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By George Slaughter

Second of a three-part series

With Katy’s continued growth, it is not surprising that the fire department would also grow from being a part-time, volunteer operation to something more complex, with firefighters needing skill sets besides just fighting fires.

With a new station forthcoming, the city is looking for firefighters—but not just any firefighters.

Candidates must have a structural firefighter certification, basic level or higher, from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. They must also have at least an emergency medical technical basic level certification.

Candidates with paramedic licenses are preferred.

Fire Chief Russell Wilson said that having firefighters also trained as paramedics helps everyone. It gives the department flexibility should more firefighters or paramedics are needed for a given situation. It also benefits the firefighters and paramedics in that they can switch—sometimes from shift to shift—to stay fresh.

Wilson said the typical firefighter applicant today is in his or her 20s.

Taking Care of the Firefighters

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, people started taking another look at the firefighters and first responders who are the first to go into harm’s way. Wilson cited two major health issues that firefighters face.

The first issue is cancer. Wilson said that firefighters are six times more likely to develop cancer than the general public. The odds for cancer in firefighters is increased because of the environments that firefighters work in, with heavy protective equipment worn in hot temperatures, often with toxic gases and fumes.

The second issue is heart attacks. Firefighters have periods of high adrenalin when facing dangerous situations in their jobs. Between the stresses and lulls in the job, along with the exposure to toxic gases and fumes, firefighters are put at higher risk of heart attacks.

To address these issues, the fire department has instigated a wellness initiative, where everyone gets regular health checks. Wilson said Katy did not have such a program in the past.

“We’ve found several people who would be dead today” had not such a program been implemented during his previous stint in the Irving Fire Department, Wilson said.

A third issue, one in which research is still being conducted, concerns post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD, as it is known, is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event—things that firefighters face regularly.

PTSD has become known through the stories of military personnel returning from war. Wilson said that many firefighters join their departments after serving in the military.

Different people handle stress in different ways. Wilson said that some need to be debriefed so they can share their thoughts and address their emotions. Others prefer to not bring things up because the scenes can be traumatic, and they would prefer to forget. In some cases, PTSD has been cited as a cause for suicide.

“We want to set up relationships so firefighters can get help as needed,” Wilson said.

From a Volunteer to a Professional Fire Department

All of this is a long way from 1947, when the Katy Volunteer Fire Department was first established.

According to the fire department web site, 14 men met in a schoolroom to establish the department. Money was donated by local citizens for the purchase of an Army surplus crash truck.

Today the fire department has 42 firefighters in the field, Wilson said. The current fire station, at 1417 Avenue D, will eventually have a counterpart at Bell Patna Drive and Katy Mills Circle.

Equipment has been increased and modernized, with three Class A pumpers, heavy rescue and booster trucks, four ambulances, and a ladder truck. The station is also equipped with numerous other types of firefighting, lifesaving and rescue equipment and safety gear for the firefighters.

Among the most important equipment is a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Mayor Chuck Brawner said much research was involved in upgrading the communication systems.

“The technology in there previously was not suitable for public safety, especially on EMS and fire department vehicles,” Brawner said. “As part of the reorganization we wanted to make, that (improving the communication) was one of the key elements.”

Brawner said the new technology meets National Fire Protection Association standards. It enables more details, and mapping, on emergency calls received. It also improves dispatch and response time.

“It took a while to get it installed,” Brawner said. “The radios that the fire department did have did not meet standards. We had to go in and buy all new radios.”

Brawner said that when officials were researching their options for communications equipment, it was important to not just look at what was needed now, but whether the equipment would meet future needs.

“This will meet our needs down the road,” Brawner said



Joe’s 10th Anniversary

Richmond, Tx– June is a memorable month for OakBend Medical Center’s CEO Joe Freudenberger, not only was he awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year ® for Health Care, but on June 19th he hit his 10-year anniversary with OakBend Medical Center.

Joe began his career in healthcare, spending 10 years with Deloitte Consulting working with major healthcare systems around the country to improve their business operations, 11 years as CFO for two different hospitals and the last 10 years for OakBend.

During his career Freudenberger has, at one time or another, either overseen or reengineered the operations of almost every department in a hospital.  Joe has a track record of successfully implementing operational and organizational change to help community hospitals regain their financial footing.

On June 19, 2007, Freudenberger joined OakBend as their Chief Financial Officer (CF0).  Nine months later, when the hospital’s CEO stepped down, the Board of Directors asked Freudenberger to serve as the acting CEO.  Within two months, he was named the as the new CEO.

During a hospital leadership meeting last week, Freudenberger was presented with a framed photo of the hospital with the well wishes from the leadership team written on the mat surrounding the photo.

