Local News Headlines–5/25/2016

Next Tuesday, Blinn College trustees will consider stopping construction of their new campus in west Bryan. That’s after college officials announced yesterday an offer to locate on Texas A&M’s Riverside campus, which will undergo a $150-million renovation to become a research and development center. Blinn’s general contractor on the more than $46-million first phase has been clearing land since January on the 95 acre parcel that was purchased more than a year ago. Instead of a four story academic building, a student resource center, and almost 900 parking spaces Blinn has been asked to consider leasing ground from the A&M system and construct one building on what has been renamed the RELLIS campus. Blinn officials said there would be no further comment until after the trustees meeting which will be next Tuesday morning at 10 in Brenham. Blinn’s announcement did not include information on the current investment in the west Bryan campus, how much the college would have to pay to end its contracts, or what becomes of the bonds issued by the college to pay for the project.

The College Station Fire Chief is retiring after 35 years with the city’s fire department. Chief Eric Hurt started as a firefighter in 1981 and became chief in December 2013. He currently oversees a budget of $16.7-million and a staff of more than 150. City Manager Kelly Templin says they will immediately begin the search for Hurt’s successor.

There is another phone scam in the twin cities involving B-T-U customers. Once again someone is calling and demanding payment or their electricity will be cut off. B-T-U’s normal procedures do NOT include a phone call to residential customers. And, for commercial customers, B-T-U calls are made during normal business hours and not after 5 pm or on weekends. Anyone who suspects they are being scammed should call police or the sheriff’s office.

The Bryan city council has given the green light to a pair of major street projects. More than $5.5-million will go into rebuilding and improving West 26th Street, from Parker to Brazos along with eight side streets between 27th and William Joel Bryan Parkway. Councilman Ben Hardeman says it’s something that’s been discussed for 13 years. Hardeman also expressed pleasure in seeing the oak trees along those streets being saved. $2.6-million will be spent on a pair of intersections around C-H-I St Joseph Health’s new emergency room and trauma center. Improvements will be made along 29th from Villa Maria to Memorial. Both projects were over budget by a combined $486,000.

Local News Headlines–5/24/2016

Two of the three major funding partners of the Research Valley Partnership will be receiving reports from the economic development agency today. Brazos County commissioners are scheduled to accept the agency’s audit for the fiscal year that ended last September. And the R-V-P is scheduled to present a compliance report to the Bryan city council.  The R-V-P is not on the agenda for Thursday’s College Station city council meeting. Mayor Nancy Berry, who is on the R-V-P board says she was not aware of the Bryan council presentation, but will ask R-V-P staff for a similar appearance in College Station. Councilman John Nichols notes what College Station has done in economic development, as the governing body had a serious discussion about the R-V-P during last year’s city budget deliberation. The R-V-P receives $350,000 from Brazos County and the cities of Bryan and College Station.

Bryan/College Station’s Habitat For Humanity homebuilding program is recruiting local businesses for its 13th Corporate Challenge. Habitat’s Carl Orozco says the outside support is in addition to the five hundred hours of sweat equity that is contributed by the future homeowners. More information about Habitat’s Corporate Challenge, along with upcoming meetings to apply for a Habitat home, is online.

On April 1st, Frontier Communications took over phone, t-v and internet service from Verizon in the twin cities and in other areas of Texas and two other states. Since then, Frontier has been hammered with customer complaints. Spokeswoman Rachel McGallian says the transition period has been difficult. Severe weather and logistics have been contributing factors. Mcgallian says they have brought in extra personnel to tackle the remaining problems. She says every frontier customer who reported an outage should receive an automatic bill credit by the end of June.

Local News Headlines–5/20/2016

This week’s monthly meeting of the Blinn College board of trustees included changing a 30 year old policy on naming campus buildings. Trustees have added the option of naming buildings when what they call a “philanthropic gift” is given towards a particular facility. There may or may not be an association with that action and a special board meeting next Monday. The agenda calls for an executive session where trustees behind closed doors could discuss a prospective gift or donation.  Blinn’s new campus in west Bryan is also listed on next Monday’s special meeting in executive session. From this week’s meeting, administrators told the board they were not ready to proceed with three contracts, which are all associated with designing the entrances and exits in and out of the new campus from Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Leonard Road. And, the board heard but did not take action on the administration’s response to the faculty senate’s call to be included in governance issues. The trustees also released a 23 page presentation that administrators used to demonstrate the college is meeting standards set by its national accrediting agency.

