Tomball - Magnolia | June 2020

2020 TOMBALL MAGNOLIA EDITION

HEALTHCARE EDITION

ONLINE AT

VOLUME 10, ISSUE 9  JUNE 2JULY 7, 2020

If we're seeing 300,000 people at least in Houston having lost their jobs, we may have seen 300,000 people in Houston having lost their health insurance. PATRICK JANKOWSKI, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF RESEARCH FOR THE GREATER HOUSTON PARTNERSHIP A N T I C I P A T I N G T H E S U R G E

Texas leads the nation in having the highest percentage of residents without health insurance. Although most of Tomball and Magnolia have lower uninsured rates than the state, experts anticipate the uninsured rate to climb amid a rise in unemployment claims. Percent of uninsured residents, 2018 UNINSURED

IMPACTS

6

UNEMPLOYED

Percent of workforce iling for unemployment, April 1-May 2, 2020

77354

77354

6.87%

14.23%

1488

1488

1774

1774

GRAND PINES DRIVE

9

77362

77362

26.39%

6.08%

HEALTH CARE EDI T ION 2020

77355

77355

14.07%

5.78%

77375

77375

SPONSOREDBY • America's ER • Houston Methodist • Lone Star College HEALTH CARE SNAPSHOT 21

16.86%

7.99%

249

77377

77377

249

7.75%

7.1%

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14.02% of Tomball and Magnolia residents did not have health insurance in 2018.

7.08% of the local workforce led an unemployment claim in one month.

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SOURCES: TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION, 2018 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY 5YEAR ESTIMATESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Local uninsured rate to grow following layos State sees calls for expanding health care coverage amid COVID19 needs

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BY ANNA LOTZ

Since March 11, unemployment claims peaked for the period spanning March 18-April 18, totaling 6,582 claims in the ve Tomball and Magnolia-area ZIP codes, according to the Texas Work- force Commission. “That was before the layos, so now the phones are ringing o the hook. We’ve had to streamline our process and move it online to start accom- modating the number of people who

are now without insurance who live within our service area, and they’re nding out TOMAGWA is their only option,” Simmons said. TOMAGWA provides care to those ineligible for or unable to access health insurance throughout portions of Har- ris, Montgomery and Waller counties, she said. In Tomball and Magnolia, the only

There are about 100,000 residents without health insurance within TOMAGWA HealthCare Ministries’ 600-square-mile service area, CEO Timika Simmons said. That number is expected to surge as more residents nd themselves unem- ployed as a consequence of the host of layos and business closures caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CONTINUED ON 34

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

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TOMBALL - MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

YOUR HEALTH IS A LOT OF THINGS. THE ONE THING IT ISN’T, IS ON HOLD.

No virus can weaken our mission.

• Cleaning all our facilities to an enhanced extent • Limiting the number of visitors • Requiring masks for all patients and staff • Screening everyone entering our care sites • Enforcing social distancing inside • Requiring COVID-19 testing prior to procedures

At St. Luke’s Health, we’re resuming the scheduling of appointments and procedures. And we’re doing it safely. Our thorough approach determines which procedures can safely be performed, where, and when. These are the steps we’re taking to make it happen:

Staying on top of your health has never been more important, whether it’s an ongoing health concern, a routine checkup, or a procedure. Don’t let social distancing stop you and don’t wait until it becomes an emergency. Talk with your doctor about scheduling an appointment. For more information, visit us online at chistlukeshealth.org/here-always.

Here, always.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

MARKET TEAM GENERAL MANAGER Chrissy Leggett, cleggett@communityimpact.com EDITOR Anna Lotz REPORTER Dylan Sherman GRAPHIC DESIGNER Matthew T. Mills ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE April Halpin METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Jason Culpepper MANAGING EDITOR Matt Stephens ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Tessa Hoee CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Lanane CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE John and Jennifer Garrett began Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Pugerville, TX. The company’s mission is to build informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team. Today we operate across six metropolitan areas, providing hyperlocal, nonpartisan news produced by our full-time journalists in each community we serve. BECOMEA#COMMUNITYPATRON Please join your friends and neighbors in support of Community Impact Newspaper’s legacy of local, reliable reporting by making a contribution. Together, we can continue to ensure citizens stay informed and keep businesses thriving. COMMUNITYIMPACT.COMPATRON CONTACT US 8400 N. Sam Houston Parkway W., Ste. 220 Houston, TX 77064 • 2814696181 PRESS RELEASES tomnews@communityimpact.com SUBSCRIPTIONS communityimpact.com/subscriptions © 2020 Community Impact Newspaper Co. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM

