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Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Nobody scored more goals in Central Texas this season than Kevin Garcia, who planted 40 in the back of the net — and tripled his assists total, too, with 23 deliveries to teammates. Mexia made its deepest postseason run in school history, winning two playoff games.


Higher_education
featured editor's pick
$100 million donation to Baylor ups ante in fundraising campaign
 Rhiannon Saegert  / 
 05.04.19

Baylor’s ongoing Give Light campaign has received the largest one-time donation in the university’s history — a $100 million anonymous gift that officials say will accelerate the university’s research ambitions.

The latest gift brings the $1.1 billion campaign’s current fundraising total to $692 million, the university announced Saturday evening. The gift will primarily fund endowed professorships, a key feature for the university’s academic strategic plan, Illuminate.

President Linda Livingstone is seeking by late 2022 to complete the campaign, which aims to move the university toward the highest echelon of research universities.

“An important part of that strategic plan is ensuring that we are hiring and retaining faculty that are exceptional researchers and deeply committed to our Christian mission,” Livingstone said. “To do that, to really bring in some of the best scholars in the world that would be committed to our Christian mission and to our students, you have to have the resources to do that.”

The funds will support the Baylor Academic Challenge, a matching program that would double the amount for each endowed chair. The university already houses five endowed chairs at the amount of $2.5 million or greater. Baylor plans to create 17 additional endowed positions.

“It has not been a significant part of the long-term history of the institution,” Livingstone said. “This is something we’ve been emphasizing more recently, and we’re just thrilled to have a family willing to come alongside us, recognizing how significant this is.”

David Rosselli, vice president for advancement at Baylor, said Baylor’s ambitions are high, and with the academic strategic plan, Baylor leaders hoping for global renown.

“The Baylor family, parents, alumni and friends, have really gathered together to catapult this campaign forward,” Rosselli said.

Baylor’s endowment sat at about $1 billion in 2012 and grew to $1.31 billion in fiscal year 2018, the highest it’s even been. The new strategic plan aims to add $500 million to the endowment.

Baylor in 2002 set a goal to built a $2 billion endowment but fell short, reaching only $1 billion by its 2012 target date. But Rosselli said the momentum this time is on Baylor’s side.

“I know that Baylor’s never been in a position, historically, to tackle a $1.1 billion campaign to generate resources for the academy at this level,” Rosselli said. “To have this overwhelming support from the Baylor family has never happened before.”

The donors are staying anonymous, but Livingstone said the donation came from a family with close ties to Baylor. She said they’ve been discussing the possibility of a donation for about a year.

“We’ve known them a long time. They love Baylor, and they’re deeply committed to our mission,” Livingstone said. “They want the university be successful, they’re excited about the direction we’re going.”

Livingstone announced the gift Saturday at a regional Give Light campaign kickoff in Houston, one of several events similar to the one Baylor began the campaign with last fall. She said a significant number of Baylor alumni and supporters call Houston home.

“This has been on the calendar for a long time, and it just worked when we heard from the family that they were willing to make this commitment,” Livingstone said. “Houston is a big constituency for us.”


Business
spotlight editor's pick
Frontage fears
Businesses brace for widening of Interstate 35 through Waco
 Mike Copeland  / 
 05.04.19

Chris Garcia worries about the widening of Interstate 35 near his front door.

“I understand Exit 338-A is supposed to be moving,” said Garcia, who manages Collin Street Bakery on I-35 near Bellmead. “It may move forward or it may move backward. One way it hurts, the other it doesn’t so much.”

In either case, Garcia sees the $341 million project spread over four to five years evolving into a slow-motion nightmare. Diversions could mean “no easy on-and-offs,” and motorists struggling to retain their bearings.

Mitigating circumstances should allow Collin Street Bakery to survive.

“We’re world famous. We’re known for our fruitcake, and the biggest percentage of our sales are mail-out,” said Garcia, who has worked for the Corsicana-based company a dozen years. “Customers are my No. 1 concern. We get a lot of travelers, but we also get our share of locals. And we have regulars. Some stop twice a year. I count those as regulars.”

He quickly ended the conversation to greet a bus entering the parking lot.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Collin Street Bakery in Bellmead gets a lot of traffic from Interstate 35, but also has a number of local customers, too. The coming construction could impact the business in a negative way.

Ken Roberts, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said he gladly would dispatch a staffer to meet with Garcia and talk shop and specifics. Or, he said, Garcia may be invited to visit TxDOT headquarters in Waco to view maps and schematics that shed light on the 6-mile undertaking, one that will transform the big highway’s appearance and function.

