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.
A first-year robotics team from Victoria West High School is making waves in the world of robotics competitions. At the recent FIRST Robotics District Event in Houston, the team was able to take home three awards, including the Houston District Winner, the Rookie All-Star Award, and the Rookie Highest Seed Award. Despite the disadvantage of not having the parts beforehand, the team worked together in an alliance with two other teams to successfully navigate the challenge and balance their robots on a raised platform within the time limit.
El Campo has appointed former Police Chief Terry Stanphill as the interim civilian administrator as they search for a replacement for Chief Gary Williamson, who is leaving on April 7th. The decision was made by a unanimous 6-0 council vote, with Mayor Chris Barbee absent due to recovering from surgery. The city plans to hire a new chief by the summer, and the job has already been posted, according to City Manager Courtney Sladek.
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is on the move! They’re leaving their Sam Houston Drive location in Victoria and opening up at 6106 N. Navarro St., right next to H-E-B Plus! This new location offers convenience for donors who are out running errands. The center held a soft opening on Wednesday and will had a grand opening ceremony on Thursday. The center has seen an increase in demand for blood since the COVID-19 pandemic as they serve over 100 hospitals in 48 counties in South Texas.
The new Wharton Junior High School building won’t be ready for use until after the next school year, which is nearly a year later than expected. Mike Lanier, the construction project manager, says that the completion date is now at the end of the next school year, not in December of this year. Unfortunately, three major issues have impacted the construction, with the biggest delay being caused by the discovery of large amounts of asbestos during the demolition of the old building. It’s not the news anyone wanted to hear, but it’s where they are at the moment.
If you want to support our men and women in uniform, all you have to do is swing by the United Forces Collector’s Convention this Saturday at the Wharton Civic Center. Booth fees and donations will be split evenly between the Wharton County Veterans Resources in need and the Wharton Police Department. The event will have a mix of comics, sports cards, bladed weapons, and even a demonstration from Texas Armored Combat. Plus, there will be plenty of food vendors! Admission is free, and the event runs from 8 to 5.
Wharton County Junior College is offering scholarships to winners of the University Interscholastic League competitions that took place on March 24th. Each first place winner received $1,000, while second place finishers received $750 towards attending WCJC. A total of 114 students received scholarships. More than two dozen schools participated in the event, and over 1,000 students participated, with the help of over 150 WCJC faculty and staff members. The scholarships will be used by the recipients when they enroll full-time at WCJC after graduating high school.
Easter is just around the corner and the City of Rosenberg is getting ready for its Annual Easter Egg Hunt. This fun-filled event will take place on Saturday, April 1st at Seabourne Creek Nature Park, starting at 10 am sharp. Kids aged 12 and below can participate in the egg scramble where they have a chance to grab as many of the 10,000 eggs as possible. There will be special “golden eggs” hidden in each age group that can be redeemed for a prize! After the hunt, meet and take a photo with the Easter Bunny.
Got an old boat you don’t know what to do with? Well, good news! The Matagorda County Vessel Turn-In Program is coming back and will be at the Fairgrounds from May 17th to 20th. You can dispose of your old boats for free! A game warden will be there to check the VIN/TX numbers and the GLO will take care of draining fluids and disposing of batteries. It’s a program that several communities have requested, and the county is happy to do it for you. If you have any questions, give the office a call and ask for Teresa.
A petition to save the Luther Hotel in Matagorda County has been gaining support online, with over 3,000 signatures so far. The hotel’s future has been a point of conflict for locals and preservation groups since the first planned demolition was announced in December. The Ed Rachal Foundation is set to buy the property, but there’s a temporary restraining order preventing its demolition until the end of June. Will the Luther Hotel survive? Its fate is still up in the air.
An El Campo man is in trouble with the law for recording girls in bathrooms and while changing clothes. Jaylin Hawkins was caught trying to video girls changing clothes in the El Campo High School auditorium dressing room. He recorded at least 17 people aged 6 to 17. Hawkins was initially booked on two invasive recording charges and later released on a $16,000 bond. More charges are expected, and police found hundreds of videos on his phone. No indication suggests that the videos were shared or seen by anyone else.
