(Houston, Texas) – The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) hosted a county-wide exercise at NRG Center on Tuesday, July 25, to test and train on Point of Distribution (POD) operations.

This full-scale exercise focused on the recovery phase following the landfall of a category 4 hurricane. The exercise helped assess coordination and communication between local partners, operational areas and the Harris County Emergency Operations Center.

“The exercise was developed for staff and partners to learn about the POD plan in place following a disaster,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “Drills and exercises help work out any kinks, so that during an actual event operations run more smoothly.”

PODs are established post-incident for distributing life-sustaining commodities. The need for a POD is based on lack of infrastructure to support normal distribution of food, water, ice and other supplies.

After a disaster, HCOHSEM in coordination with local cities determine the need for a POD, the location, and the commodities to be distributed there. When recovery has reached a point where the local community can sustain itself, the POD closes.

“This POD exercise provides an excellent opportunity for participants to become familiar with their roles and responsibilities,” added Emmett. “Lessons learned from the exercise will help improve our plans to better serve the residents of Harris County.”

Training and exercises are integral parts of community readiness and preparedness. Last year, HCOHSEM hosted 69 training opportunities and participated in more than 25 partner exercises throughout the region.


Volunteers practice distributing food and water during POD exercise at NRG Center.

AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers they can save money on certain items during the state’s annual sales tax holiday. This year, the sales tax holiday is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-13.

The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced below $100 from sales tax, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend during the weekend.

“Most folks won’t hear the back-to-school bell for another month, but it’s never too early to take advantage of the opportunity to save money on everything from ball caps to ballpoint pens,” Hegar said. “As the father of three young children, I know how these expenses can add up.”

Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller’s website at

This year, shoppers will save an estimated $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday.

Texas’ tax holiday weekend has been an annual event since 1999.

‘At the Feet of Angels’ tells the story of one girl’s strength and determination in the face of adversity

Vernon Bargainer embarks on marketing campaign to promote his novel

MESQUITE, Texas – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, created in 1984, helps law enforcement recover missing children. However, not all children are found. In author Vernon Bargainer’s novel, “At the Feet of Angels” (published by iUniverse), one little girl slips under the radar and is sold to a childless couple where a nightmare begins to unfold. Bargainer is embarking on a marketing campaign to expand his book’s reach.

“Readers will find the story provocative even to the point of reinforcing their pledge to give children in their lives the priority they were brought into this world to receive,” says Bargainer.

Jenny Burnett doesn’t understand her situation. All she knows is that she was kidnapped by her scheming uncle. He sold her on the black market to a childless couple, Brian and Sheila Holdershaw, who are desperate to become parents. Jenny is determined to escape and find her real mother, even as Sheila becomes more and more abusive, trying to escape her own past. With the help of her new friend, Billy, Jenny uses her strength, imagination and blind faith in order to escape her new family and unite with her beloved mother.

Bargainer draws readers into the heart and mind of Jenny as they witness the abuse through her eyes as she shows unwavering determination to escape.

“I want readers to take away a solemn pledge to watch over children in their environment, to be protective and never make the assumption that a child is safe and never, never leave a child alone in a potentially dangerous situation.”

“At the Feet of Angels”

By Vernon Bargainer

Softcover | 6 x 9in | 272 pages | ISBN 9780595005772

E-Book | 272 pages | ISBN 9781475902082

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Vernon Bargainer holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas and has worked four decades in human relations with the public service. He has previously published three novels: “It Is Morning,” “I Remember Running” and “From a Distance.”

iUniverse, an Author Solutions, LLC, self-publishing imprint, is the leading book marketing, editorial services, and supported self-publishing provider. iUniverse has a strategic alliance with Indigo Books & Music, Inc. in Canada, and titles accepted into the iUniverse Rising Star program are featured in a special collection on iUniverse recognizes excellence in book publishing through the Star, Reader’s Choice, Rising Star and Editor’s Choice designations—self-publishing’s only such awards program. Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, iUniverse also operates offices in Indianapolis. For more information or to publish a book, please visit or call 1-800-AUTHORS. For the latest, follow @iuniversebooks on Twitter.

0 37

By George Slaughter

The Katy City Council appointed volunteer members to 10 local boards and commissions Monday night.

Mayor Chuck Brawner said these appointments are usually made within the first 60 days of a mayor taking office. He said current board and commission members who wanted to continue in their roles would do so as long as they wanted.

