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Posts published in March 2008

San Jacinto River waste pits named Superfund Site

HIGHLANDS—Last week, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the San Jacinto River Waste Pits on the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund Sites.
The NPL listing provides access to federal funding for the country’s highest priority contaminated sites.
The waste pits, located near the I-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River, are contaminated with polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, commonly called dioxins, and polychlorinated dibenzofurans, commonly called furans. Wildlife in the area, including fish, has become contaminated with the pollutants, which can cause cancer and other health problems in humans. Despite posted warnings, some area residents continue to use contaminated parts of the river as a food source.
“I appreciate the EPA’s and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s fast work on this,” Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas). “I hope the funding comes through soon so we can permanently get rid of this health risk to Harris County residents.”

The pollution emanates from a paper mill waste site used in the 1960s and1970s and now abandoned. Scientists knew for many years that pollution levels in the San Jacinto River were high, but they didn’t know why until recently when they discovered the pits.
In March 2007, Green and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked the EPA to designate the waste pits a Superfund site, and in July the State of Texas added its name to the request.
According to the EPA, the NPL will guide the EPA “in determining which sites warrant further investigation to assess the nature and extent of public health and environmental risks associated with a release of hazardous substances.”
The Superfund designation provides access to federal money to help clean up pollutants if the responsible parties aren’t found or are insolvent. However, because appropriations for Superfund projects have dwindled in recent years, Green may have to make a special request in order to fund a cleanup of the site.
San Jacinto River Waste Pits entry on the EPA’s web site: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/nar1773.htm.

Overpass starts March 2009; widening FM 2100 delayed

By LEWIS SPEARMAN
CROSBY — James Koch, Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) Director of District Design, detailed plans for an overpass at the railroad tracks on FM 2100 to the Crosby/Huffman Chamber of Commerce at Crosby Brethren Church on March 20.
Just as reported in the September 27, 2007 edition of the Star-Courier contracts will be let in January of 2009 with 45 to 60 days later for the contractor to mobilize and begin construction of four lanes of bridge with two access roads. The policy of TXDoT is to maintain the same number of lanes as exists (two North, two South) during construction. An exception would be while beams are being placed and most clogged traffic stops are being scheduled for weekends or late evenings.
The project is expected to take between 15 to 18 months during the construction phase. “That places the time of completion in Summer or Fall of 2010,” – likely that would be September 2010.
The expanse of the project is to allow three roadways to cross under as to allow turn arounds, Kernohan, Jackson Bayou, and Live Oak. Access will be available to Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. from Reidland Ave. and for Harris County ESD#5, the ambulance service for Crosby. The Traffic Flow Division will have to decide if Crosby V.F.D. will have the light they request to allow fire trucks from Crosby Fire Station #1 during congestion onto FM 2100 during the construction phase.

The original and a current concern of the Chamber is the curve on FM 2100 near First Street, Koch indicates that current plans are to soften the curve by 10 feet of right of way.
Construction ends north at South Diamondhead and Wahl St. on the south end. The driver will have a choice at these points, to go down the access road or up onto the bridge.
The design phase is 60% completed, but right of way will drive the initiative not design. There are four parcels of land left to be acquired before the rights of way have been completely purchased. On March 13, the county and TXDoT signed an agreement to allow the right of way purchase to proceed.
The Bad News
Currently, there are no funds for consultant projects such as the widening of FM 2100 from Hare Rd. through Huffman. US 90 will conjoin with IH 610 and IH 10, the overpasses will be completed and there is no expansion of FM 2100 north. The projects will for now end where Harris County Commissioner’s Court has provided to purchase right of way parcels and extend the state time to reimburse the county, specifically for the overpass construction.
Generally, the County buys the rights of way parcels, then the state repays the county. Those four parcels of land that have yet to be bought are currently under new appraisal and new offers are being made.
Right of Way Parcels are cut back to $46m at a time when $80m is needed for projects already begun. The widening of FM 2100 to FM 1960 currently have a Developed Level of Authority, meaning TXDoT can do every aspect except begin construction. The projects will have to await the next Federal Legislative action to determine how much funds they have for projects. Koch expresses that TXDoT is as disturbed by the bottleneck as residents but budget cut backs will drive decision for most projects outside the overpass until the Fed reauthorizes highway funds.
Driving initiatives in Texas is the next 6 year Federal Highway bill. The current Highway Fund will be exhausted of funds in 2009. The Fed has taken $270m back from Texas for highways. Especially cut are Consultant Projects such as the ones to widen FM 2100 to Huffman.

