Local News Headlines–4/29/2016

Another division on the Bryan city council involves a proposal to have city staff attending and recording community meetings where council members are participating. Mike Southerland and two other councilmen who hold town hall meetings were opposed to the idea. Ben Hardeman said later this was not a retaliatory measure, but something to bring more transparency to the council. Mayor Jason Bienski agreed. Buppy Simank, who submitted the proposal with Hardeman, moved to delay final action until the council’s second meeting next month. The postponement was approved on a five to two vote. Hardeman and Bienski voted against the postponement.

Last night’s College Station city council meeting included the approval of six requests for rezoning land. Only one drew any public attention. The council voted six to one to support a unanimous planning and zoning commission recommendation allowing two homes to be built a block south of the fire station at University and Tarrow. Council members told residents to continue reporting college students driving too fast, having loud parties, and violating occupancy limits in rental units. Neighbors also wanted signs that say “Children At Play”. But the council turned that down after hearing from the city’s transportation coordinator, Danielle Singh. Other zoning changes unanimously approved with no comments from the public or the council included land for a future restaurant at the northwest corner of University and Eisenhower, and an apartment complex with a restaurant on Wellborn between Luther and Tarrow Park. There was no comment about what kind of restaurants would be built.

A Bryan man is in jail after his arrest for setting fire to his mobile home and two vehicles owned by other people. Bryan deputy fire marshal William Bouse says 42 year old Adrian Mejia-Ortiz was taken into custody following a court appearance on Wednesday. According to online jail records, Mejia is also being held for immigration authorities.

Local News Headlines–4/28/2016

Tonight’s College Station city council meeting includes consideration of a new monument welcoming visitors to town on the northwest corner of University and the bypass. Mayor Nancy Berry also spoke about demolition work at two locations along University. One is the former Scott and White clinic which Berry says will become a Pappadeaux’s restaurant. Demolition is also underway at the former Chimney Hill shopping center, which will be replaced by a residential, commercial, and retail development.

This week’s Bryan city council debate over how much money has been spent on the Traditions development included an explanation of a $14-million difference between the initial number given by councilman Mike Southerland and the lower figure compiled first by city management then again by a Dallas C-P-A hired by the manager’s office.  Councilman Ben Hardeman said more than half that difference was counting one item twice. Hardeman calculated another $6.4-million Southerland said the city lost in land sales was incorrect because the city either did not own the land or contract language between the city and developers was misinterpreted.

Motorists going through one of Bryan’s busiest intersections should plan on additional delays the next two months. The city of Bryan says starting today, there will be intermittent lane closures to replace traffic signals and add features to allow safer pedestrian crossing.

Rules have been finalized about concealed carry of handguns at Texas A&M system universities and agencies. Board of regents chairman Cliff Thomas asked but did not receive any requests to change recommendations made by university presidents and agency leaders. Starting August first, concealed carry will be allowed in classrooms and residence halls. Policies differ among other locations. General counsel Ray Bonilla says you have to show a special risk to ban concealed carry from offices. The only public speakers were two members of the Texas A&M student senate, who thanked the regents. The new policies apply only to concealed carry. A statewide ban continues on open carry on college campuses.

Local News Headlines–4/27/2016

A majority of Bryan city council members want to proceed with burying power lines along South College from Villa Maria to the south city limits. The more than $13-million project would be paid by B-T-U customers who live in the city. The average residential customer would pay another $1.75 a month. Councilman Ben Hardeman is among the supporters. Mike Southerland says that kind of money should be spent first to bury power lines under Texas Avenue. Mayor Jason Bienski says because it’s a joint project with the Texas Department of Transportation, it is costing the city less. South College is being rebuilt between Villa Maria and Sulphur Springs and new sidewalks and bike paths are also involved. Rafael Pena and Al Saenz also voiced opposition, while other supporters included Greg Owens, Buppy Simank, and Mayor Bienski.

The Bryan school district is among 13 recipients of a Texas Education Agency grant to show off their early college high school around the state. Staff at Bryan Collegiate High will be providing professional development for other districts starting similar programs. Collegiate, which opened in 2007, gives students the opportunity to earn 60 hours from Blinn College. The grant will pay for mentoring, technical assistance, webinars, and open houses involving those who will develop new campuses.

