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PRESIDENT TRUMP IN CROSBY WEDNESDAY

President Donald Trump generates excitement among his supporters.

CROSBY – “It’s like the circus is coming to town!” exclaimed one Republican resident of the combined excitement and trepidation of having the presidential motorcade come to an unincorporated area that voted for him in the Presidential election by a whopping 74%.

A flurry of questions poured into the Star-Courier concerning where folks could get a view or when traffic could be expected to be stopped on FM 2100 or Foley Road.

Arrival at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center comes in controversy. Presidential executive orders to facilitate making petrochemicals and speed up pipeline construction in the wake of four petrochemical fires in less than one month and the union facility recently became non-profit, thus reducing taxes paid to local first responders. White House officials announced the orders will grant incentives for investors to make an energy infrastructure, streamlining pipeline projects. Last May Trump issued a permit to initiate the delayed Keystone XL Pipeline.

The International Training and Education Center is about 266 acres between Newport and Foley Road.

President Trump indicated reducing red tape around pipelines would allow the US to remain undisputed leader of the world in natural gas and oil in the future.

Of course, the new permit is under court challenge, environmentalists sued over the issue of Congress, not the executive branch, is granted constitutional rule over federal lands.

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Another pipeline fire at Crosby oil facility

Only one day after the major fire at the KMCO plant in Crosby, the Crosby fire department was fighting another oil facility fire on Sralla Road. Crosby and Highlands fire departments were called out Wednesday night, May 3rd, after lightning struck storage tanks. Highlands Fire Chief Harvey Little said that the three storage tanks were completely destroyed by flames. He responded with a brush truck, because the facility is far from the road over unpaved fields. This is the same oil well that had a fire about one year ago. See page 8 for additional photos. (Photo by Lewis Spearman, Star-Courier).

County Attorney shuts down KMCO

Harris County, Texas — The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office (HCFMO) worked with the Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan (HCAO) to initiate an Agreed Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The order requested: “Defendant KMCO, its employees, agents, successors, and assigns, are hereby (1) ordered to cease all operations and not resume operations at the KMCO Facility until a Fire and Life Safety Inspection is completed by the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.”

“The safety of the residents of Harris County is our number one priority,” said Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen. “HCFMO collaborated with HCAO to request a TRO against the defendant to ensure regulatory enforcement of fire and life safety codes. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts as we work towards a safer Harris County.”

Goose Creek plans $335 million bond vote

Goose Creek CISD superintendent Randall O’Brien speaking at Rotary

HIGHLANDS – Goose Creek school district is planning on a large $335 million bond issue to place before voters on election day, Saturday, May 4. School superintendent Randall O’Brien, and others on a planning committee, have been meeting with civic groups and citizens throughout the district to explain the need for this large sum of money, and how it would be used.

O’Brien spoke on Tuesday to the Highlands Rotary club, reviewing the history of the last bond issue in 2013, and the need for another one to keep up with the growth of the student population at present, and as projected into 2040. At that time, he said there would be another 6000 homes in the Baytown area, and those children must be accommodated properly.

As superintendent, O’Brien does not officially take a position on the passage of the bond referendum, but only explains the scope of the vote and answers questions about what it would accomplish, and how much it would cost the average taxpayer.

This is the second attempt at a bond issue to provide facilities and upgrades. Last year, a larger two part referendum was defeated, partially because it included about $50 million for a multi-purpose center that the taxpayers deemed not necessary. This year’s bond committee had 42 community leaders, and included some of last year’s critics. Their discussions refined the needs which would be included in the bond package.

The bond referendum includes money for five areas:

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Explosion, fire at KMCO plant in Crosby

Smoke billows from the KMCO plant fire, as seen by the neighbors and first responders on Ramsey Road in Crosby.

CROSBY – Shortly after 11:00 a.m. Tuesday many thought their buildings had been struck by a car because they were jarred violently, but it was the third of local plant fires in a couple of weeks, this time at KMCO, L.L.C. and this time it was deadly.

Two employees were taken by ambulance to nearby Crosby Church for Lifeflight helicopters to pick them up. At least, another man was killed in the incident although at first was reported missing. By press time the names of the injured or deceased had not been released.

A firefighter indicated that the two injured employees were in critical condition when found, having been burned over most of their bodies.

No one would call the fire out before 5:00 p.m. although apparently considerably under more control by 2:30 p.m. Crosby VFD was first on the scene, followed by ESD#5, then Sheldon units. Crosby VFD encountered low water pressure (that same problem as had extended the fire in Deer Park on March 17 and 18.) No less than 16 fire tanker trucks of water from surrounding communities were brought in to contain the flames.

According to John Foley, President and Chief Executive Officer of KMCO L.L.C., “There was an incident resulting in an ignition and fire today April 2, 2019 at KMCO, LLC in Crosby, Texas. We are deeply saddened to confirm at this time that there have been injuries and one fatality. Those injured have been transported for medical treatment. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals involved, as well as our first responders, employees, and our community.

“We have activated the company’s emergency response team and incident command center. We are working with local first responders to extinguish the fire. We will give another update as additional information becomes available.

“We apologize for any inconvenience to residents in the vicinity. The well-being of our people, neighbors and the environment remain our top priorities.”

