Local News Headlines–9/22/2014

The potential closing of the post office in downtown Bryan has been known for some time to downtown property owners. Sandy Farris of the Downtown Bryan Association says city officials notified them several months ago.  The only information the postal service has released is that the downtown Bryan location has lost revenue and volume over the last several years and there are a number of alternative sites nearby that can sell stamps and mail most packages.  Farris says postal service officials have not said how much longer the branch will remain open.

A near drowning was reported to Bryan Police Saturday night. Police say four boys, aged six to 10, were swimming without their parents’ permission at the Oak Creek condos pool near West Villa Maria and FM 2818 when a nine-year-old was at the bottom of the pool. The ten year old knocked on doors until a 21-year-old man was found and rescued the victim from the pool and administered CPR. The victim was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where he was last listed in stable condition.

More than a dozen teams of community and school district leaders participated in Bryan I-S-D’s community drop out blitz Friday looking for students. Communications director Brandon Webb says the annual community drop out blitz targets those who didn’t return to high school this year.  Webb says when they locate students the volunteers attempt to have a heartfelt conversation about how the school cares about their future.  More than 100 addresses will be checked throughout Bryan I-S-D.

And, what’s being described as a major announcement about bringing ultra-high-speed internet to the twin cities will be made today. College Station city councilman James Benham says he’s been working on this for the last year-and-a-half.  Benham says Bryan and College Station has been losing business opportunities to other cities that already have the ultra-high-speed internet service.  Benham is part of the The Research Valley Technology Council, which has been recruiting private investors with the financial support of both cities, Brazos County, Texas A and M, and the Brazos Valley Council of Governments for ultra-high-speed internet for residential and commercial customers.

Local News Headlines–9/19/2014

State, national, and international officials were in College Station for the formal dedication of the $91-million pandemic influenza vaccine facility.  Doctor Brett Giroir,  the C-E-O of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, says the facility will have the ability to deliver the first doses of a pandemic vaccine within 12 weeks and 50-million within four months.  Speakers referred to current events where vaccines can be developed and produced here as well as economic development. Bringing biopharmaceutical business to Texas has been something Governor Rick Perry says he has been working on for 20 years.  The program featured a ceremonial signing and installation of the last metal beam in the building, which is scheduled to open by the end of next year.

The future of Bryan’s downtown post office will be discussed at a public meeting the week after next.  A notice sent by the Postal Service Area Manager states the downtown location has experienced a steady decline in revenue and volume and there are a number of alternative sites nearby that can sell stamps and mail most packages. The comments will be taken on October 2nd from 5:00 until 6:00 at Bryan’s main post office on William Joel Bryan, near the freeway.

And, the current First Lady of Aggieland is retiring.  Reveille VIII will step down following the Corps of Cadets Final Review at the end of the spring semester or when her successor is chosen.  Texas A&M interim president Mark Hussey says the decision was reached following consultation with the College of Veterinary Medicine. Reveille VIII, who became A&M’s mascot six years ago, will live at the vet school’s animal life-care center.  A nationwide search for Reveille IX will be done by a 12 member committee chaired by interim Vice President of Student Affairs Tom Reber.

Local News Headlines–9/18/2014

Downtown Bryan is now part of an exclusive club.  The Texas Commission on the Arts has awarded it a cultural district designation. Downtown Bryan executive director Sandy Farris says only 26 cities have the designation, only two received it this year, and Bryan is one of a few achieving it on the first application attempt.  The cultural district includes downtown Bryan’s core area, along with the west side historic area and the African-American museum. The designation will be used not only to market downtown Bryan, but can be part of the city’s recruitment of new and expanding businesses.  State officials will be in town this fall to make a formal presentation.

Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan has voted for the president’s plan for American soldiers to train and provide weapons to Syrian moderate rebels in the fight against the Islamic State.  Flores says if we don’t get involved, ISIS will threaten other friendly countries, including Israel, which the congressman says we cannot allow to happen.  Flores says if he had his way, he would have Congress stay in town another week to determine what else can be done to destroy ISIS. The House vote, 273 to 156, included significant opposition by members of both parties.

It will be a month before the next Texas A&M home football game and the post-game traffic that follows. After the first two crowds of more than 100,000, College Station mayor Nancy Berry says new exit routes from Kyle Field appear to be working.  Berry says the biggest bottleneck is the intersection of FM 2818 and Holleman, which she recommends southbound motorists continuing on to Rock Prairie.  She says there will be more tweaks to move pedestrians and vehicles as quickly as possible following the games.

