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Posts published in May 2016

RUN-OFF ELECTION BRINGS NEW FACES TO LOCAL OFFICES

HARRIS COUNTY – Voters went to the polls for the second time this spring, to decide local choices for office that had not received a majority in the March 1st primary.

Turnout was low, as is customary in run-off elections. All of these candidates still face a general election in November to earn their seat.

In individual races, the one that attracted the most interest was for Pct. 3 Constable, between Michel Pappillion and Sherman Eagleton. Eagleton already worked for Constable Ken Jones, who is retiring. Eagleton won the seat with 65% of the vote, 3485 votes versus 1844 for Pappillion. In the November election he will face Republican Dan Webb.

An upset in both the primary and the run-off was the victory of Briscoe Cain over incumbent Wayne Smith for State Representative from District 128. Cain won by a narrow margin, 3045 votes versus Smith’s 3022, a difference of only 23 votes. It could be noted that there were 27 “under votes” or electors that did not vote a preference in this category, and could have made a difference. Smith issued the following concession statement after the count: “I want to thank the voters for the opportunity to serve. It has been my distinct honor and high privilege to have served the hard working men and women of District 128. Mr. Cain will now enjoy that same honor. For the past 14 years, I have worked on the issues that really impact the voters most. I leave with no regrets,” Smith concluded.

In the November election, Cain does not have a Democratic opponent, and will attain the office.

Another important office in Harris County was the position of Sheriff. In this Ed Gonzalez, a well known city councilman, was opposed by Jerome Moore. Gonzalez defeated Moore with 57% of the vote, or 16,049 votes versus 12,311 for Moore. In the November election, Gonzalez will run agains Republican Ron Hickman, who is the incumbent Sheriff.

In the Constable race in Precinct 2, Chris Diaz the incumbent was running against George Goffney, Jr. Diaz, who was mayor of Jacinto City previously, won with 73% of the vote, but will face the Republican challenger Daniel Vela in the November election.

LOCAL RACES TIGHT IN MAY 24TH RUN-OFF ELECTION

Harris County will hold a Run-off Election on Tuesday, May 24 for a number of offices where no candidate received a majority (50%+) of the votes in the March 1st Primary election.

This Primary determines who will go on to face the other party’s candidate in November. This primary run-off is open to all registered voters, those that had voted in the March 1 Primary must vote for the political party they voted for originally.

Highlands voters go to Highlands Elementary School to vote. Voters all have until Friday May 20 for early voting at any location inside the county like the Harris County Library Crosby Branch. Democrats vote at the Crosby Library on May 24 but Republican Precincts 0097, 0382, 0604 and 1008 vote at Newport Elementary School. While all others vote May 24 at the Crosby Library.

House of Representatives District 128 that includes Highlands, Crosby, Deer Park and most of Huffman and part of Baytown sees a heated race between incumbant, conservative Wayne Smith against outsider, conservative, Briscoe Cain.

On the Democratic ticket, a number of statewide offices, and locally the Harris County Sheriff’s election, Ed Gonzalez runs against Jerome Moore.

Ron Hickman, incumbent Sheriff, won outright the Republican contest and faces the Democratic Primary Run-Off winner in November.

Above all races the most contested is for Harris County Precinct 3 Constable. North Shore resident Michel Pappillion is facing Barrett Station native, Sherman Eagleton.

Originally this contest had eight candidates. This post is held by Ken Jones but he is retiring.

The winner will face Republican Don Webb who ran uncontested in March and awaits November.

Three District Judge positions are on the ballot, For District Judge in the 11th Judicial District Kristen Hawkins is opposed by Rabeea Collier on the Democratic ticket. For the 61st Julie Countiss faces Fredericka Phillips. Elaine Palmer and JoAnn Storey face off for the 215th Judicial District.

These are just a few of the races of local interest on the Democrat slate.

On the Republican side, Railroad commissioner vies Gary Gates vs Wayne Christian. There are two races for Judge positions in Criminal Appeals.

Ray Wheless faces Mary Lou Keel for the Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2. Scott Walker is opposed by Brent Webster for Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5.

