Local News Headlines–5/28/2015

All state highways in Brazos County are passable following Monday’s flooding rains. But that doesn’t mean all roads are passable. Chief Deputy Jim Stewart of the Brazos County sheriff’s office reminds motorists to not remove barricades from closed roads. Michelle Meade at the county’s emergency management office says rainfall from upstream will continue to keep rivers and creeks at high levels for several days even if storms don’t return. County officials continue to collect damage reports to determine if they qualify for state or federal assistance.

A special meeting of the Texas A&M system board of regents included personnel actions on the flagship campus. The regents selected a new Vice President of Student Affairs. Doctor Danny Pugh has been at the University of Arkansas as the vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students. The board also approved authorizing President Michael Young to appoint a new Dean of the College of Science and to execute new contracts with men’s basketball associate head coach Rick Stansbury and seven football assistant coaches.

The state legislature has advanced three bills affecting Blinn College written by Representative John Raney of Bryan. One is expanding Blinn’s board of trustees with two members for four years from Brazos County. Raney says the budget includes a provision that state funding for Blinn will be divided based on student contact hours in Bryan and Brenham. And community colleges statewide will be required to post on their websites how revenue is spent by campus location.

And, researchers at a Texas A&M Health Science Center institute in Houston have received a state grant of nearly $6-million. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awarded a grant designed to repurpose drugs already approved by the F-D-A to create new cancer treatments. The research involves using existing drugs on their own in new ways or combined with other drugs, natural products, or compounds. This is the largest of three grants given to the center by C-PRIT; a state agency which went through reorganization a year ago following a scandal over its handling of prior grants.

Local News Headlines–5/27/2015

Brazos County officials are now collecting damage assessments from Monday night’s flooding rains. Michelle Meade at the county’s emergency management office says there were very few calls to 9-1-1 dispatchers from homeowners reporting property damage. Meade says they have to meet a minimum damage threshold of $700,000. Property damage reports from the floods can be filed by calling 979-821-1011.

A joint meeting of the Bryan city council and planning and zoning commission yesterday came to an abrupt end after councilmen Al Saenz and Rafael Pena brought up disparaging remarks against them and public speakers last year by the P and Z’s former chairman. The councilmen were told by an assistant city attorney that was not part of the agenda. When they continued, Mayor Jason Bienski got up and left the meeting stating he was not going to be part of an illegal meeting. Following the mayor out of the conference room in the city hall basement were councilmen Art Hughes and Chuck Konderla. P and Z chairman Scott Hickle then adjourned the meeting.

The College Station school district has announced two administrator changes. The principal at A&M Consolidated Middle School, Nkrumah Dixon, is C-S-I-S-D’s new human resources coordinator. And the new Middle School principal is Jeff Mann, who will be moving from Oakwood Intermediate. The principal position at Oakwood will be filled at a later date.

And, with heavy rains, flooding and tornadoes causing evacuations across the state, Leiha White of Aggieland Humane Society reminds you to have a plan in place for yourself and your pet. White recommends not waiting until the last minute to refill a prescription or buy more pet food if you are running low. White says they keep an evolving plan in place for disasters both locally and out of town if they are called upon to help house animals.

Local News Headlines–5/26/2015

One person is dead and six injured from a tornado that swept through the Pettibone community in Milam County yesterday. The dead man, whose identity has not yet been release by authorities, is described as being in his late 50’s. 10 to 15 homes were damaged in the community located between Cameron and Buckholts. The National Weather Service is calling for a good chance for more rainstorms today.

Blinn College trustees asked administrators during their recent meeting about the city of Bryan’s assistance in developing the school’s new campus at F-M 2818 and Leonard Road. Facilities director Richard O’Malley says they are in contact with city officials but no agreements have been reached. Bryan mayor Jason Bienski says the area is already served by city utilities. Bienski says the city will be working with TxDOT about getting in and out of the new campus since it’s at the intersection of two state highways. Bienski looks for development around the new campus to include retail stores.

Many were in attendance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Downtown Bryan for a Memorial Day Ceremony performed by VFW Post 4692. Representative Bill Flores of Bryan noted safety and security as some of the many benefits provided by the sacrifice of American servicemen and women. The ceremony was moved inside the Clara B. Mounce Library due to weather.

