SAN DIEGO — The last two of eight prototypes for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall took shape Thursday at a construction site in San Diego.
The prototypes form a tightly packed row of imposing concrete and metal panels, including one with sharp metal edges on top. Another, built by a Houston firm, has a surface resembling an expensive brick driveway.
Companies have until Oct. 26 to finish the models but Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said the last two came into profile, with crews installing a corrugated metal surface on the eighth model on a dirt lot just a few steps from homes in Tijuana, Mexico.
As the crews worked, three men and two women, one carrying a large red purse, jumped a short rusted fence from Tijuana into the construction site and were immediately stopped by agents on horseback.
Francisco said there have been four or five other illegal crossing attempts at the site since work began Sept. 26.
The models, which cost the government up to $500,000 each, were spaced 30 feet apart. Slopes, thickness and curves vary. One has two shades of blue with white trim. The others are gray, tan or brown — in sync with the desert.
Bidding guidelines call for the prototypes to stand between 18 and 30 feet high and be able to withstand at least an hour of punishment from a sledgehammer, pickaxe, torch, chisel or battery-operated tools.
Features also should prevent the use of climbing aids such as grappling hooks, and the segments must be “aesthetically pleasing” when viewed from the U.S. side.
The administration hasn’t said how many winners it will pick or whether Trump will weigh in himself.
There is currently 654 miles of single-layer fence on the 1,954-mile border, plus 51 miles of double- and triple-layer fence.
“I’m sure they will engage in a lot of tests against these structures to see how they function with different challenges,” U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday after touring the construction site.
Trump has asked Congress for $1.6 billion to replace 14 miles of wall in San Diego and build 60 miles in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.
Here’s a rundown of companies building prototypes, their headquarters and value of their contract. Two are making one concrete prototype and another using other materials.
Its tan concrete wall is thick at the bottom and narrows considerably toward the pointed top. The other, also tan, has metal poles on the bottom, a metal plate in the middle, and concrete block on top.
The general construction company founded in 1983 says its projects include U.S. embassies in Beijing and Kabul, Afghanistan, terminals at Houston’s George Bush International Airport and renovations to the Denver Mint.
Its models are a darker brown than other prototypes and topped by round beams. Its concrete panel has a plain face; its metal one has a corrugated surface.
The 53-year-old company has worked in a wide range of projects, including a Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi, a county jail in Olmito, Texas, a marine terminal in Jacksonville, Florida, and a power plant near Panama City, Florida.
Two companies are building concrete walls.
It’s the only prototype to be built entirely on site — as opposed to being hauled in. Its tan surface gradually narrows toward the top, like a long triangle.
Part of conglomerate Fisher Industries, the company produces sand, gravel and other products for roads, dams and large public works projects. The company is active is 12 western states.
The gray surface of the U.S. side is stamped with patterns of different-sized bricks, like a driveway or sidewalk at an upscale home. There is a steel plate on top with prongs that feature at three metal spikes, resembling an agave plant.
Parent company Sterling Construction Co., founded in 1991, specializes in water and transportation projects, including highways, bridges, ports, light rail, wastewater and storm drainage systems. It is active in Texas, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, California and Hawaii.
___Two companies were selected to build walls made of materials other than concrete.
Its gray metal columns are topped with a large metal plate. The small, Hispanic-owned company counts the Homeland Security, Defense and Interior departments among its largest customers.
Its solid metal wall features six light blue squares with white trim on the bottom third, topped by dark blue beams and metal plates.ELTA is a large Israeli defense contractor owned by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries. The company, which makes radar and other gear, opened its new U.S. headquarters in Maryland in May.
A pair of Republican lawmakers in Waco on Thursday called for GOP unity as Congress faces legislative hurdles to pass agenda items on tax reform, infrastructure and border security by the end of the year.
U.S. Reps. Bill Flores, of Bryan, and Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, agreed Republicans should brush aside the influence of Steve Bannon, who has called his conservative website Breitbart “a platform for the alt-right.”
“In modern-day politics, 99 can be a failing grade,” Gowdy told a crowd of more than 250 at a GOP fundraiser at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. “If you have a candidate that is right on everything else, but he or she is wrong on this issue, someone somewhere is going to eviscerate that candidate. So we’ve got to decide as a party, what do we believe? What are those core beliefs? How much is enough for something to be good enough to support?”
“Help me with my math. How many elections has Steve Bannon won?” Gowdy added.
