You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

Charlie Brewer

City Center Waco considers buying Train Waco building on Elm
 Rhiannon Saegert  / 

City Center Waco is considering buying an East Waco building with some twists and turns in its recent history.

The building sits at 713 Elm Ave. and currently houses Train Waco, a CrossFit gym. The gym’s purchase of the building from the Eastern Waco Development Corp. last year triggered a lawsuit that was recently dismissed, and the gym recently announced plans to relocate to a larger space. City Center Waco Director Megan Henderson said if the city-aligned nonprofit buys the building, it would lease the space to businesses that meet the area’s needs.

“We would buy the building and be the property owner so that each time a decision is made, that decision is made in a way that has community input,” Henderson said.

She said the area has sorely lacked banks, laundromats, grocery stores, pharmacies, child care and other basic community needs for years, something that has been well-documented through public forums.

“We have work groups that meet four times a month, we’ve had two big public meetings and we’ll have another big community meeting in September,” Henderson said. “But frankly, the question of ‘what do you want to have happen?’ is one we hear the community say they’re pretty tired of answering.”

The building is under contract and City Center Waco will make its final decision after a feasibility period, during which officials will consider what businesses they could bring in and propose financing and lease rates.

“We’re in the process of trying to put a solid proposal together,” Henderson said. “That’s all got to be identified and put into place.”

She also said City Center Waco is prioritizing projects that retain historic architecture in existing buildings and emphasize arts and culture, and more broadly speaking, the community has expressed a desire to see more minority-owned businesses.

“It’s not that everything about this is racial, but the diversity of this business district, and this being a place where people of different backgrounds can not only shop, but prosper, can be business owners, that’s an important part of this district’s history,” Henderson said.

The building is about 13,000 square feet, the majority of which is not heated or air conditioned. Office space and dressing rooms take up 35% to 40% of the building, and the largest part of the building is open workout space.

“At this point it looks like the building would be some number of different tenant spaces,” Henderson said. “It’s really hard to talk about finish-out until we’re talking about a potential tenant.”

She said City Center Waco has purchased property in the area before, including at 209 and 211 Elm Ave. and behind the East Waco Library, but this property holds special significance to the community.

“It is different from anything else that we are doing,” Henderson said. “We would not even be trying to figure out whether we should try to buy the building or not if it was not so significant to the community.”

The building started as Safeway grocery store and was given to the Eastern Waco Development Corp. by Waco businessman Tom Salome in 1998.

Thelma Evans, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that challenged Eastern Waco Development Corp.’s sale of the building to Train Waco, said the building served a variety of community needs for years before its sale last year, which was facilitated by City Center Waco.

It served as an incubator for start-up businesses, hosted fraternity meetings, birthday celebrations and church services, she said. It even housed a boutique and a walk-in wedding chapel, she said.

Before last year’s sale and remodel for Train Waco, the building was primarily office space, Evans said.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

Professional Ashley Kidd surfs a boat wake on the Brazos River during her heat at the Centurion Water Proof Tour Texas held at Brazos Park East. The event continues Saturday with all ages competing. Contestants get 45 seconds to make two passes for the judges, and wake surfers from the United States, Canada and Japan are participating

US-Russia arms control treaty dies; US to test new weapon

WASHINGTON — The United States plans to test a new missile in coming weeks that would have been prohibited under a landmark, 32-year-old arms control treaty that the U.S. and Russia ripped up on Friday.

Washington and Moscow walked out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty that President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed in 1987, raising fears of a new arms race. The U.S. blamed Moscow for the death of the treaty. It said that for years Moscow has been developing and fielding weapons that violate the treaty and threaten the United States and its allies, particularly in Europe.

“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released on Friday.

Russia pointed a finger at America.

“The denunciation of the INF treaty confirms that the U.S. has embarked on destroying all international agreements that do not suit them for one reason or another,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday. “This leads to the actual dismantling of the existing arms control system.”

Exiting the treaty, however, could have an upside for the United States. Washington has complained for years that the arms control playing field was unfair. U.S. officials argued that not only was Russia violating the treaty and developing prohibited weapons, but that China also was making similar non-compliant weapons, leaving the U.S. alone in complying with the aging arms control pact.

