Local News Headlines–4/28/2015

The groundwork continues for more student housing around Texas A&M.  Last week, the College Station city council approved a new high density classification in Northgate that will allow up to six unrelated occupants per unit, as long as each person has their own bedroom. Developer Greg Jasper says the rental cost per bedroom in a six bedroom unit is half the rent of a one-bedroom unit making it the most attractive option for students. The council recently approved for Northgate an eight floor complex with between 700 and 800 beds and enough parking for each bed and retail customers. And, the Texas A&M system board of regents might take action following executive session tomorrow on leasing 55 acres of land at an undisclosed location in Brazos County for more housing that would be controlled by the flagship campus. This is in addition to the 4,000 beds being built or completed on west campus.

Every year the U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports how College Station-Bryan compares to the national average in occupational employment and wages. The annual report looks at 22 major occupational groups and more than 300 detailed jobs in the greater College Station metropolitan area.  The mean wage for all occupations was $20.09 per hour, which is below the national average of $22.71. But, Economist Cheryl Abbott says there was one category that did stand out. Abbott says the mean hourly wage for the Education, Training and Library group is 27 percent higher than the national average.

And, two years ago, lawmakers committed an extra $300-million to the treatment of mental health problems. Now the state legislature is poised to put an additional $250-million into mental health resources, but there may not be enough doctors available to offer treatment. Senator Charles Schwertner, whose district includes Brazos County, says that’s why offering a loan repayment assistance program is key. The state senate approved the bill which will give doctors up to $160,000 to pay off loans in exchange for up to five years of service. The bill now heads to the house.

Local News Headlines–4/27/2015

Blinn College has announced four finalists for district president, who is responsible for campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Sealy, and Schulenburg. One of the candidates is Blinn’s president in Bryan, Sylvia McMullen. The other finalists are also from community colleges, located in Austin, in New Jersey, and Minnesota. Each of them will be on the Bryan and Brenham campuses the week after next for open forums.

A candidate for the office of mayor in the City of Brenham turned himself in Friday and was charged with indecent exposure by Brenham Police. An arrest warrant had been issued Thursday for Dr. Gary Gabriel who is accused of exposing himself to a woman in his chiropractor office in late March. The 62-year-old Gabriel is running again incumbent mayor Milton Tate in the May 9th election.

Promises made the last couple of years about the new Kyle Field were repeated again during the latest update from Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and project representatives. They said once again that construction is on time and on budget, there are enough women’s restrooms, and there will be enough cell phone capacity for texts and photos and social media. Greg McClure of Manhattan-Vaughn Construction says they’re working from south to north along the west side, with the first of the three story cluster columns going up next week. Sharp says the electrical system will be activated May 15th, the air conditioning June 15th, the installation of the grass field July first, the completion of the westside canopy July 15th, and the elevators and escalators August 15th. And, Tim Lomax of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says the chancellor has given $1-million to replace traffic signal controllers around College Station. Lomax also says they’re still looking for a couple of additional locations for the shuttle bus service. The main site of “Get to the Grid” will be at American Momentum Bank at University and Copperfield.

And, the College Station city council has directed staff to develop regulations to allow a group of food trucks to park on the same lot. James Benham pushed the idea of the food truck park at University and South College at the home of the former Albertson’s store. John Nichols raised more than once to Benham the concern of protecting brick and mortar restaurants. Benham has seen food truck parks in Portland and other cities. Food truck owner Derek Barre says he is negotiating with the property owner to manage the lot. No date has been set for when the council will consider final action.

Local News Headlines–4/24/2015

For the second time this month, a delegation from Blinn College was in Austin to appear before the House Higher Education committee. Wednesday night, the subject was a bill filed in both the House and Senate where the Brazos County Commission would appoint two residents to the Blinn board of trustees. The sponsor of House Bill 2621 is John Raney of Bryan. The president of Blinn’s Bryan campus, Doctor Sylvia McMullen, who was the only other speaker, told the committee about the Brazos County advisory committee. No action was taken by the committee.