While most positions are filled, Brawner said, some vacancies exist.

Brawner said his goal was to select the best qualified people for the positions. The needs of the various positions are different. Some require a background in a particular discipline, such as civil engineering. Some will have more meetings than others. Not all positions require the member be a Katy city resident.

During the recent campaign, Brawner said he met a lot of people, many of them younger, who could bring some new ideas to the boards and commissions.

“There are a lot of people that have talent in this town to volunteer part of their time to serve the city,” Brawner said.

Brawner said candidates for board or commission positions must compete a specific application for that particular panel. Applications can be downloaded from the city’s web site.

The completed application is reviewed and the candidate meets with Brawner, the president or chairman of that particular board, Brawner, and a city official. In this way, officials can discuss the latest issues with the candidate and determine what makes a good fit.

Applications will be retained and considered by the city for two years when a vacancy occurs and may be subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

The city council approves applications and makes the appointments.

For applications, visit the city’s board and commissions page.

For a complete list of members for each board and commission, see the related story.

In other action, the council:

  • Heard a Keep Katy Beautiful presentation of the 2017 Don’t Mess with Texas Art Contest winner, Stacy Chin, a seventh-grade student at Beckendorff Junior High School.
  • Amended the city zoning ordinance changing the classification from “R-1” Single Residential District to “M” Industrial District, for approximately 30 acres in the C. Cobb Survey in Abstract 1329, in Harris County to Optimized Process Designs, LLC. This amendment was passed following a public hearing.
  • Reviewed the 2016-2017 third quarter investment report, bank statement and check register through June 30.
  • Approved meeting minutes from the June 26 council meeting.
  • Adopted a resolution rejecting any and all bids for contract delivery of gasoline and diesel fuel received and authorizing the re-advertisement of bid solicitation. In a memorandum to the council, Public Works Director Elaine Lutringer said that only one bid was received and the total cost per gallon in that bid was not competitive.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the use of up to $15,000 in municipal court security funds and up to $20,000 in technology funds—$35,000 total—to upgrade security and computer systems.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing Mayor Chuck Brawner to sign a contract agreement with Verizon Wireless. The agreement permits the Texas Department of Information Resources to continue purchasing services under a state license for the City of Katy.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the use of $36,750 in reserve enterprise funds for the water tank mural on the 250,000-gallon elevated storage at Water Plant #2. Ward A Council Member J. Gary Jones voted against the resolution, saying he did not feel that this expenditure was needed.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing Brawner to accept a water line and sanitary sewer easement from Peterson Road, Inc., for 0.4 acres, in the H&TCRR Company Survey of Abstract 169, in Waller County.
  • Adopted a resolution authorizing Brawner to enter into a road access agreement with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, to use and maintain roadway, gateway and culverts within approximately 52 acres in the H&TCRR Company Survey of Abstract 170, in Waller County.
  • Passed an ordinance adding stop signs on Woodcreek Bend Lane at its intersection with Morgan Parkway/Rustic Woods Lane, and adding stop signs on 2nd and 3rd streets.


0 31

By George Slaughter

The Katy City Council Monday night approved the following appointments to various city boards and commissions.

Building and Standards Commission

  • Ricky Burch, Chairman
  • Vincent C. Morille, Jr.
  • Bob O’Malley
  • Malcolm Repka
  • Steve Schilder
  • Jim Lipka, alternate
  • Troy “Monty” McGuire, Jr., alternate
  • James A. “Alan” Williams, alternate

City Planning and Zoning Commission

  • Kenneth A. Berger
  • Dan D. Burris
  • Larry Gore
  • Eric Paulsen, chairman
  • Sam Pearson
  • Paul Redmon
  • William H. “Dusty” Thiele
  • G. Alan Chapman, alternate
  • Clint Stockdick, alternate

Convention and Tourism Bureau

  • Kenneth Berger
  • Shari L. Boothe
  • Cynthia Cavin
  • Kevin Mousavi
  • Jeffrey Rocheleau
  • Jenifer Stockdick
  • William H. “Dusty” Thiele, chairman

Katy Heritage Park Board

  • Carol E. Adams
  • Trish Johnson
  • Danny L. Harris
  • Linda Mikeska
  • Luanne Zacek

Keep Katy Beautiful Board

  • Debbie Berger
  • Sandra Byrd
  • Kay Callender
  • Sharon Rhoads
  • Sandy Schmidt, chairman
  • Jennifer Stence
  • Albert Thompson, Jr.
  • Jacalyn Warner
  • Kathy Wiesner
  • Jamie Wolman
  • Patti Hanson, ex-officio member
  • Dixie McDonald, ex-officio member