Crosby powerlifter wins 4A state title

By BOBBY HORN JR.
CROSBY– Crosby High School and the sport of powerlifting has become synonymous following the recent success of one of its lifters.
After putting in a record-breaking effort at the Region IV meet, Alex Goudeau did not let up at the March 16 Texas High School Women’s Powerlifting Association state meet. Goudeau set a new personal best and broke a state record on her way to capturing the state championship in the Class 4A- 198 lbs. division.
Powerlifting is comprised of three events: dead lift, squat and bench press. The cumulative total of the three is used to determine the winner.
Goudeau set the bar high as she opened the meet with a 430 pound squat, which broke the state record. Earlier this year she broke a Region IV record with a 400 pound squat.
She then bench pressed 195 pounds. Her deadlift of 360 pounds gave her a total of 985 pounds. This was 65 pounds better than the second place finisher.
The 985 pounds total also marks a personal best for Goudeau. Her previous personal best was 965 pounds at the Region IV meet, which was also a record beaker.

Lottery winners and farewell…

Got two or three things going on at about the same time here on Sea Palms Drive in Newport today. I am trying to listen to the NCAA Tournament, pack to head for home and write this column. So far so good.
Yes, the Springer’s are packing getting ready to head back to the West Virginia Hills following another fine, enjoyable visit to Texas. We really like it here during the winter months. This is our sixth and I hope we have many more in our future.
I started this column in the Star-Courier and other family newspapers by telling you all how great I thought you had it by residing in the Crosby area. After six years my opinion hasn’t changed. I have lived all but four of my 77+ years in the hills of West Virginia and have loved every minute of it. However, this too is a great place to live, raise a family and have a successful career. Unfortunately, the latter is the one thing that is hurting in my favorite mountain state.

Except for careers in the service industry or government the private sector jobs have moved out of the mountains to other states and foreign lands. But, by the time you read this I will be back in the mountains watching the first blooms of spring at home that have already passed in Crosby and environs.
I am heading back to a state that has at least eight new millionaires since I left there in January. You probably saw in the newspaper or heard on radio or TV that eight women in the sheriff’s department tax office, Monongalia County (Morgantown, home of West Virginia University) won the national lottery a few days ago. According to the Chronicle the eight hit on the Power Ball game for $276.3 million. After taxes they will each receive $11.9 million. Not bad for a $5 each donation. I wish them all good luck with their winnings.
Hopefully they will do much, much better than our last big lottery winner, Jack Whittaker, was a lone winner a few years ago, brought down a cool $150 million or more and has had a fistful of problems since then. He owns a large contracting firm in West Virginia and is said to have been a millionaire before his win. Since then he has gotten a divorce, lost a grand daughter (“the love of my life”) due to drugs and has had several bouts with the law over theft of several thousands of dollars from his car, alcoholic problems and deals with men and women in “Gentlemen’s Clubs.”
His ex-wife was quoted the local newspapers saying “I wish he had never won that money.” I hope the eight winners from up-state have their feet firmly on the ground.
I bit farewell to Crosby, Huffman, Highlands, Dayton and the rest of northeast Harris County.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

Here’s how you can keep business “all in the family”

If you own a small business, you’ve got a lot to think about: attracting customers, holding down expenses, keeping up with trends and competitors – the list goes on and on. In short, you do everything possible to make sure your business can support your family. But if you want to keep the business in the family after you’re gone, you’ll need to prepare a strategy – and the sooner you start, the better.
Of course, you could simply transfer your business to family members through the use of a will. However, the value of your business could help contribute to a considerable estate tax burden for your heirs. (The future of estate taxes is unclear. In 2010, the estate tax is scheduled to disappear -for one year only. Unless Congress changes the laws before then, in 2011 the exemption amount – the amount you can pass to your heirs, free of estate taxes – will revert to $1 million, with a maximum estate tax rate of 55 percent.)

