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Mont Belvieu city manager delivers first State of the City

February 14, 2018

In what was City Manager Nathan Watkins’ first State of the City address since taking the position, he said Mont Belvieu is growing both commercially and residentially.

In 2017, Watkins said Mont Belvieu added nearly 16 homes a month, and said since 2010 they’ve doubled their population and even tripled the population since 2001.

“It’s really about growth in Mont Belvieu,” said Watkins. “For 2018 we have more planning and growth coming.”

With growth comes the need for residential subdivisions, and Mont Belvieu is in the process of developing six additional neighborhoods that include Lakes of Champions section 2B-2, Champions Gate section 3, Magnolia section 2, Reserves at Cottonwood Estates, Blue Heron and Wilburn Ranch West.

The city also invested in sidewalk connectivity, and Watkins said residents will be able to bike or walk on sidewalks in every single subdivision in the city, starting from Cherry Creek in the north going all the way to Cottonwood to the south, by the end of 2019.

“The residents speak and we listen, the businesses community speaks and we listen, and we try to address their needs,” said Watkins. “Once Eagle Drive was improved into four lanes we added sidewalks. Everyone expressed how much they enjoyed using them so we pursued grants to expand our sidewalk connectivity ordinance.”

One of the biggest additions to the Mont Belvieu, which the city has been working on since 2016, is offering residents high speed internet.

For years, many Mont Belvieu residents have complained about slow internet, and according to a citizen survey in 2016, 91 percent of residents and 100 percent of businesses believed that fast broadband is an essential service.

The city project will use fiber running through the ground from Capcon Networks to offer one-gigabit broadband connectivity. The project is costing the city about $14 million, and recently approved marketing it as MB Link, Mont Belvieu Fiber Network.

“We ended up having to sue the State of Texas for the right to do fiber broadband and serve 100 percent of the city,” said Watkins. “We were successful there and fully supported by the state and attorney general because they view broad band as critical infrastructure, just like water or sewer.”

Mont Belvieu has completed about 50 percent of construction involved with MB Link, and the hope is to have it ready by the end of summer.

“Whenever this rolls out by the end of the summer, Mont Belvieu will be the first city in the state of Texas to offer one gigabit broadband connectivity and one of the first cities in the entire United States to offer one gigabit broad connectivity to all of it’s businesses and residents,” said Watkins. “And it’s going to address a huge concern to me and the entire community.”

With the hire of a new MB Link Network engineer, the network is coming together as planned, according to Brian Ligon, the city’s communications director.

“Once the physical network is completed, we will be testing the system which will include a select group of beta testers that will start using the product in their home prior to the public launch of MB Link,” said Ligon.

The city is still working out the business model for MB Link but Watkins said it will likely cost between $60 and $70 a month.

At the State of the City, Watkins also highlighted these 2017 projects:

• The city’s new state-of-the-art Animal Shelter, which is a 3,500 square foot facility that can house up to 16 dogs and 12 cats and has the ability to expand to 4,200 square feet to serve the population of 30,000 that is expected by 2025.

• The new 87,000 square foot H-E-B that residents have been wanting for years, which is slated to open no later than April. It will also anchor 285,000 square feet of retail space that has room for 17 businesses. So far, a Taco Bell, Kactus Jack, Floyd’s Cajun Restaurant, Burger King and Popeye’s are expected to open in 2018.

• And the 12,050-square-foot senior center known as the Hilltop at Eagle Point that is slated to open in the fall.

The City of Mont Belvieu is also preparing to open a new Wismer Distributing center that is 186,000 square feet. The city will celebrate the opening with a parade featuring the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. The parade will start at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 24 and will go down Eagle Dr. from Perry Avenue.

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By Christopher James, Baytown Sun