Local News Headlines–7/24/2014

The two state representatives serving Brazos County are back from a tour of the border.  District 12 Representative Kyle Kacal was a part of the delegation.  District 14 Representative John Raney has been in contact with state lawmakers whose districts are along the border. Raney says they have noticed an increased presence in law enforcement.  Raney says the added law enforcement presence along the border includes six helicopters and six gunboats along the Rio Grande.  Their trip came the day after Governor Perry announced deploying up to one thousand Texas National Guard troops to the border.  Raney says the border representatives are concerned about the role of Texas National Guard troops, which Raney says will be a support element.

The College Station city council is considering possible action to increase the number of people enforcing city building codes. Mayor Nancy Berry says it means adding $43,000 to this year’s budget.  Another topic being considered by the council is forming a committee to develop recommendations for a city bond issue that would go to voters next year.  Another item is the annual update of the city’s comprehensive plan, which Berry says stays the course of past years.

College Station city crews are continuing to repair Welsh Avenue in front of Consolidated High School.  Thru traffic is blocked until at least tomorrow.  A culvert under the pavement collapsed yesterday when a dump truck drove over it.  There’s also a street closure today in downtown Bryan.  The intersection of Bryan and 28th is closed due to repairing the railroad crossing.  And, a reminder from TxDOT that the new northbound freeway ramps between Harvey and University are open today and northbound ramps between University and Briarcrest will close tomorrow.

Local News Headlines–7/23/2014

A Bryan man has been booked into the Brazos County jail for the 40th time. Online jail records show the first arrest for James Oliver Junior was in September 1991. The latest was Monday night, when a Bryan policeman stopped a car for making a right turn without using a turn signal. According to the arrest report, the officer noticed an odor of marijuana and the driver’s record included 17 active suspensions. A search of the car led to the discovery of three bags of marijuana with a total weight of ten ounces, along with scales and baggies. Oliver, who was out on bond following a May 31st arrest for marijuana possession, was released again after posting another bond. Online records also show he has 30 convictions in various Brazos County courts.

Billboards have popped up offering free soft drinks to designated drivers in the Northgate district. Its part of a campaign started about a year and a half ago by a non-profit group called CARE, which stands for Coalition on Alcohol Responsibility and Education. The president of CARE is Deputy Ed Frank of the Brazos County sheriff’s office. He says more than 7,500 cups have been distributed which will be filled by free soft drinks by Northgate merchants.  Frank says funding for the cups and billboards comes from the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

The Bryan/College Station March of Dimes is hosting a community baby shower this week.  Spokeswoman Katy Scott says they’re creating a “community closet” to help families in area neonatal intensive care units and pre-natal clinics. In addition to prenatal vitamins, clothes, blankets and diapers, she says new car seats are desperatly needed.  Donations can be dropped off on Saturday between 10 and 2 in the Hilton parking lot off University Drive. Purple cookies can be purchased throughout the week at either Blue Baker location, with proceeds covering any items that aren’t donated.

And, Conflicting federal appeals court rulings were made yesterday on Obamacare subsidies that affect subscribers in Texas and 35 other states. A federal panel in Virginia sided with the Obama administration saying the law also allows subsidies to those in Texas and other states subscribing to the federal marketplace.  Another federal panel, in Washington D.C., ruled subsidies don’t apply to those using the federal marketplace. The U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue. Without the subsidies, premiums will increase for more than 4-million Americans.

Local News Headlines–7/22/2014

All incumbent Bryan and College Station school board and city council members who are eligible to run again in this November’s election have either filed or have said they plan to seek re-election.  The latest are two school board members, Valerie Jochen in College Station and John Street in Bryan. The only position with the guarantee of a new person is Bryan city council single member district four, where Kyle Incardona announced his candidacy yesterday. Filing continues until August 18th.

Governor Rick Perry announced yesterday the deployment of up to one thousand Texas National Guard troops to the border. Perry says “Operation Strong Safety” was to combat criminal activity that has increased since the border patrol has placed more attention on illegal immigrant children. Perry says in the last six years, 640,000 criminal aliens have been booked in Texas jails.  Perry says state funding would pay for the cost, $12-million a month, but added he expects the federal government to reimburse the state.  Nothing was said about how long those troops will be assisting the department of public safety and federal agencies.