Now, the U.S. is free to develop weapons systems that were previously banned. The U.S. is planning a test flight of such a weapon in coming weeks, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the weapons development and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The current Pentagon budget includes $48 million for research on potential military responses to the Russian violations of the INF treaty, but the options do not include a nuclear missile.

The official downplayed the test and said it was not meant as a provocation against Russia. Because the United States adhered to the treaty for 32 years, the United States is “years away” from effectively deploying weapons previously banned under the agreement, the official said Thursday.

Arms control advocates still worry that America’s exit from the INF treaty will lead the two nations to also scrap the larger New START treaty, which expires in early 2021.

“Pulling out of this treaty leaves New START as the only bilateral nuclear arms agreement between the U.S and Russia,” said physicist David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. If President Donald Trump “pulls out of that treaty as well or allows it to lapse, it will be the first time since 1972 that the two countries will be operating without any mutual constraints on their nuclear forces.”

Trump hasn’t committed to extending or replacing New START, which beginning in 2018 imposed limits on the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers. Trump has called New START “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration, and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said in June that it’s unlikely the administration will agree to extend the treaty for five years, which could be done without legislative action in either capital.

The Trump administration thinks talks about extending New START are premature. The administration claims that with China’s growing arsenal of nuclear warheads, Beijing can no longer be excluded from nuclear arms control agreements. Trump has expressed a desire to negotiate a trilateral arms control deal signed by the U.S., Russia and China.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “I will say Russia would like to do something on a nuclear treaty and that’s OK with me. They’d like to do something and so would I.”

The administration official said the U.S. has had regular discussions with the Russians and Chinese about the possibility of a three-way arms control agreement. Trump wants the agreement to address not just intermediate-range weapons, but “all nuclear weapons,” the official said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov urged the United States to observe a moratorium in using intermediate-range weapons.

“We invited the U.S. and other NATO countries to assess the possibility of declaring the same moratorium on deploying intermediate-range and shorter-range equipment as we have, the same moratorium Vladimir Putin declared, saying that Russia will refrain from deploying these systems when we acquire them unless the American equipment is deployed in certain regions,” he said in an interview with state news agency Tass.

European leaders are expected to react to Friday’s demise of the INF with disappointment and concern.

“With the end of the INF treaty, a bit of security in Europe is being lost,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said this week. “Now we call all the more on Russia and the U.S. to preserve the New START treaty as a cornerstone of worldwide arms control.

“Nuclear powers such as China must also face up to their responsibility on arms control — they have more weight in the world than at the time of the Cold War.”

Over its lifetime, the 1987 INF treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet Union nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles. Until its demise, the treaty banned land-based missiles with a range between 310 to 3,410 miles.

Pompeo said the U.S. first raised its concerns that Russia was violating the treaty in 2013 during the Obama administration. He said the U.S. tried for six years to prod Russia back into compliance.

In February, Trump determined that Moscow was in material breach of the treaty and the U.S. suspended its own obligations under the agreement. That started a six-month clock to get Russia back into compliance — time that ran out on Friday.

“As it has for many years, Russia chose to keep its non-compliant missile rather than going back into compliance with its treaty obligations,” Pompeo said. “The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia.”

Hewitt, Waco police rescue child out of locked car
 Kristin Hoppa  / 

Hewitt and Waco police worked together to rescue a young child out of a locked car late Friday morning at the Westrock Centre shopping center as the temperature approached 90 degrees, authorities said.

Waco police were called to Little Land Play Gym & Pediatric Therapy, 1201 Hewitt Drive, at about 11:30 a.m., near where the child was left in a car seat. The car was locked, and Waco officers were unable to immediately get a locksmith to the shopping center, but Hewitt officers overheard dispatch reports on the police scanner.

“My officers were scanning radio traffic when they heard the call with Waco at the shopping center,” Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said. “The officers were nearby, so being on the 800 (megahertz) radio system, my officers were able to speak directly to Waco officers on the scene, who asked them to step it up.”

Hewitt police officers Andre Woods and Jared Scott hurried to the business. Thy had a vehicle unlock kit in a patrol car and were able to open the car with the child inside in about a minute and a half.

The child was not in immediate distress so officers used their discretion to open the door with the vehicle unlock kit. A Waco officer stood by with an object that could have been used to break a window, but officers chose not to damage property since the child was awake and responsive, Devlin said.

