WCMessenger.com http://www.wcmessenger.com Wise County Messenger Online Edition Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:49:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Friday, July 31, 2015 http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/update/friday-july-31-2015/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/update/friday-july-31-2015/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:10:16 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93611

MEDICAL CLINIC RAMMED – Decatur Police, medics and firemen responded to an accident at Wise Family Practice Urgent Care around 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Officer Robert Cain said Lillie Morgan, 73, was uninjured after mistaking her brake and gas pedals when pulling into the clinic’s parking lot, driving over the concrete parking stop and into the waiting room. While several chairs were knocked over, no one inside the building was injured, Cain said. An official from the city was on scene and declared the building structurally sound.

Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

BRIDGE REPLACED, ROAD OPEN – The bridge on Parker Dairy Road over Denton Creek in Precinct 2 is now open, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. It was closed for a bridge replacement.

DIABETES CLASS – Total Diabetes Care at Wise Regional is now offering monthly diabetes education classes in Bridgeport on the first Monday of the month. This month’s class will be Aug. 3. The classes are intended to help those with diabetes better understand and manage the disease. Beginner’s class at 3 p.m. and advanced class at 4 p.m. Both classes are free and will be held at the former Wise Regional-Bridgeport Campus. No RSVP required. Contact Dick Gilley RN, CCRN, CDE at 940-626-1890.

FSA COMMITTEE NOMINATIONS DUE – USDA Farm Service Agency county committee nomination forms must be postmarked or returned to the Wise County FSA office by the close of business Monday, Aug. 3. To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee a person must participate or cooperate in an agency administered program, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the Local Administrative Area where they are nominated. This year nominations and elections will be held in LAA 1, which includes Chico, Crafton and Bridgeport. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are online at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Read more in the weekend Wise County Messenger or call the Wise County office, 940-627-2268.

SEASON TICKETS – Those season ticket holders who have been affected by the press box expansion at DISD’s Eagle Stadium, and who were contacted last week, can renew their season tickets 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 3-6 at the Decatur High School Ticket Office. Season tickets are $20 per seat. Other season ticket renewals for reserved seating will take place Saturday, Aug. 8, during the Blue and White Scrimmage at Eagle Stadium. Renewals will be sold at the concession stand 6-8:30 p.m. First time season ticket holders can purchase reserved seating 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 17-28. Contact Linda Hudler at the Athletic Office at 940-393-7290 or linda.hudler@decatur.esc11.net.

PARADISE SCHOOL BOARD – The Paradise school board will hold a special meeting Monday, August 3, to consider all matters related to the issuance and sale of Paradise ISD Unlimited Tax Refunding Bonds, Series 2015. Principals will also discuss the code of conduct and student handbook at the meeting, and the board will set a date for a public hearing on the district’s budget and tax rate.

PARKINSONS SUPPORT – The Parkinsons Support Group meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the West Campus of Wise Regional Health System in Decatur. Guest speaker will be a representative of Medtronics. The group meets the first Tuesday of the month.

VETERANS BREAKFAST – The Wise County Veterans Group will hold its weekly breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Decatur Civic Center. All Wise County veterans are invited.

BLOCK PARTY – The Halsell Street Back Door Block Party, sponsored by Bridgeport Main Street, is 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today. Enjoy the Halsell Street Shopping Frenzy, merchant promotions, entertainment and more. For every $20 you spend with a participating merchant you will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win a $100 downtown dollar gift certificate. There will be four winners. Call 940-683-3404.

SENIOR CENTER FUNDRAISER – The Chico Senior Citizens Association, Got To Go Solutions and Chico Auto Parts will host a fundraiser for the Chico Senior Citizen Center Saturday. The Buckner Band and the Red Ramblers will preform at the Chico Community Center 6-8 p.m., with a hot dog meal served for $5 and hamburgers for $6. There will also be a cake auction. All funds raised go to senior center storm repairs.

RETIREMENT RECEPTION – The City of Bridgeport will hold a retirement reception honoring Lupe Salazar 3-4 p.m. today at Bridgeport City Hall, 900 Thompson Street. Call 940-683-3400.

VETERANS PROGRAM – The 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War will be commemorated and veterans will be honored with a parade at 9 a.m. Saturday followed by a ceremony at the City of White Settlement’s Veterans Park, 8901 Clifford St. Call 817-782-7815.

FUNERALS – Memorial graveside service for Juanita Jo Crawford Thomas, 86, of Denton, formerly of Boyd, is 10 a.m. Saturday at Arledge Ridge Cemetery in Bonham. Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd is handling arrangements.

SERVICE for Walter Pannell, 90, of Decatur is pending at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

SERVICE for Timmy Joe Wright, 63, of Bridgeport is pending at Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015 http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/update/thursday-july-30-2015/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/update/thursday-july-30-2015/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:15:58 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93605

100 TODAY? – According to the National Weather Service, this could be the day we hit triple digit-temperatures with a high near 100 forecast. Heat index values could be close to 105. A weak cold front should move through today, bringing temperatures down a few degrees for the weekend and slight rain chances Friday.

PARTIAL ROAD CLOSURE – A road repair project will require a portion of West Thompson Street in Decatur to be closed to through traffic today through Tuesday, Aug. 4. The closed portion of the street is located between Deer Park Road and the entrance to Crestview Place Apartments located at 950 W. Thompson Street.

VETERANS BREAKFAST – The Wise County Veterans Group will hold its weekly breakfast AT 8 a.m. Saturday at the Decatur Civic Center. All Wise County veterans are invited.

ALZHEIMER’S SUPPORT GROUP – The Alzheimer’s (and related dementia) support group will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, in the boardroom at the Wise Regional Health System west campus in Decatur. The group is for the people who are caring for folks with dementia. Call Richard, 940-255-0244.