Tomorrow, the spring Household Hazardous Waste and Computer Collection Event will be hosted by Twin Oaks Landfill. Events Specialist, Micaela Farrington-Aguilar says there are a number of items you can drop off for safe disposal. She says recycling items such as computers, batteries and paint is important to human health. Farrington-Aguilar says they are also taking old books for the books and a blanket book drive. The event is from 7 am to 2 pm at the Texas A&M Services Building parking lot on Harvey road east of Highway 6.

Two state senators who represent the Brazos Valley have been named to the conference committee that will work out the next state budget. They are Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, whose district includes Brazos County, and Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham. Also appointed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick are finance committee chair Jane Nelson of Flower Mound and senators Joan Huffman of Houston and Chuy Hinojosa of McAllen. The House representatives have not been announced by speaker Joe Straus.

And, M-S-C OPAS has announced the lineup of events for its 43rd season starting this September. Executive Director Anne Black says within the broad group of programs is a focus on family entertainment. The schedule will include at least one more event that will be announced very soon that’s described as “starring an American legend”. Tickets go on sale to the general public May 28th.

Local News Headlines–4/23/2015

Multiple Bryan police officers were involved in tracking down a citizen’s report of gunfire yesterday afternoon in the area of Villa Maria and Cavitt. Sergeant Ryan Bona says they found someone target shooting with a handgun into a creekbed behind Shipwreck Grill. That resulted in a Bryan resident receiving a ticket for illegal discharge of a firearm. Bona said they were notified by concerned citizens who saw two men reacting to the shots fired and called to report suspicious activity. The two men were an off duty deputy and a person who has a concealed handgun license.

The Texas House this week passed legislation to allow open carry of firearms. District 12 Representative John Raney was among those supporting House Bill 910. Also voting yes was District 14 Representative Kyle Kacal. The state senate previously approved open carry, which is also supported by Governor Abbott.

Action at Tuesday night’s College Station school board meeting included the next projects approved by voters in the November 2013 bond issue. The board set the guaranteed maximum price for deferred maintenance at College Station Middle School and Rock Prairie Elementary, which is $305,000 under the district’s planning amount. C-S-I-S-D spokesman Chuck Glenewinkel says work at Rock Prairie continues what was started last year including new interior and exterior wall coverings and the replacement of window sills. The focus at College Station Middle School is improvement of their drainage issues. There was also a status report of all the 2013 bond projects in the pipeline.

And, Texas A&M is holding a reception for the retiring first lady of Aggieland next week. The reception for Reveille eight will be held at the alumni center next Wednesday from four until six. On Saturday, May 9th, the Corps of Cadets has its final review, which will be the first official appearance for Reveille nine.

Local News Headlines–4/21/2015

Progress continues on designing the major pieces of the Bryan school district’s $132-million issue passed by voters last November. The school board was told last night by the district’s new Director of Construction Services, Jeff Windsor, that they’re fitting what needs to be done at the Civic Auditorium within their budget. And, responding to taxpayer inquiries, Superintendent Tommy Wallis says the front of the new Sul Ross will be facing towards the intersection of Villa Maria and Briarcrest. In personnel actions, former Navarro principal and current director of bilingual education Marilyn Rosas will retire in September. The board hired Wanda Baker from Cy-Fair to start July first. And, the assistant principal at Mary Catherine Harris, Todd Hopkins, has been promoted to principal on a permanent basis.

Bryan fire investigators spent the night looking for clues as to how three city trash trucks were destroyed and two others damaged by fire. Fire chief Randy McGregor says the trucks were parked near a fence about 25 feet from the city’s municipal services center. No one was injured, and city officials were working to get replacement trucks to avoid collection interruptions.

Texas A&M’s annual Muster program is this evening honoring Texas A&M students who have died during the past 12 months. This year’s speaker is newly elected congressman Will Hurd of San Antonio, who was student body president at the time of the bonfire collapse. Tonight’s program starts at seven in Reed Arena.