And, about $125 in tax savings could be coming as soon as this year for Texas homeowners. The Texas House has approved a Senate plan for property tax relief. Texas House and Ways Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen is rather lukewarm in his endorsement of the Senate plan for tax relief which includes raising the homestead exemption $15,000 to $25,000. The state House had approved tax relief for all by cutting the state sales tax rate. Raising the homestead exemption will need voter approval in November.

Local News Headlines–5/25/2015

Last week the Governor signed legislation that prevents cities and counties from enacting fracking bans. That comes as the city of College Station just revised their ordinance. City Manager Kelly Templin says after the eight month revision process they are happy with the new ordinance, but the language of House Bill 40 is troubling. Templin says the problem is the language of the bill is too vague. Templin says he believes their regulations are commercially reasonable, but is concerned that the wording opens up municipalities in Texas to lawsuits.

The state budget committee has finalized a budget that will go to the House and Senate for a vote. Senator Charles Schwertner says the new budget cuts the franchise tax for business owners, which is 25-percent off the current rate. Schwertner says, however, there is no sales tax relief in the proposed budget. And, an item that was crossed off the budget was a rider that would ban state money from being used to build a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

Congress has extended the state’s Highway Trust Funding to the end of July. U-S Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan says the extension will give them a chance to work on a longer term transportation bill. Flores says the extension is not a solution guarantee but he says it seems like Congress is willing to work on a bi-partisan basis to get something done.

And, two local men died in an accident early Sunday morning near the Bryan municipal golf course that police suspect involved drunk driving. The driver was identified as 30-year-old Mariano Velazquez of College Station and his passenger, 26-year-old Bryon Tumax of Bryan. Investigators say Velazquez was driving at a high rate of speed on a dead end street, Fairway Drive, when his car went airborne over Wellborn Road and struck a retaining wall. An officer was pursuing the vehicle at two in the morning for suspected drunk driving on South College, headed south toward Villa Maria. Investigators say the officer wanted to make the traffic stop after seeing the car swerve into the turning lane with other vehicles present. At the crash scene, investigators found what was described as additional evidence of possible intoxication.

Local News Headlines–5/20/2015

Blinn College trustees have selected a new district president and have taken the next steps on the new campus in west Bryan. The new president, in charge of all four Blinn campuses, is Dr. Mary Hensley of Austin Community College. Doctor Hensley starts July first and was given a three year contract. Her salary and other details are still being negotiated. Trustees also selected separate firms to do a master plan and a traffic study for the new campus at FM 2818 and Leonard Road. During that discussion, chief financial officer Kelli Shomaker said the college should be able to issue $50-million of bonds. Trustees were told the traffic study and the master plan are supposed to be done in time for groundbreaking of the first building this January. Trustees and administrators hope to have streets, utilities, and a building holding two thousand students ready to go in the fall of 2017.

An autopsy has been done on the Brazos County jail inmate who was found dead in his cell Monday. Sheriff Chris Kirk says preliminary findings show no signs of physical injuries to Dennis Wayne Brown III. Kirk says additional tests to determine the cause of death could take 60 to 90 days to be completed. Brown was awaiting trial on capital murder and other charges when he was found unresponsive in his single man cell.

Six months after a local delegation spent time in Europe to help dedicate a new World War II museum, a trip has been made to the twin cities from the consulate general of Belgium. Bryan mayor Jason Bienski said at the last city council meeting that close to one hundred Belgian businesses have inquired about locating to Bryan and College Station. Bienski said some Bryan companies have opened offices in the Wallonia region of Belgium, the current home of the Aggies Go To War Exhibit.

And, the death of a Bryan man last year that was originally charged as a murder turned into a plea agreement on a reduced offense. The victim’s roommate, 49-year-old Inez Busby, was sentenced to 15 years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Busby admitted to stabbing 54-year-old Raymond Lockett during a disturbance at his apartment, where she was living after losing her home to a fire. Brazos County Assistant District Attorney John Briggs says self defense issues were raised after interviewing witnesses following Busby’s arrest. Busby will serve at least half the time before she becomes eligible for parole.

