Local News Headlines–10/17/2014

What is normally routine, the annual appointment of volunteers to advisory boards, wasn’t so ordinary at this week’s Bryan city council meeting. A portion of the council’s Tuesday afternoon workshop was spent recommending candidates. Before the council started taking final action Tuesday night, City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta announced one applicant was no longer interested in serving. Sandy Zavala withdrew her name from her nomination to the joint relief funding committee and all committees. Mayor Jason Bienski, who had nominated Zavala that afternoon, learned  that she is the mother of Rafael Pena, someone who has publicly endorsed the proposed charter amendment banning relatives of council members from volunteer or paid city positions. There were also more applicants than openings on the parks and recreation board. Six were interested in four positions. Pena and Al Saenz were part of a unanimous vote for a member who had sought reappointment and for not considering former councilman Richard Cortez because he serves on four other city boards. But, Pena and Saenz did not support the majority’s selections of three new members.

Education through entertainment is one way to describe the Brazos Valley Fair, which starts today. The fair’s Fiona Meyer says the educational focus is on agriculture with proceeds go towards college scholarships. This is the third Brazos Valley Fair and the first time the three-day fair is running in mid-October. Meyer also says expanded parking at the Expo Center means there’s no need for shuttle service this year. More information is online at www.brazosvalleyfair.com.

And, the city of College Station has announced street work today at three locations. There will be work along FM 2818 at the intersections of Holleman and Rio Grande that will result in lane closures and/or brief shutdowns. Motorists who use Munson will need to find another route because the block between University Oaks and Harvey will be closed for repaving. As for the bumpiest stretch of Munson, between Dominik and Lincoln, the city council is scheduled to consider a design contract at their next meeting. Construction could start a year from now on what is budgeted as a $2.6- million  replacement of the street and water and sewer lines.

Local News Headlines–10/16/2014

Local authorities descended on the Texas A&M campus Tuesday afternoon to the report of a student who became unconscious after swallowing something. University police lieutenant Allan Baron says this was near the Rudder complex, between the fountain and the statue.  It is believed the student swallowed some sodium cyanide, which can be fatal.  Because of the toxic nature of sodium cyanide, emergency responders wore hazmat suits and 12 people who came into contact with the victim went through a decontamination process.  The 20-year-old man was taken to a local hospital. Circumstances of the incident remain under investigation.

A Bryan based company will be expanding and relocating to the downtown area. Otis Instruments, which manufactures gas detection equipment for the energy industry, has reached an agreement to purchase the former police department building, renovated but never used as a city hall annex, at 29th and Texas. Company president Wayne Carroll says they looked at several options.  Carroll expects to add two or three new positions with the move then bring on a few more later in 2015.  Otis has a current employment of nearly 50.  Deputy City Manager Joey Dunn considers it a win-win situation.  Dunn says the building, vacant the last five years, no longer fits any current expansion plans.  The city council has authorized the mayor the executive the sales agreement, which Dunn says may happen in the next week. The purchase price has not been finalized. Dunn says proceeds from the sale can be spent on city building purchases and repairs.

And, two brothers sleeping on the second floor of their College Station apartment couldn’t escape a fire early this morning by going down the stairs.  The two brothers jumped out of a second floor window to escape the blaze.  Deputy Fire Marshal Steve Smith says the brothers were taken to College Station Medical Center for treatment of cuts on their arms and legs. The family dog died in the fire.  Smith says the cause of the fire at the Bee Creek apartments was an electric stove which had been left turned on. Smith says a firewall kept the fire from spreading to a neighboring unit but there was still enough damage that those occupants were displaced. There was not a smoke detector in the apartment where the fire started.

Local News Headlines–10/15/2014

Two months after it was first detected in mosquitoes, West Nile has made its way to humans in Brazos County. A press release from the health department said the Texas Department of State Health services confirmed the first human case in two years yesterday. The health department said the case is being treated as West Nile Fever because there are no signs that it is present in the victim’s brain.  West Nile was first detected in mosquitoes at the Texas A&M golf course in mid-August this year.

Bryan city council members and staff took five hours yesterday reviewing the city’s list of 150 capital improvement projects totaling $350-million. Before settling down to hear about more than one hundred future projects involving among other things streets, sidewalks, and drainage improvements, Al Saenz responded to a statement by Art Hughes that the council needs to do what’s best for the city as a whole.  Saenz stood up and accused the council majority of demonstrating what he called “hostility and contempt for residents and voters in single member districts one and two.  Chuck Konderla told Saenz and Rafael Pena that more than two-thirds of the funded projects are in their districts.  City manager Kean Register says at current funding levels, which is about $7-million every two years, that it would take 100 years to complete the list as it stands now. How projects are rated was explained and no one asked to change the process. Most members asked to switch priorities within their district. Staff will come back with what will have to be dropped.

