Business Buzz

March 1st, 2017

Proposed new medical office building in Webster.

Medical office building planned for Webster
Bay Area Regional Medical Center and Medistar Corp. plan to build a new 60,000 square foot medical office building near the intersection of East Medical Center Boulvard and Highway 3 in Webster. The project is scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2017.

The building will support the continued growth and active expansion of Bay Area Regional, which recently became the first and only hospital in Houston and only the fifth in Texas to achieve Chest Pain Center Accreditation with PCI and Resuscitation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

It also will complement the services provided for the community by PAM Bay Area Rehabilitation Hospital, which is operated by Post Acute Medical, LLC. Featuring 45 private rooms, this modern inpatient rehabilitation facility was developed in 2015 by Medistar.

Monzer Hourani, founder and CEO of Medistar, said, “This new medical office building will provide exceptional convenience and further enhance Bay Area Regional’s position as a medical destination of choice for patients and providers.”

Also in the Webster area, Medistar is developing a new 70-bed skilled nursing facility to further complement the rapid growth of Bay Area Regional, which Medistar is currently expanding from 104 to 191 total beds.

Roberts attend financial event
Staying current on the ever-changing economy and government regulations while refining industry skills and knowledge can prove difficult for financial professionals, especially those who are independent, like Summer Roberts and Paul Roberts.

But rather than go it alone, they flew to San Diego, Calif., to be informed and inspired by over 400 of their peers, hosted by a renowned financial marketing organization.

Designed to bring together some of the top financial professionals in the country, the annual event aims to share ideas and strategies with producers to help them improve their businesses, and, ultimately, better serve their clients.

“I’m excited about this event because it brings together hundreds of the most brilliant and successful financial minds all under the same roof to share ideas and experiences first-hand!” It’s invaluable education,” Summer says.

Barrios honors nine employees
Barrios Technology recently presented employees with Silver BEAR (Barrios Employee Award and Recognition) awards. Each recipient was commended for their high level of expertise and outstanding performance supporting NASA’s International Space Station Mission and Program Integration contract.

Employees recognized included Karen Bratton, Erik Marsh, Erin Thornton, and the six-member ISS Conference Facility Team (Mary Kerber, Jessica Henderson, Ann Herring, Richard Morphis, Todd O’Neal and Mark Zuteck).

Business Buzz

August 1st, 2016

Boeing Space Exploration Vice President and General Manager John Elbon, sixth from left, cuts the ribbon on the company’s new CTS-100 Starliner Simulator, which will be used to train for flights to the International Space Station. The CST-100 Starliner’s first crew flight test to the ISS is expected in 2017 and will be Boeing’s first commercial flight transporting humans to that destination. Joining him are, from left, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby, Harris Country Tax Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan, NASA Astronaut Bob Behnken, Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, U.S. Rep. Dr. Brian Babin, State Rep.Dennis Paul, Friendswood City Councilman and former Astronaut Mike Foreman, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell.

Boeing Space Exploration Vice President and General Manager John Elbon, sixth from left, cuts the ribbon on the company’s new CTS-100 Starliner Simulator, which will be used to train for flights to the International Space Station. The CST-100 Starliner’s first crew flight test to the ISS is expected in 2017 and will be Boeing’s first commercial flight transporting humans to that destination. Joining him are, from left, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby, Harris Country Tax Assessor Collector Mike Sullivan, NASA Astronaut Bob Behnken, Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, U.S. Rep. Dr. Brian Babin, State Rep.Dennis Paul, Friendswood City Councilman and former Astronaut Mike Foreman, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell.

New Chamber directors named
The Clear Lake Area Chamber has announced the newly elected members of its Board of Directors.

They are: Nicole Bellow, Smarter HR Solutions; Jonathan Cottrell, Martha Turner Sotheby’s International  Realty; Teri Crawford, San Jacinto College; Rita Cunningham, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center; Sue Flannigan, Berkeley Eye Center; Chris Reed, Chris Reed Consulting; Wayne Rutledge, Rutledge Commercial Real Estate; and Katherine Walsh, Houston Methodist St. John Hospital.