Brazos County state senator Charles Schwertner is among those supporting Governor Perry’s decision to send the Texas National Guard to the border.  Schwertner says the thousands of children crossing the border affects the safety of Texas citizens and the sovereignty of Texas and the United States.

Anyone driving tonight in College Station should stay away from the intersection of Texas and University.  Multiple lanes will be closed starting at 10 pm as new traffic signals will be activated and the old light poles will be coming down.  And, if you’re interested in learning more about a proposed Highway 21 bypass in Madisonville, the Texas Department of Transportation has scheduled a public hearing this evening. The gathering will be at the Madisonville convention center, located downtown behind the courthouse, from five until seven. TxDOT has no plans to make Highway 21 a four lane road from Madisonville to the Brazos County line.

Local News Headlines–7/21/2014

Another hurdle has been cleared for supporters of three proposed changes to the Bryan city charter.  City secretary Mary Lynne Stratta says she has certified enough signatures collected by Citizens For Bryan. That’s the group that wants, among other things, to ban relatives of Bryan council members from being hired or appointed to city positions. Stratta says on August 12th, the council will have the first reading on an ordinance to add the questions on the November ballot. If approved, a second reading could take place as early as the next day. A second group, Partners For a Better Bryan, continues to collect signatures to on a proposal allowing all residents to vote for all council members while still requiring five to live within single member districts.

A 72 minute power outage at a Bryan wastewater treatment plant during Thursday’s heavy rainfall resulted in a spill of 600,000 gallons of domestic wastewater. Mark Jurica with the City of Bryan says the outage affected the Burton Creek plant, located near the creek and University.  Jurica says public works employees will come out to inspect homes and businesses that may have been impacted by a backup.  Outside of regular business hours, call B-T-U at 979-822-3777.  The public works department customer service number that’s answered weekdays 8 until 5 is 979-209-5900.

A Temple couple has pleaded guilty to stealing an estimated 55,000 pieces of mail from 95 post offices in central Texas including Bryan, College Station, Millican, Navasota, Brenham, and Hearne. The U.S. attorney’s office Waco estimates there were 3,000 victims, and the value of the stolen mail was placed at $500,000.  The couple took credit cards, personal and business checks, cash, gift cards, and other items. They also deposited stolen money orders and checks into several financial institutions then made withdrawals, resulting in losses to banks and credit unions of $80,000. 28-year-old Kathryn Hubbert, who is out on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced August 20th. 39-year-old Charles Hattenbach, who is in federal custody, is scheduled to be sentenced September 10th.

Local News Headlines–7/18/2014

A Bryan dentist who told police he secretly videotaped a dental assistant in the employee bathroom has entered a plea agreement in Brazos County district court.  67-year-old William Birdwell was sentenced to the maximum two years for the felony crime of improper visual recording.   As part of four years of probation, Birdwell will serve 21 consecutive days in the county jail next month.  Birdwell was also ordered to perform 80 hours community service and undergo a psychological evaluation. Birdwell’s attorney says his client asks forgiveness from those affected, he is deeply sorry for his actions, and accepts full responsibility and consequences for them.  Birdwell gave up his license and resigned from the state board of dental examiners following his arrest.

Bryan school officials and their consulting architect spent yesterday afternoon at Merrill Green stadium, where a proposed bond issue now calls for $2.5-million of improvements.  The original estimate was $4-million and Superintendent Tommy Wallis says the work will have to be done if the school district is to continue using the stadium.  Wallis organized the inspection after board member David Stasny asked why it would cost $2-million just to replace the press box.  Wallis says they’re looking at a less expensive alternative which would keep the original shell of the existing press box.  Doctor Wallis also said several spots where the pavement has cracked and shifted need to be repaired, and joints need to be sealed.