Years in the planning stages, with TxDOT acquiring tracts along both sides of the highway, construction formally began Monday. Crews closed a northbound lane, the first of many adjustments motorists will face. Eventually, I-35 will be expanded from three to four lanes in each direction. TxDOT will rebuild all overpasses, make frontage roads wider and stronger and level a pedestrian bridge, said TxDOT information officer Jodi Wheatley in a statement.

“This one section in Waco has the most users of any section of I-35 in the entire Waco District corridor, with 140,000-plus vehicles traveling through every day,” Wheatley said. “There’s no question this new area will be much different upon completion. However, getting there will be tough at times, with plenty of disruptions over the next several years, through most of 2024.”

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

As part of the Interstate 35 rebuild through Waco, the southbound exit onto Fourth-Fifth streets is being permanently removed.

The bottom line is that conditions are changing when Waco is becoming a tourist mecca, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors a year. Downtown venues that include Magnolia Market at the Silos swell with crowds, much of the visitors arriving on what will become a 6-mile work zone.

But local leaders say planning and TxDOT’s willingness to take the lead in making the project as painless as possible should help.

“Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Interstate 35 is one of the most critical freight corridors in the United States. It is critical to the state economy and the local economy. Its impact on freight and tourism is considerable,” said Jessica Attas, vice president for public policy at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Attas serves on a TxDOT I-35-related advisory committee.

“Fortunately, TxDOT has tried to stay ahead of the game,” Attas added. “It has kept stakeholders in the loop, and we feel very positive that what happened in Temple and Salado can be prevented.

“The contractor has incentives to finish the project expeditiously, with bidding based on the number of days it takes to complete the work. But he also must hit on all the quality and safety metrics,” Attas said. “Everyone is determined to get through the next four years and reap the benefits.”

She said TxDOT notified sign companies that messages on billboards, particularly those that include directions or exits, may need tweaking.

Attas said her committee has heard from business owners. David Sykora, who owns the popular Chick-fil-A location at South Seventh Street and I-35, often surrounded by a sea of parked vehicles and dual-lane drive customers, has attended several meetings and is among the most vocal.

“For us right now it is wait-and-see on the interstate expansion,” said Sykora. “We are confident that TxDOT, City Council and government, and the Waco Chamber of Commerce have represented local businesses well and will do everything possible to move the progress for our town forward.”

Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, said the I-35 widening may impact more the casual traveler than tourists.

“If you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Waco, you will find a way to get downtown, regardless of how the route is configured,” Henderson said. “You will not be deterred if you set out to take a vacation to Waco. You’re coming. It may take a few more minutes to get downtown, but you’re coming.”

She said she did not quit driving to Austin when I-35 through Temple was under construction, creating bottlenecks and delays.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

Weekend traffic moves down the south lanes of Interstate 35 where construction will pressure feeder roads adjacent to nearby businesses.

Henderson said “convenience businesses” hugging I-35 through Waco may suffer the most during construction, as they often require travelers to make last-minute decisions on where to shop, dine or take bathroom breaks.

She said she hopes hand-wringing will yield to determination among locals to support I-35 area stores and restaurants that may face challenges.

“We need to buckle up and vow to support our local businesses,” she said.

She said she has heard conversation about the possibility rerouted traffic will patronize other retailing areas, including LaSalle Avenue.

Bill Hamer, owner of LaSalle Shoppes, a novelty and antique emporium at 2223 LaSalle Avenue, said that notion appeals to him.

“I’ve thought about that,” he said. “A lot of people travel LaSalle already, but we could see more, people not wanting to fight the traffic on I-35 and traveling to Loop 340. You could swing right onto LaSalle Avenue. This thing is just getting started, but it won’t take us long to find out the impact.”

Bellmead City Manager Yost Zakhary said he continues to gather information on how the widening may impact the community’s bottom line. It relies heavily upon sales tax revenue to keep the books in the black.

“H-E-B, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, all these centers are important to us. A majority of our tax revenue comes from commercial development,” Zakhary said. “Woodway is heavily residential with light commercial.”

Zakhary previously served as Woodway’s city manager.

“Our public works director tells me TxDOT is doing everything it can not to impact business, but I think there will be some inconvenience,” he added.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

Northbound traffic on Interstate 35 where road construction has just started this week.

Waco City Councilman John Kinnaird, who also serves on an I-35-related advisory committee, said he doubts the widening, though inconvenient, stands to pull the plug on economic development momentum building locally, much of it centered downtown and along the Lake Brazos corridor.

