Local News Headlines–12/15/2014

More support has been voiced for proposed changes to railroad crossings south of Wellborn. Among those wanting to see improvements at Wellborn Road and Greens Prairie Trail, in exchange for closing crossings at Straub and Wade Roads, were College Station deputy city manager Chuck Gilman. No financial assistance was offered by College Station, since the intersection was not annexed with the rest of Wellborn. But a TxDOT representative said the state would provide an undisclosed amount of money. The director of the local metropolitan planning organization said his board also supports the project. Also on hand for both of last week’s public hearings but not speaking were College Station school district administrators. Brazos County commissioners have not decided when they will take a vote the offer from Union Pacific railroad.

College Station police continue to investigate 11 reports of graffiti spray-painted in an apartment parking lot. Investigators say this took place sometime between late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning at the Woodbrook parking lot off Dartmouth south of Harvey.  Total damage was estimated at only $2,000 because wet paint could be wiped off of some of the ten vehicles without causing permanent damage. A fence was also hit.

And, the B-C-S Salvation Army is still recruiting volunteers to ring bells at their red kettles. Lieutenant Jeremy Walker says more are participating over last year, as they continue to collect donations to fund next year’s programs. Heading into the weekend, the B-C-S Salvation Army was at 46 percent of their fundraising goal for next year. 82-cents of every dollar is spent on local Salvation Army programs. The kettles will be out through Christmas Eve.

Local News Headlines–12/12/2014

Bryan police are still looking for those suspects in two armed robberies that took place the night before last. The first was outside a home behind Jane Long Middle School on Imperial Drive. A woman getting her mail was approached by a man who she thought was armed. The suspect drove off in her car, which was found about one hour later on fire northeast of Bryan. The woman was not hurt. 30 minutes after the first call, police went to the I-Stop convenience store on College Main. The victim was in the parking lot when he was shot, and the suspect drove away in the victim’s pickup. The victim was taken to the hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening. The truck was recovered but the suspect remains at large.

Brazos County commissioners took another two hours of public comments last night about closing a pair of railroad crossings south of Wellborn. 12 of the 19 speakers were also heard Monday night. Some remain opposed to closing crossings off F-M 2154 at Straub and Wade Roads. Others changed their mind as long as the county gets the land to build an extension of Greens Prairie Trail west of Wellborn with traffic signals and turning lanes. After the hearing, County Judge Duane Peters said he hopes they’ll take a vote in the next couple of weeks. Union Pacific representatives said they didn’t have a deadline for the commission to accept the railroad’s $620,000 offer to build a new crossing. U-P estimates the cost of the Greens Prairie Trail extension at $3.5-million. Some in the audience wanted to hold a third public hearing in Wellborn.

Economic development organizations serving the Brazos Valley, the state of Texas, and two provinces in southern Belgium have entered a joint agreement. Leaders of the Research Valley Partnership and their Belgian colleagues are inviting companies to expand overseas. The office in Belgium was opened yesterday as part of the Bryan/College Station delegation’s visit that includes today’s dedication of a new World War Two museum featuring the Aggies Go To War exhibit. Belgian companies looking to expand in the United States will use R-V-P offices on the Texas A&M west campus.

And, the cities of Bryan and College Station are studying whether to impose regulations on ridesharing companies, including Uber. That’s as the Dallas city council approved changes this week that already apply to taxis and limos. Starting April 30th in Dallas, ridesharing companies must provide primary insurance coverage and vehicles must pass inspection. Drivers will undergo background checks and be required to have a city operating permit, a valid driver’s license, and have limited or no traffic violations.

Local News Headlines–12/11/2014

A second public hearing on the proposed closure of two railroad crossings south of Wellborn takes place this evening at five in the Brazos County commission meeting room. During the first gathering Monday night, Andrew Hudanish of Union Pacific said they can’t move the location of a side rail two miles south from where Straub and Wade Roads would be closed. Hudanish says trains need about two miles of track to slow down, and the Wellborn location provides enough distance from the next side rail to the south in Millican. U-P says they won’t close the crossings at Wade and Straub Roads until a new crossing is built on a new extension of Greens Prairie Trail between Wellborn and I-G-N Roads, which would be built when the county acquired the land.

