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For Houston Community Newspapers . .

THE SIGNAL FROM HOBBY AIRPORT

Motorists approaching Hobby Airport can hear a radio message aimed just at them:

Hobby Airport is making changes that will make your arrival and departure easier. We are upgrading our roadways,, expanding our terminal facilities and reconstructing the airport to better serve you. As you enter the airport, watch for construction equipment as well as signs and barricades that indicate construction areas and temporary traffic detours.

A low-powered station at 1610 AM, Hobby Airport Radio tells travelers how to minimize the inconveniences resulting from construction in and near the airport:

Avoid Broadway between the Gulf Freeway and Belfort. The bridge on Broadway over Sims Bayou is being widened for your future convenience. However, during construction, all Broadway north And southbound traffic is in one span of the bridge. Hobby Airport traffic should use Telephone Road, Bell fort, Monroe or Airport Boulevard for convenient access to and from the airport.

Additional construction is in progress on Telephone Road south of Airport Boulevard.

Though certain to speed traffic in the area,, the improvements for the Broadway bridge and Telephone Road are not considered part of the current Hobby Airport improvement project.

Asked for an update on the work at Hobby, Airport Manager Don Fletcher said,, "We are about half-way through the projects which total about $60 million. The work should be completed by June of 1994." Originally slated for completion this summer, it has been extended because of some construction delays and some additional improvements for the airfield.

Approximately $30 million is going toward upgrading the airfield. Construction includes new taxiways, some re-surfacing of old pavement, and some new runway lights.

Fletcher said the access road into the airport is nearly completed: "We've got some final work that is going to start about the first of February when we'll be putting the finishing touches on the ramp roadways."

Fletcher said the ramps "will enhance the local traffic using the intersection of Airport and Broadway because the inbound flow to the airport won't use the traffic signal." The people coming into the airport will by-pass the light by taking the fly-over bridge from either Broadway or Airport Boulevard.

Most of the remaining work will be done inside the airport. According to Fletcher:

Part of the access roadway project includes some fairly major improvements in the terminal building as well. We are going to be adding a number of escalators to move people back and forth between the between the different levels. We're going to be adding a new entrance on the east end of the building.

New baggage service offices are being built right next to the baggage claim area. Fletcher said, "That's where you go when the airlines have lost your bag." He said having the offices convenient for the customers will be "at least a positive step when they have to go look for their bag."

Other improvements will include all-new utility feeds in the building for improved telephone and electrical services. All of the sprinkler systems in the building will be tied together with a new alarm system. The air conditioning system will receive a new cooling tower and water chillers.

Fletcher said, "Although none of these things may sound like they are very exciting, they are infrastructure improvements in the terminal" which the airport can "expand on and enhance in a future project."

The main focus of the next project will be to finish the interior renovations to the building. Hobby has just selected the design consultants for the new phase which is not expected to begin until 1995. The future improvements will provide better rest rooms and will further develop the chilled water air conditioning system.

Consoling and advising visitors through all the construction are the Squirt brothers, Reg and Bert. They are the mascots for the projects who appear on signs and as live performers at the airport.

Their purpose, Fletcher said, is "to explain to people a little bit about what we are doing and inject a little humor into what sometimes isn't a popular situation." Modeled after similar efforts at other airports, he said the characters were created to "help us through the situation and maybe forget about how it looks now and focus on what it will look like later."

Reg and Bert are usually around on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons "so they can talk to the people and make friends with people," Fletcher said. Costing $7500 apiece, the costumes contain synthesizers, which generate the voices of the Squirt brothers. The performers have "had some training as to what kind of conversations they should strike up with people."

Fletcher said the Squirts will be making a greater contribution as the airport moves into some "difficult phases of this project." This will involve rerouting people through temporary corridors and redirecting the vehicles entering the airport. Fletcher said,

The roadway in front of the terminal building as we know it now will be completely out of service for about six months during the period September of this year to February of next year. We think that those really unusual circumstances are going to be opportunities where we can use the Squirt-costumed people to better advantage.

Fletcher asked the public to "Be patient. It's going to get done." He added:

These kinds of projects have lot that go into them. We think a lot about protecting the customers and providing as safe, friendly environment as we can, given the construction. We need people to pay attention to signs and watch for the progress, because it's happening. We're delighted to have it under way, and we'll be a whole lot more happy to have it done.

Fletcher concluded by praising the people doing the construction: "We've been blessed with a couple of very good contractors on this project, and the time that we've put into the planning stages on it is certainly paying off."

The new prime contractor is Hensel-Phelps Construction Company. They were hired for the renovation of the airport terminal.