Bannon, a former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, has said “it’s a season of war against a GOP establishment.”
Flores said he was disappointed when Breitbart criticized him after he called for a ban on “bump stocks” in the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead, including the gunman.
“I don’t like getting beat up by my own side when I’m engaged to try to win for the people I represent in this district against the forces of socialism and the left,” said Flores, a four-term congressman who represents Waco. “If I’ve got my own party trying to tear my arm off, it’s going to be hard for me to do what you want me to do.”
Flores, who does not face a primary challenger, said Democrats “love every time Steve Bannon comes after us.” In an interview, he said his district leans “center-right,” and that a Bannon-inspired candidate would not win here or in “scores of districts.”
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking to advance major agenda items. Flores told the Tribune-Herald he sees a 70 to 80 percent chance of tax reform succeeding, a 60 to 70 percent chance of border security and “Dreamers” protection succeeding and that the passage of an infrastructure package is still possible. Both chambers of Congress will pass a unified budget after conferencing, he said.
Gowdy, a Baylor University graduate who visited the Lady Bears’ basketball squad with Flores later Thursday, is best known as chairman of a select committee that investigated the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
Gowdy said he expects the House investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians attempting to sway the 2016 election to finish witness interviews in November and produce a report in December. He also said he has found no evidence of collusion.
A Senate committee is also investigating the matter, and a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, is conducting the most high-profile investigation of the three.
Gowdy, who Flores said was “unfairly prosecuted in the media” for allegedly politicizing the Benghazi probe, said Democrats want the investigations to last “until Christ comes back.”
The crowd at the fundraiser Thursday applauded at multiple points when Flores or Gowdy accused media outlets of unfairly reporting on Trump, echoing an almost daily complaint from the president himself.
The lower chamber returns to its session next week.
If artwork could get motion sickness, two of the first exhibits at downtown Waco’s Cultivate 7twelve gallery likely could qualify for some Dramamine.
The Art Center of Waco’s show “This, That or The Other: Considering the Emerging Trends and Vernacular in Photography,” was originally set to open last week at the center at McLennan Community College but ended up debuting in ground floor and second floor spaces at Cultivate 7twelve.
The student part of the show, displayed in a second floor room, was shelved after opening weekend because of space considerations, making way for the exhibition’s professional part, which moved upstairs.
To make room for “This, That or The Other,” Cultivate 7twelve took down its first art show, ”Transformation,” days after it opened, then returned “Transformation” art back to its first-floor walls starting last weekend. Cultivate 7twelve’s gift shop also disappeared briefly during “This, That Or The Other’s” Oct. 13 reception, returning over the weekend.
This weekend finds both art shows in place for the remainder of their runs, which end Oct. 28.
The moves, however, left a few Waco artists more uneasy than queasy, bothered by a last-minute switch of “Transformation” that they felt hadn’t been communicated sufficiently and which they believed violated the gallery’s part of their exhibition contracts.
Other groups praised gallery owner Rebekah Hagman for her willingness to provide exhibition space for the Art Center of Waco after discovery of a structural problem in the art center building forced its evacuation a scant two weeks before “This, That or The Other” was to open.
“This week saw a small miracle with big-picture repercussions for Waco’s reputation as a community with a vibrant, connected and welcoming community of artists and arts professionals,” the Waco arts nonprofit Creative Waco posted on its blog last week.
Art Center of Waco director Meg Gilbert agreed with the sentiment.
“Thankfully, Rebekah in Cultivate 7twelve was so gracious,” Gilbert said.
“This, That Or The Other” features photographic works from 33 artists in a juried show by the Society for Photographic Education — South Central. The show was being displayed in conjunction with the SPE regional conference, which covers a seven-state area, held last week at Baylor University. The photographic exhibit’s reception, attended by several hundred people, was part of the conference schedule.
Hagman, who co-owns the gallery with her husband Jeremy, said she decided to accommodate the Art Center of Waco show as an effort to help the larger Waco arts community.
“I felt it was in line with our vision in elevating Waco culture,” she said. “On one side, I totally understand those artists who felt it was the best chance to have their work seen and sold. … (But) for the greater arts community, it was a step in the right direction.”
Some Waco artists in the “Transformation” show found out about the move indirectly, however, through a mention in the Art Center of Waco newsletter.
“At this point, the biggest thing is we were not informed,” painter Mark Kieran said. “I felt they were hoping we weren’t going to notice.”
