Local News Headlines–8/27/2015

Property owners in one of College Station’s oldest neighborhoods are asking the city council to approve a ban on building large homes meant for college student rentals. The planning and zoning commission supports the restriction sought by residents in the McCulloch subdivision, which is south of the Lincoln Recreation Center. There are 139 single family homes in the area bordered by Holleman, Welsh, Oney Hervey, and Nevada. All but ten of the homes are one-story, and eight of the ten are two stories that have recently been built. More than half of the property owners want new construction to be limited to one-story, single family homes. For the second consecutive meeting, the College Station city council is considering a proposed retirement community along Highway 6 next to Christ United Methodist Church. The owner of the Crestview campus in Bryan, Methodist Retirement Communities, has the endorsement of the planning and zoning commission. A zoning change is required to turn 12 acres into a $75-million campus of 80 independent living, 30 assisted living, and 25 memory support units. M-R-C president Ron Jennette addressed concerns that having one parking space per bedroom will be enough. Jennette says College Station would be M-R-C’s 11th location. A third proposed zoning change before the council that has the p and z’s blessing would bring Embassy Suites to town. The 162 room hotel with a two story parking garage would be located on University, east of Texas, between Jane and Eisenhower.

What has been in the past the routine appointment of members to the board in charge of Bryan’s electric utility took the city council three divided votes at this week’s meeting. Art Hughes, who represents the council on the B-T-U board, voted for reappointing Ben Hardeman and Bentley Nettles. But, Al Saenz voted no after saying he wanted the B-T-U board to have a broader perspective of ideas, input, and concerns. In the end the reappointments were made in one motion. An attempt to consider them individually and a motion to delay action both failed.

This week’s Bryan city council meeting was the first time there was a public reference to extending University Drive across F-M 158. But it’s not a new idea according to Mayor Jason Bienski. Bienski says the idea has been around for years to create a loop from that intersection through the Copperfield subdivision past F-M 1179 and eventually to Old Reliance Road and Highway 21. Bienski says there are developers interested in building homes and retail businesses in the area. The council is considering in the city’s capital improvement plan spending $4-mlllion on the first phase, starting as soon as two years from now.

Local News Headlines–8/26/2015

For the second time in as many months, the Bryan city council discussed future capital construction projects. Since the last discussion on July 28, another seven projects estimated to cost $83-million were added. That brings the running total to 180 projects and $693-million. Mayor Jason Bienski says it could cost less than $3-million to build a new senior center. Another project, spending more than $4-million to extend University from Boonville east into a proposed housing development, is proposed to happen three years from now. Councilman Mike Southerland told public works director Jayson Barfknecht the method of ranking projects should be changed because some that are down the list are chosen sooner. And, Southerland and Rafael Pena called on the return of public surveys, which have not been done for five years. The council currently sets aside $7- to $9-million a year for C-I-P funding.

The Bryan city council is buying the former home of the Texas Department of Transportation district office. Last night’s vote to draw up the paperwork follows action last October where the council exercised its right of first refusal. No purchase price was disclosed. Last year, the state was asking $1.4-million for the 11 acre complex on north Texas, south of Highway 21.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has started its back to school undercover sting campaign, looking for retailers who sell to minors. Spokesman Chris Porter says the underage buyers don’t lie about their age, and they’re accompanied by a couple of state agents. Last March, the T-A-B-C ran another undercover operation, looking for bars that were selling cheap liquor as premium brands. One Northgate establishment claims the state presented misleading information. The lawyer representing the owner of Social Lounge issued a statement that under no circumstance have they ever cheated or deceived any patron, and the business was never issued a written warning from the state.

Local News Headlines–8/25/2015

Wellborn road was closed for two hours last night as College Station Police investigated a single-vehicle accident where the driver was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Police responded at about 9:45 to Wellborn Road at the Texas A&M campus. Investigators say a southbound truck was speeding and left the roadway, crashing into a tree and a fence near Kyle Field. The cause of the crash is not known, but alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

Research Valley Partnership recently met with Port of Houston Authority officials to discuss the possible designation of all of Brazos County as a Foreign Trade Zone. Spokesman Todd McDaniel says Texas Triangle Park is the only section of Brazos County that is part of an F-T-Z. McDaniel says it is a very short list in Texas of entire counties designated as F-T-Z’s. He says there is work to be done, but by the end of the year, all of Brazos County could be designated as a Foreign Trade Zone.