So, other than bequeathing your business to family members, how else might you transfer it? You can choose any of several alternatives. Let’s look at two of them.
Buy-sell agreements
Suppose you have a child who has shown a great aptitude for your business. You’d be delighted if your child took it over when you were gone, but there’s one problem: Your child can’t afford to buy you out.
To help your child purchase the company, you might want to establish a buy-sell agreement – a legally binding contract stipulating that, upon your death, the business will be sold to your child, at an established price. To fund the sale of the business, you take out an insurance policy on your life, with your child as a beneficiary. You could choose term insurance, which will be fairly inexpensive, but you also might want to consider “whole life,” which has higher premiums but offers the potential to build increasing cash value.
Family limited partnerships
You could also transfer ownership of your business through a family limited partnership. Here’s how it works: Well before you retire, you decide to transfer interests in your business to a family limited partnership, creating general partnership shares and limited partnership shares. You hold on to the general partnership shares and give the limited shares to your child. At this point, you are still responsible for managing the company. And, at the same time, you are reducing your family’s estate tax liability because you are removing assets (the limited partnership shares) from your estate. Furthermore, for gift tax purposes, you’ll get a “discount” on the value of the limited partnership shares because, as “noncontrolling” interests, they are theoretically worth less to the recipients.
When you die, only the value of your ownership interest will be included in your taxable estate. And your child can then take forma responsibility for running the business.
Get professional help
Both a buy-sell agreement and a family limited partnership are considerably more complex than described here, so you will need to work with an estate-planning attorney before you launch either of these arrangements. Your attorney can also advise you on other business-succession alternatives. Start your preparations soon. Even if you are many years from retirement, it’s nice to know you – and your family – will be ready.
***Edward Jones, its employess and financial advisors do not offer tax or estate planning advice. You should consult with a competent tax or legal advisor for your particular situation.

Crosby I.S.D. proposes $103.5m bond election

By LEWIS SPEARMAN
CROSBY – On March 10 the Board of Trustees for Crosby ISD passed a proposal for a school bond election for $103.5 million in upgrades to local schools with just under half that amount going to build a new 6th, 7th and 8th grade Middle School behind Barrett Primary on FM 1942.
The Board voted unanimously to hold the bond election.
A Long Range Planning Committee, made up of 25 community members, visited every campus and talked with all administrators over the past 5 months. The committee made their recommendations to the board the week of March 6.
In 1998 Crosby passed a $23 million bond and in 2003 another bond passed that totaled almost $46 million. The bond election in May is for $103.5 million. With the increase in construction costs, the new proposed middle school is almost $47 million, which is more than the total package in 2003.

According to Superintendent Michael Joseph, “the referendum will address several critical needs of the district – student population growth, safety and security of our students and staff, technology equipment and upgrades, building for key programs, and big ticket maintenance items.”
Crosby ISD has been growing at 3 – 4% a year for the past six years. Several of its campuses are close to capacity.
The proposal includes adding eight new classrooms to Crosby Kindergarten, building a new 6th through 8th grade middle school behind Barrett Primary, and moving the 9th grade to Crosby Middle School. Crosby High School would then be able to accommodate the 10 – 12 grade students comfortably for the next 10 years.
The bond calls for replacing several of the district’s aging buses, providing for replacement of 16 regular buses and five special needs buses.
Expanding the parking lot at Barrett Primary to get all pick-up traffic off 1942 is a safety need. The bond calls for protective canopies for students during inclement weather, electronic security entrances, and new fire alarm systems.
A technology center that will house the tech staff, servers, and network backbone will be constructed. The bond provides for new equipment, programs, and replacement computers for students.
The installation of a video distribution network throughout the entire district will make it possible for teachers to share ideas, strategies, and curriculum. It will also provide teachers with access to many innovative lessons and experiences for students.
The bond also addresses two programs that need more space and improved facilities. The JROTC program, which is currently operating out of two portables, will have their own building complete with classrooms and a range. This election also calls for a Boys/Girls Athletic Training Facility, which will include dressing rooms for boys and girls sports, and a weight room that will have enough space for our students to train in a safe environment.
The total Bond Package would result in an increase of 20 cents. On a home valued at $100,000, that would translate into an increase of $16.67 per month. Homeowners who are 65 years of age or older, and who have been granted an ‘over 65 tax freeze,” will not have any increase in their tax rate as a result of the bond.

