Posted on 27 August 2014.
It’s not black-and-white, but Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Davey Edwards did get some direction from the Decatur City Council Monday evening on the issue of sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
Exceptions are rare.
Common sense is the key.
City ordinance requires that whenever a house is built or a piece of property is developed, curbs, gutters and sidewalks must be installed, or property owners must deposit the money to build them with the city, so they can be done the next time the street is upgraded.
“Granting variances is as much art as it is science,” City Attorney Mason Woodruff said. “You first try to look at the ordinance, but sometimes it’s a round peg and it just won’t fit in a square hole. You’ve got to use common sense.
“It’s not possible to write guidelines that will account for every possible situation. That’s why you have people on the commission who have good judgment, good sense and some experience with properties.”
P&Z had two requests on the council’s agenda Monday. One asked “how best to proceed” when citizens request variances to the ordinance. The other asked how the funds are handled when citizens escrow the money with the city.
“We are seeing a lot more [variance requests] over the last year-and-a-half,” Edwards said. “We still want to do it black-and-white – here’s the ordinance. We want them to understand that we’re held to the ordinance.
“I guess we just want the council to say, ‘You’re OK, you’re doing a good job.’ It makes us feel better.”
The consensus was that P&Z is doing its job – and once in a while, that may mean granting a variance.
MAKING AN EXCEPTION
That’s exactly what the council did Monday, approving the P&Z’s unanimous recommendation that property owner Stephen Eckert not be required to install just over 95 feet of sidewalk along Miller Street as he re-plats and develops a property at 300 Shoemaker.
The Miller Street side is well above street level and has an old stone retaining wall that would have to come out. The project would likely cost around $25,000, City Engineer Earl Smith said.
That would be the city’s expense, since the wall is in the city’s right-of-way.
“It’s not much different from the original owner putting in curb, gutter and sidewalk,” Mason Woodruff said. “From that point forward it’s our problem.”
Cary Bohn said it was the first time he’d seen the city grant a variance since he’s been on the council.
“I’ve seen the council before just follow a straight line on it,” he said. “Usually when we deny these, the big issue is safety – so I guess what we’re saying here is, this a big enough expense, a big enough burden, to not put in a sidewalk.
“I know we can’t quantify it completely, but it’s a healthy discussion to have.”
In general, Mayor Martin Woodruff said there are no written guidelines other than the ordinance itself.
“My judgement would be that the ordinance needs to be followed at all times, unless there is an unusual situation where the commission can be convinced that not enforcing the standards would be appropriate,” he said.
Planning Director Dedra Ragland brought in a chart showing all the variance requests back through 2007. In those seven years, including this year so far, the council has fielded 36 requests. Twenty-five have been approved – seven in the city’s ETJ and 17 along state highways (one was both).
Until Monday, only two had been approved that did not fit one of those categories – both in 2007.
TRACKING THE FUNDS
The P&Z also wanted to know how the city handles escrowed funds. Edwards got a clear answer.
The city deposits those funds into its street improvement account and keeps track of whose money is in there, and how much. That money is earmarked for that specific project. Going forward, the city will also create a liability entry on its books, making it clear that the escrowed money does not belong to the city.
“We treat it like a water deposit, because it’s really not our money,” City Manager Brett Shannon said. “Regarding the question of somebody paying in escrow and it being used somewhere else, that’s never happened. That violates the whole spirit of escrowing funds.”
Shannon said the record includes not only the property owner’s name, but the legal description of the property. The funds are attached to the property itself.
“Whenever we do the project, we use that money,” he said. “That’s what we did on Deer Park [which was paved over the summer]. We knew we had Crossroads Church escrowed, so when we re-did the street we put in the curb and gutter.”
If a resident escrows the funds, then decides to do the project himself, he can get the funds back and build his own sidewalk.
“I think a lot of the public that comes in and they’re asking for that variance, that’s their concern – ‘If I’m going to do that, where does it go?’” Edwards said. “I think if they understood that it does go to improving their lot, they’d be more willing to take that option.”
CITY, ENGINEER TO MEET ON RAW WATER LINE BREAKS
With Public Works Director Earl Smith leaving at the end of the month, Decatur city officials were already planning to meet with engineer Jeff James at the Fort Worth firm Kimley-Horn next week. In the absence of their staff engineer, it’s likely they will look more to Kimley-Horn until a successor is found.