FROMCHRISSY: Things seem to be getting back to some sense of normalcy with businesses reopening, but at the same time, I think many of us are unsure of what the future of “normal” even looks like anymore. To stay updated throughout the month, sign up for our daily newsletter or visit us online as we continue reporting daily in our communities. Chrissy Leggett, GENERALMANAGER

IMPACTS

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FROMANNA: From the local economy (see Page 11) and the foster care system (see Page 13) to parks and recreation (see Page 15), there is seemingly no area of our lives untouched by the coronavirus pandemic. Although there are still many unknowns and incomplete data surrounding the pandemic, we value your readership and trust as we all go through this together. Anna Lotz, EDITOR

Now Open, Coming Soon &more CORONAVIRUS Foster care amid the pandemic EDUCATION BRIEFS Updates from Tomball, Magnolia ISDs

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HealthCareEdition

THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

Local sources 53

New businesses 5

Road projects 4

Ambulance 1

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Women’s care comes to Tomball INSIDE INFORMATION

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TOMBALL  MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

IMPACTS

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

1

1486

1488

BUDDY RILEY BLVD.

MAGNOLIA

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RESEARCH FOREST DR.

149

K

Barbarossa Coee

1774

COURTESY BARBAROSSA COFFEE

2978

CREEKSIDE FOREST DR.

5

7

249

TOMBALL

ZION RD.

S. LIVE OAK ST.

Copan Coee Roasters

2920

COURTESY COPAN COFFEE ROASTERS

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8

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Owner Mike Ferguson launched his business, Driveway Dumpster Rental and Junk Removal , in early May. The Magno- lia-based business serves Magnolia, Tom- ball, Pinehurst, and the surrounding area. The new business offers dumpster rentals for home clean outs, hoarders and small construction jobs as well as junk removal services where the team hauls away items, Ferguson said. Ferguson previously owned CoffeeIcon, with five locations in the north Houston area. 713-570-6095. www.drivewaydumpsterrental.com Blue Skye Boutique opened its virtual doors in February. The store is owned by Lauren Rhodes, a Tomball resident, who said her goal is to make every woman feel beautiful in her own skin. The store offers women’s clothing, jewelry, air fresheners and other small boutique items.

2920

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3

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MEDICAL COMPLEX DR.

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TM; © 2019 COMMUNITY IMPACT CO. LICENSING, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

NOWOPEN 1 To celebrate its three-year anniver- sary, Spring-based Barbarossa Coffee opened a second location in early May at 9166 FM 2920, Ste. 100, Tomball. Owner Ogzuhan Guragac said while he originally considered expanding into downtown Houston, the north Houston area was a less saturated market. Barbarossa Coffee held its soft opening May 8. The cafe offers cof- fee beans from 20 different origins around the world, as well as multiple brewing

curbside pickup and delivery services are available as of press time. 281-547-7698. www.crustpizzaco.com 3 Millennium Physicians Respiratory & Sleep Disorder Specialists was slated to begin seeing patients in Tomball on June 1 as of press time. The pulmonary group includes doctors Hammad N. Qureshi, Mohsin K. Bajwa, Arifin Alam and Humberto C. Sasieta and is located at 13426 Medical Complex Drive, Ste. 175, Tomball. 281-296-8788. www.millenniumphysicians.com

methods. In addition to coffee, the cafe also offers breakfast and lunch options. To follow state guidelines, Guragac said the cafe is open at limited occupancy and offers drive-thru and delivery options. www.barbarossacoffee.com 2 Crust Pizza Co. opened April 22 at 11550 Louetta Road, Ste. 1000, Houston. The eatery has several locations through- out the Greater Houston area and offers an extensive menu of pizzas, appetizers, salads, pastas, subs and desserts. Dine-in,

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4 Whataburger at 714 Melton St., Magnolia, is slated to open between August and September, Whataburger rep-

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY ANNA LOTZ & DYLAN SHERMAN

Storefront launches

Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co. eyes Tomball location

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Bexar Barbecue opened for carryout on Saturdays on May 9, owner Justin Haecker said. The business started selling barbecue at the Tomball Farmers Market and moved to its brick-and-mortar location at 28301 Business 249, Ste. 800, Tomball. Haecker said the expanded offering is part of his plan to slowly ramp up the business by opening up to more customers gradually, eyeing a soft opening by early June. wwwbexarbarbecue.com