Voters are encouraged to vote in this election, because only a few votes could determine the outcome in a run-off where no major races are present. Turnout in this type of election is typically low, and candidates are working to get their supporters to the polls.

Early Voting will started on Monday, May 16 and run through May 20. Hours are from 7 am to 7pm. There are 44 locations in Harris County for Early Voting, and you can vote at any of them.

On election day, May 24, many of these same locations will be where you vote, but only the one where you live. You can check your voting location that day, by going to the website www.harris votes.com and entering your home address.

KMCO responds to safety concerns

CROSBY – John Foley, President and C.E.O. of KMCO Inc. , a Limited Partnership, sat down with the Star-Courier to address concerns from residents following the release of a study done by the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Centers at Texas A&M about potential harm by hazardous materials at local businesses.

While almost everyone agrees that the local Crosby plant at Ramsey Road off of Crosby-Dayton has made significant progress since changing ownership in 2012, Foley spoke of a “commitment to our employees and the community that we operate within. There are expectations that the community has a right to expect that we are safe and compliant. ”

KMCO has been here for 41 years. Over the last few years incidents have been taken to heart including the fires in August 2008, and Christmas Eve 2010, and the lawsuits over releases in 2008 for spills and fumes. Since 2013, the plant has won industry awards for safety and environmental concerns.

“I’ve been here a year and we are looking at what are the right ways to communicate and proactively talk to the community. In December we are going to have a drill to practice our emergency preparation so we notified the schools and all so people know what is going to happen. Another group that insists we operate at a high standard are our customers. We mainly work for other chemical companies and if we don’t maintain a high standard they won’t do business with us. Between the community, our employees and our customers we have at least as strong a drive for safety as laws and regulations.”

“We are going as fast as we can to discover any risk and figure out how to minimize it. In this business you have to expect people to ask questions. And you have to be able to answer them, so we want to be able to be proactive,” said Foley.

Many agencies are vigorous in their efforts to ask us questions. For example the Department of Homeland Security is coming for an audit on June 14. The Harris County Office of Homeland Security comes, the fire departments, the E.P.A., OSHA, TCEQ, all these visit us because we are a major player and we have a lot of interaction with those people. But, we don’t count on them to police us to do the right things we do it for ourselves. If you want to operate a chemical facility like we do in 2016, in the United States, you had better be safe and compliant.”

“One of the initiatives we have undertaken is how do we reduce our inventories of everything. We run processes but then we have about $12,000,000 of different chemicals inventory. The challenge I have made to the team is to get it to three. It leaves us less to risk from a financial point of view and exposure to things like floods. The smaller you can make the pie the less risk there is overall.”

Kim George attended the meeting and answered the question of what reforms have been enacted at the plant. New scrubber systems have been put in place to take out the odors that might be emitted from the plant even if they are permitted. The plant has upgraded their digital control systems. They can now monitor release activities from the computer system instead of having to read the monitors out in the locations. Bringing technology into the plant has helped us monitor systems within the plant, the initial investment was over a million dollars.

“Master control captures any change, any outcomes from any audit systems that we need to pay attention to. ”Other things include a new storage tank that is safer and away from the rest of the plant so we can see more tank cars, thus reducing the number of deliveries and the number of connections necessary.

“One operation we have been working on is drumming material to ship it off site. We installed an automated drumming system, ahead of regulations. We are looking for ideas on what we can do to reduce risk, make it easier and our workers more productive.” said Foley.

Crosby wants FM 2100 widened, not divided

CROSBY – The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held their second Public Hearing at Newport Elementary School last Thursday to “gather public input and receive comments on the proposed” widening of “FM 2100 from FM 1960 to South Diamondhead Boulevard.”

A disagreement with the design was held by almost every entity speaking at the public hearing.

TxDOT has designed to “widen FM 2100 from a two lane undivided highway to a four lane divided highway. Five foot sidewalks would be constructed on both sides of the roadway.” The project would add a lane in both directions. The project would add five detention ponds and require 107 acres of extra right of way. Finally, the project would at current design put in a raised median.

