We update our local news twice a day every weekday (about 6am and 2pm) and occasionally at other times too.

We primarily focus on our three “home” counties – Matagorda, Jackson and Wharton counties, and also include items from slightly further afield if we feel them to be impactful on us all.

 

The Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards have announced that 55 projects will be included in the 2022-23 Exhibit of School Architecture. This exhibit of new and renovated Texas school facilities includes projects from 36 school districts and two colleges that were submitted by 16 architectural firms. Eligible projects are newly constructed or renovated public education facilities completed in the past five years and not previously submitted in this annual exhibit.

Matagorda County Museum & Gourmet Guys Annual Fundraiser was held recently at the Bay City Civic Center. It was an evening of great food, spirits and support for the county’s museum through silent and live auctions. This year’s theme was “Tastes of Texas—A Tribute to Carnival Foods. Recently appointed Director of the Matagorda County Museum Cynthia Armstrong was delighted to see the support and participation in this year’s fundraising event. The Museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, protect and provide access to the county’s unique cultural heritage.

The Bay City Independent School District will be hosting a Community Homecoming Pep Rally, Monday, October 17th at 6 p.m. The district will be kicking off Homecoming Week with the pep rally. B-C-H-S will be in their “Character Day” Theme attire for homecoming spirit week. That’s any favorite character from a movie or cartoon. The community is welcome to dress up and join its theme.

The El Campo Post Office will be requiring all P.O. Box holders to list the number when using physical addresses starting now. Postal workers have been hand-sorting large envelopes and boxes destined for the 1,106 postal boxes inside the El Campo facility. According to Postmaster Patrcia Cinque “there’s simply not enough workers to continue to do so and deliver parcels in a timely fashion. “It should be addressed to the P.O. Box. That’s the correct way” . Box holders now should list the family or business name on line one; physical address with a hashtag and their P.O box number on line two followed by the town, state and zip code on the third line.

A bid $1 million over budget didn’t stop El Campo’s city council from unanimously approving water line replacement work last week. The entire cost will be covered by federal American Rescue Funds, although the $2.5 million bid awarded to Resicom, Inc. of Bellaire pulls dollars away from a pending water well replacement plan on Avenue F. The new Avenue F well is still in the plans although it’s uncertain now where funds will come from to pay for the project.

Another Bay City Independent School District employee has been arrested for improper relationship between educator and student. 26 year old Karina Romero of Bay City, was arrested on two charges of sexual assault, one charge of tamper/ fabricate physical evidence and one charge of improper relationship on September 23rd. The offenses were alleged to have occurred outside the school, outside school hours, but within the city limits of Bay City. The case is still under investigation.

Former Bay City Police Chief Robert Lister says “he could no longer continue to work with someone that lacked respect and integrity” and that was why he tendered his resignation from the department on September. 23rd. in a statement Lister wrote – It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Bay City over the past 24 years. However, I have resigned as chief of police with the Bay City Police Department.

An El Campo toddler suffered head and neck injuries in a tractor accident and faces potential brain surgery. Ripp Ryan Macek enjoys playing outside with his toys and family — which unfortunately led to tragedy last weekend, roughly three miles east of Danevang. Ripp was partially run over and hit by the tractor tire. Ripp has been receiving care for his head and neck injuries from a neurological team and the family is receiving support from the Ronald McDonald House in Houston. The family has collected around $20,000 in donations so far for Ripp’s medical care. Anyone wanting to help can donate to the Ripp Ryan Macek Benefit Fund account at NewFirst bank or contribute to the family’s Go-Fund-Me page.

With a large turnout likely for the upcoming midterm elections, alternate voting arrangements are available for some as the registration deadline nears. Texas requires voters to register in their county 30 days before the election, so for the November. 8th election, the registration deadline is October 11th in person or postmarked if returning it by mail. Registering to vote or checking your registration status can be done at www.votetexas.gov or through the Office Of The Election Administrator. Voting by mail is an alternative for eligible voters either 65 or older, disabled, out of the county or in jail.

