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Posts published in October 2017

Alcohol Sales on Ballot in Galena Park

NEIGHBORHOODS IN GALENA PARK are displaying signs that read Vote Against Cantinas, Beer Joints & Liquor stores. Local election on this issue is November 7, but early voting started Oct. 23.

By Allan Jamail

The Galena Park Mayor and Commissioners, after receiving a citizen petition with 327 voter’s signatures, required them to conduct an election where voters will decide whether or not the city would issue license for the sale and consumption of alcohol in the city. The election dates are October 23rd through November 3rd for Early Voting, and Election Day Tuesday, November 7, 2017 from 7 AM to 7 PM. After three days of voting (October 25th), according to City Secretary and Election Judge Mayra Gonzales, there have only been about 124 votes cast.

The two voting locations for both Early Voting and Election Day are at the Alvin Baggett Community Building located at 1302 Keene Street for voting precinct 081 or at City Hall located at 2000 Clinton Drive for voting precincts 208, 857 and 860.

North Channel Star writer Allan Jamail reached out to each of the elected officials and asked how they’d be voting. Commissioners Eric Broussard, Barry Ponder, and Oscar Silva, Jr. didn’t give their decision.

Mayor Esmeralda Moya said she didn’t want to influence voters either way and she’ll honor the voters’ decision regardless of the outcome. She said, “If the sale of alcohol is approved I’ll make sure all the laws and regulations are being obeyed and the citizens will be safe and their wellbeing will be maintained.”

Commissioner Rodney Chersky said, “I’m highly in favor of the legal sale of alcohol in the city. In the event it passes, we’ve already put laws and zoning regulations in effect to make sure no beer joints, cantinas, night clubs or sexually oriented businesses will be allowed in the city. I will personally vouch for this; rest assured it will not happen.”

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Additional repairs required for San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund Site

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at right, discusses EPA’s recent finding of damage at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, with activist Jackie Young, left, and Harris County attorneys Vince Ryan and Terry O’Rourke.

DALLAS (October 19, 2017) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a plan for further repairs to stabilize the riverbed near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site in Harris County, Texas that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Following the hurricane, EPA has been conducting an assessment of the site to determine the extent of damage caused by the storm, and the potentially responsible parties found erosion of the river bottom adjacent to the temporary armored cap. EPA directed the potentially responsible parties to stabilize a 40-foot by 400-foot area adjacent to the east side of the cap to prevent future undermining of the armored cap.The temporary armored cap has not been damaged in this area.

Since the hurricane, the survey of the San Jacinto riverbed found erosion of the river bottom up to 12 feet deep near the cap. The total area of river bottom eroded in the vicinity of the cap was over 20,000 square feet. The stabilization work approved today includes placement of a geotextile fabric layer covered with at least three feet of rock with a median diameter of eight inches. It is anticipated that construction will take about three weeks to complete, weather and tide permitting.

EPA Administrator Pruitt Commits to Dioxin Cleanup in meeting with County Attorney Vince Ryan

At a meeting hosted by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt committed to using the full authority of the EPA to remove dioxin from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.

Ryan, members of the County Attorney’s Office, and other stakeholders met last Thursday with Pruitt to discuss the cleanup. Last week Pruitt signed a Record of Decision that approved a $115 million cleanup plan of the toxic site that will remove highly contaminated material and secure the less contaminated areas.

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Jacinto City hires new Officer Perez

Jacinto City Mayor Ana Diaz administering the oath of office, Police Chief Joey Ayala, Officer Christopher Perez hand on the Bible, his father Dakota Blate and mother Alicia Perez.

By Allan Jamail

Jacinto City, TX. – Thursday, October 12, 2017 the city council approved City Manager Lon Squyres’ and Police Chief Joey Ayala’s recommendation to hire Christopher Dakota Perez.

Perez has two years experience as a Trinity County Deputy Sheriff and graduated from the University of Houston’s Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Academy. He’s familiar with the Jacinto City – Galena Park area having graduated from Galena Park High School.