La Porte plans Town Center
La Porte city officials and residents had two reasons to celebrate July 4 – the birthday of our country and the groundbreaking of their proposed 95-acre La Porte Town Center project.

The Center is expected to be a destination location offering families entertainment, children’s activities, educational museums, special events, sports and miniature golf. It will also feature restaurants, retail shops and office space.

Tenants already committed include Gilley’s Family Entertainment Center, Gilley’s Texas Roasters, Golf World, Fashion District, McCardell’s Pub, Locked and Loaded Arms and Hamburgers by Gourmet. A full service resort hotel and conference center also is planned to provide facilities for businesses meetings and conferences.

La Porte Town Center will be located near Sylvan Beach,along State Highway 146 adjacent to the Bay Forest Golf Course.

Barrios to support Boeing programs
Boeing has selected Barrios Technology to support the Houston-based International Space Station and Boeing’s commercial space programs under the Boeing Engineering and Technical Service Support program.

Barrios will focus its expertise on software development including the critical flight software used by NASA to support the ISS program and Boeing’s commercial space vehicle CST-100. “Barrios has performed as a sub-contractor to Boeing since 2004 providing engineering and integration services along with software development and testing. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to continue to be a valued supplier to The Boeing Co.,” Barrios Technology President Robert McAfoos said.

Barrios Technology is a woman-owned AS9100 certified engineering services company with expertise in aerospace engineering, space operations, scientific research, and technology solutions. Established and headquartered in Houston since 1980, Barrios provides services to NASA and the aerospace industry.

United to fly nonstop to Cuba
The U.S. Department of Transportation has tentatively awarded United Airlines nonstop flights to Cuba from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and New York/Newark.  Starting later this year, United will offer Saturday nonstop service between IAH and Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.

Movers & Shakers: Robert (Robbie) McAfoos

July 1st, 2016

7-1XRobertXMcAfoosName: Robert (Robbie) McAfoos

Occupation:  President, Barrios Technology

Hometown:  Asheville, N.C.

Current home: Taylor Lake Village

Family:  Victoria and I have five children, Laura, Amy, Brian, Michael and Lizzie

My favorite writer is:  Way back when, Ayn Rand and Robert Ludlum.  Today, David Baldacci

Someone I’d like to meet:  Neil Armstrong – I got to briefly shake his hand one time

If I could switch places with someone for just one day, I’d choose:  A big band musician

My favorite performers are: Musicians and too many to name – Billy Joel, Jon McLaughlin, Matt Nathanson

I like to spend my leisure time:  I wish I remembered — we just finished building a house and there was no leisure time

If I could travel any place, I’d go to:  Greek Isles

My favorite meal is:  Almost anything on the grille

As a youngster, I wanted to grow up to be:  A professional musician – trumpet

You’ll never catch me:  Paying an audio visual company to set up my home stereo.  I am bound and determined to eventually figure it out!

The thing that bugs me the most is: Rules that don’t make sense

My favorite movie is: Any movie less than 90 minutes — I don’t watch a lot of movies because I need a break at that magic 90 minute point

Few people know:  I have 70 hours towards a private pilot’s license, but would never take the written test

Business Buzz

July 1st, 2016

CPCO-4cPasadena Plastics earns top award
Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP’s (Chevron Phillips Chemical) Pasadena Plastics Complex received Texas Chemical Council’s “Best in Texas” award for its distinguished safety program during TCC’s annual awards banquet June 9.

“Best in Texas” is presented to the top facilities that meet the criteria for the TCC’s Distinguished Safety Service award program and maintain a contractor safety program. Last October, the site was named a Voluntary Protection Program Star Site for its exemplary health and safety programs by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Pasadena plant was also awarded the Excellence in Caring for Texas award while seven additional Chevron Phillips Chemical sites in Texas were recognized for safety excellence and community outreach, including those in Baytown and La Porte.

Scott Livingston

Scott Livingston

League City names new business czar
League City has selected Scott D. Livingston to serve as its new director of economic development.

In this position, Livingston is responsible for helping the city achieve economic diversification by strategically implementing its economic development plan, including attracting new businesses, business retention and expansion, and downtown revitalization efforts.  All of these initiatives were identified as a priority for League City in the city’s “Roadmap to the Future.”

