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Island temporarily bans motor-assisted/dockless scooters

Local officials aim to tackle the use of motor-assisted/dockless scooters before the rental companies decide to storm the streets with them.

The City of South Padre Island unanimously approved an ordinance this week that will temporarily prohibit the rental and/or leasing of motor-assisted scooters on the Island for 180 days.

According to city officials, the temporary regulation will get the city through spring break and summer vacation season.

Additionally, the specified period was designed to allow more time to monitor Senate Bill 549’s pending legislation, which could require riders of these scooters to be at least 16 years of age and have a driver’s license.

According to council members, the purpose of the ordinance is to get ahead of scooters being launched on the Island and to learn from cities, such as San Antonio, which just finished its six-month pilot program.

“ This will afford us the opportunity to weigh the effects of motor-assisted scooters here on the Island,” City Council member Joe Ricco said during this week’s council meeting.

The City Council was prompted to act after a scooter rental company based in San Antonio, named Blue Duck, expressed interest in bringing its rental scooters to the Island and met with city officials late last month.

Council members believe the temporary ban will give the Island an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other cities and make sure they do not place undue burden on residents or taxpayers.

“ Alternative transportation is coming if we like it or not,” Ricco said. “This would be a good tool to let us get ahead of the curve on this and make sure we do it right when it comes.”

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff Write


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SpaceX advertising jobs: Fabricator, supervisor and security officers among postings

For a while there, during the lull, not only were no Brownsville jobs posted on SpaceX’s online job board, Brownsville wasn’t even on the list of places the company has its operations — Cape Canaveral, Fla., McGregor, Texas, or SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters, for instance.

That was the case even though the company broke ground ceremonially on its Boca Chica launch site in September 2014 to much fanfare. It may not be a hiring wave exactly, though the recent spate of job postings on the SpaceX website nonetheless underscore the fact that things are picking up at the Boca Chica site, where so little was happening for so long that skepticism about the company’s plans inevitably began to take root.

The sudden appearance of a retro-looking, gleaming, stainless-steel rocket prototype (the Starship Hopper) at Boca Chica in late December did much to dispel doubts. The craft is the first test version of the massive Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster that SpaceX chief Elon Musk is planning to use to one day to send humans to Mars.

The job board is currently advertising for five jobs at Boca Chica, among them a tank fabricator/welder to build the Starship and Super Heavy primary airframes, according to the posting.

“The tank fabricator will work with an elite team of other fabricators and technicians to rapidly build the tank (cylindrical structure), tank bulkheads, and other large associated structures for the flight article design of both vehicles,” it reads.

SpaceX is also looking for a Tank Fabrication Supervisor “responsible for leading a team of fabricators, welders and technicians building the Primary and Secondary structures for the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles,” according to SpaceX.

The supervisor will take technical direction from the company’s engineering team and be the main driver of day-to-day progress at the build site, says the ad, also serving as a “key enabler to a productive, fun and hard-working culture.”

For this reason, it’s important that the supervisor be “an inspiring leader, often-times working side by side with their build team,” according to the posting. SpaceX also has two openings for security officers (Level 1 and Level 2) and an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Boca Chica.

The new job postings come soon after SpaceX’s decision to move construction of the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes from the Port of Los Angeles to Boca Chica as part of a company effort, announced Jan. 11, to “streamline operations,” entailing a 10-percent reduction of its 6,000-strong workforce.

According to a Jan. 16 tweet from Musk, “Starship & Raptor (engine) development is being done out of our HQ in Hawthorne, CA. We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport.”

Repairs are being done to the top portion of the Starship Hopper, which was heavily damaged when high winds snapped its moorings late on Jan. 22 or early on Jan. 23. Before the accident, low-altitude vertical takeoff and landing tests (hopper flights) were set to begin as early as February or March. How long the accident will delay the first tests is unknown, though Musk tweeted after the incident that repairs should take “a few weeks.”

