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Posts published in July 2020

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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Governor Abbott waives grade promotion requirements for 2020-2021 STAAR testing

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott announced that the grade promotion requirement related to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test for students in grades 5 and 8 has been waived for the upcoming school year. Typically, school systems must take into account a student’s score on the STAAR test to determine whether the student can be promoted to the next grade level. The traditional A-F rating system will remain in place, albeit with certain adjustments due to COVID-19.

Typically, students enrolled in grades 5 and 8 are required to re-take a STAAR test late in the school year, and sometimes again in the summer, if they do not meet grade level when taken during the spring. With this waiver, there will only be one administration of the STAAR grades 5 and 8 mathematics and reading assessments for the 2020–21 school year. The test will be administered in May to coincide with the administration of other STAAR grades 3-8 assessments.

“As always, our goal is to provide a high quality education for every Texas student,” said Governor Abbott. “This will be a uniquely challenging school year, therefore, this year is about providing students every opportunity to overcome the disruptions caused by COVID-19. By waiving these promotion requirements, we are providing greater flexibility for students and teachers, while at the same time ensuring that Texas students continue to receive a great education — which we will continue to measure with high quality assessments.”

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SWAT standoff ends in suicide blaze

Firemen watch as house is consumed by fire, possibly set by suspect being sought by police.

CROSBY – A man that law enforcement had sought mental health help for was determined to be dead by suicide and the home reduced to ashes by flames.

At about 6:30 Friday, July 24, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office received a call from family members that a sibling was threatening them with a firearm near the 6800 block of FM 1942, near Bob & Jeans Bar.

Deputies say the man’s sister made the emergency 911 after the two of them got into an altercation, then the suspect pulled out a firearm.

When deputies arrived gunshots rang out and a call was made for SWAT units to assist.

The sister and her father were able to escape from inside the home.

SWAT units’ negotiator tried communicating with the man but did not receive a response. After obtaining a warrant, SWAT units attempted to move closer to the suspect.

Suddenly, they noticed a fire within the upper portion of the home.

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OPINION, LETTER TO EDITOR: Change Robert E. Lee High School’s name, because the Baytown area deserves better

By Randy G. Dunn
July 25, 2020

I strongly support changing the name of Baytown Robert E. Lee High, the school I graduated from. The name needs to be changed because Confederate values and the values of R.E. Lee are not the values of our students and our community as they exist today. Renaming the school is clearly what is best for Baytown and Baytown’s children and school graduates.

The current name of the school honors a man who was a notorious antiAmerican traitor who fought against the United States of America (and lost), failed to honor his oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, led many battles that killed tens of thousands of Americans (including huge numbers of American troops), owned many slaves, thought that black people were inferior to whites, and fought for the independence of a rogue nation founded to preserve the institution of slavery for economic gain.

The school never should have been given that disgraceful name. (more…)

Local schools adjust start dates for academics, athletics

CROSBY-HIGHLANDS – Crosby schools are scheduled to begin opening August 13 with virtual learning, and face-to-face classes on September 8 with an option for virtual or in-person classes. Goose Creek schools will start September 8 with three weeks of virtual classes.

Both virtual and face to face classes will happen in these districts, with face-to-face enrollment dictating the number of classes. Interactions in virtual learning will be real-time, pre-recorded and posted assignments in “Schoolology,” a software program for handling such classes.

About 6 to 8% of Crosby students do not have access to on-line or virtual learning according to a surveys taken by the school. Another survey was due in back to Crosby ISD on Tuesday. Some school board members including Tanya Eagleton have advocated legislation to fund instructional virtual access for all students.

UIL SETS ATHLETIC SCHEDULE

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Barrett Station celebrates its 34th annual Homecoming Parade

Barrett Station Homecoming Parade wagon.

