Local News Headlines–3/4/2015

The Texas Senate has approved the appointments of three members of the Texas A&M system board of regents. Returning to a fourth term is Phil Adams of Bryan, who served the last two years as chairman. One of the two newcomers, Bob Albritton, is a Bryan native, who like Adams graduated from A&M in 1971. Also confirmed was Bill Mahomes Junior, a Dallas area lawyer who in 1969 was the first African-American member of the Corps of Cadets to graduate from A&M.

Customers of College Station Utilities are another step closer to electronic water and electric meters. But a consultant’s report at the last city council meeting says the conversion is still several years away. There was no objection to a staff recommendation to conduct another study two years from now. Consultant Ned Brown says the technology will allow the city to remotely monitor consumption. The current costs to trade out the mechanically operated electric and water meters for those controlled by radio or cellular service is $11-million to $14-million, which would be paid by a customer charge of $2.50 a month per meter over a six year period.

A Brazos County district court jury has sentenced a College Station man to life in prison after finding him guilty of murdering a Bryan man over a drug deal that went bad. 26-year-old Marcus Watson Junior shot Trevor Williams in October 2012. Prosecutors say that was after Watson and two others went to Williams looking to buy marijuana, but Watson decided to rob then shoot Williams.

And, State representative John Raney of Bryan has introduced legislation that would redistribute funding Blinn College receives from tuition, fees, and the state. Raney says House Bill 1903 moves the money to the campus the students attend. Raney, who is on the House higher education committee, says Blinn loses almost $3,000 for each student in Brenham, while they make $1,000 for each student in Bryan. The Bryan campus has 71 percent of student contact hours, followed by Brenham at 15 percent. Online students make up 12 percent, and the Sealy and Schulenburg campuses each have less than one percent. Blinn officials say they look forward to working with Raney to ensure all campuses are self-funded. Raney has also filed House Bill 2138, which would require all public junior colleges websites to post spending by campus.

Local News Headlines–3/3/2015

College Station residents are encouraged to participate in three public forums hosted by a volunteer committee developing proposals for a bond issue this November. The forums will focus on the themes undertaken by three subcommittees. Chairman Rod Thornton says the forums follow four committee meetings. Tonight, the committee wants to hear about city facilities. Thursday, the subject is parks and leisure. And transportation ideas will be discussed March 23rd. All three forums start at 7 pm at the College Station Utilities training facility on Graham Road.

Republicans in the Texas Senate announced yesterday a letter is going to the President, demanding they be allowed to make sweeping changes in the administration of Medicaid. Brazos County state senator Charles Schwertner was among those signing the letter, calling for among other things making those on Medicaid share costs, pay for missed appointment fees, establish health savings accounts, employment for able bodied adults, and the state being exempted from the Obamacare health insurance issuer fee.

It appears flu season is coming to an end in Brazos County. The health department reported 44 cases in the week ending February 21st. That’s the fewest since the last week of November. The running total from October 1st is just over 2,500. That’s an increase of almost 1,000 over the same period last year.

And, nationwide attention is being given to a raid in Bryan by a group that believes Texas is its own nation. The Drudge Report is among those who have picked up the story of a Valentine’s Day meeting of The Republic of Texas in Bryan that was interrupted by numerous local, state, and federal agencies that executed a search warrant. A news release states the warrant was issued by a district judge in Kerr County in response to a summons written by The Republic to Kerr County’s court administrator. Don Ballard of Wixon Valley, Brazos County’s state senator for The Republic, says the reason for the large law enforcement turnout dates back 20 years to a man who led a standoff after being impeached. The news release says members lost tens of thousands of dollars of Republic currency and coins along with members’ phones and other electronic devices. Bryan Broadcasting has not received a response to requests for information from the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office and the F-B-I, who were also involved in the raid.

Local News Headlines–3/2/2015

Texas A&M students will be voting a second time for next year’s yell leaders. A news release indicates the yell leaders nullified the results of the first election, withdrew from this year’s elections, and asked for outside supervision. A special election will be held Wednesday, with the president of the Memorial Student Center named commissioner. The candidates who were on the ballot for the first election are the only ones eligible to run. The news release also states there are limitations on campaigning and a ban on spending and receiving donations.

