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TWU regents extend Feyten's contract, authorize property buy

DALLAS — Texas Woman’s University Chancellor and President Carine Feyten is set to stay in charge of the school until 2023 after the Board of Regents voted unanimously to extend her contract by three years.

Her contract negotiations are set to happen during the Board of Regents meeting in August, when any raises or additional responsibilities will be negotiated, said Jill Jester, the newly elected board chairwoman.

“Dr. Feyten has inspired not only students but the faculty and staff and the greater community,” Jester said. “I feel that one of her strengths is community and collaboration as well as getting our story out about the lives that change at Texas Woman’s, so the board is unanimous in wanting to negotiate a new contract.”

Carine Feyten

Feyten was first hired in July 2014, and her current contract is set to expire next year. Under her leadership, the university has created the Institute for Women’s Leadership, including the Center for Women in Business, and overseen the largest donations in school history including a nearly $10 million gift to establish the Woodcock Institute for Advancement of Neurocognitive Research and Applied Practice.

Also at the board meeting, the regents authorized some spending measures, including a new parking lot on the former home of the golf course. Additionally, university officials will buy the property at 1605 N. Locust St., a house that was converted into medical offices next to campus.

The property owner approached the university when they decided to sell the building, said Matt Flores, assistant vice president for university communications.

Currently, the property at the corner of North Locust and West College streets is valued at $259,437 according to the Denton Central Appraisal District.

Officials hope that the purchase can be completed early this summer, before turning the building into additional office space, Flores said.

Interstate 35E widening in Denton won't be done until fall, officials say

Last August, we thought it would be July.

In January, we thought it would be August.

Now it’s May, and we’re thinking September’s end.

The widening of the last 1.7 miles of Interstate 35E through Denton won’t be complete until the fall school term is well underway, nearly a year later than first planned.

Texas Department of Transportation contractor OHL is building two new overpasses, one at Loop 288 and another at Brinker Road, as part of the highway widening between the Mayhill Road and Dallas Drive exits.

TxDOT made about $1.4 billion in improvements on I-35E between Dallas and Denton that were finished in 2017. Another $3 billion-plus in work is needed, but there’s no money for it so far. To address congestion at South Loop 288 sooner rather than later, city and county officials put together a deal with a private developer. In exchange for about $8 million in incentives to build in Denton, Buc-ee’s advanced about $2 million for the improvements.

The $26.6 million project includes improvements to the northbound and southbound frontage road, including where Buc-ee’s was built at the new Brinker overpass.

City spokesman Ryan Adams said the widening of Mayhill Road will eventually affect the northbound frontage road from Mayhill up to the south side of Loop 288. The city recently secured funding to reroute Mayhill Road over the floodplain. Currently, TxDOT is buying right of way to move the northbound frontage road in that area, although construction won’t begin until 2020.

Some business owners near the freeway have been concerned about the work on the frontage roads, which has been disruptive. City Engineer Todd Estes, who reviews the progress with TxDOT officials from time to time, said the frontage roads require major drainage improvements with the expansion.

“There is still a lot of work to be done between now and September,” Estes said.

City officials had hoped crews could open the new Brinker underpass earlier than September to ease congestion sooner. Local drivers heading south on I-35E will be able to bypass Loop 288 altogether via Brinker once it opens.

According to Ryan LaFontaine, TxDOT spokesman, the Brinker Road underpass is expected to open Sept. 30 after the rest of the project is complete.

In D.C., Denton police take part in National Police Week

The only Denton officer to die while in the line of duty was honored this week in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Police Week ceremonies.

Denton police say former Chief Alman G. Lanford was killed near Pilot Point in May 1957 as he chased a vehicle. It was not until Officer Ryan Grelle went through newspaper archives and shared it with officials last year that Lanford got added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall.

“As far as we’re aware,” Grelle said, “[he] was the first one who was killed in the line of duty.”

