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Victoria residents hear city's proposal for restriping Crestwood Drive
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Residents of Crestwood Drive met with Victoria city officials Thursday evening to hear a proposal for restriping the road after residents raised concerns about the reconstructed section between North Ben Jordan and Laurent streets.

Residents first expressed concerns at a City Council meeting in April. Their primary issues were the speed at which traffic now moves, the lack of a barrier between the sidewalks and the traffic as well as a lack of street parking.

The proposed plan would remove the contentious center turn lane, put street parking along most of the south side of the street, and add barrier striping on the north side to encourage cars to hug the center lane.

The changes will cost $21,000 and require the city to change an ordinance banning street parking on Crestwood Drive, city officials said.

Deputy Police Chief Mark Jameson said that his department has spent the past two weeks working the area. In that time they have seen over 10,000 vehicles using the street each week with an average speed of 31 mph. The have issued several citations, including one he issued waiting for the meeting to begin, but the number was miniscule compared to the volume of cars going the speed limit, he said.

Robin Kinder has lived on the street for three years. She thought the proposed plan was a “great compromise” and was glad to hear there would be a buffer between the sidewalks and traffic.

She also said that she should’ve been more involved before construction was completed.

“I had no idea there was going to be a turn lane there,” she said. “I was a little surprised, but I put that back on myself for not being more involved. I’m sure they didn’t just spring it on us.”

City Council will hear the proposed design at Tuesday’s meeting, and city officials were hopeful the street could be restriped within the next couple months.

West teacher named secondary teacher of the year
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A small drone lifted off the library table with a whirl of its propellers.

Below, Victoria West High School senior Cameron Buchhorn, 18, coded its flight pattern on his phone during his Tuesday computer science class.

It was just one of the things he’s learned to do in Cody McDonald’s class.

McDonald, a math and computer science teacher at Victoria West, was named this year’s teacher of the year at the secondary level for the Victoria Independent School.

“I was appreciative,” he said. Awards aren’t why McDonald goes to work everyday, but it was nice to be recognized for his passion, he said.

Each campus selects a teacher of the year for that particular campus, district spokeswoman Ashley Scott said. Those selected are then nominated for the district teacher of the year award.

The nominees complete an information packet highlighting accomplishments and how they go about teaching. The district then names an elementary and a secondary teacher of the year, Scott said. The secondary teacher of the year is selected from middle and high school nominees.

The district winners are then nominated for the regional teacher of the year recognition.

McDonald received a plaque for his recognition as teacher of the year, but the true reward was students who appreciated that he was recognized, he said.

“Their value in what I’ve done for them or tried to do for them is what drives me to be a good teacher,” he said.

McDonald has been a teacher for the past 11 years. He is also a coach for the campus’s boys’ basketball team.

“I was very blessed to find my calling and fall into it,” he said. “Students just keep you young. They have fresh ideas. They keep you on your toes.”

One of the rewarding parts of being this year’s teacher of the year is the recognition it brings to teachers who also coach, McDonald said. There is a misconception that coaches aren’t the strongest teachers, and he hopes the award proves otherwise.

“The truth is that good coaches are your good teacher,” he said. “Coaching and teaching are the same thing. It’s about connecting with students.”

For McDonald, coaching and teaching is about showing a student that they can be successful in what they thought was impossible.

McDonald said he thinks he won the recognition because of his work transitioning students to remote learning at the start of the pandemic. He helped teach how to use Microsoft Teams, which the district has used since last spring break.

But one of his favorite accomplishments is the growth of the high school’s computer science class. A few years ago, the class had four students and it has since grown. Next year, the campus is expected to have 90 students enrolled across five classes with an additional teacher overseeing a class, McDonald said.

He hopes to see it grow to a full program that has a sustaining life, he said.

“It’s a challenging field, and it develops students’ logic,” he said. “Coding in itself is learned by getting things wrong and retrying. I think that is a great skill for kids.”

