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'Lowrider Excellence: The Leal Brothers' to open at Five Points with music by Los Palominos

Almost a dozen lowriders, some fresh off the truck from the Lowrider Tour Las Vegas Super Show, will be on display at the opening reception of “Lowrider Excellence: The Leal Brothers,” from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art.

While guests examine the bright glittery patterns painted perfectly on the lowrider exteriors and their matching custom interiors, the Grammy-winning Tejano band, Los Palominos, will entertain with hits such as “Por Eso Te Amo.”

Maurice Roberts, the chief curator for the Five Points museum, called the national Super Show competition the “Super Bowl of lowriders.”

“Art cars and hot rods are about personalization and changing a Detroit commodity into something personal, but lowriders take it to another level,” Roberts said. “Look at the paint job – they use material science art skills at a level that is truly a mystery, the way they can completely coat a car and make it perfect and then in a couple of years, they might repaint it to make it different.”

The Leal Brothers, lowrider artists from Corpus Christi, won first and second place in the Lowrider Car of the Year category at the Super Show in 2018. The family has built its reputation for mastery of the meticulous art form for many decades. Freddy Leal, Jesse Leal, Juan Leal, Benny Leal, Frank Leal Jr., Frank Leal III, Phillip Flores, Paul Vela, Mike Guzman and Eloy Cardenas work in the family enterprise.

“The Leal Brothers work very much as a family on projects,” Roberts said. “They all chip in to the creation of their cars, and it’s as much a way of life as an art form, and much more than a hobby.”

The exhibit also will feature video and photography of the lowriders shot by Ernesto Leon and Irvin Tepper. Some of the lowriders have participated in past art car parades, while others are rolling into Victoria for the first time.

The Uvalde band Los Palominos won best Tejano performance at the 42nd annual Grammy Awards for “Por Eso Te Amo.” Albums including “Obsesion” and “Me Enamore De Un Angel” were nominated for best Tejano and best norteño album, respectively, at later Grammy ceremonies. The musicians “harmonize beautifully” and the music is “fun and happy,” said Maggie Kuykendall, media contact for the exhibit.

Light refreshments will be served at the opening. The exhibit, which is curated by Ann Harithas, the museum’s founder and executive director, will be on display through Oct. 20.

“Mainly, we consider lowriders a separate art form,” Roberts said. “Lowriders, hotrods – there are lots of approaches to modifying cars, and lowriders transcend a lot of other forms.”

Refugio daycare celebrates 25th year in business

When kids walk through the doors of her day care center, Sheryl Ponce says she treats them like her own two boys. When they’re sick, she said, that means she also feels their pain.

When Garrett Rangel attended the day care center, he suffered from cancer.

“Every day, I would sit and rock him to sleep,” Ponce said. “I would rock him in my husband’s grandmother’s rocking chair. I would just pray that he would be healed, ‘God take his cancer away from him.’”

Today Rangel is a healthy senior at Calallen High School, where he plays on the football team.

His mother, Lisa Garza, thanks Ponce for her attentive care during this time.

“That was one of my favorite memories,” Ponce said “He’s still one of my kids.”

In the 25 years since Kids Day Care Center first opened its doors in Refugio, Ponce said she’s watched the many children grow up.

“Golly, time went by so fast,” Ponce said. “I look at all the kids I had and some of them have kids of their own now.”

Her business celebrated its 25th anniversary on Aug. 14 as it prepared for its fall class, which began this year on Aug. 26.

Ponce’s continued service is a relief to parents like Claire Wendell, whose daughter, 3-year-old Cora, just started her second year at Ponce’s day care.

“Without her, I’d have to rely on someone to watch my kids out of their house,” Wendell said.

Although Wendell said there’s one other day care business in Refugio, Ponce’s has been around the longest and has the largest number of children.

Before she opened her own business, Ponce worked for several years at another day care in Refugio. In the almost 30 years she’s worked in child care, the biggest change have been in the rules and regulations mandated by the state, she said.

“We’ve had a lot of rule changes with the state, licensing and things like that,” Ponce said.

Although state regulations lowered ratio between children and caretakers over the years, Ponce said her goal has always been to provide personalized care.

Another big change?

Ponce has to fight to keep technology out of the hands of children – and her employees, she said.

“The most important thing is having good staff,” Ponce said. “Honest people are very, very hard to find.”

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Officials finalize Ben Wilson contract; project design begins

After four years of discussions, the Ben Wilson Street corridor improvement project is hitting the pavement.

UHV President Bob Glenn said Wednesday that the contract has been approved by all those involved in the project, which includes University of Houston chancellors and city of Victoria officials.

“We’re now getting closer to working on the street,” Glenn said.

The project, which has been in discussion between UHV and the city since 2015, is in the early design stages and the city does not have a timeline of when construction on the street will begin, said Donald Reese, the public works director. The city, which is administering the project, does not yet have an architectural or engineering firm for the project, he said.

The Ben Wilson Street corridor improvement project includes reconstruction on the street to have three lanes instead of five, 8-foot-wide sidewalks and 20-foot medians. Glenn said once construction begins, the project between Sam Houston Drive and Red River Street could be completed by fall 2021 or spring 2022.

Before major construction begins, UHV students will see a temporary crosswalk system installed on Ben Wilson Street by the end of the year.

Glenn said Wednesday that the university is asking students to avoid crossing Ben Wilson Street and to use the university shuttle to travel from the campus to UHV University Commons, the new student center and library.

