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Podcast: ‘Hotel folklore’: How Embassy Suites built across from A&M

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Whenever we hear about new businesses, it’s typically an initial announcement about what’s coming, where it’ll be and when it’ll open. Maybe you’ll eventually hear about the ribbon cutting, but that’s about it.

In this podcast episode, we talk with Ted Ent — president and COO of Mac Haik Hospitality — about the new Embassy Suites that’s scheduled to open Oct. 2 near the Texas A&M campus. Ted describes how he was able to secure a location that no one thought was available, what successes and challenges were part of the development process, and whether or not College Station has too many hotels.

00:00 – Introduction

01:45 — Ted talks about his background in the industry

03:00 — How did College Station get on your radar?

04:40 — “Folklore in the hotel industry”: How he secured such a prime location.

09:28 — College Station provided the most-pleasant development experience of his career.

13:08 — Ted’s role throughout the development process.

14:53 — The use of a local artist; other Ted touches.

16:30 — The Sabre

17:24 — Challenges along the way (traffic, utilities).

21:12 — Don’t we have too many hotels in College Station?

25:34 — What amenities are needed in the area that don’t currently exist?

29:40 — Show close

 

Podcast Archive

 


About the Blogger

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is completing his eighth 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 is also president of the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.


 

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Oct. 7 event makes racing in diapers superb family fun

By Virginia Godwin, Assistant Recreation Supervisor

Friendly competition never goes out of style — especially when the competitors are still in diapers.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, young crawlers, stumblers, walkers and runners from across the Brazos Valley will get together for the Toddler 2K and Baby Crawl at Wolf Pen Creek Park. The fun-filled event will also feature vendor booths and health and wellness activities that families can enjoy together.

Youngsters will compete on their developmental level and will be divided by age into early crawlers, strong crawlers, early walkers, strong walkers, and toddlers. Crawlers and early walkers will have a short distance race with one parent or caregiver at the starting line and one at the finish line. Walkers and toddlers will compete in a 2K race and may be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Participants will be given complete instructions after they check-in starting at 9 a.m.

College Station Parks & Recreation and Fit4Moms are also offering a free family workout from 9-9:45 a.m. Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and anyone else is welcome to participate and model healthy activities for the little ones.

Children five-and-under must be kept in a stroller during the workout but will be entertained throughout. If you have not participated in a recent Fit4Moms class, please arrive early to complete a waiver form.

The cost is $5 per child, and registration ends Oct. 5.

Call 979-764-3486 for more information, or go to rectrac.cstx.gov to register.

 


About the Blogger

Virginia Godwin is in her fourth year as assistant recreation supervisor/youth services. A College Station native, she previously served as staff development specialist for Kids’ Klub, the College Station Independent School District’s after-school program.


 

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Get ready for the October monarch migration

By Hallie Kutch, Parks & Recreation Marketing Assistant

After enduring the summer heat, fall is always a welcome relief in Texas. It’s also an ideal time to sow nectar plants for the monarch butterfly migration and to prepare your gardens for the spring.

Texas is an important stop in the journey since it’s situated between the butterflies’ main breeding grounds in the north and their wintering areas in the south. The monarchs funnel through the Lone Star State in both fall and spring.

Monarch Garden Tips

The butterflies are expected to pass through the Brazos Valley in early October, according to Jane Cohen, the A&M Garden Club’s butterfly chair. She recommends growing nectar-producing plants to benefit the monarchs. The blooming flowers provide a sweet liquid that provides energy for the insects as they travel.

Here are 14 nectar plants to consider for your garden:

  • Black-Eyes Susan
  • Zinnia
  • Plumbago
  • Cassis
  • Goldenrod
  • Pipe-Vine
  • Purple Mist
  • Passion Vine
  • Senna
  • Sunflower
  • Hollyhock
  • Purple coneflower
  • Lantana
  • Joe-Pye Weed

Cohen says it’s best to plant in locations with plenty of sunshine since adult butterflies typically prefer to feed in the sun.