There’s little new information in the continuing search for the next president of Texas A&M. Faculty Senate speaker Jim Woolsey says he met with the system chancellor last week.  Woolsey was told some excellent candidates have applied.  Woolsey also said two search firms hired by the system will continue their recruiting until the first of the year, which is when he expects any objective decisions to be made. The chancellor released no names.

And, with Halloween two weeks away, remember to plan for your pets. Leiha White at Aggieland Humane Society says that includes how your pets will react to your costumes.  White also says if you’re planning to put a costume on your pet, that’s like adding a second coat. And, make sure candy is kept out of reach.  White says there are more emergency trips to the vet around Halloween due to eating costumes and candy.  The humane society will hold a special “Howloween” event the evening of October 31st.

Local News Headlines–10/14/2014

A new report shows each day last year, Brazos County gained 23 new residents.  The Texas Association of Realtors annual relocation report shows Brazos County was second in the state in the net number of new residents last year at nearly 8,600. All but one thousand moved to Brazos County from within the state.  Texas remained number one in the country in people relocating from other states, and we’re number three for those leaving to another state. The net number statewide is 138,000 or 378 each day.

Saturday night’s post-game traffic leaving Kyle Field was aggravated further due to a motorist who died behind the wheel. College Station police lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says this was shortly after 11 pm Saturday night on FM 2818 near George Bush Drive.  A Houston man on his way home from Kyle Field went into medical distress while driving down the road.  Fleeger says nearby motorists started C-P-R before the driver was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.  This incident along with a crash on the FM 60 bridge over 2818 further delayed traffic leaving Saturday night’s Texas A&M football game.

And, the week after next, there will be public meetings in Bryan and Huntsville to gather opinions about the alignment of a $10-billion 200 mile an hour high speed passenger train between Houston and Dallas. The president of the Texas Central Railway, Robert Eckels, says the initial route is east of Bryan/College Station along or next to existing rights of way.  Eckels expects at some point there will be a station to shuttle rail passengers to and from Bryan and College Station.  There had been local support for high speed rail between Dallas and San Antonio with a connector between Temple and B-CS nicknamed the Texas T-Bone. Among the proponents, retired Easterwood Airport director John Happ, noted the support has waned in recent years.  Eckels says construction of the Japanese financed project could start in 2017. The first electric powered bullet trains, running at speeds of 200 miles per hour, could start running seven years from now.  Public meetings are scheduled for October 27th at the Brazos Center and the 28th at the Veterans Conference Center in Huntsville.

Local News Headlines–10/13/14

Once Kyle Field construction is completed, there could be a transformation north of the stadium.  The Texas A&M System has filed a request for proposals with the state to redevelop 11 acres north of the stadium. Cain Hall, originally an athletics dorm that is now an office building, would be demolished and replaced with a larger office building to the north. Next door would be a 150 room hotel, a 20,000 square foot conference center, and a parking garage no taller than four floors accommodating 1,000 vehicles. The center would be connected to the stadium by a pedestrian bridge over Joe Routt Boulevard. As first reported by KBTX, system officials will meet with prospects next Thursday. The timeline calls for receiving proposals by November 13th and interviewing finalists the week of December 1st.  No date was given for awarding the project or a construction timeline. The developer is responsible for the private financing to build and operate the center as part of leasing the property from the system for no longer than 30 years. After the lease expires, the system takes over ownership of the center.

Today is the first day of the fall warrant amnesty period for those facing court charges in College Station and Brazos County.  For the next two weeks, anyone who has court warrants to resolve in Brazos County or the city of College Station can take of their business without being arrested and without paying the $50 per case warrant fee.  College Station municipal judge Ed Spillane says starting November first, those who fail to pay their fines will be arrested by city marshals, police officers, reserve police officers and constables during the warrant roundup.  Spillane says those wanting to check if they need to take care of business can go online to www.cstx.gov/warrants.

Tomorrow’s Bryan city council meeting includes an agreement with the state to expand Highway 21 between Texas Avenue and the Earl Rudder Freeway. The city’s share of the cost, $640,000, would come from the sewer and water funds as those utilities have to be moved to make room for a center turning lane and paved shoulders. TxDOT says its share comes from a safety grant that has to be spent soon or it has to be returned. City staff was hoping to build sidewalks, but neither the city nor the state has the money for that.

