Local News Headlines–3/26/2015

Blinn College officials and members of the Brenham business community were in Austin yesterday asking state lawmakers to consider modifying a proposal that would reduce funding on the home campus. The House Higher Education committee ran out of time before hearing from the Blinn delegation. Speakers included committee member John Raney of Bryan, who wants to stop revenue generated by Blinn students in Bryan from being spent on the Brenham campus. Blinn trustees and their Brenham administrators spent almost three hours behind closed doors the night before last preparing for the committee hearing. Among those speaking after the executive session was Blinn’s interim district president Doctor Ana Guzman who said they have not been looking sufficiently at the Brenham campus because of the growth in Bryan. Raney did not comment on a Blinn resolution accepting his idea to split state money based on campus size while remaining opposed to using the same formula to divide revenue from tuition and fees. The trustees also want any changes to take effect in 2019 instead of 2017.

Recent rain has put the construction of College Station’s ninth elementary school slightly behind schedule. But Superintendent Clark Ealy says Spring Creek will open as scheduled this August. Doctor Ealy says the school board approved at this week’s meeting the purchase of furniture for Spring Creek as well as $1.3-million for 1,500 new desktop computers for use around the district. Funding comes from bond money approved by voters the year before last. The board also approved the contract for C-S-I-S-D’s new purchasing and warehouse complex, which will be built next to the transportation center. The total price of $7-million is $510,000 below the project estimate.

And, those driving by Central Baptist Church at Highway 30 and Harvey Road will see a crowd today. The reason is the annual disaster drill conducted by the Texas A&M Health Science Center.  The exercise involves more than 350 medical students and 700 community volunteers serving as patients.

Local News Headlines–3/24/2015

College Station police want to talk with a man that surveillance video shows was outside a convenience store last week at the time the clerk, Kevin Garcia, was beaten and kidnapped. Investigators say the man may have interacted with the suspect, Nathaniel Tillery, but he was unaware of what was going on outside the Exxon at University and the freeway. The surveillance video from the store shows that a male arrived at Drew’s Exxon at University and the freeway shortly before 3 a.m. last Tuesday and attempted to enter the store, but the doors were not functioning.  It further shows that the male appeared to converse with someone near where Garcia’s vehicle had been moved to at the front of the store before re-entering his vehicle and driving away.

The Bryan school board has taken the next step towards the centerpiece of the record bond issue passed by voters last November. Unanimous approval was given to the design of the new Stephen F. Austin middle school. The three story structure will include the present auxiliary gym between the civic auditorium and the football field. One change made by the board was not keeping the orange color of the dropped library ceiling. The entrance to the new S-F-A will be off Coulter, and it will be a totally enclosed building. At a later date, the board will consider the remaining pieces of the $53-million project, converting the old school into administrative offices and improvements to the civic auditorium. Construction is scheduled to start this October.

The Bryan school board has given Superintendent Tommy Wallis a one year extension on his contract, through June of 2018. That followed a three hour executive session at the end of last night’s meeting. Any raise will be tied to the percentage the board approves for other administrators, which the board will consider later this year.

And, new rules are in place for parents and children being dropped off and picked up at Greens Prairie elementary school in College Station. The city council adopted recommendations that began as concerns from the school and the neighborhood last August. Some on the council called on the school district to do more to get motorists off city streets. Councilman Karl Mooney was hoping the school district would add space on-campus to handle congestion around Oakwood and the new Campus View high school. City attorney Carla Robinson says the council can’t make the same requirements of the school district that it can of private developers. Police are giving a ten day grace period before starting enforcement in the area of Royder Road and Greens Prairie Trail.

Local News Headlines–3/23/2015

The final public forum addressing possible transportation items for November’s bond issue is this evening. The theme is transportation; a subject that Councilwoman Blanche Brick says has also been discussed with the Planning and Zoning Commission. Brick does not see another attempt to ask voters to approve a transportation impact fee. The forum starts at seven p-m at the College Station Utilities training center on Graham Road.

This is the last year that third through eighth grade students in Texas public schools will be tested in April. Starting next year, the STAAR tests will be moved to the second week of May. Education commissioner Michael Williams says the change will also eliminate one week of testing from the overall test administration schedule. Williams also announced districts would receive fifth and eighth grade math and reading results by May 31st and the remaining results by June 15th.

