Local News Headlines–7/22/2016

Now that a lawsuit against the College Station school board has been withdrawn, board members are talking about what happened at this week’s meeting that finalizes the sale and purchase of land for future school construction. Board vice-president Jeff Harris, who is a partner in the law firm that is employed by the winning bidder, abstained from Tuesday’s vote and all discussion about the land sale. Harris says neither he nor his law firm represented the winning bidder in this transaction and as an attorney he was uniquely situated to serve as a go-between between the board and the school district’s attorney regarding the lawsuit during an executive session. This week’s board votes reaffirms action taken last month to sell land at Holleman and Deacon, next to collegiate housing, to buy land at Holleman and Rock Prairie, located in a development of single family homes.

A former guard at the women’s federal prison camp in Bryan has been sentenced for having sex with two inmates. 45-year-old James Graves, who admitted to the contact in May, was ordered to serve 21 months, followed by ten years of supervised release. Graves will also register as a sex offender as the result of the contact with the inmates two years ago.

There is less than three weeks left for victims of May’s severe storms to apply for federal assistance. Bryan City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta says FEMA still has an office at Bryan High School’s blue campus and 585 storm victims have received a total of $2.5-million in the Brazos Valley. Stratta says work continues to have a town hall meeting that includes FEMA representatives.

The days are numbered for Texas based retailer Hastings. The Amarillo Globe-News reports two financial consulting companies are liquidating its remaining stores, including 36 in Texas and one in Bryan, by October 31st. Hastings, based in Amarillo, filed for bankruptcy five weeks ago. The company will give remaining employees seven days notice of store closings. And according to the company website, they stopped honoring gift cards and taking returns last week.

Local News Headlines–7/20/2016

The College Station School Board is moving ahead with selling land, after an unsuccessful buyer filed a lawsuit against the district. The owner of The Barracks, Heath Phillips, referred to taking legal action when he spoke to the board last night in what was a failed attempt to buy the vacant land next to his development. The board returned from a 60 minute executive session with no public discussion. President Valerie Jochen read a prepared statement defending their decision. The board categorically denies any allegations they were not fair and equitable with both bidders. The board approved resolutions upholding last month’s vote to close by the end of this month the sale of their land to D-W-S Development which had the higher bid for the July closing. The Barracks offered more if the board would have waited until next March. The board is selling a tract at Holleman and Deacon so C-S-I-S-D has the money to buy land at Holleman and Rock Prairie which is in a development of single family homes.

Brazos County Commissioners have enacted a burn ban for unincorporated areas of the county. Also under burn bans are Grimes, Madison, Leon, Robertson, and Walker counties.

The Bryan School District has all its building principals for next year. The school board Monday night promoted Becky Ryberg, who spent the last six years as an assistant principal at Milam Elementary, to take over as principal at Fannin. The board also spent more of the unexpected revenue generated by higher student attendance and more property tax money. Assistant Superintendent Amy Drozd says $900,000 of $1.4-million is a transfer to take care of part of paying for staff training in August, the last month of this fiscal year. Another $150,000 is for additional reading materials, and $120,000 will be spent on energy-efficient lighting. The board took about 30 minutes before voting to reduce spending for consultants by $96,000 next year. Associate Superintendent Barbara Ybarra says that’s in part because fewer staff needs training related to school improvement and support services.

The Grimes County Sheriff’s office has sent human remains found last week in Bedias to the University of North Texas to be identified. Captain Blake Jarvis says the remains were found as part of their investigation of last month’s disappearance of Jason Currie. Jarvis says the human remains are related to the disappearance of Currie but how they learned about the remains is not being disclosed. Jarvis says they are treating this case as a homicide investigation and several suspects have been identified.

Local News Headlines–7/19/2016

A proposed high speed passenger rail between Houston and Dallas will not involve a federal agency. The Surface Transportation Board rejected a request from Texas Central Railway because the 240 mile line does not cross state lines. The decision was considered a win by opponents, including Congressman Kevin Brady, whose district includes three counties where the railroad would be located. According to T-C-R, the project continues to move forward with development activities while studying how to respond to the S-T-B ruling.

Bryan fire investigators returned yesterday to the scene of a house fire Sunday on the city’s east side. The fire destroyed 90 percent of the house along with the carport and two cars. Deputy Fire Marshal William Bouse says the 61-year-old woman living at 4603 Castle Avenue heard a noise in the living room and ran out of the house after discovering black smoke in the living room and kitchen. No injuries were reported.

Three people have been arrested on Burleson County charges of armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping. The trio is accused of robbing a man at knifepoint in Lyons on July 2nd and then forcing the victim to drive them into Lee County where he was left along the side of the road. One of the three, 39-year-old Roy Ates of Somerville is in the Brazos County jail. The others, 30-year-old Chase Smith of Somerville and 20-year-old Allie Rosenbaum of Brenham, are in the Burleson County jail.