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7 Dawne Milne CPA moved next door in late February to 25298 FM 2978, Tom- ball, from 25302 FM 2978. The practice provides bookkeeping, accounting, and tax and consulting services to business- es and individuals in Spring, Magnolia, Conroe, The Woodlands and surrounding areas. The practice specializes in provid- ing services to businesses that may not need full-time accounting staff but need the expertise. 281-305-8224. www.dawncpa.com RENOVATIONS 8 Every cinema chair now has the “We are excited to bring our hand sanitizer operations to Tomball and enthused about the prospects of having the full Whitmeyer’s operations here,” Whitmeyer said in a statement. Distillery co-owner Travis Whitmeyer said approximately 130 new jobs have already been created. Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co. has entered a lease agreement with the Tomball Economic Development Corp. to expand its hand sanitizer production in Tomball, according to a TEDC news release. The TEDC’s newly purchased land at South Live Oak Industrial Park is currently being used by Whitmeyer’s; however, negotiations are underway for a permanent home for the distillery. Whitmeyer’s is looking to increase production from 40,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per day to 1 million gallons per month starting in June, the release stated. The distillery, which is based in the Spring area at 16711 Hollister St., Ste. I, Houston, switched its focus from vodka, whiskey and gin to liquid hand sanitizer in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The distillery has since distributed more than 100,000 gallons of its sanitizer to the public for free, in addition to bulk donations to first responders.

COURTESY BEXAR BARBECUE

resentatives confirmed. The restaurant is currently under construction. Wha- taburger offers its famous burgers as well as chicken sandwiches, a breakfast menu, fish sandwiches, salads and shakes. “We had plans to [renovate], but being closed just seemed to be the right time, since we had to close anyway,” she said. 5 Owners Sheri and Daniel Dunaway relocated Copan Coffee Roasters on May 10 from Hufsmith-Kohrville Road to 716 S. Persimmon Road, Tomball. Green coffee beans are shipped from regions around the world and hand-roasted and packaged at the Tomball facility. The business sells green coffee and bagged coffee and also offers private label ser- vices for its coffee. Copan Coffee Roasters has been a part of Tomball since 2002. The business relocated from a rented space to its own space, which is larger than the previous one and allows more www.whataburger.com RELOCATIONS When its doors had to be closed following county and state orders during the coronavirus pandemic, Tomball Bowl co-owner Janet Holmes said it gave her the chance to renovate the business. Tomball Bowl renovates during temporary closure

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Holmes runs the business with her husband, Scott. She said the renovations will give a facelift to the business. A private party room will be available soon, she said, and more renovations are in the works. Holmes said Tomball Bowl will also now be completely smoke free inside the establishment.

COURTESYWHITMEYER'S DISTILLING CO.

ability to recline and be reserved online at Premiere Cinema Tomball , said Joel Davis, Premiere Cinema’s vice president of operations, as the cinema completed renovations this spring. Davis said the concession stand has also been remod- eled with granite countertops with the goal of becoming a self-serve station when it is safe to do so. As of press time, the cinema, located at 28497 Business 249, Tomball, had not reopened. When it does reopen, it will be showing films released before the mandated closure as well as classics. 281-351-6106. www.pccmovies.com/location/2836/ tomball-premiere-7 “Whitmeyer’s vision for this property is very much what we envisioned for the South Live Oak Industrial Park when we purchased it last month. This is an exciting endeavor,” Violette said. www.whitmeyers.com The expansion would include a 10,000-square-foot barrel house and a venue to host events, the release stated. TEDC Executive Director Kelly Violette said the timing was perfect for the deal, as Whitmeyer’s was looking to expand and the TEDC had recently acquired the property.

