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Star-Courier News

Rotary awards 20 scholarships

Scholarship recipients Dayton Berezoski, Joshua Protain, Morgan Forsyth, Carol Nunez, and Shaily Yadav. All are presently in college.

Total of $34,000 distributed by club

HIGHLANDS – One of the major projects that the Highlands Rotary club holds every year is the awarding of scholarships to graduating seniors and in-college students.

Usually the awards are made at a festive banquet held at the Community Center. However, this year was different, due to the COVID virus pandemic. The ceremony was delayed six weeks, and then it was held in small groups at the club’s regular luncheon.

Scholarship chairman Dr. Larry White acted as emcee in each of four presentations. The students reported on their accomplishments, and plans for the future.

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Explosion, Fire at Mont Belvieu facility

First on the scene, Mont Belvieu Fire Dept. arrived shortly after 4:50 p.m. to stop the spread of flames from a wellhead said to have begun when a contractor hit a pipeline.

MONT BELVIEU – An explosion Wednesday, July 29, at an industry facility is blamed on a contractor hitting a line.

The Mont Belvieu Fire Department was working with other first responders to control the fire that broke out after the blast. According to Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne the fire was quelled about 7 p.m.

Flames were visible from Interstate-10 shortly after the explosion Wednesday afternoon. Traffic was halted on nearby roads to aid firefighters from Mont Belvieu and surrounding areas battle to flames.

A wellhead burned itself out; the entire plant was not involved in the fire. Roads in the area around the Lone Star NGL Facility in remain closed after an explosion and fire on Wednesday afternoon. (more…)

Congressman Brady: Federal Ruling on Texas High Speed Rail Wrong; Fight not over

CONROE, TX – July 16, 2020 – Congressman Kevin Brady (TX-08) released the following statement after the Surface Transportation Board released a new ruling on Texas Central Railroad’s (TCR) petition for exemption:

“While I strongly disagree with this decision, the good news is this doesn’t give TCR eminent domain authority to seize property without landowners consent – and finally forces TCR to publicly disclose their shaky financial projections to the Surface Transportation Board in any future bid to gain authority to construct the project.

“This will reveal why private investors have abandoned the project and why taxpayers should not be on the hook when it ultimately fails.”

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Schools cope with strain of changes

By LEWIS SPEARMAN

BAYTOWN – Goose Creek Consolidated ISD is a microcosm of schools throughout Texas in the wake of COVID-19 because every activity of schools is seemingly having to spend more to deal with challenges of the pandemic and social change.

The U.S. Dept. of Education says that public school spending has been heavily skewed toward salaries and benefits for employees, making about 80% of the per pupil spending. Indicating that about 11% went to services and 7% to supplies. Now supplies will have to cut into the budgets for about 11%, cleaning services will increase and that bus services will need to expand beyond double.

Issues have been bought to light of digital learning, food insecurity, homelessness, disability services, health care and virtual internet connectivity.

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Crosby resident has successful film career

MALCOLM FARRELL

Malcolm Farrell, who is a resident of Crosby, a graduate from San Jacinto College, and The University of Houston, is in the new movie “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose over Prison” that won Best Editing in the Brooklyn Film Fest! It came out on July 31st on streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Apple +, Google Plus and in select theaters. It stars Romany Malco, and Regina Hall!

Malcolm Farrell has been steadily building his resume with an assortment of projects, paving the way for a successful career in the industry. Farrell’s natural good looks and charm are only outshined by his innate talent and utter professionalism.

Farrell’s credits include “Tijuanna Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” (starring Romany Malco), “ATW,” “All Screwed Up” and “The Freshman Year.” You can also spot Farrell in a handful of national commercials including spots for Apple, Ford, Target, Adidas, Chase Bank, and Crate and Barrel. Many of these films or commercials were made locally, and in Austin, where a thriving movie industry has been established. He also has worked in Hollywood on film projects. He said he prefers Texas productions, where the size of the film community helps him obtain parts.

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Texas Sales Tax Holiday Aug. 7-9

(AUSTIN) — With the Texas economy slowly awakening from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers they can save money on clothes and school supplies during the state’s sales tax holiday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 7-9.

The law exempts sales tax on qualified items — such as clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks — priced below $100, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend. The date of the sales tax holiday and list of tax-exempt items are set by the Texas Legislature.

“Even though significant uncertainty remains for our public and private schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales tax holiday is a perfect opportunity to save money on school supplies and other tax-free items at a time when many Texans are carefully monitoring their family finances,” Hegar said. “Online shopping is covered, so I encourage all Texans to shop online or practice social distancing when making in-store purchases. We want folks to stay safe while saving money.”

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GC CISD hears Lee H.S. name change

BAYTOWN – Goose Creek Consolidated ISD held a virtual meeting on Monday night, during that meeting the subject of a possible name change of Robert E. Lee High School became a hot button issue.