The Better Business Bureau has received two calls this week from residents reporting what turned out to be a spin on a computer scam. Regional Director Bill McGuire says blue screens showed up on computers with a message to call Microsoft and pay $200 to fix the problem. Both residents called but quickly hung up and rebooted their computers to lose the blue screen. McGuire says for those who have computer virus issues to contact the B-B-B for the names of accredited repair companies. McGuire also suggests covering the camera on your computer to reduce the chance of malware being remotely installed.

Local News Headlines–4/26/2016

The Texas A&M system Board of Regents has been asked to approve $226-million of construction projects on the flagship campus to be done during the next year and a half when they hold their meeting tomorrow. About a third is in new athletics facilities, $40-million for a new outdoor track and field stadium and another $29-million to replace the Aggies softball stadium. To make both of those happen, another $10-million will be spent to move intramurals to a new location. The most expensive project on A&M’s list for the regents is a $73-million research building on the Riverside campus for the engineering experiment station, transportation institute, and the college of engineering. The next most expensive, is spending $57-million to finish out what would otherwise be a shell at the Engineering Education Complex that has been under construction since March of last year. The regents will also consider almost $12-million to renovate two floors of a wing of the chemistry building, and another $6.5-million for an outdoor teaching facility on west campus along White Creek behind the AgriLife complex.

The Community Foundation of the Brazos Valley held its 12th tribute luncheon yesterday honoring three people for their contributions to the area. The foundation fundraiser honored Reba Ragsdale, Candy Rust, and Royce Hickman. The foundation, which serves a seven county area, has grown to 68 funds totaling more than $3-million dollars in assets.

Getting a ride home turned out to be a painful experience for a local man. College Station police are looking for a man who repeatedly struck the victim Friday night just after 6:00 in a parking lot off Wellborn near Rock Prairie. After the driver demanded to be paid $20, the victim said he didn’t owe him anything and asked to be dropped off. After the victim got out, he said was knocked to the ground after being struck multiple times in the face and as he lost consciousness he remembers the driver going through his pockets and taking an undisclosed amount of cash. The victim was taken to a local emergency room for treatment of his injuries and released.

Local News Headlines–4/25/2016

The two newest members of the Bryan city council want recordings of all meetings when they participate in an official capacity. Ben Hardeman and Buppy Simank have placed on tomorrow’s council agenda a proposal that city staff record and produce minutes anytime and anywhere a council member attends and/or addresses any issues that may come before the governing body. If approved, staff would be going to neighborhood association and other community meetings where a councilmember participates, along with town halls hosted by councilmen Rafael Pena, Al Saenz, and Mike Southerland. The staff member would be responsible for drafting a summary of what was said and identify any significant comments or discussions that may require follow up communication.

The Blinn College faculty senate has again asked the board of trustees to be included in governance issues. President Mark Bernier, speaking at this month’s trustees meeting, said he was following up on a letter of concern he presented to the board in February that they and administrators had a lack of regard for faculty input. Bernier repeated there was serious damage sustained by students and instructors after administrators implemented an unanticipated plan to drop spring semester courses. Bernier presented a resolution that was unanimously passed by faculty members in Bryan and Brenham, along with a proposed shared governance structure. Due to state law, trustees could not talk about the request since it was made during the public comment portion of the meeting. There was no comment from any Blinn administrators.

College Station city councilman James Benham recently spoke out about the topic of affordable housing. Benham says larger lots mean more expensive housing and there needs to be a variety of housing types including apartments. Benham says a precedent was set in the last meeting of conditional use permits prohibiting by the bedroom leases and other things that would lend themselves to student housing. Benham says the availability of small lotted and restricted suburban homes would also increase affordable housing for College Station residents.

Local News Headlines–4/22/2016

Bryan police are looking for three men accused of killing one man and injuring a second. Officer Kelley McKethan says 26-year-old Luis Ibarra of Bryan died after being shot in his apartment Wednesday night at the April Court Townhomes on Carter Creek Parkway. A second victim, who was related to Ibarra, was assaulted outside the apartment. McKethan says the relative, who she did not identify, did not receive medical treatment. Witnesses told officers three black men wearing all black clothes were involved in what is being investigated as a murder that does not appear to be a random act. Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Bryan Police Department or Brazos County Crimestoppers.