On Feb. 3, Musk tweeted dramatic video of the first firing of the new Raptor engine the Raptor that will propel Starship, the tests taking place at SpaceX’s McGregor engine-testing facility.


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Island Mayor Stahl not seeking re-election

Changes are on the horizon for the Island’s city council.

South Padre Island Mayor Dennis Stahl submitted his resignation Wednesday, Feb. 13 to city secretary Susan Hill.

However, he will complete his two-year term as mayor.

Six years ago, Stahl and his wife moved to the Island to retire following their business career.

Stahl became a member of the council in 2014 before being elected as mayor in 2017 in an unopposed race.

“ It has been a good run, but will shortly be over,” Stahl wrote in an email obtained through the city secretary’s office.

According to the email, the resignation is effective when citizens elect a new mayor and his successor is sworn in following the May 4 election.

City council member Ken Medders, Jr. is the Island’s current Mayor Pro-Tem.

Stahl plans to assist city leaders over the following three months on transition matters.

“ Thanks to our many citizens, acquaintances and friends for your input and support,” Stahl wrote. “ We’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. I would also like to thank the various city council members, federal, state, and county officials who I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside.”

Stahl said he and his wife look forward to a simpler, healthier re-retirement that was postponed for a few year


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Island puts the brakes on rental scooter companies

Not yet. You won’t be seeing electric rental scooters on the Island anytime soon.

Council members appear to be headed toward creating a temporary ordinance against motorized assisted scooters.

City Council member Joe Ricco said a scooter rental company based in San Antonio, named Blue Duck, is interested in bringing its rental scooters to the Island and met with city officials last week.

Blue Duck’s motorized standup scooters have a platform to stand on, upright handlebars, a toggle to speed up and a brake to reduce speed.

Before use, the rental scooter company requires users to download the Blue Duck app and sign a rental agreement/waiver of liability and release that outlines several requirements, such as being at least 18 years old, weighing 220 pounds or less and obeying local laws while operating the scooter.

Users are charged $1 to unlock the scooter and 15 cents per minute of usage.

“ There are currently about half a dozen of these companies in Texas and right now I see nothing but challenges with this group in our immediate future,” Ricco said. “This last weekend a man died in Austin in a scooter accident.”

City officials said they want more time to research potential impacts of rental scooters to prevent any problems for the Island.

“ What these companies like to do is drop off a whole bunch of scooters. I believe it was Bird who came with 500 scooters in San Antonio overnight and dropped them off,” Ricco said. “There were no regulations in place, and it’s created a lot of hardships for the city because they weren’t ready for this.”

Ricco said he does not want to see the city be in a similar situation, especially with Spring Break and Easter coming up.

The council is expected to continue discussion on the temporary ordinance against motorized assisted scooters in the next city Council meeting.

HOW IT WORKS

1. Locate a scooter using the Blue Duck app.

2. Register the scooter by scanning it with the app.

3. Travel to your destination.

4. Park the scooter at a dockless destination.

MORE INFORMATION

WHAT — Blue Duck electric rental scooters

COST — $1 to unlock the scooter and 15 cents per minute 

ahernandez@valleystar.com

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff Writer


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South Padre Island adds portable bathrooms to beaches

Ever had a long day at the beach and trouble finding a restroom?

The search for quick, accessible facilities just got easier for beachgoers and visitors along Gulf Boulevard.

The city of South Padre Island recently added 20 portable restrooms to nine city beach accesses as part of a pilot program while the city works toward long-term solutions.

All units are handicap accessible and will be cleaned daily.

The total cost of the temporary facilities is approximately $15,214 per month.

The portable restrooms will be in place for approximately one year.

Shoreline Management Director Brandon Hill explained that the idea of the pilot program stemmed from community feedback.