“We are still very much a nationwide destination,” he said. “Leadership understands the impact. TxDOT has ensured better communication and signage and as many access points as possible during construction. Afterward, I believe our image as a destination point will be enhanced.”

Wheatley, with TxDOT, said residents and motorists can track progress on the widening at My35.org. DriveTexas.org includes updates on speed limit changes, lane closings, traffic delays, travel times and incident reports.

Travelers also may sign up for I-35-related email alerts.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

The first signs of construction associated with the $341 million rebuild of I-35 arrived in Waco Saturday as the 4th-5th Street off ramp was knocked down.

On Saturday, crews began removing the old southbound off-ramp at Interstate 35 near Fourth and Fifth streets. Bad weather forced postponement of the work from an earlier date, said Wheatley.

Demolition will continue at 10 p.m. Sunday until 6 Monday morning, and then from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night until the work is completed next Saturday.

Interstate 35 widening project through Waco: May 2019

Education
featured editor's pick
Recruits undergo pepper-spray training in police academy
 Kristin Hoppa  / 
 05.04.19

The burning desire to become a police officer became all too tangible for recruits last week during pepper-spray certification at McLennan Community College.

“Man, I’d rather give birth again,” said recruit Carmen Moreno. “It was very uncomfortable and I couldn’t see anything. My left eye completely closed by the time I made it to the first dummy, but it was a real nasty deal.”

Moreno, a mother of two young children and one of 15 recruits working to become Texas peace officers, participated in oleoresin capsicum (OC) pepper-spray training Friday. As a recruit for the Waco Police Department, Moreno, the only female in the academy, said she had never been pepper-sprayed before, but she was chosen to go first.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

Hewitt police chief James Devlin uses pepper spray to hit Waco police recruit Carmen Moreno on Friday at McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy's oleoresin capsicum pepper-spray certification training.

“Our president drew names and I was the last on the list, so I figured I’d be last, but then it was decided the last person would go first,” she laughed. “We are so close to graduation so none of us can give up.”

All recruits were sprayed in the face with the capsicum spray, causing inflammation to their eyes and respiratory systems. Recruits wore safety glasses, but the spray still packed a punch on the would-be officers, who are set to graduate June 12.

“This is more intended for the recruits to show them that they can remember what they’ve been taught and they can fight through the pain that is associated with the spray,” MCC Academy Coordinator Dennis Stapleton said. “I don’t think anyone enjoys it, but some have experienced it before so there is a little anxiety to it, too.”

Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

Ryon Perry, a Robinson Police Department recruit, washes pepper-spray from his eyes after undergoing McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy's oleoresin capsicum certification training on Friday.

After being sprayed, recruits had to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a Waco police trainer, then engage in forceful attacks on dummies and try to disable suspects.

Blake Blakeney, 23, and Ryon Perry, 22, both recruits for Robinson Police Department, said the spray was a pain neither had every experienced before. Perry said the capsacin, the active ingredient derived from peppers, is a less lethal form of policing, but is far from enjoyable.

“It was terrible. I’ve never been sprayed before, but it was honestly terrible. Just bad,” he said. “The worst part of it was the burning. Imagine pouring a bunch of hot sauce on your face and then you just marinate it it, you start sweating, it rolls in your eyes, it was just bad.”

Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

Ryon Perry, right, a Robinson police recruit, helps Blake Blakeney, left, a fellow Robinson Police Department recruit, rinse out his eyes after oleoresin capsicum pepper-spray certification training at McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy on Friday. 

Blakeney said he had to physically hold his eye open in order to complete the training course and arrest a fellow recruit standing in as a suspect. He said he had been sprayed once before as part of a training at other job in corrections.

“I couldn’t see and it was running down my face,” Blakeney said. “I know we have to endure the hard stuff to get to the fun stuff and to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to protect and serve and to make my parents proud of me, so this is worth it.”

With pepper-spray available to the public, Stapleton said all officers need to be prepared for members of the public to be armed with it.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin, left, sprays McLennan County Sheriff's Office recruit Kerry Thomas, left, during McLennan Community College Law Enforcement Academy oleoresin capsicum pepper-spray certification training Friday.

“They need to know that if they get sprayed they still can’t stop,” he said. “They need to show themselves that they can push through and still survive. This is the best way to have the training to understand the importance of officer survival.”


Elections
featured
Hewitt voters clean house on election; runoff planned for one seat
 JB Smith  / 
 05.04.19

Three Hewitt City Council seats turned over and a fourth was headed to a runoff after a Saturday election that some saw as a rebuke to the turmoil that has plagued city leadership.