Livingston has been responsible for attracting more than $4.3 billion in new investment, 30 industrial and non-industrial projects and 600 new jobs in his current position as the economic development coordinator for the City of La Porte.  He also facilitated the development of La Porte’s Town Center, a mixed-use development, which will be anchored by a Gilley’s Family Entertainment Center.

“Our city is continuously growing and as we work to address our No. 1 priority – economic development – having someone with Scott’s breadth of experience will greatly benefit our community,” City Manager Mark Rohr said.

Livingston has more than 16 years of experience in economic development, strategic planning, business development and main street revitalization between his positions with La Porte, Global Enterprise Services, and the DeSoto Economic Development Corp.  He graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and earned a Masters of Science in Economics with a concentration in Finance at Texas A&M University-Commerce.  He is also a Certified Economic Developer with extensive education, training and certifications in economic development, public management and international affairs.

The City of League City’s Roadmap to the Future was adopted in January 2015 with input from the residents, city council and staff.  Full details on the Roadmap to the Future are located at www.leaguecity.com/RoadmaptotheFuture

Barrios honors its employees
Barrios Technology honored a number of its employees at its recent Annual Awards Banquet at the Johnson Space Center Gilruth Center — recognizing recipients from the 2015 Barrios Employee Awards and Recognition (BEAR) program, as well as those receiving company service awards.

Throughout the year, Barrios selects employees quarterly for their outstanding contributions to the company and their jobs. These employees are presented with the Silver BEAR award. At the end of the year, from those recipients, a Gold BEAR award winner is selected.

The 2015 Gold BEAR award winner was Mark Schaefbauer. An engineer in the JSC soft goods laboratory, he was recognized with the Gold Bear award for his dedication and support in meeting a quick turn-around set of requirements to deliver critical thermal blanket hardware to the Lockheed Martin Cargo Mission Contract for the JAXA HTV-5 flight.
Recipient of the 2015 Emy Award, which recognizes an employee who contributed beyond the workplace in service to the community, was Denise Skyles, who was recognized for her continued years of service supporting the Barrios Employee Relations Committee, as well as a number of outside service activities.

Barrios also recognized 131 employees with service awards at the annual luncheon.

Boeing awards ISS contracts
Boeing has awarded $200 million in contracts to small businesses for work on the International Space Station. Boeing is NASA’s prime contractor for the ISS.

The contracts were awarded to provide expertise in a number of areas including engineering, information technology, software development and mission assurance support. Recipients include a number of companies, including Barrios Technology, Ltd., of Houston. Contracts run from October 2016 to September 2020.

During the first half of the government’s 2016 fiscal year, Boeing Space Exploration programs, which include the ISS, Commercial Crew and Space Launch System, purchased approximately $754 million in products and services from a network of 690 suppliers. Included in these purchases were contracts worth about $211 million awarded to small and diverse businesses.

“Supplier partners are critical to our growth and success,” said Mark Mulqueen, Boeing ISS program manager. “It’s important to Boeing and our NASA customer that we commit significant resources to growing our small business network through targeted outreach, mentoring programs and regular collaboration.”

This year Boeing is celebrating 100 years of pioneering aviation accomplishments.

graziaGrazia to open second location
Owner and operator Adrian Hembree is eager to strengthen the Grazia Italian Kitchen presence by opening a second location in the Bay Area this summer — at 1001 Pineloch Drive in Clear Lake.

Grazia Italian Kitchen in Pearland is known for its fresh house made pastas, wood fired pizza, and chef’s grilled selections characterized by premium ingredients and new concepts to traditional entrees.

With a dining capacity of 250+, this 6,000 square foot location will present a full service wood fired pizza bar, outside patio dining and a speakeasy era bar. Perfect for families, couples, and groups alike, the Clear Lake Grazia will feature the same delicious meals and friendly service that customers have come to expect.  It will serve lunch and dinner and expects an early summer opening.

News Nuggets

April 1st, 2016

League City's new mayor, Pat Hallisey.

League City’s new mayor, Pat Hallisey.