University Commons is located across Ben Wilson Street from the main UHV campus and is the first of several UHV construction projects to finish recently.

“We have told them we really rather they not cross the street on foot,” Glenn said.

Matt Alexander, director of the capital projects and construction at UHV, said the temporary crosswalk system is called the HAWK crosswalk system, which does not light up until a pedestrian pushes a button to activate the system.

“Our goal is to have it up before the winter break,” Alexander said.

The crosswalk is to ensure student safety. The speed limit on Ben Wilson Street was lowered to 30 mph in anticipation of the street project. Officials said they would like drivers to adhere to the reduced speed limit.

The temporary crosswalk system will remain in place throughout the Ben Wilson Street project construction, he said.

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Ongoing Placido Benavides project paving way for new development

At the construction site of the city’s long-awaited Placido Benavides Drive on a recent morning, the sun was hot, and progress on the $9.2 million road was clear.

“It’s coming together very nicely,” said Ken Gill, the city’s engineer, of the project. “People are looking forward to this.”

The Placido Benavides street extension project, which will connect Navarro Street to Salem Road with almost 2 miles of new roadway, is well underway. The finished road will consist of a two-lane concrete section with an 8-foot wide sidewalk for walkers and bicyclists.

Emree Weaver / Emree Weaver | eweaver@vicad.com 

The Placido Benavides project consists of a two-lane road connecting Salem Road, just north of Zac Lentz Parkway, to where Glascow Street dead ends by the northside Walmart. The road will also feature an 8-foot wide sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists. The expected completion date is spring 2020.

The project is designed to relieve pressure on Navarro Street by having another road for drivers, Gill said. The project also includes the installation of 6,400 linear feet of 16-inch waterline, 7,350 linear feet of 12-inch and 16-inch sanitary sewer lines, and a range of diameters of storm sewer lines.

The city has been discussing the road for years to help alleviate traffic congestion in the city. Victoria City Council approved the $9,194,616.97 million contract with Triple B Services LLP, of Huffman, in October 2018.

The work began in December 2019 and has a 420-day completion timeline. The project is slated for completion in spring 2020.

“It’s coming together well. Everything is on track,” Gill said.

Gill said in late August that the utilities portion of the project, which has included groundwork for the waterlines, storm sewer lines and sanitary sewer lines, is about 90% complete. The focus of the work now is surfacing, he said.

Aside from relieving traffic on Navarro Street, city officials have said they hope the project will pave the way for more development. City Manager Jesús Garza said he is glad to see the road coming together to bring about growth in the city.

Because most of the area surrounding the planned road is undeveloped, Placido Benavides Drive will create opportunities for growth as hundreds of acres become available for development. The 8-foot wide sidewalk for walkers and bicyclists will also be a benefit for the community, Garza said.

“I think it will be very beneficial to have this new road and a space for people to walk and bike along that area,” he said.

The name for the new thoroughfare will also connect a piece of Texas history to city residents. The road is named after a man often labeled by historians the “Paul Revere of Texas” for his role in the Texas Revolution.

Placido Benavides moved to Texas from Mexico in 1828. He lived and worked in Victoria and married the daughter of Martin De Leon, the first alcalde, or mayor, of Victoria.

He was later elected the second alcalde in the community’s history, and earned his recognition by spreading the news of the Mexican army’s approach before the Battle of Coleto in 1836.

Gill said that it was a good choice to name the road after the historic figure.

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Mental Health
Cuero patients get access to psychiatrists via telehealth system

Patients at Cuero Regional Hospital are now able to see a psychiatrist via telemedicine, making mental health care newly available for residents of DeWitt County.

The Cuero hospital started its telepsychiatry program last month through a partnership with the telemedicine company Access Physicians.

“We kept looking at what our needs were (in DeWitt County), and we did not have adequate access to mental health care,” said Lynn Falcone, the CEO of Cuero Health.

Would you consider getting mental health treatment over the phone?

DeWitt County has no psychiatrists, and Falcone said she knew it would be difficult to recruit one to work at Cuero Regional Hospital.

Instead, Falcone turned to a solution that rural hospitals are increasingly using to expand access to care: telemedicine.

The hospital began a telecardiology program with Access Physicians in January, providing on-demand access to cardiologists for patients for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, said Dr. Chris Gallagher, the CEO of Access Physicians. The availability of an on-call cardiologist means patients with complex and sometimes urgent heart issues could be treated in Cuero, instead of being transferred to another hospital. The program was so popular with patients that Falcone said she looked to where telemedicine could also be useful. Mental health care was the logical next step, she said.

Previously, when physicians at the Cuero Regional Hospital encouraged patients to seek mental health care, Falcone said many patients simply went without because it was too difficult to find or travel to appointments farther away.

“Psychiatry is probably the most in-demand specialty,” Gallagher said about the telehealth services his company provides to Texas hospitals. “There’s just not enough mental health coverage across the state, but the rural areas are particularly hit hard.”

Telecardiology programs, like the one in Cuero, and inpatient and outpatient maternal and fetal medicine are also among the fastest growing services the company offers in Texas, Gallagher said.

The new program got off the ground with the help of a $5,000 grant from the health care company MultiPlan. The grant paid for a 55-inch monitor with a high-definition camera, which can be controlled by the psychiatrist treating the patient.

Two psychiatrists who work for Access Physicians in Dallas will be available by appointment for one half day every week. If demand increases, Cuero Regional Hospital can update its agreement with Access Physicians to increase hours.