“The SPI community has been pointing out for some time that one of the things we’re missing at a lot of our beach accesses are restroom facilities,” Hill said, “We have 27 public beach accesses within the city limits and only two of them have permanent restroom facilities, so that’s something we know we’ve been lacking as a city.”

According to Hill, the pilot program will help determine the best solutions for future and permanent restroom amenities.

“We hope to learn where permanent restroom facilities would be best received so by putting these out here, we’re getting a lot of feedback.”

Currently, the portable restrooms look like regular facilities.

However, the city plans to enhance the portable restrooms’ Island aesthetic with a custom surfboard façade by the summer.

“We want to make sure when people come to the beach, they have everything they need and can spend as long as they want here,” Hill said. “This is just a small thing that we can do to help our beachgoers enjoy their time more.”

Alana Hernandez


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South Padre Island Walk for Women to host SPICE Chili Cook-off

Rain or shine, it’s going to be chili on the Island this weekend.

Walk for Women will host its annual South Padre Island Chili Cook-off at Louie’s Backyard on Saturday, Feb. 9 beginning at noon.

In addition to sampling unlimited pots of chili and batches of beans while overlooking the bay, attendees will be able to listen to music by local singer Leslie Blasing who will perform from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All proceeds from the $5 admission fee will benefit the South Padre Island Walk for Women’s mission to help lower Valley women with financial, prosthetic and diagnostic support as they battle breast cancer.

According to event organizer Rees Langston, about 15 teams have registered to compete as of Monday and the event will have more than two dozen chili recipes.

The deadline to enter the competition is tomorrow at noon.

Cash prizes and awards will be given to first-, second- and third- place winners in the beans, chili freestyle, Texas red chili, white/green chili and the People’s Choice categories.

More than 600 people attended the event last year.

Event organizers hope to have “another great turnout for their annual funraiser.”

“ This fundraiser is so much fun to put together and e veryone that comes always has a great time ,” Langston said. “ The chili is always good and we always have a really big turnout from the winter Texans so we appreciate that.”

ahernandez@valleystar.com

INFOBOX: IF YOU GO

WHAT — Walk for Women SPICE Chili Cook-off

WHEN — Saturday, Feb. 9

TIME — Noon to 3 p.m.

WHERE — Louie’s Backyard, 2305 Laguna Boulevard, South Padre Island

COST — $5 admission fee

 

INFOBOX: MORE INFORMATION

To enter in the cook-off, visit www.spiwalkforwomen.org , email event organizer Rees Langston at reeslangspi@gmail.com or call (956) 495-9884.

The deadline to register is Wednesday, Feb. 6 at noon.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff Writer


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South Padre Island to host annual SPI Kite Fest

From 3D dragons and a 90-foot-long gecko to a 150-foot-long octopus, an array of kites ranging from different patterns, shapes and sizes will be soaring over the Island this weekend.

B&S Kites, in conjunction with the City of South Padre Island and the Cameron County Park System, will host the annual three-day SPI Kite Fest beginning tonight with sold out indoor kite performances.

Although tickets for tonight’s indoor portion of the kite festival are sold out, the outdoor kite festival tomorrow and Saturday is free and open to the public.

Several kite fliers from around the country are scheduled to display massive “show kites” on the flats just north of the South Padre Convention Center throughout Friday and Saturday.

“ We have people flying their kites with music and demonstrating choreographed routines,” said B&S Kites co-owner and organizer Bill Doan. “It is precision flying at its best and the scene is just beautiful. It makes you feel like a kid again.”

Doan encourages attendees to bring sunscreen and chairs to the kite festival Friday and Saturday.

“ Make the Island your destination the first weekend in February and you’ll be delighted you did,” Doan said. “You’ll get amazing photos to share with your friends and may even start a new tradition.”

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff Writer


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Cruise Ship Update: County to Lead Project

An update, the city of South Padre Island is in the process of acquiring a cruise ship industry. However, the mayor says it's now up to the county for support and to make use of the property.

