Do you know how it is when you’re getting ready to go on vacation and you work like a dog at the office the week before trying to get everything ready so the world doesn’t end while you’re gone?
That was me at the end of December. I spent Christmas week back in Colorado with my family. The week before I made the trip I had to get the Fort Bend Business Journal and two and a half editions of the Fort Bend Star ready for press.
A lot of the headache had to do with early press times from the printer due to the holidays. I knew this was coming and did my best to prepare. It wasn’t enough.
As the last couple days rolled around I had to scramble and start cutting stories I had planned to write. One was my column and another was the annual top 10 stories of the year. In light of breaking news such as Marshall High School’s state championship football game, major changes in local government, and new developments in the “Sugar Land 95” case, I didn’t have the time or space in the paper to get those in.
So without further ado, I offer you the Fort Bend Star’s top 10 stories of 2018:
10. Professional rugby comes to Sugar Land
The Houston SaberCats began their first season with nine pre-season matches at Constellation Field. Major League Rugby launched its inaugural season with seven teams, including the SaberCats. The team went 6-2-1 at Constellation Field before moving to a temporary pitch (field) in Houston for the regular season. Unfortunately, the SaberCats were 1-7 during the regular season.
9. Marshall High School state championships
Although a lot of attention was given to the Marshall High School football team’s run to the 5A-D2 state championship football game, it wasn’t the first shot at a state title for the school in 2018. The boys track team won the 5A state championship in May. It was the team’s third state championship in four years. Last fall the Buffaloes went 15-0 to reach the title game in football, but fell 55-19 to Aledo.
8. Missouri City Animal Shelter disputes
A dispute erupted at the end of 2017 that spilled over into 2018 between the City of Missouri City and the volunteers with Friends of the Missouri City Animal Shelter that led to the volunteers being locked out of the shelter and the volunteers cutting off funding for the shelter. After several tense meetings, the city reorganized its operation and funding of the animal shelter and hired a director to operate it.
7. Murders shock Missouri City
Missouri City was rattled by two separate shootings that left four people dead last fall. On Aug. 20, Kristine Peralez shot and killed Francisco Joel Reyes and wounded another employee at Ben E. Keith Company before allegedly fatally shooting herself in the chest during a shootout with police. Less than a month later police reported that Dereshia Blackwell killed Karl Gomez at Quail Valley Apartments and was later killed by police when she refused to drop her weapons, even after being tasered.
6. Fort Bend ISD passes $992 million bond
At one point the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees was considering a $1.7 billion bond referendum. Realizing that was too big a bite for voters to swallow, the board broke the bond proposal into two parts and in November voters approved a $992.6 million bond package, the largest in the district’s history. The bond includes $403.4 million for new construction, rebuilds and additions; $396.5 million for life-cycle deficiencies and facility adequacy, including auditorium updates, orchestra hall additions, and turf and track updates at many schools; $14.9 million for safety and security upgrades and investments; $10.6 million for transportation; $142.6 million for technology; $19.7 million for future land purchases; and $5 million for program contingency.
5. Construction starts on The Grid
Ever since Texas Instruments closed its Stafford facility in 2012, the city has been struggling to figure out what to do with the old facility. Throughout the year Stafford and developers discussed a $500 million redevelopment of the 192-acre site, which Mayor Leonard Scarcella deemed a “crap shoot” for the city. Eventually plans were approved and rapid construction began on a new project called The Grid, which includes 350,000 square feet of destination retail and restaurant concepts, 2,400 residential units, 500,000 square feet of office space, multiple hotel brands and concepts, a premier health club, a luxury cinema, a network of pocket parks, jogging and bike trails and activated public space, together in a walkable urban district. In November, Chipotle Mexican Grill became the first business to open in The Grid.
4. Rep. Ron Reynolds goes to jail
In a year of political upheaval, one local stalwart defied the odds and won re-election to the Texas House of Representatives from behind bars. Ron Reynolds, a Democrat who represents District 27, was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on Sept. 7 after giving up his appeals on a 2015 misdemeanor conviction of barratry (ambulance chasing). Reynolds was unopposed in the Nov. 6 election and was released from jail Jan. 4 after serving less than four months of his year-long sentence.
3. Sugar Land Skeeters win championship
For the second time in three years the Sugar Land Skeeters are champions of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Under the leadership of first-year manager Pete Incaviglia and with a roster that seemed to change weekly, the Skeeters amassed an 81-43 record before beating the Long Island Ducks three games to two in the championship series. A record 14 players had their contract purchased by an outside professional baseball organization, including 12 with their contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations. Incaviglia was named the league’s manager of the year, in addition to numerous player awards, including six all-stars.
2. The Blue Wave washes Republicans out of office
Throughout a long and contentious mid-term election season, Democrats in Fort Bend County and across Texas kept promising that a Blue Wave would return them to power in the Republican stronghold. That is what happened Nov. 6 when longtime County Judge Robert Hebert, Commissioner James Patterson, every district and county court-at-law judge on the ballot, and numerous other county officials lost their jobs to Democrats. The election was historic in that India native KP George became the first South Asian person to be elected county judge. In Missouri City, Yolanda Ford became the first black and first woman to become the city’s mayor after she beat 39-year incumbent Allen Owen in a runoff election.
1. Historic cemetery found at Fort Bend ISD construction site
Perhaps no one has more right to say “I told you so” than Reginald Moore, a local amateur historian who cautioned the Fort Bend ISD that there might be an old prison cemetery on the grounds where the district is building the new James Reece Career and Technical Center in the Telfair subdivision of Sugar Land. Heeding his advice, the district hired a firm to search for a cemetery but found nothing. In January, workers installing utility lines, uncovered human bones. Eventually 95 graves were discovered, all presumably belonging to black prisoners who died under the state’s Convict Leasing Program between 1878 and 1910. The remains of the “Sugar Land 95” have been exhumed and studied but their reinternment is on hold as the school district and community activists fight in court over where the remains should be buried. The district wants them buried in a nearby prison cemetery with historic designation. The activists want them returned to their original gravesites.