RANCHERS GATHERING – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County is having a Ranchers Gathering Thursday, Aug. 13, at the First Baptist Church in Decatur. Doors open at 5:30, and cost is $10, which includes dinner. Jason Cleere, associate professor and Extension beef cattle specialist, will present “Top 10 Ways to Generate Dollars in the Cattle Business.” The agriculture trade show will have more than 20 booths. Pre-register by Aug. 12. Call the Extension office, 940-627-3341, or come by 206 S. State St.

CHICO ISD MEETING – The Chico School Board meets at 6:30 tonight to discuss repairing the middle school roof, making the baseball/softball complex ADA compliant and to discuss financial issues. The board meets in room 104 at Chico Elementary.

WATCH FOR WELCOMEWelcome to Wise 2015, this year’s version of the Wise County Messenger’s annual newcomers/visitors guide, should arrive in the mailboxes of county residents this week. This year’s issue includes features on our local communities through a series of “Wise Trips” around the county. Be sure to check out the accompanying video links with each story to see more.

ENROLLMENT FAIR – Bridgeport ISD will hold an enrollment fair today until 8 p.m. at the commons area. All returning and new students need to register.

FUNERALS – Memorial service for Samuel “Sam” Nesmith of Paradise is 9 a.m. today at New Hope Cemetery. Hawkins Funeral Home in Bridgeport is handling arrangements.

MEMORIAL graveside service for Juanita Jo Crawford Thomas, 86, of Denton, formerly of Boyd, is 10 a.m. Saturday at Arledge Ridge Cemetery in Bonham. Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd is handling arrangements.

SERVICE for Michael Fortune, 41, of Bridgeport is pending at Jones Family Funeral Home in Bridgeport.

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Flaming hay bales ignite pasture fire http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/flaming-hay-bales-ignite-pasture-fire/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/flaming-hay-bales-ignite-pasture-fire/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:15:42 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93600 Three fire departments responded to a pasture fire threatening a structure on Private Road 4379 between Decatur and Boyd Saturday morning.

David Lambert said he had been raking and baling hay for the owner of the property when the hay baler caught on fire.

Hay Fire

HAY FIRE – Firefighters from Decatur, Boyd and Newark worked to put out a pasture fire that spread to a residence last Saturday. A hay baler fire moved on to several bales and the garage of the residence off Private Road 4379. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“My brother was baling, and when he dumped a bale out, it was on fire,” Lambert said. “It started to spread toward the house.”

Boyd, Decatur and Newark fire departments were called to the scene.

The fire spread to several hay bales and across the pasture, burning two to three acres, according to Boyd VFD Captain Shane McNelly.

It also spread to the residence on the property, burning a portion of the garage before Decatur firefighters put it out.

The owner of the property, who who was not identified, said most of what burned was marginal.

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Insurance rates rise http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/insurance-rates-rise/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/insurance-rates-rise/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:14:45 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93597 Wise County reconfigured its insurance plan to combat rising costs, but most employees will still feel a financial pinch.

The new plan is a variation of what was already in place, but employees will face either higher premiums or higher deductibles.

Kristen Huddleston with Stephens, Bastian and Cartwright presented the proposed plan at Monday’s regular commissioners meeting.

“We took a look at the medical loss ratio, and it was 117 percent, which means you had 17 percent more paid out in claims than Aetna received in premiums,” she said. “The initial renewal was calling for an increase of 35.8 percent.”

This was the second consecutive year that the county paid more in claims than premiums received. Huddleston said in an effort to resolve the issue the firm compared the county’s plan to four other large employers and came up with a proposal that includes two plans – base and buy-up. The proposal also takes the plans from a three-tier to a four-tier system, like most other large companies.

Under the base plan, employees are still completely covered by the county, but for individuals the deductible increased from $1,000 to $2,500 and the out-of-pocket maximum increased from $2,500 to $5,000. The deductible for families jumped from $2,000 to $5,000 and out-of-pocket maximum from $5,000 to $10,000. Office visit and prescription copays remain the same.

The buy-up plan allows employees to maintain the current deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, but they are asked to pay for part of the coverage. The buy-up plan for an employee only will cost $36 per paycheck or $936 per year.

“You’re going to have some people that buy up, but you’re still providing a great plan that compares to the market,” Huddleston said. “I think you’re getting closer to the market, still offering employee only and a great plan.”

In addition to employee only, the county will also offer employee plus spouse, employee plus one child, employee plus two or more children and employee plus family. The county is reducing its coverage of dependents, though.

Previously, the county paid 65 percent dependents’ coverage, but that will be reduced to 48 percent on employee plus spouse, 54 percent on employee plus child or children and 50 percent on employee plus family.

The only group that will see a significant drop in premiums, if they choose the base plan, is employee with two or more children. The rate goes from $186.38 per paycheck to $128.39. Employee plus one child will see an 81-cent drop, from $129.20 to $128.39.

Employee plus family will see the largest increase in the base plan, soaring from $186.38 per paycheck to $348.60 per paycheck. Employee plus spouse rises from $129.20 to $181.63.

Each category also has the option to “buy-up,” which means even higher premiums, but lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

“It’s a lot more fair to employees only carrying children,” Huddleston said. “You want young, healthy bodies on your plan. You want as many of those young bodies as you can get on there. Right now, if someone has more than one child on the plan, they’re charged the family rate, so it discourages people from putting multiple people on the plan.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy said he thought “it was a pretty good plan.”

“I’ve dealt with this in the school system and personally, and there’s not much you can do,” he said. “We do offer to pay for our employees, and that’s pretty rare.”

The estimated annual cost to the county is $330,256, a savings of $7,308.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said, “I don’t think we have an option this year.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns and Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance were not present.

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Rainfall reduces revenue http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/rainfall-reduces-revenue/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/rainfall-reduces-revenue/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:13:21 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93595 Near record-setting rainfall over the first six months of the year busted Wise County out of prolonged drought and left previously scorched yards green.