Nature sparing Texas the wrath of Hurricane Ian doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. Passing the peak of hurricane season Sept. 10th still leaves about two months before hurricane season ends on November 30th. Keeping prepared for a storm involves keeping fresh water and nonperishable food ready, keeping batteries for radios and flashlights and keeping vehicle fuel tanks at least half full in case evacuation is ordered.

The Day of the Dead Festival’s temporary T-A-B-C permit was unanimously approved at Commissioner’s Court for the Nov. 5 event. Darve Smith, the new Bay City Tourism Manager says there would be a beer garden and that this is a continuing annual event tradition. Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald said the festival “is a good program and draws people into the county for a good time and entertainment.” The Day of the Dead Festival will be held at the Matagorda County Fairgrounds this year.

El Campo Ricebird senior Rueben Owens II earned Player Of The Week honors for his play in the Ricebirds’ 45-35 win over Navasota in week five, last Friday night on the road. Owens carried the ball 37 times and scored five touchdowns, rushing the ball for 353 yards. He had touchdown runs of 75 yards, 40 and 31. Owens had Ricebird career highs in rushing attempts and yards last Friday night. The Ricebirds get a chance to rest up this weekend before hosting Bay City Black Cats on October 7th.

The Victoria Police Department is partnering with the Victoria College men’s basketball team to host its first “Midnight Basketball,” a free mini basketball camp, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at Victoria Youth Complex Basketball Court to continue building relationships between VPD officers and Victoria’s youth. Members of the Victoria Police Department and the Victoria College men’s basketball team will teach participants the basic skills and drills of basketball. Participants must be between the ages of 10-17. Guardians must complete a waiver at the time of drop-off and registration. The department will provide basketballs, dinner and drinks. To register, visit victoriatx.gov/police.

A 17-year-old Wallis man, who was certified as an adult on Monday now sits in the Wharton County jail facing a capital murder charge. James Eli Gutierrez stands accused of shooting to death his mother and stepfather while they were sleeping. 34 year old John Vasquez Jr. and 35 year old Blanca Vasquez, were found shot to death in their home shortly before midnight on Oct. 15th of 20-21. Now in adult court, his case awaits presentation to the Wharton County Grand Jury, tentatively set for November. Gutierrez faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Wharton Volunteer Fire Department firefighters put out a pickup truck that was on fire at Bucee’s Sunday afternoon. The driver from Houston was getting gas when he noticed flames and moved the vehicle as far away from the pumps as he could. There were no injuries and no damage to the gas pumps.

El Campo’s proposed utility fee hike was approved 6-1 during Monday’s council session over District 2 Councilwoman Gloria Harris’ heated objection, saying “We call citizens to give us input, but then we don’t listen to them … We have an obligation to listen to them.” She, however, did not vote against the measure. District 1 Councilwoman Anisa Vasquez was the lone NO vote. With the fee hike, El Campo’s base rate on water and sewer use increases from $13 per month to $14 and the base sewer rate from $14.25 to $15.25 while the base use water level decreases from 2,500 to 2,000 gallons.

The El Campo Police are putting together its annual Trunk or Treat, and always looking for more volunteers to help spook up the free event. The Trunk or Treat offers a space for young goblins to collect candies in a safe place under police supervision regardless of weather. Businesses, churches or clubs that want to participate, dressed in costume, handing out candy to the tricker treaters at the El Campo Civic Center. Registration is still open. The slots are limited and are on a first-come first-serve basis. Call the El Campo Police department at 979-543-53-11

A Life Flight helicopter responded to the scene of a three-vehicle accident Monday afternoon on FM 102 near CR 259. FM 102 was shut down for an extended period during the investigation and accident clearing/debris removal. The incident involving a tractor, pickup truck and 18-wheeler is under investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Several law enforcement and fire department agencies responded to the call.