Landscape Appeal Board

  • Debbie Berger, Keep Katy Beautiful board member
  • Ricky Burch, chairman
  • Sandra Byrd
  • Nevelynn Melendy
  • Steve Pierson, council member

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

  • Ida Faye Elder
  • Wendy Hanne, chairman
  • Paula Kay Hughes
  • Keith Jobe
  • Terion Peloquin
  • Susan Stormer
  • Barbara Wilburn

Social Services Advisory Board

  • Shirley Adams
  • David Bent
  • Joyce Harris
  • Nevelynn Melendy
  • Connie Miller
  • Oneal Millien, chairman
  • Gail Pyontek

Zoning Board of Adjustment

  • Cecilia Crutcher
  • Herman C. Meyer
  • David Minze, chairman
  • Otis M. “Mike” Sadler
  • Gina DeCesare, alternate
  • Jim Lipka, alternate
  • Jennifer Stockdick, alternate
  • Jody R. Sturm, alternate

Reinvestment Zone Number 1

  • Glenn Bliss, position 1
  • Michael B. O’Connell, position 2
  • Melody Hess, position 3
  • David Minze, position 4
  • Mildred “Lee” Kosina, position 5
  • Christopher Harris, position 6
  • Tommy Brooks Bolan, position 7
  • Jonas W. “Skip” Conner, president, position 8
  • B. Stanley Thompson, position 9

Katy Development Authority

  • Tommy Brooks Bolan
  • Jonas W. “Skip” Conner, president
  • Christopher Harris
  • Mildred “Lee” Kosina
  • David Minze

Katy Independent School District Police Officer Shannon Dresser, who finished as first runner-up in the Miss United States Pageant in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy Shannon Dresser)

By George Slaughter

Beauty pageant contestants sometimes daydream of winning the pageant and wearing the tiara.

But as a practical matter, the question of what happens after winning the pageant becomes a more complicated. Just what will do you do if you win?

Shannon Dresser can relate. She is the Katy Independent School District police officer who won the Miss Texas United States pageant in May, and competed in the recent Miss United States pageant earlier this month in Orlando, Florida. She was asked that question during the interview portion of the pageant.

“My chief asked me that same question,” Dresser said. “I said, ‘I’ll let you know Saturday (when the pageant takes place).’”

As it is, Dresser did herself proud. She finished as first runner-up at the pageant.

“I did extremely well,” she said. “I had a wonderful time. I went in with the idea to have fun and leave it all on the stage, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Miss Florida United States, Rachael Todd, won the pageant.

“Bittersweet as it is, I’m able to come back and go back to work and serve my community,” Dresser said. “It’s what I needed for my life and career. I would have loved to have won, but I also understand that things happen for reason. I’m just as proud as if I had won.”

The pageant structure in the Miss Texas United States and the Miss United States pageants have a similar structure in that contestants compete in four categories: evening gown, interview, onstage questions and swimsuit.

Dresser said the state judges look at candidates and consider who would be the best representative of that state.

Gaspar Cruz designed the evening gown and helped Dresser with her hair and makeup. He also did these things when Dresser competed in the state pageant.

“When he drew the gown, I could imagine myself in it,” Dresser said. “Not only did I look beautiful, I felt beautiful. You feel fabulous and you feel proud of how you’re performing.”

Dresser has competed in other pageants, and she hopes to participate in other pageants. She said that many contestants in the Miss United States pageant were in their early 20s. Dresser turns 30 next week, and some of her fellow contestants wondered how she looked so good given her age.

“I asked them, ‘What does 30 look like?’” she said.

As an officer, Dresser participates in the Teen and Police Service Academy (TAPS), an international mentoring program that closes the gap between at-risk students and police officers. Students get an elective credit for their participation in this 13-week program, though the mentoring has greater value. Topics covered include bullying, conflict management, and avoiding drug use and gangs, among others.

She is also a K-9 officer, where she works with a Golden Labrador Retriever.

While Dresser may have been the contestant, a lot of people stepped forward with their encouragement and support to make it all happen. She said she was grateful for the community’s support.

“That’s what made this journey so memorable,” she said. “It’s not about me, but the family and the community, and that’s been fabulous. It’s been a marvelous adventure. It’s just so overwhelming, it’s a joy.”

