Friday, February 24, 2006

Firefighters Helping One of Their Own

George Stanley Wyant III, a firefighter with Mission Fire Department, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just before Christmas last year. He is currently on medical leave and is undergoing chemo therapy every other week for six months.

George has been with the Mission Fire department since he was 16 years old. He started out as an Explorer, became a volunteer at the age of 18, and attended and graduated from the firemen’s academy after graduating from high school. He has continued with his education by getting certifications to deal with on-the-job situations and other life-saving certifications that he has been interested in. He has also taught some first aid, CPR and other miscellaneous classes during his employment with the fire department.

This man’s life is firefighting. He thoroughly enjoys the job and the fact that he does get to help people, even if he has to see the ones that are lost. He comes from a family that has a history of firefighters. This is one reason why he chose to be a firefighter. He had great role models and decided to follow in some of their footsteps. There are family members that are firefighters all over Texas and even a cousin that is a Navy firefighter. His great grandfather helped found the fire department in Waco and there are still relatives that work in that area. He has a great uncle that is a Fire Chief, a great aunt that is an Assistant Fire Chief, and his mom's dad helped found the volunteer fire department in Mission and helped build one of the first tankers that Mission Fire Department had, in approx. 1970, with an uncle, Hollis Rutledge Sr. and possibly Ray Landry who his mom believes was the fire chief at the time.

The fire department has chosen to show how much they care for George by having a fund raiser to help pay for his medical bills. The chemotherapy, and other routine visits, is proving to be costly for him. Mission, Harlingen and Brownsville fire departments are joining in the effort to try to raise $10,000 for his medical costs. The president of the Mission Fire Department IAFF Local 3609 is heading this up. They will be filling up firemen helmets all over the intersections in Mission on Saturday, February 26, and in Brownsville as well and Harlingen Fire Fighters will be coming to Mission and helping in this endeavor.

George is planning on returning to fire fighting and continuing his education when he is well enough. The fire fighters are hoping this will help him out and ease some of the stress. For now he is home with his family. He is married to Gloria and has two sons, Joseph, who will be turning four in a few days, and Theodore, who is 18 months old. George is turning 28 today (February 24). He will not be learning of this fund raiser until today and it will probably make his birthday even better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

EPA Cleanup Plans Are Welcomed by Mayor

Reprint from the Progress Times - February 17, 2006
©Progress Times 2006 - All Rights Reserved

“We finally got them to come down and take care of the problem.”
That was the reaction of Mission Mayor Beto Salinas to word that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to tackle the problem of contaminated soil in the area around the former Helena Chemical Company site.
The mayor said he expected the EPA to begin its remedial work within the next couple of weeks, adding that work will not only include a protective fence around the old chemical plant site but also demolition of the deteriorating building which once housed the production of the chemicals.
Although Salinas said the city won't be overly involved in the cleanup, officials are ready to provide whatever assistance the EPA might need, such as security at the site.
The first announcement of EPA plans came from U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who has been active in getting the federal government involved in this latest clean-up effort.
Doggett cited the EPA report which read, in part, "The action proposed for this site is demolition of the buildings and complete removal of debris and contaminated soil. Cleanup standards will reflect the future commercial land use as confirmed by the City of Mission."
Doggett said removal of contamination at the site is long overdue. However, he said, the cleanup should be done to meet residential, not commercial, standards.
"I am also pleased to learn that EPA is working to put a fence around the site," the congressman said, adding, "The City of Mission and its residents deserve immediate protective action from the EPA."
Doggett had been critical of the EPA's earlier reports for omission of such tests as long-term air monitoring, groundwater testing and neighborhood health assessments.
For years, many residents in the areas near the plant site have complained of health problems which they blamed on chemical contamination.
However, even without those tests cited by Doggett, the EPA determined that chemicals such as dieldrin, toxaphene, DDT and heptachlor, among others, are all present at the site and pose serious health risks.
Concerning this latest cleanup, Doggett remarked, "Although no mention is made of compensation for the loss of life, health and homeowner's property, it represents a step in the right direction. I look forward to the time when this site is not only safe, but contributes to the economic well-being of the city and its residents."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Cold Sunday

This morning, I went to De Alba's Tortilla Factory and Bakery for some barbacoa. It was around 10 AM and my wife insisted I hurry before they ran out of the barbacoa especial. When I got there the place was packed despite, or probably because of the cold. Today's weather was in the 40s. So, after picking up my order, I went home and we had breakfast. We pretty much lounged around the rest of the day to stay in from the cold.
We did have a trip out to The Border Theatre to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There weren't that many people there this evening. No doubt the cold weather made parents think twice about taking their children out, except us. Overall, it's been a pretty slow day in Mission, Tx.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Amigos Del Valle hurting financially

Amigos Del Valle hurting financially:
MISSION — Senior care provider Amigos Del Valle is reporting unspecified cash flow problems that could impact its food delivery and transportation services.

Interim Director Jaime Garza said staff was still assessing the nonprofit’s finances, but the problem seems to lie with their nutrition program, which feeds approximately 3,000 seniors across the Rio Grande Valley.

Garza just took over the top post Monday, following longtime director Isaias Aguayo’s resignation last week. Aguayo could not be reached for comment.

"Some programs are not bringing in the revenue to cover expenses, particularly our nutrition program," Garza said. "We had these problems in the past and have continued to deliver the same number of meals … now we’re looking at cutting routes, trying to deliver the same at less cost, but it’s really hard to say."

From 2003 to 2004, Amigos Del Valle’s cost to run the nutrition program increased almost 10 percent, to $2.6 million, according to the latest available audit reports. Over that same period, revenues — the majority of which come through state and federal grants — decreased slightly.

While the 2005 audit report will not be available until next month, Garza said high gas prices and the cost of maintaining their aged vehicle fleet — the buses used to transport seniors are 13 years old on average — has only worsened their financial situation.

"We deliver meals Valleywide and we have a Valley-wide transportation system for the elderly, so the fuel costs really put us in a pinch," Garza said.

"Amigos Del Valle has been around since 1974, and in that time we’ve had our peaks and valleys. This is a valley, but we’re looking for strategies to improve our financial situation… I’m confident we’ll do well."

Amigos Del Valle reported no cuts in programs or to its 107 employee staff, and calls to the agencies that both fund and contract with Amigos Del Valle yielded no reports of declining service. But how much longer that will remain the case is questionable.

Congress has already cut funding to its Community Development Block Grant Program, through which Amigos Del Valle received $123,000 in 2004 but is expecting to receive far less once those cuts are realized.

And President Bush is proposing a $2.2 billion cut to domestic programs for 2007, which could reduce the federal grant money available for housing and senior services, Amigos’ primary source of income.

"We could be in line. They’ve already hit Medicare and Medicaid. We won’t know until the regulations come out," Garza said.

"We’ve fared well during our existence, but that’s not to say we’re not under someone’s radar.


James Osborne covers PSJA and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4428.