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Holiday Safety: Be careful when shopping — even online

This is the first post of a series about keeping your family and property safe this holiday season.

By Lt. Craig Anderson, CSPD Public Information Officer

When Christmas shopping, you usually find yourself among enormous crowds at retail shops, malls, and grocery stores. These sizable gatherings also provide a perfect cover for those who are a little short on Christmas spirit — thieves.

If you shop online, you are equally susceptible to being targeted.

Don’t let the bad guys spoil your holiday season. By following these 10 simple tips, you reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

  1. Keep careful track of your bags and other packages. If you leave something behind, it could be stolen or discarded.
  2. Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies when taking mass transit: report any unattended packages to security or staff.
  3. Be sure not to buy more than you can carry. If your packages are making it hard for you to walk upright or see, ask a store employee to help you take them to your car.
  4. Check receipts to see whether your full credit card number appears. If a receipt has the entire number on it, take a pen and thoroughly scratch it out.
  5. Double check that you have your credit cards and checkbook after you pay for your items.
  6. Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Your computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed. Visit bytecrime.org for free software downloads.
  7. Keep your personal information and passwords private and secure. Don’t respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses won’t contact you in this manner.
  8. Beware of bargains from unfamiliar online companies. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  9. Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the locked padlock icon or “https” in the URL address.
  10. Shop online companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.

Safe Exchange Zone

If you purchase an item through a website such as Craig’s List and need to exchange property in person with a stranger, we encourage you to use the designated exchange zone in the police department’s main parking lot at  2611 South Texas Ave. We record video of the area 24 hours a day.

Let’s work together to keep College Station a safe place to live, work and play by taking away opportunities for crime. The College Station Police Department wishes you a safe and joyous holiday season.

 


About the Blogger

Lt. Craig Anderson is in his 30th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

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Cities compete in Salvation Army’s Mayor Ring Off

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The cities of Bryan and College Station seem to relish the opportunity to compete in just about anything – even Christmas.

But don’t worry, we aren’t competing to see who can attract the most business or tourists, at least not this time. Instead, how about a little friendly competition to help The Salvation Army provide food, clothing, shelter, toys, financial assistance and counseling to those in need in the Brazos Valley?

College Station Mayor Karl Mooney and Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson will boost the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas campaign by ringing bells and collecting donations at local Walmart stores on Saturday from noon-1 p.m. Mooney will be at the College Station Walmart, while Nelson will be at the Bryan Walmart on Briarcrest.

The Mayor Ring Off has been a holiday tradition for many years. The problem is that the Bryan mayor – regardless of who it is – always seems to raise the most cash.

It’s time the good folks in College Station came together to bring that winning streak to an end. With the proper spirit of Christmas, of course.

If you happen to stop by Walmart on Saturday, say hello to Mayor Mooney and drop your spare change into that famous red kettle. You’ll be helping a bunch of your fellow residents in the process.

It’s not part of the mayors’ competition, but City of College Station employees will also be ringing the bells for The Salvation Army at Walmart from Dec. 4-8. They will be volunteering from 4-8 p.m. at the Home & Living entrance.

How the Red Kettle Originated

Speaking of the Salvation Army’s iconic red kettle, do you know the history behind it?

Here’s the story, courtesy of Captains Paul and Analese Ryerson of The Salvation Army of Bryan/College Station:

Joseph McFee, The Salvation Army’s captain in San Francisco, resolved in December of 1891 to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor. But how would he pay for the food? As he went about his daily tasks, the question stayed in his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. On the Stage Landing, where the boats came in, he saw a large pot into which passersby threw charitable donations.

The next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to place a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing the pot and placing it in a conspicuous position so that it could be seen by all those going to and from the ferryboats. Thus, Captain McFee launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States but the world.

By Christmas 1895, the kettle was used in 30 Salvation Army locations in various sections of the West Coast area. The Sacramento Bee of that year carried a description of the Army’s Christmas activities and mentioned the contributions to street-corner kettles. Shortly afterward, two young Salvation Army officers who had been instrumental in the original use of the kettle, William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis, were transferred to the East.

They took with them the idea of the Christmas kettle. In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas plans for Boston around the kettle, but his fellow officers refused to cooperate for fear of making spectacles of themselves. So McIntyre, his wife, and sister set up three kettles at the Washington Street thoroughfare in the heart of the city. That year, the kettle effort in Boston and other locations nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.

In 1898, the New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as “the newest and most novel device for collecting money.” The newspaper also observed, “There is a man in charge to see that contributions are not stolen.” In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years.

Today, donations to The Salvation Army kettles at Christmas help support the nearly 30 million people served by the Army through shelters, after-school programs, addiction-recovery programs, summer camps, disaster assistance and many other social services. Kettles can now be found in many foreign countries such as Korea, Japan, Chile, many European countries and Australia.

Wherever people find The Salvation Army, public contributions to the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten all year long – to the aged and lonely, the ill, the inmates of jails and other institutions, the poor and unfortunate.

In the United States, kettles at Thanksgiving and Christmas, although changed since the first utilitarian cauldron set up in San Francisco, help make it possible for The Salvation Army to do the most possible good for nearly 30 million people each year.