New federal regulations on oil and gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing go into effect June first. Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan, who has spent 30 years in the energy industry, says it’s a perfect time to re-introduce a bill that passed the House last year to block the interior department’s new rules. Flores says he will also fight to provide no money to implement and enforce the regulations. Flores says the regulations go too far for drillers while not far enough for environmentalists. Companies will be required to disclose the chemicals they use along with new rules on the disposal of chemicals and water used in the fracking process. Flores, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says there are ten federal agencies looking to employ fracking regulations nationwide that would duplicate what’s being done on the state and local levels.

And, Brazos County State Senator Charles Schwertner, who chairs the health and human services committee, wants a new funding source for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, better known as C-PRIT. The bill written by Schwertner requires C-PRIT to submit a plan to the legislature by December of next year, detailing how they’ll transition to self-sufficiency by 2021. C-PRIT’s C-E-O, Wayne Roberts, doesn’t know where they’ll find the money to be self-sufficient. C-PRIT, which was approved by voters in 2007, has more than $1-billion to spend during the next six years.

Local News Headlines–3/20/2015

An elderly couple’s visit to College Station from San Angelo included a scare yesterday afternoon. Lieutenant Chuck Fleeger says an 84-year-old woman last seen at Denny’s restaurant was found five hours later safe and sound. Fleeger says the woman was found next door to the restaurant at the LaQuinta Inn in an unoccupied room. The woman was not hurt and there is no indication of foul play. The woman had been missing for about three and a half hours when authorities were contacted. Multiple agencies were involved in what was a search that lasted just over one hour.

For several years, Texas A&M officials have attempted to get the state legislature to allow the university to issue tuition revenue bonds to finance construction projects. Representative John Raney of Bryan says T-R-B’s were discussed this week. Raney says the House budget calls for spending $250-million statewide to apply towards the debt retirement on $2.5-billion of T-R-B’s. Two would apply at Texas A&M, a biosafety lab at the vet school and A&M wants to finance a health science center project with tuition revenue bonds. Raney says tuition revenue bonds, which have not been approved since 2007, are repaid with state funding instead of future tuition.

Preparations continue for the twin cities to be the first Suddenlink market to receive gigabit Internet service. Suddenlink spokesman Gene Ragan says their “Operation GigaSpeed” is part of this year’s plans to spend $170-million throughout Texas, where they have more than 500,000 residential and nearly 37,000 business customers.

And, more highway rebuilding is coming to the twin cities. TxDOT has announced after the Texas A&M football season, changes are coming to Highway 21 between Highway 47 and the railroad bridge west of Bryan. The million-dollar project, designed to increase safety, is the subject of an open house on April 8th at Jane Long middle school. In the meantime, recent rains have resulted in a two week delay in the rebuilding of freeway on and off ramps at the northbound William Joel Bryan Parkway/Boonville Road exit in Bryan with more delays possible due to the forecast of more storms.

Local News Headlines–3/18/2015

It took almost 11 hours, but an aggravated kidnapping suspect is in custody and the victim is being treated. College Station Police first asked for the public’s help in finding Kevin Garcia at 8 yesterday morning. Investigators said the 55-year-old clerk at Drew’s Exxon at University and the bypass was forced into his pickup at 2:45 am and the suspect dove away. At 1:30 yesterday afternoon the suspect, identified as 36-year-old Nathaniel Tillery of College Station was taken into custody in the Fort Worth/Tarrant County area. In a press release officials did not release Garcia’s exact condition, but said both he and his vehicle and been found and he was being cared for by emergency medical personnel. Tillery is currently being held in Tarrant County Jail on $520,000 bond. He’s charged with robbery, assault, and kidnapping. Brazos County records show Tillery has been arrested 16 times during the past 18 years.

Along with more rain and warmer temps forecasted this week comes mosquitoes. The mosquitoes you see right after a big rain are called flood water mosquitoes. Mark Johnsen, medical entomologist with the Brazos County Health Department says flood water mosquitoes will bite, but do not typically transmit diseases. Johnsen advises practicing the four D’s. Drain standing water, dress in loose fitting long sleeves and pants, avoid being outside at dusk and dawn, and use DEET or some other repellant.

