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Posts published in “Featured”

Arkema trial: Prosecutor drops assault charges

HOUSTON – The Arkema trail is on hold currently due to COVID-19 but resumes on September 21, already prosecutors have submitted for and State Judge Belinda Hill accepted on Monday to drop assault charges in the release of toxic fumes affecting to two deputies.

The prosecution admitted that charges against three company executive may have been based on a lie in relation to reckless behavior charges.

“Prosecutors always have a duty to seek justice; in this case, a prosecutor felt that there was enough evidence for a criminal charge, but that he could not prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt at this time, so he requested it be dismissed,” Dave Schiller, Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Richard Rowe and Leslie Comardelle (the former plant manager) are still charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Possible consequences for those charges could be $1 million dollar fine for Arkema and five years for the decision makers.

The defense argues that prosecutors are still withholding exculpatory evidence, illegally.

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Return to on-campus classes is different as schools fight pandemic

Social Distancing in the classrooms.

CROSBY ISD, GOOSE CREEK CONSOLIDATED ISD – Schools began face-to-face locally here last Tuesday under circumstances that are less than ideal, unprecedented and likely a logistical nightmare.

This week is an intensive experiment involving limited school bus occupancy, changed pick-up locations, new procedures in arrival, a bevy of new props like masks, shields, sanitizers, distancing and new rules to be enforced all in an effort to educate without infecting people with a virus that is undetected in nearly half of the cases that contract it.

A new phone application is ordered to better explain the bus situation. My Stop App from Versatrans is designed to notify parents of their child’s bus location and the estimated time of arrival at bus stops, allowing parents to plan accordingly, in Crosby ISD.

“With all the carefully prepared plans the district has put together, everything is new, most likely we will be adapting as we go,” said Crosby ISD Superintendent Scott Davis at a meeting.

There will be lightweight, portable sanitizer stands, desks divided by plastic partitions, plastic bagging for personal items, disinfectant spray as well as the required instruments to learn to write. Parents are asked to check for signs of illness and temperatures. Behavior monitoring on campus will need to be more strict. Every individual at the campuses will be asked to social distance.

Social Distancing in the Auditorium

Apart from all this, there will be differences from campus to campus in the same district dictated by circumstances. (more…)

Public input by ZOOM meeting for Pct 2 Parks & Trails Comprehensive Plan

A map of Precinct 2 shows the extent of population density, and location of parks as indicated by colored dots.

Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia held a Zoom meeting last Monday night, to get the public’s input and ideas on how to develop a Comprehensive Plan for Parks and Trails in Precinct 2.

About 100 persons participated in the session, which lasted about an hour, exceeding the time planned because of the enthusiasm of the callers and the commissioner.

Adrian Garcia said that he wants Pct. 2 to have a reputation for outstanding parks, that attract people and publicity, and where people can have a good time. He noted that good parks also increase property values.

Garcia revealed that he has an experienced architectural landscape and urban planning firm working on the project. This is Asakura Robinson, headed by Keiji Asakura.

Also participating in the Zoom meeting and the planning for the parks are representatives from Pct. 2 and also the Harris County engineering department. Another consultant is Jose Eduardo Sanchez, a community engagement specialist.

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Hurricane relief to Disaster areas

President Trump, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, FEMA officials, and others walk through the debris of the hurricane Laura disaster that struck Lake Charles, and other portions of Southern Louisiana.

ORANGE – Texas Senator Ted Cruz capped a day of looking into the remnants of Hurricane Laura by saying, “Texans all across the state, Texans here in southeast Texas are breathing a giant sigh of relief right now. This hurricane could have been much, much worse. We just completed an aerial tour of the region and the damage is much more contained than prior hurricanes have been. Obviously, our hearts are heavy for our neighbors in Louisiana. We toured some of that damage as well. The damage in Louisiana is significantly greater, but given the magnitude of this storm, it could have been so much worse.”

And the storms will get worse: Hurricane Harvey almost exactly three years before holds the record for fastest and strongest intensifications in the Gulf of Mexico, for two weeks it held the record for fastest and strongest intensification anywhere then Hurricane Irma beat that. Laura went from tropical storm 35 miles per hour winds to 150 miles per hour overnight.