College Station police responded to a call yesterday morning about a suspicious package in front of the PetSmart store on University Drive. Lieutenant Steve Brock says none of the neighboring businesses recognized the suitcase. As a precaution, the bomb squad was called in. Members of the team were able to investigate the package and determine there was nothing inside. Brock says there was no danger to the public. He says the parking lot was blocked off during the investigation and businesses in that strip center were required to delay opening for 45 minutes.

The board of The Research Valley Partnership economic development organization has added the position of senior vice president to its staff. Hired as what the R-V-P board calls their “second in command” is former Blinn College-Bryan campus president Sylvia McMullen. The new position includes being the R-V-P’s lead with community, university, and industry contacts. McMullen, who spent the last two-and-a-half years at Blinn, starts her new position May 2nd.

The agenda for next Tuesday night’s meeting of the Bryan city council is dominated by the ongoing request of two members for more information about the city’s involvement in the Traditions development. There will also be a presentation by an outside c-p-a firm on what has been spent. Mayor Jason Bienski doubts the audit report will mean anything to those questioning city money spent at Traditions. Mike Southerland says it’s his responsibility as a council member to get the information, something he says the Mayor hasn’t done. Southerland and Rafael Pena have asked the council to tell the city manager to provide nine years of financial information about Traditions by May 10th.

Local News Headlines–4/21/2016

For the fifth time in the last 12 years, the College Station school district is changing campus boundaries. But it’s the first time lines will be redrawn for the two high schools. And it was part of a three hour discussion by the school board Monday night. Board president Valerie Jochen says there is a nearly equal division of choice between the high schools. But, Carol Barrett suggested removing the purple and maroon paint from the fifth through eighth grade buildings to save money on the paint and end division withing the school district. A 39 member committee appointed Tuesday night will recommend the new boundaries for fifth through 12th grade schools, along with when changes will be implemented at the high schools.

For the second time this month, Texas A&M President Michael Young was the featured speaker at an employee forum, this time at the invitation of the university’s staff council. The two main ideas discussed were staff growth and staff support. Young offered several options to enhance staff support including a tuition assistance program beginning this fall. Young says the program will grow staff in the mission critical areas and how to better support the staff. Young also discussed health and wellness improvements and easier access for staff to campus events including athletic games and theatre programs.

Bryan police are investigating two armed robberies that were reported Tuesday. One was at a home on Cottage Grove Circle, off of Finfeather between Turkey Creek and Bittle Lane. Just after 8 p.m. Tuesday a man said he was robbed at gunpoint and assaulted by one man he says he knows and three strangers. The other was around 3 a.m. Tuesday at the Fas Start convenience store at Highway 21 and West William Joel Bryan. Two suspects entered the store with their faces covered. One showed a gun. No demands were made and no property was taken before they left in a dark colored four door car. Anyone with information is asked to call the Bryan Police Department or Brazos County Crime Stoppers.

Local News Headlines–4/20/2016

The Bryan school board has been asked to consider a pair of tweaks to when elementary boundary changes occur in the fall of 2017. Bryan I-S-D spokesman Brandon Webb says public feedback at two recent forums led administrators to recommend moving students east of the freeway to F-M 2776 back to Bonham from Sam Houston. That meant returning students along Highway 21 to Mitchell after they were initially going to move to Bonham. Board members were also told about new locations of dual language classes. Fifth and sixth grade will go to Jane Long and seventh and eighth grade will be at Davila. Elementary dual language will continue at Henderson and Johnson. Last month, administrators told the board the pre-INQUIRE academic program would be at Jane Long, INQUIRE would be at Davila, pre-ODYSSEY would be at Sam Rayburn, and ODYSSEY would be at Stephen F. Austin. Final action by the Bryan school board is scheduled for a month from now.

A new principal has been selected at Mitchell elementary school. The Bryan school board Monday night selected Donna Wallace. She has been an elementary principal in the Georgetown district the last three years. Wallace takes over this summer for John Rokenbrod, who is moving to the Bryan I-S-D’s central office.

An economic development trip to Belgium in June is still being planned even after terrorists attacked Brussels a month ago. Also still being planned is a visit from Belgium’s monarchy in December. Belgium’s trade commissioner, Yves Dubus, says there is no way the terrorism will affect those trips. Dubus says there are at least two more Belgian companies interested in expanding to the twin cities. The terrorist attacks had an impact here due to a ten year relationship that includes not only Belgian business interests in the biocorridor but also The Aggies Go To War Exhibit that opened in Bastogne in December of 2014.

