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.

Local News Headlines–7/7/2016

Brazos County Commissioners received no public comments before voting this week to approve the first changes to subdivision regulations in 15 years. Before the unanimous vote, the county’s consulting engineer reviewed a list of how to manage new residential developments located outside of city limits. Veronica Morgan says regulations now include providing green space for flood protection. New developments will also be required to have a water supply for fire protection. Rural developments have one set of standards. 50 or fewer lots must have at least 2,500 of water storage within the subdivision dedicated to fire protection. Urban developments must have a water supply that supports fire hydrants. Morgan says the county will not be responsible for maintaining roads in newly created urban residential developments. Instead of the county, developers will be responsible for installing traffic control signs and driveway culverts. And, the county is charging new fees to developers.

Four people died in two crashes Tuesday night in the Brazos Valley. D-P-S Trooper Jimmy Morgan says one was on Highway 79 west of Hearne near the Brazos River. Morgan says a car that had pulled over and started to attempt a U-turn was struck by a semi. The driver of the car was killed, 29-year-old Gerald Stewart-Dykes of Milano, along with eight-year-old Jaylon Dykes. A second passenger, 23-year-old Torilynn Thompson of Bryan, was hospitalized in critical condition. The trucker, 34-year-old Brian Ritter of Bremond, was not injured. And in Grimes County, there was a head on crash on Highway 90 between Roans Prairie and Singleton. The driver of a southbound car in the northbound lane, from Grapevine, was killed. A passenger in the northbound car, from Marshall, was also killed while the driver, from Longview, was taken to the hospital where their condition is not known.

Late today, the F-B-I director will testify before the House Oversight Committee. This comes three days after announcing he will not recommend Hillary Clinton be prosecuted over her e-mail practices while she was Secretary of State. Congressman Bill Flores of Bryan said Clinton violated federal laws. Before this most recent incident, Flores considered F-B-I director James Comey as one of few stand up guys in the Obama administration. Flores says Clinton’s presidential campaign was damaged if Donald Trump, in the congressman’s words, “can get his act together and raise enough money to talk about this.”

Local News Headlines–7/6/2016

Brazos County is among the first counties in Texas to seek millions of dollars from Volkswagen and Audi. County Judge Duane Peters says more than 500 vehicles in the county were registered with diesel engines that violated state clean air laws. County Attorney Rod Anderson says total damages could top $10-million. After a contingency fee of up to 35 percent, the county would split the remainder with the state. In all, there are about 85,000 vehicles involved in the carmaker’s emissions scandal.

July 1st marked the start of the City of Bryan’s Annual Recruitment Campaign. City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta says there are two types of boards and committees. There are rules making boards and the advisory boards that deal with quality of life issues, such as the parks or library boards. A description of each board and committee, plus application forms are available by clicking on the city secretary’s section of www.bryantx.gov.

Those interested in running for College Station mayor or for a seat on city council are invited to attend an informational meeting next Monday. Communications Director Jay Socol says “Council Basics 101” is for anyone even thinking about running. Monday’s meeting starts at six p.m. in city council chambers. The first day to file for city council and school board positions is Saturday, July 23rd.

Local News Headlines–7/5/2016

Brazos County Commissioners could take action today on the first changes to regulating new residential subdivisions since 2001. County Engineer Alan Munger says among the major changes is establishing rural and urban residential developments. Another is going from one to three classifications of roads. But, the proposal does not dictate if new county residential roads have to be concrete or asphalt. Munger says the recommendations included feedback from city staff in Bryan and College Station. Today’s special meeting includes a public hearing where Munger expects comments from homebuilders.

By the end of July, highway on and off ramp construction in College Station should be complete. Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Colwell says the Emerald Parkway exit is last on the list. Colwell says paving at Emerald Parkway starts this week. Colwell says once the Highway 21 southbound exit ramp in Bryan is complete, they will start on the northbound side. Colwell says that portion of the project should be complete by the end of October.

For the next three nights, motorists on University between Texas and Tarrow may experience delays. The TxDOT district office reports repaving will be taking place between 7:00 pm and 6:00 am causing various lane closures.

The College Station Fire Department late Friday announced the source of a fire that destroyed a two story garage and damaged a home in the southside district, south of the Texas A&M campus. Investigators determined a motorcycle had a leaking gas tank. The ignition source is not known. The fire, at the corner of Hereford and Park Place, is not considered suspicious.

Local News Headlines–7/1/2016

Concerned business owners on University spoke up and have been heard. The Texas Department of Transportation has changed plans to the median project on University between Texas Avenue and Tarrow while construction is underway. An eastbound left turn lane for drivers to turn into businesses has been added to the $1-million project. Bob Colwell at the TxDOT district office in Bryan says the change in plans will not cost extra. He says the revised medians will take two to three weeks to complete and the entire project should be done by the end of July. When asked about a median project on Texas between Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Deacon, Colwell says that project is not scheduled for construction until 2018.

$11-million of improvements at Easterwood Airport are in the design phase. Texas A&M System Vice-Chancellor Phillip Ray says their airport operator, Astin Aviation, is investing $7-million. That includes $5.5-million benefitting private aircraft. Two now hangers and a private aircraft terminal are part of the plans. Another $4-million is going into the public terminal, with most of that funding coming from a federal grant. Renovation of the public terminal includes an expanded waiting area and a T-S-A pre-security line for frequent travelers. Astin is also spending $1.5-million on an expanded rental car area. Ray says ten months of construction is expected to start in September. While all that is going on, negotiations continue to expand passenger jet service.

Fireworks might be one of your favorite 4th of July pastimes, but they are not always welcome by your pets. July 4th is the number one day for missing pets across the country because they get spooked by fireworks. Aggieland Humane Society’s Leiha White says to bring your pets inside and give them something to distract them from the loud noise. For more information on microchipping pets and other safety tips visit www.aggielandhumane.org.