Two women from our local city governments were selected to join an elite network of more than 5,000 female leaders across the country. Bryan’s Community Development Manager, Alsie Bond and College Station’s Director of Community Services, Debbie Eller were selected by Leadership Women as members of the Leadership America Class of 2016. Bond says this year’s first trip was to Washington D-C in April. Bond says the 58 participants will travel to Phoenix in June and New Orleans in October. Eller explained that Leadership Women aims to connect, inspire, empower and honor women. Sharon Klinker, Aubrey Nettles and Becky L Smith were selected as members of this year’s Leadership Texas Class, a network of more than 6,000 women. If you or someone you know is interested in applying for the program, call Debbie Eller at 979-764-3771. You can also go online to leadership-women.org for more information.

The 44th season of M-S-C OPAS titled “Expect the Unexpected” was revealed to the general public last night. Executive Director Anne Black says leading off is Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, and among the Broadway shows are six performances of Jersey Boys. Ticket information and the entire schedule are online at mscopas.org.

Local News Headlines–5/19/2016

The TxDOT district office in Bryan is hosting a public hearing this evening about upcoming changes to the highways around Easterwood Airport.  The gathering is on the Texas A&M west campus in the Gilcrest Building. The doors open at 5:00 to look at project information, followed by the formal hearing at 6:00. Later this year, construction will start on rebuilding the interchange at Harvey Mitchell and Raymond Stotzer, along with widening Harvey Mitchell between Raymond Stotzer and George Bush.

How much money should the local convention and visitors bureau have in reserves and what should be in the reserve account? That was among the questions during this week’s College Station city council review of C-V-B operations. City Auditor Ty Elliott noted in the last seven years, reserves more than doubled to $876,000 compared to liabilities of less than $100,000. Elliott told Councilwoman Julie Schultz that was not an efficient use of hotel occupancy tax money the agency receives. Councilman John Nichols, who is on the C-V-B board, says a newly created finance committee will address the future of the agency’s reserve accounts. Reducing the reserve was among the six recommendations Elliott made. The council rejected another recommendation, to totally remove hotel operators as voting members of the C-V-B board. The C-V-B is receiving more than $1.7-million in HOT funding from College Station this year.

The Research Valley Partnership economic development agency is losing one of its partners. The R-V-P board, after being notified by Texas A&M that the university is withdrawing its financial support and two board members, issued a statement supporting the university’s future plans and offering assistance upon request. The only reference in the statement to the R-V-P president offering his resignation is a sentence, “The RVP will continue to work tirelessly under the leadership of President Todd McDaniel for all the citizens of Brazos County in pursuit of economic development without regard to municipal boundary.” During yesterday’s R-V-P board meeting, approval was given to lease new office space on the seventh floor of The Galleria in Bryan. That’s after A&M gave a termination notice to vacate the agency’s current location on west campus. Bryan mayor Jason Bienski respects A&M’s decision and supports the R-V-P’s ongoing work. First reported by The Eagle newspaper, A&M president Michael Young will lead the university’s future economic development efforts. Bienski says A&M had been contributing $10,000 to the R-V-P, compared to $350,000 by the cities of Bryan and College Station and Brazos County.

Local News Headlines–5/18/2016

The newly appointed bishop-elect of the Catholic diocese of Tulsa, David Konderla of College Station’s St. Mary Catholic Center, met with friends yesterday in Austin. From a video shared by the diocese of Austin, Konderla said he did not really understand what was being said until half way through the phone call two weeks ago. Konderla says he started paying attention when he realized it really was the Pope on the other end of the line. Konderla is optimistic about the future of St. Mary’s. Konderla kept news of the Pope’s appointment to himself for nine days.

For the second time in three months, there has been debate about building a new sidewalk requested by a Bryan city councilman for more than two years. Because property owners won’t donate land and the council is not talking about eminent domain, the only other option for a sidewalk along Sandy Point Road from Highway 21 to west of the Forest Park apartments is agreeing to give TxDOT at least $400,000 as part of a larger project that also adds a turning lane, curbs, and drainage. Rafael Pena says the money can come from the recent sale of land in the Traditions development or if the city gets paid from Union Pacific railroad to close downtown train crossings. Mayor Jason Bienski suggested sidewalk supporters change their priorities on the capital improvements list. There are 63 unfunded capital projects ahead of the Sandy Point sidewalk.

For the second straight Tuesday, a customer of a local Chase bank lost money. Bryan police say what happened at the Boonville Road branch was a theft and not a robbery because no threat was made. A black man grabbed a bank bag with an undisclosed amount of money and ran to a white car, where a second person was behind the wheel. The victim was not hurt. Last Tuesday, College Station police responded to an armed robbery outside the Chase branch at Texas and Holleman. A 43-year-old man was returning to his car from the bank when one of two men broke the driver’s side window then opened the driver’s door and showed a knife.

