Local News Headlines–6/30/2015

For the second time in as many months, the College Station City Council has heard recommendations about what to include in a possible bond issue this November without giving any direction. The only council member to offer any comments at their most recent meeting was Blanche Brick who pointed out the amount for streets alone took up all that was recommended. The council was told about $2.5-million is needed for park repairs and improvements in addition to $60-million for streets. Next week, the council is scheduled to hear what staff wants for new and existing city facilities.

There’s no change to local regulations against fireworks inside Bryan and College Station. Bryan Deputy Fire Marshal William Bouse has noticed a twist about what is being sold at fireworks stands outside the city limits. Bouse discovered for the first time poppers and other celebratory noisemakers are also at fireworks stands outside the city limits. Bouse has seen no illegal fireworks sold at retailers inside the city.

And, the Brazos County Clerk’s office is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after County Clerk Karen McQueen received legal advice locally and from the state. McQueen says there is concern from employees in her office because of religious beliefs. But, she’s not going to force them to issue a license if they’re not comfortable because there are enough workers in her office in her words “to get the job done.”

Local News Headlines–6/29/2015

The College Station school board has postponed a decision about pay raises for the next school year. Administrators were ready to recommend a two percent raise at the last board meeting. Then new rates were announced for health insurance that would mean a net loss for most employees. Board president Valerie Jochen was among those saying they did not want C-S-I-S-D employees to make a choice. The cost of health insurance in C-S-I-S-D is rising at an average of $80 a month, on top of what an employee is already paying. That’s more than double what a two percent raise would generate for someone earning $30,000 per year.

Two months ago, the Texas A&M System announced a $1-million contribution to improving traffic signal operations in College Station. An update was given on Friday about the technology that city manager Kelly Templin says can change with the volume of vehicles. Tim Lomax of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says the first phase, involving signals affecting traffic flow in and out of Kyle Field, will be completed this fall. Lomax says during this season’s Aggie home football games, they’ll be able to monitor video feeds of intersections around Kyle Field to control signals. The first step was taken last month when city crews replaced controllers to the 78 sets of traffic signals in College Station. The next phase, impacting Wellborn Road south of the stadium, will be done for the start of the 2016 A&M football season.

And, the city of Bryan has been ordered by the state to refund more than $615,000. The city council holds a special meeting tomorrow, in part to decide how that’s going to be done. According to a letter from the state comptroller’s office, an unspecified business overpaid sales and local use taxes from 2010 through last year. City staff recommends making the payment all at once because there is enough in reserves and because that will avoid a service charge of more than $12,000.

Local News Headlines–6/26/2015

A proposed multimillion dollar student housing complex is on hold following action at last night’s College Station city council meeting. Aspen Heights would be on land bordered by Harvey Mitchell Parkway, Holleman, and Wellborn Road. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to proceed with 170 buildings, holding two to five bedroom units. After city staff repeated its opposition due to the additional traffic it would generate at Harvey Mitchell and Holleman, the only council support came from Julie Schultz. Improvements to the intersection are seven to ten years away. Schultz did get a motion passed to postpone final action until August. That gives time for developers to determine what impact a shuttle bus would have on reducing traffic volume. But at this point, city staff has not come up with a way to legally require a private shuttle to operate to and from Texas A&M.

The Bryan city council is holding a special meeting this afternoon to collect more information about a proposed volunteer effort to reduce the feral cat population. Today’s workshop features representatives of two organizations who have done trap, neuter, and release programs in other cities.

The end of June always marks a couple of deadlines for thousands of property taxpayers in Brazos County. This year adds a few twists according to Tax Assessor-Collector Kristy Roe. One involves anyone who plans to pay by mail to do so quickly because of the time it takes to get a postmark, which now comes from Houston instead of Bryan or College Station. The new tax office, off Pendleton between Boonville and Copperfield, includes two drive thru lanes and drop boxes in and outside the building. Roe says payment can also be made online with an electronic check for a $1 service charge.