Hurricane relief is needed by neighbors in eastern Louisiana area who are recovering from Hurricane Laura. The following items are needed: 1. Tarps, 2. Non-perishable food items , 3. Batteries, 4. Water, 5. Diapers (size 3, 4 and 5), 6. Baby wipes, 7. Disinfectant wipes.

Private efforts including Project Hope (844) 349- 0188, supporting healthcare workers worldwide, Samaritan fund, and others like the Red Cross re gathering donations.

Saturday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner indicated the city is partnering with several local businesses and entities to gather donated supplies for residents who were hit by Hurricane Laura.

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HURRICANE LAURA HEADS FOR TEXAS

This map from the National Weather Service shows the likely path of Hurricane Laura, and how it is gaining strength as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to be a Category 3 hurricane, with winds of at least 75 mph with gusts to 115 mph. The expected landfall is the border between Texas and Louisiana, but the cone of possibility indicates Houston may feel some or all of the effects of the storm.

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference at the Alternate State Operations Center in Austin where he provided an update on the state’s response to Hurricane Laura. This hurricane is expected to bring heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds, and storm surge. He announced that he has added 36 counties to his State Disaster Declaration due to the threat of severe rain, wind, and flooding.

During the press conference, Governor Abbott announced that reception centers in San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin are open. The state is providing buses to transport Texans that are evacuating. There are also over 225,000 hotel rooms available across the state to provide shelter to evacuees. A full list of mandatory and voluntary evacuations can be found on the Texas Hurricane Center web page. Governor Abbott urged Texans to take action now to protect themselves and their property.

“Hurricane Laura is rapidly intensifying and poses a major threat to communities in Southeast Texas and along the coast,” said Governor Abbott. “Texans in the path of this storm should waste no time preparing for the impact of Hurricane Laura and take immediate action to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. I urge our Southeast and coastal communities to heed the guidance of local officials, follow evacuation orders, and remain vigilant as we brace for the impact of Hurricane Laura. The State of Texas will continue to monitor this storm and provide the resources needed to keep Texans safe.”

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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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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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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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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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COVID-19 SPREAD CONTINUES: Harris County raises threat level to ‘Severe’, advises masks, stay home

Judge Hidalgo Urges Residents to Stay Home, Leave Only for Vital Needs

Harris County, Texas — June 26, 2020 — Today at noon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo updated the county’s COVID-19 public threat level from significant (orange, level two) to severe (red, level one). Level one indicates a “severe and uncontrolled” level of COVID19, meaning outbreaks are worsening, contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded, and healthcare surge is likely. The elevation to threat level 1 – the highest in the system – comes as a variety of data demonstrate alarming trends that are on track to overwhelm the local healthcare system.

“The harsh truth is that our current infection rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the very near future,” Judge Hidalgo said. “We hope this serves as a wakeup call to everyone that the time to act is now. I’m calling on all residents and businesses to take immediate action to help our medical community get this virus back in check before it spirals beyond control and more lives are needlessly sacrificed. Stay and work from home except for essential business. Wear a face covering if you absolutely have to be out. We’ve flattened the curve before, and we can do it again, but we need to buckle down and do this together.”

Under a level one threat, the public is urged to:

Stay home, except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine

Avoid and cancel all gatherings of any size.

Essential workers practice special precautions to prevent spread.

All vulnerable individuals (65+ or with pre-existing health conditions) stay home.

Self-quarantine for 14 days if in close and prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19. Wear face coverings to protect others.

Avoid non-essential business and personal travel. Avoid public transportation where possible.

Cancel visits to nursing homes, long term care facilities, and hospitals.

Avoid and cancel all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including concerts, rodeos, large sporting events, etc. Schools and after-school activities for youth close, as directed by educational authorities.

Area hospitals have reached their full ICU base capacity and are now relying on surge space to treat patients. The number of daily cases and hospitalizations have also reached their highest point since the beginning of the pandemic.

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