Mark your calendars for the Sixth Annual Jubilee hosted by the Sargent Area Lions Club happening on April 1st at Mike Leebron Memorial Park. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year and the funds raised will support local scholarships and future events throughout the year. You can enjoy live music, an all-day beer garden, helicopter rides over Sargent Beach, live and silent auctions, train rides, and a petting zoo. And don’t miss out on the highly recommended chicken poo bingo game where you can win big if your ticket matches the numbered square where a chicken decides to drop its poo.
Kidfish 2023 was a huge success despite the weather conditions. They had 124 kids who signed up to fish, and a big congrats to the winners — Ella Ripple for catching the biggest fish weighing 28.66 lbs, Karter Hall for catching the second biggest fish weighing 26.81 lbs. Also, Kamila Fonseca, age 2 years and 2 months, was the youngest fisher in the competition. If you missed the event, you can still check out pics on the City of El Campo’s social media age
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo finished its 23-day event, and boy, was it a success! Over 2.4 million guests came to enjoy the fun, and more than 35,000 exhibitors showed off their skills. Speaking of exhibitors, 64 Wharton County 4-H members and their families competed in various shows and competitions. This rodeo is the highlight of the year for local 4-H’ers. What an incredible turnout!
Riverside Park is hosting its Fourth Annual Smoke Off this Friday and Saturday. If you think your grilling skills are top-notch, then try your hand at this competition and a chance to win $2500 dollars and first place. The competition features a wide range of Texas-style barbecue staples judged in different categories like brisket, pork ribs, chef’s choice, and more. This year, they have also added three new categories including boiled crawfish, crawfish-other, and people’s choice. To register visit cityofbaycity.org or contact Riverside Park or Parks and Rec.
Last December Los Cucos Mexican Café was lost in a fire, and now the owners have received more bad news. On March 13th, they were informed that they lost their lease, and the building will have to be torn down. The City of Wharton owns the land where the building sits next to the Colorado River, and they terminated the lease during a council meeting. This isn’t related to the fire, but the city is acquiring and clearing property along the river for the U.S. Corps of Engineers to build a levee.
Bay City PD had an amazing time at the Great Steak Cookoff which helped support Bay City ISD Education Foundation. Not only did they have two cook off teams but they also had a unique way to raise money. McCoy’s Building Supply sponsored a “jail and bail” where guests could have someone “arrested” for a small fee, and the arrested person needed someone to pay their bail to get out. A big thanks to the Peden family and Bay City CDC for sponsoring the cook off teams. All proceeds went towards Bay City ISD Education Foundation.
A+ Metal Recycling in Victoria County was broken into sometime on Thursday night or early Friday morning, and a large amount of cash was reported missing. The Victoria County Sheriff’s Office received a call about the burglary when the recycling center opened on Friday morning. The scene has been processed, and an investigation is underway. The total amount stolen is still unknown as the business is still doing inventory, but it is significant. Burglary of a building is a felony offense under Texas law.
Bay City’s Riverside Park may face a new challenge during the city’s budget process, as some have suggested leasing the park to a private investor. While there’s been no formal action or closed session talks on the possibility, the park was discussed in last year’s budget meetings. Leasing the park could help alleviate costs, but it’s a concern for many who love the park. Bay City’s budget talks start in April, and everything is up in the air. The park has plans for events to boost revenue, but talks of constructing cabins were unfunded.
El Campo bids farewell to one of its dedicated public servants, Stephen Helterbridle, who recently retired after working for the Public Works department for nearly 26 years. Starting as a meter technician, he rose through the ranks to become a crew chief in the field utility repair crew and later, a wastewater treatment operator. Known for his punctuality and dedication, his coworkers held a special lunch in his honor and gifted him an engraved cutting board as a token of appreciation. Congrats to Stephen on a well-deserved retirement!
El Campo Police Chief Gary Williamson is resigning from his post effective April 7th after 23 years of service. An interim department leader is expected to be approved by the city council on Monday. Williamson will become the police chief in Lockhart, a city with a population of 14,379 and a lower than average crime rate. Williamson expressed gratitude towards the city council and citizens for their support in his resignation letter and said it was a pleasure to serve the citizens here.
The El Campo soccer program has made history as both the boys’ and girls’ teams have qualified for the playoffs at the same time for the first time ever! While the Ricebirds have made it to the playoffs before, the Ladybirds are thrilled to be making their first-ever trip to the postseason. The Ladybirds will be facing off against Needville this Friday, while the Ricebirds will be playing against the West Columbia Roughnecks. With a dynamic offense that has scored 74 goals in 14 games, the Ricebirds are sure to put up a good fight.
