Local News Headlines–1/29/2015

Fluctuation in the price of oil is one barometer of the local economy. Something more important according to Texas A&M real estate economist Jim Gaines while speaking at the chamber of commerce economic outlook conference is how the legislature will fund the university. Gaines says as the state funding of A&M goes, so goes the local economy. Gaines says some people are not being able to buy homes because of record high prices. The average price of a new home is more than 206 thousand dollars. Construction of new homes now takes nine months instead of five months due to demand from buyers combined with a shortage of laborers.

The state legislature has its first budget draft for the next two years. Topping the list for Brazos County State Senator Charles Schwertner is providing medical coverage for the uninsured. Schwertner says medical coverage now takes up 37-percent of the state budget causing a decrease in funding in other areas. School finance includes a slight increase for enrollment growth, but the big unknown remains the unresolved lawsuit over the funding formula. Schwertner chairs the Senate’s health and human services committee and is also a member of the senate finance committee.

And, when talking about unemployment rates, it’s hard to find much wrong with what’s happening in Texas. Hope Andrade, Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission, says the state jobless rate fell to 4.6-percent in December, the lowest it’s been in almost seven years. She says job creation is bringing people to the Lone Star State. She says the labor force has grown to 13-million in Texas. Andrade says in 2014 Texas created 457,900 jobs, far and away tops in the nation.

Local News Headlines–1/28/2015

Two traffic accidents in Bryan Monday result in reminders from police. Officer Kelley McKethan says a bicyclist was hurt in a mishap at 28th and Brazos. The bicyclist who ran the stop sign sustained injuries not believed to be life threatening. Another driver and passenger were hospitalized after a tire blowout on the freeway, causing their vehicle to roll, leading to a reminder from McKethan to check tire pressure and depth of tire tread.

A future College Station city council meeting will include renaming a park.  Mayor Nancy Berry made the suggestion during last week’s workshop naming Raintree Park for the late Art Bright, who built the first house in that development. Berry also made note of Bright’s volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and Twin City Mission. Support was aired for the name change during the public comments portion of the last council meeting.

The city of Bryan has qualified for six traffic safety grants through the Texas Department of Transportation. City engineer Paul Kaspar updated the council during Tuesday’s workshop meeting. The state will be spending one and a half million dollars and the city 115 thousand. The projects scheduled for construction next year includes turning Finfeather Road from Groesbeck to the south city limits to a three lane for vehicles and with bike lanes in both directions. There will be new traffic signals at Carson and Turkey Creek, Carson and South College, 29th and Texas, and Villa Maria and South College along with new flashing lights at Highway 21 and Marino.

And, the nation’s largest one day, student run service project, The Big Event, will take place on March 28th this year in Bryan-College Station. Third year participant, Allie Ryan, says out of the 22,000 student volunteers this year, about one fourth will be freshmen. Ryan says residents can sign up now through February 20th to request a job at their house. Visit bigeventonline.tamu.edu to sign up and for more information.

Local News Headlines–1/27/2015

Several questions are still being asked about the Obama’s administration plan for free community college. State Representative John Raney says it is a frightening prospect because someone has to pay for it. Raney also says community colleges must do a better job than the current 30-percent graduation rate they now generate. Raney went on the say he is not criticizing Blinn College in that regard as its transfer rate to A&M is much higher. He says the state also needs more vocational and technical training programs.

A report Saturday of an armed robbery at the Doux Chene Apartments on Harvey Mitchell Parkway has led to two drug related arrests. College Station Police have charged 34-year-old Gerrod Hood of College Station with possession of over a pound of marijuana, 50 grams of cocaine, and 90 Xanax tablets. During the investigation, police separately arrested 23-year-old Marquis Oliver-Pruitt of Houston for possession of 39 tablets of ecstasy and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for a car reported stolen by Houston police in December.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Bryan is celebrating National Catholic Schools Week by recognizing their 120th anniversary. Communications director Patty Blaszak says it begins with a Mass of Thanksgiving tomorrow morning at 11 at the church. The bishop of the Austin diocese will be leading the mass, which is followed by a reception. The site of the first school, on Preston Street, has remained in continuous use for educational purposes.

And, the trend may be over when it comes to ever-cheaper gas prices. The Triple-A state overnight average for a gallon of gas is down a half cent to a $1.84. That’s the lowest is five years. But, all good things must end and energy watcher Trilby Lundberg says the joy ride for drivers may be over. The price we pay now is a $1.25 less than it was this time last year.

Local News Headlines–1/26/2015

There were two deaths reported on area roads over the weekend. A man walking on FM 2818 north of the Villa Maria exit during the midnight hour Sunday was struck and killed. Bryan police identified the victim as 26-year-old Mario Andreas Jemison of Bryan. Investigators do not believe the driver of the car was intoxicated when Jemison was struck in the outside lane. And, a crash on FM 1774 Saturday afternoon near the Texas Renaissance Festival resulted in one death and three injuries. D-P-S reports a northbound SUV rear-ended a car attempting to make a left turn. One of two passengers in the car died. She was identified as 20-year-old Harley Marie Mullenix of Navasota. Both drivers and the other passenger in the car were all transported to Conroe Regional Hospital.