Hours of meeting was held on-line taking on hearing from two differently opinioned groups considering the current name being from Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Some 450 people tuned in to hear 29 speakers give opinions; 20 being for changing the name and 9 opposed. This comes at a time when a wave of Confederate monument removals across the country have taken place.

The board will meet with the Baytown United Coalition for Change, Baytown Gander Black Alumni Group, Save Robert E. Lee High School Baytown Texas, RAZA Alumni Group and the Baytown Robert E. Lee High School Improvement Allies.

According to Trustee President Jessica Woods, the school board is dealing with a restrictive process by state law amid technical problems with the WebX platform and having received literally hundreds of emails concerning the issue. A lot of the emails did not get read into the public record since they did not ask to be but the trustees did receive them in a binder to review.

“This is such a potentially divisive issue in which the whole community needs to be involved. I think that it is the burden of the taxpayers to fund so why shouldn’t it be their decision? (more…)

COVID MASKS new policy for Houston

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today that he has directed the Houston Police Department to issue warnings and citations to anyone not wearing a face mask or face covering required by the state’s mandatory mask order. Police will not ticket those who are not wearing a mask if they meet the exemption criteria. The citation carries a $250 fine.

“We know that wearing a mask or face-covering in public is one of the most effective methods to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Lives are at stake, so I am taking this step to save lives and slow the virus from spreading in August.”

Houston police will not respond to 9-1-1 calls about people not wearing masks.

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EPA Releases Preliminary Design for Remediation: WASTE PITS REMOVAL WILL HAVE MAJOR IMPACT ON AREA

Removal method of dry waste inside cofferdam

Plan will cause Seven years of noise, dust, truck traffic

HIGHLANDS – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released many volumes of reports from the GHD Consulting Engineering firm, detailing their ideas for how to remove the toxic wastes from the North and South Impoundments along the San Jacinto River, known as the Superfund Site.

The report is extremely long and detailed, consisting of 10 volumes of information for the Northern Impound Site, and Two volumes for the Southern Impound Site. In total, there are many thousands of pages with data, drawings, boring logs, and most important a Work Plan on how to remove the waste material, and how it will impact the environment around the communities of Highlands and Channelview.

The engineers have proposed excavation within “cells” on the Northern site, encompassed by sheet piling, and on the Southern site removal without the piling enclosures. The full extent of the work includes driving piles to form five cofferdams, dewatering the soil, excavating the material, and hauling it away to licensed landfills approximately 100 miles away. They envision one year of preparation, five years of excavation, and one year of clean-up and restoration, for a total of seven years of work.

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HOUSTON & HARRIS COUNTY HEALTH DEPTS: Health order requires no in-person instruction until at least Sept. 8

Harris County, Texas – July 24, 2020, Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health (HCPH) and Local Health Authority for Harris County, and David Persse, MD, FACEP, FAEMS, Local Health Authority for the Houston Health Department, signed a joint public health order requiring all public and nonreligious private schools in Harris County to remain closed to in-person instruction until at least September 8. The start of on-campus instruction and activity may be delayed further based on ongoing monitoring and assessment of public health mitigation conditions.

The order follows the release of a provision from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) permitting schools to delay in-person instruction and a letter sent to local school districts from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Dr. Shah on July 20 strongly urging schools to delay in-person instruction given the ongoing public health crisis. Over the past several weeks, Harris County authorities have consulted with local school officials, parents, teachers, and other public health and safety experts on reopening plans and the most responsible path forward regarding school operations.

“In order for students to be able to learn and grow, they must also be healthy and safe,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Right now, we continue to see a severe and uncontrolled spread of this virus and it would be self-defeating to reopen schools as usual for in-person instruction. We are all desperate to move on from this crisis and get life back to normal. September 8 is still likely too soon, but the truth is, the fastest way we can all work together to bring this virus under control, the sooner we will be in a position to reopen again for the long term.”

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Backlog of criminal cases imperils justice

By Lewis Spearman

HARRIS COUNTY – Local government is trying to catch up an extreme backlog of cases threatening destruction of the criminal justice system.

While a backlog of felony and misdemeanor cases is nothing new in the county, several factors have made the situation critical. Nearly 81,000 cases are now pending, a doubling of last year.

The criminal courthouse was water damaged by Hurricane Harvey, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered housing inmates, selecting juries, and the halt of trials problematic. Add to that since the 2018 election more than 140 lawyers no longer work for the prosecutor’s office.

District Attorney Kim Ogg discharged some of the lawyers after taking office, others quit citing low pay and the progressive agenda she has initiated. More than a million and a half dollars in compensation and vacation time went with them.

All jury trials and jury selection were stopped by the Supreme Court of Texas due to precautions over COVID-19, that order was extended until September 1. Special permission from regional judges and the state Office of Court Administration can provide the rare exceptions.

A Harris County Commissioners Court meeting invited the Justice Management Institute, (JMI) a nonprofit organization to address the county’s problems over the last five years. Commissioners heard from Thomas Eberly, “inability to handle the volume of felony cases,” causes delays and long pretrial incarceration.

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