And, problems continue at the little creamery in Brenham. Blue Bell ice cream C-E-O Paul Kruse yesterday posted a video and a statement on the Blue Bell website. Kruse also announced a four point test and hold system before future productions leave the plant. Blue Bell has issued a voluntary recall of all its products currently on the market made at all of its facilities. That’s after finding listeria bacteria in half gallons of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on March 17th and 27th.

Local News Headlines–4/20/2015

The member of the Blinn College board of trustees who had been meeting with state lawmakers over proposed legislation placing new restrictions on school operations has resigned. Carolyn Miller, who is the city of Brenham’s chief financial officer, had served since 2011. State Representative John Raney of Bryan, who met with Miller multiple times, said he was “really disappointed” to hear about her decision. Raney also says he is amending House Bill 1903, restricting where Blinn revenue is spent to the campus where it’s generated, to include a sunset provision. Raney’s amendment would end the bill in ten years. The trustees will officially act on Miller’s resignation tomorrow night. The agenda also includes a legislative update, but nothing specifically addressing 1903 and House Bill 2621, which would add two Brazos County residents as appointed members of the Blinn board.

The College Station city council recently approved a housing developer’s request to build units where the maximum number of unrelated occupants was raised from four to six. That would be new construction in an area bordered by Harvey Mitchell, Jones-Butler, and the railroad tracks. Councilman John Nichols says there is another proposal to do the same thing at an existing complex in Northgate. The council takes up the new high-density housing designation in Northgate at Thursday night’s meeting. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval by a five to two margin.

And, the Texas House is expected to give final approval on its plan for open carrying of firearms today. That’s one of two legislative matters involving firearms being monitored at Texas A&M. Provost Karan Watson told the Faculty Senate at this month’s meeting the concerns of allowing concealed carry inside campus buildings comes from University Police and security. The House version of the bill would continue a ban on school campuses and where private property owners refuse.

Local News Headlines–4/17/2015

Before Texas A&M’s new President starts work May first, the A&M system Chancellor wants all the current Vice Presidents to submit letters of resignation. Chancellor John Sharp says the letter was his idea, and it was not requested by new President Michael Young. It’s an extension of what Sharp says is the courtesy done by the Provost when there’s a new President. And going forward, Sharp says the same practice will be done with new Presidents throughout the system as well as future Chancellors.

Yesterday’s special meeting of the College Station City Council, which was supposed to consider endorsing legislation written by State Representative John Raney affecting Blinn College, was cancelled at the lawmaker’s request. According to city officials, Raney’s office wants to revisit the wording of the resolution. That required the council to postpone consideration until a later date.

The Texas House is one vote away from passing a first ever reduction in the state sales tax. That’s different from what is being proposed in the state senate. Brazos County Senator Charles Schwertner isn’t sold on that idea, which would save a family of four $172 a year. He favors two other ideas, one being a reduction of property taxes for homeowners by raising by the property tax exemption. Schwertner also wants tax cuts for small business owners, who provide the most jobs in the state.

The Bryan City Council has taken the next step towards creating a Health and Wellness Area. The council at this week’s meeting unanimously passed a resolution for the future development around 29th and Villa Maria. Mike Southerland, whose district includes the area, wants to protect private property rights. Art Hughes says private property owners would benefit from the designation. The health and wellness area also includes Blinn College and the residences and businesses around 29th and Villa Maria.

Local News Headlines–4/16/2015

A new pool at Bryan’s Sadie Thomas Park is scheduled to open for the start of swimming season next year. None of the three construction contracts considered by the city council included completion this year. Rafael Pena blamed the delay on waiting for a free review of all four city pools last summer which did not take place. The council hired a consultant, which led to a decision to spend $1.5-million on all four city pools. The project does not include the cost of demolishing the pool that was closed in 2008 or tearing down the bathhouse.

