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Port of Victoria gets new executive director

Sean Stibich

A 15-year veteran of directing and managing marine cargo handling and vessel operations in North, South and Central America has taken the helm of the Port of Victoria.

Sean Stibich began as the port’s new executive director May 20, replacing Paul Kaup, who retired from the post.

Stibich, 39, also has experience at the Port of Houston and the Port of New Orleans.

“After a long executive search, the port is excited knowing it has selected a strong leader who is the right person at the right time leading the port’s efforts to continue creating great value for our communities,” said Port of Victoria Chairman Robby Burdge in a news release.

Stibich said he’s excited to lead the Port of Victoria.

“The Port of Victoria, in my opinion, has incredible opportunity for growth with its south site, and it should see major development sooner (rather) than later,” Stibich said in an email. “The main goal is to continue the work already started with finding a tenant for that site.”

Stibich said other goals include strengthening relationships with current tenants and finding other potential businesses to locate at the port.

The Port of Victoria is a shallow-draft port located on the Channel to Victoria, a tributary to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in the Crossroads. Economic reports indicate the Port of Victoria has a $7.5 billion impact on the Texas economy with direct and indirect jobs estimated at more than 25,000.

Stibich earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the State University of New York Maritime College. He moved to Texas in 2012 after working at a series of international ports. Being recruited by the Port of Victoria, he said, was a natural next step.

“The opportunity to continue my career in Texas was an ideal move for me,” Stibich said. “The people of Victoria and the port commissioners have been very welcoming, and my family and I are looking forward to joining the community.”

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Sales ignite at Victoria fireworks stands

Twice a year during the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve seasons, the Hilliard family parks a travel trailer on the side of the property where they lease land for their fireworks stand.

The law requires fireworks vendors to be on-site when their stands are stocked, but the Hilliard family doesn’t mind – they spend their nights grilling.

This year, they started to stock their shelves Thursday in anticipation of fireworks stands opening Monday for the Fourth of July season.

How much do you plan to spend on fireworks this year?

Kevin Hilliard, who works at Fireworks Attic with his sister, uncle and father, who began working in the fireworks stands almost a decade ago, said he likes being in a family-owned business because he’s able to supply customers with merchandise that is fine-tuned to their preferences. Hilliard also said the family-owned business can offer customers lower prices and will beat or match competitors.

“Being family-owned and operated, we’re able to put in almost like special orders,” Hilliard said. “You don’t really get that with the larger corporations.”

What’s more, he said, everyone in the family takes on a special role in the store. For example, he said, his uncle, who works in sales, is in charge of ordering from wholesalers both in the U.S. and overseas.

Their stand, located outside city limits in compliance with county rules, isn’t close to home in San Antonio, but Hilliard said the booming market in Victoria keeps them coming back.

“It’s a really good area,” Hilliard said. “A lot of people have land, and they like to entertain around the city limits.”

Although fireworks stands follow the rules and stay on the outskirts of town, not all Victoria residents follow suit.

Victoria City Fire Marshal Tom Legler said his department responds to 20 to 25 calls annually on Fourth of July for fireworks possession within Victoria city limits. He doesn’t remember the last time they issued a citation for fireworks possession but said firefighters confiscate fireworks they find. The fine for possessing fireworks within city limits can be up to $2,000.

“Most people are cooperative, but we do have that ability,” Legler said.

People looking to set off fireworks can head out to privately owned pastures. The other option is Patriot Park, the only public park in the county where residents can ignite their fireworks, said Victoria County Commissioner Gary Burns.

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Higher Education
UHV to receive $2.5M from Texas Legislature

The University of Houston-Victoria will be able to move forward with a new health and wellness center after the university received approval for the facility and funding from the Texas Legislature.

“This is a good year for UHV, thanks to the legislature,” said Wayne Beran, vice president for administration and finance.

Overall, the University of Houston-Victoria received $14.6 million in state appropriations each year over the next two years during the recent legislative session.

This amount includes $1.25 million to fund new initiatives each year during the next two years. UHV had requested the continued funding of downward expansion, the nursing program, master’s degrees, the Center for Regional Outreach, the Small Business Development Center and institutional enhancement in addition to support for the new wellness center.

UHV students voted in December for a $125-per-semester student fee for the wellness center, which would be a fitness facility. The university plans to build the facility on the corner of Ben Wilson and Red River streets, but that could change, Beran said.

The university will begin plans for the building and will also seek donor support for construction. Planning is expected to begin in the fall, Beran said.

“It will be exciting to see that on campus,” he said. “There will be a lot of student activity going on in that area in the future.”

The funding will also help with pay raises for employees as well as help to hire more employees. The pay raises will be based on equity with how other universities are paying for certain positions as well as merit.

The university will also receive $1.7 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Most of the funds will go toward doubling the size of a retention pond near the campus to prevent Ben Wilson Street from flooding. Funds will also go to pay for the insurance deductibles for a new roof and damage to a building.

“Funding looks good, we’re looking at some good things and watching the funding grow – it’s going to be a good two years,” Beran said.

This story was updated to include the total amount of money that UHV will receive from the state legislature.

2 killed after ski boat collides with bass boat in Texas

COVE (AP) – Authorities say two people were killed and several others were injured after two boats collided in Texas.

The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said the collision happened Sunday night near the town of Cove, about 35 miles east of Houston. The sheriff’s office said a ski boat apparently struck a bass boat, and two people were confirmed dead at the scene.

Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said two people were in critical condition, and five others had injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

The sheriff says one person is in custody, but authorities have not yet released that person’s name or what charges he or she may face.