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Construction progressing for San Jacinto College’s new Maritime Training Center at port

The 45,000-square-foot facility will prepare new mariners and serve as local training site.

The 45,000-square-foot facility will prepare new mariners and serve as local training site.

PASADENA, Texas – A recent groundbreaking of the Maritime Training Center was held to mark the beginning stages of construction of the future home of all maritime training at San Jacinto College.

At the site of 3700 Old Highway 146 in La Porte, one can see the view of concrete piers that will support the 45,000-square-foot San Jacinto College Maritime Training Center.

San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer explained how the rapid growth of the College’s maritime program over the course of four years has brought the program to this point of expansion.

“When we began envisioning what we wanted to see for our maritime training program, we knew we had to build a world-class facility,” said Dr. Hellyer. Since 2010, the College has awarded approximately 3,200 U.S. Coast Guard-required certifications and developed the state’s first associate degree maritime transportation program. In 2012, the College purchased 13 acres of land along the Port of Houston to begin the process of building the Maritime Training Center.

“We looked at a lot of different locations along the water, and we kept coming back to this property,” added Dr. Hellyer. “The Maritime Training Center was developed based on industry input and leadership, and will allow us to put in place the training areas that are required to make this program a success now and in the long term.”

Maritime employment remains strong in Texas, as the state leads the nation in export tonnage and imports. Well over 1 million jobs are related to marine cargo activity at the Port of Houston and private terminals, according to a report by the Port of Houston Authority. Issues such as an aging workforce and expansion of the Panama Canal also drive the need to train and prepare more mariners for the industry.

The San Jacinto College Maritime Training Center, set for completion in approximately one year, will provide certificate, associate degree, and incumbent worker maritime training, and will include U.S. Coast Guard-required and approved deck and engineering coursework to prepare mariners for work commercial vessels, from deckhand on an inland towboat to captain of an oil tanker.

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Congressman Green hosts senior town hall meeting

Congressman Gene Green hosted the annual Senior Town Hall, and addressed with audience with updates on legislation affecting them. Government officials, seated, also answered questions.

Congressman Gene Green hosted the annual Senior Town Hall, and addressed with audience with updates on legislation affecting them. Government officials, seated, also answered questions.

Congressman Gene Green, representing the Texas District 29, was busy last week, hosting a Senior Town Hall Meeting for his district on Thursday morning at the Northeast Community Center, and a Health Fair at M.O. Campbell Center on Saturday.

At the Senior Town Hall, Green was accompanied by government officials that answered questions and presented new information in their respective fields. These included Andy Hardwick, Social Security Administration; Paula Johnson, HC Area Agency on Aging; and Michael Coulter, Medicare Outreach Centers.

Green had some good news for Social Security benefits, that they have been extended by Congress to 2030 for Medicare, and 2033 for Social Security.

He also said that the Part D drug “donut hole” will be reduced over the next 10 years. He reminded attendees that full Social Security benefits are available after the age of 66 yrs.

In Social Security news, Hardwick noted that they now figure life span at 85 yrs. It is possible to establish and maintain your account online, avoiding waiting rooms at the Social Security office.
Johnson said that the Area Agency on Aging runs many programs for seniors, including Meals on Wheels, legal assistance, daycare center (for adults), health maintenance programs, home repair, nonemergency transportation, and fall-prevention surveys and construction.

Coulter reminded the audience that the annual enrollment period for Medicare was ending on February 15. He urged seniors to sign up for a Medicare Advantage program, and get a “wellness” exam free every year. He said that if you are on Medicare, you do not need to sign up for ACA (Obama Care).

Green spoke about veterans programs and help from his office. Anyone can contact him at 713-999-5879 or 713-330-0761 for assistance with VA or other problems.

Rodeo Art Show “kicks up dust” at North Shore HS

THE STAGE OF NORTH SHORE HIGH SCHOOL WAS FILLED WITH RODEO ART.

THE STAGE OF NORTH SHORE HIGH SCHOOL WAS FILLED WITH RODEO ART.

Seven winners will exhibit at HLS&R

The Galena Park Independent School District’s annual Rodeo Art Show was held on Thursday, January 15 in the North Shore Senior High School auditorium. This event featured artwork by approximately 450 students in grades K-12 from each elementary, middle and high school campus in the district.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Art Committee judged the 2015 GPISD Rodeo Art Show and bestowed special recognition on seven pieces of artwork selected as “Best in Show” and “Gold Medal” winners. Those winning pieces will be prominently displayed in the HLSR’s Hayloft Gallery at the Reliant Center throughout the duration of this year’s Rodeo. Approximately 50 pieces of art, as determined by the final round of Grand Prix judging, will be auctioned. Every participant in the School Art Program is a winner, receiving a certificate of merit signed by the Show president, and a blue, red or white ribbon for achievement.