Vibrant colors such as red, yellow, orange, pink and purple tend to attract adult butterflies the most, and they also are drawn to patches of the same plant or color of flowers. It’s a good idea to incorporate continuous-blooming annuals in islands of color, or clusters of nectar plants and is beneficial to include milkweed either nearby or mixed.

You should also be mindful of the flower’s orientation. It’s important that flower blossoms are flat-topped or clustered to make a platform for the butterfly to land and walk. Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span, so plant for a continuous bloom so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.

More About Milkweed

Milkweed is the only plant the caterpillar eats and is where butterflies lay their eggs. That makes an abundance of milkweed vital, especially in the spring. Milkweed can be planted in early fall, but the seeds are best planted in November when it’s too warm for the ground to be frozen, but too cool for the seeds to sprout until spring.

Tropical milkweed is a primary monarch food source, but it should be cut back to the ground in late fall to encourage the butterflies to continue their journey to Mexico.

An excellent way to start your garden is to pick up two free Butterfly Retreat seed packets from our Central Park office at 1000 Krenek Tap Rd. Each pack covers more than 20 square feet and contains a wildflower mix that’s perfect for creating a butterfly habitat.

Educational Opportunities

  • Butterflies in the Brazos Community Meeting: Share your ideas and plans to promote monarch butterflies and other pollinator habitats on Wed., Sept. 27 from 9 a.m.-noon at the Brazos Center. The free gathering includes education about local groups and their efforts to increase awareness about butterfly preservation, native plants for butterflies, and other pollinators. We will also explore ways to involve residents and identify community partners for networking along with an overview of basic gardening tips. The program will feature speakers from the A&M Gardening Club, Texas Master Naturalist, Keep Brazos Beautiful, Native Plant Society, Master Gardeners, Monarch Gateway, the USDA/TAMU Future Scientist Program, and the College Station Parks & Recreation Department.
  • Landscaping and Plants for Butterflies: Ann Boehm of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Master Gardeners and Butterflies in the Brazos will give an overview on landscaping and plants for butterflies. The free class will be Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. at Producers Ag Center (1800 N. Texas Ave.) in Bryan. You don’t need to RSVP.

We also invite you to visit our community demonstration gardens that were created by local community organizations:

For more information, go to cstx.gov/monarchs.

 


About the Blogger

Hallie Kutch is in her third year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management and a minor in tourism research management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.


 

Photo Copyright: xkardoc/123RF Stock Photo

 

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Live Blog: Monday’s city council meetings (Sept. 11)

Back (L-R): Linda Harvell, Jerome Rektorik, James Benham, Barry Moore. Front (L-R): Blanche Brick, Mayor Karl Mooney, Julie Schultz.

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

Welcome to our live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Monday, Sept. 11. It’s not the official minutes.

The meeting is being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channels 19 and 119 (HD) and online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

6:31 p.m.

The workshop has started. No action was taken out of executive session.

Workshop Meeting Agenda and Background Materials

6:43 p.m.

Consent Agenda Discussion

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

  • Westside Community Park: Staff is requesting approval for the $2.5 million purchase of two tracts (48.6 acres and 55.4 acres) and the acceptance of a third tract (7 acres) as a donation to be developed into the Westside Community Park. The property is located on North Dowling Road west of the city. Additional costs will include surveying, environmental reports, title insurance, and closing fees, which are estimated not to exceed $80,000. Funds are budgeted in the Community Park Land Zone B Fund, the Neighborhood Park Land Zone 15 fund, and the Neighborhood Parks Revolving Fund.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

  • Rental Registration Ordinance Amendment: In July, staff provided the council with an overview and update on the rental registration program. The council directed staff to eliminate the requirement to renew the registration of a property on an annual basis and instead require only an initial registration. Staff recommended adding an additional requirement to register four-plex and other types of rental units to assist city staff when responding to an issue, violation, or emergency.

    Staff reviewed the ordinance as adopted and included changes to clarify information for property owners and residents to better understand which properties are subject to the law. The changes include: The title of the ordinance was revised; the types of properties were added to include single-family, townhome, duplex, triplex, fourplex, five-plex & six-plex; a definition of multi-family dwelling was added; a definition of owner occupied was added; clarification that a new registration is required in the event of a change in ownership; change in local contact information must be reported within 30 days; and fee of $15 charged per building.