Over 120 kids and their families braved chilly weather and rain to participate in the annual Kidfish event at Legacy Pond over the weekend. Coastal Catfish delivered over 1,000 pounds of catfish ahead of time, making for an easy catch despite the tough conditions. City Public Works Director, Kevin Thompson, says that while some kids were hesitant to participate at first, enthusiastic volunteers and family members helped them overcome their fears. In total, 124 children between 2 and 15 years old registered for the event.
A Bay City widow of a US Navy Veteran, Theresa O’Neal, and her children received a brand new, fully furnished mobile home without a mortgage on March 1st. Operation Finally Home partnered with H-E-B Operation Appreciation to provide this home for the O’Neal family. They were surprised on last September during an interview process at H-E-B, where they were informed that they had already been chosen to receive the new home. Their previous manufactured home was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Oak Creek Homes constructed and delivered the new manufactured home.
Bay City Port is planning to build a massive 200-acre recreational complex with a whopping $68 million dollar budget. This exciting project will offer tons of new recreational and educational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Plus, it’s expected to create around 456 new jobs in the county and boost economic activity. The project will be put up for a vote in May, and the authority is planning three public meetings to chat about it and answer any questions from the public. The Port hopes the project will encourage private developers to build businesses in the area.
A viral Twitter video shows a woman refusing to eat her steak because it looked like Texas. The video was posted by a user named TXDeplorable, and people are reacting to it. But, from the looks of it, Longhorn Steakhouse did a great job cooking the steak. In related news, Longhorn Steakhouse is set to open a new location in Victoria near Red Lobster. Construction will begin next month, and the new steakhouse was chosen by the developer, Hull Property Group, who owns the Victoria Mall and nearby restaurant pad sites.
The Cradle of Texas, Chapter 33, Sons of the American Revolution just announced the winners of their Americanism contests! Abigail F. Humber from West of the Brazos Middle School won the Sgt. Moses Adams Memorial Middle School Brochure Contest and Everett Humber from West Columbia Elementary School won the Elementary School Poster Contest. Both students received a certificate of recognition and a $100 check. Their amazing work will now be competing at the state level in the Texas Society of the Sons of the American Revolution against all entries in the state. Congrats to Abigail and Everett on their well-deserved recognition!
The Wharton Economic Development Corporation has approved its strategic plan for the next four years. The plan includes goals to bring developable sites to the market, recruit retail businesses to the town, strengthen the school-to-jobs pipeline, and invest in infrastructure. Executive Director Joshua Owens says that their main focus is to bring in public-private partnerships to develop sites and strengthen the school-to-jobs pipeline. He also highlighted the need to invest in infrastructure and recruit retail businesses. The EDC has invested heavily in funding the infrastructure for the FM 1301 Extension project in Wharton.
The Wharton County Youth Fair is happening soon! From Friday until the end of the month, you can enjoy different events like the Junior college rodeo on Friday at 7 pm, and the Open team roping and Junior Breeding Beef competition on Saturday starting at 9 am. There’s also a big concert on Saturday featuring Neal McCoy, Doug Stone, and T.G. Sheppard. On Sunday, the fair will be kid-friendly with activities happening from 8 am to 5 pm. Don’t miss out on the fun!
Severe drought conditions may cause Matagorda County to lose thousands of acres of rice crops and millions of dollars in revenue. The Lower Colorado River Authority has announced that there will be no Highland Lakes water available for agricultural customers in Matagorda, Wharton, and Colorado counties this year. This is due to the drought affecting the Hill Country’s lake reservoirs, leading to low levels in the water supply. The county stands to lose around $30 million, impacting rice farmers, turf farmers, row crops, and ranchers who rely on the water for their cattle.
Good news for the residents of Danevang as the post office reopened! After closing down due to power outages in January 2022, construction was delayed for months and then halted again by a swarm of bees. However, USPS Communications Specialist Kanickewa Johnson has confirmed that P.O. Box operations resumed on Friday and retail operations will soon follow. While customers still have to make one more drive to retrieve their new keys from the El Campo Post Office, this is a huge relief for the community who have been making the 10-mile commute since the closure.