Bryan police arrested two people over the weekend that between them face a combined 24 charges in municipal court. According to online jail records, both were released without posting bond. The city’s online municipal court docket shows both are scheduled to appear this Friday. 23-year-old Paul Navarro faces 13 municipal court charges dating back to 2007, and 55-year-old Sandra Goodin of College Station faces 11 charges from 2011, 2012, and 2013.

4,000 people were out at Wolf Pen Creek Park in College Station last Friday night playing Pokemon Go. Partner station Candy 95 was a co-sponsor. Morning announcer Frito said one of the greatest benefits of the event was that so many were in one place and police reported no trouble and no arrests.

Local News Headlines–7/18/2016

The Bryan city council presented of two civilian service citations at its last meeting. The honors recognized actions that were taken in response to accidents last month. Fire Chief Randy McGregor thanked the private citizens and Mayor Jason Bienski presented the citations. Matthew Winn was recognized for saving the life of a neighbor who was injured in a home accident. And, recognition was also given to Doctor Lauren Steffen for providing C-P-R to a driver involved in a crash who had no pulse.

College Station School District administrators are standing by the process of how land was sold last month. That’s after a second interested buyer whose bid was rejected requested the transaction be placed on tomorrow’s school board meeting agenda. The allegations come from the owner of The Barracks development, located next to the land the board sold to the other bidder, D-W-S Development. Heath Phillips claims the D-W-S bid is defective because his competitor failed to disclose prior business with the district, which the district says was a prior transaction that was proposed but was never executed. Phillips also says D-W-S has employed the law firm that includes board vice-president Jeff Harris. Responses from the district and Harris state Harris did not participate in any board deliberations or votes related to selling the land. Administrators also pointed out Phillips sought to purchase the land, but he was told the district would be soliciting bids. Four other members of the C-S-I-S-D board sold the land for $3.3-million to D-W-S. Phillips submitted two bids, one for $2.5-million that met the board’s desire to close the sale this month; and a $4.1-million offer if closing was delayed until next March. The board’s vote to close on selling land this month was due to wanting the money to close on buying another piece of land for future construction.

Congress has started their summer break. Among the issues that remain unresolved is federal funding to address the Zika virus. Congressman Bill Flores says the House did their job by giving the Democrats the amount of money they wanted just not from the same funding sources. Congress returns to work the day after Labor Day, September 6th.

With no relief from summertime heat coming anytime soon and more people outside thanks to the Pokemon Go craze comes a reminder to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Deputy Bryan Fire Marshal William Bouse says to drink lots of water before as well as during outside activity. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating. Bouse says a red flag for heat stroke is when you’re having mental changes. Another symptom of heat stroke is when you stop perspiring.

Local News Headlines–7/15/2016

The College Station City Council is moving ahead with a local ban on drivers and bicyclists using wireless devices. But, there is a division on how far it should go. At least four members, including Mayor Nancy Berry, support an ordinance requiring both hands on the steering wheel. Two members want to be able to hold a phone to talk without looking at the screen. Final action could be taken in two weeks. Police Chief Scott McCollum says College Station would become the 65th city in Texas with a ban, since there is no state law. McCollum says enforcement will be similar to seat belt laws, where the officer has to witness the illegal behavior. He says the ultimate goal is to obtain voluntary compliance.

Texas A&M has received five of the ten multimillion dollar research grants awarded by Governor Abbott as part of a new initiative. The combined total of A&M’s grants is more than $20-million. The University of Houston received three of the grants and U-T Austin two. More than $34-million provided by the new research initiative is matched dollar for dollar with a host university.

There is at least one place in town where Pokemon Go players are not wanted. Traditions Council social media representative, Charlotte Hammer says they have been receiving complaints about Pokemon players at the Bonfire Memorial. Hammer, says they have contacted Pokemon Go to remove the Bonfire Memorial as a location in the game. Hammer says they have not received word back, and until then, Traditions Council is working with the university to post signs discouraging people from playing the game at the memorial. The Texas A&M request comes after similar concerns at the Holocaust Museum and Arlington Cemetery in Washington D-C.

Local News Headlines–7/14/2016

The date has been set for a public meeting on an application of a west Bryan manufacturer to increase the amount of pollution it releases. State Representative John Raney of Bryan, who made the request involving Saint Gobain Ceramics, says the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will have what it calls a public meeting July 28th. At Tuesday night’s Bryan City Council meeting, there were four public speakers against Saint Gobain’s request. T-C-E-Q’s public meeting on the 28th will be at the Hilton Garden Inn on University, located across from Veterans Park, starting at 7:00 pm. The format starts with an opportunity to ask Saint Gobain employees and T-C-E-Q staff about the permit request. After that, formal comments will be received by T-C-E-Q.

