Written by Phil Cerroni
DART’s new fleet of smoother-riding, cleaner-running buses is taking to the streets. The new fleet began service on Jan. 28 and will replace the agency’s mix of diesel and liquefied natural gas buses by 2015. The 459 buses are running exclusively on compressed natural gas, which will cut the agency’s annual fuel costs by nearly two-thirds by the end of 2015 and significantly limit harmful emissions.
The new buses are 40-foot models with a new low floor design for easier entry, larger windows for increased visibility, a wider aisle that allows greater flexibility with wheelchairs and mobility devices, interior cameras for safety, and has LED interior monitors located in the front and rear for displaying visual images, including next stop, rider alerts, passenger information and stop requests. DART plans to put approximately five new buses into service every week to replace the existing fleet.
The 30- and 40-foot buses mark the latest phase of DART’s clean transit fuels program. The $210 million contract with North American Bus Industries Inc. of Anniston, AL, one of the nation’s largest CNG bus orders, will allow the agency to introduce heavy-duty buses to replace the current fleet of liquefied natural gas and clean diesel buses, which began service in 1998. The agency also built four CNG fueling stations at its bus and mobility management operations facilities.
In October DART introduced a new fleet of 123 14- to 17-passenger buses. The smaller buses are part of an effort to maintain the same level of service at lower costs and are manufactured by ARBOC Specialty Vehicles of Middlebury, Ind. All of DART’s new buses feature low-floor boarding to make it easier and quicker for customers to get on or off the bus, just like the agency’s light rail vehicles.
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:06
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The president of the Irving Independent School Board surprised her fellow trustees at the Jan. 28 meeting by saying that some trustees had interfered with day-to-day operations of the district.
Board President Ronda Huffstetler said at the meeting that some trustees had made “unannounced campus visits and had secret meetings about ousting the superintendent.”
“We do not run the district’s daily operations,” Huffstetler said at the end of the meeting during trustee comments. “It does not help the district, and it does not put the children first.”
Trustee Steven Jones said Wednesday “he had no idea what Ms. Huffstetler was talking about.”
Huffstetler said district employees had contacted her about trustees “meddling” and she promised to continue to investigate the concerns with the board.
“Employees have interpreted this behavior as bullying, threatening and intimidation and it makes them extremely uncomfortable,” Huffstetler said. “It is not our job. I will no longer stand for violations of policy, and you have my word on that.”
Huffstetler’s comments came during School Board Appreciation Month and just months from May’s vote where three board seats are up for election. Huffstetler, who is in district 7, is among the candidates running again. District 5 and District 6 seats are also up for election.
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:04
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
The Coppell Chamber of Commerce has a new President/CEO – Kristi Valentine, a native of Fort Worth who is a Coppell resident and who has spent the greater part of her life promoting civic and business opportunities.
“I started working back when I was in high school for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Fort Worth and continued to work there while I was at TCU,” Valentine said. “I used to sit in their Tourist and Information booth and direct people on Saturdays and Sundays on where to go and what to see and all the great things about Fort Worth.
“I have that background, and I have that personality. I’m thrilled to have this position to be able to promote our community and to let other people know Coppell is the greatest place in the world,” Valentine said. “Being able to publically promote Coppell is a great opportunity for me.”
When she and her husband married in 1998, the couple moved to Valley Ranch and then later to Coppell.
“Since then, we’ve had lots of opportunities to move to different places through transfers with his job and other things that have come along, and we have purposely chosen not to leave Coppell,” she said.
The Valentines have a 13-year old son who is a seventh grader at Coppell Middle School East and a nine-year old daughter who is in fourth grade at Mockingbird Elementary School. Valentine graduated from TCU with a journalism degree with an emphasis in advertising and public relations and a speech communications minor. She started working in advertising while still in college. Through the years, she worked for several ad agencies including Tracey Locke and worked her way into corporate marketing, including several years with Sprint. When she and her husband started their family, they made the choice for her to stay home for several years.
“During that time I volunteered, did part time work and consulting to keep things going and to keep me energized,” Valentine said. “I had an opportunity to work for a small business here in Coppell and saw this opportunity which I had actually looked at and considered a couple of years ago when my predecessor was hired.”
She chose not to throw her hat in the ring at that time.
“But when it came back around again, I thought, ‘This might not happen again anytime soon,’ pursued it, and was lucky enough to be chosen to head the Coppell Chamber.
“I’m not a seasoned veteran of chamber affairs; I haven’t worked for other chambers,” Valentine said. “That’s not what they were looking for; they were looking for a Coppell person who loves this community and has exposure to businesses and civic organizations here, which I do. They wanted somebody to come in and make those connections.
“Living in Coppell, it feels like everybody knows everybody, but that is not the case. Every day I meet people I didn’t know. It’s one of those six degrees of separation where we do all know and have mutual friends, and so that growth and that opportunity are huge.”
She said the people of Coppell are Number One on her list of things she likes about the city. Another top asset she named is Coppell schools.
“We have so many people move to Coppell for the school district,” Valentine said. “That’s a big draw (along with) sports organizations, the churches, all the civic organizations, the community as a whole. It has a real small town feel to it. I love that, but yet, you’re not secluded and too far from everything. We have a lot of great small businesses here. We have some corporate headquarters here; it’s a very diverse business set.”
She does not have a bucket list for the Chamber but she knows others who do.
