Local News Headlines–4/24/2014

For the second time in as many weeks, there was a lockdown at Davila Middle School in Bryan.  School district spokesman Brandon Webb says yesterday at noon, 9-1-1 dispatchers received a call reporting someone with a gun outside the building.  Students and employees were held inside their rooms while police surveyed the area. That meant a 40 minute interruption for 10 to 20 students who had not finished their STAAR tests.  The students finished the tests when the lockdown was lifted.  Webb says the call “did not seem fully credible” according to police investigators, but the event was “taken seriously nonetheless” by school employees.  Last Thursday, a similar call was made after school with nearly everyone gone for the day. That call turned out to be without merit.

Sidewalks and streets are two topics on tonight’s College Station city council agenda.  To accept $257,000 in federal grant money to build new sidewalks in low to moderate income neighborhoods, the council has to deal with 169 pages of paperwork. Locations are along Dominik from Texas to Stallings, on Westridge and San Pedro, and the area of Park Place and Texas.  The council is also being asked to award a $116,000 contract to improve school zone warning lights by A&M Consolidated High School. The reduced speeds will not change. But the project calls for building overhead flashing beacons on F-M 2818, which has reduced speeds before and after school. Signage will also change on Welsh and Nueces, which has reduced speeds all day.  And, final approval is expected to spend $225,000 from the hotel occupancy tax as College Station’s contribution to the $1.5-million Aggies Go To War exhibit.  The multimedia display will debut this December in Bastogne, Belgium during the dedication of a new museum on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, which featured former A&M President General Earl Rudder. The exhibition, featuring the lives of five soldiers who attended A&M, will be moved here no later than December of 2016.

And, one of two women convicted of stealing $178,000 from a local payday lender more than six years ago is headed to prison. 40-year-old Flora Sustaita, who was known at the time as Flora Acarto, admitted to violating probation and was ordered to serve eight years. Brazos County Assistant District Attorney Philip McLemore says after Sustaita was released from jail on probation, she paid only a few hundred dollars restitution and disappeared until she was found last August in Harris County.  McLemore says Sustaita’s punishment also includes recent convictions in Harris County for embezzling from another employer as well as engaging in a housing scam.  Sustaita remains responsible for paying restitution, which McLemore says her co-defendant has been doing.

Local News Headlines–4/23/2014

Blinn College trustees are moving forward with opening a second major location in Brazos County.  On the other side of the freeway from College Station’s Central Park is the Lynntech building, formerly the Westinghouse plant. Trustees approved the purchase of the 180,000 square foot building and the 54 acres of land. The purchase price will be set after an appraisal is completed. The Brazos County tax office website set an appraised valued last year of $612,000. Administrators have not determined which academic programs will move. Initially, about 40 percent of the building will be used as early as the fall 2015 semester. Lynntech can remain in the space it currently occupied for three years. The acquisition is designed to alleviate current overcrowding in Bryan and anticipated enrollment increases during the next two to four years.

The Bryan City Council has approved allowing a developer to add 72 units to an apartment complex previously slated for 240 units.  Residents in the age-restricted Briar Meadows neighborhood voiced concerns about increased traffic volume and lowered property values. Residents from the age-restricted neighborhood were mostly against approval of the conditional use permit.  Planning and zoning coordinator Martin Zimmermann says the apartments could be more desirable than alternatives of an R-V park, warehouse or night club which would be allowed under the current zoning.  The 4 to 1 vote Tuesday allows 2.7 acres on Villa Maria to be included in the development’s previous 10.8 acres on Villa Maria, William J Bryan, and Nash.

And, a federal agency has not uncovered significant new details about last year’s fertilizer plant explosion in West. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board repeated the need for more regulation. Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso says the ammonium nitrate fertilizer was not properly stored nor is it properly classified as an explosive. He also says the chemical can be made safer.  Officials say even if it’s never determined what started an initial fire they know the resulting blast could have been prevented.

Local News Headlines–4/22/2014

The New York Times recently reported College Station rental properties were among the most expensive in the country. Mayor Nancy Berry says student housing costs skewed those findings, so the city is doing its own survey in order to assist low and moderate income residents.  Berry says most likely, the least expensive rentals are older units.  A community development master plan will use data from the American Community survey.

