Local News Headlines–7/24/2015

One person is dead, another is in the hospital, and a third is in custody following a chase Wednesday night that began in Brenham and ended on Highway 105 near the Brazos River. D-P-S trooper Jimmy Morgan says another trooper spotted a car driving erratically and none of the three occupants were wearing seat belts. Then the trooper learned the car was stolen from Brazos County. Morgan says the stolen vehicle lost control trying to avoid a road block set up by the D-P-S and struck a car that had pulled over. Morgan says the driver, 18-year-old Devon Frederick-Cross of Navasota, was arrested and taken to the Washington County jail following medical treatment. The passenger who was ejected and died was identified as 29-year-old Amelia Mejia of Waco. And, the other passenger who was ejected, 18-year-old Justin Garcia of Bryan, remains hospitalized in Brenham. Morgan says two people in the parked car were treated for injuries not believed to be life threatening.

A Bryan man with ties to Navasota and Houston has been added to the D-P-S ten most wanted fugitives list. There’s a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the capture of 19-year-old Roy Arevalo, Junior. D-P-S says the gang member is wanted for engaging in organized criminal activity.

The president and three vice presidents of the Houston Y-M-C-A are in the twin cities today at the invitation of a local steering committee that is interested in a branch location. A preview was given at last night’s College Station city council meeting. Leading the more than 30 member group is Councilman Karl Mooney. Among the questions was if the Y was expecting the city to pay what Mooney estimated was an $18 to 25-million facility. Mooney suggested the city might contribute by donating land for a Y facility. Mooney told the council the Y’s next step is deciding whether to spend $25,000 on a feasibility study. When asked if the city would be asked to help pay operational costs, Mooney suggested the Y could take over some city programs. The Y executives will meet with 20 local officials representing both cities, Texas A&M, Blinn College, the convention and visitor’s bureau, and local business owners. Mooney says private donations are covering the costs of today’s visit.

And, this Sunday, Still Creek Ranch will honor its co-founder and longtime co-director, Margaret O’Quinn. O’Quinn and her husband, Danny, founded Still Creek Ranch in 1988. They ran the home for abused, neglected and abandoned children for 24 years. O’Quinn passed away after being hospitalized for bacterial meningitis earlier this month. This Sunday, a memorial service is being held at the Brazos County Expo Center to honor O’Quinn’s life of service and generosity. The service is schedule for 2 pm.

Local News Headlines–7/23/2015

Two positions in the Bryan school district are getting $12,000 pay raises. The school board approved recommendations that the stipend for the band directors at Bryan and Rudder High be increased from $8,000 to $10,000. And, Deputy Superintendent Tim Rocka says both will be paid another $10,000 to ensure middle school band and orchestra students continue performing at the high school level. Another new position approved by the board, a certified executive chef for Bryan High’s culinary arts program, will receive $5,000. And, bilingual teachers will receive an additional $2,500 making their $6,000 stipend the highest for that position in this part of the state.

More supporters have been announced by those for and against high speed passenger rail service between Houston and Dallas. The new chief executive of Texas Central Railway, former investment and real estate executive Tim Keith, says they have raised $75-million for the bullet train. This comes after Montgomery County and the city of Magnolia formed a regional planning commission to monitor and work against any high speed rail projects that may cut through western Montgomery County. T-C-R’s current alignment puts the bullet train in Grimes County passing to the west of Todd Mission, Roans Prairie, and Singleton. Promoters are in their fifth year of developing a train that will get passengers between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes.

The Texas A&M Foundation has announced three major gifts to kick off funding a new music activities center. The $40-million complex is something the director of bands and music activities Timothy Rhea says has been discussed since he started 23 years ago. When opened in 2017, the center located at the corner of George Bush and Coke will include four rehearsal halls and other amenities to accommodate 14 band, orchestra, and choral groups that involve more than 1,300 students. Outside, there will be an artificial turf drill field for the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.