The College Station city council is holding a special meeting today to consider endorsing legislation involving Blinn College. That’s in part after the House Higher Education Committee unanimously passed House Bill 1903, written by John Raney of Bryan, which would limit where revenue is spent based on the campus it was generated. And, Raney takes issue with those who believe Washington County owns Blinn because they pay property taxes to Blinn saying the state gives 20 times the money to Blinn as they collect each year in taxes. Raney says next week, the committee will take up another bill he wrote calling for the Blinn board of trustees to add two appointed members from Brazos County. That legislation was also filed by the state senator who represents Bryan, Charles Schwertner, and Lois Kolkhorst, who represents Brenham.

And, an armed robbery report College Station police received from two homeless women last month turned out to be a hoax. That led to both being arrested for filing a false police report. According to the arrest report, 39-year-old Denise Lopez and 53-year-old Dora Gilmore admitted to being angry at a woman who had let them stay at her apartment for not letting them stay longer. They had also received clothing and a cell phone before being kicked out.

Local News Headlines–4/15/2015

Texas A&M has announced the new location of their football fan shuttle bus service. “Get to the Grid” will be based at Momentum Plaza at University and Copperfield. Officials at the flagship campus, the A&M System, and the city of College Station thanked Don Adam of American Momentum Bank and the Adam Corporation for offering the use of more than one thousand parking spaces in a lighted location. That’s about half the number occupied by fans who parked at the mall last year. A university spokesman says additional parking will be available on-campus to make up the difference.

Most of last night’s Bryan city council meeting was debate over funding this year’s Texas Reds Festival. The $110,000 request from the Downtown Bryan Association passed on a four to two vote. Joining Jason Bienski in voting for the request were Art Hughes, Chuck Konderla, and Al Saenz who considers it an investment in the arts. Another divided vote involved Bryan’s new Senior Advisory Committee. Mayor Jason Bienski moved to make the committee report to the parks and recreation board instead of the council. Rafael Pena, who wanted the senior committee to report to the council, said he voted with the mayor only to go ahead and create the advisory body. The committee will be made up of between six and 16 Bryan residents who are at least 55 years old.

Tomorrow morning’s special meeting of the Bryan city council has been cancelled, due to an unexplained conflict that arose after notice of the meeting was given on Monday. The council was to consider three proposed state laws regarding Blinn College. State senators representing Bryan and Brenham have co-sponsored a House bill written by John Raney. Charles Schwertner and Lois Kolkhorst also support the appointment of two Brazos County residents to Blinn’s board of trustees.

And, the southern boundary of College Station is expanding again. The city council’s approval of annexing 233 acres bordered by Wellborn Road, Royder Road, and Greens Prairie Trail followed more opposition by affected property owners in the Wellborn community. Carl Hattaway expressed his opposition to the council of the annexation. And, Susan Marty has urged the council to build sewer lines and hire more police officers. City sewer lines won’t be built, according to what the council passed, “until such time development and/or redevelopment warrants the extension”.

Local News Headlines–4/14/2015

Texas A&M is no longer considering Veterans Park as a location for its “Get to the Grid” football shuttle bus service. That was the first thing Provost Karan Watson announced at yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting. Doctor Watson said alternative sites should be decided by the end of the week. City of College Station officials say they were not aware of Doctor Watson’s comments.

The Bryan city council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday morning to consider endorsing state legislation regarding Blinn College. Mayor Jason Bienski said last week he was disappointed Blinn’s board of trustees did not agree to a proposed compromise with state representative John Raney of Bryan. The council will decide whether to back Raney’s bill calling for revenue generated on the Bryan campus to be spent in Bryan and a second bill that would appoint two Brazos County residents to the Blinn board. That was also written by Raney, along with a companion Senate bill by Charles Schwertner, who represents Bryan, and Lois Kolkhorst, who represents Brenham. Bienski says Blinn officials have not asked the city for financial assistance towards its new west Bryan campus.

And, last month’s death of a College Station convenience store clerk who was assaulted and kidnapped before he died has spurred the city council to action. Mayor Nancy Berry met with Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons about requiring stores to have surveillance video. The city of Bryan already has the camera requirement being considered in College Station. The D-A has also met with assistant manager and former Police Chief Jeff Capps. And, Councilwoman Julie Schultz also wants the requirement to extend to check-cashing businesses.