And, as advertised, the latest segment of freeway construction will be completed before the start of the fall semester at Texas A& M.  Bob Colwell at the TxDOT district office in Bryan says weather permitting the northbound exit to Harvey Road will open next Thursday.  Before that, next Monday night, northbound traffic between Harvey and University will be closed to remove a brick sign on a bridge.  Traffic will be diverted to the frontage road.  Again weather permitting, the northbound freeway exit at Briarcrest will be closed starting next Friday, the 25th.

Local News Headlines–7/17/2014

For the first time in recent history, the Bryan school board may be able to adopt a budget with surplus funding. During a board workshop yesterday, assistant superintendent Amy Drozd says the district could have an additional $3.2-million.  Drozd says the surplus could be used for things such as construction, wireless network updates, and roof and air conditioning repairs.  The proposed budget includes two department directors and three other fulltime professional positions that were recently hired. Yet to be approved by the board is the addition of 20 teachers. Also awaiting board action is hiring an administrator in charge of finding energy savings. Pay raises for next year average less than two percent for teachers, administrators, and other professional employees, and two and a half percent for auxiliary and paraprofessionals. August 18th is the tentative date for the Bryan school board to consider adopting next year’s budget.

A month from now, College Station school board members will learn recommendations of redrawing elementary school boundaries that will take place a year from now. Superintendent Clark Ealy says a rezoning committee has completed its work, taking into account the opening of Spring Creek elementary next year.  Ealy says the school district hopes to make the boundary changes as minimal as possible for the least amount of disruption in the community.  The C-S-I-S-D board has scheduled three public hearings during the first half of September to gather input. That gives the board the opportunity to vote on new elementary boundaries later that month.

And, a state trooper is hospitalized in Bryan following an accidental shooting in Madisonville.  Sergeant Jimmy Morgan says Trooper Felipe Garcia was outside a gym after finishing a workout and had opened the door to his pickup when the pistol fell and discharged upon hitting the ground.  The 28-year-old trooper was transported to St. Joseph Regional Health Center where he underwent surgery.

Local News Headlines–7/16/2014

A budget workshop by the Bryan school board will include another update on a proposed $132-million bond issue for this November. One of the components is converting the present Stephen F. Austin middle school into administrative offices. During the last school board workshop, Superintendent Tommy Wallis lined out how 95,000 of 97,000 square feet would be used. Among other things, Doctor Wallis says this addresses the biggest complaint from teachers and administrators by creating meeting space.  The board is being asked to build a new three story classroom building between S-F-A’s gym and the civic auditorium as part of the bond package, which will be considered for a final vote next Monday.

The College Station Police Department has announced an arrest in an aggravated assault case involving domestic violence. 30-year-old Ronald Anthony White is accused of beating and slashing the hand of the victim before tying her up with an extension cord and threatening to kill her. The victim freed herself, and after White left she contacted police. White was found in Bryan about six hours after the attack and was arrested without incident.

And, repairs are underway to a railroad overpass south of Navasota that was damaged by a train derailment three weeks ago. The TxDOT district office in Bryan says northbound traffic on highway 6 will remain one lane until repairs are completed, which weather permitting, will be in mid-August.

Local News Headlines–7/15/2014

Blinn College trustees are being asked to hire another consultant to assist in addressing continuing growth in Brazos County.  Spokesman Richard Bray says the contract with Bryan-based Arkitex Studio is part of tonight’s trustees’ agenda.  Portable buildings have been established to relocate offices to create additional classrooms and new scheduling software is being tested that will free existing space for more classes through class rescheduling.  Bray says the Arkitex proposal addresses space needs over the next two to five years. A committee of local real estate agents and Blinn administrators will also be formed to recommend long-term solutions.

Tonight’s College Station school board agenda includes a $1-million makeover of the baseball and softball fields at A&M Consolidated High School.  C-S-I-S-D facilities director Jon Hall says rebuilding the fields will solve significant drainage issues from the last ten years. If approved, 12 inches of existing clay soil will be removed from both fields and replaced with a product called root zone mix.  New sod was recommended over artificial turf.  Both fields would get new irrigation systems and new outfield fences. Funding comes from savings on previously completed projects from bond issues passed last year and in 2009.