CIP Meeting hears Flood Damage reports

At their monthly meeting last Thursday, Oct. 5, the CIP community-industry partnership heard from three organizations that were deeply involved in flood rescue and relief during the week of flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Speaking to the group, at the Baggett Center in Galena Park, were Garrett Berg of the Port of Houston Authority, Drew Scroggins of the City of Galena Park, and Lt. Mark Longrigg of the Jacinto City Police Department.

Berg said that the major impact the Hurricane had on the Port was the deposit of large amounts of silt in Buffalo Bayou, effectively making the waterway more shallow. In some places, he said, there was 8’-10’ of new silt, mud, and other debris.

To maintain the viability of the ship channel for deep draft ships, it is imperative that this material be removed.

Berg said that the Post is currently working with the Corps of Engineers, to dredge the material and place it on one of their landfills.

He said that for every 1’ of depth that is lost, the Houston economy loses $281 million annually.

Drew Scroggins reported on the impact that the Hurricane had on Galena Park. He said that 110 homes and 32 apartments were flooded, and that damage estimates are around $7 million.

The Woodland Acres Fire Station is currently out of service, waiting repairs. The Galena Park Fire Department made 160 deep water rescues, and he thanked Galena Park ISD and Jacinto City for loaning resources such as boats and deep water vehicles to help in the evacuations. Harris County also loaned Galena Park two boats for the rescues.

In the refineries, Scroggins said that two petroleum tanks at Magellan floated and leaked, and one tak at Enterprise leaked giving the neighborhood a bad smell. However, there was no environmental threat in either incident.

The Galena Park Police Department set up a shelter at Shafalai on Holland Avenue, which served 33 families.

Lt. Mark Longrigg of the Jacinto City police department reported that a number of businesses along the I-10 feeder, near Hunting Bayou had to close, including Chili’s and the movie theater. Jacinto City recorded 35” of rain during the Hurricane.

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Officer awarded for child predator arrest

Keep Jacinto City Clean Committee (KJCCC) Secretary Linda Jamail, Police Chief Joe Ayala, Detective B. J. Silva (center), KJCCC President Teresa Arzapala, Vice President Irasema Salinas and former Police Chief Allan Jamail.

By Allan Jamail

Jacinto City, TX. – Thursday, October 12, 2017 at the regular council meeting, Jacinto City Detective B. J. Silva received two awards. Former Police Chief Allan Jamail presented a courageous performance award for her single-handed arrest on July 23, 2017 of child predator ex-convict Juan Carlos Apodaca. Keep Jacinto City Clean Committee presented a 28 year service award.

Silva’s arrest of Apocada stemmed from him showing hard core pornography from his cell phone to a 9 year old girl who was shopping with her mother at the Seller’s grocery store in Jacinto City.

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Sheldon ISD receives flood relief support

Adam Lund, president of the North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce, presents a check for $8000 to the Sheldon ISD for flood recovery. The Sheldon District suffered severe damage to a number of buildings, including C. E. King High School, which has not been able to reopen. The donation was made on behalf of the North Channel Chamber Foundation. Others in the photo are teachers and staff of Sheldon ISD, being recognized for their service.

Former NFL player, current TV personality, and native Houstonian Michael Strahan demonstrates the warped gym floor at CE King after the flood ravaged the school.

EPA ORDERS REMOVAL OF WASTE PITS

WASHINGTON, DC – Executive Director Scott Pruitt today announced the final decision on the disposition of the toxic waste dumps in the San Jacinto River, near the I-10 bridge.

In a press release dated Wednesday, Oct. 11 the EPA said they had issued a final “Record of Decision” based on the best interests of nearby residents, local businesses, and downstream resources including the Galveston Bay estuary. The plan for complete removal of the waste material has been modified to provide cofferdams around the excavation of dry material, instead of wet material in the original plan.