Local News Headlines–5/19/2015

The Bryan man charged with murdering one woman and is suspected of killing a second has returned to jail. 29-year-old Danny Diaz was released from a local hospital yesterday afternoon after three days of treatment for undisclosed reasons. Diaz was arrested for stabbing and dismembering 26-year-old Ashley Garcia and is suspected of striking his girlfriend, 30-year-old Vanessa Gonzales, with his car. In addition to being held on a murder charge, Diaz is also accused of violating probation from convictions associated with plea agreements he made in 2013 for marijuana possession and evading arrest with previous convictions.

A Madisonville man held in the Brazos County jail on various charges, including the capital murder of a Bryan woman and her father last year, has died. 35-year-old Dennis Wayne Brown the third was being held in a one-man cell in the administrative segregation section of the detention center. Sheriff Chris Kirk says after Brown was found unresponsive on his bunk, their medical personnel and Bryan E-M-T’s performed C-P-R for 40 minutes. Kirk says there was no cause of death immediately apparent. Brown was awaiting trial on charges he set a Bryan home on fire in April 2014, killing Noel Devin and her father, Thomas “Mac” Devin. The sheriff says they will submit reports to the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Additionally, the Texas Rangers will be conducting their own investigation.

The Bryan school board banned public comments last night from supporters of the former Bryan High band director. Board president David Stasny told each of the nine people to signed up to speak they would do so behind closed doors. When the board returned, no action was taken and they proceeded to the next agenda item. Former director Robert Towell, who was reassigned to teach music at Mitchell Elementary, was at the meeting but was not part of the executive session. In another personnel matter, the board hired a new principal at Johnson Elementary. Taking over for Carol Happ, who is retiring, is Johnson assistant principal Amy Newbold.

And, the College Station city council has delayed action on building a hike and bike trail from Lick Creek Park to Creek View Park, part of a bond package approved by voters seven years ago.  James Benham made the motion for staff to look into the possibility of using some of the money to go into street repairs. If the contract were to be approved, the project budget would have $700,000 available.

Local News Headlines–5/18/2015

A Bryan man remains in a local hospital, where he was arrested Friday for the murders of two women he knew. Officials have not released the condition of 29-year-old Danny Diaz, who was transported from the jail after falling ill with an undisclosed ailment. According to the arrest report, Diaz had a deep cut to the palm of his left hand among other injuries to both hands and arms. Diaz is accused striking his girlfriend, 30-year-old Vanessa Gonzales, with his car on Weedon Loop east of Bryan and stabbing 26-year-old Ashley Garcia whose body was found west of Bryan near the intersection of Sandy Point Road and F-M 2818. According to a news release from the Brazos County sheriff’s office, autopsies revealed both women died of significant trauma and injury that were intentionally inflicted. Authorities were able to place tents over the crime scene before rains began Friday morning to protect evidence.

The city of Bryan has started collecting opinions about the design of the new pool in Sadie Thomas Park. City councilman Al Saenz reported at last week’s meeting the old pool, which was shut down seven years ago, will be demolished. In addition Saenz’s update at last week’s meeting, the city has started an online survey showing two concepts. One brings back the traditional rectangular shape with a gradual change in depth. The other is a leisure style pool with zero entry, some spray features, a small slide, and an area of water up that’s only three and a half feet deep. Dates have not been set for public meetings.

And, ice cream giant Blue Bell announced Friday they are laying off or furloughing almost 3,000 employees. About 250 Brenham employees were let go with another 300 placed on furlough. Additionally, Blue Bell C-E-O Paul Kruse said Friday salary cuts are also being made. Blue Bell Ice Cream has been linked to 10 cases of listeria illness nationwide include three deaths in Kansas. Blue Bell is currently undergoing an extensive and expensive replacement and upgrade of its production equipment.

Local News Headlines–5/15/2015

Suddenlink cable customers are being notified of a new all-digital T-V lineup starting June 9th. Some have seen a message crawling on the bottom of their televisions. Suddenlink spokesman Gene Ragan says the change will require some customers to get additional equipment. Ragan says some customers will need to get a digital adaptor to receive the new channel lineup. He says if you can see the messages crawling on the bottom of your screen your television needs the Suddenlink adaptor. 60 new channels, including nearly 30 in H-D, is part of the infrastructure that later this year will allow Suddenlink to offer gigabit internet service in Bryan/College Station.