A man died in a car crash outside Louise after being chased by the police on Friday afternoon. The driver, identified as Manuel Saldona Jr., was driving a black Cadillac and brandishing a gun at other vehicles on the U.S. 59. Ganado police tried to stop him but Saldana ran back to his car and drove off, losing the police. The car was later found crashed and rolled over on the eastern outskirts of Louise. Bystanders and officers tried to help, but Saldana died at the scene. The Department of Public Safety is investigating the crash.
A trailer caught fire at 2517 Nichols in Bay City on Sunday night. First responders found heavy fire and smoke coming from the trailer, which was later contained to the trailer itself. Although the trailer was consumed in the fire, there were no injuries reported. The cause of the fire is currently undetermined and damage to the trailer and personal property was estimated to be around $7,000. This is the second trailer fire that has occurred at 2517 Nichols this year. At this time, there does not appear to be any connection between the two fires.
A significant step in the fight against opioid addiction was taken as the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill that would classify overdoses from fentanyl as “poisonings.” Senate Bill 645, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities, would allow prosecutors to charge drug manufacturers and dealers with murder. Additionally, the bill increases the penalty for making or delivering less than 1 gram of fentanyl, from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony. If a person dies from an overdose as a result of manufacturing or delivering the drug, that penalty is escalated to a second-degree felony.
Bay City Mayor Robert Nelson has highlighted the issue of stray dogs and the danger they may pose to the city’s children. Officials at the council meeting last Tuesday night say they are working to address the problem, but there are no easy solutions. Unfortunately, the Animal Control impound is very small, and there is not enough space for all the animals. The city has several animal ordinances, including the leash law and not allowing animals to run at large on streets, sidewalks, alleys, parks, or private properties. They have recently hired another animal control employee to mitigate the staff shortage.
The Bay City Police Department’s Annual Report for 2022 was presented at the City Council meeting last week. According to the report, robbery cases doubled and larceny cases increased by almost 100 compared to the previous year. Bay City Police Chief Christella Rodriguez believes that the high inflation rates, cost of living, and border crisis have contributed significantly to the rise in crime rates. However, there was a decrease in reported sexual assault cases from 25 in 2021 to 8 in 2022. The Chief noted that illegal narcotics have been flooding into the country through open borders.
The El Campo Police Department is hosting their first annual Drug Take Back starting today and ending on April 22nd. This initiative is conducted in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Agency, and it aims to prevent the excessive amount of prescription medication in public hands, and to reduce illicit sales of these drugs on the streets. If you have any meds you’d like to get rid of, you can drop them off at the El Campo Police Station, located at 1011 West Loop, anytime day or night with no questions asked. The program does not accept any aerosols, needles, or vape pens.
In Victoria a man named Jonathan Shaw led the police on a chase monday. It started when a detective saw him break a traffic rule. When the police tried to stop him, he didn’t pull over. They eventually caught up with him after he abandoned his car and tried to run away. The police found a significant amount of heroin – 99.94 grams and 28 grams of methamphetamine in his car and on him. He’s been arrested and charged with multiple crimes.
Fort Bend County Libraries is set to host a performance by the North America Youth Chinese Orchestra on April 1st from 2-3 pm. The talented young Chinese-American student musicians will be showcasing their culture and music using instruments like the violin, flute, pipa, guzheng, and zhong ruan. The event will be held at the Sugar Land Branch Library and is free for everyone. Don’t miss this chance to experience traditional Chinese music! For more info, check out their website or give them a call.
It’s time to get your yard work done in the City of Edna. The heavy rains have caused overgrowth in many areas of the city, so residents are reminded to maintain their properties to avoid violating city code. The ordinance requires residents to keep their properties safe and well-kept, including regular grass and weed cutting. Also, when putting out limbs for pickup, please make sure they are cut into four-foot sections and bundled. The city won’t be able to pick up long sections or branches.
The Port of Bay City Authority in Matagorda County will be holding an election on November 7th. The election will determine two Commissioners who will serve six-year terms each. To be eligible for these positions, a person must be a resident of the district, a freehold property taxpayer, and a qualified elector in Matagorda County. The election will take place at various precinct/election locations determined by the Matagorda County Clerk. The positions up for election are Position Two and Position Six.
El Campo ISD trustees have approved a two-year athletic director’s contract for Travis Reeve. He has an impressive track record, having won a state championship in 2018 for Cuero, where he was head coach for 11 seasons. Reeve’s also spent the past three years as head coach at New Caney, leading them to an 11-1 season and an undefeated district championship this past year. Reeve has ties to the area, having graduated from Victoria High School, where his father was head coach. Reeve will start his new role on March 21st, when students return from Spring Break.