Today’s College Station city council workshop includes a proposal to ban the use of wireless devices while driving. City staff wants a local law after multiple attempts at the state level have failed. College Station’s ban would apply to those driving vehicles as well as bicyclists. Those who are convicted of the misdemeanor offense would be fined anywhere between $25 and $200. There are four exceptions. The wireless device can be in hands free mode, the device is attached to the vehicle or bicycle and is in navigation mode, the vehicle or bicycle is at a complete stop, or if the device is being used to get emergency assistance. Another workshop item involves the future of Old Wellborn Road. What is being described as a conceptual discussion about future connectivity along Old Wellborn and other roads in the area was requested by a councilmember in a prior meeting.

Next year’s proposed budget for Bryan’s electric utility includes more than $600,000 at Lake Bryan. B-T-U general manager Gary Miller says one project is disconnecting a septic system from restrooms and tying that to a sewer line and lift station that was built last year. Miller says repairs to the Lake Bryan dam, where cracks were noticed last year, have held up through the severe storms in late May.

Local News Headlines–7/13/2016

Property owners in Bryan whose valuation did not change would not be affected by next year’s city budget if the council approves it as presented by staff yesterday morning. But those recommendations did not take into account a large and vocal group calling on the city to compensate victims of May floods and take the steps to eliminate future flooding. That was the consistent message from 26 speakers who spent more than one hour before the council. The crowd came to hear the council consider five flood relief proposals. Mayor Jason Bienski announced before public comments all that was going to be postponed until after there’s a town hall involving FEMA. One of the five proposals would divert eight cents of Bryan’s property tax, or $4-million, to flood relief. As for other portions of next year’s Bryan city budget, no changes are proposed for electric, trash, water, and wastewater customers. More than $1-million in new employees would be added. Half is in public safety, for three more police officers, three more firefighters, and paying the 9-1-1 district for more police dispatchers. Bryan would add another animal control officer, a fifth building inspector, and an eighth parks maintenance worker. City employees would receive a three percent pay raise, and would pay three percent more for health insurance. The city would also contribute three percent towards health insurance, and for the first time fund retired employee medical benefits. The public hearing on the Bryan city budget is set for August 23rd.

The first declaration has been made for a local political office in this November’s election. Current College Station Councilman John Nichols has announced he will run for mayor. Nichols, who is the current mayor pro tem, is finishing his second term on the council. He previously served on College Station’s planning and zoning commission and parks board. There will be a new mayor as Nancy Berry moves to the Brazos County Commission. The first day to file for College Station mayor and city council is Monday, July 25th.

The Pokemon craze has meant additional business for Texas A&M police. Tweets from U-P-D include an illegally parked car bring rear-ended so hard that the second car had its airbag deployed. The driver of the car that was hit had exited to catch a Pokemon. And, the occupants of what was reported as a suspicious vehicle parked after one in the morning near a building on campus turned out to be someone playing Pokemon Go.

Local News Headlines–7/12/2016

Two former employees of the Brazos County Tax Office are out of jail following their arrests last week of forging paperwork that allowed people to transfer vehicle titles with paying less or no sales taxes. Tax Assessor-Collector Kristy Roe says supervisors noticed 36-year-old April Arredondo was handling more than her share of transactions involving one person gifting their vehicle to another. According to the arrest report, Arredondo admitted to receiving $20 to $50 per transaction to help others. Arredondo also said she helped a co-worker submit fraudulent paperwork to avoid paying sales taxes on purchasing an S-U-V. That led to the arrest of 26-year-old Sonya Munoz. Roe says additional steps have been taken to help private parties who are buying and selling vehicles in order to keep her employees stay out that process. Roe says when you’re ready to buy or sell a vehicle with a private party to have paperwork completed and ready to give to her staff. Roe says Arredondo was fired in February, while allegations against Munoz surfaced after she resigned in May.

Last week, the Texas Education Department announced annual grants for public school districts that have pre-kindergarten programs. Bryan Superintendent Tommy Wallis says they are in the process of determining what the district will do with a funding increase of a few thousand dollars to what is an existing half-day Pre-K program. In College Station, Communications Director Chuck Glenewinkel says more money means creating a first time all-day pre-K for 18 students. Glenewinkel also says the school district serves about 120 students in a half-day Pre-K program and 200 students in the Head Start program. Glenewinkel says selection of where four-year-olds will attend in C-S-I-S-D next school year is based on information from applications submitted by the children’s parents.

College Station motorists driving today in the area of Rock Prairie and Longmire need to be alert. A temporary traffic signal is being installed as part of the expansion of Rock Prairie. Look for police officers directing traffic during the installation.