League City gets new mayor
Pat Hallisey, a former League City mayor, is the new mayor of League City. He was elected March 19 in a special election with 2,068 votes or 51 percent of the vote.  He replaces Tim Paulissen, who resigned to run for a Galveston County Commission seat.

Hank Dugie ran unopposed for the vacant Position 2 seat on City Council formerly held by Tommy Cones, who resigned to become fire marshal. He was officially elected with 3,395 votes.

Cities differ on open carry
Differing opinions. That’s what you might describe the thinking on open carry in League City and Seabrook.

Seabrook took the first step, voting 4-0 to prohibit employees – with the exception of law enforcement officers — from possessing firearms or other weapons while in city vehicles or on city property. Gary Johnson, Robert Liorenta and Melissa Botkin were absent from the meeting.

Employees who are licensed to carry may leave their firearms and ammunition locked in their private vehicles at the parking lot for city employees. City Council also approved an amendment to the city ordinances prohibiting the open carry of weapons at governmental meetings. That was on Feb. 16.

Then on March 1, the League City Council approved a proposal by Nick Long and Heidi Hansing to make it legal for anyone licensed to carry firearms to openly carry handguns at public meetings in League City, such as City Council meetings. The vote was 5-2 with Mayor Tim Paulinson and Councilman Keith Gross opposed.

Ex-astronaut to head Glenn
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named former astronaut Janet Kavandi director of the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

She has been serving as Glenn’s deputy director since February 2015 and succeeds Jim Free, who was named deputy associate administrator for technical in the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

Barrios honors four employees
Barrios Technology employees were recently commended for their high level of expertise and outstanding performance supporting NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the International Space Station program.

Four employees were selected based on nominations presented from their management or peers in their work area and were presented with a Barrios Silver BEAR Award. Those recognized were Ryan Anderson, Justin Collins, Shelly Fling and Cindy Romero.

Kemah introduces ‘Team Kemah’
The City of Kemah has filled three key posts to complete “Team Kemah.”

Nick Haby is the community services director — responsible for Public Works, Code Enforcement, the Building Department and Permitting/Inspections.  He comes from Friendswood, where he served 10 years as assistant to the city manager.

Kemah welcomed Wendy Ellis as city administrator and economic development director after a unanimous vote. Ellis has worked in economic development and city administration for more than 10 years.

She holds a Master’s degree from Texas Tech University and is a certified Professional and Community Economic Developer. She and her husband, Daniel have been married 15 years and have a three-year-old son.

Newest addition is City Secretary Carolyn Anderson, who just started work with the city of. She is a native of La Marque and has served there and in Dickinson as city secretary.  In addition, she has a background in the private sector as an office manager, purchasing agent and marketing manager.
She is a member of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association and brings a wealth of knowledge to the City of Kemah.  She has served on the City of La Marque Charter Review Committee and the Salt Grass Chapter of Texas Municipal Clerks Retirement Committee.

News Nuggets

June 1st, 2015

The remains of the Hampton Inn in Seabrook.

The remains of the Hampton Inn in Seabrook.

Cause of hotel fire investigated
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office is working with the ATF National Response Team to investigate the cause of the April 30 fire at the Hampton Inn on NASA Parkway in Seabrook and access damages.

The three-alarm blaze started about 4:40 p.m. and eventually destroyed most of the building.

Fire departments from League City, Nassau Bay, Kemah, Friendswood, Fort Bend County, La Porte and the Port of Houston assisted the Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department in putting out the blaze.

Fortunately, all guests – many here for Keels & Wheels at nearby Lakewood Yacht Club – were evacuated and moved to the Seabrook Community House until other accommodations could be made.

Lawmakers get term-limits bill
State Rep. Carol Alvarado has filed a bill that, if passed by the Texas Legislature and approved by voters, would change Houston’s term limit structure.

Under HB 2917 the mayor, controller and city council members would be able to serve two four-year terms before becoming term limited.

“The city’s current structure of three two-year terms restricts an elected official’s ability to truly dive into issues that are affecting the city and their respective member’s districts,” Alvarado said.

Seabrook getting new city secretary
Robin Hicks of Sugar Land will become Seabrook’s city secretary July 1, replacing Michele Glaser, who is retiring.