And, a prosecution witness in a Bryan murder trial earlier this year has pleaded guilty to four felonies. 40-year-old Paul Mitchell of College Station was sentenced to a total of 20 years as part of a plea agreement for punching and strangling his girlfriend in front of her six children then evading arrest. The agreement also covers an armed robbery and a drug possession case. Mitchell testified in the March jury trial of Marcus Watson, Junior, who was convicted of murder in a drug related shooting death of Trevor Williams in October 2012.

Local News Headlines–7/22/2015

College Station School Board members were scheduled to act on all employee pay and benefit issues at last night’s meeting. The board was able to approve a pay raise that’s a net one-and-a-half percent, with another half-percent going to a state-mandated increase towards employee retirement. But the board was not able to decide on how much to contribute towards health insurance, according to Superintendent Clark Ealy, because they’ve been waiting for almost two months for the state to decide next year’s funding. What is unknown is if the state will compensate for an anticipated drop in money from the permanent school fund. The board did agree with administrators plans to change the contribution formula. Instead of giving all C-S-I-S-D employees one amount towards health insurance, more will be given to those with spouse, child, and family plans. How much will be decided during a special meeting August 4th. That will give employees ten days to make any enrollment changes.

Tomorrow’s College Station city council meeting is the first in a while to not include anything associated with a possible bond issue in November. But there is a possibility of a special meeting next week to consider proposed bond language. Two weeks ago, most of the time taken during a council review involved a recommendation to build a new $28-million police department at Dartmouth and Krenek Tap after consultant Cris Ruebush told the council there isn’t enough land to expand at the department’s current location. That would leave the existing building available to relocate existing city offices. City Manager Kelly Templin says the more $3-million renovation cost would come from other sources. Among the problems with the current police building is flooding in the basement and surrounding parking lots. A citizen’s bond committee also recommended a seventh fire station and a community center.

The B-C-S Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the annual recognition of minority owned local businesses. Chamber president Royce Hickman says tickets are still available for the 13th Community Impact Lunch next Tuesday at the Phillips Events Center. This year’s winners are H-B-I Office Solutions, House of Tires, and Boomfit Crossfit. Tickets are available by going online to b-c-s chamber dot org.

And, a chase last night that began near Houston ended in College Station. The driver, 22-year-old Trevor Allen of College Station, crashed his truck into a fire hydrant in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Southwest Parkway and Welsh. Following a foot chase, Allen was caught, taken to a local hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries, then was transported to the Harris County jail.

Local News Headlines–7/21/2015

A College Station man sentenced to death five years ago could be returning to Brazos County for resentencing. John Thuesen was convicted of capital murder in the 2009 deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her brother. The trial judge has recommended to the state’s highest appeals court that Thuesen be resentenced. The 111 page ruling by district judge Travis Bryan stated Thuesen’s trial attorneys performed ineffectively. More than half of the ruling detailed how the defense should have given more information to the jury about Thuesen’s post traumatic stress disorder as the result of his military service in the Middle East. The judge did not grant Thuesen’s request for a new trial.

A familiar face is the new principal at Bryan’s Navarro elementary school. The Bryan school board last night promoted assistant principal Sara Rueda. She takes over for Hugo Ibarra, who was transferred to Milam Elementary.

Animal rights activist groups who want records from the Texas A&M vet school have been given an opinion from the Attorney General’s office that it’s privileged information. The San Antonio Express-News says A&M officials won’t comment about dozens of dogs and cats undergoing lab testing or the Attorney General’s opinion about getting access to daily care logs, health records, and other documents.

The College Station city council has taken the next step towards new gateway signs welcoming motorists to town. Public Works Director Donald Harmon has been working with TxDOT and a consultant. TxDOT has granted a waiver to allow not only the name of the city but to add the slogan “Home of Texas A and M University.” The design, similar to what is seen in Navasota and Caldwell, goes back to the state for final consideration with the possibility the council could take final action in two or three months. The location of the first sign will be on the freeway southbound approaching University.