# # #

About OakBend Medical Center:

OakBend Medical Center is an independent, nonprofit community hospital based in Fort Bend County, providing quality care and exemplary service with its two full-service hospitals, as well as many specialty centers. As a community hospital, caring for our patients is personal. Our patients are our neighbors, our family, and our friends. We act with integrity and compassion, each of our staff takes ownership of providing the highest quality care and we have an absolute commitment to excellence in all that we do.

OakBend Medical Center distinguishes itself among its healthcare peers in Fort Bend County by housing several unique programs and facilities including:

  • No Wait Emergency Room
  • Hospital-based Skilled Nursing Facility
  • Neonatal ICU – Level II +
  • Advanced Trauma Program
  • Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) Unit
  • Geriatric Psychiatric Program
  • Permanent Hospital-based Air Ambulance


For more information, please visit Connect with us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after language from his New Hope and Opportunity through the Power of Employment Act (New HOPE Act), included in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), passed the House of Representatives today.

“We should be doing all we can to break down barriers holding folks back from good-paying jobs,” said Sen. Cornyn. “States need more flexibility to ease licensing requirements that have gone beyond their original intent and hindered opportunity for job-seekers. This bipartisan legislation allows governors to ease these burdensome requirements, saving time and money for the thousands of workers in occupations requiring licenses.”

Senators Cornyn and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the New HOPE Act, a bipartisan occupational licensing reform bill that will give state governments tools to help initiate reforms to ensure bureaucratic requirements are not creating unnecessary barriers for those seeking to enter the workforce. The legislation will help states decide if they want to eliminate or reduce burdensome licensing requirements that are serving as an impediment to job creation. Representatives Tim Walberg (R-MI-07) and Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX-28) companion legislation to the New HOPE Act was included in the bill that passed the House of Representatives.

Background on New HOPE Act:

Overly burdensome and unnecessary state licensing mandates can require an individual to first pay fees, complete education and training programs, and even sometimes pass exams before they can enter some of the very professions most suitable to giving them a chance at meaningful work. Many of these licenses have little grounding in protecting public safety. States should review these occupational licensing regulations to ensure they are promoting opportunity and fostering a regulatory climate that encourages entrepreneurship and job creation.

The bill provides additional authority to state governors receiving an existing, bipartisan appropriation of discretionary funds for career and technical education, giving them the discretion to use this money for the “identification, consolidation, or elimination of licenses or certifications which pose an unnecessary barrier to entry for aspiring workers and provide limited consumer protection.”

Sen. Cornyn announced the introduction of the New HOPE Act earlier this year at a Sport Clips in Austin, Texas with local business leaders from industries with high barriers for job-seekers.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

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AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the city of Kermit repealed its unlawful sales tax on single-use plastic bags, which was in violation of a Texas statute regulating solid waste disposal. The decision was finalized at last night’s Kermit City Council meeting.

“I commend the Kermit City Council for its action to comply with state law,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Cities and municipalities in Texas are obligated to follow the rule of law, and the Legislature passed a law that clearly prohibits a sales tax on bags.”

Last month, the attorney general’s office gave the city of Kermit a 60 day ultimatum to do away with its unlawful bag ban or face a possible lawsuit. Texas Health and Safety Code 361.0961(a)(3) states that “a local government or other political subdivision may not adopt an ordinance, rule or regulation to assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package.”

In light of the city of Kermit’s repeal, there are no more unlawful bag taxes in Texas. Texans who think they are the victim of unlawful bag taxes should notify the Office of the Attorney General by calling the Consumer Complaint Hotline toll free number at (800) 621-0508 or at (512) 463-2185. Texans can also file a complaint online at

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By George Slaughter

First of a three-part series

After unwanted delays, the City of Katy is proceeding with its plans to develop a second fire station, this one south of I-10.

The new station will be built at Bell Patna Drive and Katy Mills Circle, near Katy Mills Mall. It will be a three-bay, approximately 14,000 square-foot structure. City officials have been planning it for years.

The site was the second choice. The original site was on the south side of Kingsland Boulevard and west of Pin Oak Road. It flooded in April 2016, when 12-17 inches of rain poured over the Katy area. City officials became concerned about the site’s viability after the flood, and decided on the Bell Patna and Katy Mills Circle site. Besides the better location, the new site also has infrastructure items such as power, water and sewer lines that are already in place for easier station construction.

In May, the Katy City Council authorized then-Mayor Fabol Hughes to enter into an agreement with Slattery Tackett Architects, LLP, of Houston, for the design of the new station.

Fire Chief Russell Wilson said when he reviewed the plan last year he insisted on two basic changes, both of which will be incorporated.

The first change involves the orientation of the station. When the station gets built, emergency vehicles will come out of the bay and onto Bell Patna Drive, which Wilson said would be safer than if they were to come out on Katy Mills Circle, which was the original plan.

The second change involves the locker rooms. Instead of one large room, Wilson said several smaller rooms are being built so the men and women firefighters have separate areas to change clothes.

