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Live Blog: Thursday’s city council meetings (Dec. 18)

gavel[1]This is a live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, Dec. 18. It’s not the official minutes.

Both meetings are being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and can also be watched online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:11 p.m.

The workshop has started.

6:13 p.m.

Star Insurance Settlement

The council unanimously approved the settlement of a city lawsuit against Star Insurance Company in 2011, which included a $4 million payment to the city. The lawsuit resulted from Star’s failure to cover an insurance claim for costs associated with the city’s defense and 2011 settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city by Weingarten Realty.

In 2007 and 2008, College Station was insured through Star Insurance for excess general liability coverage.  During the coverage period, Weingarten sued after the city denied Weingarten’s rezoning applications related to property it owned at the southeast corner of Rock Prairie Road and Texas State Highway 6.

6:32 p.m.

Consent Agenda Discussion

The council will vote on items listed on the consent agenda during tonight’s regular meeting. These items were pulled for workshop discussion:

  • WPC Festival Grounds Restroom: This item is a$242,868 contract with Gaeke Construction for site work, electrical, water and wastewater utilities installation, and construction of a restroom facility at the Wolf Pen Creek Park Festival Site. Funds are available from remaining TIF funds and Community Park Zone C Parkland Dedication Funds.
  • Affordable Care Act Fee: This item is a $87,192 Transitional Reinsurance Fee mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The fee is due Jan. 15. Funds are available and budgeted in the Employee Benefits Fund.
  • Suddenlink Internet Service: This item is a three-year, $50,400 agreement with Suddenlink for internet services. The updated agreement increases the bandwidth available to the city from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while decreasing the cost from $111 per MB to $14 per MB.
  • Rock Prairie Road Rehabilitation Project: This item is a $1.4 million construction contract to rehabilitate Rock Prairie Road from Stonebrook Drive to Fitch Parkway. The proposed improvements include base repair, pavement rehabilitation, and replacement of drainage culverts. A balance of $2,074,356.26 remains in the project budget, which is included in the Streets Capital Improvement Projects Fund.
  • No U-Turns On Texas near Cooner: This item would prohibit u-turns on northbound Texas Avenue between University Drive and Cooner Street. U-turns have been restricted as part of traffic mitigation plans approved by the Texas Department of Transportation for the Northpoint Crossing development.

 6:43 p.m. 

Internal Audit Reports

The council heard a presentation on three audits recently conducted by City Auditor Ty Elliott.  The Dependent Eligibility Audit identified several dependents for removal from the city’s health care plans, resulting in savings of $67,250 for FY15.

The Employee Reimbursement Audit reviewed all non-payroll checks issued to employees in FY14 and found few cases where support documentation and supervisor review was inadequate. The audit credited the city’s policies and procedures for minimizing the risk of fraud.

The Itemized Receipts Audit included all documentation for purchasing card transactions and determined that only 10 percent lacked sufficient documentation or receipts.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

7:03 p.m.

Project HOLD

The council heard a presentation about Project HOLD, the city’s online history database. The discussion was informational in nature, covering the purpose and contents of the database and how to use it.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

7:20 p.m.

Capital Project Needs

The council was updated on the city’s capital project needs regarding facilities, transportation and parks. Facility needs include police, a future fire station and administrative office space, while transportation needs encompass traffic signals, roadway widening and extensions, and TxDOT thoroughfares. Possible parks projects include a regional/community park, community recreation center and overall parks and recreation system improvements.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

7:29 p.m.

After the council discussed its calendar, future agenda items and committee reports, the workshop meeting was adjourned. The regular meeting will start after a short break.

7:37 p.m.

The regular meeting has started.

7:45 p.m.

Groundwater Conservationist of the Year

The Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District board recognized Apache Corporation as its 2014 Groundwater Conservationist of the Year in recognition of the company’s purchase of wastewater from the City of College Station for use in oil and gas drilling activities. As part of its business model, Apache has committed to using treated effluent for its drilling operations rather than potable water from area aquifers.

