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Posts published in “Day: April 10, 2007”

Fire destroys controversial tire shop

By BOBBY HORN JR.
A three-alarm fire destroyed a local tire disposal shop last Thursday, that has previously been the subject of neighbor’s complaints and investigation by authorities. Both the Harris County Sheriff’s office, abatement officer, and the state’s TCEQ have been involved in these investigations and complaints. The shop had been in the process of removing some inventory, and attempting to meet county and state regulations regarding tire storage.
Westfield Road Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Vaughan Jr. said that when they rolled up on the Mt. Houston Tire Disposal at approximately 5:30 a.m. the shop was “90% involved in flames.” Mt. Houston Tire Disposal was located on Mt. Houston Street, two blocks east of Hwy. 59.
Realizing that the shop was a loss, Vaughan said their primary responsibility was containing the blaze and not allowing it to spread to a residential structure just yards from the back of the shop.

This job was complicated by a lack of fire hydrants in the area. This need required the assistance of other departments. At least two other departments, Aldine and Houston, brought tanker trucks of water to help fight the fire.
“It is very important to have fellow departments with tankers to provide assistance,” Vaughan said.
When not fighting fires Vaughan said that the departments often train together.
“We train together so that when he have a situation like this we are on the same page.”
Because of the tires in the shop, the fire also presented an environmental concern, which required the expertise of the Harris County Hazardous Materials unit.
Bob Royall, with Harris County HazMat, said that there was little exposure to toxins from the fire. Typically when petroleum-based products like tires burn they produce a heavy black smoke. Since there was little wind, he said, the smoke drifted straight up. Remote air monitors, however, were place around the site to collect data on air pollutants. Inside the structure, Royall said, they found several acetylene and propane bottles used in welding. These were compromised by the fire and were removed to ensure firefighter safety.
Royall praised Westfield’s effort in keeping the fire from spreading.
“Westfield did a spectacular job of containing the fire,” he said. “Since there were limited hydrants they had to shuttle in water. It’s a real credit to the training these guys go through being able to work together.”
He added that several of the firefighters had attended a tanker training program at Texas A&M University’s Fire Training Academy last weekend where they worked on this type of scenario.
Harris County Chief Arson Investigator Daniel K. Given said that as a matter of protocol an investigation would be held, although it would not be easy.
Witnesses to the early condition of the fire mentioned that multiple sources could be seen burning, rather than spreading from one location.
In a typical fire case specially trained dogs are brought in which can detect the presence of accelerants or chemicals like gasoline that might indicate arson. However, due to the nature of the business they would expect to find all kinds of accelerants in the business.
Given said that they know the fire started in the back of the building, but that as of press time they didn’t have any other additional information.

Aldine ISD hosts bond meetings

By BOBBY HORN JR.
The Aldine ISD is asking the patrons of the district, on May 12, to approve $365 million in schoolhouse bonds, which would, among other projects, build 12 new schools buildings.
Over the next few weeks the district has planned a series of public meetings to explain the purpose behind the bonds and the impact they would have on taxpayers.
Meetings will be held on April 10 at Carver High School and Keeble EC/Pre-K. On April 12 there will be meetings at Aldine High and Grantham Academy.
Three meetings will be held on April 23: at Carver High, Hill Intermediate School and MacArthur High. On April 30, there will be meetings at MacArthur and Nimitz High Schools. Nimitz will host another meeting on May 1. The final meeting will be May 3 at Plummer Middle School.
All meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

According to the district, they have reached the limits of their current buildings. In the past seven years, the district had added 6,000 new students bring the total close to 59,000 students. Close the 6,000 students are being taught in temporary buildings. A study of the district shows 10,625 new homes are either being planned or are under construction and another 6,000 additional students are expected of the next five years.
In addition to building new schools, the district also plans to spend $75.6 million on improvements at its other campuses.
While passage of the bonds would cause an increase in property taxes, the district says the range of the increase is modest by comparison to the benefits. The average property owner could see a monthly increase between $2.62 and $15 depending on the amount of bonds sought that year.
Under state law, property taxes will not go up for homeowners who are over 65 or who are disabled.
Early voting begins April 30 and lasts through May 8.

Aldine Y.O.U.T.H. hosts community day

The Leadership North Houston Alumni will participate in a community service project with the Aldine Y.O.U.T.H. Community Center, 4700 Aldine Mail Rt., on Saturday, April 21st from 10am – 2pm. A Community Day is planned to include a large yard sale in conjunction with the Aldine YOUTH “Renewed Blessings Resale Shop”, a fun carnival for area youth, and an outreach to the surrounding community by forming groups with the teens involved in the Youth School of Business Program. They will distribute important information about the many educational, vocational, social, and recreational activities available at the Center for residents of all ages.