And, in the next two years, at least $2.5-million will be invested in a historical building on the north end of downtown Bryan.  The city council, acting as the city’s commerce and development board, unanimously approved an economic development agreement at its last meeting involving the Icehouse building at Martin Luther King and Main.  Advent G-X has two years after closing to complete restoration. At least 25 percent of the building will be used for retail and restaurants. Mayor Jason Bienski says a microbrewery is also a possibility.  Bienski says the developer, Advent G-X, has made major investments in downtown Bryan in recent years. That includes the Grand Stafford Theater and efforts to relocate the backup for NASA’s mission control to Bryan.

Local News Headlines–7/14/2014

The B-CS Chamber of Commerce has compiled results of visits with 545 businesses this spring. Chamber president Royce Hickman says it’s the most optimistic owners and other decision makers have been in five years. One of three questions asked annually is how have sales changed from the year before.  There was also an improvement in future employment plans.  And, more business owners expect the economy to improve.  Hickman says local sales were up from the year before and business owners expected the economy to get even better during the next 12 months.  Hickman says the annual survey included two new questions. He says the overall quality of the local workforce was rated at 60 percent good. But, a concern is the availability of construction workers.  Hickman says more than 125 volunteers visited with chamber members and non-members, in some cases being able to respond to concerns and answer questions on the spot.

Three people were hospitalized following a crash Saturday during the noon hour in front of the College Station Hilton.  Police report an eastbound car on University ran a red light and struck a northbound S-U-V on Tarrow, causing the S-U-V to roll. The driver of the S-U-V had to be removed from the vehicle.  That driver and a 12-year-old passenger from San Antonio and the driver of the car were all taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Westbound traffic on University was diverted through the Hilton parking lot while eastbound traffic was down to one lane.

And, while the former Bryan Army Reserve center has been crossed off the list of locations where refugees from Central America will be housed, Congress and President Obama remain at odds over what to do next.  Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan says safety is not the reason the U-A-C’s, or unaccompanied alien children, are migrating to the United States.  Flores says a vast majority of the children being interviewed say they are being sent to the U-S believing they will be granted automatic citizenship and the parents will be allowed to come join their children.  Instead of President Obama’s $3.7-billion funding plan, Flores says the Texas congressional delegation is working on spending less money that will still address the core issue and clean up what he says is the mess the President has made.  Flores says the proposed legislation calls on Obama to stop what he’s been doing under a deferred action memo he wrote in June 2012 and close a loophole in a 2008 trafficking law Flores says the President has exploited to let the children stay in the U.S., and improve border security.  Flores says any funding will include returning children to their homes.  Federal officials decided not to open the former Bryan armory following letters of concern from city and school officials and state lawmakers.

Local News Headlines–7/11/2014

College Station fire and police investigators are still looking for a cause and the origin of a house fire early yesterday morning that killed one person and two dogs.  Fire department spokesman Bart Humphreys says the identity of the lone occupant of the home on Eagle Avenue continues to be withheld. The occupant and two Rotweilers were found on the second floor of the home, located across Eagle from Creek View School.  Crews from four College Station fire stations were on the scene. No firefighters were injured. Humphreys says the fire, reported by a neighbor who heard smoke alarms, was under control in less than 30 minutes.

A local man is accused of ramming his S-U-V into a Bryan police S-U-V with enough force that the airbag deployed. It’s the second time in ten months that 29-year-old Dachristopher Harrison is in jail on a parole violation from drug-related convictions. Lieutenant Sharean Gideon says at about two in the morning yesterday one patrol car was in front of the suspect’s vehicle and another was approaching from the rear when Harrison accelerated in reverse.  Harrison was going an estimated 40 miles per hour in reverse on impact. Harrison’s six-year-old son, who was in the front seat, was not injured and was given to a family member. No officers were hurt. Police seized 28 bags of cocaine with an estimated street value of nearly $1,200, along with $660 cash.

And, College Station police have charged a juvenile with burglary of a habitation after a resident’s video surveillance system helped officers identify the suspect.  The victim reported Wednesday night at around 9 the juvenile entered the open garage, opened an unlocked car door, and stole a wallet.  Officers arrived at the home within two minutes and located the suspect.  The stolen items were returned and the investigation continues with additional charges possible.