Pictured below (l-r) are Alan Day (BVGCD), David Stratta (BVGCD), Tom McDonald (BVGCD), Pete Brien (BVGCD), Grant DeFosse (Apache Corp.), Les Thompson (Les Thompson Consulting), Mayor Nancy Berry, Cal Cooper (Apache Corp.), Dave Skodack (Sabre Technical Services), Scott Dyer (S-CON Services Inc.).

ApacheAward

7:54 p.m.

Hear Visitors

Three people spoke during Hear Visitors, when citizens may address the council on any item that doesn’t appear on the posted agenda.

Ben Roper recognized Pvt. Robert L. Frantz as part of the Fallen Heroes Memorial program. The 19-year-old San Antonio native was on guard duty in Iraq on June 17, 2003 when a grenade was thrown over the wall.

Marty Allday, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance-Texas, spoke in favor of balanced energy policies and commended the city for modernizing its oil and gas regulations. Richard Woodward spoke on behalf of Citizens of College Station for Safe Fracking and asked for stricter regulations of the local oil and gas industry.

7:55 p.m.

Consent Agenda

The council unanimously approved the entire consent agenda:

  • A contract not to exceed $305,419.86 with National Field Services for annual electric substation maintenance.
  • A $242,868.50 contract with Gaeke Construction for site work, electrical, water and wastewater utilities installation, and construction of a restroom facility at the Wolf Pen Creek Park Festival Site.
  • The purchase of $89,172.68 in new grounds maintenance equipment for the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • An amendment to the city’s Code of Ordinances that adds a new rate class for commercial sewer customers who are not on the city’s water supply.
  • An annual purchase agreement not to exceed $100,100 for dewatering chemical (polymer) with Fort Bend Services.
  • A purchase not to exceed $99,553.35 from Avinext for mobile data terminals.
  • An Affordable Care Act-mandated transitional reinsurance fee of $87,192.
  • Projected health plan expenditures of $8.33 million for the 2015 calendar year. The projected costs represents about $838 per employee per month, or $10,056 per year.
  • A three-year, $50,400 agreement with Suddenlink for internet services.
  • A $1.4 million contract with Angel Brothers Enterprises for the construction of the Rock Prairie Road Rehabilitation Project.
  • Prohibited u-turns on northbound Texas Avenue between University Drive and Cooner Street.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding with the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Bryan, Brazos County, Texas A&M University and the Texas Department of Transportation regarding the Bryan/College Station Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Coordination Program.
  • Changes to the city’s housing assistance programs, which are funded through federal grants, to make purchasing and maintaining a home more attainable for low and moderate income households.

8:48 p.m.

Jones-Butler Rezoning

After a public hearing, the council voted 6-1 to change the zoning district boundaries from Heavy Industrial and General Suburban to Planned Development District for about 37 acres at 1800 Wellborn Road to allow for multi-family development. Councilwoman Blanche Brick voted against the motion.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:00 p.m.

Creek Meadows Rezoning

After a public hearing, the council unanimously changed the zoning district boundaries from Planned Development District and Rural to Planned Development District for about 19 acres at 3850 Greens Prairie Road West, located near the entrance to the Creek Meadows Subdivision entrance, to allow for single-family development.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:08 p.m.

Multi-Family and Mixed-Use Zoning Districts

After a public hearing, the council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance creating and amending multi-family residential and mixed-use zoning districts.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:11 p.m.

2468 Barron Road Rezoning

After a public hearing, the council unanimously changed the zoning district boundaries from Rural to General Suburban for about 1 acre at 2468 Barron Road to allow of single-family development.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:16 p.m.

Parking Removal on Regal Row and Castlebrook

After a public hearing, the council unanimously approved a no stopping, standing or parking ordinance along Regal Row and Castlebrook Drive to improve pedestrian safety on school days.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:35 p.m.

2015 Bond Citizen Advisory Committee

The council selected 23 members for the 2015 Bond Citizen Advisory Committee, which will help identify and prioritize potential capital improvement projects to be submitted to voters in the November bond election. The committee will consist facilities, transportation and parks subcommittees.