But the 46 inches of rain also kept green from flowing into the accounts of local cities as water sales plummeted in the month of June and remain well below expected levels for the year. Without residents turning on sprinklers, water consumption fell by more than a million gallons from 2014 in some local cities, meaning several thousands of dollars less in revenue. Even though water sales lagged, the expenses remain.

Too Much of a Good Thing

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING – Heavy rains in May and June flooded Wise County and brought an end to a prolonged drought. It also severely cut water sales for local cities. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It definitely affects the budget,” said Bridgeport City Administrator Jesica McEachern. “[Water] is an essential service we provide. There’s fixed costs, and there’s no way to get out of it.

“We’re the No. 1 enforcer when there’s drought restrictions. But we’re also in the business of selling water.”

Bridgeport saw its total water sales drop by just under $25,000 in June from the previous year.

In its June billing that covered May, Decatur’s sales for water and sewer were down $28,589, with water consumption alone down more than 14 million gallons.

“Overall, our water and sewer sales are at 70 percent,” said Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon.

He added that Decatur and Bridgeport, which buy water from the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), were hit with water restrictions to conserve water. Those restrictions last year have been lifted with Lake Bridgeport filled to capacity.

Shannon said as the ground dries out and homeowners go back to watering yards, they may recoup some of the lost revenue.

“We’re so grateful we got the rain and filled the reservoirs,” Shannon said. “Last summer we lost revenue because of the restrictions. This year in May and June we had all the rain. But we’ve still got August and September in this budget. I’m feeling a lot better now than 90 days ago. With the restrictions gone, we should see sales increase.”

Bridgeport was given a bill from TRWD for not meeting minimum water purchase limits. Though part of its contract, McEachern said it was the first time it was enforced. Bridgeport council members adopted an ordinance asking for a review of the charge because of the water restrictions the district had in place.

“It was very unexpected,” she said.

McEachern said the flooding caused fluctuation in the soil leading to water line breaks. There were also issues with sewer lift stations, which were added expenses.

McEachern and Shannon indicated that their cities’ public works departments have been mindful of revenues and adjusted expenses. They also have reserves to help through periods such as this.

“If we see revenue is not coming, we eliminate non-essential expenses,” Shannon said. “We monitor on a monthly basis and make adjustments. If it’s not essential, we may hold off on something, but we try not to delay big capital projects.”

Alvord, Boyd and Chico have also seen sharp decreases in water use. Alvord’s total water sales fell $4,057 from June 2014 to June 2015. Chico was down 2.2 million gallons in June, and through the first six months of 2015, consumption is down 40 percent from 2014.

Boyd’s water usage fell by more than 500,000 gallons in June from a year ago, representing a more than $3,000 drop in sales.

As of July 17, Boyd City Administrator Greg Arrington said sales are 20 percent below expectations for the fiscal year.

“We had budgeted $434,652 and have sold only 66 percent of that with 83 percent of the budget year over,” Arrington said.

He said the cutback in revenue may delay some projects but pointed out the city is better off getting the rain. Boyd relies on groundwater and also purchases additional water from Walnut Creek Special Utility District out of Lake Bridgeport. Before the flooding rains with Lake Bridgeport at 26 feet below normal, Arrington said there was concern about getting a contract renewal with Walnut Creek.

“We’re better off because we have the water now and are not in the drought,” Arrington said. “It’s a huge positive to have the water now and water for the next few years. It creates a situation where we may not make our projected revenue, but I’d rather be off on the revenue than not have the water.”

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Budget hit by mineral value drop http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/budget-hit-by-mineral-value-drop/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/budget-hit-by-mineral-value-drop/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:12:33 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93592 When you have a flat tire, it’s hard to move forward.

Local taxing entities experiencing flat property tax values are now facing a similar challenge.

Most of the “air” being let out of the collective local tire is caused by a decrease in mineral values, tied mainly to oil and gas.

Mineral values dropped 8.09 percent countywide. With only a handful of exceptions (Paradise, Slidell, Rhome), every taxing entity saw a decrease in mineral values.

Ten of the 18 city and school districts located primarily in Wise County saw at least a 10 percent drop in mineral values, and Decatur ISD’s 9.98 percent decrease was just shy of that threshold.

Of local school districts, Boyd ISD was hit the hardest by overall decreased values, experiencing an 11.6 percent downturn. Mineral values were responsible for a bulk of the decrease, slipping 16.38 percent or $104 million.

“It was such a huge loss in the oil and gas,” said Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West. “If we don’t rebound longterm, we’ll have to change the way we are doing things.”

West said between local and state revenue, the district is anticipating a cut of $161,000. The district last year had a deficit of $250,000.

“We have a healthy fund balance of approximately $6 million, so with that in savings we can weather the storm for a year,” West said.

“With our academic programs improving and the overall district improving, we don’t want to have to take a step back.”

West said the biggest help for the district would be a growth in enrollment to increase the state aid and cut into the amount Boyd ISD pays in recapture. Boyd paid $83,824 last year to the state.

“The cure-all is for values and enrollment to go up,” West said. “Our enrollment has stayed stagnant. The more kids we have, the more funding we get.”

Boyd ISD has an open transfer policy, and 12 percent of the student body is from transfers.

The city of Boyd saw a 4.19 percent decrease in overall property values to $134,502 million. City Administrator Greg Arrington said the city would lose between $36,000 and $37,000 in revenue. He added that could be offset by added court revenue that was up nearly $40,000.

Decatur ISD saw a decrease of 0.7 percent in property tax values. Superintendent Rod Townsend said he doesn’t expect the slight dip to have a significant impact on the upcoming year’s budget.

He explained that districts experiencing a larger decrease in property tax values are being hit with a double-edged sword.

“The way school finance works, the fewer dollars you generate out of local taxes, that also reduces the amount you draw from the state,” he said. “When you lose values, you don’t just lose it from the local collections, you also lose it from the state. (If) you increase from local collections, you increase from the state. A lot of people think it is the opposite.”

This marks just the second time in the past 10 years that property tax values have decreased. In 2011, values dropped 2.35 percent from the previous year.

