Vicha (copy)

J.R. Vicha holds a photograph of his father, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, as he stands near Highway 84 at Farm-to-Market Road 1330. The state Legislature and McLennan County Commissioners Court are backing an effort to have a portion of Highway 84 named in memory of R.J. Vicha's father, who was shot and killed in the area in 1989.

McLennan County commissioners voted Tuesday to support a plan to honor Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha by renaming a stretch of U.S. Highway 84 after him.

The state Legislature is poised to give the green light for the name change, and the Texas Department of Transportation continues to work with the county on creating the “Waco Police Sergeant Bobby Vicha Memorial Highway,” between Farm-to-Market Road 1330 and North Vicha Road.

Bobby Vicha was 39 and a well-respected 18-year veteran of the police department when he and his parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, were ambushed and killed by Billie Wayne Coble, who was executed Feb. 28 in Huntsville after almost three decades on death row.

Bobby Vicha’s son, J.R. Vicha, who was 11 at the time of the murders and now practices law in Waco, has joined his sister, Jennifer Easter, in requesting the highway memorial to honor their late father for generations.

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said Tuesday that his family was neighbors with the Vichas, and he knew Bobby Vicha.

“There has been a lot of drama relating to this case, but now that Coble has been executed, we can move forward without any distractions,” Felton said. “Bobby was very well thought of by the community and by his fellow officers in the Waco Police Department.”

J.R. Vicha, 40, attended Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.

“I am very grateful to all of the commissioners for voting to pass the proclamation this morning,” he said in a statement after the meeting. “Judge Felton and his office have been nothing but supportive and helpful since the first time I mentioned it to them. … I am very excited about getting the signs up as soon as we can.”

The state Legislature is also considering House Bill 2615, which would approve renaming that portion of Highway 84. The House Committee on Transportation advanced the bill unanimously and referred it to the Committee on Local and Consent Calendars, which can schedule bills that "are in fact local or will be uncontested" for consideration by the full House.

McLennan County commissioners now will be asked to sign an “advanced funding agreement” to pay for two signs, one eastbound near F.M. 1330 and one westbound near North Vicha Road, TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said via email.

“Locations are approximate and may vary due to limited right-of-way and other existing devices,” Roberts wrote.

State law mandates that signs designating a memorial highway be funded by grants or donations. Once the money is in place, it will take 60 to 90 days to order, make and install the signs, Roberts wrote.

He estimated two conventional signs would cost $4,400.

Waco Police Detective Ken Reeves, president of the Waco Police Association, said the group would attempt to raise the money needed.

“We are drafting a letter now supporting it,” Reeves said.

He said he does not foresee a problem raising the necessary amount.

“Occasionally when we put something like this out, we will have an anonymous donor cover the entire amount,” Reeves said. “But we have two or three ways to pursue the matter, including use of social media.”

Reeves said he joined the force after Vicha’s death, but longtime veterans had great respect for him. Vicha was a training officer much of his career.

“He is family,” Reeves said.

Coca-Cola tax abatement

In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved a tax abatement for the Coca-Cola juice plant at Imperial and Hewitt drives. It plans an expansion and installation of about $30 million in new equipment, having become a testing facility for new products the soft drink giant proposes to introduce.

The expansion will preserve 358 existing jobs at the plant and create 20 other well-paying technical positions, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

The expansion is also expected to generate $4.7 million in new property tax revenue for local taxing entities over the next decade, Collins said. The Waco City Council has already approved the incentives for Coca-Cola.

During an economic development update, Collins said the staff continues negotiations with 11 manufacturing prospects and one distribution prospect considering Waco for a job site. According to a list she provided, with names coded to ensure confidentiality, one manufacturing prospect may spend up to $250 million and create 1,300 jobs. The distribution prospect proposes a 1.1-million-square-foot facility that would employ a thousand.

In addition to the new projects, almost 20 companies are considering local expansions, according to the information Collins provided.

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