And, the next step has been taken on two more major highway projects in the TxDOT Bryan district. The transportation commission has awarded a $7.5-million bid to relocate Earl Rudder Freeway on and off ramps between F-M 158 and HIghway 21. Construction will start early next year on that as well as improving Highway 30 from west of Huntsville to the Grimes County line. New passing lanes are part of the more than $16-million project.  And, for commuters between here and Houston, there will be more construction on Highway 290 as a $60-million contract was also among the 15 awarded yesterday.

Local News Headlines–6/25/2015

A suspected pipe bomb found in a Hearne motel room yesterday brought out the bomb squad from the College Station police department. Lieutenant Steve Brock said the device, which was found by housekeepers at the Holiday Inn Express, was picked up by their robot then disposed. Brock says when they arrived; they learned housekeepers had moved the device outside of the building. The device was described as a piece of plastic P-V-C pipe with end caps screwed on both ends. Hearne police blocked traffic on Highway 6 at F-M 485 on the city’s north side. That resulted in a backup going south through Hearne and to the north to Calvert.

Bryan firefighters went to the B-T-U power plant north of the city yesterday to deal with a hazardous materials incident. B-T-U general manager Gary Miller said an employee at the Dansby power plant went into a storage building and smelled chlorine gas. The fire department was sent to address the issue. No one was injured and there was no interruption in the generation or distribution of electricity.

A veterinarian who posted a picture of killing a feral cat did not commit animal cruelty according to an Austin County grand jury. A check of Kristen Lindsey’s veterinary license on the state’s website indicates it is still active. Lindsey lost her job at a vet clinic in Brenham following the negative reaction to the photo of the cat with an arrow through its head. According to the news release, investigators could not determine who owned the cat and the photo by itself was not enough evidence that a crime had occurred.

Texas A&M has a new dean of the College of Science. Meigan Aronson succeeds Joe Newton, who announced more than a year ago he was not seeking a fourth-four year term. Doctor Aronson, who starts October 1st, is a professor of physics and astronomy at Stony Brook University in New York and a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

And, the Brazos County Health Department has received no reports of anyone suffering from the cyclospora stomach illness. Elsewhere in the state, there have been 54 cases of the affliction that is caused by consuming food or water contaminated with feces. The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reports state officials have alerted health care providers to be on the lookout. Almost half the victims come from Travis County. No one has died or has been hospitalized.

Local News Headlines–6/24/2015

The life of Aggie John David Crow was celebrated at Reed Arena yesterday. The host of the program, Will Johnson of 12th Man Productions, summarized his interviews and observations of Texas A&M’s first Heisman Trophy winner who died last week. Johnson said Crow put faith, family and friends before his success on the field which made him a success in life. Lynn Hickey, who Crow recruited as women’s head basketball coach and assistant athletic director, said it was God’s plan for Jackie Sherill to bring Crow back as an administrator who would become a champion for women’s athletics. The Singing Cadets also participated in the memorial that included comments from R-C Slocum.

Before the end of the summer, the first phase of the Boonville Heritage Park will be completed. Brazos County Commissioners recently approved a resolution of support for a flag plaza that will display the Six Flags of Texas. Mervin Peters of the William Joel Bryan chapter of the Sons of the Republic of Texas says the flagpoles should be delivered by July 15th. The first phase also includes a small amphitheater called a council ring. Also on the site, which is the front of the Boonville Cemetery, is an authentic replica of a Twin Sister cannon that was used in the Battle of San Jacinto, which led to Texas gaining its independence from Mexico. A pavilion will be built for the cannon, in the style of the cabin that is on the grounds, which was built in 1856.

And, Governor Greg Abbott has signed legislation that increases penalties for nursing homes. Senate Bill 304 was written by Brazos County senator Charles Schwertner. It was nicknamed a three strikes bill because the state will automatically revoke nursing home licenses after three significant violations over a period of 24 months. The new law takes effect September 1st.

Local News Headlines–6/23/2015

Texas A&M has announced a new Vice Provost. Being promoted to the university’s second highest academic administrator is Dean of Faculties Michael Benedik. Doctor Benedik, who has been at A&M since 1984, succeeds Pamela Matthews, who was recently selected as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The interim Dean of Faculties is Associate Dean Blanca Lupiani.