Edna police have seized over $20,000 in cash and more than four ounces of marijuana following a year-long investigation led by Lieutenant Derrick Bermea. The investigation began after reports of cocaine sales by Jadrien Gutierrez. Hours of surveillance showed numerous short vehicle visits and hand-to-hand transactions by Gutierrez. Bermea was able to make several control buys from Gutierrez which eventually led to a search warrant of the residence. During the search, police found cash in envelopes and over four ounces of marijuana.
Discover Downtown Rosenberg is all set to host the Downtown Wine and Beer Walk for the second time on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m in the historic downtown Rosenberg. Get ready to taste some amazing wines and beers from local wineries and breweries, enjoy live music from The Emotions Band, indulge in some delicious treats from various food trucks, and much more! Entry to the festival is free, but a ticket is required for those who want to participate in the Wine and Beer Walk tastings.
A Rosenberg woman and her family are upset after decorations they left on their loved ones’ graves at a cemetery were discarded without notice. Lisa Reyes says they would leave decorations for every season and occasion. However, on a recent visit, they noticed some items were missing. When Reyes asked staff, they said the groundskeepers cleaned up the area and the items could be found near the dumpster. Reyes was heartbroken to find hundreds of items, including her family’s decorations, discarded. Although there are cemetery rules regarding decorations, Reyes wishes they had been informed and the situation handled with more sensitivity.
Get ready for some sizzling action at the 13th annual Great Steak Cookoff! On Saturday, March 25th, four-person teams will compete for the Traveling Trophy and bragging rights for a year. Guests can enjoy delicious steaks cooked by the teams along with locally prepared side dishes. Plus, there will be live and silent auctions. All funds raised will go toward programs, scholarships, and grants for teachers’ classrooms and curriculum. Hosted by the Bay City ISD Education Foundation, the cook-off starts at 4:30 pm at the Bay City Civic Center. Don’t miss out on the fun!
Emergency Service District No. 6 has finally broken ground on a two-story fire station in Pleak, after almost eight years since it was founded. This new fire station will be huge – about 13,400 square feet! And it’s going to cost an estimated $3.2 million to build. It will have everything needed for a fire station including a kitchen, a common area, a dorm on two floors, and four bays to hold fire trucks and other equipment. Construction could begin within the next few weeks and is expected to be completed by next spring.
Good news for all the farmers and locals who love fresh produce! The Wharton County Farmers Market is coming back to Riverfront Park in Wharton on April 8th! The Wharton City Council approved the market’s request to use the park for free on Saturdays from April 8th to July 1st and again in the fall from September 30th to December 23rd. Kodi Keiler, president of the farmers market, requested permission to sell glass containers for products like pickles, honey, and jams, and use the storage space behind Riverfront Park. The council unanimously approved the request.
Matagorda County Commissioners have decided to join other Texas counties in participating in the Opioid Settlement. This means that Allergan, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart will be held accountable for their roles in the opioid epidemic. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton secured $1.167 billion for Texas from the $26 billion opioid agreement with the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors. Painkiller abuse and related overdose deaths have quadrupled in the US since 1999, with common prescription opioids including Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Codeine, Morphine, Methadone, and Fentanyl. The epidemic has impacted local law enforcement agencies and medical centers nationwide, and Matagorda County is no exception.
Hollywood actor Sean Astin will be giving a lecture and answering questions at the Victoria Fine Arts Center on March 28th at 11 a.m. The event is free and open to the public and is part of the Lyceum Lecture Series hosted by Victoria College. Astin will talk about his experiences in filmmaking and advocacy for mental health, inspired by his mother being diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder. The event is expected to last an hour, with a 45-minute presentation followed by a 15-minute Q&A session. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Palacios will host a three-day festival the weekend of March 24th to connect people with nature and birds. BirdFest celebrates the vast list of species in Matagorda County, known for its avian habitat on the Coastal Bend. Bird watchers are welcome to join and enjoy activities such as birding tours by land and water, a parade of hand-crafted bird costumes along historic Main Street, and an awards ceremony for the annual countywide youth art contest. The festival also includes a Raptor display at Railroad Park and workshops about wildlife, conservation and the environment.