A College Station woman is accused of working as a nurse without a license for at least eight years and possibly longer. College Station police report 43-year-old Sheila Vincent turned herself in as the result of an investigation that started the week before last. Investigators were told the license Vincent was using belonged to a nurse that was employed in another part of the state. The police department’s news release did not reveal where Vincent has worked since the end of 2006, or back to the mid 1990’s where investigators suspect Vincent impersonated a nurse.

Committee appointments to the Texas Senate have been made by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Senator Charles Schwertner, who represents Brazos County, will continue chairing Health and Human Services and will be a member of Finance, Business and Commerce, Administration, and State Affairs. Newly elected senator Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham joins Health and Human Services as vice-chairman; she will also join Schwertner on Finance, and is also on the Education, Transportation, and Agriculture Committees.

Legal action over the way public schools are financed in Texas will be taking much longer. It was a subject brought up by College Station superintendent Clark Ealy at the last school board meeting. Doctor Ealy recently told the school board the state Supreme Court has added more time for arguments in the continuing appeal. Ealy also says the school finance lawsuit, so far, has generated more than 200,000 pages of testimony. He says that means the court battle will extend through this calendar year and it won’t get back to the legislature until the 2017 session.

Local News Headlines–1/23/2015

The College Station city council has unanimously approved its first changes in regulating oil and gas drilling since 1991. That’s after spending two hours listening to more than 40 speakers, most who wanted 1,500 feet between their homes and oil wells. Before the final vote, the council turned down a pair of amendments, including one that would have increased the distance between homes and wells from 600 to 1,000 feet. The council majority also considered the ordinance a work in progress and is subject to future changes. It took 27 drafts to come up with the regulations update.

Governor Greg Abbott has announced board of regents appointments to the Texas A&M, University of Texas, and Texas Tech systems. One of three members of the A&M board will continue, subject to Senate confirmation. That’s current chairman Phil Adams of Bryan. Not reappointed were Jim Schwertner of Austin and John White of Houston. The new members are both Aggie alumni. They are Bryan native and Fort Worth business owner Bob Albritton and Dallas attorney Bill Mahomes, Junior.

The Bryan city council gave no clear direction on where to locate future skateparks or a superpark. That’s after staff recommendations earlier this month to add 15 ballfields on existing city owned land at the Bryan Regional Athletic Complex, replace the skateboard facility at Williamson Park, and at Sue Haswell Park convert the Lions baseball fields to a skate park. Deputy City Manager Hugh Walker says they’ve been working to relocate baseball teams from the Haswell fields should the council want to go in that direction. As for the superpark, Bryan staff reported they are working with College Station on amending state law to expand how hotel occupancy tax money can be spent in order to build large athletic facilities where hotels and other amenities can be located.

Local News Headlines–1/22/2015

Tonight’s College Station city council meeting is expected to be a long one as consideration is given to the first changes to oil and gas drilling regulations since 1991. Mayor Nancy Berry has reviewed the 57 page document. The proposal includes drilling 600 feet away from homes and businesses and 1,000 feet from schools, hospitals, churches, and other buildings were evacuations would be difficult. Energy companies would have to pass an environmental review, have plans addressing hazardous materials and emergency response, agree to pay for road damage, and meet air quality, noise, and light standards. Berry says she supports the plan, which she says has included input from all stakeholders.

After listening to the State of Union address, Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan found common ground on a limited basis with the president in three areas. One involves the president’s request to continue military force against the Islamic State. Flores also sees common ground on trade policy and on a subject the president didn’t address, tax reform, which the congressman says needs to include individuals as well as corporations.

The same group of four armed robbers is accused of hitting a third Bryan convenience store in seven days. Tuesday night at Palasota Grocery, they took personal property belonging to two clerks along with cash and cigarettes. One of the two clerks was hurt, receiving injuries that did not require medical attention.

And, while Texas A&M officials are in the process of deciding who will be chosen as the next first lady of Aggieland, a missing painting of the first mascot has returned to campus. The 1943 painting of Reveille One is now on display at the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. That’s after the center’s curator received a call from a third party knowing who was in possession of the missing painting. University police met with the individual last month and the painting was returned. The portrait of the black and white mixed breed dog disappeared 25 years ago during renovations of the Military Sciences Building. On hand for the unveiling was Reveille VIII, who will retire once her full-blooded collie successor is chosen.