And, it’s been six years since College Station voters approved a bond issue that in part provided money to make University Drive safer in Northgate. Some of the work is done, but negotiations continue to improve University from College Main to South College.  Whatever the city and Texas A&M do, it still requires the state’s approval. Proposed changes include raising the median along University, which would block traffic turning left into the northside parking garage.

Local News Headlines–10/10/2014

There are more than 20 oil and gas wells in College Station. Construction of the next one ran into opposition at last night’s city council meeting before a five to one vote approving the application. Drilling on the first of possibly two fracking wells starts December first off of Cain Road between Wellborn and Holleman. Six speakers during the public hearing raised concerns of increased noise and lights in the populated area. A partner in the well, Mary Jo Hurley of Ogden Resources, says the inconvenience will last about 60 days.  The council majority said the applicant met all the requirements of the current ordinance, though Karl Mooney voted no because the regulations were written before the practice of fracking became popular.  Mooney says he still has concerns over the effects of fracking on the environment.  A review of permit requirements is being done by city staff. The council will take up the application for the second well in two weeks.

A Temple couple is headed to prison and is responsible for paying more than $100,000 in restitution after stealing mail from more than 80 cities throughout central Texas. 29-year-old Kathryn Hubbert and 39-year-old Charles Hattenbach robbed post offices, collection boxes, and parcel lockers between December of last year and March of this year. There were more than 2,000 victims and 50,000 items stolen in an area stretching from Bryan/College Station to Dallas and from San Antonio to Midland including Millican, Washington, Hearne, Navasota, and Brenham.

And, the Texas Department of Transportation has rejected a request to allow a ten foot tall granite memorial where a semi overturned in west Bryan two weeks ago, killing many of the 5,500 chickens headed to a nearby processing plant.  The application came from an Austin woman representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  TxDOT rules do not allow memorials for animals on highway rights of way.  PETA campaign manager Laura Cascada claims it’s not a crazy idea.  Cascada says the memorials are used to encourage people to go vegan.  The proposed PETA memorial contains the message “In memory of the hundreds of terrified chickens who suffered and died on this spot.”  Cascada says PETA has a roadside memorial near Madison, Wisconsin, remembering cattle killed in an accident on the way to slaughter and has asked for similar tombstones in Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, and Kansas.

Local News Headlines–10/9/2014

A new owner could be coming soon to the short lived Gunler Foods manufacturing plant in north Bryan. Mayor Jason Bienski says there are three or four manufacturers looking into buying the facility and several local businesses looking at the property for expansion purposes.  Bienski says Gunler was the catalyst to bring more manufacturing to the Texas Triangle Park.  He also says Gunler’s exit meant a financial loss to the city of $30,000 but no lost property tax revenue to the city or the county.

College Station residents who are registered voters are invited to help draft a bond package for long-term projects that will go to voters a year from now.  City Secretary Sherry Mashburn says those on the 23 member committee will also be in one of three subcommittees.  Mashburn says they are looking for committee members interested in transportation, facilities or parks.  Mashburn says applications are now being accepted from those interested in serving on the bond committee.

And, motorists driving Rock Prairie over the freeway can expect delays today as frontage roads are restriped and lanes are shifted to allow the contractor to complete the next portion of the project.  Also, be aware of College Station firefighters at various intersections as they hold their annual fill the boot fundraiser for the muscular dystrophy association. The firefighters will be out today, tomorrow, and Saturday.

Local News Headlines–10/8/2014

The primary reason for the biomedical corridor, addressing a worldwide health issue, may get its first test in the near future.  The New York Times reports biocorridor-based Caliber Biotherapeutics has been in advanced discussions to produce a drug to treat those with the Ebola virus.  Caliber’s project manager has declined comment to the Times and Bryan Broadcasting about making a tobacco leaf version of the experimental drug called Z-MAPP.  The chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Doctor Brett Giroir, told the state senate’s health and human services committee experts are meeting with federal officials multiple times each day to come up with a proper treatment for Ebola.  Unnamed federal officials and executives of pharmaceutical companies tell the Times Caliber is one of several companies being considered.  The Times also reports federal officials are also looking at the traditional production of the drug by using animal cells. While that takes longer, it would also allow for greater output by tapping into the biotechnology industry’s huge production capacity.  And, the Associated Press reports a North Carolina drug maker has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration to provide another experimental drug for Ebola patients. The oral antiviral called Brincidofovir was already being tested to fight more common viruses, including one that infects patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.