Compounding the issue for others was the timing of the move, with the Art Center of Waco show opening during Silobration weekend, an event by Magnolia Market at the Silos expected to draw some 20,000 to 30,000 tourists to town.
Artist Susan Sistrunk had created extra prints of her painting of the Silos in anticipation of Silobration, then heard “Transformation” would not be on display that weekend.
“The biggest weekend in Waco, and our art is in a closet somewhere,” Sistrunk said.
For Sistrunk, the change violated the exhibition contract between artist and gallery, which holds both parties to show the agreed-upon works for a specific range of dates, she said.
“It was something I have never encountered in 20 years as an artist,” she said.
Gilbert, whose Art Center office and staff temporarily occupy a second-floor space at Cultivate 7twelve, said center, gallery and Baylor volunteers worked to minimize the 7twelve artists’ displacement, starting to put “Transformation” pieces back on their first-floor walls the morning after the reception.
Kieran, however, refused to let his work go back up in protest.
“If they would have sent an email to ask if we would agree to it, I would have been fine with it,” he said.
Two other artists admitted they were conflicted about continuing in the show. Some noted that Waco’s limited gallery space for local artists to show and sell their work heightened the emotions some felt about the exhibition moves.
Not all participating artists felt a red line had been crossed.
Waco artist Marsha Wilson, whose specialty is finely detailed wood burning, said the days during which the exhibits were in transition were a little turbulent, but ultimately for a good cause.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but we’ve survived,” said Wilson, who works in a second-floor studio at Cultivate 7twelve. “I think it’s been good for everybody. It’s nice to see businesses open their doors for others.”
Hagman regretted the hurt feelings the exhibit switchovers may have caused and said she would work toward repairing any damaged relationship between Cultivate 7twelve and artists.
“I look forward to earning the trust of the art community here,” she said.
A new Cultivate 7twelve exhibit will go up Nov. 3 with the downtown arts space holding a formal Grand Opening on Dec. 1.
Jurors in the Jacob Carrizal Twin Peaks trial watched more surveillance video from the fatal shootout Thursday as prosecutors continued trying to build their case against the Bandidos Dallas chapter president.
Carrizal, 35, is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court on charges he directed the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 25 years in prison on the first count and a maximum of life in prison.
Department of Public Safety investigator Chris Frost returned to the witness stand for the second day Thursday to describe video of a portion of the Twin Peaks shootout captured by a hidden pole camera he installed that morning.
Judge Matt Johnson recessed the trial around noon Thursday. Prosecution testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Friday.
Prosecutor Amanda Dillon picked up the DPS video where Frost’s testimony ended Wednesday, about 12:26 p.m. on May 17, 2015, after the shooting and fighting that left nine bikers dead and dozens injured stopped.
The video showed Jesus Rodriguez, a biker not affiliated with either of the warring Bandidos or Cossacks, lying dead near the Twin Peaks sign and a biker Frost identified only as “Bear” lying on the ground writhing in obvious pain after being shot in the back.
A biker walks by holding his right arm, while bikers walked into the picture with their arms raised, responding to police commands.
One man walks over and sits down on the curb, holding his face. Other bikers are lying on the ground, also responding to police orders.
A group of Cossacks appear to be trying to give medical attention to Bear and can been seen carrying him away after a minute or two. The man with the face wound is allowed to walk toward officers for treatment.
Frost and other officers testified that ambulance crews will not enter what police call “hot zones,” staying back until dangerous situations can be stabilized.
During cross-examination, Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, said the police investigation started out as a capital murder probe into Rodriguez’s death. The incident later was expanded into criminal conspiracy cases after McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna showed up at the scene and consulted by telephone with then Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, who was out of the state.
Frost said the roles of DPS investigators and Waco police SWAT officers on the scene were different, saying DPS officers were there to gather intelligence on the motorcycle groups while Waco police officers were there to create a visible law enforcement presence in hopes of being a deterrent to violence.
“We did not believe there would be violence like there was at a strip mall on a Sunday afternoon,” Frost said.
In other prosecution testimony Thursday, Peter Caldwell, general manager at Don Carlos Mexican Restaurant, helped prosecutor Michael Jarrett narrate video from one of the restaurant’s 16 surveillance cameras. Don Carlos is next to the Twin Peaks location.