A 76-year-old Texas man is facing a charge after being accused of punching and trying to choke a police officer during a traffic stop. The Eagle newspaper reports Arthur Lee Wright was pulled over after nearly hitting a College Station police officer’s patrol car while making an unsafe lane change. During the Friday stop, the officer told Wright she remembered him from a previous accident in which he hit another vehicle and she would be giving him a ticket. Police allege that Wright then stepped out of his car, slammed the officer into his vehicle and attempted to choke her. Wright was charged with assault on a public servant. He is free on a $10,000 bond.

March madness takes on a new definition when you’re renewing your vehicle registration. Yesterday marked the first day of not getting a windshield sticker when your vehicle passes inspection. It’s something Brazos County tax assessor-collector Kristy Roe and her staff have been training for several months. And among the most asked questions are from customers whose inspections and registrations are in different months. Roe says the law stipulates to go ahead and get the new registration and then have the vehicle inspected within 90 days of it coming due. Roe says inspection stations are responsible for notifying the state. And you’re advised to keep your old inspection stickers on your windshield until you have your new registration sticker. Roe says you won’t be paying as much at the time of the inspection, but you’ll make up that difference when you pay for your vehicle registration.

And, Spring football at Texas A&M gets started with competition in the courts.  Newly hired defensive coordinator John Chavis and L-S-U have sued each other whether the coaches former school is entitled to a contract buyout. L-S-U wants $400,000 after Chavis left for College Station and for a court in Baton Rouge to make the decision. Chavis filed a lawsuit in Brazos County district court contending L-S-U is not entitled to the buyout. Texas A&M, which is also named in Chavis’s lawsuit, issued a statement that there is not a dispute with the coach, A&M disagrees L-S-U should be paid, but the university stands behind its commitment to pay any buyout due to L-S-U.

Local News Headlines–2/18/2015

Brazos County commissioners have approved the continued development of what’s been known as Boonville Cemetery into a historical park. It began last year with the local chapter of the Sons of the Republic of Texas moving the Turner-Peters cabin, which was built in 1856, from Carlos to the cemetery. While the cabin is being restored, chapter vice-president Mervin Peters presented plans that include an entry plaza with the six national flags of Texas and a small amphitheater. There will also be a walking trail with a dozen historical panels and other attractions that could possibly include acquiring a replica of the Twin Sisters cannon, made famous in the Battle of San Jacinto.

The Monarch butterfly population is up nearly 70-percent from last year, but still far from where it used to be. 2013 to 2014 recorded the lowest Monarch butterfly population in history at 33-million. Senior research associate at Texas A&M and longtime butterfly enthusiast Craig Wilson says this year’s total is over 56-million, but there is still reason for concern. Doctor Wilson says the lack of milkweed plants is alarming because the Monarch’s survival depends on it. Wilson is adding a variety of milkweeds to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Garden on A&M’s campus and the U-S-D-A’s People’s Garden on Holleman. He says to expect the Monarch’s to arrive in College Station in late March, early April.

And, residents in Burleson, Grimes, and Washington counties have a new state representative. Caldwell attorney Leighton Schubert won yesterday’s runoff election for the vacant seat in District 13 with 57-percent of the vote over Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski. Schubert succeeds Lois Kolkhorst, who won a special election to the Texas Senate after Glenn Hegar was elected State Comptroller. More than half of the voters in the seven county district participated in early voting.

Local News Headlines–2/17/2015

Blinn College trustees have scheduled a special meeting in Bryan Thursday morning, where the decision could be made to purchase land for a new campus in west Bryan. According to the agenda, the trustees will hold an executive session to deliberate the purchase of about 94 acres which is located on Leonard Road just west of Harvey Mitchell Parkway. After the executive session, possible action could follow to make the purchase. Blinn officials also sent an invitation to the “official announcement and press conference” “regarding the future of Blinn College in Brazos County” which follows the trustees meeting, which starts at 9:00 in the student center. The new campus is expected to accommodate a growth of 7,000 students by the year 2025. The current relocation of some on-campus offices to the Tejas Center in order to create more academic space was designed to take care of an increase of 2,400 students from last year through 2017.

