This Week's Headlines

Construction begins on Beamer Road ditch widening

Meeting on Riverstone school

Education board election time nears

Drugs, gun found in traffic stop

HPD investigates freeway shooting

A look back at the year 2020

HPD investigates apartment stabbing

PISD named board of the year

County offers property tax options

BHI honor rolls named

Atkinson honor, merit rolls named

LSA adds Esports to official sports

Thompson announces second nine-weeks honor rolls

PISD Education Foundation wins giveaway

South Belt announces winners

SBHLL continues online sign-up

Lady Longhorns, Wolverine boys atop district basketball races

Wolverines’ Price elite within 24-6A

Longhorn soccer out to 6-1-1 start

 

Construction begins on Beamer Road ditch widening

Work has begun on the Harris County Flood Control District project to make drainage improvements along Beamer Ditch.

Construction, however, got off to a rocky start when crews accidentally broke a city water main, causing residents to have a significant drop in pressure.

The project will provide concrete lining on the area ditch from Sagerock to near Dixie Farm Road. The endeavor will be broken down into three phases. Phase 1 will run from Sagerock to Scarsdale; Phase 2 will run from Scarsdale to Astoria; and Phase 3 will run from Astoria to Beamer near the South Belt Stormwater Detention Basin.

Construction is expected to take approximately two years. Phase 1 construction will take place from early 2021 to fall 2021; Phase 2 construction will take place from fall 2021 to spring 2022; and Phase 3 construction will take place from spring 2022 to fall 2022.

County officials said the precautions will be taken to limit traffic congestion along the busy thoroughfare.

There will be no lane closures from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. One lane of Beamer will remain open in each direction during the majority of construction.
Bridge closures and detours will be implemented when channel construction is below a bridge (Scarsdale, Astoria and Beamer Road-eastbound).

Funding for the $10.7 million project is to be split between the county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county’s portion of the funding was approved by voters in 2018, as part of a $2.5 billion bond package.

The Beamer Ditch project, also referred to as the C-03 or Mud Gully Project, is just one of many bond projects related to the 2018 bond referendum that are connected to the local Clear Creek watershed.

At least four projects are directly tied to the watershed, and more than $40 million has been allocated toward the endeavors. Federal funding accounts for approximately $7.4 million toward local endeavors.

For additional information on the Mud Gully Project, visit www.hcfcd.org/Find-Your-Watershed/Clear-Creek/C-03-Mud-Gully-Beamer-Ditch.

Meeting on Riverstone school

Houston Gateway Academy

State Rep. Dennis Paul will host a public meeting in the upcoming weeks to address the future status of the controversial charter school in the Riverstone Ranch subdivision, which has remained half-constructed for several years, causing many complaints from residents who view the property as an eyesore.

The date should be released next week, when attendees from the school have been confirmed.

The function is currently set to take place at Melillo Middle School, at a time to be announced. Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell has given Paul use of the campus any Friday night through Feb. 12. See future editions of the Leader for a specific date and time.

Paul has also asked officials from the TEA to attend the meeting.

Under construction for approximately five years, work on the new charter school in the Riverstone Ranch subdivision has once again come to a standstill, frustrating many residents that have long opposed the project.

Located on a nine-acre site on Riverstone Ranch Road at Kirksage, the property was set to house the Elite College Prep Academy - Riverstone, a branch of Houston Gateway Academy.

At press time, it was unclear why construction was halted, as multiple calls from the Leader to both the school and its attorneys went unanswered.

The campus has been dormant, however, for several months – well before the current COVID-19 scare.

This is not the first time work has stopped on the school, as construction has been met with problems since it began in 2015.

Contract disputes have been cited multiple times for work delays. The validity of these claims is suspect, however, as the local campus has been the target of multiple criminal investigations. Court records further indicate the school has been the target of multiple civil suits for lack of payment.

In April 2019, the former head of the school, along with another employee, were indicted on multiple federal charges, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the campus.

Former Houston Gateway Academy Superintendent Richard Garza was charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally acquired property.

Houston Gateway Academy IT specialist Ahmad Bokaiyan faced one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud.

The pair were accused of stealing more than $250,000. According to investigators, Garza awarded a $280,841.85 no-bid contract in 2014 to a company owned by Bokaiyan called Hot Rod Systems to build an IT system at the new campus, even though construction at the school had yet to begin. Bokaiyan then allegedly wired $164,381 into Garza’s personal bank account.

Investigators alleged that Garza used these funds to purchase a condominium and a vehicle and pay toward a home loan.

At the time of the indictments, it was reported that both suspects were fugitives from the law. Garza later told the Leader, however, this was untrue.

While Garza was initially suspended from duty, he is reportedly now back in his position of superintendent.

Following the criminal charges, the school hired a new contractor to finish constructing the new Riverstone campus, with Frost Construction replacing Crain Group as the project’s general contractor.

While there was some initial progress made at the site, Frost’s work, too, soon came to a stop.

A progress report on Houston Gateway Academy’s website about the campus’s construction appears to not have been updated since 2014.

After numerous failed attempts to reach the school for comment, the Leader reached out to local officials, including Paul, for assistance on the matter.

A charter school is an independently run public school that is granted greater flexibility in its operations.

The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals and methods of assessment.

Like traditional public schools, charter schools are funded according to enrollment levels and receive state funds on a per-pupil basis. They are tuition-free and not restricted by zoning, making them schools of choice.

The new campus was to be the fourth in the Houston Gateway Academy system. At approximately 168,000-square feet, it would have been the largest – roughly twice the size of the other campuses.

Plans called for a three-story facility with such amenities as a band hall, natatorium, basketball gym, soccer field, full kitchen and cafeteria. The campus will have the capacity to house 1,600 students. Officials, however, estimate that only around 500 students are expected to attend the school’s freshman year.

While the campus was to eventually serve prekindergarten through 12th grade, it was initially be open through only ninth grade, with an additional grade being added each year as students progress.

Campus enrollment was projected to reach 1,600 count once the 12th-grade class has been implemented.

In past issues of the Leader, school officials touted the new campus would have features superior to its traditional public school counterparts, including smaller class sizes and mandatory drug testing – for both students and staff.

In multiple years, Houston Gateway Academy has been recognized for Outstanding Academic Performance by the Texas Education Agency and has received the Texas Honor Circle District Award from the Texas Comptroller’s office. It has also been rated as Exemplary by the TEA multiple years.

Originally slated to open for the 2016-2017 school year, it remained unclear at press time when the new campus is expected to open, if ever.

See future editions of the Leader for additional information about the public meeting.

 

E-mail mynews@southbeltleader.com with news items of interest.

Return to top of page