By George Slaughter
Rebuilding efforts and an update on city projects highlighted the State of the City luncheon Wednesday.
Mayor Chuck Brawner said the city’s strong relationships with other officials, such as U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, whose district includes part of Katy, along with elected federal, state, and regional officials, was important to getting Katy back on its feet following last year’s hurricane.
“We were able to quickly help our citizens while others were waiting,” Brawner said.
When working with McCaul, Brawner showed a map of the Cypress Watershed that had been created in the 1940s. Had the watershed been built, much of the flooding that affected Katy—and by, extension, much of the Houston area—would have been prevented.
City officials have been working with McCaul and other Texas officials in Washington to get the watershed authorized and built now.
Brawner cited the city’s work with Gov. Greg Abbott, who waived some rules so the city’s cleanup efforts proceeded more quickly.
“We wanted to make sure that we could get some semblance of order in our community while other cities were figuring out what to do,” Brawner said. “We had the trucks.”
Brawner said the city has added additional emergency vehicles and equipment and said the city’s second fire station, already under construction when Harvey hit, is scheduled to open in the next few weeks.
City Administrator Byron Hebert said most of Katy’s tax revenues come from sales taxes, which have increased thanks to the addition of Buc-ee’s, the Amazon distribution center, the Costco distribution center, and the American Warehouse Furniture warehouse on the western side of Katy.
Renovations to the Katy Mills Mall, begun last year, are also helping drive sales tax revenues as customers rediscover their shopping options there and in the surrounding area.
The surrounding area includes the forthcoming Katy Boardwalk. The Katy City Council on Monday approved an agreement in which the developer, KBH Ventures, would manage the hotel and convention center on the site. KBH Ventures will build the hotel, to become a Hyatt Regency, while the city will donate money for the building of the convention center.
City Tourism and Marketing Director Reina said a challenge was how to pursue this development while maintaining the qualities that make Katy unique. She described a renovation project for the Katy Square across the street from Katy City Hall. The project, approved by the council last April, will include the creation of a visitor center, civic center, outdoor museum, public restroom, and open space.
The iconic water tower standing on the square will remain, but only for decorative and historical purposes. It will no longer be used for city water purposes as it is now, and will be surrounded by a small, fenced-in public area that will feature photos and plaques of Katy’s history.
Much of the old city hall building will be razed to create the square, the design for which is based on a historical layout from the early 20th century. Reina said the goal is to have it completed before the Katy Rice Festival this fall.
The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the luncheon at the Embassy Suites, 16435 Katy Freeway. A chamber official said 233 people attended the luncheon.