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EPA ORDERS REMOVAL OF WASTE PITS

EPA DIRECTOR SCOTT PRUITT SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER FINALIZING “RECORD OF DECISION” WHICH WILL REQUIRE THE RESPONSIBLE PARTIES TO COMPLETELY REMOVE THE TOXIC WASTES IN THE SAN JACINTO RIVER WASTE PITS.

Many praise Pruitt’s decision

By Gilbert Hoffman

WASHINGTON, DC – Executive Director Scott Pruitt today announced the final decision on the disposition of the toxic waste dumps in the San Jacinto River, near the I-10 bridge.

In a press release dated Wednesday, Oct. 11 the EPA said they had issued a final “Record of Decision” based on the best interests of nearby residents, local businesses, and downstream resources including the Galveston Bay estuary. The plan for complete removal of the waste material has been modified to provide cofferdams around the excavation of dry material, instead of wet material in the original plan. The cost is now estimated at $115 million instead of the previous $97 million.

The proposal includes both the Northern and the Southern impoundment areas. 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated material will be removed from the sites for proper disposal.

Local environmentalists and officials praised the decision of the EPA, including Jackie Young of THEA and the San Jacinto River Coalition. Young has led the fight for removal of the pits for a number of years, prompted by serious health problems she attributes to pollution from the waste pits.

Others who issued statements in favor of the decision included Harris County Attorneys Vince Ryan and Terry O’Rourke, Congreeman Gene Green, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman.

Jackie Young told the Star that she was pleased with the decision, but would continue to be engaged in the issue, and be a “watchdog” over the removal project.

One opponent to the decision, the “KeepItCapped” group, issued the following statement:

Statement From McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. (MIMC) Regarding the U.S. EPA’s Record of Decision

“We cannot support a plan for the site that provides less protection to all affected communities than the existing cap already has provided. We are deeply concerned that the decision announced today could result in a release to the San Jacinto River and downstream areas. We disagree with EPA’s claim that the local or downstream areas can be protected during removal. We will review U.S. EPA’s Record of Decision in its entirety.”

Here is the full text of the EPA press release, and the Final RECORD OF DECISION:

DALLAS – (Oct. 11, 2017) The cleanup plan to address highly toxic dioxin contamination at the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, Texas has been approved. The selected remedy will protect human health and the environment by removing highly contaminated material from the site and securing less contaminated areas. The plan provides certainty to people living near the site by permanently addressing risk posed by the contamination. It also provides certainty to other economic interests including the businesses that rely on the San Jacinto River for navigation and the Interstate-10 transportation corridor.

“Today, we are announcing our decision to ensure the San Jacinto site is cleaned up for the benefit of the entire community,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “As exemplified today, EPA is prioritizing Superfund clean-up by making decisions in a decisive, timely manner. The San Jacinto Waste Pits site was added to the National Priority List nearly a decade ago, and I am pleased to announce a decision has been made to permanently address the highly toxic materials to ensure health and safety in the surrounding communities.”

EPA’s cleanup plan includes installing engineering controls such as cofferdams before excavating almost 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated material for disposal. A small amount of material will stay on the site where controls will prevent access, eliminate off-site migration and monitor the natural recovery into the future. The estimated cost for the remedy is $115 million and is cost-effective; representing a reasonable value for the cost incurred.

EPA’s final cleanup plan, called a Record of Decision, addresses comments on the proposed plan concerning the risk of water spreading dioxin contamination downstream by installing controls such as cofferdams to allow for dry excavation of the waste material. Changes in the construction method will effectively eliminate any potential for spreading contamination to downstream areas. The $97 million proposed plan outlined wet excavation of material.

The Superfund site consists of two sets of impoundments, or pits, built in the mid-1960s for disposing solid and liquid pulp and paper mill wastes that are contaminated with polychlorinated dibenzopdioxins (dioxins) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (furans). In 2011, the impoundments were covered with an armored cap as a temporary way to contain the contaminants.