Contributing: Richard Greene

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Entities scramble as sales tax slides http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/entities-scramble-as-sales-tax-slides/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/entities-scramble-as-sales-tax-slides/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:12:00 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93590 Sales tax revenue is down across the county and likely will not meet budgeted levels by the end of the year.

Collection totals from January to May revealed that Wise County cities had fallen $558,061 behind the totals from the same months in 2014. Wise County Auditor Ann McCuiston said that the taxes the county collects may be as far behind as $800,000 now when held up to her budget projections for 2015.

Losing Money

LOSING MONEY – Sales tax revenues took a hit in the first five months of 2015, falling 11 percent behind last year’s revenues for the same time period. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“We’re not going to get what I predicted,” McCuiston said. She originally estimated $4.9 million in sales tax revenue for the county’s 2015 budget.

The only explanation McCuiston could find for the loss of revenue was the sharp decline of the oil and gas industry, which heavily affects spending throughout the county. Bridgeport City Administrator Jesica McEachern said the city’s sales tax slide could be attributed to less drilling and more rain. Bridgeport had fallen $296,291 behind its 2014 sales tax revenue for the first five months of 2015. Sales taxes lagged behind through the first few months and took a nose-dive in rainy May, experiencing a 46 percent drop from its May 2014 revenue.

“Our staff is very cognizant of expenses and are trying to do more with less,” McEachern said. “We are trying to use our resources better.”

Decatur, Bridgeport’s closest counterpart in size, saw a less drastic drop in sales tax revenue. The city ended up $76,060 behind its 2014 January to May collections by this May. Chico is behind 21 percent for the period, Alvord 3 percent, Boyd 3 percent, and Rhome .2 percent. Paradise made positive revenue, increasing 6 percent

“We’re running pretty much flat for the year, which is not great news, but at least we have not had a huge drop,” City Manager Brett Shannon said.

With budget discussions for fiscal year 2016 underway, McCuiston said her estimates for sales tax revenues for next year will drop considerably, leaving a hole in the county budget that will have to be filled through pulling from the general fund. The general fund supplies the budget for public safety and administration in the county.

Another concern facing Wise in 2016 is whether or not the sales tax revenue will be enough to pay the county’s debt. The county will owe $3.1 million to U.S. Bank in 2016, charges due on loans for equipment, new buildings and vehicles for the sheriff’s office. If the county uses sales tax collections to pay off the debt, as is normal practice, and the revenue from those taxes stays at $270,000 a month, the rate it has fallen to this year, then next year’s total sales tax revenue will barely pay off the debt at $3.2 million.

“We will have just enough to make those payments and not any left to supplement the budget,” McCuiston said.

The county isn’t in a hole too deep to climb out of. Ninety-eight percent of Wise County citizens pay their taxes on time, providing a steady flow of money. But the drop in sales taxes, combined with falling clerk fees and dried up oil and gas royalties, will negatively affect the budget for the coming year.

“I can’t project more than what I feel like is going to come in,” McCuiston said.

Contributors: Richard Greene, Brian Knox

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Attendance falls at Settlers Reunion http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/attendance-falls-at-settlers-reunion/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/attendance-falls-at-settlers-reunion/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:10:17 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93587 Attendance at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion dropped drastically from 2014 to 2015.

Sabrina Easley, president of Decatur Lion’s Club, said that by mid-week parking fees were down $1,000 compared to last year. On Monday night, the Lion’s Club parked only 244 cars.

“We’re down 30 percent easy,” Easley said Saturday.

Making Money

MAKING MONEY – Sabrina Easley of the Decatur Lions Club collects money from people parking at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Rick White, owner of a catering business that has set up next to the pavilion for the last 10 years, estimated their profits were down 20 percent compared to 2014. White guessed that maybe the heat kept customers away or perhaps people were just trying to save money.

He said his business has sold the same food every year, yet only cold drinks had the same profit margins as last year.

“We’ve been doing the same thing we’ve been doing for years and years,” White said.

He said the only way they made any profit this year was by catering to specific cabins in addition to selling food to the general public.

Working for the Weekend

WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND – Vendors served cold drinks and hot food to Reunion attendees all week, although most made less profit this year than last year. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Dr. Freeze’s snow cone stand saw similar drops in income.

“We’re way slower than usual,” manager Cole Shawn said. “We’ve been closing way early.”

This is only the second year for the Dr. Freeze stand to open at Reunion, but even snow cones felt the chill of a down year, with 50 to 60 percent less sales from 2014 to 2015.

Vendors offered their best guesses for why attendance dropped this year – heat, the economy and paydays not falling until the following weekend. Easley had another explanation.

“Next week the first is on a Saturday,” she said. As Reunion falls on the last full week of July, Easley guessed that maybe some simply didn’t even know the annual event was taking place the week of July 20-25, believing the week of July 26 to be the last full week of the month.

Whatever the actual cause of the decline, Reunion carried on as usual, just a little emptier this year than most.

Family Fun

FAMILY FUN – Parents and their children walk through the carnival. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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Lobdell takes top prize at state dog show http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/lobdell-takes-top-prize-at-state-dog-show/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/lobdell-takes-top-prize-at-state-dog-show/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:08:37 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93582 Wise County had a tremendous showing at the 2015 Texas 4-H Dog Show, highlighted by Tori Lobdell’s Senior High Point victory that she earned alongside her 4-year-old papillon, Jasper.

“It felt good. We’ve worked so hard throughout the year and to have it pay off was amazing,” Lobdell said.

Danced with Dogs

DANCES WITH DOGS – Brianna McKeever, Abigail Newbold, Summer Cobb, Ashley Polson, Veronica Walton, Angelina Newbold and Mary Beth Cook and their canine companions make up the Wise County team that took first in freestyle drill with a cattle drive-themed performance at the State 4-H Dog Show in Belton July 10-12. Submitted photo

Lobdell and Jasper took wins in disciplines such as tricks, obedience and rally, while also placing high in fields such as purebred sporting conformation.

