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Cuero man arrested after San Antonio man found dead at motel
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Authorities have charged a man with murder after another man was found dead at a Cuero motel Sunday morning.

Cuero police arrested Michael James Broz, 37, of Cuero, and charged him with murder after a preliminary investigation of the crime scene, Police Chief Jay Lewis said Wednesday.

Lewis declined to comment on the investigation and how it led to the arrest of Broz, who was present at the scene when police arrived, he said.

The dead man was identified as Kenneth Edward Dixon, 57, of San Antonio, Lewis said. Dixon was staying at the motel at the time.

Lewis declined to disclose what the cause of death was, citing the ongoing investigation. He said an autopsy was ordered. As of Wednesday, investigators were awaiting results from the autopsy.

Police were called to a motel in the 2100 block of North Esplanade Street about 4:30 a.m. after someone discovered the body, Lewis said.

Broz was arrested about 6:30 a.m., about two and a half hours after police were called. There were no other suspects in the investigation as of Wednesday, Lewis said.

Dixon was pronounced dead by Justice of Peace Precinct 2 Blanca McBride, Lewis said.

McBride deferred questions to Lewis through an office clerk, and Lewis deferred further questions to District Attorney Robert Lassmann, who declined to answer questions about the investigation on Wednesday.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said in an email. “My office has no comment at this point.”

The Cuero Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation, Lewis said. As of Wednesday, no other agencies are aiding in the investigation.

Broz has pleaded guilty to violent felony offenses in the past.

In 2013, Broz pleaded guilty to arson causing bodily injury in Harris County, according to court records. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

In 2005, Broz pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in Nueces County, according to court records. He was sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication probation.

After Sunday’s arrest, Broz was booked in the DeWitt County Jail, where he remained Wednesday on a $500,000 bond, according to online jail records.

VISD sees bus driver shortage
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School bus engines whirred to life as drivers throughout the Victoria school district’s bus barn prepared for their afternoon routes.

The drivers walked around the vehicles checking tires for any flats and working through a laundry list of safety to-dos before they picked students up Wednesday afternoon.

Bus checks are a norm for drivers, but this year some drivers now drive combined routes as the district, like many others, struggles with a driver shortage.

About 33 drivers work for the district with 13 openings for drivers and substitute positions, the district’s Transportation Director Shanquil Fennell said.

“Due to the driver shortage, many routes are being adjusted to accommodate routes that do not have a driver assigned to it,” he said.

This is not a Victoria-specific problem.

The National Association for Pupil Transportation reported in August that district and contract bus operators are facing serious challenges with respect to staffing of the driver pool this fall.

About half of student-transportation coordinators, who participated in the study, described their school bus driver shortages as either “severe” or “desperate,” according to the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

This shortage has led to longer bus routes, more students on the bus and top department administrators taking over a route, as well.

Victoria parent Jason Black has several issues with his children riding the bus.

Black has a high school junior and a fifth grader at home, and this is their first year with the district. The youngest was supposed to attend Vickers Elementary School, but because of spacing he was moved to Schorlemmer Elementary School, Black said.

The change was manageable for the family, but the problem came with the bus. Both of Black’s sons would ride the same bus, which means elementary, middle and high school students would ride together.

This was an issue for Black because he doesn’t think a younger child should intermingle with teenagers. They have a different mentality and way of interacting, Black said.

“My child does not belong on that bus,” he said. “He is an elementary school child.”

Some rural routes pick up elementary, middle and high school students at the same time. Most routes in town are three-tiered, which means students are transported by their age cohort, Fennell said.

As for Black’s child, lower level students who are attending a campus other than the campus assigned to their boundary area are required to ride during the high school route so they can be transferred to another bus. That bus will then take them to the appropriate campus.

“In many routes in which upper and lower level students ride simultaneously, Transportation Services tries to assign a bus monitor,” Fennell said.

Black said his youngest would get on the bus at 6:25 a.m. when school starts at 8 a.m.

“I want a regular bus that will take my kid to and from school without having to take a three-hour tour around Victoria,” he said.