Historic Burnet Park opens in Lynchburg

LYNCHBURG– Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia has a dream for her district, and last Saturday she inaugurated one of the first in a series of landmarks that will occur throughout the precinct. Project Stars, as she calls the San Jacinto Texas Historical District, was conceived to have 26 locations that will highlight the history, the strengths, and the future of the land and its people.
Fittingly, the first major enhancement was the site of the homestead of Texas’ first president, David G. Burnet. Garcia said “We are at the North end of a great trail for Texas Independence. You can follow the road south, to the site of Old Lynchburg, and of course the Lynchburg Ferry. Battleground Road will become Independence Parkway, with markers all the way to Highway 146. She said that the plan for the park also included future construction of a building that will be an open pavilion resembling the original house.
Garcia was joined in the ceremonial ribbon cutting by local residents and organizations. These included sponsor groups Midtown Engineers, Highlands Rotary Club, Henderson Cooking Team, Highlands/Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, and the entertainers, the Coastliners. Also on hand were politicians, veterans, and county officials.
These included veterans J. R. Castillo and Frank Rangel, and Minister Rev. Tommy Meekins, who lives next to the site.
A special guest was a living relative, Hazen Burnet of Florida, who spoke about the history of the family, starting with their involvement in the Revolutionary War and their help to General George Washington in his battles in New Jersey. Hazen was a great nephew of David Burnet many generations removed.

This small but important park is the historic site of the plantation and home of David G. Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas. This park gives an opportunity to demonstrate the proud history of David Burnet and his role in Texas and U. S. history.
For over 30 years Burnet and his wife Hannah lived in their 4 room brick home on Burnet Bay, where they could watch the Lynchburg Ferry cross the San Jacinto river to the land that was to become a battleground of Texas independence.
Commissioner Garcia said that Burnet Park is part of the master plan for the parks of Precinct 2. It is one of the 32 parks within the Harris County Pct. 2 park system.
In addition to offering recreation, the park has been designed to provide the community, neighborhood and school groups with an interactive outdoor learning environment.
To this end, a series of plaques on the history of the Republic and the State of Texas, and Burnet’s part in their development, have been placed throughout a walking path around the park. Visitors can learn about the whole history of the Republic and Burnet simply by following the path and reading the inscriptions.
In her dedication remarks, Commissioner Garcia mentioned that it was 172 years ago, March 16, 1836 that the Republic of Texas named Burnet as its first president.
She said that over the course of developing the park in the last two years, an archaeological dig was conducted, and exhaustive studies on the history of the homestead were made.
“But, there is more to be done here,” she said. “We want to erect a statue of Burnet here in our park.”
The statue will be paid for by donations, which included monies from a chicken dinner that was served during the day.
Other events included pony rides, a rock climbing wall, a permanent playground, and historical costumed reenactors. Also entertaining the hundreds of people that attended was the music group The Coastliners.
The park was designed by Sheila Condon of Clark Condon landscape architects, and built by Jerdon Enterprises.