Next week’s College Station city council meeting will include a staff presentation on what a committee could consider for a bond election next year. Deputy city manager Chuck Gilman says a long list includes transportation and mobility projects. Gilman says there will also be recommendations regarding parks and other city facilities when they make their presentation a week from tonight.

And, political posturing continues as Congress prepares to vote on federal funding. Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan complemented the president for focusing attention on his executive orders about immigration. While some conservatives are unhappy the budget bill delays the challenge on immigration, some liberals are demanding removal of two things, a provision that would sharply hike limits on donations to political parties and changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

Local News Headlines–12/10/2014

Motorists in west Bryan were slowed to stopped for more than one hour last night following a four car crash that left six people with non-life threatening injuries. The pileup took place just before 6 pm on Harvey Mitchell Parkway near Rockwood, which is between Villa Maria and Traditions Drive. Three others were not hurt, including a driver from Mexico who was ticketed for not having a driver’s license and failing to stay in his lane.

This Saturday marks 11 months on the job for Texas A&M Interim President Mark Hussey. Doctor Hussey, at this week’s A&M faculty senate meeting, led off with an observation that he’s held the interim post four months longer than he expected. Hussey says he intentionally stays away from any discussion of the presidential search, so as far as excusing himself if he’s in earshot of any conversation. He did share there is a good pool of candidates for Vice-President of Student Affairs and expects the start of interviews to begin as early as next February. The wide ranging update included preparing for next year’s legislative session and issues facing students, employees, and the College Station-Bryan community.

The Brazos Valley Food Bank is one donation closer to meeting its goal for the Because Hunger Won’t Wait campaign. American Momentum Bank’s Frank Varisco presented a check for $250,000 Tuesday, one of the largest gifts the food bank has received. If the campaign raises the remaining $1.5-million by next October, it will be granted a $500,000 grant from the Mabee Foundation out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And, for the second time in as many months, College Station police say scammers are using their phone numbers threatening those they call. Lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says a variety of threats are made if potential victims don’t pay or provide personal information. Fleeger says police and municipal court will call for some things, but not to make a threat. He also says those who receive suspicious calls should hang up and return the call to the number to determine the legitimacy of the caller.

Local News Headlines–12/9/2014

Brazos County commissioners held the first of what will be two public hearings this week on the proposed closures of two railroad crossings south of Wellborn off F-M 2154. Last night, most of the more than 30 speakers were against closing Wade and Straub Roads. In exchange, commissioners would buy land to extend Greens Prairie Trail west from Wellborn to I-G-N Road. Union Pacific would pay for building the crossing and TxDOT would put traffic signals and turning lanes at Wellborn and Greens Prairie Trail. Another public hearing will be held Thursday starting at five in the commissioners meeting room.

Presidential or vice presidential candidates in 2016 could be coming to Texas A&M. People from Texas A&M and the community are working on an application to host one of four presidential debates in Fall of 2016. Jose Bermudez, Associate Provost for Strategic Planning, says several factors are considered including facilities, transportation and security. Bermudez says another piece is the educational value of hosting the debate and how it can be used to enhance the student experience at A&M. Applications are due in March.

Two College Station roommates could use some home improvement after an argument led to one being stabbed with a cordless power drill. Police were called yesterday evening to their residence in the 3000-block of Texas Avenue near Walmart. 38-year-old Arnulfo Roman-Jimenez was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The victim’s injuries were non-life-threatening.

And, local women who are the victims of domestic violence have another way to share. Brazos County district attorney Jarvis Parsons has announced more than 100 salon professionals has gone through a program called CUT IT OUT. The training recognizes warning signs of domestic violence among clients, colleagues, friends and family; then safely refers victims to local resources.