And, the city of Bryan is looking to raise funds by selling treated waste water to private parties. Councilman Rafael Pena weighed in on the topic at last week’s regular meeting. Pena suggested these projects come from the C-I-P or Brazos Transit District. He went on to say “more money is always a good thing.” Public Works Director, Jayson Barfknecht says with the decision to sell comes the risk of needing the water later. Barfknetcht says city staff is researching potential customers and will bring back updated production numbers in April’s meeting for the council to discuss further.

Local News Headlines–3/17/2015

The deadline to file a bill for consideration was last week and State Representative Kyle Kacal says environmental regulation and natural resources will be busy. Kacal sits on a subcommittee for special water districts and he recently spoke about water issues. Kacal says they will be looking into relationships with bordering states and Mexico to utilize unused water in those areas. Although we have had over 11 inches of rain this year and more is on the way this week, many areas of the state are still in desperate need of water.

Hope Crossing Community Center wants city involvement to build a trail system. Owner John Jordan of Cap Rock development says there is a strong desire for a better trail system in that area, and they want to be a catalyst to get it going. Jordan says the trail would enhance the neighborhood and provide a safe route for children on the way to and from school. And, Jordan says the trail would not only enhance the neighborhood, but the programs at the center. Jordan proposed to the Bryan City Council naming the trail for the late Ronnie Jackson. Hope Crossing Community Center is located at the former Carver Elementary on West Martin Luther King.

And, three longtime donors who sued the 12th Man Foundation over increased requirements to keep their seats and parking spaces at Kyle Field have been denied. The Houston Chronicle newspaper reports U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap of Marshall has denied a request to delay or alter the reseating process at Kyle Field. Gilstrap said donors failed to meet “the high bar that the test of irreparable injury under the law requires” for a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction.

Local News Headlines–3/16/2015

Another first can be scored by the Texas A&M System. The recent appointment of Bryan native Bob Albritton to the board of regents marked the first time a son has followed his father on any of the state’s public university governing bodies. Albritton says the day Governor Abbott called was his father’s birthday and the day after the first anniversary of his father’s death, and that night Albritton shared the news during a family gathering that included his mother.

The Federal Highway Administration has cleared a manufacturer of highway guardrails of a charge of changing its design. Trinity Highway Products lost a federal lawsuit that alleged the design was changed and federal officials weren’t notified. The guardrail system, which includes an end cap, was developed at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Assistant director Dean Alberson says the ruling was based in part on eight full scale crash tests. Texas highway officials suspended the installation of the guardrails last October, one of 40 states to take action following the lawsuit.

And, a recent meeting of the Bryan police department’s Spanish citizen’s police academy alumni group included a question about interacting with officers who don’t speak Spanish. Officer Kelley McKethan says the department learned of the concerns of those questioned by police who don’t speak English. McKethan says everyone is treated as the same, “if they’re victims they’re victims and if they’re suspects they’re suspects.”

Local News Headlines–3/13/2015

For the second time in four years, Texas A&M’s 12th Man Foundation has been sued by former students. Another group wants to keep their ticketing and seating rights, which were changed as the result of the $485-million expansion of Kyle Field. Reports say that the lawsuit accuses the foundation, which is overseeing the reseating at the stadium, of reneging on endowment agreements in an effort to get more money out of longtime donors. The lawsuit also seeks to represent holders of about 450 donor agreements that account for about 1,700 stadium seats. Endowment agreements allow donors to receive long-term rights to prime football tickets and parking rights near the stadium. The foundation’s vice-president of marketing and communications says they don’t comment on pending litigation. The foundation was sued in 2011 by another Aggie family after their football parking was moved from south of Kyle Field to west of Wellborn Road because they did not donate enough money.

The Bryan city council heard this week what it will take for the Brazos Transit District to make any changes to bus service. Director John McBeth says they have hired the local metropolitan planning organization to supervise a third party study that will look into a number of ideas. One is adding express service between north Bryan and south College Station. Those recommendations are expected by the end of the year. That will be followed by public hearings before final action is taken by The District. McBeth says it will take another $2.5-million to expand later into the evening during the week and bring back weekends. For each additional route, including runs every 30 minutes, the cost is $146,000.