Tomball Bowl, located at 14435 FM 2920, Tomball, reopened May 22. 281-351-1831. www.tomballbowl.com

space for the business to grow, offer coffee tours and provide other services. Coffee tours have been hosted in partner- ship with Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue in Tomball previously, and Copan has plans to host team-building activities and other tourism events at its new Tomball facility. 281-357-8075. www.shopcopan.com 6 After nearly 20 years at its previous location, Icon Martial Arts Academy opened at its new location at 27620 Business 249, Ste. A4, Tomball, on May 18. The martial arts academy offers classes for all ages and starts teaching children as young as 3 1/2 years old, Program Director Corey Krattli said. Prior to May 18, the academy was temporar- ily closed due to statewide coronavirus restrictions, during which time virtual classes were held. Academy founder John Cantu said online lessons will be a mainstay of the academy from now on. 281-357-4900. www.iconmaa.com

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TOMBALL - MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

COMPILED BY SHAWN ARRAJJ, ANNA LOTZ, DYLAN SHERMAN & HANNAH ZEDAKER

HWY. 249 RAMPS TO SPRING CYPRESS ROAD The Texas Department of ONGOING PROJECT

PROJECT UPDATES

COMPLETED PROJECTS

NICHOLS SAWMILL RD.

Transportation began a three-month project April 20 to reverse the Hwy. 249 northbound entrance and exit ramps between Jones and Spring Cypress roads. According to TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez, the $2.6 million project will reverse the existing entrance/exit ramp configuration to an exit/entrance configuration by shifting the new exit ramp south of the current entrance ramp. Perez said the project aims to ease traffic congestion the interchange’s current design facilitates. “Hwy. 249 northbound traffic exiting to Spring Cypress Road during the afternoon commute was queuing up back on the main lanes due to the close proximity of the exit ramp to the Hwy. 249/Spring Cypress Road signalized intersection,” Perez said in an email. In the interim, northbound drivers can exit Hwy. 249 south of Louetta Road or enter Hwy. 249 south of Louetta Road or north of Spring Cypress Road.

AGG RD.

2978

MEDICAL COMPLEX DR.

HUFSMITH- CONROE RD.

SANDERS CEMETERY RD.

DOBBIN- HUFFSMITH RD.

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2920

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S. PERSIMMON LN.

FM 2978 bridge, widening Two TxDOT projects are widening por- tions of FM 2978 in the Magnolia area and are expected to wrap up in the third quar- ter. A project by J.D. Abrams to widen the FM 2978 bridge over Spring Creek to four lanes was 82% complete as of May 1. A project by Forde Construction Co. to widen FM 2978 to four lanes between Hufsmith-Conroe Road and south of Dry Creek—near Hardin Store Road—was 69% complete as of May 1. Timeline: October 2018-third quarter 2020 (bridge), January 2018-third quar- ter 2020 (widening) Cost: $7.55 million (bridge), $12.87 mil- lion (widening) Funding source: TxDOT

Grand Pines Drive opens The new two-lane road connecting Nich- ols Sawmill and Sanders Cemetery roads in Montgomery County Precinct 2 opened in mid-May. Grand Pines Drive is antic- ipated to provide drivers a safer route through south Magnolia than traveling on neighboring roads. The project has been in the works for nearly three years, seeing early delays from permitting issues and wetland mitigation disputes. Commis- sioner Charlie Riley previously said this is the first new road in southwest Precinct 2 in more than a decade.

Medical Complex Drive extension Tomball City Council voted May 18 to award a contract to Durwood Greene Construction Co. to build the next seg- ment of Medical Complex Drive, which will extend from Agg Road at South Persimmon Street to Hufsmith-Kohr- ville Road as a four-lane concrete road. The project also includes rehabilitating the asphalt section of Agg Road. South Persimmon Street will also be extended south to connect to the Tomball Business and Technology Park. Construction will begin after preconstruction meetings the week of June 1, Public Works Director Beth Jones said. Timeline: June 2020-September 2021 Cost: $13.98 million Funding source: city of Tomball

Timeline: April 2019-May 2020 Cost: $6.7 million (allocated) Funding source: 2015 Montgomery County road bond Texas Central wins key ruling in court case over eminent domain

CURRENT DESIGN

EXIT

ENTRANCE

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Actual care. Virtually anywhere. The decision—if not reversed by the Supreme Court— allows Texas Central to use eminent domain to obtain land where the line will run. Some landowners along the proposed route—including plaintiff James Miles of Leon County—have refused to sell their land to Texas Central, making the future of the rail uncertain. Eminent domain involves the taking of private property A key decision in a lawsuit affecting plans for a high- speed rail line connecting Houston to Dallas was handed down May 7 when the Texas 13th Court of Appeals deter- mined Texas Central to be legally recognized as a railroad company in the state. Plaintiffs in the case—James Miles v. Texas Central—said they plan to appeal it to the Texas Supreme Court.