A Wharton County constable continues to struggle in ICU to recover from injuries sustained in a crash on Highway 59 while working an off-duty job. Precinct 3 Constable Robert Holder suffered injuries to his head and body in the crash Aug. 31st, near the intersection with Carroll Road. Since then, the former El Campo police officer has suffered several strokes and recently underwent brain surgery says his daughter Abbie. The family is awaiting word now on whether a second brain surgery will be needed. A medical fund has been set up at First State Bank of Louise (any branch) under the name Robert Holder Medical Fund along with a GoFundMe account under the name Constable Robert Holder.

The Secretary of the Bay City Lion’s Club Doc Campbell performed eye screenings last Thursday at John Cherry Elementary School. It’s a program he started in 20-11 and plans to keep overseeing as long as he’s able. He services all of Matagorda County. The scanner checks for abnormalities or deficiencies in the eyes and recommends if the user needs to be referred to an Optometrist. If there is a student who needs to be referred to an optometrist and the family is unable to afford the services, the Lion’s Club will cover it at no cost. Thanks Doc.

Tickets are now on sale for the 7th Annual Full Moon Food Truck Festival coming to the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center on Saturday, October. 15th from 5-10 p.m. The festival will feature food trucks ready to wow foodies with their mouthwatering specialties. The ever-popular band, Emotions, will perform all the 1980s pop and country favorites on stage. this year’s Festival will include a bounce house, a petting zoo and an insect exhibit. Kids also will get a chance to look through a telescope and learn about the planets and stars. Advance tickets can be purchased for $5 dollars until Oct. 14th at Green Bros. Jewelry. Gate tickets are 7 bucks

Receiving no public comment during two public hearings Monday morning, the Wharton County Commissioners Court unanimously adopted the tax rate and budget for next year. The tax rate of $.39056 per $100 of property valuation is down 3.4 cents from the current rate but is sufficient to fund the $28.1 million budget for 20-23. Included in the budget are $3,500 raises for all county employees. In addition to other salary adjustments – primarily in the sheriff’s office – the county judge and four commissioners gave themselves an $11,000 dollars a year pay increase.

As of last Sunday, 14 adults with COVID-19 were hospitalized with 508 total staffed hospital beds in Trauma Service Area ‘S’, according to the state health department. Nineteen ICU beds were available and two were occupied in the trauma service area, which includes Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca and Victoria counties.

The Scholarships for Wharton Agriculture Students or SWAGS Committee selected students to receive money for their animal projects. The mission of SWAGS is to provide funds to Wharton students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to purchase and raise an animal project. In order to receive the funds, these students had to fill out an application and write an essay over why they should be chosen. Congrats to all 15 recipients.

National Night Out is happening on October 4th and the Wharton Police Department will be utilizing a centralized location in town to make the event more accessible for all to attend. It will be at parking lot No. 1 at W-C-J-C. All food, drinks, and activities will be free to those who attend. National Night Out is designed to: Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for, and participate in, local anticrime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police partnerships; and send a message to criminals.

Workers hung a banner over far East Jackson Street recently announcing Prairie Days arrival in El Campo. The all-day event covers a wide variety of family activity from children’s games and activities to crafts booths, lots of food and musical offerings from classic country to Tejano. The event, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, is all day in Alamo Park behind the post office this Saturday, October 1st. So far, weather forecasts call for a high in the upper 80s and clear skies.

Six Bay City High School students turned into real-life superheroes when they helped save a neighbor and her family during an electrical fire recently. The heroes are; Jackson Plant, Caden Bradford-Ramos, Franklin Miller, Canaan Allen, Joel Davalos, and Jakob Pesina. According to Kristi Miller, her son had invited some friends over to cook for them, and as the boys were grilling outside one of them heard a click on the electric box. The sound was reported immediately to authorities and the students made sure the pets were out of the house and everyone inside the house was removed safely. A fire extinguisher was used to put a small fire out.