And, Texas World Speedway will close as a racetrack in three months. The College Station city council has approved the creation of a Municipal Utility District that will turn the speedway into the Southern Pointe community. Landowner Bill Mather told the council their goal is to have the first of 1,400 home lots available for sale about one year from now. The city will receive revenue from selling water. In the future the city will collect sales taxes from retail businesses, and in the end, collect property taxes after annexation. The M-U-D, which is in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, will follow College Station development regulations. Those who buy homes will initially pay taxes to the M-U-D to recoup the costs of streets and other infrastructure, with the city projecting annexation as soon as seven years.

Local News Headlines–3/12/2015

Some of the offices at Blinn College’s Bryan campus have made the move to new quarters at the Tejas Center. Spokesman Richard Bray says admissions and records, enrollment services, financial aid, and veteran services have made the move. Bray says after spring break, academic advising and testing will relocate. That will free up space at 29th and Villa Maria to begin a major on-campus makeover. The $10-million project is to accommodate continuing student enrollment during the next two to four years, as Blinn develops its new campus in west Bryan.

Criminal charges have been filed in the disappearance of more than $20,000 from the local Habitat for Humanity six years ago. A private accountant hired by Habitat, 42-year-old Michael Lickteig, was indicted by a Brazos County grand jury of failing to make cash deposits of up to $100,000 between February and July 2009. The exact amount has not been disclosed. Lickteig, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, is out of jail after posting bond. A Habitat employee notified Bryan police five years ago yesterday about financial discrepancies.

And, more development may be coming south of College Station’s Central Park. Last year, several service organizations received the green light from the city council to start fundraising for the “Fun For All” playground inside the park, serving those with special needs. Now, the council has been asked to donate city owned-land south of the park along the freeway for the construction of “Brazos Valley Safety City”. The $3-million concept, from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Department of Transportation, is described as “a kid-sized mini-town set in a safe and interactive environment dedicated to providing exemplary safety education to children”. This would serve Kindergarten through fifth grade students living in Brazos and the remaining nine counties in the TxDOT Bryan district. Safety City includes a classroom building and five-eighths scale replicas of local buildings, roads with realistic pavement markings, traffic signals, and street signs. Another feature is a child-sized bedroom with a non-toxic smoke machine where children learn how to escape a fire. Children would also ride bicycles and battery operated vehicles to learn pedestrian and motor vehicle safety.

Local News Headlines–3/11/2015

There’s a new first lady of Aggieland. The soon-to-be Reveille nine, formerly known as Twix, has been donated by the owners of a kennel located in Ohio. The selection of the 16-month-old collie was recommended by a 12-member committee of students, faculty and staff to Interim President Doctor Mark Hussey. Twix will officially become Reveille nine in May during the Corps of Cadets final review.

A proposal sought by some Bryan homeowners to increase requirements for developers to get a conditional use requirement was defeated by the city council last night. Chuck Konderla was among those against the council having to vote by a six to one supermajority to uphold a planning and zoning commission decision when property owners within 500 feet make an appeal. The council’s four to three vote followed comments from four homeowners who sought the changes and three developers who were opposed. Al Saenz, Rafael Pena, and Mike Southerland wanted the changes, while Konderla was joined by Greg Owens, Art Hughes, and Jason Bienski in keeping the current ordinance.

The Bryan city council is moving ahead with the possible formation of an advisory committee address issues involving residents who are at least 55 years old. Janey Velasquez of the Amigos Del Valle de Brazos senior group was among those asking the council to also create a senior center. The council unanimously agreed to further discuss the mechanics of the new committee at its first workshop in April.

And, a residential burglary yesterday morning west of Easterwood Airport was solved quickly thanks to alert neighbors. Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk says the homeowner on Los Robles Road saw a stranger trying to open the back door, so the resident went out the front and ran to a neighbor’s house to call 9-1-1. Kirk says the neighbor then went outside and prevented the suspect from using the driveway to escape. The suspect then ran into the woods, where he was seen by another neighbor, which led to finding 54-year-old Willie Bunch Junior of College Station. Kirk says Bunch admitted to the burglary and the stolen big screen t-v and some coins was recovered from his car which had become stuck in the mud.