During his Tuesday class, that was demonstrated among his students. They worked collaboratively to make their drones and other robotic devices work through their phones after a bit of coding.

They asked questions and tried new things with each line of code they created.

Buchhorn, one of McDonald’s students and athletes, said he saw a class of students flying drones through a window, and he wanted to be one of those students.

“I wanted to get into it and wanted to code,” he said. “I love being able to put stuff into a format where I can tell something to do something and it just goes.”

This year, Bucchorn has learned excel and how to create code from scratch, he said.

The main reason Bucchorn enrolled in the computer science class though was McDonald, he said. Even when he wasn’t one of McDonald’s students, he was always in his classroom.

“Coach McDonald has always been there for me even when I didn’t have his class,” he said. “When you have a problem he’s there to help you solve it.”

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port of victoria
Port of Victoria officials hear update on proposed Zinc Resources facility

An air quality analyst said a proposed hazardous waste facility at the Port of Victoria appears likely to meet state regulatory standards at a public meeting Thursday.

Zinc Resources has proposed to invest $55 million-60 million into an EAF dust recycling facility, which would provide about 60 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of about $2.5 million. Some residents have expressed opposition to the proposal over concerns that the facility would generate pollutants in close proximity to the city.

TCEQ Permit Application 

Zinc Resources has proposed building an EAF dust recycling facility at the Port of Victoria’s north industrial site on 25 acres of land that would be leased from the port.

On Thursday, three representatives with HDR Engineering in Corpus Christi presented their findings of a review of Zinc Resources’ air permit application to the port’s commissioners.

Air quality analyst Kirk Dunbar said Zinc Resources appeared to be going above and beyond typical Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requirements in several of the emissions control technologies they plan to implement at the facility, including the conveyor systems they plan to use to transport the materials processed at the plant, which will be fully enclosed.

Those conveyor systems, along with Zinc Resources’ plans to conduct operations and storage in negative-pressure buildings, should “significantly reduce emissions,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar did note that there were discrepancies in the composition of the EAF dust listed in Zinc Resources’ air quality permit application and the permit documents for the Sinton facility operated by Steel Dynamics from which the Victoria plant would receive most or all of its steel byproduct. The facility would process that dust into Waelz zinc oxide and Waelz iron for reuse by industry.

Zinc Resources has already committed to provide TCEQ with updated information on the composition of the EAF dust it would process at the Victoria site. Dunbar said completing that process should only delay the permitting process by a couple of weeks at most.

Ron Crittendon, the company’s CEO, previously told the Advocate he expects the plant to start receiving EAF dust in the fall and have its kiln operational by late 2021.

Asked by Navigation District Chairman Robby Burdge whether he thought there was any cause for concern based on HDR’s review of the air permit application, Dunbar said he did not.

“I didn’t see any red flags,” he said. “I didn’t even see any yellow flags.”

As of Thursday, 43 public comments about the Zinc Resources facility from 29 people had been submitted on TCEQ’s website. Of those, just five were in support, while the rest were opposed or raised questions about the plant’s environmental impacts. Several comments expressed concerns that prevailing southerly winds would blow the plant’s byproducts into Victoria.

According to Zinc Resources’ permit application, the facility is asking to annually emit up to about 164,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 165,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, nearly 100 tons of cobalt, 61 tons of nitrogen oxides and about 95 tons of nine other pollutants, the Advocate previously reported.

The port’s general counsel, Duane Crocker, who is also a candidate in an upcoming special City Council election, asked the presenters from HDR Engineering whether residents of nearby communities such as Crescent Valley should be concerned about the plant’s emissions.

Dunbar said “air dispersion modeling” is used by TCEQ to determine whether plants are in compliance with the state’s ambient air quality standards. Air quality monitoring would be carried out at the facility’s property line, he said, which means that any nearby locations would be in compliance as well.

Sean Stibich, the port’s executive director, said it is important to local officials to do their due diligence on the plant’s environmental impact.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing right by the community out here,” Stibich said.