The project length is eight miles. TxDOT indicates that six residences, eight commercial structures and two churches would be displaced in the project. During the environmental presentation 16 structures were said to be displaced. And the project would have medium environmental impact on the community.

During the public hearing portioned all but one of the public that spoke at the hearing opposed the raised median while in support of the widening to make two extra lanes. The reasons varied from safety issues of being unable to get emergency traffic (fire trucks, ambulances, SWAT Tactical Units, Hurricane Relief Trailers to locations due to the raised median and being unable to land a helicopter in the divided highway.

Many of the business community decried the raised median because supply trucks would be unable to complete a U-turn and that turn is illegal anyway. The implication is that a truck would have to turn into a local community to attempt to make a turn around legally and that would also impede the safety of residents from the extra commercial traffic into wayside communities that exist all up and down FM 2100. More of the citizen’s input will be presented later in this article.

The State maintains that the raised median is to decrease the risk of crashes caused by cross-over traffic.

However, everyone seemed to welcome the extra lanes to relieve congestion already building up at the rush hours. TxDOT stated the purpose of the project is to “reduce congestion and enhances safety by accommodating traffic volumes, which are expected to increase by approximately 57 percent on this section of 2100 in the next 20 years. ”

Danny Perez, Public Information Officer, stated, “We have the safety record to show that a raised median is more safe.” When questioned about the safety issues being raised by the only elected official that spoke at the meeting.

Verbal and written comments from the public regarding this project are requested and may be submitted in person by mail or e-mailed to HOU-PIOWebmail@txdot.gov to be received or postmarked before May 19, 2016 to become part of the official hearing record. Submitt written comments to TxDOT Houston District, Attn: Director of Project Development, P.O. Box 1386, Houston, Texas 77251-1386.

TxDOT indicaets they intend to consider public hearing comments, finalize environmental analysis, undertake Project decision from TxDOT for the Final Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact, complete final design and begin anticipated construction beginning in 2017.

Current estimated construction cost is $80 Million and estimated duration of construction is about 3.5 years.

Considerations for the environmental impact included the need for 107 extra acres of land, sixteen displacements, medium community cohesion impacts, 7.679 linear feet of floodplain crossings, waters of the U.S. Impcts 0.144 acres and seven stream crossings.

Highlands Rotary named Best midsize Club in District

GALVESTON – Rotary District 5890, which consists of 62 clubs in the Greater Houston area, held their annual Conference last weekend at the San Luis in Galveston.

Atttending were seven members from the Highlands Club, with their spouses or friends.

One of the special events held during the conference was the award for outstanding performance by a club, on projects, community service, club service, Rotary Interntional service, and attendance and membership growth.

Highlands was awarded one of three Citations, as “Best midsize Club in the District.” Rosenberg received the small club award, and the Houston club received the large club award.

Highlands for many years has been known in the District for their fundraising success at the Annual Chili Feast, but also for their active projects that benefit the community. Their membership has now grown to 30, according to President Larry White.

Crosby to vote on water bonds

CROSBY – A bond of $10,000,000 will be voted on May 7 that is not expected to vary from the current range of $.0.55 to $0.57 per $100 valuation to continue the Bond of 2006 to be sold in protions over the next decade.

Much of the commercial businesses and the residential areas outside of Newport south of Clara Road to US 90 at FM 2100 are within the boundries of Crosby Municipal Utility District. Some of the water and sewer facilities are 50 years old.

Voting will be held at 103 W. Wahl Street at the water office from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. that Saturday.

The bond is to be used to pay for expansions and maintenance to the drinking water treatment plant, replacement of corroded or leaking drinking waterlines and extension of new waterlines, extensions and maintenance of sewage treatment facility and repair of old leaking sewer lines, manholes and extensions of new sewer lines.

The bond is said to be an effective way to have future residents and industry help pay for facilities built soon.

The $10,000,000 bond sold in 2006 were sold over the last 10 years and this $10,000,000 bond is to be sold in portions over the next decade. Projects are publicly bid to assure competitive pricing. Nearly $2,000,000 of matching grant funds have been obtained to meet the needs of the expanding district.