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Business
Manufacturing company set for move into former Patriot building

A company that manufactures equipment for oil and gas drilling is moving into one of the largest buildings in Waco.

Brazos Iron Works plans to start operating in the former Patriot mobile-home manufacturing building on West Loop 340 on Jan. 15, 2018 officials said. The company, which makes drilling equipment such as pressure vessels and heater treaters, expects to employ 25 to 30 people next year and double that going into 2019.

Brazos Iron Works President Eric Mehringer said Texas State Technical College’s welding program excites him as a source for workers. The equipment made in Waco will be used across the continental United States, he said.

“Logistically, everything in Waco makes sense,” vice president of operations Josh Lewallen said. “The labor pool is great here. We’ve worked in Fort Worth and Odessa and the Permian and everything for awhile. And I’m from Waco, so I just figured it was time to come home.”

Brazos Iron Works plans to use about 48,000 square feet of the 129,000-square-foot building.

Real estate agent Nathan Embry said the process of finding a tenant for the building was complicated because it had to be rezoned. Working through procedures with city and county leaders moved the project forward, he said.

“It sat on the market for awhile, and when you get a call on it, it’s pretty exciting because it’s a big player, generally speaking, who needs a lot of space,” Embry said.

Embry said the stretch of large buildings on West Loop 340 west of Interstate 35 is ripe for businesses.

“We’re really looking forward to expanding and growing this business in Waco and having this as the central hub for our manufacturing facility,” Lewallen said.


News
spotlight
Making the season brighter
Waco family wins ABC's 'The Great Christmas Light Fight'

The glow of Christmas lights around Alice and Epifanio Tristan’s Waco home reached a little farther this holiday season.

“This is for our grandkids, our great-grandkids, our kids and their friends,” Epifanio Tristan said. “Now everyone else is coming around, and we just like doing it for their smiles.”

Earlier this month, the Tristan family won recognition when their display, honed for decades at Proctor Avenue and 27th Street, appeared on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” show, and won $50,000 for the nationwide competition during the Dec. 18 finale. While some of the competitors had carefully orchestrated displays, Alice Tristan said she had to redesign her approach for the broadcast.

“They gave me 31 days to do what I usually do in two and a half months, and when I saw the big mansions with all of their professional displays, I thought there was no way I could compete with that,” Alice Tristan said. “I went to the bathroom and started crying.”

During an interview before production, producers talked her into sticking with the competition, she said. Despite holiday stress and a hefty light bill, Alice Tristan started putting her display together in late summer to coincide with production schedules.

“It is just me who does this, climbing up trees, getting on the roof, but even in the last two days I was so stressed,” she said. “I never imagined I would have won.”

Alice Tristan started putting her colorful holiday display together at the request of her daughter, who was in the hospital at the former Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center nearby and in need of something to lift her spirits, Epifanio Tristan said.

“And then it just grew and grew,” he said. “Nurses would bring patients to the window to see the lights. It just was a good thing for our community.”

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Many of the decorations in Alice Tristan’s elaborate Christmas displays are based on TV and movie characters.

With the exception of rainy weather, Alice Tristan plans to have her holiday lights up until Jan. 3.

Barbara Bradshaw, a longtime family friend, said her friendship with Alice Tristan grew from the holiday display. Bradshaw said she noticed the lights when her first grandchild was born 19 years ago and thanked Alice Tristan for “keeping the Christmas spirit alive.”

“I had so much trouble just putting my Christmas tree together when the legs broke, but then you see her house and everything she does and you just know why she won the show,” Bradshaw said. “To me, it is just magical what she does. That is why she won.”


Military
Trump sends Christmas greetings to US troops abroad

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump opened his first Christmas Eve in office by offering season’s greetings to U.S. troops stationed around the world and applauding the sacrifices their families make when their loved ones are away.

“Today and every day, we’re incredibly thankful for you and for your families,” Trump said from his Florida estate, where he is spending the holidays with his family. “Your families have been tremendous. Always underappreciated, the military families. The greatest people on Earth.”

Trump spoke briefly by video hook-up on Sunday to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard stationed in Qatar, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

Vice President Mike Pence rallied U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan during a surprise visit last week.

Trump complimented each branch of the armed forces. He said the Army’s “Iron Brigade” combat team in Kuwait is performing a “vital mission” by partnering with the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian armies, and providing force protection in Syria and Iraq.

He said a Kuwait-based, Marine air-ground task force has provided more than 4,000 flight hours of close air support in the campaign against the Islamic State group, and he thanked sailors aboard the USS Sampson for defending “high-value assets” in the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump also singled out the Air Force’s 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron in Qatar for engaging more than 700 IS and Taliban targets in five separate countries and winning two trophies in an Air Force bomb competition. He called winning both an “amazing achievement.”

But he seemed to reserve the most praise for the Coast Guard, which impressed the president with its rescue operations during a devastating hurricane season in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“You’ve done such an incredible job in Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico,” Trump said. “Many Republicans are very happy but, I have to tell you, the people of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and lots of other states are even more happy. What a job you’ve done ... saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

Puerto Ricans, however, may question the president’s upbeat assessment of their state of mind.

Power generation on the U.S. territory is at 65 percent of normal, with nine of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities still completely in the dark more than three months after Hurricane Maria walloped the island. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated power will not be fully restored across Puerto Rico until May. More than 200,000 homes were damaged and more than 30,000 people have lost their jobs, sparking an exodus of more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans to Florida alone.

In closing, Trump offered thanks to those who are away from their families to “defend all of our families, our freedoms and our pride.”

“Every American heart is thankful to you and we’re asking God to watch over you and to watch over your families,” he said, before he asked journalists to leave the room so he could begin taking questions from the service members.

Trump planned to join first lady Melania Trump later Sunday to answer telephone calls from kids seeking updates on Santa Claus’ whereabouts from the NORAD Tracks Santa program. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has tracked Santa’s flight for more than 60 years.


Police
Christmas Eve accidents claim life of Hewitt man, shut down I-35

Christmas Eve accidents claimed the life of a Hewitt man, and sent a second man to the hospital with life-threatening injuries while shutting down Interstate 35 for three hours Sunday morning.

Police report 59-year-old Kevin Barry Gerard McAndrew of Hewitt stopped to retrieve a package that had fallen from the top of his vehicle after a late-night shopping trip when he was hit and killed by a car in the 700 block of Hewitt Drive, near Walmart Supercenter.

The initial investigation revealed McAndrew had been shopping at a store in the 600 block of Hewitt Drive. It is believed he may have inadvertently left items on the roof of his car, said Waco police Sgt. Patrick W. Swanton.

Swanton reported that when McAndrew pulled out of the parking lot onto Hewitt Drive, one or more of the items fell into the lane of traffic. McAndrew stopped his vehicle on the shoulder and walked into the roadway to retrieve the item and was struck by a passing vehicle, according to Swanton.

The Waco Fire Department, as well as a crash reconstruction team, emergency medical personnel and victim’s services, responded to the crash scene around 2:30 a.m.

Around 7:15 a.m. Sunday, Waco police officers were dispatched to a single-vehicle accident in the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 underneath the Valley Mills Drive flyover.

Officers found 19-year-old Juan Rivera laying on the shoulder of the roadway, having been ejected from the 2007 Nissan SUV he was driving.

Rivera was transported to Baylor Scott and White-Hillcrest with massive life-threatening injuries.

The southbound lanes of I-35 were closed for three hours as a result of the accident.