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Hitchcock student charged in shooting threat

A Hitchcock High School student was charged Monday with a third-degree felony after being accused of telling classmates and a teacher he was going to turn the campus into another Parkland, Fla., police said.

Trevion Henderson McFadden, 18, was charged with terroristic threat after an investigation that began Monday, Hitchcock police Capt. John Jenkins said.

During a test at the high school Friday, a teacher suspected McFadden of cheating and took his test and said he was done, Jenkins said.

McFadden is accused of getting up in front of the class and saying he would turn the place into a Florida situation, Jenkins said.

Hitchcock police were notified of the incident Monday and immediately began an investigation, Jenkins said.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, made national headlines when he shot and killed 17 students and teachers on Valentine’s Day at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Since the incident, school districts across the nation, including at least two in Galveston County, have responded to rumors of similar threats against campuses.

The League City Police Department in a recent Facebook post said it was aware of a threat against students and faculty at Clear Creek High School.

The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, which handles security at the school, was contacted. The two departments provided extra patrols at the school, although the threat was believed to be a hoax.

At Galveston Independent School District, school officials were alerted to a social media rumor about someone causing a “severe disruption” at Ball High School on Feb. 27. The school investigated that threat, and determined it was a “false rumor,” according to a message sent to parents.

McFadden’s arrest Monday is the first instance in the county of someone being charged for making such a threat since the shooting.

McFadden’s bond is set at $20,000, records show. He was still in custody at the Galveston County Jail on Tuesday afternoon, according to jail records.

A third-degree felony is punishable by a sentence of two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, prosecutors said Tuesday.


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Galveston council weighs funding for two pocket parks

GALVESTON

The city council is slated to vote this week about whether to fund maintenance and operations at two of the four pocket parks the city has contracted with the county to oversee.

The city council on Thursday will consider whether to provide about $150,000 for maintenance and operations of Pocket Park 1, San Luis Pass Road at 7 1/2 Mile Road, and Pocket Park 2, 11745 San Luis Pass Road, ahead of the busy spring break season, according to the city.

The money is supposed to cover maintenance and operations from March 1 to Sept. 31, according to the city.

The county is not paying the city to maintain the parks, but the city will be able to collect revenue from parking and entrance fees at the parks, said Julie Diaz, parks director for the county.

The park board had contracted with the county for maintenance and operations of the four pocket parks since 2004 with similar terms, Diaz said.

But the parks often did not generate enough revenue to cover the costs or add new amenities and the park board did not receive funding from the county to pay for improvements, Councilwoman Carolyn Sunseri said.

The city council hasn’t discussed its plan for the pocket parks, but part of the reason the city agreed to take them on was because it maintains other parks around town and has a system in place for it, Sunseri said.

Sunseri hoped to make the pocket parks part of a long-term plan for the coast and beach access points, she said.

“We hopefully will get some funds to do maintenance and repairs because they’re so long overdue,” Sunseri said. “I think that was the park board’s frustration. They have to run these and aren’t getting any funding to make them presentable to tourists.”

“Many years ago, they were very nice parks and people enjoyed going to them because they did have some amenities whereas they’ve been sitting there since Hurricane Ike and really the only one that has stuff is Pocket Park 2.”

Putting more amenities at the pocket parks might help the city direct traffic to those spots and away from West End beaches where there is limited parking, Sunseri said.

“We could maybe consolidate beach access parks and not have people intruding through the subdivisions — not that they don’t have a right to because it’s an open beach but there’s not a lot of parking,” Sunseri said.

The park board is working to control rodents and graffiti along the seawall without reimbursement from the county, a spokeswoman said. Park board employees also are cleaning restrooms, bus stops and picking up trash, spokeswoman Mary Beth Bassett said. The county has maintenance responsibility on the seawall.

The park board has also continued picking up litter on the seaward side of the pocket parks, but otherwise is no longer providing maintenance in the parks, Bassett said.

Galveston City Council voted unanimously in December 2017 to enter into a contract with the county and maintain Fort Crockett Park, the Galveston seawall, pocket parks 1 through 4, McAllis Point and Ostermayer Bayou.

The county wanted to contract with the city instead of the park board because the city already maintains Lee and Joe Jamail Bay Park on 61st Street, Diaz said.

“For us it made sense to have one entity do everything instead of pick and choose,” Diaz said. “The best thing for the county would be to work with the city.”

The decision to terminate the park board’s agreement came shortly after the park board requested the county reimburse it for improvements it made to the pocket parks. In a letter sent to the county, the park board asked for the reimbursement and told the county the parks were losing money.


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La Marque awarded $350,000 to repair aging pipes

LA MARQUE

The city of La Marque has landed a $350,000 state grant that will help it improve an aging distribution system that’s losing more than half the water passing through it, officials said.

The city council accepted the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant on Feb. 12 with the goal of updating aging water pipes and reducing the amount of water escaping the system, city officials said.

La Marque isn’t the only city dealing with aged, leaky water systems. Across Galveston County, the equivalent of nearly 3,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of water escapes from leaks or disruptions in distribution systems yearly, according to a previous Daily News analysis of water audit reports kept by the Texas Water Development Board.

La Marque is losing about 56 percent of its water to leaks and breaks in the system, according to a 2014 water loss audit report.

The grant will help pay for improving the existing water system and help the city expand the system to serve new residents moving in, Mayor Bobby Hocking said.