This year’s elementary “Best of Show” winner was Houston Towner (Havard Elementary) and the “Gold Medal” winner was Trinity Garcia (MacArthur Elementary). The middle school “Best of Show” winner was Marlene Santaloya (Woodland Acres Middle School) and the “Gold Medal” winner was Daniel Medina (North Shore Middle School). The high school “Best of Show” award went to Maria Rivera (North Shore Sr. High School). High school “Gold Medal” awards went to Adam Garcia (North Shore Sr. High School) and Zulma Mejia (North Shore Sr. High School).

Congratulations to all of this year’s Rodeo Art Show participants and winners.

San Jacinto College – North Campus pioneer dies at 95

Proctor Woodward Brightwell

Proctor Woodward Brightwell

Our dear dad, Proctor Woodward Brightwell, passed away on January 13, 2015.

At 95 he truly embodied the “greatest generation.” He was the youngest of 5 children and was employed for 48 years by the same company in the gas pipeline business. He served 10 years on the San Jacinto Junior College Board of Trustees and was instrumental in the start of the North Campus. His commitment to technical education was honored by the naming of the Proctor Brightwell Technical Vocational Building – the second building to be built on the North Campus.

An inveterate traveler, by age 80 he had been to all 7 continents. For over a decade he lived and traveled in his RV for 6 months every year, in addition to enjoying many cruises.

He leaves a wonderful legacy for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We were blessed to call him our father and “Grampie,” to have him for as many years as we did, and to know in so many tangible ways his love and support for us. He is survived by daughters Emily and Eileen, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Inauguration of Texas Governor

Texans celebrated the inauguration of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with plenty of fanfare Tuesday in Austin. Here’s a look at some of the festivities.

inauguration 1

inauguration 2

PHOTOS BY JERRY & JULI FALLIN FOR THE NORTH CHANNEL STAR and Other Media Sources

Rancor continues in Galena Park; Council walks out

WALKING OUT –– Galena Park commissioners Juan Flores, right, Lois Killough, city attorney Jim DeFoyd, and city administrator Robert Pruett stand and prepare to leave the special called council meeting, after arguments about how the meeting was being run by Mayor Moya brought the proceedings to an unproductive halt. Monday’s special meeting had been called to resolve the problem created when the Mayor’s special counsel, attorney Edgardo Colon, had issued a letter to Galena Park’s bank ordering the checking accounts to be frozen.

WALKING OUT –– Galena Park commissioners Juan Flores, right, Lois Killough, city attorney Jim DeFoyd, and city administrator Robert Pruett stand and prepare to leave the special called council meeting, after arguments about how the meeting was being run by Mayor Moya brought the proceedings to an unproductive halt. Monday’s special meeting had been called to resolve the problem created when the Mayor’s special counsel, attorney Edgardo Colon, had issued a letter to Galena Park’s bank ordering the checking accounts to be frozen. (Photo courtesy of KPRC)

Mayor attempts to freeze bank checks

GALENA PARK – A special called city council meeting dissolved into near chaos on Monday afternoon, when members of the city commission or council, and the Mayor were unable to resolve a dispute over authority to sign checks for city obligations.

This is the latest disagreement that Mayor Moya has had with council members and the city administrator Robert Pruett.

The mayor has claimed, since taking office in January, that the council and administrator have been conducting city business in a way that violates the city charter. She has presented copies of the charter at council meetings, highlighting instances of non-compliance.

Mayor Moya also claims her signature was illegally removed from the accounts, but city officials say she refused to put her name on the document.

The bank, Comerica, requires checks to have two authorized signatures to be honored and paid. In order for the city to continue paying its bills, Council voted a resolution in July to allow the mayor-pro tem, Danny Simms, to sign the checks in lieu of the mayor. This arrangement was approved by the city attorney, Jim DeFoyd, and accepted by the bank. The city secretary must also sign, or as a backup the city administrator.

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East Freeway bank robber threatens to have bomb

Suspect wanted for bomb threatened in Bank of America robbery.

Suspect wanted for bomb threatened in Bank of America robbery.

The FBI needs the public’s help identifying a bank robber who threatened to have a bomb during a midmorning robbery of a Bank of America branch located inside an office building at 12605 East Freeway in Houston, Texas. Surveillance photographs of the bank robber are being released and a Crime Stoppers reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the bank robber’s identity and arrest.

At approximately 10:05 a.m., the man entered the bank and approached a teller. He passed the teller a note threatening to have a bomb. Tellers gave the man an undisclosed amount of cash which he placed inside a blue vinyl zippered bag. He left with the cash bag in his hands. Several customers were inside during the bank robbery, but no one was physically hurt.