Lobdell’s win in her final year of competition should move her closer to her goal of being a professional dog trainer.

“There was a lot of pressure because I really wanted to do good in my last year,” Lobdell said. “I was nervous and excited. I’m also excited for the future because I want to continue showing.”

Lobdell hopes that her future can include competing in American Kennel Club shows professionally, working for breeders.

“There are a lot of people who make careers out of it, and I’d like to do that,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t do breeding, but there are breeders who pay you to show their dogs.”

Brianna McKeever, Summer Cobb, Kara Munn, Abigail Newbold, Elise Cobb, Ashley Polson, Veronica Walton and Mary Beth Cook all had strong individual showings for the Wise County team. All eight contributed to a Freestyle Drill win in which they used a cattle drive theme.

“We had costumes and themes and worked with songs,” Cook said. “We took first place, and it was pretty incredible.”

One member of the Wise County 4-H team wasn’t able to participate.

Sadyee Herndon and her dog Little One were unable to compete because she had to undergo leg-lengthening surgery. (Herndon was featured in the Messenger story, “Pause for paws” July 22.) In 2014, Herndon finished fifth in costume, fourth in rally, fifth in conformation and fourth in showmanship.

Though she couldn’t compete this year, Herndon was on the minds of her teammates.

“She’s been the biggest help throughout all of this,” Lobdell said. “We couldn’t have done it without her. It was sad because it’s a lot of fun with her there.”

Kids interested in dog training can email 4-H leader Janie Vawter at vawter4@yahoo.com.


Tori Lobdell and Jasper: Senior High Point, 1st – Agility, 1st – Jumper, 1st – Tricks, 1st – Obedience, 1st – Rally, 1st – conformation

Mary Beth Cook and Harley: 1st – Showmanship, 2nd – Obedience, 9th – Conformation

Brianna McKeever and Hailey: 1st – Agility, 4th – Obedience, 7th – Rally, 3rd – Conformation, 7th – Showmanship

Summer Cobb and DeeDee: 1st – Jumping, 2nd – Obedience, 2nd – Rally, 2nd – Conformation, 5th – Showmanship

Kara Munn and Sadie: 4th – Costume, 5th – Obedience, 1st – Conformation, 5th – Showmanship

Abigail Newbold and Ingrid: 1st – Obedience

Ashley Polson and Angel: 2nd – Rally, 3rd – Obedience

Veronica Walton and June Bug: 2nd – Obedience, 4th – Rally, 4th – Show

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Board selects architect for bond projects http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/board-selects-architect-for-bond-projects/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/board-selects-architect-for-bond-projects/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:07:42 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93579 Three of the larger construction projects associated with the 2015 school bond issue at Decatur took a step forward at Monday’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Rod Townsend suggested combining the indoor multipurpose practice facility at the high school, the cafeteria/gym solution at Rann Elementary and the support services building projects into one project under one architect.

“If we are going to move forward with the time frame of trying to have the multipurpose center in place and open by a year from this August, we are going to have to begin that process pretty quickly,” he said.

The superintendent added that he had talked to three or four architects about the project, and all would be qualified.

“I’ve talked to every one about not designing a Taj Mahal, just something functional and durable, that will last and be as economical as possible,” he said.

The board approved VLK Architects of Fort Worth for the project, as per the suggestion of Townsend. The school will use a construction manager at-risk as the delivery method.

While no final decision has been made on the Rann Elementary alternatives – either adding a stand alone gym or adding a new dining area – it appears that building the gym will be the more feasible option, board President Kevin Haney said.

Rann Elementary Principal Melonie Christian also said it would be her preference to build a new gym.

The current gym and dining area share some of the same space.

The three projects will cost an estimated $5 million and will be paid for through bond funds.

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Grant provides library automated catalog http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/grant-provides-library-automated-catalog/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/grant-provides-library-automated-catalog/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:07:11 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93577 Rhome Public Library received a $7,286 grant from the Tocker Foundation to automate the library’s catalog.

The Tocker Foundation provides grants to rural libraries.

Library Grant

LIBRARY GRANT – Rhome Public Library changed their sign to thank the Tocker Foundation for a grant that paid for the library’s catalog to be automated. Submitted photo

The grant paid for Dr. Sian Brannon, the assistant dean of collection management at the University of North Texas, and a team of UNT volunteers to come to the Rhome library on a Saturday and input nearly 3,000 books into the new automated system. The library’s catalog came fully online by early July.

The system, Apollo, allows library customers to view the full catalog at their own homes and also speeds up the check-out process.

“It improves our services to our patrons,” said Rose Van Meter, president of the library board.

Running on an automated system is one step forward for the library to become accredited under the Texas State Library and Archive Commission (TSLAC). Libraries accredited under TSLAC may participate in state library programs and apply for TSLAC grants.

“We are in particular need of a building fund grant,” Van Meter said. “…That’s the biggest thing right now, that we need to apply for grants.”

The Rhome Public Library begins its accreditation process Sept. 1.

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FEMA deadline extended http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/fema-deadline-extended/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/fema-deadline-extended/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:06:20 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93574 Homeowners or renters with storm or flood damage now have until Aug. 27 to register for FEMA assistance.

Any damage that occurred since May 7 is eligible. To register, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or visit disasterassistance.gov.

Citizens may also visit the FEMA mobile registration center at the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce, 812 Halsell St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The local registration center will be open until further notice.

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FFA members attend Texas FFA Convention http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/ffa-members-attend-texas-ffa-convention/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/ffa-members-attend-texas-ffa-convention/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:05:51 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93572 Members from the Decatur FFA chapter attended the 87th annual Texas FFA State Convention held July 13-17 in Corpus Christi.

Members in attendance included Seth Byers, Luke Cobb, Kyle Drews, Carter Hakanson, Holden Hacker, Trenton Lane, Lauryn Luttrull, Lyndi Luttrull, Carson Read and Alex Samano.

