Around La Porte's Mother of the May Issue
For the month of May, Around La Porte chose to celebrate Mother’s Day by interviewing one of La Porte’s finest (mothers that is).Although we would have loved to have had the opportunity to sit down and interview every mother in La Porte for this month, we simply didn’t have the space. The following is from an interview of Florine Wheler, 63 year resident of La Porte, TX.
Born in Oklahoma (although we won’t hold that against her), Florine Wheeler moved to La Porte with her husband and two young children in 1950. They moved, she says simply, “for work.” Although Florine did not work herself while her youngest child (Jimmy) was growing up, she would eventually end up working at one of La Porte’s previous historical storefronts: Edson’s Dry Goods.
The 1950’s were a different time in La Porte and American in general. Florine, reflecting on her decades of experience in the retail industry, is quick to note changes in one of the most mundane tasks of life: shopping for groceries. When Florine was managing Edson Dry Goods in La Porte, they “used to wait on customers the moment they walked in the door. And would help them with anything until they checked out,” Florine remembered. “These days, people walk in and walk out. There’s no interaction.”
The original owners of Edson’s Dry Goods would eventually sale the business, and with it, Florine’s job. Interestingly enough, one of Florine’s coworkers, Joy Smith, ended up with the building Edson’s occupied and is the location of where Hugh’s Office Supply would eventually end up.
Florine went on to manage multiple departments at Montgomery Wards. First fabric, and then cosmetics. When asked if she still consulted friends on make-up and style, she laughed and joked, “no but they may need to help me out!”
When asked to describe his mother, her son Jimmy had this to say:
“My Mom is a very independent lady. On one of our more recent adventures, Mom swung by and said “get in the car”. When I asked where are we going? She said “we are going to buy me a NEW car”. On the way home I said, Mom you know you won’t need a new inspection sticker until you are 91, we laughed.” He added: “she’s a real Astro’s fan and plans trips to the games for senior citizens. One night she fainted in the stands. Her friend thought she had died when she was taken to the EMS station at the Astrodome.They wanted to transport her to the hospital, but she said “I’m not missing the game!”Today, Florine is nearing 90 years of age. Her time in La Porte has been spent running committees at her long-time church, First Baptist on Broadway, and working with AARP for over 24 years. Along with those positions, Florine has had the opportunity to help offer grants funded and provided by the La Porte Literary Club to graduating La Porte High School students seeking nursing degrees. And like many longtime La Porte community members, she’s never missed a musical at La Porte High School.
Throughout it all, like so many countless La Porte mothers before her and surely after her, she raised a family. A family that has grown to five great-grandchildren and loves their mother/grandmother/great-grandmother dearly. When we asked Florine what best advice she had for raising a family, she responded that she “really doesn’t know.”
“I kept my children in church, pushed them in school and did my best to stay busy,” she reflected. “I guess it worked.”
Her family agrees. And so do we here at Around La Porte.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the La Porte Moms out there. We consider you La Porte’s finest and salute your infinite service to our community. Many of us wouldn’t be here without you (literally).
Aging Infrastructure Plagues La Porte
45% of the City of La Porte’s waterlines and 64% of the City’s concrete streets are more than 40-years old and are need of repair or replacement, according to recent reports compiled by city staff.
At the March 25th Council meeting, Public Works Director David Mick presented Council with substantial information concerning the amount of repair or replacement needed and the cost.
According to the report, a total of 83 miles of city waterlines were identified as more than 40 years old. A significant percentage of these aging waterlines consist of asbestos concrete (AC) pipe, which is known to have a substantially higher failure rate after 30 years of age. The cost to remove and replace the 83 miles of the 185-mile water main system is estimated at $50 million. Currently, city workers are replacing a portion of the mains each year with an annual contract goal to replace additional 2-miles of waterline per year.
Along with the waterlines, an estimated $7 million is needed to replace 10 of the city’s 40-year old or older lift stations, which pumps wastewater or sewage from lower to higher elevation. Staff is envisioning a potential $7-million to $10-million bond project in three to five years to construct a large diameter sanitary sewer extension designed to take perhaps up to six of these lift stations offline. Staff plans to initiate a Preliminary Engineering Report to assess the feasibility and cost of this project.
In September, City Council authorized a $28,670 contract with HDR engineering to inspect and rate all city-maintained roadways. Of the City’s 70 linear miles of concrete streets, almost two-thirds are over 40 years of age, the approximate value estimated at $68 million. Some of the neighborhood streets identified as in need of repair include Roseberry, Scotchmoss, and Somerton, among others. Seeking to lower costs, city staff suggested in the report providing asphalt overlay over existing concrete streets, which will help extend the life of the roads ten to twenty years. However, the look of existing subdivision streets would significantly change.
Public Works Director David Mick presented to Council a proposal to increase monthly water bills by $1.50 per 1000 gallons, in the form of a capital improvement fee, to generate approximately $2 million-a-year, offsetting some of the cost to replace the city’s waterlines. The average residential household consumes approximately 6,000 gallons, resulting in a possible fee hike of about $9.00 a month. After receiving a cool response from Council, staff agreed to discuss available funding options for both utilities and streets at the budget retreat.
At the April 13th budget retreat, David Mick expressed the need for a 5-year comprehensive capital improvement plan for the city that would consider streets, utilities, drainage, and other needs. The idea of a capital improvement fee was revisited along with other payment options, including issuing debt, for the estimated $2-million a year needed for utilities. Council will revisit the issue once staff ascertains the approximate availability of funds in the general and utility funds.