Bryan Broadcasting has again been recognized for its year round commitment to community service. The National Association of Broadcasters has awarded partner station KNDE its second Crystal Award, one of ten stations out of 50 finalists to receive the honor. Candy was the only finalist from the state of Texas, and is the first station in the state to receive two Crystal awards. Since 2010, Bryan Broadcasting stations have been Crystal finalists nine times.

Local News Headlines–4/19/2016

The College Station school board took almost three hours last night to determine the rules a committee will follow for recommending new boundaries. The board unanimously decided to change attendance zones for intermediate, middle, and high schools. The committee, which will be named by the board tonight, is also charged with determining how students from the three middle schools will be split into two high schools. The board also wants the committee to recommend when the new high school boundaries go into effect, and take into account Consolidated has room for another 600 students while College Station High is nearing capacity instead of asking voters to consider a $40-million expansion of College Station High.

A fundamental change proposed on how Blinn College charges tuition comes up for final action tonight night in Brenham. Next year’s tuition rates, as recommended by administrators, would add another $5 a credit hour for Blinn students from Brazos and the rest of the counties in Blinn’s service area. Tuition would increase only $1 a credit hour in Washington County, where Blinn charges the lowest property tax of any community college in the state. Tuition would go down $10 a credit hour for students throughout the rest of Texas. That’s because administrators are combining the same rate for all in-state students outside of Washington County. The biggest hit is a $60 per credit hour increase for students coming from outside of Texas who make up about the same number as those attending Blinn as those from in and around Brenham. Discussed during the trustees retreat but not on the agenda for the monthly meeting, is a proposed student-athlete walk-on program in Brenham that could generate another $500,000 in revenue and a second year of reducing the number Brenham’s athletic scholarships and full time assistant coaches after cutting that budget $164,000 this year.

No one was hurt in a drive by shooting in south College Station yesterday morning. Several witnesses told police about someone in a B-M-W driving by a five-plex on Kenyon Drive and firing a gun several times. That’s off Holleman South and north of Cain Road. No one was hurt. The occupant, 19-year-old Colten Adam, was arrested for drug possession. No arrests have been made in the shooting.

Local News Headlines–4/18/2016

The College Station and Bryan school boards meet later today, in part, to deal with new attendance boundaries. The Bryan school board is scheduled to receive an update from the superintendent during their meeting that starts at 6:00. In College Station, there is a special meeting starting 5:30 where the board is expected to decide the rules they will tell a committee to follow in considering new zones for either fifth through eighth or fifth through 12th grade buildings. Tomorrow, the C-S-I-S-D board will announce who will be on that committee. Both school boards are also planning to award contracts related to building projects approved by voters. Tonight, the Bryan agenda includes renovations at Bryan High and Bryan Collegiate, and tomorrow the College Station board will consider deferred maintenance work at South Knoll, Southwood Valley, and Pebble Creek.

The College Station city council has approved $5-million of contracts for rebuilding a pair of streets. One is widening Rock Prairie between the freeway and Longmire. That’s supposed to take a year and a half to complete. On the other side of town, rebuilding Luther from Jones-Butler to Harvey Mitchell, is supposed to be completed in a year. That project also includes moving utility lines, and traffic on Luther will be limited to those going east. The council is also moving ahead to design the first phase of expanding Veterans Park. Construction is expected to start this fall on adding two synthetic fields, lights, and 160 parking spaces. And, the council has entered an agreement with the developer that’s turning the Texas World Speedway into a master planned community to reserve two acres at the southern end of the property for a future fire station.

This week’s announcement from Bryan Police Chief Eric Buske that he was ending his attempts to move closer to his family in Nebraska was acknowledged the next night by the city council. Buppy Simank was the first to complement Buske who was a finalist for chief positions in Loveland, Colorado, and Lincoln, Nebraska. Buske has been in Bryan since 2009.

A committee recruiting the Houston Y-M-C-A to open branches in College Station and Bryan is holding a special reception next week. College Station City Councilman Karl Mooney says it’s being held at the Texas A&M Y-M-C-A building. Mooney says the local advisory committee and city officials recently toured the “Y” in Conroe and the Branch Crossing, the latter which has a pool and other features that could be included in College Station. In College Station, discussion involves a private developer donating land between Baylor-Scott and White hospital and Lowe’s. A possible Bryan location is on the main campus of Blinn College.