State Convention

STATE CONVENTION – Decatur FFA members recently attended the state convention in Corpus Christi. Those in attendance included (top row, from left) Seth Byers, Trenton Lane, Holden Hacker, Kyle Drews, Carter Hakanson (bottom row) Lauryn Luttrull, Carson Read, Alex Samano, DHS Vice Principal Sheila McCollum, Luke Cobb, Lyndi Luttrull. Submitted photo

The Decatur FFA Chapter was recognized as a gold-level chapter for the Golden Horizon award in the multi-teacher division. The gold-level Golden Horizon award is the highest state rating to be bestowed upon a Texas FFA chapter.

Golden Horizon award selection is based on exceptional chapter involvement and activities within the school and community. It recognizes well-rounded chapter involvement that promotes maximum participation in order to deliver all facets of the agricultural education program.

The Decatur FFA Chapter also received the Gold Emblem rating. The Gold Emblem rating is only bestowed upon the top 10 percent of FFA chapters in Texas. Gold Emblem FFA chapters advance to the national level to be judged for the National FFA Chapter Contest.

Recognized Chapter

RECOGNIZED CHAPTER – Decatur FFA was recognized as a gold-level chapter for the Golden Horizon award and received the Gold Emblem rating. Pictured are members (top row, from left) Holden Hacker, Kyle Drews, Carter Hakanson, Trenton Lane, Seth Byers, (bottom row) Luke Cobb, Lyndi Luttrull, Carson Read, Lauryn Luttrull and Alex Samano. Submitted photo

Chapters that received the Gold Emblem rating actively implemented the FFA mission and strategies. These chapters improve their operations by using a Program of Activities, which emphasizes student, chapter and community development.

Kelsey Blase, Seth Byers, Jake Cobb, Will Davis, Carter Hakanson, Michael Hicks, Marissa Ledford, Maci Morton, Ridge Reynolds, Alex Samano and Carolyn Spear were awarded the Lone Star FFA Degree, which is the highest degree bestowed by the Texas FFA.

The Lone Star FFA Degree recognizes FFA members who have received the Chapter degree, been active FFA members for at least two years, completed at least four semesters of agricultural science at or above the ninth grade level, maintained a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program, demonstrated their leadership skills and has shown a commitment to the FFA through involvement at the chapter level and above.

Sheila McCollum, a vice principal at Decatur High School, was awarded the Honorary Lone Star FFA Degree, which is the highest honorary degree bestowed by the Texas FFA. The Honorary Lone Star FFA Degree recognizes individuals who have rendered outstanding service to agricultural education and the Texas FFA. McCollum was one of many individuals receiving this esteemed honorary degree.

The 87th annual Texas FFA State Convention recorded approximately 12,000 members and guests. Members of the agricultural youth leadership organization spent the week attending leadership workshops, participating in events and activities, being recognized for their achievements and serving as the legislative body for the Texas FFA Association.

More than $2 million in scholarships were awarded to FFA members, and more than 2,000 members were recognized on stage for their accomplishments.

The Texas FFA is the nation’s largest state FFA association with a membership of more than 109,000 members and 1,032 local FFA chapters.

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Council approves $1.9 million incentive for hotel http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/council-approves-1-9-million-incentive-for-hotel/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/council-approves-1-9-million-incentive-for-hotel/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:04:37 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93568 The City of Decatur and the Economic Development Corp. will offer a hotel developer just shy of $2 million in incentives to build next to the Decatur Civic Center.

At Monday’s city council meeting, EDC Director Mary Poche outlined incentives offered by the EDC and agreed upon by Gatehouse Capital, the developer and majority owner of the hotel, a Fairfield Inn.

Those incentives include:

  • $65,000 – the cost of the 2.25 acres of land where the hotel will be located
  • $200,000 – the estimated cost of infrastructure to the land
  • up to $1 million – the amount in hotel occupancy tax rebate, not to exceed 10 years
  • up to $500,000 – the amount in sales tax rebate, not to exceed 10 years
  • $49,640 – the amount of an 80 percent rebate on permit and building fees
  • $90,000 – the amount of a construction sales tax rebate

Poche said Gatehouse Capital had originally requested $2.997 million in incentives prior to the final agreement.

“There is about a $1 million difference in that amount, so we feel like we’ve come up with a number that everyone is happy with and can work with in regard to the project,” she told the council.

She added that property tax incentives “were never on the table.”

The incentives were unanimously approved by the council.

The council also gave its approval for the EDC to continue working on long-term financing for the project.

The city and Gatehouse Capital are currently in an initial period study, working toward building a Marriott-owned Fairfield Inn on the east side of the Decatur Civic Center.

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Flash mob celebrates day of dance http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/flash-mob-celebrates-day-of-dance/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/flash-mob-celebrates-day-of-dance/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:03:07 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93566 From little girls in purple tutus to grown men in cowboy hats, people of all sizes danced their hearts out at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion Saturday night.

Flash Mob

FLASH MOB – Ashley Ness of Silhouette Dance Company (far right) led a group of dancers in a flash mob dance Saturday at the Old Settlers Reunion. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Silhouette Dance Company in Decatur coordinated a flash mob dance to surprise the Reunion crowd. Ashley Ness, owner and instructor, said she hoped the flash mob would promote National Dance Day, a day to celebrate the art of dance.

Ness estimated 40 dancers, ages 4 to 65, came out to perform to WALK THE MOON’s “Shut Up and Dance.” The group practiced for the surprise performance at two rehearsals in July, and Ness posted a video of the dance online so more could join in. What started out as just a few instructors dancing next to the pavilion soon grew into a huge crowd of dancers with an ever larger audience.

“I’ve always wanted to do it, actually,” Ness said of the flash mob. “And we just found the perfect venue for it.”