Ben Miller is a seven year veteran with the College Station Fire Department who was diagnosed with A-M-L leukemia this summer. This Sunday, his colleagues are hosting a fundraiser to help alleviate some of Ben’s medical costs. Fellow firefighter Jeff Keefauver says the blood drive and platelet donation will benefit Ben directly. The blood drive and platelet donation starts at 9 a.m. at Brian Bachmann Park in College Station. The picnic fundraiser and free activities for the whole family are from 11 to 3.

And, Keep Brazos Beautiful is hosting their Annual Awards Celebration and Luncheon Wednesday, September 23rd. Executive Director Raena Blumenthal says all are invited to the luncheon at the Hilton from 11 to 1. Nominations are being accepted for individuals and organizations who help make our community a green and beautiful place to live and work through Wednesday, September 9th and forms can be found online.

Local News Headlines–8/24/2015

The start of the school year means reminders for motorists. Beginning today school zone speed limits are in effect as are laws concerning the use of cell phones in school zones. Officer Kelley McKethan of the Bryan police department also asks parents to take children on walks to and from school so they become familiar with the routes and to reminds kids to never accept rides. Around at least one Bryan elementary school there are new rules for parents. This applies at Bowen, where there will be no more walk-up dismissal for parents to meet students. All walkers will be escorted to the crossing guard at Brighton and Copperfield and released. There will also be no more parking along Copperfield or in the small parking lot at Tiffany Park. And at College Station’s newest elementary school, Spring Creek, there are a variety of no parking zones and turning restrictions that were approved at the last city council meeting.

Bryan I-S-D Superintendent Tommy Wallis says the new truancy law decriminalizes truancy making it more of a civil violation.  Wallis says the new law aims to keep students’ records clean. Wallis says he does not like the new law in terms of how much freedom the district has in where to file truancy court. Wallis also suggests having just one court handle truancy cases instead of the several courts they now have to deal with. 750 truancy cases were filed in Bryan I-S-D last year.

College Station City councilman Karl Mooney says the board at the YMCA of Greater Houston is working on a six to seven year project that will eventually result in comprehensive YMCA facilities in both cities. Mooney says existing buildings could be used for Y locations, even if on a temporary basis to get programs started. Mooney says the possibility of working with Blinn College in order to provide students with a recreation center has also been discussed. Mooney says through their own studies, the Y has determined Bryan and College Station have different populations and different needs, which will be taken into consideration.

And, 26-year-old Oscar Lee Trevino of Bryan was killed Saturday night when struck by a vehicle while he was walking in the lanes of traffic on North Texas Avenue. Bryan Police were able to locate the vehicle and have charged the driver, 26-year-old Ronaldo Rocha-Godinez, with failure to stop and render aid.

Local News Headlines–8/21/2015

The Bryan police department is a couple of months away from giving all officers body cameras. Police Chief Eric Buske says everyone will get cameras at the same time. Buske says they’ll administer the digital information in the same way they handle video from dashcams in patrol vehicles. At the end of the officer’s shift, the digital information will be downloaded and saved for at least 90 days. Buske says videos will be saved longer if it involved evidence. The police cameras will cost around $200,000, and there’s annual cost of at least $70,000 a year to store the data.

About a dozen topics were covered by members of the state legislature representing Brazos County during the B-C-S Chamber of Commerce economic outlook briefing. The last item asked of the group was the impact of House Bill 1378, which prohibits cities from financing projects for three years when defeated by voters. That led the College Station city council to decide against a bond issue this November. Senator Charles Schwertner says he was among members of the conservative wing of the Republican Party that passed the legislation during the session’s final days. Representative Kyle Kacal says even though the bill was passed unanimously he does not recall any communication about the bill between House members. Representative John Raney said he received no feedback on the impact the legislation would have on cities. Raney also said he continues to support efforts to keep Blinn College funding generated by students in Bryan instead of being diverted to Brenham. A crowd of about 250 attended the briefing.

And, the state legislature is going to study jail standards. Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk supports the effort to find more ways to protect inmate health, welfare, and safety needs. Kirk says his department’s crisis intervention teams divert up to 200 people a year from going to jail. The sheriff would like that concept used around the state. But he says that also requires the money to operate mental health facilities. Since April of last year, Brazos County has been assisted by the opening of Rock Prairie Behavioral Health Center, which the sheriff says has reduced the number of people transported to Austin and Houston.