for public use, even against the will of the owner. Only par- ticular entities are allowed to use it under state law, includ- ing railroad companies. Officials with Texas Central have previously said they only intend to use eminent domain as “a last resort” and would compensate landowners fairly. Miles, who won his case at trial court in 2019, argued Texas Central is not operating a railroad because it does not own any trains and has not constructed any tracks, among other issues. In her ruling, appeals court Judge Nora Longoria reversed the trial court decision. “Miles’s interpretation would have this Court ignore the legislature’s instruction ... by limiting the word ‘operating’ to solely the present tense. We decline to do so,” Longoria wrote.

NEW DESIGN

ENTRANCE EXIT

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ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF MAY 21. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT TOMNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM. SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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TOMBALL - MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

FIRST GLIMPSE The cities of Tomball and Magnolia got a first look at sales tax revenue from earlier this spring amid the pandemic.

ECONOMY Sales, hotel occupancy tax revenue showsearly lookat economic toll

Magnolia*

Tomball

March 2019 sales tax revenue: $249,000

March 2020 sales tax revenue: $292,000

March 2019 sales tax revenue: $1.5M

March 2020 sales tax revenue: $1.36M

BY DYLAN SHERMAN

tax allocations will likely be higher because it was the rst full month to be aected by the coronavirus shutdown. April gures are slated to be released in early June. The city of Magnolia saw a 51.77% decrease in sales tax revenue in March compared to the previous year, according to comptroller data. However, the drop was due to a previous overpayment by the comptroller’s oce, Magnolia City Administrator Don Doering said May 7. He said the comptrol- ler’s oce took funds in May to compensate. “We had an overpayment from the last scal year, which they made to us; we are just paying that back,” he said. Sales tax data from the state shows Magnolia paid back about $167,000 of its March sales tax allocation. As such, Magnolia actually saw an increase of $43,000 compared to last

Initial sales and hotel occupancy tax revenue data from earlier this spring shows how closures during the coronavirus pandemic may aect revenue for the cities of Tomball and Magnolia this year. Sales tax allocations for March in Tomball and Magnolia released by the Texas comptroller’s oce on May 6 paint an early picture of sales tax trends during the pandemic. Tomball’s allocations showed revenue decreasing 9.25% compared to March 2019, with tax revenue dropping by $139,000 year over year from $1.5 million to $1.36 million, according to comptroller data. “It is not a surprise; it was right around where our internal estimates were,” Tomball City Manager Rob Hauck said. “We were estimating it would be around 10%.” Hauck said April’s decrease in sales

+17.3%

-9.25%

*IN MARCH, MAGNOLIA SAW A 51.77% DECREASE IN REVENUE FROM 2019. HOWEVER, THE DECREASE WAS DUE TO PAYING BACK AN OVERPAYMENT BY THE COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE, SO COLLECTIONS ACTUALLY INCREASED, CITY ADMINISTRATOR DON DOERING SAID.

SOURCE: TEXAS COMPTROLLERCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

March—according to current period collections—which is a 17.3% increase in sales allocations, according to comptroller data. “I anticipate a reduction [for] April, but we won’t know until we get there,” Doering said. In addition to temporary business closures, travel has also waned during the pandemic, and a host of events have been canceled. Accord- ing to data from the city Magnolia, hotel occupancy tax revenue decreased 8.27% in March compared

to March 2019, and April saw a 55.67% decrease in hotel revenue compared to the previous year. The city of Tomball was not able to provide April 2020 or 2019 data for March and April to provide hotel revenue comparisons before press time May 22. “Stark reality is that hotels are suering,” Hauck said May 15. “I have spoken to most of our hotel manage- ment sta, and they are optimistic and seeing upticks as we reopen the economy.”