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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Live Blog: Monday’s city council meetings (Nov. 20)

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

Welcome to our live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Monday, Nov. 20. It’s not the official minutes.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Channel 19 or online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

4:50 p.m.

The workshop has started. Council took no action out of executive session.

4:53 p.m.

Canvassing of Election Returns

The council canvassed the Nov. 7 election returns and unanimously declared the results. Linda Harvell, Bob Brick, and John Nichols are elected to the city council.

4:57 p.m.

Oaths of Office 

Harvell, Brick, and Nichols were sworn in as council members by Municipal Court Judge Ed Spillane. We’ll post photos here later.

John Nichols

Linda Harvell

Bob Brick

5:38 p.m.

Farewell to Outgoing Council Members

Council members, city staff, and citizens bid farewell to outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Julie Schultz and Councilwoman Blanche Brick, who each served two terms since their initial election in 2011. As a parting gift, Brick presented a large print of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” for display in city hall.

The council will take a short break for a reception honoring the new and former council members.

Firefighters with Blanche Brick and Julie Schultz

Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech”

6:14 p.m.

The regular meeting has started.

6:19 p.m.

Hear Visitors

One person spoke during Hear Visitors when citizens might address the council on any item that doesn’t appear on the posted agenda.

  • Councilman James Benham recognized Army Capt. Andrew R. Houghton as part of the Fallen Heroes Memorial program. The 25-year-old Houston native died Aug. 9, 2004, when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated near his vehicle in Ad Dhuha, Iraq.

6:22 p.m.

Consent Agenda Discussion

The council will vote on items listed on the consent agenda. Councilmembers pulled these consent items for discussion:

  • Christmas Parade Banners: The city has been approached about erecting and displaying seven banners at various locations from Nov. 21-Dec. 4 to recognize the annual Christmas parade. Banners may be exempt from regulations when they promote a positive image for the city that attracts business or tourism, depicts an accomplishment of an individual or group, or creates a positive community spirit.
  • FY18 Certificates of Obligation: The FY18 Budget includes several Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Information Technology projects funded with certificates of obligation that haven’t been issued. The “Resolution Declaring Intention to Reimburse Certain Expenditures with Proceeds from Debt” would cover spending that is estimated to occur in advance of the scheduled FY18 debt issue.
  • Greens Prairie Trail Project: The change order would reduce the contract for the Greens Prairie Trail Widening Project by $198,223.18. The project included reconstruction of Greens Prairie Trail from Wellborn Road through the intersection of Royder Road. Quantities actually used were less than estimated in the original contract.

6:22 p.m.

Consent Agenda

The council voted unanimously to approve the entire consent agenda:

  • Banners for the annual Christmas Parade.
  • A resolution declaring intent to reimburse certain expenditures with proceeds from debt for Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Information Technology projects in the FY18 Capital Improvements Program Budget.
  • A reduction of $198,223.18 to the contract with Hassell Construction for the Greens Prairie Trail Widening Project.
  • The $136,470 purchase of 15 traffic signal cabinets from Paradigm Traffic Systems.

6:29 p.m.

UDO Master Plan Amendments

After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to amend the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to recognize locational flexibility to ensure consistency among various master plan components and clarify that plan depictions may be updated as development occurs.

The UDO is intended to implement planning policy as provided in the city’s Comprehensive Plan and associated plans. Since thoroughfare and bikeway alignments in these plans are generalized locations, the plans authorize discretion for those elements to be refined as needed up to a distance of 1,000 feet without an ordinance amendment.

As part of reviewing thoroughfares for the proposed Thoroughfare Plan update, it was identified that several thoroughfares remain depicted as conceptually shown in the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, although development plans and surrounding conditions have provided refinement when implemented.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:07 p.m.

Comprehensive Plan Thoroughfare Amendments

After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the city’s Thoroughfare Plan and Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Greenways Master Plan to reflect recent revisions to the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2050 Thoroughfare Concept.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:09 p.m.

The council discussed and reviewed future agenda items.

7:09 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the regular meeting. The workshop meeting will resume after a short break.

7:14 p.m.

The workshop has resumed.

7:46 p.m.

Suburban Commercial Zoning Requirements

The council voted 6-1 to approve the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendations for changes to Suburban Commercial zoning as part of the 10-year update to the Comprehensive Plan. Councilwoman Harvell voted against the motion. 

Most current and future Suburban Commercial locations are located near neighborhoods along major highways and thoroughfares, which creates tension between neighborhood concerns and market demands for higher intensity.

The council voted 5-2 against an earlier motion to approve the recommendations with the exception of gas stations and drive-thru establishments.  Harvell and Councilman Brick voted for the motion.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

8:39 p.m.

Bicycle Parking Requirements

The council discussed the city’s bicycle parking guidelines and ways to increase development flexibility and reduce requirements. The consensus of the council, with the exception of Councilman Jerome Rektorik, was for staff to bring back an ordinance reflecting the recommendations.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

8:46 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the workshop after the council discussed its calendar and received committee reports. 

The council meets again on Thursday, Dec. 14.