And, permanent repairs are underway at the William Joel Bryan Parkway bridge over the freeway which was struck by an oversized semi load earlier this month. Closures of the southbound lanes of highway 6 and westbound lanes of the bridge will continue through the rest of the week from 6:30 in the evening until 6:30 in the morning. And, College Station motorists have a couple of days to plan on how they’ll deal with the rebuilding of Rock Prairie Road East, from Medical Avenue by Scott and White hospital to Fitch Parkway. One lane will be open during the day as construction starts Thursday and continues through the end of October.

Local News Headlines–7/20/2015

In the near future, Texas A&M and system officials will have more details about a $355-million student housing complex at the corner of George Bush and Penberthy. At the last Brazos County commission meeting, approval was given to support a public-private bond issue to build more than 3,400 beds. County Judge Duane Peters says while the county was required to consider the revenue bonds, the county has no financial stake. Peters says A&M has an agreement with a non-profit company to build and operate the housing complex. According to the minutes of the meeting, Commissioner Kenny Mallard voted against the bonds after learning no property taxes would be collected. A&M system officials say more details, including a construction time, should come in the next couple of weeks.

The private company hired to operate Easterwood Airport has enlisted several local partners to ask the federal government for a $475,000 matching grant to recruit Delta for non-stop passenger service to and from Atlanta. Airport manager Josh Abramson of Astin Aviation says they have also talked with American and United to add flights. Abramson says United has agreed to add flights on the weekends that A&M has home football games against larger S-E-C opponents. Abramson says they are in the process of replacing equipment in the parking lots and are working with Texas A&M, which owns the airport, on plans to upgrade Easterwood’s terminal building. Abramson says the airport currently has a local economic impact of $33-million. Getting Delta would add another $10-million annually.

And, a review of state health records following the Blue Bell ice cream listeria outbreak showed one-fourth of Texas cases are not recorded or tracked. The Houston Chronicle newspaper reports the state has never enforced a law that requires laboratories to refer confirmed listeria samples to the Department of State Health Services. This comes after The Wall Street Journal reported one-third of the Blue Bell company will be owned by billionaire Sid Bass and his family. That’s after president Paul Kruse was not able to raise enough new capital from existing shareholders to stay in business. The Bass family will lend up to $125-million to keep Blue Bell in business.

Local News Headlines–7/17/2015

College Station police made an arrest after a car struck a gas meter last night which started a fire and caused a gas leak that closed Southwest Parkway between Anderson and Glade for more than three hours. 25-year-old Cree Dennis is accused of trying to hit her boyfriend with her car during an argument on Potomac Place. Witnesses told officers Dennis chased the victim in her car from the front to the rear of a fourplex when the car struck the meter. Because of the natural gas leak, it took firefighters more than one hour to put out the fire. And, electricity in the area was shut off temporarily because the fire was under some power lines.

A Waller County grand jury will consider what if any crimes took place in the death of a woman who was taken to the jail in Hempstead a week ago today. 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who had just moved from the Chicago area to a new job at Prairie View A&M University, was pulled over by a D-P-S trooper for not signaling a lane change. What happened after that is the subject of investigations by the F-B-I and Texas Rangers. An autopsy determined Bland used a plastic bag to hang herself in her jail cell, something that family members are questioning. Bland was arrested for kicking an officer during the traffic stop. Family members say an online video shows the officer pinning Bland to the ground. She can be heard yelling she can’t feel her arm or hear and she asks the officer why he slammed her head into the ground over a traffic violation. According to a D-P-S statement, Bland became argumentative and uncooperative and refused medical treatment at the scene. Waller County district attorney Elton Mathis says he wants “the public to have the final say on this issue”. Mathis says the grand jury, among other things, will review a second video of Bland describing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that she experienced.