  • Single-Stream Recycling Agreement: Staff recommends renewal of years 3-5 of a five-year franchise agreement and general services contract with Brazos Valley Recycling for the collection, processing, and marketing of recyclable materials. The city pays an annual cost of $880,000. The provision of recycling collection services and associated public education programs account for $3.18 out of the $14.40 monthly sanitation fee charged to each customer.
  • Transportation Network Ordinance Repeal: The governor recently signed HB100 into law to provide a uniform, statewide approach to regulating and permitting transportation network companies through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The law preempts local control by establishing exclusive power and function solely to the state. As such, the city transportation network company ordinance will be repealed.

7:12 p.m.

Council to repeal city’s hands-free ordinance

The council voted 4-3 to direct staff to bring back an ordinance to repeal the existing city law regarding the use of hand-held communication devices while driving. The state legislature recently took action to ban texting and driving statewide. The city’s ordinance prohibits any use of hand-held communication devices while driving.

The discussion also included a review of a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute on the effectiveness of the city ordinance.

Survey of Wireless Communication Device Use

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:27 p.m.

Long-Term Water Supplies

The council heard a presentation about potential long-term water supplies. College Station’s water comes entirely from groundwater wells. As groundwater reserves are drawn down, the city could be required to reduce its pumping amounts.

Consequently, the city is planning for alternative water supplies that would replace any required cutbacks. Possibilities include direct potable reuse, aquifer storage and recovery, desalination, and surface water.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:28 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the workshop after the council discussed its calendar and received committee reports. The regular meeting will start after a short break.

7:36 p.m.

The regular meeting has started.

Regular Meeting Agenda and Background Materials

7:41 p.m.

Laserfiche Excellence Award

Deputy City Secretary Ian Whittenton was recognized for receiving MCCi’s Laserfiche Excellence Award for its innovative use of Laserfiche. 

7:43 p.m.

Constitution Week

The mayor proclaimed Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week in commemoration of America’s most important document. The celebration of the Constitution was started by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1955 when the DAR petitioned Congress to set aside an annual observance. The resolution was adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

7:48 p.m.

Thank a Police Officer Day

Mayor Mooney proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 16 as Thank a Police Officer Day in College Station. The event is promoted by the College Station Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association

7:49 p.m.

Hear Visitors

No one signed up to speak during Hear Visitors when citizens might address the council on any item that doesn’t appear on the posted agenda.

7:49 p.m.

Consent Agenda

The council voted unanimously to approve the entire consent agenda:

  • An Interlocal agreement with Brazos County and the City of Bryan to apply for and accept a 2017 Justice Assistance Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • An $11.36 million contract with Larry Young Paving for the Lakeway Drive Project.
  • A $2.88 million contract with Larry Young Paving for the Royder Road Expansion Phase 1 Project.
  • Temporarily changed the posted speed limit to 25 mph on Royder Road between the city limit to 700 feet north of Backwater Drive during the Royder Road Expansion Phase 1 project.
  • A $315,000 contract with Brazos Paving for construction of the culvert and replacement of the water line at the intersection of Dominik and Stallings Drive.
  • Awarded a $545,000 contract to C3 Constructors for the Carter Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s 4 and 5 Blower Improvements.
  • A resolution naming the authorized representative on the Public Agency Retirement Services’ Public Agencies Post-Retirement Health Care Plan Trust account.
  • An agreement for administrative services with Public Agency Retirement Services in the amount of 0.25 percent of plan assets for financial advisory services on an annual basis, estimated to be $3,250 in this initial year.
  • A $230,000 contract with Xpedient Mail for printing and mailing utility bills, late notices, and inserts.
  • A three-year Interlocal Agreement with the City of Bryan and Brazos County for the City of College Station to provide Emergency Medical Ambulance Service to Brazos County and to receive payments every quarter.
  • The final reading of the recycling collection franchise ordinance and service agreement renewal with Brazos Valley Recycling not to exceed $880,000 or the number of customers times the approved contract rates.
  • The acquisition of 110.95 acres to be developed into Westside Community Park.
  • A $256,384 contract with Utility Restoration Services for annual padmount equipment repair and restoration.
  • An amendment to the city’s Code of Ordinances regarding the working hours for necessary construction.
  • An amendment to the city’s Building and Building Regulations and Single-Family and Duplex Unit Rental Registration.
  • Repealed the city ordinance regarding Transportation Network Companies after the state legislature passed a bill allowing only the state to regulate transportation network companies.