Mayor Chuck Brawner said the city is looking at a September-October time frame for the final engineering and pricing to be completed. Assuming everything is in order and the city council gives a quick approval,

Brawner said the groundbreaking for the new station could be in November, with the station possibly being completed by November or December 2018.

Staffing the New Station

Building the fire station is one thing. Staffing it is another. The city has applied for a SAFER (for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

According to the FEMA web site, SAFER was “created to funding directly to five departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities.”

The grant request was for approximately $2 million. Wilson said he expects a response from FEMA next month.

Covering the Area in the Interim

While officials are working to develop the new station, Wilson said a misperception exists about fire department coverage in the area south of I-10. The fire department has memorandums of agreements with other governmental entities, such as Harris County Emergency Services District (ESD) 48, for mutual support in emergencies.

The district has stations at 22855 Franz Road, 21201 Morton Road, 23520 Kingsland Blvd., and 1773 Westgreen Blvd.

The Westgreen Boulevard facility opened in December and is a temporary one. According to the district’s web site, the district will build a long-term facility in this area, which is near I-10 and State Highway 99.

Another station is planned for Porter Road.



AUSTIN – A new well log electronic filing system has reduced the burden on operators and saved both the industry and Railroad Commission thousands of dollars and man-hours in its first six months of use. The system was created as a solution to the cumbersome and outdated print system previously used, which required operators to print hundreds of pages – that they already had in electronic format – and mail them to the Railroad Commission for imaging and processing. Prior to development of this system, the Commission did not have a way to accept the information electronically.

The effort to streamline the burdensome well log filing system came as part of Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s initiative to implement smart IT solutions. As an oil and gas engineer, and founder of a company that focused on IT solutions for asset evaluation and reliability, Commissioner Sitton understands what taxpayers and the agency’s customers should expect from an IT solution perspective.

“Information Technology solutions aren’t always easy to develop. An entity’s desire for customization and control often leads to poor IT development decisions that don’t solve problems at affordable rates,” Sitton said. “Since joining the Commission I’ve encouraged our IT department to develop affordable, off-the-shelf systems and simple fixes to important problems like the well log issue. As we utilize budget resources this next biennium, I will continue to push for smart IT solutions to increase transparency and efficiency, and to make our IT systems more user friendly for all Texans.”

Nearly 30 percent of all well logs filed since the system launched have been submitted online. That number will grow as more operators learn of the time and money they will save as a result of this system.

“BP welcomes the changes to the state’s well log submission system, which will significantly reduce costs and streamline the process,” said Tim Seidel, a geoscience technologist with BP America, “and we appreciate the Railroad Commission’s efforts to push for these necessary reforms and its continued support of our industry.”
\\ Pictured above are boxes of hard copies of well logs the RRC has received. One well log could stretch several feet in length, such as the one pictured above. Electronic submission of well logs will eliminate the need to print, process and store all hard copies of well logs.>

Regarding the Texas Gulf Coast, we are working with local emergency managers and partners to prepare for the storm:

  • Four shelters are on standby — in Vidor, Orange, Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island; (addresses are not available at this time)
  • Nine emergency response vehicles are activated and ready for use if there is a need to supply residents with food, water, hygiene kits or other much-needed items;
  • Red Cross team members are preparing to deploy to hard-hit areas if warranted; and
  • Members of our Leadership Team are prepared to deploy as well.

Right now we are carefully monitoring the situation and will keep you updated in terms of Red Cross preparation. Please do open the press release link above, which will give you information on hurricane safety, our free emergency app and more. If of use, here are links to some photos taken during last years’ storms and floods. They were taken primarily in areas surrounding Beaumont and Orange. You are welcome to download and use if you wish. Feel free to access the entire site and peruse March/April/May 2016 photo albums for more storm photos.

HOUSTON, June 21, 2017 – eCU Mortgage, the CUSO mortgage company that serves credit unions throughout Texas, has introduced a third party mortgage origination service that streamlines the mortgage process and delivers more revenue to credit unions when loans are sold on the secondary market.

The mortgage origination solution supplements a credit union’s existing loan efforts through a RESPA-compliant structure in which the credit union initiates the loan while eCU Mortgage handles all the closing and funding. It is designed to maximize a credit union’s control over its member’s loan experience and assure compliance throughout the entire process.

eCU Mortgage processes and underwrites the mortgage loans, closes and funds them, and sells the closed loans on the secondary market, returning revenue back to the credit union that is well above the industry average.

“Member relationships are the core of any credit union’s business, and this third party origination system is designed with that in mind,” said Jackie Adams, Vice President of eCU Mortgage. “We help credit unions leverage those relationships and deliver top-flight service without the expense of building their own loan origination systems.”

eCU Mortgage’s third party origination keeps credit unions involved in the process so they don’t lose touch with their members, Adams explained.  eCU Mortgage further adds a high level of service that includes minimizing the time between application and loan closing while maximizing the transparency of the entire process.

