HARRIS COUNTY – Tropical Storm IMELDA never reached hurricane status, but it ended up doing more flooding than Hurricane Harvey two years ago, according to authorities.
The storm came ashore near Freeport on Tuesday evening, and by Thursday had dropped massive amounts of water on Harris County and counties to the north and east of Houston, all the way to Beaumont.
The storm took five lives, three in Beaumont and two in Harris County. Authorities said a man drove into high water on Will Clayton Parkway in Humble, and another body of Rene Salas, 52, was found in a ditch near W. Mt. Houston.
Representatives of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were in Highlands last Tuesday evening, to tell a large crowd what progress has been made on removing the Waste Pits from the Superfund site in the San Jacinto River.
A lengthy presentation by EPA Project Manager Gary Baumgarten was very technical in nature, covering testing, strategies for planning the removal of the toxins, and schedules for the work.
Baumgarten also covered the subject on everyone’s mind, the run-away barges in the rain swollen river, and the damage to the I-10 bridge. He covered the details of the incident, the damage to the site, and the fact that no pollution from the site or the barges has been detected. One barge was on top of the pits, though, and after it was removed Sunday more testing for damage must take place, he said.
With wry humor, he quipped that he had never worked on a site that had so many things happen to it, including floods, an 18 wheel crash, and barge strikes.
Tropical Storm Imelda brought widespread flooding to many areas to the north and east in Harris County, and bayous and rivers rose rapidly.
In the San Jacinto River, nine barges loaded with petroleum products broke loose from their moorings near the Waste Pits Thursday morning about midnight, and traveled downstream with two of the barges striking support columns of the I-10 bridge over the river.
The extensive structural damage caused TxDOT to close the bridge to all vehicular traffic in both directions, and announced that they would remain closed until the waters receded and the supports could be examined.
With very few alternative east/west routes, a tremendous traffic jam occurred on the east side of the county, affecting thoroughfares and local roads.
Ralph “Lee” Leroy Machala, the proprietor of Pooky’s Bar, was found a victim of a brutal murder in Chambers County on Sept. 21. Apparently he had been shot to death.
Locals say he was last seen at Pooky’s on Tuesday, Sept. 17 and reportedly his Jeep was seen in his neighborhood on Sept. 18. That Jeep is now reportedly missing.
Machala had recently self reported having diversified into concrete pouring, purchasing a portion of a bar near the Mexican border, and buying RVs in Chambers County and flipping them to individuals in Crystal Beach.
The 1979 Crosby High School graduate was an avid benefactor of the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and several times paid for funeral expenses of local friends that had hit hard times.
HIGHLANDS – The local Rotary club held a fund raiser, their 13th Annual 3- Hole Washer Board Charity Tournament last Saturday, Sept. 14 at Charlie’s Ice House. About 25 two-person teams competed for the top three places.
The event also included a live and silent auction and raffle, and the club was able to raise about $7000 thanks to the support of the community.
Polio, once a disease that attacked children and adults all around the world, leaving them crippled, has been almost eradicated through the efforts of the Rotary International. Only Afghanistan and Pakistan have a few active cases, but inoculation with the vaccine continues throughout the world.
Since 1985, Rotary has raised $1.7 billion for mass vaccination, immunizing more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
The Highlands Rotary Club, along with thousands of other Rotary clubs around the world, support this effort to eradicate polio as one of their primary charities.
This year the Washer Tournament was able to raise about $7000, of which half will go directly to the polio effort, and the other half to R.I. for national programs. In the future, Highlands can apply for a grant that will fund a local project.
CROSBY – The local school board fixed a tax rate for the school year, limited finances, and heard a yearly report on accountability last Monday.
The 2019-2020 budget and proposed tax rate is centered on the new tax rate. The Interest and Sinking tax rate is $0.48. It is higher than the additional published notice and public meeting rate of $0.42 per $100 valuation.
The difference is due mostly to the value year lag used in the calculation of state aid. Crosby state aid for debt service decreases under HB 3 due to the increase in local property values for 2019. For maintenance and operation is $1.06835 per $100 valuation and reflects the maximum House Bill 3 compressed rate. And is a decrease from the previous $1.09 rate prior to House Bill 3.