They are also overseeing the completion of the roadway portion of the project. Hensel-Phelps has hired, Ramex, Inc., the original contractor, to serve as subcontractor for the remaining roadway construction. Fletcher said:

That was really a positive thing because we had visions of having two separate contractors working and some problems with it. As it turns out, it has all melded together. We think highly of both those contractors. It's worked out well for us.

Hobby Airport currently serves passengers flying American, Delta, Northwest,, Southwest,, Trans World, and United airlines. There are 178 daily departures.

Of that number, 128 are Southwest Airlines flights. The new entrance on the east end of the terminal will serve people going to the Southwest Airlines area.

Asked about the possibility of Continental Airlines returning to Hobby, Fletcher stated:

Continental is in the process of coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but they have not indicated that they will be serving Hobby again. They do serve Ellington with fifteen Continental Express flights per day to Intercontinental Airport.

Nonetheless, Continental planes are often on the scene at Hobby when they are flown there for service from other airports.

In January, United Airlines moved its gate location from the C Concourse to the B Concourse. Fletcher said, "That allows United to have their own gates. They had been sharing gates with Trans World."

 

For KIOX Radio, Bay City, Texas:

PROTEST AT SOUTH TEXAS NUCLEAR PROJECT

About 1500 persons gathered at the gates of the South Texas Nuclear Project today to protest the nuclear plant under construction near Bay City. The crowd, which came mainly from Austin, Houston and San Antonio, was joined by number of local residents and carried signs reading, "No more corporate murder" and "Our children will not be slaves to nuclear waste."

Matagorda County Sheriff Sam Hurta and one Department of Safety trooper were the only law enforcement officers on the scene of the peaceful rally. The demonstration took place on state-owned land across from the plant on Farm-to-Market Road 521. The recent heavy rains had turned the area into a sea of mud that forced many of the participants to abandon their shoes and go barefooted. The Bay City protest against nuclear power plants was one of many being held this weekend in the United States and several other countries.

The South Texas Project is a two-reactor facility being built jointly by Houston Lighting and Power, Central Power and Light Company of Corpus Christi and the cities of Austin and San Antonio. The Plant is expected to be completed at a cost of $2 billion.

SINGLE APPRAISAL TAX DISTRICT

County Commissioners have voted unanimously, but reluctantly, to join the Matagorda Single Appraisal Tax District that was formed last month to comply with Texas Senate Bill 621. Commissioners did so in order to participate in the directorship of the organization.

Senate Bill 621 requires that each county have an appraisal district to set property values for the taxing authorities within the county. The bill specifically mentions cities and school districts, but county governments may also accept the evaluations. A proposed constitutional amendment would require counties to participate.

A controversial part of the new taxation system is the requirement that property be taxed on a 100 per cent assessment of the appraised value. This has led governments throughout the state to lower tax rates to keep the actual tax bills in line with what the property owners were already paying. However, taxes may go up in some places if local leaders do not fully reduce their rates to equal the same dollar amounts. Critics also charge that the system will lead to quicker rises in tax bills if values suddenly go up due to inflation. At this morning's Commissioner's Court meeting all of the county officials raised questions about the implications of the new law. Here is County Tax Assessor-Collector James Humphrey. (ROLL TAPE).

Also during today's meeting, local black leaders Dexter Hodge and Bill Smith discussed the county's plan for reapportionment. County Judge Bert O'Connel showed them a map similar to the one presented at the August 6th session. However, Commissioners have changed one of the boundaries, moving the line between Precinct One and Precinct Four from Morningside to Lora Canal. Smith, who heads the local NAACP,, expressed no objection at today's meeting but said he will go over the change with his attorney.

BANK ROBBERY

City, county and state law enforcement officers are still searching for the man who robbed the Bay City Bank and Trust Company of more than $10,000 this afternoon. The man entered the bank at around 1:30 and handed a note to the teller, Rebecca Gilpin. The note demanded that she turn over her cash and promised that no one would be hurt if she cooperated. No weapon was shown. The robber then absconded with the $10,000 cash. Witnesses described the robber as a tall, white male wearing a white shirt and blue jeans.

Late this afternoon, police constructed a composite drawing of the man's appearance. Detectives are also checking the photographs from the camera in the bank's lobby.

According to Police Chief Barney Mason. Sheriff and D.P.S. officers are watching roads leading out of the city to prevent the man from leaving the area. The FBI is expected to enter the case.

Bay City Bank Executive Vice President Frank Krupa emphasized that the $10,000 represented only a small portion of the bank's assets and that the amount is covered by the bank's own insurance.

Click for Bay City, Texas Forecast

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