“We are in a building spurt, so we have some growing pains but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “We are having to provide new services to the hundreds of homes coming in and replacing aging infrastructure. People deserve to have their sewer services updated as well.”

Repairing the water system would be a long-term project, Les Rumburg, the director of public services for La Marque, said.

“La Marque has a lot of infrastructure needs because the infrastructure has been ignored for several years and we’re playing catch up,” he said. “We had a study conducted last year that indicated that we needed to budget for the next 10 years to replace water lines.”

The city staff would make a plan about which water lines should be replaced in selected parts of town and it will be up to city council to approve that through the budget, Rumburg said.

La Marque was experiencing a problem common to older cities, Hocking said.

“We are currently in the process of replacing sewer lines in other places of town,” he said. “A lot of it is over 70 years old. Through the years, we are just going to have to replace all of it anyway.”


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Coming Friday

What’s going on this weekend? Read all about it in Angela Wilson’s Hot Ticket column.


Angela Wilson


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Parties agree to meet and talk about fog delays

Members of the port pilots association Tuesday agreed to meet with shippers and Port of Galveston officials about fog delays, while the port’s governing board agreed to send two representatives to an upcoming pilot commission meeting.

The vows to meet and talk, made during a Wharves Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, came after weeks of rancor and several failed attempts to hold a meeting about whether pilots had been using fog delays to retaliate against ship operators who complained about the pilots’ rates.

A rate increase proposal totaling 30 percent over three years, which the pilot board approved last year, drew a lawsuit from several shipping interests, including the port.

While the pilots maintain they consider only safety when they make decisions about guiding ships to and from the port, there has been persistent speculation that some of the delays have been in retaliation against those who opposed the rate increase.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, the Galveston-Texas City Pilots Association had not publicly agreed to meet with anyone about the issue and the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Galveston County, which oversees the pilots association, had rejected a request from the port’s board to hold a joint meeting.

The five-member Board of Pilot Commissioners oversees the 16-member pilots association that charges tariffs on foreign-flagged oil tankers, cruise ships or other vessels piloted into or out of Galveston County ports.

The association does not face competition and has the authority to decide when it is safe to guide ships in and out of ports.

The monopoly is allowed because pilots vying for business might otherwise take unnecessary risks and cause unsafe waterways.

Trustees Tuesday agreed to send Port Director Rodger Rees and attorney Anthony Brown to an upcoming pilot commissioners meeting to begin a conversation about fog delays.

Meanwhile, members of pilots association said they would meet with a limited number of customers and Rees about the issues.

Several wharves trustees Tuesday asked wharves board Chairman Ted O’Rourke to tone down his remarks about the situation, claiming they weren’t helping.

“The more we can keep this amongst the customers and the pilots, the better,” Vice Chairman Albert Shannon said. “Getting angry and taking it to the newspaper isn’t going to work. A bunch of trustees meeting and talking about it is going to polarize it.”

O’Rourke, however, seemed unrepentant.

“It’s gotten to the point where maybe we can try filing a business interruption claim,” O’Rourke said. “This is a serious situation.”

The Board of Pilot Commissioners on Feb. 8 rejected a port request for a joint meeting, instead inviting wharves trustees to one of its meetings.

“I’m just frustrated that two professional boards can’t sit down and discuss the issues,” O’Rourke said. “And we aren’t just a mediator in the discussion — we are paying for this. We are not without skin in the game.”

Also during the meeting, a cruise industry representative said the pilots had previously declined to meet with the cruise lines.

Mike McGarry, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at Cruise Lines International Association, said his organization, which represents most global cruise companies, had been unsuccessful at setting up a similar meeting with the pilots.

“We hope to work with all of the stakeholders, but the pilots said no to a meeting,” McGarry said. “But we will continue to try.”

O’Rourke asked McGarry whether wharves trustees should be concerned that the website CruiseCritic asserts Galveston is the most infamous port for fog delays.

“That comment is put on there by consumers,” McGarry cautioned. “But it’s certainly an issue if that’s the perception passengers have.”

Representatives of the pilots association, including James Andrews, the group’s director of operations, said they would be willing to meet with customers.

Several trustees said that would be the best plan.

“I think we should sit and talk,” Trustee Richard DeVries said. “I don’t want this bad blood and I can’t speak to rumors without knowing the full weather report. If we are going to sit in public and discuss hypothetical conclusions, I won’t support it. I want to know the full circumstances.”

Shannon agreed with DeVries and said O’Rourke should dial back the public criticism.

“The best plan is simply meeting between the pilots, the customers and the port director,” Shannon said. “But when you go to the newspaper and threaten to go to the legislature, that blows this whole thing way out of context.”

O’Rourke, while conceding that it would be good for the groups to meet, said he remained upset with the current situation.

“These delays are costing us money and are a problem for the port,” O’Rourke said.

Trustee Elizabeth Beeton tried to bridge the divide between trustees, asking how the board could communicate more directly with the pilots.

“What’s the best way to get an official response?” she asked. “How can we go about giving them a chance to inform us on their perspective? Because right now, I don’t know how to do that.”

While it’s good to meet and communicate with the pilots, the wharves board had asked to meet directly with the commissioners, O’Rourke said.

“They are the ones providing the oversight,” he said.

Trustees eventually agreed that Rees would represent them in front of the commissioners and said they would discuss a series of questions he might ask on their behalf.

The topic will be addressed again at the next wharves board meeting, trustees said.