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TOMBALL  MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

GOVERNMENT Harris County plans COVID-19 relief fund for residents

A coronavirus relief fund is in the works for Harris County residents who officials said are falling through the cracks of federal relief efforts. In a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved $15 million on April 28 to be used to help poor families, residents living in the country illegally and other targeted populations pay for rent, utilities and other needs, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said. Commissioners upped funding to $30 million on May 19. The fund will be managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation for an administrative fee of 5%. Funds will be administered in two rounds through a randomized process as opposed to a first-come, first-served basis. The GHCF will use its network of more than 100 nonprofits to help identify potential applicants and communicate eligi- bility requirements and application instructions. BY SHAWN ARRAJJ & HANNAH ZEDAKER

all of the pain that has been caused by COVID-19, [which has] essentially put our economy into a coma ... but it’s important to start somewhere,” he said. The fund, which was approved in a 3-2 vote with Precincts 3 and 4 Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle dissenting, will be funded through the county’s Public Improve- ment Contingency Funding, also known as the rainy day fund. Cagle previously said he supported using philanthropic or federal money for a COVID-19 relief fund but was against using rainy day funds, which are raised from property taxes. “We may have a long, hard winter ahead of us, and we need to be very, very careful what we do with regard to our property tax funds where we may or may not be able to help every- body we want to,” Cagle said April 28. “If we have to raise our taxes, which I am not in favor of, we will hurt those right now who are hurting the most.”

“We believe it’s really fundamen- tally important that if you’re going to use an equity lens, this really should be a process that is more complex than just opening up a phone line or a website and allowing everyone to apply at the same time,” said Renee Wizig-Barrios, the senior vice pres- ident and chief philanthropy officer for the foundation. On his Facebook page May 19, Pre- cinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said applications will open June 11. Eligible applicants include Harris County residents who have expe- rienced adverse effects related to COVID-19 and fall below 60% of the area median income, are victims of domestic violence, have aged out of foster care, or are currently living in homeless shelters, Ellis said. The $30 million is expected to assist anywhere from 20,000-25,000 families with a one-time allotment of $1,200 or $1,500, Ellis said. “It’s not enough money to solve

ELIGIBILITYREQUIREMENTS

To take advantage of a new coronavirus relief fund, residents must reside in Harris County and: • live in a household making below 60% of the area median income; • be currently living in a domestic violence situation; • be a foster child who has aged out; or live in a homeless shelter. • Applicants cannot have received benefits from any city of Houston or other Harris County program administered for the same purpose. • Applications for the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund are anticipated to open June 11 . • The $30 million fund is expected to assist 20,000-25,000 families with a one-time allotment of $1,200 or $1,500. • The relief fund is funded through the county’s rainy day fund , which is raised from property taxes. Learn more: www.ghcf.org

SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CORONAVIRUS Houston-area foster care advocatesworry of unreported abuse, trauma toll amid COVID19

In Texas, medical personnel and schools contribute more than 33% of reports of abuse and neglect, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. W FE ROS O AS O NLT? In scal year 2019, the top 5 reporters of abuse and neglect were: Medical personnel (18.6%) 1 School (15.3%) 2 Lawenforcement (12.8%) 3 Relative (9.1%) 4 Community agency (7.5%) 5

Anticipating needs In DFPS Region 6—which spans 13 counties, including Harris and Montgomery—approximately 2,400 children were in foster care in the month of April, and the region included 2,000 foster homes, Region 6 Media Specialist Tiani Butler said. She said as of mid-May the DFPS had not had problems nding placements for children during the pandemic, and the number of children removed from homes was not unlike any other year. “We’re a little bit concerned that we don’t have actual eyes on the children because there’s a lot that you get from nuance and seeing that you don’t get from phone calls,” McAlpin said. “We’re concerned that abuse that’s happening right now might not be being reported. We have not seen a downturn in the numbers, but those go up and down year by year anyway.” McAlpin said advocates are charged with talking to everyone involved in the child’s case, including teachers, psychiatrists and medical professionals, as well as building a relationship with the child. Without being able to meet the child in person during the pandemic, advocates have resorted to FaceTime or phone calls. With teachers reporting a signicant amount of the abuse and neglect cases in the state, McAlpin said she believes there will be a need for more foster parents as well as child advocates to counter the spike in reported abuse she anticipates once children are able to see teachers again. To help meet the anticipated demand for foster families, Riebel said Arms Wide Adoption Services— which serves Region 6—has adjusted its operations to avoid delaying the licensing process for prospec- tive families. “I feel like more families are reaching out for the licensing process. Honestly, I think it’s because they’re home more and they have time to stop, do the research, attend the meetings and all of that,” she said. Finger printing and re inspections have been dicult to complete as social distancing measures have been enacted, Riebel said. However, Riebel said Arms Wide has allowed families to attend training sessions with everything but these few items completed in the licensing process so as not to delay the process further. Home studies were also paused in April but resumed in May with personal protective equip- ment and social distancing, she said. “We haven’t allowed this to delay any of our process, because if it does, it will be delayed for the rest of the year,” Riebel said. Training sessions have also moved to live online sessions for all portions but CPR and rst aid, which are being held one family at a time in person, she said. The agency’s information meetings—usually to delay th