  • Chair: Rod Thornton
  • C0-Chair: Bill Smith
  • Facilities Subcommittee: Gary Ives, Bill Lartigue, Kevin McGinnis, Scott Raisor, Rene Ramirez, Thomas Taylor, James Watson.
  • Transportation Subcommittee: James Batenhorst, Tedi Ellison, Linda Harvell, Ron Kaiser, Mark Green, Beverly Kuhn, Brittan Johnson.
  • Parks & Leisure Subcommittee: Jon Denton, Sherry Ellison, Don Hellriegel, Marc Chaloupka, Danny Stribling, Chris Scotti, Keith Roberts.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation received by the council:

9:35 p.m.

The final agenda item on council committee appointments was postponed until the next meeting, which is Jan. 8. The regular meeting has been adjourned. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

3 ways to keep your holidays from going up in flames

By Christina Seidel, CSFD Public Education Officer

Copyright: bilderundvektor / 123RF Stock PhotoThe holiday season represents a time for family fun and good cheer, but Christmas trees, cooking, candles and decorations – not to mention the hectic pace of the season – can greatly increase the risk of home fires.

Fortunately, with a little awareness and some minor adjustments to your cooking and decorating habits, the season can remain festive and safe. The National Fire Protection Association and the College Station Fire Department offer these tips:

  1. Pay attention when cooking.

With unattended cooking being the leading cause of home fires and injuries, we recommend staying in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stovetop and turn off it off if you leave the kitchen even for a moment. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

We also suggest creating a kid-free zone of at least three feet around the stove and other areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

  1. Candles can be hazardous.

It’s no coincidence that December is the peak month for home fires caused by candles, and we encourage you to consider using flameless candles, which look like real candles and provide a similarly festive aroma.

However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Candle holders should be sturdy and placed on uncluttered surfaces. Candles should not be used in bedrooms or other areas where people may fall asleep.

Lastly, never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.

  1. Decorate Christmas trees with care.

An average of 230 home structure fires are caused by Christmas trees each year in the United States, many from electrical problems or being placed too close to a heat source. Here are some tips for picking, placing and lighting your tree:

  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
  • If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched. Before placing it in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand and be sure to water it daily.
  • Make sure the tree isn’t blocking an exit and is at least three feet from any heat source such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles, and heat vents or lights.
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands that can be safety connected.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate your tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
  • After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in your home or garage, or placed outside the home.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic if a fire occurs. By taking simple precautions, you can avoid potential fire hazards and keep the holiday season healthy and happy.

For more information and safety tips, go to nfpa.org/holiday, or contact me at cseidel@cstx.gov.

 

About Christina Seidel
Christina is in her second year as public education officer for the College Station Fire Department. She was previously the executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley and was a teacher in Lockhart. Christina is a 2001 graduate of the University of Texas.  

Photo Copyright: bilderundvektor / 123RF Stock Photo

Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

gavel[1]By Colin Killian, Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its final workshop (5:30 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings of 2014. Here are five items to watch:  

  1. Project HOLD: The council will receive a workshop presentation about Project HOLD, the city’s online history database.
  2. Capital Projects: The council will hear a workshop update on the city’s capital project needs.
  3. Rock Prairie Road Rehabilitation: The council will consider a $1.4 million contract for the Rock Prairie Road Rehabilitation Project, which would include base repair, pavement rehabilitation and replacement of drainage culverts between Stone Brook Drive and Fitch Parkway.
  4. Parking Removal on Regal Row, Castlebrook: After a public hearing, the council will consider removing stopping, standing and parking along Regal Row and Castlebrook Drive to address safety concerns.
  5. Bond Committee Appointments: The council will appoint 23 members to the 2015 Bond Citizen Advisory Committee to help identify and prioritize potential capital improvement projects to be considered by voters in the November 2015 bond election.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Ch. 19, or online. Previous council meetings are archived on the website. A detailed live blog from the meetings will be posted on this site and also can be accessed through the city’s Facebook page.