0 150
AUSTIN – (July 20, 2017) – Today, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved $1,052,915,000 in financial assistance from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program.* The SWIFT financing will be distributed to 10 project sponsors across the state.

“Texas communities understand the importance of proactively addressing their long-term water demands,” said TWDB Chairman Bech Bruun. “The quality and diversity of applicants in the third cycle of SWIFT testifies to the success of the program.”

The projects, all recommended in the 2017 State Water Plan, include water line replacements, well fields, seawater desalination, capacity expansions, and reservoir planning. More than $13 million was approved for conservation and rural projects.

“Combined with the previous two cycles of SWIFT, we have now approved more than $450 million in conservation and reuse projects,” said TWDB Board member Kathleen Jackson. “We’ve also been able to dedicate more than $28 million to agricultural and rural projects.”

SWIFT was established by the Texas Legislature and voters in 2013 to fund projects in the state water plan. SWIFT was created through the transfer of a one-time, $2 billion appropriation from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The $2 billion will be leveraged with revenue bonds over the next 50 years to finance approximately $27 billion in water supply projects.

“The SWIFT program’s low-cost loans incentivize communities around the state to participate in creating the State Water Plan and encourage stakeholders to expeditiously develop the water infrastructure our state needs,” said TWDB Board member Peter Lake. “Committing $5.6 billion in the first three years of SWIFT is a tremendous start, and the Board will continue to actively manage the program to ensure it fulfills its long-term goal of providing water for all Texans.”

Projects selected today for 2017 SWIFT financial assistance are the following:

  • $1,350,000 to the City of Azle (Parker and Tarrant counties) for water system improvements
  • $1,390,000 to the City of Springtown (Parker and Wise counties) for a water supply project
  • $16,995,000 to the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, Inc. (Williamson and Travis counties) for a water supply project
  • $2,750,000 to the City of Corpus Christi (Nueces County) for a seawater desalination project
  • $12 million to the City of Justin (Denton County) for water system improvements
  • $677,120,000 to the North Texas Municipal Water District (Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Fannin, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, and Rockwall counties) for a water supply project
  • $213,410,000 to the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency for a water supply project

In addition, $127,900,000 in commitments were made to three of the project sponsors for an existing large Houston area water supply project. Those sponsors are Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, North Harris County Regional Water Authority, and West Harris County Regional Water Authority.

The TWDB anticipates closing loans for projects approved for SWIFT financing in fall 2017.

*The SWIFT program includes two funds, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). Revenue bonds for the program are issued through SWIRFT.

The TWDB is the state agency charged with collecting and disseminating water-related data, assisting with regional planning, and preparing the state water plan for the development of the state’s water resources. The TWDB administers cost-effective financial assistance programs for the construction of water supply, wastewater treatment, flood control, and agricultural water conservation projects.

Senator Ted Cruz

Introduces legislation to grant lawful permanent resident status for democratic freedom advocate Liu Xia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today introduced a bipartisan bill with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to grant lawful permanent resident status in the United States for Liu Xia, the wife of Dr. Liu Xiaobo. Additionally, this bill recognizes Dr. Liu for his lifetime fight against the Communist Party of China, serving as a brave pro-democracy dissident who worked endlessly to expose the injustices of communism in China. Together, Dr. Liu and Liu Xia have fought ceaselessly to promote democracy and freedom in China. for which we honor and respect their devotion to democracy.

“Once again, the Communist Party of China has revealed its true nature. After Liu Xiaobo, the greatest voice for democracy and freedom in China in a generation, passed away last week, Xi Jinping’s apparatchiks unceremoniously cremated Liu and ordered the unusual step of distributing his ashes at sea. By denying a final physical resting place for this Nobel laureate, Xi Jinping has confirmed what we have long suspected: even in death, the PRC fears Liu Xiaobo.

“If Xi Jinping thinks Dr. Liu’s fight for the soul of China is over, he is gravely mistaken. The fight for a liberalized China must continue, and the next step in that effort is securing the safety of his wife Liu Xia. For that reason, I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with Sen. Leahy and Sen. Tillis that would grant Dr. Liu’s widow lawful permanent resident status in the United States, where she can live without fear of retribution from Chinese authorities. I look forward to continuing the earnest work with my colleagues and the Trump administration to secure Liu Xia’s release from China.”