Wharton Police officers Marshall Johnson, Sarah McDaniel, and Andre Murray were recently recognized for saving an elderly woman’s life using CPR back on Sept. 11th — a date often associated with tragedy. A letter from Wharton EMS personnel commended the officers for “performing high quality CPR on the patient” adding that had it not been for their “heroic actions , the patient outcome would have been different.”

El Campo senior Rueben Owens II stepped up against the Navasota Rattlers to help the Ricebirds earn their first district win of the season 45-35, Friday night on the road. Owens carried the football nearly 40 times. l Campo will get to rest up this upcoming week with their bye. The Ricebirds’ next game will be against the Bay City Blackcats at home on Oct. 7th

The city of Bay City approved adopting a tax rate of $0.63500 per $100 of assessed valuation during a recent city council meeting. The adoption of the new tax rate of $0.63500 is effectively a 6.39 percent increase in the tax rate. City officials noted that this tax rate will raise more taxes for maintenance and operations.

The four courts in front of the skate park at Friendship Park on North Wharton Street in El Campo have been resurfaced and relined with markings for tennis and pickleball.

Hackers who infiltrated and shut down the computer system at Oak Bend Medical Center on Sept. 1st also siphoned off “sensitive patient and employee” personal information. The hackers, whose identify is still unknown to hospital executives, uploaded a ransom ware virus into the hospital’s computer system, effectively shutting it off until a ransom was paid.

A Lake Jackson man has been arrested and charged with aggravated robbery stemming from an incident where he allegedly pulled a gun and robbed a victim in Bay City. Christian L. Jones, 21, of Lake Jackson, was charged with aggravated robbery, evading arrest with a vehicle, and tamper/fabricate physical evidence.

The City of El Campo plans to lower its tax rate and approve the 2022-23 fiscal year budget Thursday, with one work day to spare. Council voted in August not to exceed a 48.419 cents per $100 in taxable property levy, a rate not producing additional revenue from properties on this year’s tax roll. The rate does not take into account tax dollars to be generated from new development.The proposed rate, supporting a $24.6 million budget, if approved, would be the city’s lowest tax rate since 20-13 and about 2.5 cents below the current rate.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act or R-A-W-A is currently racing through Congress with unprecedented bipartisan support. R-A-W-A could bring $50 million to the state to help protect wildlife, restore land and give Texans more ways to enjoy the outdoors. Help is needed to get it to the finish line. The public is encouraged to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to vote “yes” for this important legislation.

Due to a rise in teacher absences at Wharton Junior High and Wharton High School, the school board voted last week to expand the incentive pay program in place for the two elementary schools to include the two secondary schools. That means teachers who miss three or fewer days in a semester will receive a $1,500 bonus. The money for the incentive comes from a Texas Education Agency grant.

A Wharton man was among three of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted offenders who are back in custody following their recent arrests. Columbus Johnson, 58, of Wharton was arrested Sept. 8th in Rosenberg by members of the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Fugitive Task Force, Rosenberg Police Department officers, and Department of Public Safety special agents in Houston. Johnson had been wanted since January after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a warrant for his arrest for a parole violation.

After a two-year hiatus, El Campo’s Prairie Days festival is making its comeback next Saturday. The festival will be from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Oct. 1st in Alamo Park behind the South Mechanic Street Post Office. The event was canceled in 2021 due to low vendor participation and manpower as well as COVID concerns. This year there are currently 30 vendors signed up with applications still coming. The last Prairie day’s had almost 40 vendors.

A dripping water line dating back to 1927 tangled traffic on North Mechanic last week for more than 12 hours as city crews put a fresh patch on the pipe scheduled for replacement next year. That particular 1.25 mile section of iron pipe will be torn out and replaced with a modern plastic line courtesy of federal American Rescue funds. El Campo’s water system is constructed out of a mixed bag of materials based on the decade it was installed. Some sections date back toor near the city’s founding in 1905.