Related links:                                                                 

 

Oil & gas item pulled from Thursday’s council agenda

Copyright: wamsler / 123RF Stock PhotoThe update to the city’s oil and gas ordinance has been pulled from Thursday’s College Station City Council meeting agenda to allow staff more time to work with stakeholders in shaping the proposal. The council will conduct a public hearing and consider the ordinance in early 2015.

The proposed update would amend the city’s existing oil and gas ordinance to align with current best practices and existing state permitting and oversight in response to a local increase in oil and gas activity. The ordinance hasn’t been updated in more than two decades.

Aubrey Nettles, Assistant to the City Manager

Photo: Copyright: wamsler / 123RF Stock Photo

Earth Day scholarship program promotes stewardship

By Heather Woolwine, Recycling & Environmental Compliance Manager

Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock PhotoMany academic scholarship programs are based on written essays that express an applicant’s ideas about a certain topic. But when the Brazos Valley Earth Day committee decided to develop a scholarship program promoting environmental stewardship, we knew it called for something more substantial.

Words are nice, but a hands-on contribution to local communities is even nicer.

That’s why the scholarship program – which is in its first year – is based on actual projects that have a positive environmental impact in the Brazos Valley. The only requirements are for applicants to be residents of Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Robertson or Washington counties, and be attending or planning to attend a technical school, college or university next fall.

Applicants will be scored based on how their project benefits the environment and community, how long the benefit will last, quality of presentation, and the potential for others to change habits, duplicate the effort, or replicate it in other communities.

The application deadline for completed projects is Dec. 31. The selection committee will notify recipients of their award by April 1, with at least two $500 scholarship winners announced at the 20th Annual Brazos Valley Earth Day Festival on April 18 at Wolf Pen Creek Park. Scholarship funds will be raised through Earth Day t-shirt sales.

Click here to see the complete eligibility requirements and to apply online. Just click the scholarship tab at the top of the page. No paper applications will be accepted.

Earth Day celebrates our local, natural, and cultural environments and features local businesses, education, family fun and entertainment while making a lasting impact on the Brazos Valley. The event is co-hosted by Keep Brazos Beautiful, City of College Station, City of Bryan, Texas A&M University, Brazos Valley Council of Governments and the Brazos Valley Solid Waste Management Agency, Inc.

For more information, email me at hwoolwine@cstx.gov or call 979-764-6229.

 


About Heather Woolwine
Heather Woolwine was named recycling and environmental compliance manager in November after serving as the city’s recycling coordinator since 2007.

Click here to read other blogs by Heather.


Photo Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

Beware of phone scammers claiming to be with CSPD

Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

By Lt. Chuck Fleeger, CSPD Public Information Officer

These days, no one is immune to identity theft or impersonation – even the College Station Police Department.

Since late October, phone scammers have been leading local residents to believe they are with the police department. They use sophisticated technology to trick your caller ID into showing that the call is from CSPD’s main phone line.

The calls typically include false allegations about unpaid taxes, arrest warrants and immigration status. In some cases, the scammer says the resident’s family member is in jail or that their identity has been stolen. The victim is threatened with arrest, expulsion from school or deportation unless the fine is paid immediately through the purchase of redeemable gift cards, release of banking information, disclosure of user names and passwords, or other unreasonable requests.

The College Station Police Department doesn’t participate in the collection of fines over the phone, collect taxes, remove people from institutions of higher learning or distribute lost monies by obtaining personally identifying information and bank account data.

The City of College Station, including the Police Department and the Municipal Court, may call you for legitimate reasons, but we never demand immediate payment of fines under threat or request that type of information by phone. 

Don’t fall victim to this scam.

It’s important for you to know which calls are authentic and which are not. If you’re suspicious of a caller who indicates they’re from CSPD, ask for their name, say you’ll call them right back, then call us at 979-764-3600. We’ll let you know if the call is legitimate.

 


About the Author
Lt. Chuck Fleeger has 24 years of service with the College Station Police Department and has served as public information officer since 2013. A native of College Station, Fleeger attended Texas A&M.  


 Photo Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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