A College Station business born 15 years ago has been purchased by an international company.  MEM-data was founded by and created by Bob and Kristi Yancy, serving hospitals and other medical facilities with reducing costs in acquiring equipment and design services. It is now part of Premier, the nation’s largest health care supply chain corporation.  Premier is based in North Carolina, but MEM-data and its current staff of 24 employees will remain in College Station. Yancy says conservative estimates call for the addition of dozens of jobs in future years.  Yancy will become a vice-president with Premier.

And, Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan is holding a town hall meeting by telephone on Thursday.  Flores says about 4,300 people participated during a similar event last week for constituents around Waco in the northern half of the district.  Contact Flores’ office in Bryan to register for Thursday’s telephone town hall conference.

Local News Headlines–4/17/2014

This week’s meeting of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate included an update on the search for the university’s next permanent President.  Provost Karan Watson responded to a query from a senator who was wondering what was going on, eight months after a search committee was appointed.  Watson says the committee has started a second round of searching following some interviews.  Three of the seven on the search committee are faculty members.  Doctor Watson says she’s heard from a number of people who are concerned after hearing Board of Regents members suggest making Interim President Mark Hussey the permanent selection. The provost says Doctor Hussey has made it “abundantly clear” that he is only an interim.

Immigration reform is a topic Congressman Bill Flores says he’s hearing about in his district. But he calls it a toxic subject on Capitol Hill.  Flores says that means the Republicans currently do not have enough votes to bring the issue up.  Flores believes there’s enough support to break up immigration reform in several pieces.

And, for five years, Texas A&M students and volunteers have grown produce on west campus at the “Howdy Farm”.  Spokeswoman Jessica Newman says today they will debut a farmers market in Northgate where they and other vendors will be selling locally produced goods.  Homemade breads and house wares will also be for sale along with the produce.  The farmers market will be held today from two until six behind Blackwater Draw on Boyett.  Newman says it’s part of a $45,000 fundraising effort to expand and add features to their sustainable farm on west campus.

Local News Headlines–4/16/2014

The College Station school board took final action last night to hire the district’s next superintendent to succeed Eddie Coulson.  Deputy Superintendent Clark Ealy was received with a standing ovation from the board and audience.  Ealy says it is an honor to be selected to lead 1,600 employees and 12,000 students.  Other unanimous votes included spending $5,000 towards a natatorium feasibility study, and awarding a contract to build what will be called SpringCreekElementary school, which will have a maximum budget of just under $20-million.

Brazos County Commissioners have created a medical doctor’s position. County Judge Duane Peters says part of the position will involve the doctor taking over treatment of inmates from a third party provider. And, commissioners plan on opening an employee health clinic.  Peters says they’re considering no charge for employees, who have a $20 co-pay with the county’s current health plan.  Peters says one possible site for the clinic will be the current tax office, which will move into a new building near University and Boonville Road.

And, Brazos County Sheriff’s officers are investigating another round of thefts from unlocked vehicles.  Chief Deputy Jim Stewart says they received reports from 13 victims on Monday. The latest victims were along Chick Lane near west Bryan and near east Bryan on Old Reliance, Gemstone Drive, and Vintage Hills Drive.  Stewart says all the thieves want is what they can get easily.  Stewart adds in addition to locking vehicles, valuables should be taken inside of homes.

Local News Headlines–4/15/2014

A three hour standoff south of Wellborn yesterday afternoon ended peacefully. Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk says deputies responded to a call from grandparents worried about their safety after their adult grandson after he became agitated, displayed a gun, and went to his home next door after saying he was going to kill himself.  Kirk says the man was talked out of killing himself by a member of the department’s crisis intervention team.  The 22-year-old was taken into custody, where Kirk says there will be a mental health evaluation before deciding if the man will be arrested.  The standoff took place off Straub Road, about one mile west of Wellborn Road. Kirk says deputies removed the grandparents from the property and neighbors were notified by reverse 9-1-1 to stay indoors during the incident.