The bank robber was described as a Hispanic male, about 5’3” – 5’5” with a stocky build. He wore a dark colored leather-type jacket with a grey hooded sweatshirt underneath, a blue colored knit hat, reading glasses with wired frames, and one white glove covering his right hand during the robbery. He also carried a blue vinyl zippered bag into the bank and left with the bag full of cash.

Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000.00 for information leading to the charging and arrest of this robber. If you have information about this case, please call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 713-222-TIPS (8477), or the Houston office of the FBI at 713-693-5000.

CONGRESS UPDATES: Rep. Gene Green named Ranking Member of Health Subcommittee

gene green(Washington, DC) – On Thursday, January 8, Representative Gene Green was elected by unanimous consent to serve as Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health for the 114th Congress.

“It is an honor to serve in leadership on the Health Subcommittee on behalf of our District and all Americans,” Green said. “We’ve made great strides in health care reform, but some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens still lack access to the care they need. This Congress, one of our top priorities will be to address these gaps and foster a better system that will provide accessible, world-class care for all, regardless of age, gender, or income.”

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Getting Rid of Clutter

Whether you plan to stay in your home forever or sell it and move to smaller accommodations, getting rid of clutter can make your life easier and safer.

Here are a few very good reasons to declutter:

• Fewer opportunities to trip and fall. Consider what happens when a senior falls and breaks a bone: hospital, rehab and the question of where to go afterward. Can the senior go home and live independently again? Sometimes the answer is no.

• Organizing makes things easier to find.

• Clutter can be dangerous. If emergency services have to come to your house, will they be able to get to you? Or are pathways in rooms too narrow? Taken to an extreme, holding on to too many possessions can be called hoarding, and sometimes social services will step in to deal with it. Your best bet is to declutter long before it gets to that point.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Magazines and newspapers: Allow yourself three of each. When a fourth monthly magazine or daily paper arrives, throw out the oldest one in the stack.

• Keep incoming bills or correspondence in one spot, perhaps a basket or folder on the dining-room table, until you write checks or reply.

• Instead of viewing it as an overwhelming task, work on decluttering for an hour a day.

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Special tax deal for Valero approved by city

VALERO REFINERY in the Manchester neighborhood of the City of Houston.

VALERO REFINERY in the Manchester neighborhood of the City of Houston.

Manchester neighbors unhappy with potential pollution

HOUSTON – Houston City Council in December approved a deal with Valero Refinery to designate their property as outside the city limits, for tax purposes.

Valero had asked several times for the abatement, saying that if it did not get the relief, it would probably build the expansion elsewhere, in Louisiana.

As planned, Valero said they will expand and spend up to $800 million on the Manchester location, and bring 25 new permanent jobs to the area.

The approval by city council was on a 11-6 vote, with Robert Gallegos, who represents the Manchester neighborhood, voting against the measure. Also voting against were Dwight Boykins, Richard Nguyen, Ed Gonzalez, Mike Laster, and Larry Green.

Mayor Parker said that the company had met with Gallegos several times in 2014, and he had an opportunity to call for public meetings and did not. Therefore, when the Texas Organizing Project asked for a delay in the vote, she indicated it was too late.

Gallegos said that the city, led by Andy Icken the development director, had been negotiating with Valero for a year and a half, even before he was on council. He said that Valero claimed to have the neighborhood’s approval for the expansion.

However, officials with Valero apparently communicated on their expansion plans, but not on the terms for a tax break with the city, which is an important part of this negotiation and action by city council.

Under the agreement with the city, about 160 acres of the total 190 acres that Valero owns will be designated as an industrial district, outside the city limits. The remaining 29 acres must remain in the city due to a quirk in the law about how far the property is from the Houston Ship Channel. This tax abatement is set to last for 15 years, according to the city.

This arrangement will result in a $5.5 million reduction in taxes on the current facilities at the Manchester site, allowing it to use the money for the expansion.

Icken said that the city will actually make money on the deal, after fees are paid generated by the new facilities.

Without the industrial district designation, Valero would have paid $55 million in taxes on existing and new facilities, but now this will be only $38 million for the 15 year period, amounting to a savings of $17 million for the company.

Valero pointed out in its request that its neighbor refineries are already in industrial districts, with lower taxes. Houston has 104 of these districts, with fees paid in lieu of property taxes.

The deal will expire in the year 2027 unless it is renegotiated. It also has milestones that must be met. Construction must start by 2017, and completed by 2020, or the property would be re-annexed into the city and the tax break annulled.

Valero also got a tax break on this project from the State of Texas. In exchange for committing to this expansion, the state gave Valero a $1.6 million rebate of state sales and use taxes, related to the project.

Valero has been active statewide in seeking tax breaks for its facilities. In several cases it has sued school districts, to have its property assessed value reduced. In these cases, the school districts were forced to return taxes already collected and budgeted, thus putting their own budgets under duress.

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