Local News Headlines–1/21/2015

College Station police arrested a local man on a variety of charges following a vehicular and foot chase yesterday morning that began as a traffic stop involving a suspected drunk driver. Lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says when 32-year-old Tyree Newton was awakened in his pickup, he took off from a parking lot at William D. Fitch and the freeway. Minutes later, Newton jumped out of his moving truck at the Barron Road overpass. Fleeger says Newton jumped out while his pickup was still in motion. Then he dropped 25 feet from the freeway overpass at Barron Road and ran into the Shenandoah subdivision. Fleeger says after Newton jumped out of his truck, it rolled to a stop, blocking the northbound lanes of the freeway. That caused a wreck when a semi rear-ended a S-U-V that had slowed down. The driver the S-U-V complained of pain at the scene while the driver of the semi reported no injuries. Newton is accused of trying to break into one home and gaining access to a second where Fleeger says the woman living there was able to force him back outside. Newton is also held for Leon County authorities on a charge of organized criminal activity. During the more than two hour search, neighborhood residents were informed of developments through a reverse 9-1-1 call from dispatchers.

Last night’s College Station school board meeting included planning for the next steps towards a bond issue this November. Members of a district wide planning committee are expected to be named next month. Board member Carol Barrett wanted some people who have previously served. But, Board President Valerie Jochen called for some who have not served, along with one or two board members. The board was also told to plan on selecting an architect next month.

More than $4-million of construction on the Blinn College campus in Bryan will be administered by a Brenham company. Blinn’s board of trustees chose Collier Construction for renovating space to add classrooms and space for additional services and offices. Blinn, which has used Collier on several major projects in Brenham, expects the Bryan campus work to start in March once offices are moved to the Tejas Center. Completion is expected before the start of the fall semester.

And, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick were inaugurated as Texas’ Governor and Lieutenant Governor yesterday. Abbott noted it’s been 30 years this month that he was hospitalized after become paralyzed. Patrick’s inauguration speech repeated the theme “It’s a New Day in Texas”. Today is the first full day on the job for Abbott and Patrick.

Local News Headlines–1/20/2015

The agency that evaluated property values throughout Brazos County wants to move. The Brazos Central Appraisal District has started asking five local taxing units to approve purchasing land and building a new headquarters. The first of five to consider action is tonight when the College Station school board meets. The appraisal district currently leases more than 10,000 square feet on Briarcrest between Kent and Broadmoor. From a letter sent to C-S-I-S-D, the appraisal district wants a site more accessible to property owners and a building that’s more functional. That led to the appraisal district’s recommendation to buy land near Copperfield and University, near the county’s new tax office that is under construction. The project cost of a 14,000 square foot building on almost two acres is $3.8-million. The yearly cost shared by the five governmental units, is about $160,000 which would go up to $271,000 a year with a new building. The College Station and Bryan school boards, the two city councils, and the county all have to vote. The appraisal district must get at least four votes to proceed.

The new semester is underway at Blinn College, and there is more student parking west of the Bryan campus. Spokesman Richard Bray says they get to use the Texas National Guard Armory parking lot on East 25th. Bray says the agreement will last two years. Students and staff will also have to get used to new traffic signals and turn lanes at Villa Maria and Joseph that were installed over the last month.

The annual economic outlook conference from the B-C-S Chamber of Commerce is two weeks away. Chamber President Royce Hickman says the luncheon speaker is from the website nerd wallet dot com which recently gave the Bryan-College Station community a high rating. Cindy Yang is nerd wallet’s small business advisor. Local speakers include officials from the twin cities and Texas A&M. The conference will also include plenty of time for networking opportunities.

And, Bryan Police were called to an armed robbery last night a few blocks west of downtown. It happened at the Texaco Food Mart in the 1200 block of William J. Bryan at about 9 pm. Investigators say four armed men wearing masks robbed the convenience store and fled on foot. An undisclosed amount of money was taken. There have been no reports of injuries. Police are looking for possible suspects in that area.

Local News Headlines–1/19/2015

Blinn College officials have announced how the public can participate in selecting the school’s next district president. Two public forums have been scheduled the first week of February to collect input on the job description. One will be held in Bryan and the other in Brenham. Those interested in becoming a member of the presidential search committee can fill out an application and return it by mail or by scan and e-mail.

Look for more out of visitors playing baseball and soccer in the twin cities later this year. Convention and Visitors Bureau President Shannon Overby says College Station will be hosting six baseball tournaments for the United States Specialty Sports Association. And, details are being finalized for hosting a major soccer qualifying tournaments with an organization that plays in the United States and Mexico. College Station officials say this builds on last year, where the city almost doubled the amount of athletic events at local facilities.

As the state legislature starts its second week tomorrow, Representative Kyle Kacal says rural versus urban could be a bigger issue than partisan politics. Kacal says there are some great rural representatives with five counties or more. He says those coalitions will be important as the state’s population continues to move into the urban areas.

And, on a personal note, I’d like to thank the Bryan Broadcasting staff who stepped in to keep bringing you news and sports news on KAGC while I was recovering from a broken arm and leg during the past few weeks…Patrick Zeinert, Kevin O’Conner, Chelsea Reeber and Zach Taylor…thank you all.

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.