BY ANNA LOTZ

With schools closed for much of the semester and families encouraged to stay home, Houston-area nonprot leaders worry there will be a spike in reports of abuse as coronavirus measures are lifted, allowing groups to gather again. Anticipating an uptick, local foster care advo- cates said they have adapted operations to meet needs amid the pandemic and are preparing for a continued need of foster families. “Once we start to get out again, people are going to start saying things, and kids will start talking,” said Arianne Riebel, director of adoption and foster care services for Arms Wide Adoption Services in Houston, an agency placing children into foster and adoptive homes. “I think that’s when the reports are going to start coming in more. That’s the major reason why here we can’t slow down. They’re going to need these homes for these kiddos in the future.” Texas Department of Family and Protective Services data shows schools contributed 15% of abuse and neglect reports throughout the state in scal year 2019, second to medical personnel for the source of most reports in the state. Further, foster care advocates said the coronavi- rus pandemic and the resulting stay-home orders and upended schedules only exacerbate the trauma children in foster care have experienced. “The fear and anxiety that we’re all feeling now... that’s what these foster kids experience every day,” said Ann McAlpin, executive director of CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County, which recruits court-appointed advocates for children in foster care. “We’re concerned that...all of this uncertainty on top of all of the trauma and uncertainty that they’ve already experienced is really going to double the trauma.” Organizations across the Greater Houston area shared ways for the community to get involved in addition to giving nancially. LD A HD ArmsWideAdoption Services www.armswideadoption.org Attend the next virtual information meeting June 10. CASAofMontgomery County www.casaspeaks4kids.com Donate toys or games. Volunteer to be an advocate. EntrustedHouston www.entrustedhouston.org Shop from an Amazon wishlist or donate items to Moses Closet Cypress. Love FostersHope www.lovefostershope.org Donate $20 to the Finding Hope in 2020 campaign.

SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND PROTECTIVE SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation can be made online or by phone. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Call the Texas Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400 H T RO

www.txabusehotline.org (for non-urgent situations)

held in person—have gone virtual as well, she said, and will continue virtually and in person to provide families greater exibility long term. Adapting to COVID19 Butler said the DFPS has also moved its visits for families to be virtual when possible. In-person visits are happening only at DFPS oces where 6-foot distancing is in place and spaces are sani- tized before and after a family comes in. To comply with guidelines, Montgomery Coun- ty-based Love Fosters Hope has moved its over- night camp for children in foster care to an at-home camp, Executive Director Cindy Mericle said. “Summer camps are a huge part of what we do, and of course that’s been very much impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. In place of a June overnight camp, campers will have camp at home, receiving packages, video greetings, materials for a birthday cake, and arts and crafts, Mericle said. Teen camps have been rescheduled with tentative plans for July, pending the availability of rapid COVID-19 testing. In addition, the organization has kept up its mentorship program remotely, Mericle said, and sent packages to its foster families with gifts for each child and the family to support them during the extended time at home. “It’s been a surprising blessing, even though there’s so much bad stu going on. Love Fosters Hope has been primarily focused on the children and the teenagers as they age out of foster care,” Mericle said. “This really opened us up to caring for the whole family, which I’m kind of shocked that we haven’t done that before, but we were so busy doing what we were doing.”

13

TOMBALL  MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

ENVIRONMENT

Parks, forests provide outdoor escape during coronavirus

I’ve seen people connect to nature inways they never have before.

BY BEN THOMPSON

seen attendance along the 13-mile Spring Creek Nature Trail on the Harris-Montgomery county line surge since mid-March. Throughout Harris County Precinct 4, Parks Director Dennis Johnston said use of the precinct’s parks and public spaces has also increased since March. In W.G. Jones State Forest east of Magnolia, a temporary statewide closure kept visitors away for around two weeks in April. Aside from that period, Connor Murnane, a forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service, said the already well-attended urban forest area has attracted more people than usual this spring. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of visitors that come up to the forest. We typically clock in at 8 a.m., and people are there well before that already out on the trails,” Murnane said.