About 340 names were added to the wall this week. Some of those names were for police officers across the country who died last year. Lanford was among the officers whose historical deaths were honored.

Members of the Denton Police Department, including Chief Frank Dixon, traveled to the nation’s capital to mark National Police Week. They heard from President Donald Trump and other officials and participated in various honorific ceremonies.

Alman Lanford

“You do not hear it nearly enough, but Americans across this country love you, they support you, they respect you more than you would ever know, more than would, frankly, ever think even possible,” the president told police during a speech. “They have great respect for law enforcement and the job you do.”

Grelle and three other Denton police honor guard members were present for a candlelight vigil in which the names of the fallen officers were read.

They also stood guard as family members of the fallen officers walked to their seats for the vigil.

It was the department’s second year to send its honor guard to the ceremonies, Grelle said.

He learned last year that Lanford’s name was included in a Texas memorial for fallen officers.

When he saw Lanford was not included in the national memorial, he scoured Denton Record-Chronicle archives and found information about Lanford’s death. After bringing it to his superiors’ attention, the department sent the information to authorities handling the memorial wall. Grelle found out in September that Lanford would be honored this week.

“You always want to remember your officers, whether they be chiefs or rookies, that have died in the line of duty,” Grelle said.

Bill to ban red-light cameras in Texas is one step from becoming law

AUSTIN — A bill to outlaw red-light cameras in Texas passed its final hurdle Friday.

The Texas Senate approved House Bill 1631 by a vote of 23-8. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.

“Red-light cameras violate the right to due process,” bill sponsor Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said, “by creating a presumption that the registered owner of the car committed a violation.”

The bill would prohibit cities from operating photographic traffic camera systems that catch citizens speeding or running red lights and issue them fines. A handful of Texas cities, including Arlington and Richardson, have quit using the devices, or, like DeSoto, decided against installing them.

But several others, including Dallas, Irving, Garland and Plano, continue to champion the cameras, which they say improve public safety.

In Denton, crews installed the first red-light cameras in 2006, the year after the city entered into its first contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, part of Australia-based Redflex Holdings. Denton’s current contract with Redflex expires July 20.

The Senate did leave a provision that city governments can continue operating cameras through the end of their contracts as of May 7.

The cameras also bring in significant sums in fines every year. Dallas, for example, netted almost $5.8 million from their $75-a-pop fines in 2018. Half this went to the city and half to the state’s hospital trauma centers. Lawmakers have promised to make up the funds these trauma centers would lose if the bill is signed into law.

Debate lasted less than an hour Friday.

A handful of Democrats expressed concerns that outlawing the cameras would worsen public safety. Supporters point to two studies that say deadly “angle” or T-bone crashes decrease when red-light cameras are in place. But these same studies contain caveats that the presence of red-light cameras could result in more rear-end collisions.

Rep. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said a red-light camera near the local airport has forced him to slow down and drive more carefully.

“The red-light camera installation has totally caused me to, as I come to the intersection, slow down and stop,” he said. “That’s the impact on most motorists.”

But Hall dismissed that as anecdotal evidence.

Ahead of the vote, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick welcomed the bill’s House author to the chamber.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, D-Bedford, a libertarian who believes in limited government and has made it a personal mission to kill other people’s legislation, has never been the primary author on a bill that has passed into law.

“Our citizens have been waiting a long time to get rid of red-light cameras,” Patrick said from the dais. “And Rep. Stickland has been waiting a long time to pass a bill.”

After the debate, Hall thanked Stickland for his “tenacity.”

“I am truly honored to be the torch bearer on this fight,” Hall said. “It was a team effort. ... The citizens will thank you.”

One Republican, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, and seven Democrats voted against the bill: Carol Alvarado of Houston, Nathan Johnson of Dallas, José Menéndez of San Antonio, Boris Miles of Houston, Beverly Powell of Burleson, Kirk Watson of Austin and Rodríguez.