And, College Station police are looking for a pickup that hit a jogger Tuesday night. A 21-year-old Texas A&M student was struck by a large, newer model pickup that’s believed to be black in color.  The victim was hit at the Fox Run Condos on Luther then dragged under the truck for a short distance before she was freed.  The driver did not stop to check on the woman, who was treated for undisclosed injuries and released.

Local News Headlines–9/17/2014

$1.5-million in economic incentives has been finalized for the operator of a vaccine manufacturing plant now under construction in the biocorridor. The Bryan city council unanimously approved its share, $411,000 over a seven year period, during a special meeting yesterday. Kalon Biotherapeutics will dedicate the facility tomorrow morning during a program featuring international guests.  Later in the meeting, another biocorridor project received a split vote. Rafael Pena and Al Saenz voted against a one word correction in a deed related to selling land for the Atlas Town Center hotel and conference facility. Ann Horton, Chuck Konderla, and Art Hughes voted to correct the language of the deed involving the more than $500-million project.

College Station school board members took action last night involving two campuses that will open next August.  Receiving the most attention was the board unanimously approving new elementary boundaries to accommodate the new Spring Creek campus. The board also agreed with a staff recommendation to change the name of the expanding alternative high school from Timber Academy to College View.  School Board Vice President Paul Dorsett says the new building, where the College Station conference center once stood, will allow enrollment to grow from 45 to 150 students.  College View High School will open next August, as will Spring Creek elementary.

Blinn College is enjoying its highest enrollment in the school’s 131 year history.  District wide, the number is more than 19,000.  Most of the growth is at the Bryan campus, which is up by 816 students over last year.  Also up over last fall is the number of students taking online classes and at high school locations. But, enrollment has decreased from a year ago at Blinn’s campuses in Brenham, Sealy, and Schulenburg.

And, last week’s death of a Madisonville police dog had led to its handler being placed on administrative duty. Chief Chuck May says the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine would determine the cause of death. Baron, a five year old Belgian Malinois, was found dead in the officer’s patrol S-U-V several hours after the officer returned home from working his shift. May says what is described as the dog’s accidental death is being investigated by both his department and Texas Rangers.

Local News Headlines–9/16/2014

Two more Bryan residents have been sentenced for their roles in a scheme that authorities say defrauded insurance companies of more than $3-million.  Earlie Dickerson, a former office manager, was sentenced yesterday in Houston Federal court to 14 years in prison for recruiting individuals involved in auto accidents to be represented by a Bryan business that falsely claimed was a law firm.  Federal prosecutors say Dickerson sent individuals he recruited to specific chiropractic clinics, where they received medically unnecessary therapeutic treatments.  Authorities say Dickerson used fraudulent bills from the treatments to obtain settlement checks from auto insurance companies. Another individual convicted in the scheme, Marion Young, was sentenced to five years in prison. Two others were previously sentenced while a fifth defendant is set to be sentenced next month.

Still under construction south of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Federal and State officials have announced a dedication program Thursday morning of the national pandemic influenza vaccine facility.  When completed at the end of next year, it will meet Federal requirements to produce 50-million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine within four months of a declared pandemic. This is the facility where the Bryan city council is considering awarding $411,000 of property tax incentives. The operator of the facility, Kalon Biotherapeutics, received $1.1-million last week from the College Station council. In return, the value of the Kalon facility will be at least $70-million. And, by the end of 2017, Kalon will have at least one hundred employees with an annual payroll of at least $6-million.

Brazos County commissioners will be paying a consultant from Waco up to $160,000 through the end of next year to coordinate the installation of new computer software for the county’s criminal justice system. County judge Duane Peters says it wasn’t in their best interest to wait and whatever they come up with will be better than what they have now.  Peters says the consultant will be paid $950 a day plus expenses to work five to ten days a month. That expense is in addition to the software that is purchased. As of earlier this month, Brazos County has filed the only lawsuit seeking to recover money it paid AMCAD, which is $2.4-million.

And, some members of Congress are rushing to authorize an expanded mission to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels for the fight against ISIS.  Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan says he’s uncomfortable doing that because the President worked with other countries to destabilize Syria a little over a year ago.  Flores says helping destabilize Syria a little over a year ago is what caused the creation of ISIS.  The measure doesn’t authorize U.S. combat troops in Iraq or Syria, but it also doesn’t specifically ban them.

