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State agency to discuss future median on Houston Highway at council meeting
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The Texas Department of Transportation is planning for another median project along a major Victoria road, this one on Business 59.

A transportation agency representative will discuss the upcoming project at Tuesday’s council meeting, according to the meeting agenda.

The state transportation department plans to build almost four miles of median along Business 59, which is also known as Houston Highway and Rio Grande Street. Current plans outline the median stretching from Navarro Street to Loop 463, according to an outline of the project. Left turn lanes would be at various points along the median, according to the project outline. Sidewalks and more lighting would be added at points throughout the road.

This is the second median project the state agency has begun on a Victoria roadway. The department if finishing a median and road restoration project along Navarro Street from Airline Road to the Loop.

Michael Brzozowski, area engineer with the state agency, will present the design of the median project at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Also Tuesday, council is scheduled to vote on whether to award a $128,000 design and engineering contract to Brown Reynolds Watford Architects for the redesign of the Victoria fire department’s station 1.

The station, 606 E. Goodwin Ave., was built in the 1980s. Of the fire department’s six stations, Station 1 is one of three remaining that haven’t yet been upgraded to withstand tropical storm or hurricane-force winds, said Fire Chief Tracy Fox.

The remodel of Station 1 would include strengthening the building so it could withstand winds of up to 135 mph and could be safely occupied during and after tropical storms.

Easter sunrise service brings hope to church
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As the light at the end of the tunnel shines through the pandemic, so too did the sunlight early on Easter Sunday.

At a 7:30 a.m. sunrise service, church members of Parkway Victoria, 4802 John Stockbauer Dr., sang and worshipped in the open air outside the church on Easter. With the morning sun and a huge cross behind him, Senior Pastor Mike Hurt gave his morning sermon about allowing a person’s meter of hope to be refilled with God.

“If you gathered with us, and your hope meter is at zero,” he said, “I want to remind you that he is the God of hope.”

The church held the service at the Field of Honor, next to Parkway Victoria. As the service progressed, a large green space and a tall white cross in the field brightened with morning sunshine. Sunrise services, which are emblematic of Jesus rising again on the third day Hurt said, are often held by many churches on Easter.

“It’s God’s will that everyone who looks upon the sun will believe that he will give all of them life,” Hurt said.

Hope, he said, is determined by whom a person puts their hope in. Rather than placing a person’s hope in people or institutions, he said the Bible says to place it in the Lord.

The sunrise service could not be held during last year’s Easter because of the coronavirus, said church member Nick Hurt, who is also Mike Hurt’s son.

This year, the younger Hurt said, people who have attended sunrise services for years could worship again. At this year’s service, he got the chance to again play guitar and sing with songs like the Baptist hymn “How Great Thou Art” alongside another guitar player and a cajon percussionist.

“Having the sunrise service sets a different atmosphere,” he said. “We can worship outside and at the cross.”

Church leaders did not discuss the pandemic during the service. After the service, Mike Hurt said that he is trying to offer a hope that lasts as the pandemic’s end appears to be close on the horizon. Whether it is another pandemic or something else, he said, we must work on our hope meter.

Compared to last year, new Victoria resident Russell Dempsey said this year’s Easter was a lot better than the last year.

Growing up, he attended sunrise services of which he has lots of good memories. Now as COVID-19 case numbers are down and he and his family settle into their new home of Victoria, he said they can go to sunrise services too.

“My kids were up by 5 a.m.,” he said. “So it’s nice to get just the rest of the day to do things as well.”

Dempsey also said the symbolism of a sunrise service — with the sun rising like Jesus’ resurrection — is very dramatic.

The story of Easter was also a part of the sermon.

People seated in the crowd of lawn chairs and blankets clapped and hollered out when the pastor would say “He is risen.” Some also raised their hands to the open sky during the service on one of the most important days of the Christian calendar.

This year’s Easter comes after a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestion that says “fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. and do not need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling.”

As of Friday the CDC also stated that people can “visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or staying six feet apart and can refrain from quarantine and testing if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19 after contact with someone who has COVID-19,” according to press releases from the CDC.

Dempsey and his family have not been able to attend church regularly throughout the past year, he said, because they are still looking for the right church but also because of the pandemic.

“It’s just really good to see everybody out,” he said.

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Sheriff to update local officials on efforts to combat human trafficking

Victoria County Sheriff Justin Marr will give a presentation to local officials on human trafficking in the Crossroads at Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

Since the start of this year, county deputies have responded to eight incidents in which illegal immigrants considered potential human trafficking victims were detained and transferred into the custody of Border Patrol agents, according to this week’s agenda packet.

Following Marr’s presentation, commissioners will consider the approval of a resolution that condemns human trafficking, encourages local residents to look out for and report suspected trafficking incidents and calls for “more awareness, education, and advocacy ... to eradicate human trafficking in our local communities.”

U.S. border officials encountered more than 170,000 immigrants in March, a nearly 70% increase from February and the highest number of crossings reported in a single month in at least 15 years, according to multiple news outlets.

In recent months, The Advocate has reported on several incidents believed by local law enforcement to involve immigrant smuggling.

At least seven people were arrested following an extensive, multiple-agency chase involving a pickup truck carrying at least 12 suspected illegal immigrants in early March. A chase south of Hallettsville ended in the arrest of a Guatemalan man being transported by smugglers and injuries to at least eight others. The occupants of a pickup truck suspected by authorities to be involved in smuggling evaded deputies following a chase in Victoria County in late March. And a woman found dead along a Goliad County highway in March was later identified as a Honduran citizen.

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Advocate, Chamber to co-sponsor school board candidate debate
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Victoria’s school district has two contested races for the May 1 election. The Victoria Advocate and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce will co-sponsor a second debate featuring the candidates in the District 2 race next week.

On Wednesday, a debate was held between District 4 candidates Dale Zuck and Amanda Lingle.

On April 14, another debate will be held between candidates Estella De Los Santos and Kenneth Wells for the Victoria School Board District 2 seat.

In keeping with social distancing protocols, the upcoming debate will be recorded via Zoom and then posted on the Advocate’s Facebook page.

We are asking readers to submit questions for the candidates to deliverydesk@vicad.com by noon on the Tuesday before the debate.