Seabrook City Council unanimously approved her appointment during a special meeting May 4, voting unanimously to appoint her as city secretary, effective July 1.

Hicks, who currently serves as deputy city secretary at the City of Sugar Land’s City Secretary’s Office, was to begin training June 1, and take over from Glaser after her retirement in July. She had announced her retirement in January.

Hicks has served the City of Sugar Land for five years, and worked for the City of Odessa prior to coming to Sugar Land.

Nassau Bay man is shot
A 21-year-old man was found shot when Nassau Bay Police were called to the 18100 block of Nassau Bay Drive late Tuesday night, May 5, when neighbors heard a man yelling for help.

On arrival, police found he had been shot in both legs and had him taken by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. He is expected to survive his injuries.

Witnesses said they saw two male subjects flee the scene.

The victim told officers he was inside his apartment playing video games when he heard a knock on the door. When he opened the door he was confronted by two male subjects; one was armed with a handgun and demanded money. The suspects entered the victim’s apartment and became upset when they could not find any money and one of the suspects shot him in both legs.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the Nassau Bay Police Department at 281-333-2212.

CCISD extends Smith contract
The Clear Creek School Board has extended the contract of Superintendent Greg Smith until 2020. The action came at a workshop meeting of the board.

And while he was not given a raise with the extension, trustees voted 6-1, with Trustee Ken Baliker opposed, to give him an annuity worth $200,000 – paying $40,000 a year for the next five years into the annuity with the stipulation that he cannot receive the funds unless he fulfills the contract. The board also agreed to pay the superintendent’s contribution to the State Teacher Retirement System.

Chamber head resigns post
Laurie Baldwin, abruptly resigned as president and CEO of the League City Regional Chamber April 29, following a disagreement a few weeks back over changing the chamber’s name.

Baldwin, who had been in the post a little over two years, first changed the chamber’s name to Bay Area Houston Regional Chamber to reflect its regional reach when a number of members and city officials objected, believing the name should include League City. Then she polled the membership and subsequently changed the name again to League City Regional Chamber.

Sara Martin, meanwhile, has joined the chamber team and will be the new chamber membership development coordinator.

Martin, who is originally from Vermont and now resides in Seabrook, has a number of years in the hospitality, events and customer service industry.  She received her B.A. in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Ad Astra wins NASA contract
Ad Astra Rocket Company has been selected by NASA as one of three winners of the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) competitive solicitation. Under this work, valued at approximately $10 million over three years, the partnership will advance the VASIMR® engine to a technology readiness level (TRL) greater than 5 – a step closer to spaceflight – with a demonstration of the VX-200-SS™ laboratory prototype, a fully integrated system capable of operating at high power continuously for a minimum of 100 hours.

The VASIMR Rocket works with plasma, an electrically charged gas that can be heated to extreme temperatures by radio waves and controlled and guided by strong magnetic fields. The magnetic field also insulates nearby structures so exhaust temperatures well beyond the melting point of materials can be achieved. In rocket propulsion, the higher the temperature of the exhaust gases, the higher their velocity and the higher the fuel efficiency. Plasma rockets feature exhaust velocities far above those achievable by their chemical cousins, so their fuel consumption is extremely low.

Since its inception in 2005, Ad Astra Rocket Company has continued to advance the TRL of the VASIMR® engine almost exclusively with private funding. In 2013, after more than $30 million in private capital, the company completed more than 10,000 successful high power firings of its most advanced VASIMR® prototype, the VX- 200™, in Ad Astra’s Houston vacuum chamber facility.

“We are thrilled by this announcement and proud to be joining forces with NASA in the final steps of the technology maturation,” said Dr. Franklin Chang Díaz, Ad Astra’s chairman and CEO. “We look forward to a very successful partnership as we jointly advance the technology to flight readiness,” he added.

Barrios Technology’s Ben Matson, is presented the company’s Annual Gold BEAR Award for the development and implementation of a specialized packing assessment SharePoint tool. by Barrios President and CEO Sandy Johnson.

Barrios Technology’s Ben Matson, is presented the company’s Annual Gold BEAR Award for the development and implementation of a specialized packing assessment SharePoint tool. by Barrios President and CEO Sandy Johnson.