Shut Up and Dance

SHUT UP AND DANCE – Dancers from Silhouette Dance Company perform a routine to WALK THE MOON’s “Shut Up and Dance” for a crowd gathered at the pavilion at Old Settlers Reunion. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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Meeting Previews for Wednesday, July 29, 2015 http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/meeting-previews-for-wednesday-july-29-2015/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/meeting-previews-for-wednesday-july-29-2015/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:01:59 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93562 CHICO ISD – Chico School Board will meet 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, to discuss repairing the middle school roof, making the baseball/softball complex ADA compliant and to discuss financial issues. The board meets in room 104 at Chico Elementary.

BRIDGEPORT ISD – Bridgeport School Board has called a special meeting Monday, Aug. 3, to workshop the district’s 2015-2016 budget. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Bridgeport ISD’s Central Office on 2107 15th Street.

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Sailor with local ties finishes 11th http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/sailor-with-local-ties-finishes-11th/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news/sailor-with-local-ties-finishes-11th/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:59:45 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93560 Jacopo Rizzi, the grandson of David and Susan Ray of Bridgeport and Mary Ray of Frisco, placed 11th in the 420 Class World Championships in Castle Bay Karatsu, Japan.

He and fellow Italian sailor Matteo Barison tallied 125 points over 12 races to garner 10th out of the 72-boat field in the open division.

It was Rizzi’s first appearance at the world championships. He and Barison have trained together for nine months.

After returning to Venice, Italy, he will return to training, upgrading to the 470 – the same class boat used in the Olympics.

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News Briefs for Wednesday, July 29, 2015 http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news-briefs/news-briefs-for-wednesday-july-29-2015/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/news-briefs/news-briefs-for-wednesday-july-29-2015/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:59:08 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93558 BRIDGEPORT

CHAMBER LUNCHEON – The Bridgeport Chamber luncheon is 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, at the Bridgeport Community Center. Cost is $10. RSVP by noon Wednesday, Aug. 19, to donnamann@bridgeportchamber.org or call 940-683-2076.


FREEDOM TEXAS – Freedom Texas will meet 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in the meeting room at Pizza Hut, 601 S. Washburn St., in Decatur. The group educates people about the sovereignty, security and self-sufficiency of Texas and promotes its eventual independence. Call Brenda Vaughn, 940-748-2535 or go to freedomtexas.org.

STEAM PROGRAM – Students in third through fifth grade are invited to join us for STEAMing Tuesday nights at Decatur Public Library. Activities will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Call 940-393-0920 or visit www.decaturpubliclibrary.com.

LUNCH ‘N LISTEN – Every Tuesday Decatur Public Library will have Lunch ‘N Listen at noon in the reading garden. Bring a lunch and listen to a librarian read from a favorite book. Call 940-393-0290.

CHISHOLM TRAIL DAYS – The Chisholm Trail Days rodeo is Aug. 20-22. Sponsorships are available. Call Zane Lasater, 940-255-9375. The parade is 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, in downtown Decatur. Throughout the day there will be live music, theatrical gunfights and kids activities. Call Decatur Main Street, 940-627-6158.

HELPING WARM – Legend Bank in Decatur is collecting food for Wise Area Relief Mission through Aug. 15.


CHAMBER RAFFFLE – Paradise Chamber of Commerce is selling raffle tickets for a chest freezer and 150 pounds of meat from K-Bar Dairy, including steaks, hamburger, roasts and sausage. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at Paradise City Hall, Hometown Tees, K-Bar Dairy, Skin and Body Works or Mann Refrigeration. Email info@paradisetexaschamber.org.


COLLECTING FOOD – Rhome Best Value Pharmacy, 400 S. Main, in Rhome is collecting donations for Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM). Donations may be dropped off at the pharmacy 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

NEW HOURS – The Rhome Library’s summer hours are: closed Monday, 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.


FIREFIGHTERS NEEDED – The Runaway Bay Volunteer Fire Department is searching for new members. Applicants must be 18 years or older and pass a background check. Call Runaway Bay Fire Chief Brian Bernardo at 940-391-9158 or City Hall at 940-575-4745.


NUTRITION CLASS – A nutrition class for cancer patients and caregivers is 1 p.m. Friday, July 31, at the Cancer Center at Wise Regional Health System.

VETERANS BREAKFAST – The Wise County Veterans Group will hold its weekly breakfast 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Decatur Civic Center. All Wise County veterans are invited to attend.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES – Wise Hope Crisis Center is holding its annual school supply drive for children whose lives have been affected by family violence. School supplies and monetary donations may be dropped off at the outreach office, 608 N. Bus 287, in Decatur. Call Jael Mares, 940-626-4585.

CASA TRAINING – Court Appointed Special Advocates for Wise and Jack Counties’ next volunteer training class starts Aug. 4. Call 940-627-7535. www.casawise.org

SUPPORT GROUP – The Alzheimer’s Support Group meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, in the boardroom of Wise Regional Health System’s West Campus in Decatur. The group is for people caring for others with any type of dementia. Call Richard Sides, 940-255-0244.

SPECIAL NEEDS BASEBALL – Made 2 Thrive and Wise County Special Needs Baseball is getting ready for their fall season. Participants must be 3 or older to play. Registration is $20 through Aug. 8 and increases to $50 after the deadline. Registration forms are available at www.made2thrive.org.

RANCHERS GATHERING – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County is having a Ranchers Gathering Thursday, Aug. 13, at the First Baptist Church in Decatur. Doors open at 5:30, and cost is $10, which includes dinner. Jason Cleere, associate professor and Extension beef cattle specialist, will present “Top 10 Ways to Generate Dollars in the Cattle Business.” The agriculture trade show will have more than 20 booths. Pre-register by Aug. 12. Call the Extension office, 940-627-3341, or come by 206 S. State St.