Bryan school district administrators are taking their time implementing one of Governor Abbott’s legislative priorities. Superintendent Tommy Wallis told the school board at its last meeting they won’t participate in the state’s new pre-kindergarten program until a year from now. Doctor Wallis says among the hurdles is finding highly qualified teachers. House Bill four gives school districts up to $1,500 for each four-year-old participating in qualifying pre-k programs. Classroom sizes are limited to 11 students for each teacher.

Those interested in the new swimming pool at Sadie Thomas Park in Bryan have had the opportunity to suggest how it should be built. City councilman Rafael Pena says the feedback calls for modern features. Pena says those features will result in drawing large crowds to the pool, replacing one that was closed more than seven years ago.

Local News Headlines–7/16/2015

President George H.W. Bush fell at home in Kennebunkport, Maine yesterday and broke a bone in his neck. Spokesman Jim McGrath says the 91-year-old Bush is in stable condition and is doing “fine”. McGrath sent a tweet last night stating Bush is wearing a neck brace.

Two crashes that tied up local highways yesterday both involved U.S. Mail vehicles. Bryan police report the driver of a mail truck was ticketed for an unsafe lane change that triggered a four vehicle crash. Investigators were told the postal vehicle made a u-turn on Highway 21 near Coulter Field Airport.  The collision involving three trucks and a S-U-V injured four. They were all taken to the hospital where they were treated for injuries not believed to be life threatening. The mail truck was not involved in the collision. Before that, northbound traffic on the freeway could not exit at Harvey Road for about one hour after a mail truck rolled several times. College Station police report the driver, who was not ejected, was transported to the hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening. C-S-P-D also reported the mail was recovered from the wrecked truck.

While the countdown is under two months for the completion of the redeveloped Kyle Field, makeover plans continue east and north of the stadium. Texas A&M System Vice Chancellor Phillip Ray says donors have lined up to fund improvements at Spence Park east of the stadium including a lake and other water features. While a lake could be built by the start of next year’s football season, Ray says the timetable for demolishing Cain Hall is “when it’s most appropriate for the campus.” Where Cain Hall is located is projected to be turned into a hotel, conference center, and parking garage that would connect to the stadium by a skywalk.

And, awful and horrible are two words Congressman Bill Flores uses to describe the President’s nuclear arms agreement with Iran. Flores says there is another bill pending in Washington that would stop the President’s plan. Flores hopes Congress will override a Presidential veto to enact the Iran Nuclear Bill that the House passed a few months ago. Flores says the President’s proposal would also remove an arms embargo against Iran, which he opposes because within eight years Iran can point a warhead anywhere in Texas. Congress has 60 days to review the president’s nuclear arms agreement.

Local News Headlines–7/15/2015

A major indicator of success at Texas A&M by state officials has improved a little. This week’s meeting of the A&M Faculty Senate included a review of the recently completed study of the university’s four year graduation rate.  Associate Professor Julie Harlin, who chaired the committee, says A&M ranks second in the state. The faculty senate was told 56-percent of first time and full time freshmen graduated in four years. The goal is to raise the percentage into the low 60’s. Doctor Harlin called on all faculty members to be advocates for finding creative solutions to allow students to complete degrees as soon as possible. She added 86-percent graduate within six years.

The latest report from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center at the Mays Business School notes a pair of projects in College Station. One is the start of construction of another student housing complex in Northgate. Cherry Street Apartments is slated to open next summer. The 200 bed unit with a parking garage is located at 2nd and Cherry. Also, construction is finishing on a new hotel behind Red Lobster on Lincoln near University.  It is the first of nine Aloft brand hotels to open in Texas over the next three years. Aloft’s website says the College Station location opens September 10th and reservations are being accepted starting October 1st. The Real Estate Center says the hotel has 102 rooms and 1,500 square feet of meeting space.