There’s no opposition among members of the College Station city council to change regulations on rental housing. No date has been set to take a vote on proposals developed over the last three months with input from neighborhood residents and the owners of rental properties.  The proposal calls for fines of up to $2,000 for having more than four unrelated occupants. Jeffrey Leatherwood was one of two property managers at the meeting calling for a much more expensive penalty. Property manager Casey Oldham is opposed to providing the city with copies of all rental leases and supplying notarized affidavits containing names of renters.  Other recommendations to the council included increasing the number of code enforcement officers.

And, by the end of the summer, BrazosCounty residents wanting to know how much water to put on their lawns can get an e-mail with that information. It’s part of a joint project funded by the Brazos County Groundwater Conservation District, AgriLife Extension, and the U-S Geological Survey.  Representatives were at the last College Station city council meeting.  Water Services Director Dave Coleman says the goal is to prevent overwatering.  Coleman says the idea is to add rain gauges that will be tied into a reporting station.  He says the network could be operating by the end of the summer.  The council approved receiving a grant from the groundwater district, which will create the website where users can register to receive the e-mail notifications.

Local News Headlines–4/14/2014

Authorities are still looking for the person who shot a man in the parking lot of a convenience store north of downtown Bryan Friday afternoon.   Officer Kelley McKethan says this was a targeted shooting outside the King Mart on East M-L-K.  Investigators found the suspect’s car and it’s not known if anyone else was involved in the incident.  McKethan says the 32-year-old male victim walked about a half block to a home, where he was taken to St. Joseph’s for treatment of non-life threatening injuries from a single gunshot wound. Police did arrest a bystander on charges of swearing in earshot of children, attempting to discourage witnesses from speaking, and spitting into an officer’s face.

The College Station school board has received a recommendation for naming the district’s new elementary school the ninth in the school district.  Superintendent Eddie Coulson says the board will consider the name Spring Creek elementary at tomorrow night’s meeting. Spring Creek is located on the site of the new elementary in south College Station.  The recommendation follows district policy on naming schools based on geography…like Creekview, which borders Lick Creek, and Greens Prairie, which is located on Greens Prairie Trail.

A divided Bryan city council approved making an exception to homebuilding regulations requiring sidewalks on both sides of the street.  The four to two vote supported the developer’s offer to build a ten-foot wide path connecting Austin’s ColonyPark and a park next to Sam Rayburn school. Developer Grant Carraba wanted a sidewalk on one side of low volume streets in 88 acres of new homes located in the Austin’s Colony subdivision.  No one on the council suggested the city pay to build the path and keep sidewalks on both sides of the looped streets.

And, a 12-year deal has been announced to operate concessions at the home of the 12th Man. Levy Restaurants of Chicago runs concessions at Wrigley Field, Miami’s American Airlines Arena, and the StaplesCenter in Los Angeles. A&M will receive $18-million in bonuses and advance commissions and Levy will make nearly $2-million in capital investments. The total amount of revenue that’s expected was not announced, nor was the status of university employees and volunteer organizations that have operated concessions at Kyle Field, Reed Arena, and Olsen Field.

Local News Headlines–4/11/2014

The 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M has established a memorial scholarship honoring the woman killed in an explosion and fire at her Bryan home. Noel Devin, class of 2004, was the Foundation’s ticket center Associate Vice-President of Resource Management. Devin and her father died early Monday morning. A Madisonville man is jailed in connection with the incident on charges of arson, burglary, and unauthorized use of Devin’s S-U-V.

The College Station city council has approved a request from the Convention and Visitors Bureau to award more grants with money from the hotel occupancy tax.  James Benham was part of the unanimous vote.  Benham argued that the money should be used immediately and completely instead of letting it sit in a bank collecting only .01 percent interest.  Added to unspent funds, $59,000 will go to 12 events through mid-July that will have a projected economic impact of $10-million.

Multiple units at a College Station storage center have been broken into, and police have limited information to go on. Officials say eight storage units were discovered with their locks cut off at the Longmire Self Storage on Wednesday, and security cameras had been disabled. Two lease-holders told police no property is missing. Police say until all the individual renters are contacted, they won’t know if any property has been taken.