Council veteran Charlie Turner returned to the council by soundly defeating incumbent Ward 1 Councilman Travis Bailey, a retired constable. Newcomer Matthew Mevis, an environmental consultant, slid in unopposed to the Ward 2 chair after Councilman James Vidrine chose not to run for re-election. Erica Bruce, who won a hotly contested special election for another seat late last year, overwhelmingly defeated A.C. “Tony” Martinez for the Ward 3 seat now held by Mayor Ed Passalugo, who is stepping down.

A five-way race for the at-large seat was narrowed down to two finalists, Michael Bancale and Mike Field, who will face each other in a runoff tentatively scheduled for June 8.

Winning candidates Saturday night agreed that the electorate was tired of council infighting after a year of dueling complaints about the behavior of council and top staffers.

“I think what they were telling us is they were ready for things to get back where we’re not having fussing and fighting, but just want to make Hewitt a better place,” Turner said. “The only promise I make is to do my best for the entire city and move to the future. I think most of (the council) is ready to work together to form a team.”

In the Ward 1 race Turner captured 60.1 percent of the ballots, winning 406 votes to Bailey’s 263 votes. Turner, a nonprofit money management specialist, previously served 22 years on the council, including nine terms as mayor, dating back to 1981.

In Ward 3, Erica Bruce won 556 votes, or 78.4 percent of the total, while Tony Martinez won 153 votes. Bruce, a toxicologist and Baylor University medical researcher, has served in the at-large position since December, when she won a runoff in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Councilman Kurt Krakowian’s departure.

In the at-large matchup, Bancale led the pack with 245 votes, or 33.7 percent. Mike Field won 197 or 27.1 percent. Retired Hewitt city secretary Betty Orton won 184 votes. Former City Manager Adam Miles, who stepped down earlier this year after conflict with Passalugo and other council members, won 73 votes, and Kurt Krakowian, a Passalugo ally involved in the recent disputes, won 29 votes.

Bancale, a Farm Bureau systems administrator, said he has no desire to return to the disputes over the last year, saying that they should have been laid to rest with the results of an external investigation.

“I think most people want to move past all this turmoil and get on with the business of the city,” he said. “They’re tired of the rhetoric, the name-calling, the making claims that aren’t true. ... The people spoke today and said they want new blood and new people.”

Field, a retired attorney, said he respects Bancale and expects a civil campaign for the runoff. He agreed that Hewitt residents want to return to a “normal, professional city service.”

The council election results will be canvassed May 13, and a new mayor and mayor pro tem are expected to be appointed by the council at the same meeting.

Hewitt voters face crowded slate, including 2 old foes

After a contentious year surrounding the Hewitt City Council, voters on May 4 will pick three council members from a crowded slate of candidates, including two former city officials who were in the eye of the political storm last year.


Elections
featured
Voters reject $31.5 million Robinson ISD bond issue
 Brooke Crum  / 
 05.04.19

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Bellmead incumbent Councilman Travis Gibson beat Ioan Faur and that Elizabeth Palacios won the District 5 seat on the McLennan Community College Board of Trustees.


Voters on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected the $31.5 million bond issue to overhaul the Robinson Independent School District junior high school.

About 1,219 voters cast ballots against the bond issue, five years after passing a $19.5 million bond to build a new intermediate school. Just 535 people voted for the bond.

Robinson ISD school board president Laura Crawford said she is shocked and disappointed by the outcome.

“I’m shocked at how big a margin it was,” she said Saturday night. “I’m disappointed that many people voted against it as a result of misinformation and misinterpreting information. Facebook was not our friend.”

Crawford said people seemed to rely on misinformation spread across social media instead of turning to legitimate sources of information, such as the bond issue website.

“It was a lot of confusion about city and school taxes. A lot of people think they’re connected,” she said. “The school tax and city tax are completely different things. The school district is not going to fix your streets, and the city is not going to build a new school.”

People stated on social media that they would not vote for the school bond because of infrastructure problems in the city, Crawford said, or they voiced opposition to the bond because Robinson ISD is paying off two other outstanding bonds, one of which expires in five years.

“If we wait five years to pay off older bonds, we’re looking at probably twice the amount to pay for construction costs. We’re looking at as much as $60 million,” Crawford said. “It’s something that’s going to have to be done.”

The school district would have used the bond funds to update its multi-building junior high campus, erected in the late 1960s, that serves students in seventh and eighth grades. The plan included significant new construction, demolition of a classroom wing and renovation and repurposing of original buildings that would remain. The bond also would have paid for expansion of the high school agricultural facility.