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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5 things to watch at Monday’s city council meetings

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Monday at city hall for its workshop (4:30 p.m.) and regular (6 p.m.) meetings. Please note the change in start times.

Here are five items to watch:

  1. Canvassing Election Returns: In the workshop, the council will canvass the returns from the Nov. 7 election and declare the results.
  2. Oaths of Office: Newly elected council members John Nichols, Bob Brick, Linda Harvell will be sworn into office, followed by a short reception to welcome the newcomers and thank outgoing members Julie Schultz and Blanche Brick for their service.
  3. Suburban Commercial Zoning: The council will consider possible changes to Suburban Commercial Zoning districts to encourage development that’s compatible with nearby neighborhoods. Topics include architectural elements, permitted uses, buffer requirements, and lighting.
  4. Bicycle Parking Requirements: The final workshop presentation will be about the city’s bicycle parking requirements.
  5. Updates to Thoroughfare, BPG Plans: In the regular meeting, the council will consider amending the city’s Thoroughfare Plan and Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenways Master Plan to reflect recent revisions to the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2050 Concept.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink channel 19 or online. We’ll post a detailed live blog on this site.

Related Links:                                                                 

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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Podcast: Is This A Thing? Dallis family’s Burger Mojo

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Talk about a down-and-dirty episode…

Economic Development Director Natalie Ruiz and I met after hours in our neighborhood – using a portable recorder – to talk about a new restaurant concept coming to College Station.

It’s called Burger Mojo and is the latest restaurant venture for the Dallis family, which is best known for Cafe Eccell and La Bodega.

“We are very excited to be able to develop this class A location at the main crossroads of our community,” Costa Dallis said. “To be neighbors with both the brand new Embassy Suites Hotel, as well as such a strong local brand as Aggieland Outfitters, is an opportunity we count ourselves fortunate to have.”

Natalie explains what the Dallis family has in mind, where it will go, and how that business will fit into its surroundings.

Total run time: 4:20

 

Podcast Archive

 


About the Blogger

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his ninth year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. A native of Breckenridge, he serves as president of the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.


 

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Our community needs YOU on a citizen committee

“Civic responsibility means taking a healthy role in the life of one’s community.”
Former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn

By Lacey Lively, Marketing Manager

If you’re a typical, civic-minded resident of College Station, you vote on Election Day, write an occasional letter to the editor, and may even attend a city council meeting or two.

You may also wonder how to become more directly involved in local government decisions that determine the kind of community in which we live.

Here’s your chance.

You can make a genuine and meaningful difference by volunteering to serve on a city board, committee or commission. The primary qualifications are that you live in College Station and are a registered voter.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1. The city council will make appointments at its Jan. 11 meeting.

For complete details and an application, visit cstx.gov/committees. Here’s a quick look at the committees that need your help:

ARCHITECTURAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE: The Architectural Advisory Committee provides recommendations on the scope and design of new municipal facilities. The committee bases its recommendations on architectural themes, community compatibilities, aesthetics and site use.

B/CS LIBRARY COMMITTEE: The library committee encourages development, recommends policies and programs, and coordinates with other public and private groups for the advancement of the Bryan/College Station Library System.

BICYCLE, PEDESTRIAN & GREENWAYS ADVISORY BOARD: The Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Greenways Board advises the city council, planning and zoning commission, and other appointed boards and commissions on matters concerning biking, walking, and greenways.

CONSTRUCTION BOARD OF ADJUSTMENTS: The Construction Board of Adjustments hears appeals of decisions, considers interpretations of the building official, and considers variances to the terms of technical codes.

DESIGN REVIEW BOARD: The Design Review Board hears and takes action on design district site plans and concept plans for Planned Development Districts and Planned Mixed-Use Districts, as well as other duties. Some specialized skills are necessary.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMITTEE: The Historic Preservation Committee helps collect and preserve College Station’s history, provides educational opportunities, and designates historical areas. The board carries out other duties and responsibilities as assigned by the city council.

JOINT RELIEF FUNDING COMMITTEE: The Joint Relief Funding Committee reviews funding requests from charitable or other public or private assistance-type agencies and makes appropriate recommendations.

PARKS & RECREATION BOARD: The Parks & Recreation Board advises the council on the establishment, maintenance, and operations of city parks and recreation programs. The board carries out other duties and responsibilities as assigned.

PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION: The Planning & Zoning Commission is a review body that recommends changes in development codes and zoning ordinances and has final authority over submitted plats. The commission also studies and makes recommendations about proposed annexations.

ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENTS: The Zoning Board of Adjustments hears and decides appeals of zoning interpretations, special exceptions, and variances, as well as use permits and other duties.

We have abundant opportunities for you to make a difference in our community’s quality of life by serving on a board, committee or commission. With your help, we can continue to make College Station one of the nation’s best places to live, work and play.

 


About the Blogger

Lacey Lively has been with the City of College Station’s Public Communications Office since 2011. She previously worked as an internet marketing consultant for the Bryan-College Station Eagle and as a web designer. A native of Beaumont, Lacey earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and communications from Texas A&M in 2009.


 

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