News Headlines–12/8/2014

For those interested in Union Pacific Railroad’s plans to build a parallel track along Wellborn Road south of College Station, you may want to attend a public hearing this evening. County officials announced late last week there will be a presentation that would close railroad crossings at Straub Road and Wade Road and build a new crossing and traffic signal at Wellborn and Greens Prairie Trail. The public hearing starts this evening at 5:30 at the Brazos Center.

The Bryan city council has directed the fire department to study the impact of requiring commercial building owners to install and maintain fire alarms that are monitored by alarm companies. Councilman Mike Southerland called for the additional protection following last year’s fatality fire at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Fire Marshal Marc McFeron says it would have made a difference in the response time to last year’s deadly fire at the Knights of Columbus Hall. All commercial buildings in Bryan, vacant as well as occupied, will be part of the study that is expected to take until next summer to complete. Mayor Jason Bienski unsuccessfully sought for the study to also include homes. Fire Chief Randy McGregor and Fire Marshal McFeron expressed concerns of the cost to property owners.

Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan has achieved one of his goals since he was first elected. That’s his appointment to the House Energy and Commerce committee. Flores is one of four Republicans from Texas on that committee.

And, a few more details have been announced about the upcoming implosion of the west side Kyle Field. The Texas A&M University System has not given a specific time when it will happen, but on December 21 several roads will be closed between 5 a.m. and noon. You can download the map from Texas A&M Transportation Services of where public parking is available and where spectators can and can’t gather. Texas A&M System officials also issued an advisory banning the use of aerial drones over the implosion site.

Local News Headlines–12/5/2014

Brazos County State Senator Charles Schwertner, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, has released the recommendations the committee spent the summer studying in advance of the upcoming legislative session. Among the seven items agreed by all committee members, is identifying cost-effective alternatives to Medicaid. Recommendations also include reviewing the operations of Child Protective Services in order to reduce child fatalities, expanding access to women’s healthcare, improving the state’s mental health services, stopping prescription drug abuse, and future funding of C-PRIT, the state’s cancer prevention and research institute.

Those living in the Bryan school district have the better part of a week to choose between two options for next year’s calendar. Spokesman Brandon Webb says the main difference is whether students will continue a week long Thanksgiving vacation. Webb says option “A” mirrors this year with students getting off the entire week of Thanksgiving. Option “B” returns to students being in class the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The calendar survey can be taken until next Wednesday at www.bryanisd.org. The school board could take a vote as soon as a week from Monday.

There’s a new leader of the Brazos County Democratic Party. Jason Poyser was appointed chairman following the retirement of Maggie Charleton, as she and her husband are moving to North Carolina. Charleton was named Executive Director in 2004 then was selected Chairwoman in 2008. Poyser, who takes over December 31st, will finish the remainder of Charleton’s term, which goes through 2016.

And, the governor’s task force on addressing infectious diseases has issued more than 170 pages of recommendations to prepare and respond in a health emergency. The task force included several members of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. One of them, Doctor Scott Lillibridge, spoke at this week’s chamber of commerce community health update. He says they’re not only monitoring Ebola, but a return of polio in war-stricken areas of the world. He says more than 20 diseases have emerged over the last 20 to 30 years including cases of Enterovirus D-68.

Local News Headlines–12/4/2014

The Blinn College board of trustees has hired a search firm to assist in the selection of Blinn’s next president. Spokesman Richard Bray says the Association of Community College Trustees was selected from six candidates. A-C-C-T will also assist in the selection of an interim president after Doctor Harold Nolte retires January 31st.

Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski says the value of land being sold to developers in the bio-corridor is much less than what was stated at this week’s city council meeting. Bienski says the land is appraised by an independent appraisal firm at $1.6-million. Councilman Mike Southerland said during the council meeting the value of 36 acres being sold to developers between the Health Science Center and Traditions Golf Course is $5.4-million. On a four to three vote the property was rezoned to allow construction of homes, offices, and retail businesses.