“We were able to assist an outside agency with an emergency, and I’m proud that the officers had the wherewithal to hear the radio traffic on the system,” Devlin said. “For my officer to go jump in and assist with potentially saving a life, I am super proud of them.”

Waco police said the child never lost consciousness and appeared to be healthy after the rescue. Devlin said the effort was a success because of teamwork.

The age of the child was not available Friday afternoon.

The incident comes one day after a 9-month-old girl died in a hot car in Garland. The Associated Press reported the girl’s father found her dead in the vehicle at a car wash after she had been left in the vehicle for an unknown period of time.

A total of 25 children have died from being left in hot vehicles this year, according to the National Safety Council, which refers to the incidents as pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths. Since 1998, an average of 38 children per year have died from being left in cars, while 52 died from being left in cars last year, according to the safety council.

“In 10 minutes, the temperatures can go up 19, 20 degrees in a car,” Waco police Community Outreach Officer Sofie Martinez said. “Whatever the temperature is outside, leaving a child in a car just adds to it.”

Martinez has advocated for education and prevention of child heatstroke deaths in vehicles as part of the department’s Community Outreach Programs. She said changes in a parent or caretaker’s routine, or errands that run longer than expected can result in children being put in danger, but simple strategies can remind parents to check their vehicle.

“A quick trip to the store or to pick up your dry cleaning, or whatever, can turn into a trip that is longer than you anticipated,” Martinez said. “We also tell people if you are taking your child to day care or school, put something in the back seat that you are going to need so you remember to check the back seat.”

Direct sunlight heats objects inside cars, so temperatures inside cars can soar as high as 130 degrees even though outside temperatures are lower, according to the National Safety Council. The body’s natural cooling methods, including sweating, start to shut down when the body’s temperatures reaches about 104 degrees, and death can occur at about 107 degrees.

“We see study after study about how quickly cars heat up when they are left not running and how quickly the results can be deadly,” Devlin said. “All the officers did a great job, and working together with Waco I think everyone helped save a life.”

Waco man pleads guilty in drunken-driving traffic death of son
 Tommy Witherspoon  / 

A Waco man will go to prison after pleading guilty Friday in a May 2017 drunken-driving incident in which his son was electrocuted and killed and his daughter and a friend were badly injured.

Marcus Marquon Clear, 41, pleaded guilty in Waco’s 54th State District Court to one count of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault in exchange for recommendations from prosecutors that he serve 20 years in prison on the first count and 10 years in prison on each of the two remaining counts.

Judge Matt Johnson accepted the plea agreement but postponed formally sentencing Clear until Aug. 18 so out-of-state family members of the victims can attend. Clear, who has worked as a locksmith, was set to stand trial Aug. 18.

Before Clear’s guilty plea, Johnson revoked Clear’s $45,000 bond on allegations he violated the conditions of his release by driving and drinking alcohol, which the judge had forbidden.

While he was back in court on the bond revocation, Clear agreed to the plea deal, which included an agreement by prosecutors not to enhance the charges against him because of a felony marijuana possession conviction from Potter County for which he received six years in prison. Prosecutors also agreed not to allege Clear used a deadly weapon — his vehicle — in the commission of the crime.

With enhanced charges, Clear could have faced up to life in prison on the intoxication manslaughter charge, and the deadly weapon finding would have meant he had to serve at least half of his prison sentence before he could seek parole. Under the terms of the plea bargain, Clear can seek parole when prison officials give him credit, including credit for good time, for serving a quarter of his 20-year sentence.

Waco police reports show Clear had been at a family gathering and was driving drunk on the way home. He was speeding and swerved to miss a car that was backing into a driveway near North 18th Street and Windsor Avenue. He lost control of his 2000 GMC Yukon and it stuck a utility pole, causing the SUV to roll several times, police reported.

The damage to the utility pole caused a live electric wire to fall across the vehicle, electrocuting Clear’s 16-year-old son, Latrell Ballard, of Tennessee, and badly burning his 7-year-old daughter, Janiyah Fowler-Goonan. A front-seat passenger, Durel Nickles, 31, also suffered “significant injuries,” Waco police reported at the time.

Clear, who was treated for minor injuries, submitted to a blood draw at the hospital, which revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.10%, more than 0.08%, the legal limit for intoxication, according to court records.