Another first is coming in the 139 year history of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. Alyssa Michalke is the first woman appointed commander. Corps Commandant Joe Ramirez made what he called the huge announcement. Ramirez says it’s not about her being the first female cadet, but about her being the cadet best qualified for the job. Michalke, from Schulenburg, will lead what is projected to be the largest number of cadets in 45 years. General Ramirez says she will be part of a 14 member leadership team that includes three women serving as major unit commanders, which is the same number as this year. Michalke will assume command during final review in May.

And, the oldest park in Bryan is getting more parking. A compromise reached at the last city council meeting will increase the number of spaces at Scurry Park from 10 to 23. After Rafael Pena lowered his original request of 24 spaces, Chuck Konderla was reminded the park, located off Texas Avenue north of Highway 21, celebrated its centennial the year before last. Requested multiple times by some neighborhood residents, Al Saenz says there’s not been enough space for large gatherings. Art Hughes voted against the additional spaces because he first wanted city staff to do a door to door survey after saying he has learned of some neighborhood opposition.

Local News Headlines–2/16/2015

Last November, Bryan voters approved changes to the city charter. At the last city council meeting, Rafael Pena, Al Saenz, and Mike Southerland lost their effort to be a part of how the changes will be interpreted. City attorney Janis Hampton says the ordinance has to reflect the voter’s decision and not the thought of any council member. The city has hired an outside legal firm to assist.

The Texas senate takes final action this week on proposed gun legislation. That follows a hearing last week featuring eight hours of testimony. Brazos County house member Kyle Kacal was among those monitoring what was being said. Kacal says the two options with the best chance of being passed are open carry with background checks and CHL and campus carry. Kacal has co-written a similar proposal on open-carry for House consideration.

Three calls to Bryan police from an anonymous caller resulted in the discovery of an apartment that had so much trash and filth along with marijuana growing operation that criminal charges facing two adults includes four counts of child endangerment. According to the arrest report, there was a foul odor in the kitchen from grease and rotten food and there were hundreds of flying insects. The living room was covered in trash, an upstairs bathtub contained a bucket with a marijuana plant, and more plants were found in an upstairs bedroom along with lights and chemicals.  31-year-old Melissa Nelson and 34-year-old Austin Price were arrested. Child Protective Services placed the four children, who range in age from 11 months through 11 years, with Price’s mother, who lives in the same apartment complex. The mother told police, according to the arrest report, she did not know the children were in any danger living with their parents.

Local News Headlines–2/13/2015

Construction will begin shortly on $367-million of projects on the Texas A&M campus. The most private money raised for a building on the A&M campus is not Kyle Field. Dean of Engineering Katherine Banks told the board of regents yesterday $58-million has been pledged so far on the new engineering education center. The $169-million engineering expansion and renovation was one of three projects given the construction green light by regents. There’s $149-million to renovate the remaining nine Corps of Cadets dorms and add two leadership learning centers at the quad. And there’s $49-million to renovate the Commons Building. Completion of all three is expected in 2017.

One topic common to this week’s Bryan and College Station city council meetings and the Texas A&M board of regents was public transportation. The Bryan city council directed the city manager to contact the Brazos Transit District and A&M Transportation Services to find out what it would take to expand service hours. The College Station city council agreed with Blanche Brick’s request to discuss the subject at a future workshop. And, the Board of Regents approved spending nearly $4.5-million to purchase ten new transit buses, replacing five and adding five to the fleet.

And, Brazos County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Madisonville man charged with killing a Bryan woman and her father last April. The District Attorney’s office this week filed the notice against Dennis Brown III. Court records do not indicate a trial date for Brown, accused of capital murder in the deaths of Noel and Mac Devin. Brown, whose 35th birthday was yesterday, is accused of stabbing the victims and then setting fire to Noel’s home.

Local News Headlines–2/12/2015

On the eve of today’s Texas A&M system Board of Regents meeting, comes the announcement of eliminating non-faculty positions on the flagship campus. Interim President Mark Hussey says more than $8-million will be transferred to what he called “the university’s core mission of teaching, research, and engagement/outreach.” System Chancellor John Sharp says this keeps A&M the most efficient state agency. None of the lost jobs are housed or located in academic departments. A memo sent by Doctor Hussey to top administrators and deans also outlined what was described as strict procedures for filling any requested non-faculty positions in the future.