Those who have parking permits for Northside Garage have already been alerted to new traffic patterns. The Executive Director of Texas A&M Transportation Services, Peter Lange, says that this summer they’re testing a possible first step to reduce congestion getting in and out of the garage. The gates on Ireland near Ross and along Ross between Ireland and Bizzell are being raised at five instead of six pm. If bus and pedestrian traffic is not impeded this fall, the change will become permanent.

College Station Police had a busy Sunday morning, responding to nine home and vehicle burglaries. Some of those burglaries have been connected to two men who were arrested and more arrests are possible. Lieutenant Steve Brock says officers were first alerted to a burglary at 2818 Place Apartments where the victim reported his door had been kicked in and electronics and a weapon were stolen. Brock says around 4 am, officers responded to a report of suspicious activity at the Gateway Apartments on Holleman Drive West where they found 21-year-old, Jamikel Deandre Dancy from Sealy, and 22-year-old Derek Sewell Junior, from Columbus. Both were arrested and charged with two counts of burglary of a habitation and evading arrest. Brock says they found stolen property in Dancy’s car which matched the description and license plate written down by the witness. Anyone with more information can contact CSPD at 764-3600.

And, a Father’s Day dispute turned violent Sunday night when College Station Police got a call about a civil disturbance at Southgate Village Apartments on Luther Street. Police report 27-year-old Christina Foster of College Station struck the father of her baby on his head with a tire iron. The victim said he wanted to see his child for Father’s Day and got in a verbal argument with Foster when she showed up. He admitted to kicking her car when she tried to leave, which resulted in her hitting him with the tire iron. Foster was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The victim did not receive medical treatment.

Local News Headlines–6/22/2015

Former Bryan High School band director Robert Towell, who was reassigned by central office administrators last month, has submitted his resignation. A district spokesman says Towell’s last day is the final day of his contract on June 30. Towell’s forced transfer to a music instructor position at Mitchell Elementary resulted in the school board holding closed door conversations with supporters of the former director. The band director and the music instructor’s positions are posted as vacancies on the Bryan school district’s website.

A Saturday afternoon crash on Highway 6 north of the F-M 2154 exit north of Navasota resulted in one death, another being hospitalized, and a baby escaping serious injury. D-P-S Trooper Jimmy Morgan says investigators were told the driver swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting debris and a tire blew, causing the truck to roll. Morgan says a passenger in the pickup, 38-year-old Dedric Junginger, was killed. The driver, 19-year-old Mikayla Cruz, is in the hospital. And, Morgan says a properly used child seat resulted in little if no injury to six month old Granger Donaldson. All three are from the Bryan area.

The City of Bryan Parks and Recreation Department is holding a public meeting Wednesday. Director Darrell Lovelette says they’re looking for feedback on the new skate park in Williamson Park. Lovelette says they want feedback not only from skaters and bikers about the design, but also other community members. Lovelette says their consultant from Grindline Skate Parks will discuss the general features of the 12 to 14 thousand square foot facility including the design, restrooms, and landscaping. The meeting starts at 6 p-m in City of Bryan Municipal Office Building in the Basement Training Room.

There is division among Republicans in Congress about the future of the export-import bank, which The New York Times called “the lender of last resort for “American exporters and their foreign customers”. Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan, who once supported the bank, is now opposed to renewing its charter which ends June 30th. The Times reports the chairman of the House banking committee, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, is defying speaker John Boehner’s demand to produce a bill to either reform the bank or wind it down. Flores also says numbers published by the Houston Chronicle that Ex-Im has allowed 1,500 businesses in Texas to do $3-billion in business are inflated. Flores says the bank is not needed if there is tax reform, litigation reform, immigration reform, and trade agreements where both sides can compete freely and fairly.

Local News Headlines–6/19/2015

The Texas A&M community today is mourning the loss of its first Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow. Crow died Wednesday at the age of 79. Former Texas A&M head football coach R-C Slocum remembers Crow as an outstanding representative of Texas A&M and the community. Funeral services for John David Crow are pending.