Leadership North Houston is a community based leadership program, committed to educating and enhancing the involvement of existing and emerging leaders of north Houston. Aldine Y.O.U.T.H.’s mission is to “empower positive change in the lives of our youth and their families through partnerships with businesses, agencies, schools, churches, and talented volunteers.” This event merges the goals of both organizations to the benefit of the community.
Angila Ervin, The LNH Alumni Board president remarked “This will be a fun community event where the Alumni of Leadership North Houston can have good time with members of this wonderful community and give something back to them at the same time.”
The goal of this project is to improve the awareness of the Aldine Y.O.U.T.H. Community Center’s programs, increase the sales of the Resale shop which helps to financially support the Center’s programs, and to host a fun and educational event for community families. A group of students from the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work will be providing resources and information to the community, based on the results of needs assessment research conducted in the surrounding area.
Sylvia Bolling, Executive Director and Founder of Aldine YOUTH says, “We truly appreciate Leadership North Houston coming out to be a integral part in helping us to increase our capacity to serve the many low-income families. Community events like this help us to help our youth become healthy, self-sufficient members of society. It does take a village to raise a child and to make a sustaining difference”.
Please contact the Aldine YOUTH Community Center to make a tax-deductible donation of items for the Resale Shop and for this event. For more information, call 281-449-4828.

You’re running for what?

Had occasion to visit Grenada, Miss. a few days ago while driving through that state. This was our first visit to that medium size town. Most times when I visit somewhere new one of the first things I do is pick up a local newspaper and read the local happenings.
Bought a copy of the Grenada Star that was a 20-page paper for that issue. There I found several things of interest and I thought I would pass two of them on to you.
Joe Lee III is the publisher and also serves as an editorial writer and columnist. On the “Viewpoint” page I read Lee’s column included the following:
“I’ll be glad when this cat food scare is over. The Boss of the House is making me eat cat food to see if it is dangerous. She says if I don’t die in 24 hours she knows it is safe for Paws, Ears, and Little Bit (their cats).”

One has some problem believing the above but Joe Lee III says it is the truth. So much for writer Joe’s pecking order in that house. I believe somewhere in there I would draw the line.
Mississippi Democrats Problem
The lead front-page story for the above named newspaper said, “Insurance Commissioner George Dale, long-time House member Mary Ann Stevens and perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara filed lawsuits to get back on the Democratic ballot….”
The issue that interested me most was that of Shawn O’Hara. Apparently he is a perennial candidate on the Democrat Party side in most elections. Although the story didn’t say this he must be a perennial loser as well.
Trying to improve his odds for election O’Hara filed for seven statewide offices, two district, two legislative and eight county offices. That is nineteen offices in all. The Party decided that was a bit much and removed his name for every office on the ballot except for that of state treasurer. There were no other candidates on the ballot for that office.
O’Hara is upset with this ruling, which was made on a split vote of the state executive committee. According to the paper, “in his lawsuit, which gives only one side of the legal argument, O’Hara said he was illegally denied his constitutional right to seek public office and denied protections provided in the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
This was a new issue to me, as I have never heard of anyone running for so many offices in any one election.
The newspaper pointed out current (Mississippi) law does not prohibit a candidate from seeking more than one office on the same day, but legislators are considering a bill to do so. Apparently this has led to a debate in Mississippi as the state’s Democrat Party Chairman has opposed removing the names.
Running for nineteen offices at once hits me as being a bit much but then I don’t live in Mississippi.
The Democrats removed the other two names because both candidates are strong Bush supporters. The courts will decide all three issues.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer can be reached at touchlife@worldnet.att.net.

Smiley FFA sets records, 39 exhibits, $51,975 sales

NORTH FOREST – Hundreds of FFA supporters attended the 45th Annual Livestock Show & Sale last Thursday night, April 5th. It was the culmination of a year of learning and raising their animals for the students, under the direction of AG advisor Bill Dodd and new advisor Sheridan Hanszen. The FFA Event was held at the AG barn, on the campus of the original Smiley High School on Mesa Drive. On hand to support the students were members of the School Board and acting superintendent William Jones.
This year there were 39 exhibits, up from a total of 36 last year. Sales were brisk and spirited, as the auction proceeded under the direction of auctioneer Glenn Beckendorff. Exhibit Judges were Jeff McKnight, Steers and Swine; Shane Weldon, Poultry; and Suzanne Fulghum, Horticulture and Rabbits. This judging took place in the two days prior to the auction.

A new record total of $51,975 was set for the auction, with “add-ons” of $10,350 in addition to the base bids totaling $41,625. This compared to a total last year of $39,500. . Add-ons, a monetary contribution in addition to the auction bids, were made by Capital Bank $100 to each exhibitor, North Houston Bank $50, North Houston Greenspoint Chamber “Wranglers” $100 to senior exhibitors, and Kanes Western Wear.
Bidders this year included Steve Mead/Component Sales & Service, Capital Bank, Miss Henrietta, Melody Realty, Allied Waste, Ken & Pat Jones, Caldwell Watson Real Estate, AAA Plastics, Kane’s Western Shop, Westwood Fence Co., Elvin Franklin Insurance, Jed’s Ace Home Center, Bill & Margaret Ginder, Willie Taylor, FFA Booster Club, Missi Joplin, Beasley Tire, John McNeil, and Bill Dodd.