Local News Headlines–8/20/2015

The College Station city council is spending up to four days this week reviewing next year’s proposed budget. Among the questions asked of Mayor Nancy Berry is the future funding of the Research Valley Partnership economic development agency. Berry, who sits on the R-V-P board, says she’s concerned, but she also notes those working for the agency are not salespeople. Proposed funding from the city of College Station to the R-V-P is unchanged from last year, at $350,000. Berry also reports that the Convention and Visitors Bureau wants an increase in operational money provided by the hotel occupancy tax from $1.3-million to $1.7-million.

The College Station school board has settled on the size of its next bond issue. Voters will be asked in November to approve nearly $136-million. Superintendent Clark Ealy says the district owns land that could become the home of a third middle school, a third intermediate, and a tenth elementary school. Ealy says they’ll relieve buildings which he calls tight and full. Voters are also being asked for money to buy more land, renovate the current fifth through eighth grade campuses, do deferred maintenance, and buy buses and technology.

College Station fire investigators have confirmed how a four-plex fire started Tuesday afternoon. Battalion Chief Robert Mumford says the cause was improperly discarded smoking materials. Ten occupants and 24 firefighters escaped injury from the fire off Welsh south of Consolidated High School. A combination of heat generated by the fire and winds gusting to 30 miles an hour resulted in damage to an adjacent building and two parked vehicles.

And, nearly every day since the Brazos County commission issued a burn ban someone has received a ticket for setting a fire. Sheriff Chris Kirk says it’s something they take seriously. The ban covers unincorporated areas of Brazos County, which is land outside city limits. Kirk also says responding to burn ban calls takes deputies away from patrolling and other crime prevention duties.

Local News Headlines–8/19/2015

The city of College Station announced the unexpected death yesterday of a veteran firefighter who recently retired. Bart Humphreys stepped down last July after 35 years with the department. He spent the last 15 years as the agency’s official spokesman which included the 1999 bonfire collapse at Texas A&M. Humphreys was 63.

A Brazos County jail inmate died yesterday morning. According to Sheriff Chris Kirk, the death of 44-year-old Melvin Earl Jones is believed to be from natural causes. The sheriff says Jones was in a holding cell in the medical department waiting to see the doctor. After Jones told detention officers he wasn’t feeling well, Kirk says the inmate was taken to the medical area of the jail and placed in a holding cell where Jones fell from his chair onto the floor. Kirk says E-M-T’s and the jail’s medical staff immediately started C-P-R when Jones went into cardiac arrest. Jones was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The sheriff says an autopsy will be done along with investigations by his department and the Texas Rangers. Jones had been in jail for two weeks following his arrest by Bryan police for assaulting emergency room employees at St. Joseph’s.

Ten occupants and 24 firefighters escaped injury from a fire at a fourplex in College Station yesterday on Navarro Drive off Welsh south of A&M Consolidated High School. Battalion Chief Robert Mumford says the cause is under investigation but it is believed to be unintentional. A combination of heat generated by the fire and winds gusting to 30 miles an hour resulted in damage to an adjacent building and two parked vehicles.

The leader of Texas A&M’s fundraising efforts for 22 years has announced he is retiring early next year. Ed Davis has been affiliated with A&M since he received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the flagship campus. He has worked for the university and/or the A&M System since 1972. Doctor Davis became president of the university’s foundation in 1993. During that time, the foundation’s assets have grown from $150-million to almost $1.7-billion.

And, tickets are still available for tomorrow’s Chamber of Commerce economic outlook briefing luncheon. Chamber president Royce Hickman says the speakers are members of the Brazos County state legislative delegation. Hickman says Senator Charles Schwertner and Representatives John Raney and Kyle Kacal are scheduled to appear. More information and information to purchase tickets is online.

Local News Headlines–8/18/2015

Former Bryan City Manager David Watkins is dead. The city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, said in a statement that Watkins died early yesterday at UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock. The Hot Springs Sentinel Records reported He had been undergoing treatment in the Intensive Care Unit there after sustaining serious injuries in a fall on the back stairs of his home. The paper reported Watkins broke his hip and a rib and suffered a punctured and collapsed lung. He was reportedly due for surgery yesterday. Watkins served with three Bryan Mayors. Watkins clashed with BTU and then-manager Dan Wilkerson over budget disclosures. As City Manager Watkins saw BTU as part of the City and thus should offer more compete budget information to him and the council to enable him to have a better idea of the entire city operation. David Watkins was 61. He had been city manager of Hot Springs since June 2012.