Because of the lengthy bus route and mixed age groups, Black and his family decided to pull his youngest from the bus and take him to and from school, he said. This takes him and his wife away from work and previous obligations when they hoped to rely on the bus.

“My child is not on the bus because I opted not to,” he said. “I feel really sad and bad for those parents and those children that don’t have that option.”

Students who live in town typically have a 30-45 minute bus ride, Fennell said. Students who live in rural areas will have longer rides that can span anywhere between an hour and a half to two hours.

On a typical route, about 45-55 students ride the bus, though it depends on the route, he said. The buses have a capacity of about 71-78 passengers.

“We are currently having drivers take daily counts at each pick up and drop off location, so we can potentially see where additional adjustments can be made,” Fennell said. “However, all students are seated, and no rider stands during the route.”

Everyone at the district’s transportation department helps where they can, including Fennell, the department’s top administrator.

He has picked up a morning and afternoon route this school year because of the driver shortage. Fennell and the other drivers have 5:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. routes to pick up and drop off students.

“As a director, I should be in the office,” he said. “But I’ve been driving every day since school started.”

Discover 361
Old and new meet in downtown Victoria
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Cows are on the roof of a downtown Victoria building. Don’t worry, that’s the new Chick-fil-A corporate headquarters. The headquarters brings new life to the longtime building with a modern/industrial design by a Victoria native. The story of the new home for the very popular company is one of the many stories you will find in the premier edition of Discover 361, the Victoria Advocate’s new lifestyle magazine. It will arrive on the doorsteps of our home delivery customers Sunday.

Copies of the magazine will also be available at the Victoria Advocate office, 101 W. Goodwin Ave, Ste. 1200, and on stands in many places throughout the Crossroads including Cuero Pecan House, Museum of the Coastal Bend, Pumphouse Riverside Restaurant Bar and Grill, Citizens Medical Center, Premium Appliances & More, Victoria All Sports, Sassy Antler Boutique, Santa Rita, Devereux Gardens Floral & Gifts, Nave Museum, Presidio LaBahia, Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art and many other places.

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Formosa to pay nearly $3M in EPA lawsuit after fires, chlorine release
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Formosa Plastics Corp. has agreed to pay $2.85 million for violating the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Monday, Formosa agreed to settle a federal Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit, which says the plastics manufacturer failed to comply with the Clean Air Act, a federal law designed to reduce and control air pollution.

The EPA began investigating Formosa after a series of explosions, fires and accidental releases at their Point Comfort plant. The first accident, a fire, occurred on May 2, 2013. The last investigated accident, a chlorine release, occurred Oct. 5, 2016. Injuries to workers include second- and third-degree burns and chlorine inhalation.

The accidents at Formosa’s Point Comfort property also caused damage and the release of hazardous substances into the environment, the DOJ said in a Monday news release.

More than 50 people were evaluated or treated for injuries related to the accidents, according to the lawsuit.

“Formosa repeatedly failed to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Point Comfort plant, repeatedly placing their workers, neighbors and the environment in danger,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Formosa will be required to update response and personal protection plans to prevent employee injury, have a third party conduct an audit of its risk management practices, implement corrective actions based on that audit and develop performance indicators to evaluate future compliance.

Seadrift activist Diane Wilson was pleased with the results of the lawsuit although she had some reservations.

“I just wish it was sooner and for more,” she said. “I think if it’s more, then the company is inclined to do something about it.”

After the accidents, Formosa added a team of health and safety professionals to supplement existing risk management teams, said Ken Mounger, executive vice president at Formosa. The company also increased staffing in the process safety management department, and the company thinks those steps have increased overall safety and risk management programs.

Congress added Section 112(r) to the Clean Air Act in 1984 after the release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, which killed more than 3,400 and injured over 200,000. Under the Clean Air Act, facilities like Formosa’s must identify hazards, maintain a safe facility and minimize the effects of accidental releases. Failing to do so increases the risk of accidents and threatens communities surrounding the facility, according to the DOJ.