As the halfway point of the year approaches, the National Weather Service office in Houston has a summary of year to date rainfall. The data shows College Station has had its fifth wettest year to date at nearly 32 inches, which is almost 13 inches above average. The most rain in the region this year is Baytown, at more than 56 inches is almost 32 inches above normal.

There’s a Bryan tie to a Texas National Guard soldier who was killed during training at Fort Hood on Wednesday. Private First Class Juan Castro was a 19-year-old from San Antonio. He was based in Bryan with the 36th Infantry Division’s 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He was among four soldiers in a Humvee that crashed during their two week annual training period. The others sustained non-life threatening injuries. Officials say circumstances into what led the Humvee to roll remain under investigation.

One of the many reviews that take place following the end of the Texas legislative session is Texas Monthly magazine’s lists of the ten best and worst lawmakers. Brazos County state senator Charles Schwertner was part of the latter. The senator’s response was the editors “should probably stick to grading barbecue.” Schwertner says he was very pleased with some things, even if legislation wasn’t passed. One example of that was restoring caps on college tuition. Schwertner “a home run session” for Texas A&M included a bill establishing K through 12 charter schools statewide, expanding authority A&M already has in Brazos County.

Local News Headlines–6/18/2015

It’s been a year since Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski first talked about the idea of a superpark. He says the full council supports that idea. Bienski says the council is exploring combining donated land with the state legislature’s recently expanded definition of spending hotel occupancy tax money to develop a superpark. Bienski says possible sites are on the city’s east and west sides, where there is a minimum one hundred acres available. The mayor says the municipal golf course is NOT a potential location, especially after the recent purchase of a new fleet of golf carts.

There will be a third new elementary school principal in Bryan next year. The Bryan school district’s central office has announced the resignation of Milam principal Holly Scott, effective at the end of her contract. Officials invite input on her successor through an online survey. New principals have been hired at Fannin and Johnson Elementary schools along with Sam Rayburn Middle School and Rudder High.

Economic activity and optimism remains strong in the twin cities. That’s based on the results of this spring’s Chamber Day survey, which was presented at this week’s Brazos County Commission meeting. Chamber president Royce Hickman says volunteers collected a record 720 responses to a variety of questions. Hickman says 66 percent of the surveyed businesses and industries had sales increases over last year. Hickman says 49 percent of employers plan to increase their workforce next year and 83 percent believe the local economy will improve next year, which are near the same numbers as last year.

And, the U.S. House has rejected a bipartisan effort to force the president to withdraw American military forces from Iraq and Syria by the end of the year. Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan, who voted against the withdrawal, is also opposed to giving President Obama the authority to declare war against Islamic State militants. Flores says no one trusts the president to carry out a war the way Congress wants it done. Flores says the Middle East is a “basket case” due to action from the president and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Local News Headlines–6/17/2015

This month’s Texas A&M Faculty Senate meeting included one hour with new president Michael Young. Among the questions was how he was implementing the state’s new campus carry firearms law. Young said the issue “embroiled” the University of Utah campus for the seven years he was there, where he was a vocal opponent. Now, he’s looking for comment from all sides remembering the central tenet that the university has to foster the free exchange of ideas. Young says they’re still working on the process to collect opinions that will go into a policy that will eventually be adopted by the board of regents.

Once again, the state legislature did not give school districts the option of starting school years earlier than the last Monday in August. That led to a discussion at last night’s College Station school board meeting about what’s been a time consuming process of setting the school calendar. Michael Wesson was among the board members telling administrators to end the nearly decade old practice of multiple committee meetings when the outcome is already known. There was no opposition to continue structuring the C-S-I-S-D calendar where the first semester ends at Christmas break, spring break is at the same time as Texas A&M, and ending the school year in May.

And, with the Brazos Valley again threatened by more flooding due to Tropical Storm Bill, Aggieland Humane Society’s Leiha White reminds pet owners to be prepared for an emergency evacuation. White suggests giving a neighbor access to your house and backyard so they can help move your pets in case of an emergency evacuation. White says microchipping your pet is the easiest way to make sure your animal is returned home if found.