And, representatives of all four hospitals in Bryan/College Station participated in a community health update hosted yesterday by the Chamber of Commerce. One of the common themes to business owners was the importance of stressing preventative health measures to employees. Beverly Welch at St. Joseph Regional Health Center says they’ve treated patients this year with measles, the mumps, and tetanus, which can all be avoided by immunizations. Jody Randall-Gibson at Baylor-Scott and White also said they regularly practice their response if they have to deal with a patient with the Ebola virus. Speakers also included representatives of the Brazos County health department and the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Local News Headlines–12/3/2014

A handful of items at last night’s Bryan city council meeting received extensive debate followed by split votes. Among the four to three votes was changing the zoning of 36 acres of land in The Traditions that will create a development of housing, retail, and business offices. Opponents included Mike Southerland, who said rezoning was in conflict with an economic development agreement where the city sold the land at a discount with the understanding it was supposed to be only for a retirement community. Then Southerland moved to deny the rezoning because he thought the plan was not compatible with bio-manufacturing plants, which drew a challenge from Mayor Jason Bienski. Southerland was successful in two other motions that passed four to three. One gives the convention and visitor’s bureau $96,000 more than they asked. The other blocks diverting oil and gas revenue into its own account where it would take a council supermajority to spend the principal. The other four to three vote was choosing Art Hughes as Mayor Pro Tem. Rafael Pena had nominated Al Saenz.

Texas A&M’s Rudder Auditorium is getting a big delivery today. Three tractor trailer trucks are closing down the Trigon on A&M’s campus today to deliver 2,500 new seats to Rudder Auditorium. Assistant Director of Rudder Theatre Complex, Neil Peltier, says the current seats and carpet are the originals from the early 1970s. Peltier says a small committee looked through over one hundred fabric samples. The auditorium is closed and set to reopen in early February. Peltier says the one event that was not relocated during the renovation time is the commencement convocation on December 18th at which Governor Rick Perry will be the speaker.

And, the new Rock Prairie Road bridge over the Earl Rudder freeway was supposed to be open before Thanksgiving. But, TxDOT says heavy rain before the holiday pushed the schedule into this month. Weather permitting, the remaining concrete pavement will be poured this weekend and pavement striping will be completed next Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the work is scheduled to be finished before Christmas, which includes installation of lighting and painting of the bridge and rails.

Local News Headlines–12/2/2014

Tonight’s Bryan city council meeting includes the purchase of several vehicles for the fire department and finishing up the installation of smart meters for the city’s utilities department. An $800,000 fire engine tops the list of proposed purchases. Fire Chief Randy McGregor says where the new pumper will be stationed when it arrives just over a year from now will be determined after an evaluation of the entire fleet. Meantime, if the council approves $350,000 to buy a pair of refurbished ambulances, they would be located at Stations One and Three. McGregor says the city will save a combined $100,000 by removing the patient compartments from the old chassis, replacing the floors, walls, ceilings, and storage cabinets, and then placing them on the new chassis. And, next year marks the final phase of smart meter installation in Bryan. It’s a process that began in 2008. The council is being asked to spend $1-million split between the water and sewer funds to buy the meters and related equipment necessary to complete the conversion to remote monitoring of water consumption.

The city of College Station continues to publicize its efforts in code enforcement. A blog published this week on the city website follows a presentation made during last week’s council meeting. Community Services director Debbie Eller says their priority is voluntary compliance. Eller says code enforcement staff visit with residents who are close to being in violation of city regulations and enforcement action is taken only when voluntary compliance is not achieved. Out of nearly 8,000 cases handled so far this year in College Station, a little more than 500 have come through the city’s See-Click-Fix website. Some of those complaints are civil matters and not code violations.

And, Bryan police have made an arrest from a convenience store armed robbery from two weeks ago. Officer Kelley McKethan says 32-year-old Asa Shavers Junior of Bryan was picked from a photo lineup by the clerk at the Shell store at 29th and Barak. Shavers is also jailed on a charge of violating probation from a residential burglary conviction four years ago.