Local News Headlines–9/15/2014

Another seven figure economic development package is coming to the biocorridor. Approved by the College Station city council at its last meeting, the Bryan council has scheduled a special meeting tomorrow at noon to consider the million dollar property tax incentive for Kalon Biotherapeutics. A private company founded by the Texas A&M system to develop vaccines and other pharmaceutical products, Kalon agrees to build on land now owned by the system. The combined value of the building and new equipment, when opened by the end of next year, will be at least $70-million. Kalon will also be required by the end of 2017 to have at least 100 full time employees with an annual payroll of at least $6-million. In return, Kalon will receive $1.1-million over a seven year period, with about two-thirds coming from College Station and the remainder from Bryan. This follows the Bryan council’s approval last week of more than $8-million going to the developers of the more than $500-million Atlas Town Center.

The Bryan city budget approved last week by the city calls for a $200,000 increase in revenue from the hotel occupancy tax.  Most of that increase goes into funding unspecified events. The Downtown Bryan Association, in charge of the Texas Reds Festival, gets $120,000, the same as this year. Rafael Pena was one of two councilmen who were unsuccessful in having the D-B-A go through a grant process administered by the convention and visitors bureau. Pena was asked when he will ask for the organizers of two other downtown events, Fiesta Patrias and the Blues Festival, to also go through the C-V-B and Pena said he will when he is asked to do so.  Pena says he asked the D-B-A to go through the C-V-B grant process after hearing on the campaign trail last year about the Texas Reds Festival losing money

And, a College Station woman who went into a flooded creek Saturday morning to save her dog has died after she was swept away from the high and swift moving water. The body of 32 year old April Rachel Turner was found about 600 feet from where she was last seen in College Station’s Lick Creek Park.  Investigators were told Turner had been walking her dog in the park and began to walk and talk with a second woman who was also walking her dog. As they neared a foot bridge, Turner’s dog got into the water of a nearby creek that was elevated due to recent rains.  Turner told the second woman her dog was having trouble getting out of the water and she went in to get it.  The witness said Turner was able to push her dog out, but she became stuck then she was taken downstream.  The witness attempted to help Turner, but was unable due to the force and depth of the depth of the rushing creek. Multiple local and state agencies were involved in the eight hour search for Turner, employing boats, A-T-V’s, and search dogs.

Local News Headlines–9/9/2014

It’s been a year since a search committee was formed to select the next president of Texas A&M University. At yesterday’s faculty senate meeting, speaker Jim Woolsey was asked if the search firm hired by the system has been fired.  Woolsey says the original search firm has not been fired but the A&M system has hired a second search firm to work in conjunction with the first company that was selected and applications will continue to be taken until the end of the year. Senators also heard that a current A&M dean is a finalist for the president of Florida State University.  According to Florida State’s website, Kate Miller was scheduled to be on the Tallahassee campus yesterday. She is currently A&M’s dean of the college of Geosciences.

The Texas A&M Forest Service has announced its intention to return more than $43-million in remaining appropriated fire suppression funds back to the State of Texas this fall.  That’s due to reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Another $7-million in additional FEMA reimbursements are being processed and may also be returned to the state upon the forest service receiving that money.

More money is being offered for a proposed hotel and conference center in the biocorridor.  Today’s agenda for the Bryan city council not only includes more than $6-million in property tax breaks for the Atlas Town Center. Developers would also be able to keep more than $2-million in hotel occupancy tax money generated by a four star hotel. Atlas spokesman Spencer Clements told the council two weeks ago the hotel chains say it’s too early for a project of this scale.  If the council approves, Atlas has until June 2017 to complete infrastructure, including two parks and a trail, and until January 2019 to open a 177 room hotel and a 10,000 square foot conference center.  Clements says without the incentives, investors will drop out of what’s supposed to be a $500- to $700-million project.

And, B-T-U is among three Texas municipal utilities that will be among the first buyers of a new wind power plant being built along the Rio Grande River. General Manager Gary Miller says the 25 year agreement just happens to be the most economical way to buy electricity at this time.  When the new plant starts generating late next year, enough power will be purchased to supply 9,000 homes. That’s similar to another wind power contract B-T-U has near Corpus Christi. B-T-U also has a contract with a solar energy provider.