Local News Headlines–5/17/2016

A one vehicle wreck that shut down the freeway northbound near the Texas Avenue split in College Station yesterday has claimed the life of the driver. College Station police say 19-year-old Callie Harden of Somerville died in a Houston hospital. Officers determined Harden overcorrected after being blocked from changing lanes. Her S-U-V left the roadway and rolled, ejecting the driver, who was thrown 50 feet. Investigators believe she was not wearing her seatbelt.

The College Station City Council continues to look at options for the layout of the new police headquarters. One idea that will not be included is adding space for the administration of the fire department. Fire Chief Eric Hurt says they have their own special needs but will work with the police department either on the streets or at city hall. City staff developed an option for a $4-million fire administration addition to the $28-million police campus to be built at the intersection of Dartmouth and Krenek Tap.

The Bryan school board last night approved a grievance filed by a Bryan school district employee against a school board member. Trustee John Street, who was named in the grievance filed earlier this month by a school nurse, met with the board last night for more than an hour about an incident at Bonham elementary. That was followed by the rest of the board re-entering the meeting and unanimously approving a motion read by Board President Doug Wunneburger and directed to a parent identified as Street. The motion stated that the nurse is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Street is also required to be accompanied by a building administrator whenever he visits the nurse’s office at Bonham the rest of this year and all of the 2016-17 school year. The school district’s attorney, Harry Wright Junior, was asked about further details about the grievance. Wright says he will be asking the attorney general’s office for guidance on the matter. According to Doctor Wunneburger, Street left after the executive session and before the board voted due to a death in the family. Attempts to reach Street last night were not successful.

Local News Headlines–5/16/2016

The Bryan school board considers final action tonight on changing attendance boundaries starting in the fall of 2017. Two weeks ago at a board workshop, there was no opposition to the last tweaks. At the workshop, consultant Don Hooper recapped the 11 month process, including input from a 72 member community committee. It is the first change in Bryan elementary school boundaries in 18 years. The board will also hear an unidentified employee’s unidentified grievance and take up an unidentified mediation issue involving the Texas Education Agency.

Six months after the boat ramp at Lake Bryan was closed for repairs, it reopened over the weekend.  David Werley at B-T-U, which owns the lake, says the lower half of the boat ramp was replaced six weeks ahead of schedule. Werley says there are no restrictions at the lake. The ramp was closed last December after the discovery of structural problems. That followed finding cracks in the dam, which Werley says repairs have been made and the dam continues to be monitored by B-T-U and the state.

College Station school board members have been asked to continue tradition when naming new schools. The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting includes a recommendation to name the intermediate school under construction Pecan Trail. A memo from Superintendent Clark Ealy points out trees are used in the names of Oakwood and Cypress Grove Intermediate and that pecan is the official state tree. And the location of the new school is on Greens Prairie Trail. For those who might not be aware, it is C-S-I-S-D policy not to name a building or a portion after any person.

Under an order issued by the U-S Department of Health and Human Services, a center at Texas A&M is working on a new anthrax vaccine candidate. The Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing partnered with Altimmune, a company developing a third generation anthrax vaccine candidate called NasoShield. The Health Science Center’s Doctor Gerald Parker says it has been developed to be administered as a nasal spray. Parker says the threat of bioterroism is real and an anthrax attack is something we as a nation need to be prepared for. Something else of concern right now is the Zika virus. Parker says the center is interested in contributing to vaccine or antibody development for medical countermeasures for the Zika virus.

Local News Headlines–5/13/2016

A Hearne man held in the Brazos County jail since January is now charged with arson and murder. 45-year-old William Davenport was indicted for setting fire to a mobile home in Hearne that killed 34-year-old Wanda Vinton and her 15-year-old daughter, Chyene. The additional charges follow Davenport’s initial arrest for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a parole violation.

Some College Station police officers spent the noon hour yesterday at a construction site where one worker is accused of threatening another with a four-inch knife then hitting the victim in the face. This was off Jones Butler Road between John Crompton Park and Harvey Mitchell Parkway. The victim refused medical treatment for his injuries. The suspect in the aggravated assault, which began as an argument over the use and possession of construction tools, is a Hispanic man around 40-years-old and driving a red Chevrolet Silverado truck.