Blue Bell ice cream now has outside financial assistance. Officials announced yesterday that Sid Bass of Fort Worth is an investor and a partner. The amount of the investment and Bass’s portion of ownership were not disclosed. The Bass family business is in energy, and Sid Bass’s past interests have included The Walt Disney Company. In the meantime, there’s no change in the status of when Blue Bell plants will start test runs in Brenham and suburban Tulsa. Last week, Blue Bell notified Alabama health officials it will start test runs at its plant southeast of Birmingham before the end of the month. A Blue Bell spokeswoman said yesterday a specific date has not been set.

And, a Texas A&M student has said “yes” to a marriage proposal carved into a farm field. 21-year-old Kobi Sliva of Sinton told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper she was in shock when she saw the proposal. Her fiancé, 22-year-old Ruston Smith of Beeville, arranged to use a plane belonging to his rancher boss, who agreed to mow a pasture with the message “Marry Me”. Smith says he decided to do something special for his girlfriend of six years.

Local News Headlines–7/14/2015

Many Bryan school district students will be experiencing academic changes when classes resume in about six weeks. That’s the result of the school board approving the district’s academic improvement plan at its last meeting. Superintendent Tommy Wallis referred multiple times at the most recent school board meeting to focusing on reading and writing from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Assistant Superintendent Barbara Ybarra says they are also planning to keep track of incoming high school seniors at risk of having to go through an appeal process to graduate. Three central office administrators are out of town through tomorrow looking into how an unidentified middle school works with high and low performing students to get ideas for the Bryan I-S-D.

The new president of the Blinn College district met with reporters for the first time on the Bryan campus. Doctor Mary Hensley, who visited with the local media while construction workers went about their business converting the student union to more student space, was aware of the contentious legislative session involving the funding of Blinn’s Bryan and Brenham campuses when she was considering accepting the job. Hensley plans on making regular visits to all four of Blinn’s campuses as well as become involved in Chamber of Commerce and other community activities. A lifelong educator, Hensley takes over at Blinn after spending the last 14 years in the Austin community college system, the last six as executive vice president for college operations.

The 30th arrest in nearly 20 years for a Bryan woman came after she fell out of a moving truck. A Bryan policeman witnessed the door opening of the pickup during Sunday afternoon at Villa Maria and South College. The truck landed in the yard of nearby apartments. The driver refused medical treatment at the scene from firefighter E-M-T’s. 36 year old Mary Crenshaw was arrested for driving with an invalid license with four prior convictions and illegal possession of a prescription muscle relaxant. She was also ticketed for reckless driving.

The Downtown Bryan Association has announced the first group of entertainment lined up to perform at this year’s Texas Reds Festival. The announcement included the Saturday night headliner, Bob Schneider, along with Cody Canada and the Departed, Grammy winner, Grupo Fantasma and three-time Texas female vocalist of the year, Bri Bagwell. Downtown Bryan Association’s Amanda Reynolds says more bands will be added to the list leading up to the festival at the end of September.

Local News Headlines–7/13/2015

Blinn College officials continue to gather information towards the development of a master plan for its new campus in west Bryan. The president of Blinn’s Brazos County campuses, Sylvia McMullen, says they’ve had a series of meetings with facilities planners. Focus groups have been assisting with developing the first building and the master plan for the 95 acre property. The first building at Leonard Road and F-M 2818 is projected to be open in the fall of 2017.

There are more than 1,100 police departments in Texas. But, only about ten percent have completed the Texas Police Chiefs Association best practices recognition program. And, the association’s executive director, retired chief James McLaughlin, made a formal presentation at the last College Station city council meeting to signify that the College Station Police Department has completed and complied with the provision of the program. The four year recognition applies to the entire department, which includes 9-1-1 dispatchers and the city jail.

And, the first class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program has graduated. As part of the graduation ceremony, the 60 member class heard from George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on topics ranging from being grandfathers to presidential campaigns. Bush says discourse among candidates could be damaged by the actions of their campaign workers. Clinton says the candidates have to rise above anger when giving their answers. The program is a joint venture of the four presidential libraries in Texas and Arkansas including the George Bush Library Foundation. The six month course of study included interaction with both presidents.