North Forest ISD fires two police officers

By BOBBY HORN JR.
The North Forest ISD Police Board of Trustees, this week, upheld its decision to fire two members of its police force.
Timberly Douglas and Gerald Eagleton were fired after following an investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in which sexually explicit photos were found on computers at Smiley High which the officers had used.
Both officers have denied placing the images on the computers saying that other employees had access to the computers.
In a letter to Interim Superintendent William Jones last month, Assistant District Attorney Teresa Buess informed him that inappropriate photographs of a female officer were found on one of the computers which Eagleton had access to.

“Although none of these images are pornographic,” Buess wrote, “They cannot be considered appropriate for display at a work place, especially a school.”
The investigation into the computers also led investigators to discover images of a pornographic nature on another computer that Douglas had access.
The firing of the two officers is not the only troubles the school district police force has seen this year.
Before coming to North Forest ISD, Eagleton worked at Texas Southern University. Former North Forest Interim Police Chief Tyrone Walker has reportedly told the district attorney’s office that while reviewing Eagleton’s work record at TSU he learned of allegations that Eagleton had downloaded pornographic images onto a work computer.
On March 8, the North Forest ISD fired Superintendent Dr. James Simpson. The following day the district confirmed that they were allegations of theft leveled against Walker. Walker was placed on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation. In a written statement, the district said that another officer was under investigation for “inappropriate action.” They would not say who the officer was or what “inappropriate action” meant.
However, during the March 8 meeting the Board met in executive session to conduct a Level II hearing for Officer DeAngelo Lavergne. When the board returned to open session they voted to reprimand Lavergne, reinstate him without pay and send him to retraining.
Simpson has said that his firing was in retaliation to his investigation of the police department. School Board member Charles Taylor was married to Eagleton’s sister 25 years ago. Taylor said that he voted to fire the superintendent due to “a lack of communication and lack of confidence” in Simpson.
Last week the board also voted to fire Officer Joey Pernell. On March 16 Pernell was indicted on a charge of indecent exposure. Last week an additional indictment of aggravated perjury to a grand jury was filed against Pernell.

Northeast residents protest landfill growth

By Ivory Mayhorn
Nearly two dozens members of the Northeast Houston community went to Austin on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 to make a loud statement to the Commission that its residents are no longer willing to tolerate the continued expansion of the mountainous dumpsites in the area.
The residents are complaining about the long term health hazards and illnesses such as cancer, upper respiratory diseases and contaminated water, air and soil that they have suffered over the years.
Allied/BFI filed with the State Commission to get approval to increase the height of the McCarty Road landfill by an additional 300 feet.
In addition, Allied/BFI attempted to get the community group NE Environmental Justice Association removed as a organization with standing and get the Commission to dismiss all the Requests for a Contested Case Hearing and approve their application for the 300ft high expansion permit.

If approved it would be the highest permitted landfill in the country and open the way for Allied to vertically expand Whispering Pines (Little York and Mesa) and about a dozen other landfills that they own in the state.
After hearing from the community, the Commission voted UNANIMOUSLY to grant the Contested Case Hearing AND the Hearing will be in Houston, Texas. They also approved an extension in time for the Hearing to 11 months. “We really need it because we have a lot of work to do,” said Robin German Curtis, President for the NE Environmental Justice Association.
Weingarten Real Estate Investment, et al has joined the community in its efforts and were approved as an interested party as well. In addition, Harris Commissioner Sylvia Garcia sent a representative to speak on her behalf and express her support for the NE Environmental Justice Association and the East Houston community efforts to contest the issuance of Allied’s vertical expansion permit. Commissioner Garcia is the only commissioner to publicly express support for our efforts. However, the majority of the landfill is in Commissioner El Franco Lee’s precinct.
Representatives from Superneighborhood 47, E. Houston Civic Club, NEEJA, and Northeast community traveled from Houston to Austin to participate.
If these measures pass, the Northeast community would in effect have an overexpanding mountain of trash on the North and South end of the community, not withstanding the fact that other landfill operators, i.e. Waste Management on the north end of the community as well, would probably move forward with a similar expansion request.
The community is coming together for a better quality of life in Northeast Houston. For more information, contact Betty at NEEJA, 713.635.2812.

Acorn Glenn hosts ribbon cutting

NORTH FOREST– Acorn Housing Corporation held a ribbon cutting on Monday, March 26 at 10:00 am at their development site at 9621 Mesa Drive.
Attend were Mayor Bill White, Councilman Jarvis Johnson, Houston Housing official John Palmer and other local government officials.
Acorn is developing 89 new homes at Acorn Glenn Subdivision, next to Kirby Middle School. These 3 and 4 bedroom homes have 2 or 2-1/2 baths, 1300 to 1700 square feet, with a 2 car garage on a 5000 sq. ft. lot.
Homes are priced from $101,000 to $114,000 and eligible buyers will receive assistance from the City of Houston’s Downpayment Assistance Program, a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank and other grant funds up to $19,000.
Downpayments can be as low as $1000 in this program, with free homebuyer counseling a below market interest rate loans. The public is invited to the ribbon cutting, and to inspect the model homes that will be open. More information is at 713-635-7264.