Old habits are hard to break

Old habits are hard to break but my ordering water with lemon days are over after reading an article backed up by Snopes.com.
A study by a New Jersey microbiologist found nasty bacteria in two-thirds of the lemons tested in over 20 places to eat.
Long story short, high levels of fectal bacteria were detected on the lemon wedges being sliced. Who ever heard of a restaurant washing a lemon before slicing?
Besides, some restaurants slice lemons on cutting blocks meat or poultry was cut on or they used the same knife. Health laws require waiters and waitresses to use gloves or tongs. It is common practice and a lot faster to simply pop the lemon wedge into your drink with bare hands.
I started ordering lemon with water after tasting the water from a restaurant in my hometown in Georgia. One would have thought I ordered a glass or water with a shot of Clorox.

Think about it next time you order a slice of lemon with fecal bacteria in your drink.
Must have a straw too.
This article is writ without using the Mrs. moral conscious because she is above the Mason Dixon Line visiting the newest grandson (Jakob Lee) in the Keystone State. That is Pennsylvania in case you did not get it.
Anyway, she proofs each and every article, some of which she deletes entire paragraphs with red ink telling me I cannot say this and that. Plus a lot of the red is corrections to my spelling.
Since she has been gone, I have been bad. Bought potato chips, ice cream and been in the red too. Life is good.
Conversations prove interesting in a circle of friends telling their tales.
One banker said he had to foreclose on a house that was fresh built. After all the legal mumbo jumbo stuff he had to go through to get the house back, the house was finally sold to an individual without taking too big of a hickey on the deal.
Low and behold and the opening of a can of worms.
Seems as though the plumbing would not work, come to find out the line was filled with concrete by the repossesse.
From inside the house, the line was replaced and in addition to the problem, the line went under the concrete driveway.
Stories and tales like that are interesting and cautions should be taken.
Heard one about a home loan to an individual that had a substantial down payment, which would be used first to build the house, and after the funds were exhausted, the lender would step in and start lending on the project.
The borrower came to the lender and requested an advance or a draw on the loan.
The lender ordered a slab survey to make sure the slab was where it was suppose to be.
Good lord, the slab was poured on the lot next door and the house was over 75% complete.
Attempts to buy the lot with the slab and almost completed house were unsuccessful.
Ouch!

Rockets’ streak creates new pro basketball fan

I’ve undergone somewhat of a change this winter. For several years I have become less and less interested in professional basketball. This winter that has changed somewhat. For a number of years I’ve paid only passive interested in the won-lost records, the standings and the teams in general.
I’ve only seen two or three professional games in my life, the last being about two years ago when we watched the Rockets beat the Lakers in Houston. This year however, I’ve become somewhat of a Rocket fan and have watched some games on TV this winter.
Of course, the winning streak has struck many people this winter and certainly added to my interest. Right now it sits at 22 straight with probably the biggest challenge coming up in a day or two with the Celtics coming to town. They are loaded.

I, like many others, thought the winning streak was over when Yao Ming went down with an injury. I not only thought about the winning streak but also found myself concerned as to the Rockets ability to reach the playoffs. Ah, ye of little faith.
Last Sunday I was in front of the TV when the Lakers took the floor against the Rockets and was pleased when the local favorites took the lead. While I was hopeful again my faith weakened when Tracy McGrady couldn’t make his shots. I said to no one in particular, “without his 20 or more points the cause is lost.”
But the cause was not lost as there were others to step up and provide the offense and the usual defense was there. I was amazed at Alston’s eight three-pointers, Jackson coming off the bench and scoring 19 while running around the floor as if it belonged to him. In part it certainly did. Meanwhile Battier, one of my favorite players of the college ranks at Duke, kept covering Kobe Bryant so close he held him to about a 33% shooting night. Mutombo was getting the rebounds and Scola was getting his share of points of rebounds as well. At 41 I wonder how Mutombo holds out.
Still I had my doubts as the Lakers continued to draw close and I nearly went through the TV when the Lakers got 12 points in a row to start the second half. From then until near the end it stayed close and I never left my chair. Finally the Rockets got hot near the end and pulled out a 12-point victory. I had a great morning at church listening to a fine Palm Sunday cantata and this completed a successful day for me.
Move on Rockets.