This past week, the town of Barrett Station, Texas continued without fail, celebrating its 34th annual homecoming. This has been a homecoming celebration like none other. If for no other reason, the pandemic environment in which the celebration has taken place. The Barrett Station Community Development Organization, host of this year’s homecoming chose to hold all of the weekly homecoming activities, virtually. And, the virtual activities presented to its residents in the form of Zoom Events on social media (at the AllAboutBarrettStation Facebook page and via Zoom, together), have proven quite successful, with a high rate of viewer participation (reference attached flyer for list of Zoom Events.)

The celebration ended with an actual parade, last Saturday — from Gulf Pump Road @ FM 2100 and proceeding south – and ending up at Riley Chambers Park. The procession began at 11:00 a.m. For safety reasons, the Riley Chambers Park was closed to prevent gathering due to COVID-19. In accordance with safety measures as handed down by local government, all parade participants were strongly encouraged to: practice social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands. This year’s homecoming theme was “One Community, One Voice.”

“Black Town Matters” painted mural.

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Covid-19 testing now at Crosby Community Center

Free COVID drive-through testing at Crosby Community Center Monday, July 20 through Friday, July 24 from 8 am to 4 pm. Pre-registration is required but can be done at the test site. Participants will hear via telephone within 24 hours to verify information and results should be received within 48 to 72 hours. Plans are working to make the center a permanent site for testing but has not been achieved yet. For more information, visit www.coronavirus.gov.

Run-off election holds surprise results

Eagleton in a landslide; Garcia wins tight race

HARRIS COUNTY – Tuesday, the Democratic and Republican Parties held their Run-Off Primary elections and the results in several races were different than had been predicted.

Jacinto City and vicinity had a showdown between Precinct 2 Constable incumbent Chris Diaz against challenger Lt. Jerry Garcia. This was a close race, with Garcia winning by only 229 votes of 9,505 cast. This race had been marked with negative charges of unethical practices and favoritism on both sides.

Substantially more people voted in the Democratic Party in early voting at several Precinct 3 locations. Early voting counts in Crosby were 744 Democratic and 434 Republican most probably due to the hotly contentious local Precinct 3 Constable race between incumbent Sherman Eagleton, and previous constable Ken Jones, and the fact that there were more contests at issue for the Democrats. Over 150,000 votes were cast county wide on the Democratic ticket. The Republicans drew about 60,000 on their ballot.

Voters are no longer designated to specific voting precincts but habitually tend to vote at locations near where they live and with which they are familiar.

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Application period opens for Harris County small business recovery fund

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo at a news conference Monday, explaining the new Small Business Recovery Fund. She also strongly advised everyone in Harris County to wear a face mask and practice safe distancing.

Grants of up to $25,000 Available; Recipients Will be Selected at End of 10 Day Application Window

Harris County, Texas – July 13, 2020 – Eligible businesses can apply for financial assistance through the Harris County Small Business Recovery Fund today through Friday, July 24. The $30 million grant program, which was unanimously approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court on June 30, prioritizes struggling small businesses that have not yet received funds from other COVID-19 relief programs.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Harris County’s economy, and the pandemic has hit them especially hard,” said County Judge Lina Hidalgo “While county government alone cannot make up for all of the loss, we must do all we can to help as many as we can.”

To be eligible for grants of up to $25,000, applicants must meet the following requirements:

– Must conduct business in Harris County, within Precincts 1-4. Businesses located in the City of Houston are not eligible unless located within Precinct 1

– Must employ fewer than 30 employees (including owner(s))

– Must have been in business for the entire calendar year 2019

– Must be in good standing with local, state, and federal governments with no outstanding tax obligations or liabilities

– Must be able to verify negative impact on operations due to the pandemic

After the application process closes on Friday, July 24, at 3:30 p.m., eligible businesses will be entered into a weighted lottery based on the size of their operation. Program funds are limited and only a subset of qualified applicants will receive grants. Those selected will receive 75 percent of the funds upon approval, and 25 percent of the funds in November 2020.

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