Here are two traffic advisories. One impacts those planning to go in and out of Veterans Park today. The city of College Station says the Harvey Road access will be closed due to a work project. And, on Monday in Bryan, construction starts on a permanent roundabout at Nash and Broadmoor, which will tie in to a large apartment complex that will open this summer. Sometime during the next three months, the intersection will be closed, though there will be access to local businesses. This project also includes permanent traffic islands at Broadmoor and Trophy, which like the roundabout, are designed to slow down motorists.

May 31st is the last day to file an official protest of new property values that have been mailed out by the Brazos Central Appraisal District. Chief appraiser Mark Price says the informal meeting gives you the chance to visit with the person who appraised your home. Price says the informal review is also recommended by the independent panel that considers official protests. More information is online at brazos c-a-d dot org.

Local News Headlines–5/12/2016

The Bryan City Council voted Tuesday to release some police information about last month’s call to the home of Councilman Rafael Pena. Ben Hardeman, who made the motion to release the records and the only one in the majority vote to make a comment, said it was the obligation of council members to be transparent. Mike Southerland was opposed to releasing the records. Al Saenz and Pena also voted against releasing the records. That’s after they failed in an attempt to delay the release until after getting guidance from the Texas Attorney General’s office.

A Bryan city councilman’s objection to how an appointment was handled nearly led to his removal from this week’s meeting. Al Saenz made the first nomination for the city’s representative to the Research Valley Partnership board. Mayor Jason Bienski made the second nomination. Then Bienski closed the nomination process and called for a vote on his nominee. Two officers approached Saenz as he got up from his chair, then the councilman sat down and stayed through the remainder of the meeting. The council, on a four to three vote, named Bobby Gutierrez as a city representative to the economic development agency. Saenz objected that there was no vote on his nominee to the Research Valley Partnership board.

Bryan’s S-O-S Ministries has helped more than 600 at-risk men and founder J-J Ramirez is making plans for future additions to help more. The Bryan City Council unanimously approved rezoning 20 acres on the S-O-S campus to add a residence, a workshop, and storage on the southwest corner of the property. Ramirez says they have been in contact with the Texas Workforce Commission about training at-risk young people and adults for plumbing, electric, and other trades. Ramirez says construction will take place as private funding is received.

A 74-year-old College Station man went to jail yesterday after he was arrested for swinging a hatchet at another man at the gas station in front of the Kroger store on Texas in College Station.  Witnesses tell police the men got into an argument over the suspect cutting in line to get to a fuel pump ahead of the victim. John Simmons was arrested for aggravated assault with a weapon. The victim was treated at the scene for injuries not believed to be life threatening after he was struck in the arm at least two times with the hatchet.

Local News Headlines–5/11/2016

The Bryan city council last night approved the release of some information from the Bryan Police Department response last month to a reported misdemeanor assault at what Councilman Rafael Pena has called his temporary home. Pena became emotional, which became anger and then profanity at the council majority. Pena later apologized and took responsibility for what he called an outburst. Pena also opposed an outside investigation by the county or the state to determine whether his staying in his mother’s home, located outside his district, is a violation of the city charter. Joining Pena in voting against both motions were Mike Southerland and Al Saenz. Ben Hardeman, who made both motions, was joined by Jason Bienski, Greg Owens, and Buppy Simank.

The Bryan city council has no opposition to assist owners of some downtown buildings who want to make safety improvements. The staff proposal is targeted at buildings along Main and Bryan streets, between 29th and M-L-K. City planner Stephanie Doland proposed building owners awarding up to $50,000 per property to pay half the cost of, among other things, meeting fire codes between first and second floors and between adjoining buildings. Economic development director Kevin Russell says this would be another way for building owners to take advantage of people wanting to live in the downtown area. Russell also asked for $100,000 for next year. The council has not decided whether to give grants, award no-interest loans, or a combination. The council also did not decide on a funding source. Staff said there are two building owners currently interested in receiving a grant.

A&M Consolidated High School was evacuated yesterday for most of the noon hour. C-S-I-S-D officials say a motor on a rooftop air conditioning unit seized up, generating smoke that caused fire alarms to go off. College Station firefighters were sent to the school to do an investigation.

College Station police is investigating an armed robbery yesterday afternoon in the parking lot outside the Chase Bank at Texas and Holleman. Two black men held up a 43-year-old man who was returning to his car from the bank. One of the men broke the driver’s side window then opened the driver’s door and showed a knife. The suspects got the victim’s wallet then drove away in a white Dodge Charger with an unknown license plate. Anyone with information about the holdup is asked to contact College Station police.