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'A passion for service': Victoria doctor commissioned into the U.S. Navy
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When 9-year-old Peter Nguyen fled a war-torn Vietnam with his family in 1975, they searched desperately for safe harbor.

Now 54, the Victoria doctor remembers spending days adrift on a boat in the South China Sea. Bombs were exploding throughout Saigon as Nguyen and his family left their home country and the unrest that had overcome it.

“We left not knowing where to go or where help might be,” Nguyen said.

The Nguyen family eventually drifted toward a fleet of U.S. Navy ships at sea. They were rescued, and came to the U.S. as refugees.

“We owe our lives to the great men and women in uniform,” Nguyen said. “For this reason, I want to do my duty and give back to this greatest country what she has given us.”

On Thursday, decades after Nguyen and his family were rescued by Navy sailors, Nguyen was commissioned into the U.S. Navy Reserve Medical Corps.

Nguyen, a physician who has a master’s in public health and has worked as a pharmacist, now adds the title of lieutenant commander to his resume.

Surrounded by his family, colleagues and friends, Nguyen swore his loyalty to the country where his family found refuge, despite the obstacles they faced in doing so. Nguyen and his family celebrated the milestone at Post Acute Medical Hospital of Victoria North, where he is the president and chief of staff.

In Victoria, Nguyen worked as an emergency room doctor before opening his own medical practice. At Post Acute Medical, Nguyen cares for patients with serious injuries and diagnoses who have long recoveries ahead of them.

Nguyen’s path to joining the institution that rescued his family has been a long one.

After being rescued by the Navy in 1975, Nguyen’s family was shuttled from refugee camp to refugee camp, going to the Philippines, then Guam, then Hawaii and then Fort Chaffee, Ark. His family lived briefly in New Iberia, La., before moving to Seadrift, the small fishing community where Nguyen’s brothers would be able to use their skills as fishermen to support the family.

Seadrift was one of numerous Gulf Coast communities where Vietnam War refugees resettled. In all, an estimated 130,000 Vietnamese refugees, including Peter Nguyen, his wife Amanda Nguyen, and their families, resettled in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in 1975.

In Seadrift, Nguyen’s family experienced the growing animosity between the local, white fishing community and the Vietnamese refugees who moved in and were competing with each other for work fishing and crabbing. That animosity culminated in 1979, when a Vietnamese refugee named Sau Van Nguyen fatally shot Billy Joe Aplin, a local fisherman and crabber.

Peter Nguyen, who had no relation to the shooter, and his family left Seadrift amid the unrest and resettled in Louisiana, where Nguyen would meet his future wife, Amanda, at pharmacy school. Nguyen worked for several years as a pharmacist in New Orleans so he could put himself through medical school.

Years later, Nguyen and his family made their way back to South Texas.

Several of Nguyen’s siblings have returned to Seadrift, and Peter and Amanda Nguyen started their family in Victoria. At his practice, Nguyen has treated multiple people he first met as a boy in Seadrift.

“It’s helped the health process to connect with the people” from Seadrift, Nguyen said in a 2019 interview. Establishing his medical career in Victoria, and treating people from throughout the region, has helped move past the animosity he experienced in Seadrift as a child. Despite the challenges of the journey, Nguyen said he never wavered in his commitment to serve.

On Thursday, Nguyen’s journey came full circle as he dedicated his medical training and skill to caring for U.S. sailors and their families.

Nguyen was recruited by Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Evans, and will go on to spend five weeks at officer development school in Rhode Island.

“He’s like a stick of dynamite for us,” Evans said. “He has such a wealth of knowledge and passion for service. You can’t beat that.”

It’s relatively rare for a physician to enlist after medical school, Evans said, and it took more than two years for Nguyen to make it to Thursday’s milestone.

“I always wanted to serve,” Nguyen said. “My purpose is not to go to war or to serve in the battlefield. My purpose is to create peace and take care of those who serve. That’s my goal because those are the very people that saved my life, so I want to save their life in return.”