The city is looking to become a port of call for Cruise ships. Currently, the future of the SPI Cruise Ship Industry is in the hands of Cameron County officials. For several months, the mayor has been working to make this dream a reality.

Mayor Dennis Stahl, “We've identified that there is a high level of interest by the cruise lines and potential investors, now we're handing that off.”

The reason is the spot they identified for the port, while on the Island, belongs to Cameron County and not the city.

Eddie Treviño Jr., County Judge, “Basically, because Isla Blanca is county owned. The county at some point will have to take the lead on it and that's where we're at right now.”

The mayor says that it's possible for the city to host the port on city property, but they'd like to move forward with Isla Blanca Park. They chose the spot because of its location and because minimal dredging will be required to accommodate the large ships.

Judge Treviño, “The island, through its consultants, have basically having their conversations with the cruise Lines. In addition, we've had communication and meetings with the Island to move the ball forward.”

Mayor Stahl says he does not have an official date of when we can expect the cruises on South Padre Island, but JudgeTreviño says hopefully within 12 months, if not sooner.

The city hopes to offset low visitor counts during November and December. Part of their plan is to attract visitors with the cruise line industry.

Alfredo Cuadros


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Local business to host fundraiser benefiting Port Isabel animal groups

A bath in exchange for a good cause. Pet owners who pamper their pups tomorrow with a spa day at South Bark Grooming will benefit shelter animals in Port Isabel.

South Bark Grooming is hosting a Splash-a-thon animal fundraiser tomorrow at its Laguna Vista location.

Bath prices include $15 for small dogs, $25 for medium dogs, $35 for large dogs and $45 for extra large dogs. All baths will include a nail trim and ear cleaning.

According to South Bark Grooming owner Vicki Moreno, 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Laguna Madre Humane Society and the Isabel Y. Garcia Animal Shelter in Port Isabel.

“ I know the shelters around here need all of the extra help they can get,” Moreno said. “So, I hope we have a really great turnout and can donate a lot of money to the shelters.”

According to Isabel Y. Garcia Animal Shelter Assistant Director and South Bark Grooming employee Lexus Martinez, the shelter takes care of about 700 animals every year and is a no-termination date facility.

“ We don’t give the animals a time limit for how long they can stay here,” Martinez explained. “A big reason we’re able to do that is because of the work we do with the Laguna Madre Humane Society.”

The Laguna Madre Humane Society helps transport dozens of the shelter’s animals to rescue organizations in Denver on a monthly basis.

One of the big projects the Isabel Y. Garcia Animal Shelter is looking to do this year is to create more fundraisers to remodel the facility.

“ The building was built in 1994 so with age, there is always work to be done so we’re going to get into a lot more fundraising to make this place more comfortable for the animals,” Martinez explained.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ\ Staff Writer


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Port Isabel officials approve master beautification plan for the city

Commissioners for the city of Port Isabel approved the first phase of a master beautification plan this week,

"We're just trying to improve the visual appeal of the city," said Jared Hockema, city manager for Port Isabel. “Being a tourism destination, it’s really important to have impact when people come to town."

To many visitors, Port Isabel is known for its lighthouse and as the town leading to South Padre Island.

But for those working on the mainland, like at The Quik Stop Bait and Gift Shop, visitors in Port Isabel means business.

The project begins with the city’s welcome sign and landscaped medians. Plans also include several road and drainage improvements to the city.

Hockema says Port Isabel had financial troubles in recent years and has been working to rebuild its finances.

The city now sees this year as a good time to begin widespread city improvements.

With the new landscaped medians, businesses like The Quik Stop Bait and Gift Shop, are skeptical on how traffic will run without opened medians like now.

"If they are planning to do something like that, we're hoping it actually helps more of the business to do that," said Oscar Garza, a clerk at The Quik Stop.

Although the beautification project in Port Isabel is in its very early stages, city leaders say, its completion all depends on traffic and how busy it gets during peak seasons.


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