One of the main participants in the sidewalk debates is James Andrews, a principal in the firm ARKK and the longtime City Engineer for the City of Bellaire. The Mayor recently explained that the City cannot afford a full-time engineer and so it contracts with ARKK for Mr. Andrews’ services.
ARKK has been hired as a contractor on all seven projects, styled as Group A, B, C and D, that are now in progress under the 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire. ARKK has been awarded over $2.5 million for the BBB2016 bond contracts. Simple math means more sidewalks = more contracts for ARKK. Click on the image at left.
A view of ARKK’s company biographies reveals that many of ARKK’s principals serve/consult with local city governments, which likely helps their business generate revenue.
At the August 20, 2018, Council meeting Mr. Andrews presented an overview of sidewalks. The meeting video can be accessed here (at the 2 hr 43 minutes mark).
From Mr. Andrews’ speech:
- He noted safety on busy thoroughfares. Sidewalk width – some cities in the area require 5 foot standard width, most examples provided include master planned communities; Bellaire residential areas have traditionally been 4 feet in width, with the exception of the 6 foot wide sidewalk along Horn Elementary. (Concerned Citizen’s note: Meyerland sidewalks, old and new construction, are 4 feet wide; West University’s are 4 foot or less, some with permeable surfaces.)
- A 2013 Sidewalk Assessment found that Bellaire had 52 miles of sidewalks throughout the City, another 66 miles of sidewalk gaps, and 70 miles of streets. If sidewalks were built on both sides of every street per City Council’s wishes, at least 118 miles of sidewalks remain to be built.
- Current costs per lineal foot range from $28 to $48 per lineal foot for 4 foot versus $ 30 to $60 per foot for 5 foot.
- He stated that sidewalks have nothing to do with our flooding, it is caused by clay soils which soak up initial rainfall but eventually become soaked and water is no longer absorbed. That our flooding is caused by too much rain and not enough outflow. Concerned Citizen’s note: this is absurd, unsupported by data, and is contrary to conventional thinking
If we are to believe Mr. Andrews’ view of covering permeable area with concrete, another 118 miles of 5 foot wide concrete sidewalks, which would cover over 71 acres at a cost of $28 million dollars, would have no effect on flooding in Bellaire.
Of note, the remaining 118 feet of sidewalk 5 ft. wide @ $45 per ft. versus the traditional 4ft wide @ $38 per ft. would generate an additional $4.4mm of potential revenue for contractors. (see exhibit below)
Exhibit: Bigger Sidewalks = Bigger Paychecks For Sidewalk Companies
Mr. Andrews provided zero corroborating work to show that more sidewalks do not impact flooding. He has not hired a hydrologist or produced a hydrology report and City Council has not commissioned an independent study. Interestingly, much of Houston’s flooding problems have been blamed on ‘urban sprawl’ – with additional concrete being cited as the primary driver from reputable news outlets such as the Washington Post, NPR, and The Atlantic