Governor Greg Abbott is at an Army hospital in San Antonio. That’s after he sustained second and third degree burns while in Wyoming last week and developing a minor infection. Later today he will get skin grafts to repair damage to his feet. That will keep Abbott from attending the police memorial service in Dallas. Details have not been released of how the Governor came into contact with scalding hot water last Thursday.

Local News Headlines–7/11/2016

The Smetana convenience store west of Bryan was hit by an armed robbery Friday night. Witnesses told the Brazos County sheriff’s office said a Hispanic man with a red bandana over his face and holding a pistol took an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.

Three people escaped life threatening injuries after they were struck by debris from gunfire outside a College Station apartment complex Friday night. No arrests have been reported from the incident at the Campus Village apartments off Harvey Mitchell. Shots were fired after one of several people in a fight was knocked out after he was threatened with a handgun. In a separate incident at Campus Village, a Bryan man was arrested last week for entering the pool area last month, taking $260 of concessions and causing $1,800 of damage. According to the arrest report, 26-year-old David Ollie Matthews Junior denies the accusation.

The first Bryan city council meeting in five weeks takes place tomorrow night and six of the seven members have added items to a very lengthy agenda. Five councilmen want more money spent on flood protection. Greg Owens and Buppy SImank want to change Bryan’s capital improvements plan to focus only on that and existing commitments to the fire and police departments and extend University east of Boonville Road. Al Saenz and Mike Southerland want to ask voters this November to approve a temporary eight cent property tax “set-aside” to pay for flood control projects. Saenz and Southerland also want $5-million in general fund money to create a flood mitigation fund. And they want to establish a $1.5-million disaster relief fund to assist victims of the storms six weeks ago. No specific funding source was identified for that or another $1-million sought by Southerland and Rafael Pena to buy out flooded homes that meet federal requirements. In other business, Simank and Ben Hardeman want to rename Highway 47 Riverside Parkway. And, Saenz and Southerland want to hold a retreat in the next three months, for reasons that were not disclosed in their proposal. While all the council-requested agenda items will be considered tomorrow night, members begin their day at 10:30 in the morning. That is when staff has scheduled four hours to present next year’s proposed budgets and an update on Bryan’s current capital improvements plan.

The Texas Aggies Go To War Exhibit is coming to Aggieland. Steve Aldrich says the exhibit, which tells the story of five Aggies who each had a role in the historic Battle of the Bulge, left the Bastogne War Museum at the end of June. Aldrich says there will be a small temporary exhibit at the Memorial Student Center on Texas A&M’s campus from mid-November through mid-December coinciding with Princess Astrid of Belgium’s visit. There are plans to open the full exhibit in the Stark Galleries in August of 2017. For more information on the exhibit is available online.

Local News Headlines–7/8/2016

Gunfire heard in Northgate yesterday morning before sunrise led College Station Police to the Islamic Community Center at Cherry and Stasney. Lieutenant Steve Brock says the person who called 9-1-1 heard four shots. President of the Islamic community Bryan-College Station, Anwer Ahmed says nothing like this has happened in his 11 years here. No one was injured, and anyone with information is asked to call C-S-P-D. The F-B-I is also investigating.

The victim of a car burglary in Bryan Wednesday night traded gunfire with two suspects. The victim was wounded and was admitted to the hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening. The suspects, one who was a light skinned black man wearing a red shirt, ran off. Anyone with information about this incident, which took place in the parking lot of the E-Z Mart at Finfeather and Villa Maria Wednesday night just after 11, is asked to contact Bryan Police or Brazos County Crimestoppers.

For the third time, the Brazos Central Appraisal District has asked Brazos County to sell land in order to build its own offices. County Commissioners agreed to receive bids from all interested parties on the land next to the new tax office parcel in the Park Hudson development. County Judge Duane Peters was asked about the change of mind after commissioners told B-CAD no twice last year. Peters says commissioners decided to try it this time after there was some misunderstanding, possibly on his part, after the district was told no last November. State law requires the county, when not selling land to another taxing entity, to offer the property to all interested buyers. The minimum bid on the property is $300,000. No deadline was mentioned in the motion to approve the sale. Peters says B-CAD wants to know something by the end of July. The appraisal district board has been attempting to move out of a building it leases in Bryan, located on Briarcrest near Broadmoor.

For the third time this year, a B-C-S grocery store is closing. The Kroger store at Texas and Southwest Parkway and its gas station are closing in mid-August. Kroger officials in Houston say the store, which opened in 1982, has lost money for a sustained period of time.  70 employees have been offered positions at other Kroger locations, which includes a new convenience store at Rock Prairie and the freeway along with stores on Longmire and in Bryan.  Bryan’s Wal-Mart neighborhood market closed in January, and Village Foods closed their full service store in February.