The video, showing mostly the front parking lot and sidewalk leading to the restaurant, did not capture the shooting. But it was obvious when the gunfire erupted because people could be seen running and officers could be seen using vehicles for cover as they advanced toward the area of Twin Peaks.
“While everyone else is running away, these officers are going toward the violence,” Jarrett said.
Caldwell agreed with Jarrett that none of the officers in the video, who were walking with guns drawn, were firing their weapons.
Houston-based Champion Energy Services submitted the winning bid to provide electric service to households participating in the Waco Power Switch program sponsored by Prosper Waco to reduce energy costs.
A total of 924 households in Greater Waco have signed up to take part in the effort, and each will save an average of $368 annually on their electric bills, according to a press release from Prosper Waco.
During a bid process that attracted offers from four companies, Champion Energy Services agreed to provide electricity for a fixed rate of 3.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, along with a flat fee of $5.25 per month.
Meanwhile, Oncor will charge $5.25 a month and $3.65 cents per kWh to deliver electricity. Combined, the average price per kWh stands at 8.9 cents for 500 kWh of use, 7.8 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh of use and 7.3 cents per kWh for 2,000 kWh of use, according to a breakdown of rates provided by Prosper Waco.
“It is a fair and transparent deal,” said Waco City Councilman John Kinnaird, a volunteer with Prosper Waco who recommended it pursue a program for residential customers after attending a Texas Municipal League meeting last year. “To avoid energy bill surprises, the rate does not have complex multiple-tiered rates built in, and no usage-based penalties, which will help residents lower their bills year-round.”
Kinnaird said the community will see a potential annual savings of $340,032, based on average savings and the number of households participating. The 924 households that registered to take part in Waco Power Switch have until Oct. 31 to accept Champion’s offer.
Also, on Oct. 27, Kinnaird will host a “bring your bill” event from noon to 2 p.m. in the Waco-McLennan County Central Library at 300 Austin Ave. Residents who have not signed up for Waco Power Switch are invited to bring their electric bills to get information on whether they could save money by switching as part of the deal Champion Energy Services is offering.
“If you are locked in to your current contract until Jan. 31, 2018, you can still switch to the winning rate secured through Waco Power Switch,” Kinnaird said. “This means more people will be able to switch to this rate without incurring a termination fee from their current provider.”
An independent service provider called iChoosr oversaw the selection process that produced Champion as the low bidder. It was founded in Europe and is expanding into the US and establishing an office in Austin, company vice president Filip Vissers said.
“One of the objectives of Prosper Waco is wealth creation and financial security,” Kinnaird said when Waco Power Switch was announced. “If we can help lower electric bills, that means more money going straight to the pocket instead of the utility company. If we could get just 5 percent of the households in Waco to sign up, that would be a great start.”
So far about 3 percent of households have expressed interest, but Kinnaird said he remains optimistic and believes the program has gained momentum, especially since more residents may join later in the year.
“Those wanting to sign up for this round still have a few weeks, and we will be going through this process again in the spring,” Prosper Waco spokeswoman Christina Helmick said.
Vissers said the response has been decent for a first offering.
“I think we hoped for around a thousand for the first program. People can still sign up, so we’re probably going to get there,” Vissers said. “It’s always difficult to assess when you do a round for the first time in a community, but nearly a thousand people, that’s decent.”
Vissers said Champion’s offer probably was the best rate Waco Power Switch could expect, considering the interested companies were asked to quote rates that did not include usage penalties.
“We’re trying to reach out to more towns and cities,” Vissers said. “We just attended another meeting of the Texas Municipal League in Houston, where we had an exhibition, and we met a lot of representatives of communities interested in the program. The more we add, the greater the buying power, because we will parallel with what’s going on in Waco.”
Kinnaird said in Prosper Waco’s press release that visitors to the Waco Power Switch site were polled about their existing energy provider.
“More than 71 percent of Greater Waco’s registrants indicated they have not switched electric providers in the past three years,” he wrote. “For these people, the program may be a good opportunity to check their electricity costs.”
Residents interested in exploring power options on their own can start at www.powertochoose.org, which calls itself “the official and unbiased electric choice website of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.”
Electric service nationwide cost an average of 12.55 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2016, while Texas’ average was 11.02 cents per kWh, according to Energy Information Administration data provided by Brittany Fitz-Chapman, Prosper Waco’s director of data and research.
Still, Texas has higher rates than Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, whose rates are 9.11 cents, 9.9 cents and 10.7 cents per kWh, respectively, according to the information.