EPA’s decision, fully explained in the Record of Decision, is based on extensive studies of the contamination, human health risks, and environmental risks of this site. The final cleanup plan considers the ever-changing San Jacinto River, which encroaches on the site, and protecting important downstream resources including the Galveston Bay estuary.

EPA’s selected remedy will permanently address the highly toxic dioxin waste materials, meets the federal regulatory requirements of the National Contingency Plan for cleanup of hazardous sites, and is protective of public health and the environment. EPA will release an Administrative Record, which consists of all documents used to support its selected remedy.

EPA added the San Jacinto Waste Pits site to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 2008, after testing revealed contamination from dioxins and furans near the waste pits. The northern set of impoundments, about 14 acres in size, is located on the western bank of the San Jacinto River, north of the Interstate-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River. These northern impoundments are partially submerged in the river. The southern impoundment, less than 20 acres in size, is located on a small peninsula that extends south of the Interstate-10 bridge. EPA is the lead agency for addressing the site and cleaning up the contamination, with support from several state partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Administrative Record, including the Record of Decision, for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site is available online at: https://www.epa.gov/tx/sjrwp and at the following locations:

Stratford Branch Library
509 Stratford Street
Highlands, TX 77562

Vietnam Vet is Crusader for mental illness awareness

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (center) with supporters of the Houston Walk for Mental Health Awareness – Houston

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee recognizes 5K Walk founder

By Allan Jamail

Saturday, October 7, 2017 — Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan started the The Walk Houston 2017, which is all about a Step in the Lime Light, taking Mental Illness center stage. The 5K walk with 317 registered walkers some from the North Channel area completed the 3 plus miles and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee greeted them at the end.

Congresswoman Lee presented C. Patrick McIlvain, a Vietnam Vet, the founder of the Houston Walk, with a Congressional Certificate commending him for his valuable services. Lee said years ago when no one else would talk about mental illness it was McIlvain who began a one-man crusade refusing to allow it to remain silent. He spoke on mental illness at council meetings and anywhere else he could get a listening ear. His relentless effort put so much attention on mental health issues the Houston medical field has experienced an increase in awareness resulting in better funding and services that’s credited for saving lives and healing thousands.

McIlvain said, “This year’s 7th Walk/Expo, hosted by The Walk for Mental Health Awareness – Houston, is very important because of the need to return to normalcy and stability from dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding. Now more than ever there’s going to be a much greater need for 501.c agencies that offer mental health services and our support to their clients. Our family, friends and neighbors need to know where to go for mental health services and support; they do not have to deal with the daily challenges of mental illness by themselves.”

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Houston ISD relieves Furr Principal Bertie Simmons

BERTIE SIMMONS AT XQ PRESENTATION (NC Star Photo)

In September the Houston School district relieved Furr High School principal Bertie Simmons of her duties, to investigate charges then termed “a personnel matter.”

New details have come from a lawsuit she has filed, charging racial and age discrimination and retaliation.

Simmons is 83 years old, and known locally and nationally for coming out of retirement in 2000 and improving the school academically and dealing with gangs that prevailed.

The lawsuit mentions that she has been accused by the HISD administration of threatening her students with a bat if they did not follow the school’s dress code, which HISD administration would like to relax. Simmons denied making a serious threat, only a figure of speech.

Due to her accomplishments, and reputation, the prestigious XQ Project last year gave the school a $10 million dollar grant to bolster her initiatives in discipline and innovative teaching projects. The XQ Project is run by Lauren Jobs, widow of Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs.

HISD issued the following statement:

“HISD has an obligation to investigate when there have been allegations of misconduct. Dr. Bertie Simmons has been temporarily reassigned while HISD investigates the allegations. HISD will respond to the EEOC and the Department of Justice complaints filed on behalf of Dr. Simmons, and denies any allegations of a pattern and practice of discriminatory treatment against employees.”