The first days of flu season are upon us and this year’s cases could be a return to levels previous to COVID-19. Texas flu season begins around the beginning of October. Vaccination for the flu is recommended by the CDC for anyone older than six months if possible and it should be taken in September or October if available.

An addition to Tidehaven’s bus fleet was made with the purchase of a used 77-passenger bus approved by Tidehaven ISD’s Board of Trustees during their regular meeting on Monday. Items on the agenda included reports from the administrator, athletic director, curriculum director, special programs coordinator, campus principals and superintendent. A proposal of vendor for security enhancements at campus, and delegation of authority to the superintendent was also approved.

The South Texas Project Electrical Generation Station is continuing to show its support for local community projects with its recent donation to the Matagorda County United Way. STP has been a long-time supporter of the Matagorda County United Way. This year the company bolstered internal fundraising activities to increase the overall support offered to the organization by the company and its employees. Money raised through employee contributions, coupled with the corporate donation, brought the total donation to the Matagorda County United Way to $100,000 for 20-22.

The Victoria police and fire departments should be able to move into their new $33 million headquarters by 2025, adding security and space for law enforcement, firefighters and municipal court workers. That’s the take-away from yesterday’s presentation to civic and business leaders by City Manager Jesús Garza, who says city hall and the 700 Main building would see offices moved and rebuilt. It will include about 90% more space for the police department, a 27% increase for fire administration and 122% more space for the municipal court, which now hears cases in the city council chambers.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services is hosting a Car Seat CheckUp Event at the El Campo Civic Center on North Mechanic, from 10 a.m. to noon this Thursday Sept. 22nd to commemorate National Child Passenger Safety Week.

The second El Campo Police Department’s Drug Take-Back program has returned this year. The programs help control the amount of prescription medication on the street by giving local residents a secure place to dispose of medicine they’re no longer taking. The program has collected over 1,000 pounds of medication since its inception. If you have medication or other substances for disposal that aren’t needles, aerosols or vape pens, they can be dropped in the drug take back receptacle in the station’s lobby any time of day or night, no questions asked.

Concerns over costs for El Campo seniors and landlords were raised at last week’s City Council public hearing on a proposed two-fold utility rate increase. A final decision on the rate hike won’t be made until council meets at its Monday, Sept. 26th session where the proposed tax rate, 2022-2023 budget and fee schedule will formally go before council. Former City Councilman and Citizen of the Year Bobby Perez urged council to offer senior citizen discounts and/or frozen utility rates similar to a tax freeze. The city already offers a 10 percent discount to residents ages 65 and older or who are disabled.

The El Campo homecoming king and queen were announced Friday. Senior Jaylin Hawkins was crowned homecoming king during the El Campo pep rally Friday morning. Senior Anna Rod had a big smile after being announced as the homecoming queen before the Wharton and El Campo football game. Congrats to both.

Matagorda County is moving forward with its annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection event that is scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Matagorda County Fairgrounds. The event allows county residents to dispose of household Hazardous Waste such as oil-based paints; motor oil, pesticides and lead-acid batteries. Household hazardous waste is any product labeled: toxic, poison, corrosive, flammable, combustible or irritant.

The Bay City Independent School District announced Christopher Townsend as the new Assistant Superintendent of the District. Townsend is an alumnus of Bay City High School and spent his early years of education at Bay City ISD. After Townsend’s college career he returned as a career and band teacher at Bay City High School. Townsend has dedicated 11 years of his education career as an administrator and 13 years as a teacher.

It’s time to enroll youngsters in 4-H. The new 4-H year began Sept.1st in all 254 counties in Texas. As part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program provides inclusive opportunities to youth ages 8-18 in grades 3-12 for personal growth, community service, and fun. Texas 4-H reaches around a hlaf a million youth per year.