DRIVERS NEEDED – Wise County Committee on Aging needs volunteer drivers to deliver hot meals to eligible Meals on Wheels participating seniors. Volunteers not only deliver meals, but they also monitor the welfare of clients on their routes. Volunteers must be licensed, insured, pass a background check and be at least 18 years old. Training and orientation is provided. WCCA has other volunteer roles as well. Call 940-627-5329.

STOCKINGS FOR SOLDIERS – Fabric in any color or length is needed for North Texas Stockings for Soldiers. It does not need to be Christmas material. Call Janice Millican, 940-627-4220.


FORESTBURG FESTIVAL – The 35th annual Forestburg Watermelon Festival is Saturday, Aug. 8. The festival’s parade starts at 10:30 a.m. with entries lining up at 9:30 a.m. at the school. This year’s theme is “Honoring Our Community Centers.” Entries are available at the Forestburg Store, post office or by calling Buck at 940-841-0204. The festival’s salsa contest is 9 to 10 a.m. at the Atkin’s building. There will be an old-fashioned bed turning, or quilt show, where quilters talk about their creations at 11:30 a.m. 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. CAll 940-964-2483.

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2015 Volleyball Preview: Ready for next wave – Lady Eagles prepare to follow up title runs http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/sports/2015-volleyball-preview-ready-for-next-wave-lady-eagles-prepare-to-follow-up-title-runs/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/sports/2015-volleyball-preview-ready-for-next-wave-lady-eagles-prepare-to-follow-up-title-runs/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:56:55 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93556 Graduating seven seniors and losing one other major contributor from a state champion team might lower expectations but not for Decatur coach Claire Gay.

Entering her ninth season with the Lady Eagles, Gay said the bar remains just as high as ever for her squad.

Returning to Court

RETURNING TO COURT – The Decatur Lady Eagles start practice Monday, trying for a third straight state title. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“The standard for Decatur volleyball never changes,” Gay said. “They know that. I’m not going to let up on them. The standard is set and I’m never going to default from that. Decatur volleyball is on the map and they have to carry it on.”

The Lady Eagles graduated their top three hitters – Caroline Lowery, Makayla Mayfield and Cooper Martin – and all-state setter – Stormi Leonard – from last year’s 40-10 team that captured a second straight state crown.

While unproven on the court, Gay is confident in the next wave of talent that is ready to step forward.

“They are definitely looking forward to it and very eager to prove themselves,” Gay said. “We have seven returning players. They were kids on varsity that did a lot of learning in practices and were key to our success.

“We’ll have a learning curve and will have to figure out lineups.”

The Lady Eagles will welcome back Dylana Hutchins as a middle blocker. The senior missed a significant portion of the season after suffering an injury.

“She’s back fully healthy and really stepped forward and has been a good influence,” Gay said.

Hutchins put down 102 kills and made 44 blocks.

Decatur brings back Emily Oxford and Kelsie Worley, who filled in at middle blocker after the loss of Hutchins. Oxford had 105 kills and 104 blocks. Worley contributed 29 kills and six blocks.

Libero Maclaine Lowery returns to lead the Lady Eagles’ defense. She made 482 digs last season – second on the team.

The Lady Eagles will look for someone new to be their setter for the first time in four seasons. Presley Gibson, who had 13 assists last year, will compete for time at setter with newcomer Haley Griffin.

The work begins Monday.

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Volleyball: Old face with new surroundings – Decatur libero returns with mostly new lineup http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/sports/volleyball-old-face-with-new-surroundings-decatur-libero-returns-with-mostly-new-lineup/ http://www.wcmessenger.com/2015/sports/volleyball-old-face-with-new-surroundings-decatur-libero-returns-with-mostly-new-lineup/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:56:03 +0000 http://www.wcmessenger.com/?p=93553 Arriving for the first day of team camp Tuesday, Maclaine Lowery found herself surrounded by fresh faces.

Gone are many of the familiar teammates she celebrated with on the court after the final point of Decatur’s second straight title last November in Garland.

Familar Face

FAMILIAR FACE – Maclaine Lowery started for the Decatur Lady Eagles at libero during the run to the 2014 state title. She is back with a new cast to try to defend that title. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It’s kind of different. It’s definitely a different dynamic,” said the junior libero. “But it’ll be a cool experience. It’s a whole new season.”

And as one of the few returning players to see action in the title match against Argyle, Lowery is looking forward to taking on an even larger, more vocal role as Decatur starts a title defense. The Lady Eagles start workouts Monday.

“Coach [Claire Gay] and I talked about being more vocal and being more supportive of people,” Lowery said.

Gay expects Lowery, along with returning varsity players and seniors Dylana Hutchins, Emily Oxford and Presley Gibson, to welcome the challenge of stepping forward as the team’s new leaders.

“They learned a lot last year and know the expectations,” Gay said. “Between [Lowery] and the other ones back they are handling that role well.”

Last year taking over as the libero, Lowery adjusted quickly to the speed of the game. In her second full season on varsity, she finished second in digs with 482. She also served at a 92 percent clip with 48 aces – fifth on the team.

“It was a big learning experience going from basically just scrimmaging to playing girls going to Division I schools,” Lowery recalled.

By the end of the season and especially in the playoffs, her play on the back row was critical in the Lady Eagles’ wins over Big Spring and Argyle. She made a team-best 18 digs in the state final against Argyle and 21 in the comeback win over Bushland.

“She’s grown up a lot in this game, especially adjusting to the speed at which this game happens,” Gay explained.

As a libero, she has to be relentless in getting to the ball. She describes her role as being the setter of the back row.

“You’re in control of the defense,” Lowery said. “You have to be vocal and stay on your feet. I love it. I love having to be everywhere.”

She especially enjoys making digs off big hits from opponents.

“Nothing is more satisfying than having a rival on the other side and digging a ball,” Lowery said.

And while some may not expect her to be making those digs again late into November, she’s not lowering her expectations.

“We’re ready to push through the adversity of having to rebuild,” Lowery said. “We have a lot of new girls that have been growing all offseason. We’re ready to go out and win titles.”

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