In 2014, the bond to replace the 50-year-old intermediate school for grades four through six passed by 19 votes, according to Tribune-Herald archives. That successful bond election came after two failed ones in 2011 and 2013.

The $31.5 million bond would have added about $303 per year in property taxes to the average home, valued at $187,095, in the Robinson ISD taxing zone, according to the bond issue website.

Robinson ISD has roughly 2,350 students, up from 2,190 in 2009, according to the Texas Education Agency.

See other election results below:

Cities

Bellmead

Place 2

Travis Gibson: 66, 65.4%

Ioan Faur: 35, 34.6%

Crawford

Mayor

Franklin Abel: 191, 68.2%

Marilyn Judy: 89, 31.8%

Gholson

Three at-large seats

George Kilgo: 39

Bob Meneely: 40

Billy Sparks: 26

Russell Stanley Smith: 51

Mart

Two at-large seats

Kollin Behrghundi: 74

John Garrett: 143

Odell Nevills: 98

Tommy Roberson: 128

Two unexpired terms

Trevor Baize: 135

Rhonda Honeycutt: 113

Haley Pankonien: 138

McGregor

At-large

Tony Ocampo: 217, 68.9%

Alfredo Macedo: 98, 31.1%

Local option to legalize the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders only

For: 255, 76.3%

Against: 79, 23.7%


School Districts

Aquilla ISD

Three seats

Courtney Lewis: 115

Diane Montgomery: 75

Frank Urbanovsky: 60

Jade McCurdy: 58

Mark Hammonds: 56

Dirl Dean Granger: 47

Amber Perez: 43

Candice Barsh: 35

Karen Sexton: 31

Unexpired term

Tim Henderson: 77, 72.6%

Jamie Simmons: 29, 27.4%

Connally ISD

Place 2

Danny Raines: 193, 48.3%

Don Hancock: 207, 51.7%

Crawford ISD

Three at-large seats

Casey Abel: 163

Darren Hayes: 174

Chad Lewis: 274

Amy Maddox: 259

Ricky Steinkamp: 266

Michael Wiethorn: 220

Bond election for $1.9 million for construction, improvement, renovation and equipment for school buildings

For: 346, 70%

Against: 148, 30%

Lorena ISD

Note: McLennan County results only

Two at-large seats

Bruce Cresson: 304

Russ Johnson: 142

Denny Kramer: 319

McGregor ISD

Four at-large seats

Kyle R. Paschall: 295

Robbie Jo Allison: 245

Chad Miller: 283

David Lillard: 303

Midway ISD

Place 6

Ivan A. Green: 389, 30.2%

Andrew B. Popejoy: 899, 69.8%


Unopposed races

Cities

Bellmead City Council — Alfreda Love (Precinct 1), Doss Youngblood (Precinct 5)

Beverly Hills City Council (4 seats) — David Gonzales (Mayor), Donato Garcia Sanchez, Darrell Lopez, Lucy Ann Sanchez

Crawford City Council (2 seats) — Lewis Snow, Shane Spence

Lacy Lakeview City Council (4 seats) — Calvin Hodde, Barbara Seitz, Bruce Bundrant, Sharon Clark

Lorena City Council (3 seats) — Chuck Roper, Bill Coleman, Jennifer Grimm

Mart (mayor) — Leonard "Len" Williams

McGregor City Council (2 seats) — Andrew Henderson Sr., David Taylor

Waco City Council — Hector Sabido (District 2), Dillon Meek (District 4), Jim Holmes (District 5)

Woodway (3 seats) — Amine Qourzal, Scott A. Giddings, Jane Kittner

Schools

Bosqueville ISD (3 seats) — Debbie Wright-Hood, Russell Devorsky

China Spring ISD (2 seats) — Chris Gerick, Matt Penney

Connally ISD (Place 1) — Dana McCoy

La Vega ISD (3 seats) — Henry C. Jennings, Raymond Koon, Randy Devorsky

Lorena ISD (unexpired term) — Sue Woody

Mart ISD (3 seats) — Frank “Pete” Rowe, Tracy Adler, Richard Green

Midway ISD — Pam Watts (Place 5), Rick Tullis (Place 7)

Waco ISD — Angela Tekell (District 4), Allen Sykes (District 5)

McLennan Community College — Elizabeth Palacios (District 5), Geneva Watley (District 7)

Note: Some of this information is based on seat openings and their incumbents.


Submitted photo  

Hewitt city council

Michael Bancale