Credit unions can work with eCU Mortgage by simply transferring all the necessary documentation or they can choose to take a more active role by opting for a seat on the eCU Mortgage system.

“By giving a client credit union a seat on our system, they see what we see. They can track the progress of every loan and know exactly what is going on at any point in the origination process,” said Adams. “It allows them to control pricing and the locking of the loan, so they can work on behalf of their members every step of the way.”

The eCU Mortgage third party origination offering can also be used by larger credit unions that have their own mortgage infrastructure but want a partner to handle FHA, VA, and other government loans, Adams noted.

eCU Mortgage, a subsidiary of First Service Credit Union of Houston, also offers Texas credit unions a broad range of other mortgage services that allow the credit unions to deliver thorough loan disclosures to their members, assure compliance, and retain their unique branding to assure a close member relationship.

About eCU Mortgage

eCU Mortgage LLC is a licensed mortgage company offering a full range of mortgage solutions to Texas credit unions. Our mission is to provide outstanding service to members and clients with a team of experienced mortgage professionals who are dedicated to providing customized, comprehensive financing and personalized service. eCU Mortgage, NMLS# 1071847, is a subsidiary of First Service Credit Union of Houston and is located at 16430 Park Ten Place, Houston, TX 77084. Visit us at or call 877-541-1810.

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AUSTIN – On Thursday, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will join developer McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc., the City of Galveston, and the Galveston Housing Authority to commemorate the opening of two new communities, The Cedars at Carver Park and The Villas on the Strand, with a ribbon cutting ceremony. These developments represent 282 apartment homes for the Galveston community as part of the Hurricane Ike Disaster Recovery projects.

WHO: Commissioner George P. Bush – Texas General Land Office

Mayor James Yarbrough – City of Galveston

Vice Chair Ann Masel – Board of Commissioners Galveston Housing Authority

Richard D. Baron – Chairman McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc.

Councilmember Amy Bly – District 1

Other dignitaries

WHAT: Commissioner George P. Bush, representatives from the Texas General Land Office, McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc., Galveston Housing Authority, and the City of Galveston will gather to formally celebrate the grand opening of the Cedars at Carver Park and the Villas on the Strand.  These developments represent 282 apartment homes for the Galveston community.
WHEN: Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: The Villas on the Strand

1524 Avenue B, Galveston, TX

EVENT CONTACT: Lillian R. Ryan, Public Relations

McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc.


About GLO Community Development & Revitalization

The CDR program of the Texas General Land Office administers the Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) on behalf of the state of Texas. Funds totaling more than $3.9 billion have been allocated for recovery following Hurricanes Rita, Dolly, and Ike, the 2011 wildfires, and the 2015 and 2016 floods. These grants can be used for a wide variety of activities including housing redevelopment, business assistance, and infrastructure repair. CDR will keep impacted communities informed on developments. Additional information on long-term disaster recovery is available at

Houston, June 20, 2017Dr. F. Alex Schroeder, orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at West, threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Father’s Day Astros baseball game on Sunday, June 18. Schroeder’s wife and two children cheered him on as he threw a strike with ease.

Schroeder and his family have been fans of the Astros for as long as he can remember, so not only was he excited by this opportunity but was also impressed by the whole experience.

“I played baseball growing up, and I have spent a lot of time as an assistant coach for my kids’ select baseball and softball teams,” said Schroeder. “The key to staying on top of my game is remembering to stretch and properly warm up before and after physical activity. Despite my competitive spirit, I know it’s important to not throw too hard or too often because that can also lead to shoulder injuries.”

Shoulder overuse is a common injury for avid athletes and weekend warriors alike. In children and adolescents, overuse injuries usually occur due to overtraining in one specific sport. For adults, overuse injuries often occur when they do too much in too few workouts; improper technique and improper use of equipment are also both factors. Cross training, stretching, proper technique and consulting a trainer or physical therapist can help alleviate the risk of overuse injuries at all ages.

Schroeder is an experienced orthopedic surgeon with a focus on knee and shoulder problems. He provides minimally invasive repair and reconstructive procedures allowing for reduced pain and quicker recovery. To schedule an appointment at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at West, visit or call 832.522.BONE (2663).

About Houston Methodist West Hospital

Houston Methodist West Hospital is committed to leading medicine in the West Houston and Katy communities by delivering the Houston Methodist standard of high quality, advanced technology and personalized care. The growing campus offers nearly 200 beds and access to the most innovative medical and surgical care available, including robotic and minimally invasive surgery, full-spectrum heart care, state-of-the-art imaging, cancer care, labor and delivery with a level II neonatal ICU, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, outpatient rehabilitation, and 24/7 emergency services. For more information, visit