Earlier this week, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced his intent to keep Texas National Guard troops along the Mexico border past March.  State Representative John Raney, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, says the proposed budget includes $418-million for the Guard. The Lieutenant Governor’s plan to keep the Guard on the border through May is projected to cost $814-million.

And, Bryan police have made four arrests from three convenience store robberies last month. The latest are two Bryan men who share an apartment across Sandy Point Road from the Brazos County Jail. 18-year-old William Dates and 20-year-old Jonathan Lett are accused of participating in the holdups at Palasota Grocery. Lett was also arrested along with a 16-year-old for a holdup at Sodolak’s Grocery. A 16- and 17-year-old were arrested last month and investigators say additional charges may be filed on all four.

Local News Headlines–2/11/2015

The Bryan city council is moving forward with replacing the pool at Sadie Thomas Park. Consultant Travis Blazek recommended against spending $850,000 for repairs. The council decided on a new pool at $950,000, which Blazek says does not include any amenities. The construction timeline won’t be known until a contractor is selected. City Manager Kean Register says he’ll shoot for opening a new pool in time for this summer’s swimming season. Funding comes from $1.5-million in reserves set aside by the council last month. The council also directed Register to proceed with repairs at the Bryan Aquatic Center to improve water quality, at an estimated cost of $450,000. Because of the consultant’s estimated total cost of nearly $7-million the lengthy list of remaining repairs and improvements recommended at the aquatic center and the pools at Henderson and Sue Haswell Parks won’t be done this year.

What’s been a ten year process of creating more room for the Brazos Central Appraisal District is getting longer. The appraisal district’s board on Monday rescinded a resolution which required approval from four of the five local governmental bodies. Board chairman Bill Lero says they went ahead with an appearance at yesterday’s Bryan city council meeting and will be at tomorrow’s College Station council meeting to get feedback on how to proceed. Lero repeated to the Bryan council that the $3.8-million dollar price tag for the land and new building off Copperfield near University was the maximum. The Brazos County Commission last week voted no due to the cost, a concern that was shared by the Bryan school board two weeks ago. The College Station school board supported the 14,000 square foot building.

And, the Bryan city council heard from a dozen supporters of more requirements to get a conditional use zoning permit. But there was no action last night because the agenda item was not written to consider a motion. A motion to approve was blocked by city attorney Janis Hampton. The proposal also calls for increasing the official notification distance from 200 to 500 feet and increase the amount of response time from ten to 30 days.

Local News Headlines–2/10/2015

Texas A&M’s new president was in town yesterday, in part meeting with reporters. Michael Young spent the better part of one hour answering questions that included how sure he and his wife are about retiring in Aggieland. Young and his wife Marti are in the process of buying a house off-campus. System chancellor John Sharp says it was his decision to make the on-campus president’s home available to fundraisers and other functions.

The Texas Historical Commission is undertaking a two-year study to document the history of the Meridian Highway, which ran from Canada to Mexico through Main Street of Bryan. Chairman of the Brazos County Historical Commission, Henry Mayo, says individuals and organizations are encouraged to attend a public outreach meeting to share information and items related to the highway for use in the project. Mayo says the T-H-C will scan or photograph materials to be included in the project. He says T-H-C has awarded Hardy Heck Moore the contract to complete the study. The Austin-based historic preservation firm has done work for Bryan in the past. The public outreach meeting is tomorrow at the Clara Mounce Public Library in Bryan at 5-30 p-m.

And, Bryan police responding to a loud music complaint Saturday night found more than 20 people at a home on Brookside Drive, near Hensel Park. Officers seized a variety of illegal drugs and more than $9,000.  21-year-old DaShawn Butler was arrested on nine counts and his twin brother Shawn was arrested on six counts of selling narcotics from their home. They remain in jail as does 19-year-old Jessica Archer of Bryan, who was arrested on four counts of drug possession. Another Saturday arrest for Bryan police involved a purse taken from a car parked at a west side convenience store. According to the arrest report, the victim and her friend followed the suspect from the store at William Joel Bryan and Highway 21 across the street to the west towards the Forest Park Apartments. It took less than 30 minutes to find 50-year-old Jarvis Maddox, who lives at the apartment complex. The purse, containing more than $150, was recovered.