“Acquaintances that know I’ve taken this job say ‘Get us a Chick-fil-a,’ or ‘We really want a Pei Wei,’ so I tell them, that’s not really what the Chamber of Commerce does; that’s more economic development. I will be working with economic development to help them with their needs and what the Chamber can do to help them achieve their goals and then vice versa too. I’m really excited to get connected with those city leaders and to try to figure out how we can work together to take everything to a new level.”
Instead of bucket lists she thinks of action items and things the Chamber needs to do. Valentine said the Chamber is starting an initiative to connect with home-based businesses.
“You cannot identify them as easily as you can those with a retail front,” she said. “Being able to find those businesses and finding out what we can do to help them is another reason that they chose me. I have done that before. I have had a home-based business. I rose within a few months to be a director in that business, so I know what most people in home-based business might need and might want and how we might be able to help make connections for them and help them meet their goals too.”
“That is part of retaining and growing the membership,” she said. “We do have some home-based businesses, but I know we have tons we are not currently reaching, and they probably don’t know what the benefits might be to them to join the Chamber.”
Valentine said the Chamber also wants the community to know that it is not just some business organization.
“We are working with a connections group to try to help connect the civic groups, the nonprofits here,” Valentine said. “There are many that need volunteers to help with certain projects, and I have learned there are many volunteers around in our community that are looking for things to do, especially the youth. They have to earn service hours, so being able to connect those kids that need these service hours with the opportunities that are sitting there is beyond what the Chamber would normally be doing in a lot of communities, in a lot of business settings, but in Coppell, everything has overlap, and I think you’re really missing the mark if you’re not serving the whole community.”
The Chamber also sponsors social events for citizens of Coppell.
“We have a golf tournament, the Taste of Coppell, and our Community Gala, which is not just for people in business, but a community event,” Valentine said. “I want it to be the biggest party in town – one you wouldn’t think of not attending.”
The Community Gala is Sat., April 27 at Hilton Garden Inn in Lewisville.
Valentine, who has been on the job less than a month, said she is learning a lot about the Chamber, the nonprofit aspect of it, and figuring out what she can do to make the most impact in this, her first year.
“I’m excited to take on this challenge,” Valentine said. “I think my predecessors have done an amazing job of growing this from nothing. The Chamber started in 1990, and we have over 400 members and growing every day. It’s phenomenal the things that I didn’t even know as a Coppell resident that the Chamber can do and does do for businesses here and for the community. Being able to learn about that and then to be able to go out and promote that to the community. I think that is important.
“Most of the business people here live here as well,” Valentine said.“We all work here, live here, worship here, and play sports here, so if you’re not making a difference in the community, I think you’re falling short of what we should be doing as good citizens.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:04
Written by Phil Cerroni
The City of Coppell is pleased to announce that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, will open a one-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Coppell at 940 W. Bethel Road. Amazon will open three fulfillment centers in the state of Texas, adding about 1,000 jobs statewide.
“Amazon, coming to Coppell, complements our strategy of building a quality business base that supports the community and the region,” Mayor Karen Hunt said. “We are very thrilled that they have chosen Coppell for a new fulfillment center.”
The Coppell location will handle larger items such as televisions or furniture. Hillwood Development Company is building the project in Coppell.
According to company information, Amazon fulfillment center jobs pay on average 30-percent more than traditional retail jobs not including the stock grants full-time employees receive, which over the past five years have added an average of 9-percent to base pay annually. Amazon offers full-time benefits including healthcare.
Source: City of Coppell
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:03
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
A heaviness weighs on the students, families and teachers across the Irving ISD as they mourn the loss of three students. Diana (13), Maria del Refugio (12) and Jesus (6) Gonzalez died from injuries they received as a result of a car accident on Jan. 27. Their sister Maria de Jesus Gonzalez (10) remains hospitalized.
Not long ago, Diana and Maria roamed the halls of Lamar Middle School like other young teens, laughing and talking with friends. Among their peers, many of whom have never known someone their age who died, the girls’ absence is disturbing.
After school on Jan. 30, students gathered around the flag poles outside Lamar to memorialize the deceased siblings and hold vigil for Maria de Jesus. The middle schoolers invited Jesus’ and young Maria’s classmates from Brown elementary to join them. Amid tears and hugs, students expressed their feelings through prayers, songs, art, letters, flowers and a menagerie of stuffed animals.
“We remember both girls as always smiling and having the biggest hearts for their friends,” said Abby Hernandez, the Lamar student council president. “They will be missed by all of us.”
“We care deeply about the girls – Diana, Maria and the family,” Lamar principal Joe Moreno said. “We wanted to do something to show support, respect and honor the girls in a special way that most of the student body could take part in. We also wanted to help and support the kids in their grieving, come together as a community and say goodbye. I think it was important for the kids.
“We all grieve in different times and in different ways. As adults, we don’t understand death, and it is difficult for us to get a good grasp on it. It is that much more difficult for our kids. The school has been pretty solemn. A lot of the kids have been pretty quiet. I think it has been thought provoking, particularly for the upper grades. It has been difficult.
“We have had an amazing amount of support for the family from the community. I have received an enormous amount of calls from different people in the community who are willing to help out.”
If you would like to help the Gonzalez family, donations to the Diana, Maria, Jesus Gonzalez Memorial Fund Account #9920146298 can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank.
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:02
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