Barrios honors its employees
Barrios Technology recognized a number of its employees at its Annual Awards Luncheon at NASA’s Gilruth Center. This event recognized recipients of BEAR awards, as well as those receiving higher education degrees, company service awards, and the corporate Emy Award.

Throughout the year, Barrios selects employees quarterly for their outstanding contributions to the company and their jobs. These employees are presented with the Silver BEAR award. At the end of the year, from those recipients, a Gold BEAR award winner is selected.

The 2014 Gold BEAR award winner was Ben Matson, a Mission and Program Integration engineer recognized for the development and implementation of a specialized packing assessment SharePoint tool, and the recipient of the Emy Award, which is named for founder Emrye Barrios Robinson and recognizes community service, went to Jorge Charriez who was recognized for his efforts supporting a number of different community and church organizations.

Pasadena ISD honors lawyer
Prominent Houston attorney John Eddie Williams Jr., has been named by the Pasadena School District as its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus.

A 1972 Pasadena High graduate, he is the managing partner at Williams Kherkher Law Firm in Houston. Williams also attended South Shaver Elementary and Queens Intermediate. After graduating from Pasadena High, Williams won a football scholarship to Baylor University in Waco, where he earned a business degree and went on to become editor-in-chief of the Baylor Law Review and graduate first in his class from Baylor School of Law.

He later won the largest legal settlement in U.S. history — $17.3 billion — when he represented the State of Texas against the tobacco industry in 1995. The son and grandson of longshoremen, he has long been a supporter of union workers.

Richard Dvorak earns recognition
Richard B. Dvorak, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial, has qualified for the company’s 2014 Circle of Success annual recognition program and will be honored for this achievement in 2015.

To earn this achievement, Richard established himself as one of the company’s top advisors by consistently demonstrating exceptional commitment to financial planning and superior client service. Only a select number of high-performing advisors earn this distinction.

Richard’s office is located at 2525 Bay Area Blvd., Suite 640, in Clear Lake.

News Nuggets

November 1st, 2014

DATE: 9-17-14 LOCATION: Bldg 2 - Teague Auditorium SUBJECT: 2014

Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, right, and Deputy Director Kirk Shireman, left, present James Milhoan the Exceptional Public Service Medal at a public event held in September. Pictured with the honoree is his wife, Ione Marie Milhoan.

NASA honors James Milhoan

Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa presented Barrios Technology’s James Milhoan with NASA’s prestigious Exceptional Public Service Medal during a public ceremony – recognizing him for his 45 years of dedication and service supporting NASA and its important missions such as Apollo, Space Shuttle, X-38 and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Milhoan, recognized as a national expert on reentry materials and systems, has supported thousands of tests performed in NASA’s experimental test facilities, including the Arc-jet and Radiant Heat Test Facility.

“We are extremely proud to have James as part of the Barrios team.  He represents the very core value of what Barrios provides to its customers.  I congratulate him for his excellent career solving NASA’s technical challenges associated with the re-entry of all human spaceflight vehicles and thank him for his dedication to NASA’s programs,” Barrios President and CEO Sandy Johnson said.

Greg Collins back on Kemah Council

Kemah City Council has appointed former Kemah Mayor Greg Collins to fill a vacancy on the City Council. He replaces Councilman Steve Mewborn, who resigned his Position 5 seat during the meeting. Mewborn resigned to become a deacon at his church.

Collins served two terms as Kemah’s mayor after being elected in May 2005. Prior to that he served on City Council.

Pot offenders to get a break

Non-violent first-time offenders caught with up to two ounces of marijuana will be offered a chance to avoid jail and being charged under a program announced Oct. 1 by the Harris County district attorney.

District Attorney Devon Anderson said her office, in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department, will give non-violent first-time offenders a chance to avoid a criminal conviction through the office’s new program called “First Chance Intervention Program.”

Instead, they will be offered a chance to successfully complete eight hours of community service or complete an eight-hour class. Otherwise, they could face the maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. The program took effect Oct. 6.

In 2013, the office processed more than 43,000 Class B misdemeanor cases — the majority of which were for possession of marijuana.