISD, and hopes that this matter does [not] cause too much of an interruption on the good work that is being done at the district for the kids they serve,” said Christopher Tritico, a defense attorney with Tritico Rainey PLLC who is representing Franklin, provided in an emailed statement. Franklin was hired by the district in 2009 after serving as superintendent

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

Oct. 6-7: Franklin submits a travel reimbursement for a Texas Association of School Administrators dinner in San Antonio but is observed by Leitner in Legend’s RV Resort, Franklin’s residence away from his family in Tyler.

Nov. 12: Leitner interviews Franklin, who said he “didn’t live up to his expectations and let the district down on where he was on some of those dates.”

Jan. 7: Franklin is booked at the Montgomery County Jail and charged with aggregate theft by a public servant, a third-degree felony, and tampering with a government record, which is a state jail felony.

October 2020

November 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

Oct. 28: Leitner submits a warrant for Franklin’s cell phone records, which show he attended two of the 24 trips he submitted travel reimbursement for in 2020.

Nov. 16: Franklin resigns as superintendent and is replaced temporarily by Deputy Superintendent Matt Calvert.

Jan. 18-19: NCISD officially begins the search for a new superintendent and announces an audit of its finances.

March 31: The first hearing in Franklin’s case is set to take place.

passionate about us pursuing.” The Texas Penal Code states a person found guilty of a third-degree felony could face between two to 10 years of jail time in addition to a fine of up to $10,000. The case has been assigned to the 221st District Court, which is presided by Judge Lisa Michalk, Faulkner said. Tritico said Franklin’s first court date is a court setting March 31, in which a judge sets an appointment for a future court date. Neither he nor Faulkner provided an anticipated timeline for the court proceedings. The search In the aftermath of charges against Franklin, NCISD began searching for his replacement and called for a financial audit at its Jan. 19 school

saying their top priorities for the new superintendent are employing the best educators, having an overall vision for the district, and providing the safest and best facilities. Turner said the district will provide any information to law enforcement as the case continues, but he could not comment on the case or Franklin’s alleged crimes. However, in speaking to the NCISD community, he claims individuals have not said they distrust the boardbecause of Franklin’s actions. “Our district, we’re not just one person,” Turner said. Kelly Schafler contributed to this report.

board meeting. In a Jan. 27 interview, board President Chad Turner said the district planned to undertake a procedural audit before allegations against Franklin surfaced. During the Jan. 19 school board meeting, Vice President Creg Mixon said the board has no information on any issues other than Franklin’s alleged theft and tampering with government records, but trustees want a better view of the district’s finances before a new superintendent is hired. “This board wants to ensure that we continue to be able to be appropriate public stewards in our district,” he said. Powers said no timeline nor cost for the audit has been determined as of press time. Powers did not respond to Community Impact Newspaper ’s requests for comment about whether

the audit would dive into Franklin’s 11 years at NCISD or if it would be made public once completed. Following Franklin’s resignation from the district in mid-November, Deputy Superintendent Matt Calvert was immediately appointed to serve in the interim while NCISD searches for a replacement. Turner said the district posted the job listing Jan. 18, and it received applications until Feb. 12. In the January interview, Turner said the district hopes to have a superintendent hired before the end of the 2020-21 school year. To aid in the search, NCISD surveyed the community on the traits and background they wanted in the next superintendent. Turner said about 1,300 people responded,

For more information, visit communityimpact.com .

The better question may be, is it safe not to? Ignoring health issues for fear of catching COVID-19 can put your health in real trouble. So, please, take care of yourself. See your doctor regularly and let us help you manage conditions like high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Sometimes, a virtual office visit is the perfect solution. Other times, seeing your doctor in person is the best choice. We have taken important steps to keep you safe when you visit. We understand your concerns. As your partner in good health, we’re always here with answers. Visit our website anytime, or call us at 713-526-4243 for an appointment. Is it safe to see my doctor yet?

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LAKE HOUSTON - HUMBLE - KINGWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2021

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