7:51 p.m.

FY18 Budget Public Hearing

The council conducted a public hearing on the city’s proposed $365.5 million budget for FY18, which is scheduled for adoption Sept. 25.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

7:58 p.m.

FY18 Tax Rate Public Hearing

The council conducted a public hearing on the city’s proposed tax rate for FY18, which is scheduled for adoption Sept. 25. The proposed rate is 49.75 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 2½-cent increase from the current rate.

One person spoke against the tax increase during the public hearing.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

10:24 p.m.

Fairview Avenue Rezoning at George Bush Drive

After a public hearing, the council voted 4-3 to approve a request to rezone two lots on the south side of Fairview Avenue at the George Bush Drive intersection. Councilwomen Blanche Brick and Linda Harvell joined Mayor Mooney is voted against the motion. The change will allow the relocation of the nearby Aggieland Outfitters store.

Ten people spoke against the zoning change and three for it during the public hearing. One written statement supporting the change also was submitted.

Here are the PowerPoint presentations:

 

10:24 p.m.

The meeting will resume after a short break.

10:34 p.m.

The meeting has resumed.

10:37 p.m.

UDO Amendment: Utility Easements

After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to amend the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) regarding the location of utility easements. The change is part of efforts to streamline the UDO and will give the city engineer flexibility regarding the location and width of utility easements, which will reduce costs for the developer, staff time for processing waiver requests, and the number of waiver requests considered by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

10:40 p.m.

UDO Amendment: Health Clubs

After a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to amend the UDO to permit health clubs in Commercial Industrial zoning districts. The change allows gyms and exercise facilities to use buildings with a warehouse or industrial character.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

10:40 p.m.

The council discussed and reviewed future agenda items.

10:40 p.m.

Mayor Mooney adjourned the meeting. The council meets again on Monday, Sept. 25.

 


About the Author

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 been 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 (6 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch:

  1. Hand-Held Ordinance Update: In the workshop, the council will discuss legislative changes that could impact the city’s ordinance regarding the use of hand-held communication devices while driving. The council will also review a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute on the effectiveness of the city ordinance.
  2. Lakeway Drive Extension: As part of the consent agenda, the council will consider an $11.36 million contract for the extension of Lakeway Drive from Fitch Parkway to the Scott & White Hospital near Rock Prairie Road.
  3. Royder Road Expansion: Another consent agenda item is a $2.88 million for the first phase of the expansion of Royder Road. The project includes reconstruction of the road from the city limit to near Backwater Lane
  4. and changing the 2-way asphalt road section into a 3-lane concrete roadway.
  5. Fairview Avenue Rezoning: After a public hearing, the council will consider rezoning two lots on the south side of Fairview Avenue at the George Bush Drive intersection. The change would allow the relocation of the nearby Aggieland Outfitters store.
  6. Budget, Tax Rate Public Hearings: The council will conduct public hearings on the proposed FY18 city budget and property tax rate. The proposed tax rate is 49.75 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 2½-cent increase. The $365.5 million budget and tax rate are scheduled for adoption on Sept. 25.

The meetings can be watched live on Suddenlink Channels 19 and 119 (HD), or online. The website includes an archive of previous council meetings. 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 done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and 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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Video: College Station responds to Hurricane Harvey

Our prayers remain with those affected by Harvey, as well as those in the path of Irma. While College Station was spared harsh effects from the recent storms, we still say thanks to our employees who worked around the clock here and in other jurisdictions.

 

— Public Communications Office