In addition to introducing a bill calling for Liu Xia’s freedom, Sen. Cruz, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), introduced a companion resolution with Rep. Mark Meadows honoring the life and work of Liu Xiaobo. Senator Cruz delivered speeches on the Senate floor last week, as well as September, October, and November of 2015 to call attention to Dr. Liu’s plight and human rights abuses in communist China.

The full text of the bill honoring Dr. Liu Xiaobo can be viewed here.

Senator Ted Cruz

Calls for release of unjustly detained American prisoners in Iran and addresses recertification of Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today called for the unconditional release of all U.S. citizens unjustly imprisoned in Iran, including Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, who was recently sentenced by the Iranian regime to 10 years in the brutal Evin prison. He also addressed the Administration’s recertification of Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Last week we discovered Iran had sentenced an American citizen and Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang to 10 years in prison, but nevertheless the State Department moved forward to recertify that Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear deal. That should cause all of us great concern, and both Congress and the administration should be doing everything possible to secure Wang’s release and that of other American citizens unjustly detained.

“The Obama Iran Deal is wholly inadequate and paves the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The inspection regime is designed to facilitate cheating by requiring effectively three weeks advance notice, and by limiting the most sensitive sites to inspection solely by the Iranians. In the 1990s, the American people received numerous assurances that North Korea would abide by a very similar agreement. Kim Jong-Il happily took the billions of dollars that previous administrations sent, and have used those funds to develop nuclear weapons. I believe the Ayatollah Khamenei intends to do the exact same thing.

“There is no greater threat on the face of the earth to the United States than that of a nuclear Iran. This week’s certification was unfortunate and dangerous, and very hard to justify with the facts on the ground. There is another certification that is due in October, and another upcoming deadline for waiving sanctions. I look forward to receiving a full briefing from the administration on the abundant evidence of Iranian non-compliance, stringent measures to correct those violations, and ways to secure the rapid release of Americans unjustly held in Iran.”

Sen. Cruz is calling for several actions that Congress and the Administration should take as soon as possible to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained in Iran and address concerns related to certification of the Iran deal:

  • First, the House and the Senate should prioritize the release of all unjustly imprisoned U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents in the country.
  • Second, the administration should designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization in order to halt Iran’s illicit and destabilizing activity.
  • Third, the Administration should (1) predicate any future certification of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal on a verifiable determination by the Administration that Iran has in fact complied, (2) withhold any upcoming waivers of sanctions on Iran, and (3) demand that Iran release all American citizens illegally and unjustly held in its custody.
  • Fourth, the administration should strengthen verification capabilities and clearly outline what constitutes a material breach. Iran has twice exceeded the 130 metric-ton threshold for heavy water storage, has conducted several ballistic missile tests and continues to research advanced ballistic missiles. The U.S. and our allies must take action by reporting these destabilizing activities to the Joint Commission for determination on whether these measures are in violation.

Last week, Sen. Cruz joined his colleagues Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to decline to certify to Congress that full suspension of sanctions on Iran is vital to U.S. national security or that Iran is in compliance with the terms of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Sen. Cruz introduced companion legislation to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Fla.) bipartisan resolution calling for the unconditional release of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents unjustly detained for political purposes by Iran. Sen. Cruz is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, which passed the U.S. Senate last month.

Featuring Black Widow as special guest

Friday, July 28, beginning at 11 a.m. 


Our spidey senses are tingling! The Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center will get tangled in a web of excitement during a Spider-Man Day fan celebration.  Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will spin into gear for a special appearance.  This time, he will be joined by no other than the Black Widow 


Spideyverse Workshop:  Join an illustration workshop of Spidey heroes and villains.

Event Time: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at OcuSOFT® Art Academy. (Onsite signup begins at 10:30 a.m.)

Spider-Man and Black Widow Meet-and-Greet:  Swing by for your favorite crime-fighting “arachnids.”

Event Time: 1 to 4 p.m. at various locations.


  • Out Of This World Masks: Transform into a sci-fi alien at Junktion.
  • Galactic Agamograph: Construct 3-D optical illusion art work at Junktion.
  • Sci-Fi Orbs:  Produce orbs and watch them vanish right before your eyes at Science Station. 


Spider-Man Day, July 28, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

***Activities, events, and times subject to change.

WHERE: Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center

198 Kemper St., Sugar Land, TX,  77498


  • MUSEUM HOURS: – Sat.:  10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • General Museum admission: $12 per person and $11 for seniors 65+.  Children under one and Museum Members receive free admission.
  • For more information, visit or call (832) 742-2800.