Local News Headlines–9/8/2014

Aggie football game day traffic and a residential street made narrow by parked vehicles hindered the response to a house fire Saturday afternoon in north College Station. Two people were taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. Several animals, including cats and guinea pigs, were rescued. Fire damage was confined to a large portion of a bedroom and there was smoke damage throughout the home. No cause has been determined, which displaced the family of four on Eisenhower, which is east of Texas and north of University.  29 firefighters and 12 vehicles responded from College Station fire stations, along with a crew from Bryan. The fire department’s news release did not indicate any injuries to firefighters.

Nearly five thousand law enforcement officers around Texas have seen a training presentation which followed the local response to a mass shooting in College Station two years ago. It was mentioned during the presentation of two officers receiving the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. Travis Lacox and Investigator Andy Murph are the first Texas officers to receive the Congressional bravery medals.

And, Police and fire departments responded to rollover crashes on the freeway Friday and Saturday.  Saturday afternoon, Bryan police reported a southbound S-U-V at the Old Reliance exit lost control for an unknown reason, rolled multiple times, and came to rest in the northbound lanes. At last check, the driver was hospitalized in critical condition. Debris from the crash struck two other vehicles but no one else was hurt. Friday afternoon, College Station police say the driver of another S-U-V tried to change lanes then lost control after trying to get back when the driver of a car in the other lane honked their horn. That caused the S-U-V to rollover north of University. The driver, who was stuck until the fire department could cut their way inside the vehicle, was treated for injuries not believed to be life threatening.


Local News Headlines–9/4/2014

College Station city council members heard last night from two homeowners opposed to raising the property tax rate. Richard Dusold says he’ll be paying an additional $162 when combining increases in the tax rate and property valuation which Dusold says amounts to a 14.5-percent increase in the effective tax rate, punishing workers under 65 who live in College Station.  Also speaking was Michael Bozardt who called for less reliance on the property tax, especially with more rental housing in town.  The council holds a second public hearing next Thursday on September 11th and is scheduled for a vote on the 22nd. Tax rate and budget information for College Station is online at cstx.gov.

A Bryan based manufacturer is growing on two fronts. Neutral Posture chief executive Rebecca Boenigk has announced acquiring a custom furniture manufacturer from Michigan and moving it to the Brazos Valley. That will mean adding 20 jobs in a 50,000 square foot location that will be determined before the end of the month.  Boenigk also says Neutral Posture is expanding its chair line at its facility on Texas north of Highway 21.  Neutral Posture, which currently employs 80, has had a 25-percent increase in chair sales this year.

And, St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan held groundbreaking yesterday on its $20-million level two trauma center. Chief Executive Kathy Krusie says those who will be working there helped design the facility.  Krusie says the center will be added to the south end of the main tower.  It will be the only level two trauma center within an 80 mile radius of Bryan.  Construction will start this month, with the targeted completion in March 2016. The former Health-4-All building will be demolished to create new parking to replace space being used for the expansion.

Local News Headlines–9/3/2014

This was supposed to be an off-week for the Bryan city council. Instead, there was an executive session yesterday morning taking almost three hours. The council emerged announcing no votes would be taken before Mayor Jason Bienski adjourned the meeting.  Items listed for possible discussion behind closed doors included two economic development proposals in the biocorridor, the Atlas Town Center and Kalon Biotherapeutics, the latter also being an item slated for discussion during today’s Texas A&M system board of regents meeting.

A pair of 17-year-olds were arrested Sunday in the parking lot of Post Oak Mall after an off duty College Station police officer discovered them in possession of more than $1,600 in stolen goods from three stores.  The off-duty officer watched as the pair placed multiple clothing items from Dillard’s into bags then walked outside without paying.  College Station Police Lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says the duo had stolen 40 clothing items from three stores.  Fleeger says the officer observed Edward Williams and Kayla Johnson in Dillard’s where they allegedly stole 30 pieces of clothing valued at more than $1,200. They’re also accused of taking clothing from American Eagle and The Mule Barn Boutique.

And, Texas A&M transportation services encourages those attending home football games to take advantage of some new services. Associate Director Debbie Hoffmann says pre-paid parking is going well enough that the West Campus Garage is already filled for the opener.  The free shuttle service between Post Oak Mall and the stadium, Get to The Grid, has added buses and will get fans closer to Kyle Field.  The free shuttle will drop off fans at the Memorial Student Center near the north end zone.  R-V parking has also been expanded and space remains available for all games. More information about parking and the shuttle is online at transport.tamu.edu. There is also a new Destination Aggieland smartphone app and this will be the second year fans can monitor game day developments at the twitter account “Get to Aggie Game”.