And, a dedication tomorrow of the newest historical marker in BrazosCounty is open to the public. Historical commission chairman Henry Mayo says the marker, at the Bryan city cemetery, recognizes 161 Confederate veterans who were instrumental in the development of Bryan. The dedication program tomorrow morning at 11 starts at the Astin chapel and will process to the marker at the front of the cemetery. Mayo says the ceremony will follow the annual memorial service by the United Daughters of the Confederacy heritage group, which will start at 10:30.

Local News Headlines–4/10/2014

Bryan Police have confirmed the identities of two persons who died following an explosion and fire at a home near Texas and Carson.  The medical examiners office has positively identified the victims as 32-year-old Noel Devin, who resided at the house on Vinewood, and her father, 63-year-old Thomas “Mac” Devin of College Station.  A Madisonville man previously arrested for unauthorized use of Noel Devin’s S-U-V, 34-year-old Dennis Wayne Brown the third, now faces burglary and arson charges. Brown remains jailed as his bond was raised to $1.15-million. A statement from Bryan Police Chief Eric Buske says they are not actively seeking additional suspects.  According to the arrest report, investigators found fuel soaked rags throughout the house along with a jug of gasoline in the recovered S-U-V, which was parked at a north Bryan motel where Brown was found. The arrest report did not contain any information about a motive for the burglary and fire which began as an explosion.  Investigators were told Noel Devin had spent the weekend with friends at Chilifest and her father was there to return his daughter’s dog.

The new organizers of the Texas Reds Festival are looking to keep those who will attend this year in downtown Bryan longer. The director of the Downtown Bryan Association, Sandy Farris, told the city council this week they have dropped headline entertainment in favor of two stages with local and regional acts.  Farris also says they continue to include downtown business owners in the decision making process.  And, the events manager for the Downtown Bryan Association, Amanda Reynolds, says the festival area won’t be as large as in the past.  There was no feedback from the council on a request to spend $127,000 to cover expenses that have to be paid in the next couple of months.  The festival will be held the last weekend in September.

And, this weekend’s parent’s weekend at A&M has several changes.  One involves Sunday’s Kyle Field Day, which has moved to Olsen Field due to construction.  Spokeswoman Rachel Rosenberg says those on and off campus are invited to check out the work of more than 50 organizations.  The free event is Sunday afternoon from noon until 4, again at Olsen Field.  Also moved from Kyle Field is midnight yell practice, which will be held at the Arts and Humanities building amphitheater.  Another change for parent’s weekend for the first time is holding several awards presentations instead of just one program.

Local News Headlines–4/9/2014

A Madisonville man is in jail, accused of not having permission to take a S-U-V from the scene of a Bryan home that was destroyed by an explosion, leaving two bodies in the remains.  According to the arrest report, Bryan police are still waiting for the medical examiners office to confirm the identities of the victims. In the arrest report, investigators and family members believe they are a woman and her father, Noel Devin and Thomas Devin.  Held on bond of $150,000 is 34-year-old Dennis Wayne Brown the Third.  He was found in a north Bryan motel room 15 hours after the fire, with the woman’s S-U-V parked outside and officers looking through a window seeing what they believed to be the keys on Brown’s bed. The arrest report noted state and local fire investigators found undisclosed evidence of arson. No motive has been determined.

The intersection of Wellborn and Rock Prairie Roads was blocked for nearly three hours yesterday following a crash. Witnesses told College Station Police a southbound cement truck ran a red light. The truck driver, attempting to avoid striking crossing traffic, swerved into the northbound lane. That caused the truck to roll onto its side. The truck then slid and struck a northbound van. Both drivers were treated at the scene for non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the cement truck was ticketed for disregarding the red light.

And, the Bryan city council has voted against adding proposed changes to the city charter in this November’s election.  Ann Horton’s vote came after hearing recommendations from the city attorney.  The city attorney recommended against placing the charter questions on the ballot.  Rafael Pena repeated his call from two weeks ago to let voters decide.  Also, Chuck Konderla said supporting such a ban would violate both the U.S. and the Texas Constitutions.  The defeat, by a four to two vote, means supporters of three changes to the charter have until July first to collect enough signatures to have about 1,400 certified for the election.