EAST HARRIS COUNTY – The San Jacinto River Coalition met last week in Highlands, and reviewed activities at the Waste Pits, and heard of other environmental concerns.
Jackie Young announced that the Dallas Region 6 of the EPA had a new administrator, Ken McQueen, replacing David Gray, who remains with EPA. In a surprise announcement, the public learned this week that the EPA had met on the site on Monday with other involved parties, reviewed progress, and issued a statement as follows:
“The work of the Superfund Task Force brought significant progress to addressing contamination at the San Jacinto waste pits site,” said Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. “EPA will continue working with our partners toward a permanent clean-up for the benefit of the Highlands community.”
“The TCEQ appreciates EPA’s efforts on the Superfund Taskforce recommendations,” said Executive Director Toby Baker. “We look forward to our continued successful partnership with EPA to ensure proper and timely cleanup of Texas federal Superfund sites.”
“Harris County’s work with the EPA and TCEQ on the cleanup of the San Jacinto Waste Pits is a great example of how government, at all levels, can work together for the common good,” said Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. “The announcement on October 11, 2017, that the EPA’s cleanup remedy will include the removal of 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin-laden waste from the beds and banks of the San Jacinto River has been a highpoint in my administration. Today’s announcement furthers my commitment to work together as we get closer to the goal.”
Jackie Young said at the meeting that the clean-up had entered Phase 2 PreDesign, which would last up to 10 weeks. At this time she is requesting from EPA Region 6 that work on the site have a third-party overseer, and a dive-team inspection. The work is being conducted by a contractor for the PRP (Potentially Responsible Parties) under an agreement with the EPA. Essentially they are examining conditions to verify the Pre-Design.
CROSBY – Jared Jamail of Crosby passed away in May 1999 at the age of 16, and for the last 21 years consecutively, his extended family has held a fund-raiser golf tournament in his honor to memory and raise scholarship money for his fellow Crosby ISD students.
According to his aunt, Pam Johnson, “Jared’s death was a sudden, devastating shock for his family and friends. We, his family, didn’t want Jared’s memory to be about his death, but about his life. The Jared Jamail Memorial Fund was established to celebrate his life by helping others. As a result, family and friends of Jared have been able to help others by providing scholarships to graduating Crosby High School students. For those of you who have helped us, a heartfelt thank you.
CROSBY – Dan Crenshaw R. 2nd U.S. Congressional District was inside Crosby Church last Saturday, Sept. 7, for a town hall style meeting to answer questions about what he reportedly said about “red flag laws” and the T.A.P.S. act, a grant program to enable law enforcement to focus on probable threats rather than chase after silly exaggerations.
Having defined the TAPS act as a resource for law enforcement that does not change due process, he indicated that it is legislation he supports, he moved on to “red flag” laws.
CROSBY – Television Station ABC13 has a recurring news program feature about neighborhoods around the city of Houston. They are now working on a program about Crosby, which will feature well known landmarks, eateries, and people.
A group of citizens familiar with Crosby met a few weeks ago with the production staff of ABC13, to exchange ideas about what should be included in the show, which will air at the end of September on various news programs, and occur over several days.
The planning group consisted of Keenan Smith of Crosby Church, Scott Davis Superintendent of Crosby ISD, Kim Harris and Stephanie Walden of the Crosby/Huffman Chamber, and Gilbert Hoffman, publisher of the Star Courier. ABC13 representative included Anchor Cynthia Cisneros, Producer Chris Nocera, and six other production assistants. The on-air host for these series is Pooja Lodhia.
It is expected that the program will feature landmark restaurants such as the Crawfish Shack, schools and churches, historical markers at Humphrey Jackson Cemetery, outstanding individuals and sports teams, key industries such as the turf farms, recreation on Lake Houston, history of Barrett Station and more. The program is meant to emphasize the best features of the community.
Suggestions on what to include in this presentation are welcome, and can be directed to Chris Nocera, producer, 713-218- 2870.