Later company officials reported that a fire was touched off by isobutylene then accelerated by ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a transfer line blazed, it caught a tank afire and the tank started a nearby building blazing that was packed with dry chemicals.

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Crosby ISD exits Exigency

Texas Education Agency personnel on hand to inform of a monitor and what the implications are for overseeing the reimbursement of funds gathered from parents for computers. At right is Mary Ann Whittaker, monitor of Crosby.

CROSBY – At the Board of Trustee’s meeting on Monday night, few could have been more glad to see consideration to terminate the Declaration of Financial Exigency than Superintendent Scott Davis. The burden of having to layoff educators and others fell on him following the determination of necessity. He had reported to the board of the District’s expectation of ethical behavior and fraud awareness and reporting training and the TCEQ Supplemental Environmental Project immediately before.

The Texas Education Agency had representatives speak during the meeting to inform the board of needing to install a monitor to see that the charges for computer maintenance taken from students’ parents are reimbursed.

According to T.E.A. Dr. Jason Hewitt the monitor is needed to see that the Corrective Action Plan, approved by the board at the last meeting, goes into effect to “refund the fees collected inappropriately. The monitor assures that plan is done effectively. What I also want to inform you is that — I am the L.E.A. — there are four areas that we look at we look at: statutory compliance, academic accountability — Crosby doesn’t have much to worry about that — financial accountability, and we look at governance.”

He indicated that if there is any kind of complaint filed, she is here on the grounds to look at that.

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Cody Bill passes House with 145 – 0 vote

AUSTIN – The final vote in the House of Representatives got unanimous approval of those attending the session on Tuesday for HB 76, the Cody Stephens Bill.

According to Scott Stephens, who has made it his mission to get Texas to use E.C.G. machines in addition to the exam a doctor does with a stethoscope, “The Texas House of Representatives voted to pass HB 76 today with no opposition! This was a huge step for us and for Cody’s Law, bringing us so much closer to getting heart screening into every school across Texas.

“This is a wonderful cause for celebration. We definitely want to take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work from Rep. Dan Huberty, lobbyist Kathy Grant, everyone who testified at the Public Education Committee hearing, and all of you who called and wrote letters to your representatives to vote in favor of HB 76.”

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ZXP is key industry in Highlands

JAMES TAYLOR, CEO ZXP

HIGHLANDS – One of the oldest and largest businesses in Highlands is operating under new ownership and management, according to James Taylor, the new CEO. The company is now known as ZXP Technologies, and has a history of over 80 years in Highlands, when it was originally a canning factory for figs and fruit.

Taylor spoke at a recent Rotary Club meeting, talking about the business success, and the work culture at the company.

Taylor said that since his group took ownership in February 2018, they have seen business revenues increase by 50%. One key to this is focusing on their best customers. At one time they had 290 customers, and now they concentrate on only the top 10.

Taylor spoke about the size of the business, which has 206 employees, and now has no “temporary” workers, a major change from previous policy. He said this has improved attitudes and work efficiency. The company also has instituted continuing education opportunities for all employees, and raised pay for everyone. Taylor has instilled the workers with a sense of responsibility for their work product.

The company’s products include lubricants, transmission fluids, and antifreeze. 60% of their products are exported in bulk, he noted.

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Washburn Tunnel to close for improvements March 29 to April 8

HOUSTON, Texas – The Washburn Tunnel will be closed for 10 days, beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 29th to 4 a.m. on Monday, April 8th. During this time, crews will be conducting in-depth maintenance to the Tunnel lining as part of the Washburn Tunnel Concrete Repairs project, which was planned proactively to preserve the life of the Tunnel.

Drivers are reminded to use alternate routes during the closure. Alternate routes include I-610 East Loop Freeway, Sam Houston Parkway, and Highway 146

Huge Deer Park tank blaze seen citywide

FINALLY EXTINGUISHED: Chemical storage tanks in Deer Park near the San Jacinto Monument blazed for days in spite of efforts to extinguish them. The smoke cloud was seen throughout the Houston Region, as far west as Katy. Nearby residents were concerned about the affect that the fire and smoke might have on their health. By Wednesday of this week, the fourth day, the flames and smoke were gone. (Photo courtesy KPRC)

Fires in two oil facilities in East Harris County the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day took the shine off the green. Saturday there was a fire at the Baytown Exxon Olefines Plant and St. Patrick’s Day was the time of the origin of the fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park.

Baytown and Exxon firefighters and mutual aide rushed to 5000 Bayway Drive at about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. All said and done, there was no shelter in place or evacuation called for there, and the fire was successfully contained without injury.

Sunday morning as many went to church a fire started near a chemical storage tank in Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s grounds in Deer Park. Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze to five tanks but when low water pressure occurred in the early hours of Monday, three other tanks caught fire. This cancelled authorities’ predictions of a rapid containment for the blaze.

The terminal is closed and evacuated, it stores gasoline additives and paint thinners. Some say these chemicals can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, headache and irritation to respiratory systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ, and the Harris County Pollution Control are closely watching air quality. So far, all agencies are saying the dark black smoke blanketing the region isn’t as dangerous as it looks, even as plumes envelop the county.

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