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City Council improves ambulance service, housing programs, and sale of “strike-

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At the regular meeting of Houston City Council April 23, the 48 items on the agenda, nearly all approved, took significant steps toward improving the lives of Houstonians in a variety of areas. The Fire Department will purchase $455,000 worth of audio-video equipment for ambulances which will allow a doctor on call to view persons who call an ambulance to determine if urgent care is necessary, and rule out transporting callers who abuse the system rather than seek ordinary care. The measure was approved unanimously without discussion, but Council Member Christie, a retired chiropractor, explained the importance of the measure. He stated that 70% of the emergency calls are unnecessary.(Item 7)

The Council also approved a resolution requesting the sheriff of Harris County and the Constables to proceed with the sale of properties held in trust due to tax delinquencies. The properties include “strike-offs”, which are buildings that have been abandoned where the owner has also failed to pay taxes and allowed foreclosure through tax liens. An inter-local agreement dated in 2000 between the City of Houston, Harris County, and the Houston independent School District creating a committee to establish the procedures. Today's resolution reduces the time needed to sell “strike-offs” and allows for the cost of demolition and other related costs to be added to the lien. (Item 12). Mayor Parker further elaborated on the new procedure in her press conference.

Another item concerned new rules for naming and addressing streets in Houston. This topic was the subject of a pubic hearing and Mayor's report two weeks ago. The issue is that inconsistencies in names and addresses arise when different authorities, such as the City of Houston and the US Postal Service, and private developers have different procedures. Problems can have an impact on GPS mapping, mail delivery, duplication and other issues. The item provides for amendments and corrections to Chapters 41 and 42 of the Code of Ordinances. (See Item 16)

The Council also approved funding and grants for several non-profits, including programs offering housing opportunities for persons with AIDS, adult vocational training, and supportive services. (See items 20-24).

Finally, a measure spending nearly $1 million for reforestation, funded primarily from the proceeds of a lawsuit against a developer who cut down valuable trees in the public right of way, will hire America Now, Inc dba Yes America Enterprises and Texan Tree Depot. (See item 45).

In other matters, Council held a public hearing on annexing 6 Municipal Utility Districts:

  1. Harris County Mud 61

  2. Harris County Mud 286

  3. Cinco Mud No 7

  4. Harris County Mud No 287

  5. Harris County Mud No 367

  6. Fort Bend County Mud No 30

No one from the public reserved time to speak concerning the annexations and no objections were noted by the administration or council. The matter will be the subject of an ordinance in a future meeting.

Four members were appointed to the Board of Public Trusts (Houston Foundation). Yvonne Cabral, Lenora Sorola-Pohlman, William Hill, and Bill Littlejohn. Ms. Sorola-Pohlman, well known for multiple areas of service, was present and graciously accepted the position.

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