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Posts published in “Day: March 27, 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:

Overpass starts March 2009; widening FM 2100 delayed

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

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.