A familiar face is returning as the new chief executive of the rebranded College Station Regional Medical Center.  Larry Rodgers had been chief operating officer of The Med in the past before spending the last five years as C-E-O of a 150 bed hospital in Big Spring. Rodgers starts his new position next Monday.

A Brazos County district court jury has convicted a Bryan man of capital murder. 41-year-old Eugene Jenkins participated in the December 2011 shooting death of 18-year-old Raymond Cavazos during a drug deal at the victim’s home. Jenkins was the second man found guilty of capital murder, following last year’s conviction of Clifton Montgomery. Jenkins originally entered a plea agreement to aggravated robbery and received a 30-year prison sentence, but he was able to withdraw the plea and stand trial. The capital murder conviction means an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.

And, the local Salvation Army has extended the deadline for those seeking assistance through their Angel Tree holiday program.  Interviews and applications will be conducted Monday through Thursday of next week, each day from nine until three.  Angel Tree recipients can be up to 12-years-old, and parents need to bring proof of income and expenses.

Local News Headlines–10/7/2014

Governor Rick Perry has created a task force to prepare and respond to infectious diseases. [W:\News\tsnPerry100614-1.wav]   Leading the 17 member task force will be the chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Doctor Brett Giroir whose comments included a reminder that the Ebola virus is spread only by direct contact with bodily fluids from someone already infected and showing symptoms of the infection.  The governor says the purpose of the task force is to build on the state’s existing emergency plan to develop a comprehensive, long-term response to deal with any potential outbreak. The first report of the task force, including legislative recommendations, is due December 1st.  Other A&M members of the task force are Health Science Center vice-president Doctor Gerald Parker, the director of the Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Lab Doctor Tammy Beckham, Health Science Center assistant dean Doctor Scott Lillibridge, and former vice-president of student services Joe Weber, who is now executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Almost a year-and-a-half in the making, the Bryan school board has approved expanding athletic facilities at Rudder High School.  The board approved a $3.4-million package of improvements. Monday’s unanimous vote means an immediate start to building baseball and softball practice fields, more bleachers and new press boxes and storage for baseball and softball, adding a wrestling room to the field house, and adding air conditioning capacity at the field house. The construction goal is to have it completed by the start of baseball season in the spring.  Funding will come from existing revenue in the district’s construction account. The price tag is up from the estimate made last October of $2.5-million. A building for concessions and restrooms for the outdoor fields will not be built. Nor will there be a field house expansion that would have meant more student dressing rooms, restrooms and showers and more office space for coaches.

And, 16 international students at Texas A&M were scammed for $17,000 of non-existent online airline tickets.  The 16 students used an Indonesian company called Jasmine Travel.  University police lieutenant Allan Baron says the victims are also working with representatives of International Student Services, the F-B-I, and the Better Business Bureau.  The Better Business Bureau’s Bill McGuire says Jasmine indicated they had offices in New York and California, though the addresses listed other businesses.

Local News Headlines–10/6/2014

Before the end of the month, College Station property owners will be able to go to a computer and find out if they need to irrigate their lawns.  College Station Utilities Water Resource Coordinator Jennifer Nations says ten rain gauges have been set up as part of a network in Brazos and Robertson counties. More information will be posted online at cstx.gov/water.

A local man accused of ramming his car into a car driven by his estranged wife last month has been found. 36-year-old Curtis Dickey, Junior was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. College Station police lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says the assault took place the night of September 3rd in the area of Scott and White hospital.  Fleeger says the woman was not hurt and she was able to drive away.  Dickey is also jailed without bond on a parole violation from a prior case. Fleeger says Dickey was found at a home in the Meadowcreek subdivision off Koppe Bridge and gave himself up without incident.

Two weekend crashes have left two people in the hospital.  Friday night, a pedestrian was struck by a hit and run driver at University and College. Authorities are still looking for a dark colored Jeep Wrangler that didn’t stop after hitting a man who was crossing the street.  And, a motorcyclist was last listed in critical but stable condition following a spill early Saturday morning. College Station police sent to Tarrow between University and Spring Loop found a Harley in the grassy median. Officers were told the unidentified motorcyclist was headed north on Tarrow when the bike struck a curb and crashed inside the median. The C-S-P-D news release did not indicate if the operator was wearing a helmet.

And, motorists driving in the area of Texas and University this week may have to make detours. Multiple lanes will be closed at night to allow surfacing and restriping to take place.  Last night began the latest lane closure on the freeway northbound between University and Briarcrest. The contractor changed the schedule from daytime to nighttime hours after several chain reaction crashes last week. Weather permitting; the new closure will take place between 7 pm and 6:30 in the morning through Thursday.