As business closures and stay-at- home orders implemented this spring halted many regular daily activities for residents of Harris and Montgom- ery counties, residents seeking an outdoor escape ocked to local parks and preserves. “We’ve seen an uptick in activity pretty much throughout this crisis, but especially when closures hap- pened,” said Suzanne Simpson, land stewardship director for the Bayou Land Conservancy. “The importance of our public land has really risen to the forefront during this crisis. And actually instead of seeing people dis- connect from nature, I’ve seen people connect to nature in ways they never have before.” Simpson said the BLC, a Hous- ton-based nonprot that works to preserve thousands of acres of land along the region’s waterways, has

SUZANNE SIMPSON, BAYOU LAND CONSERVANCY LAND STEWARDSHIP DIRECTOR

W.G. Jones State Forest, located just east of Magnolia, saw an uptick in animal activity during its approximately two-week closure this spring, although visitors quickly returned when the woods reopened to the public. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

In addition, Murnane said sight- ings of deer throughout the woods have increased. The forest service’s biologist is also monitoring the eects of the closure on the area’s population of endangered red-cock- aded woodpeckers, which Murnane said have become more active amid their nesting season. Murnane said even the state lands’ temporary closure could result in more frequent animal sightings by forest visitors this year, as wildlife became more accustomed to a lack of human interaction in April.

Johnston said he hopes this period of increased public land use will continue given the physical and mental benets. “Harris County parks have kind of become the mental health depart- ment of Harris County,” he said. “Getting out with your family, getting into a park, a trail, going on a bike ride, going on a hike, whatever, really is a release of that anxiety. ... This particular event, as awful as it has been, has kind of opened peoples’ eyes as to maybe the parks are a little more important than we thought.”

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TOMBALL  MAGNOLIA EDITION • JUNE 2020

NEWS BRIEFS

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Construction for Magnolia’s planned HEB and Magnolia Place development at Spur 149 and FM 1488 has been put on hold, said Chessie Zimmerman, a represen- tative of development company Stratus Properties Inc., during a May 12 teleconferenced City Council meeting. The project was previously slated to debut this fall. “We are on hold at the moment,” she said. HEB is adjusting to an increase in online sales, deliveries and curb- side pickups during the coronavirus pandemic and has asked that its construction projects be put on hold, Zimmerman said. Land for the retail site in Magnolia had been cleared as the pandemic hit, she said. HEB is part of Stratus’ mixed- use development called Magnolia Place.

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“We are expecting it to be back up and running within a year,” Zimmer- man said. With architectural plans for the retail portion of Magnolia Place complete and infrastructure permits nearly ready to be issued, she said Stratus is in a good place to pick up work when it is possible. “There’s many unknowns right now, and nobody wants to proceed into the middle of something with the great unknown,” Mayor Todd Kana said. “But I completely under- stand and expected this.”

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CEOEric Evans departs Tomball hospital

BY ANNA LOTZ

the release.

Eric Evans, the CEO of HCA Hous- ton Healthcare Tomball, is departing Tomball to lead Corpus Christi Med- ical Center as CEO eective June 15, HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast Division announced in a May 13 release. “[I am looking forward to] being able to do what I did here at Tomball on a larger scale and being able to make sure that we have high employee engagement that drives exceptional clinical quality, that drives that patient experience, that makes it a great hospital system that people want to go to,” Evans said. Evans came to HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball—then named Tomball Regional Medical Center—in December 2017. “Eric’s operational, management and clinical expertise will be invaluable to Corpus Christi Medical Center as we work to build upon the success we have experienced over the last several years,” said Troy Villarreal, the president of the HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast Division, in

Since Evans came

to Tomball, the hospital has been rebranded as HCA

Houston Healthcare Tomball, and Evans spearheaded eorts with NewQuest Proper-

Eric Evans

ties to redesign the 150-acre hospital campus, including potential medical oce, retail and restaurant space. Evans has also enhanced women’s services in Tomball, most recently opening the Woman’s Center. “I ammost proud of the fact that people wouldn’t be sad to see me go if they thought I hadn’t turned the hospital around,” Evans said. “[The hospital has] always been embedded in the community, but it’s lost that trust, so I’mmost proud of gaining that trust back.” Chief Operating Ocer Robert Sabina was slated to take over interim leadership duties June 1, which was after press time, Evans said in mid May.

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