Circle August 31st on your calendar, that’s the day Blue Bell ice cream returns to store shelves. A press release yesterday on the Blue Bell website says that date is the start of the first phase of its return to the market including the Brenham, Houston, and Austin markets. Four additional phases will gradually expand their distribution to north central Texas and southern Oklahoma; southwest Texas and central Oklahoma; most of the remaining areas in Texas and southern Louisiana; and a final expansion to include all of Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, begin distribution in Florida, northern Louisiana, Mississippi, and parts of eight additional states. Production resumed last month at their plant in Alabama. Facilities in Oklahoma and Brenham remain closed to make upgrades and no date had been set to resume production.

Texas A&M Transportation Services has teamed up with the Park Me app again this year for pre-paid football parking. Associate Director Debbie Hoffman says four parking garages and two parking lots will be available at $25 to $30 a game depending on the location. Hoffman says pre-paid parking for all home games starts this afternoon. Download the Park Me app on your smartphone or go to online to purchase.

And, back to school starts next week and Texas 2-1-1’s manager Missee Mora says their services can help. Mora says 2-1-1 can help with back to school needs like last minute shots, school supplies and physicals. And, Mora says 2-1-1, a collaboration with United Way and Human and Health Services, is there all day, every day. More information is online.

Local News Headlines–8/17/2015

The College Station city council is getting its first look at next year’s proposed budget. Staff is recommending no change in the tax rate. But, increased valuations for most property owners will mean they will pay more next year. Utility rates are proposed to remain the same. The proposal includes adding two more synthetic turf fields at Veterans Park for football and soccer and repairs and replacements at other parks. There’s $3-million to design a new police station and another $1.3-million to replace the air conditioning and heating system at the current police headquarters. The council will be holding as many as four budget workshops. Public hearings on the tax rate are set for September second and tenth.

Leaders of the Houston YMCA are interested in studying whether to build a branch in Bryan/College Station. That’s according to an update given by College Station city councilman Karl Mooney at Thursday’s meeting. “Y” leaders will be making future trips to meet with local groups, city representatives, and officials at Blinn College and Texas A&M. Mooney says the “Y” submitted a request for a feasibility study to be conducted by graduate students at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School.

Bryan I-S-D Superintendent Tommy Wallis recently gave an update on their bond construction. He says Davilla Middle School and the Merrill Green press box are also at 95 percent drawings and those will be put out to bid this month. Wallis says they have also finished the 95 percent drawings for the new Stephen F Austin Middle School and Civic Auditorium and for Ross Elementary School.

And, a three-day celebration of Kyle Field reopening will include fireworks, music and stadium tours. Events kick off on Friday, September 11th at 2:30 with a re-dedication of the relocated John David Crow statue. Pat Green and Reliant K will put on a free concert beginning at noon on Saturday on Simpson Drill Field. Go online for more information and full schedule of events.

Local News Headlines–8/14/2015

The College Station city council has decided not to hold a bond election this November. A majority agreed to borrow money without voter approval for some things and pay cash for others.  City Manager Kelly Templin says they changed their recommendation because circumstances have changed over the last eight months that have included partnerships in future projects. Templin cited changes in agreements with Union Pacific, TxDOT and Prop 1 funds for creating the different financial situation with the city budget. The change in financing addresses all the items sought by a community advisory committee. Examples include designing a new a $3-million police station and studying a proposed community center with the option of asking voters next year to build those facilities. And the committee’s list of transportation and parks projects including the widening of Holleman South from Rock Prairie to Dowling and the widening of Rock Prairie East from Highway 6 to Medical Way will be done over the next five years.

As teachers in the local public schools return to prepare for the return of students, there’s not been much change in the percentage of new instructors. The Texas Education Agency reported as of two years ago, the teacher turnover percentage was 16 percent. The Bryan school district reported turnover to the T-E-A of 26 percent. Spokesman Brandon Webb says that drops to 19 percent when you account for teachers who were promoted. Webb also says there is an incorrect perception that most of those who resign move to positions in College Station. Webb says 80 percent of Bryan teachers who leave go to another job or retire outside of Brazos County. Each of the last four years, Bryan I-S-D has dealt with 210 to 243 teacher resignations. In College Station I-S-D, the teacher turnover percentage reported to the state two years ago was just under 13 percent which is the district’s average for the last ten years.

And, an attack outside a College Station apartment complex during the noon hour yesterday resulted in a woman receiving hospital treatment for injuries not believed to be life threatening. The victim told police she was walking along the east fence of Southgate Village Apartments on Luther when she was approached by four or five men she did not know. She told officers she was able to escape and found someone to take her to the emergency room. That’s when it was discovered she was stabbed in the shoulder. Anyone who has information is asked to contact the College Station Police Department.