Adequate diagnosis and treatment for mental illness is an issue throughout the country. Senator Charles Schwertner says people with mental illness need to be addressed and properly cared for. Schwertner says it is vital to develop and maintain an adequate mental health provider network. Schwertner says local mental health authorities are doing a good job, but we should to continue putting money into those entities to make sure people are getting the help they need.

Blue Bell has taken the next step towards resuming production following contamination from listeria bacteria. The ice cream maker has announced reaching voluntary agreements with agencies in two of three states where Blue Bell has plants. Carrie Williams with the Texas Department of Health says the ground rules have been set for what needs to be done to resume production. Williams says Blue Bell must notify them at least two weeks before production resumes so the state can do a full assessment. There will be trial production runs with tests conducted by the state and the company. In Texas and Oklahoma, Blue Bell will also institute a “test and hold” program to assure that products are safe before they are shipped or sold. President Paul Kruse said Blue Bell “will continue to work cooperatively and transparently with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration”. Blue Bell has also started discussions with Alabama officials to reopen their plant in that state.

And, traffic in and out of Northgate during yesterday afternoon’s commute was slowed with the closure of the westbound University exit to Wellborn. According to the College Station fire department, 23 five-gallon buckets of what was thought to be stucco material spilled onto the pavement. The roadway was shut down to clean up the spillage.

Local News Headlines–5/14/2015

College Station police has learned from several residents about receiving what turned out to be false text messages, alerting them about a potential threat and advising them to stay in their homes. Police report they don’t send texts. Emergency information is distributed through the city’s online services and notifying the local media. Investigators are still looking for the source of the bogus messages.

The annual trip by members of the B-C-S Chamber of Commerce to Washington D-C again included interaction with leaders of the House and Senate. Chamber board chairman Rich White says there is more optimism. House Speaker John Boehner told White he is feeling a stronger sense of optimism and positive outlook more so than he ever has. White was encouraged by congressional plans for transportation and changes in federal health insurance.

The Bryan city council has endorsed a fundraising idea requested by the Downtown Bryan Association. Councilman Chuck Konderla talked about brick pavers to benefit the Queen Theater. The pavers will be set in front of the Queen as well as in the center median of Main between 26th and 27th.

And, Brazos Valley law enforcement officers gathered for the 28th time at Veterans Park to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. Last year, 11 in Texas were among the 126 around the country who died. Bryan Police Chief Eric Buske called on his fellow officers to work hard to not add more names to the list. Through the first five months of this year there have been 44 deaths nationwide.

Local News Headlines–5/13/2015

A unanimous Bryan city council Tuesday night approved a new skatepark at Williamson Park. The vote extends a contract the city made with a firm last year to proceed with what’s called a “design build” project. The configuration of the new skatepark will be finalized following public meetings. No construction timeline has been set.

The first leg of Blinn College’s Bryan campus expansion has been completed. The move to new administration offices in the Tejas Center means students can take a free shuttle to and from the Villa Maria campus. At the last Blinn board of trustees meeting, construction director Richard O’Malley said the cost of the first phase of renovation work went up from $4.5 to $4.8-million due to some government mandated requirements. Recent rains have not slowed down demolition inside the administration building, which will be the new home of the bookstore. Blinn’s website includes a separate section devoted to the $10-million project on the Villa Maria campus.

Someone opposed to the Bryan school district’s recent reassignment of the Bryan High band director spoke at last night’s city council meeting. Cooper McCall, who is an assistant drum major, asked Mayor Jason Bienski to issue a proclamation honoring Robert Towell. Following applause, the mayor told McCall they would be in touch.

And, a Bryan man who has been in jail a year and a half on multiple charges of violent crimes has reached a plea agreement. 55-year-old Isaiah Young Junior admitted to the aggravated sexual assault of a young man in November 2013. The victim said he was pulled off his bicycle while riding home from Consolidated High School. Young also admitted to forcing a 17-year-old with what the victim thought was a gun to take off his clothes while Young took photos. A charge of aggravated kidnapping related to the March 2013 incident in Bryan was dismissed. Young, who College Station police identified as a registered sex offender, will have to serve at least half of a 50 year prison sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.