Now, water line breaks will be on the agenda.
Decatur crews repaired a break Aug. 12 in the 20-inch PVC water transmission line that brings raw water from Lake Bridgeport into the city’s treatment plant. It was the latest of “three or four” breaks in the last six months – in a line that is less than 10 years old.
“It seems like this raw water line has given us more problems than normal, for whatever reason, this summer,” City Manager Brett Shannon said Tuesday. “Until this last one, it was concentrated in one general area. This one was quite a bit farther west.”
Shannon said he and Smith are investigating to see where the breaks have been. The line was installed in phases and may have been put in by different contractors.
Although the city has funds built into the budget for these types of repairs, they are getting expensive.
“Most of the time, we’ve had to bring in an outside contractor with a big track hoe, just to dig it up,” he said. “It’s a big pipe, and it’s 10 or 12 feet deep in some places.
“Typically, it costs around $10,000 – not including my men’s labor,” he added. “It’s more than a slight nuisance.”
So far, the city’s water supply has not been affected – in fact, water users likely never noticed, since the city’s storage tanks were full and the plant was back up and running before they emptied.
Some of the breaks can be fixed in four or five hours, he noted, while others take 10 or 12. The recent one was fixed and covered up when workers realized they had gotten a bad clamp and had to dig it up again. The whole process took more like 20 hours.
Shannon said they’ll be asking James to look into the process, providing him with photos and other information.
“We want to have the discussion with Jeff, tell him here’s what we’re finding when we get these breaks,” he said. “Whether it’s the soil, bad pipe or whatever it is – we’d like for them to stop.”
Posted on 27 August 2014.
One of Decatur High School’s newest teachers, Meghan Woodall, has only been in Wise County for a couple of months, but it already feels like home.
Although she graduated with a master’s degree in agriculture education in 2010, she didn’t start her teaching career until Monday after working at stock shows for the past several years. Woodall said she was waiting for the right opportunity to come along – namely, an ag teaching position at DHS.
Not only would it give her a chance to work with a successful ag program, she also gets to work with her mentor and former high school ag teacher, Jim Allsup.
As a freshman at Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Woodall was a student in Allsup’s intro to ag class. She also worked with him through FFA both her freshman and sophomore years before Allsup left Calallen for a job in Decatur.
She now finds herself teaching the very class Allsup once taught her.
After graduating high school in 2005, Woodall attended Texas A&M University. It was there that the mentorship between the two really began.
“Throughout college, he was my right-hand man to call on,” Woodall said, adding that she’d often email him to get his feedback on projects she was working on.
After college, Woodall began an internship in the livestock office of the San Antonio Stock Show, and that led to a full-time position in the horse show. Allsup would introduce her to Decatur FFA students when they would attend the show. It gave Woodall the opportunity to see both the success of the program and how much support it received from the community.
Those factors, plus Decatur’s rural atmosphere, drew her to her new home.
“The city life might be for some people, but I grew up in a suburban-type area outside of Corpus, so I wanted a more rural environment,” she said. “The interactions and the connections are a little bit different when you are in a smaller town.
“Definitely the success Mr. Allsup has seen inspired me, and then just knowing how much the community wraps around the program, that’s important as an ag teacher to have that support.”
Her interaction with students participating in area leadership camp this summer gave her even more peace of mind that she had found the right place.
“To get to meet the kids and see the kids take on their leadership roles and working as a team, that was really inspiring to me,” she said. “It also kind of reinforced that Decatur was where I wanted to be and needed to be.”
Allsup said he’s wanted to teach with his former student for a long time.
“When I called her and said Decatur has an opening, she turned around 30 minutes later and said she had her application in,” Allsup said.
He believes her experience working in the industry will bring a level of expertise to the ag program, which includes teacher Joey Brooke in addition to Woodall and Allsup.
The trio should make a good team, Woodall said.
“Mr. Brooke is our shop and ag mechanics guru, Mr. Allsup is the horticulture guy for sure, and then my background is in animal science,” she said.
After 25 years of teaching, Allsup knows not all of his students will enter an agriculture-related career, but they can all learn important lessons nonetheless.
“If they can come in here and learn about leadership and work ethic, then we’ve done our job,” he said.
As of this school year, he can witness firsthand how those lessons students learned in high school can carry into their careers.
And he’ll still be there to offer any advice to his former student and fellow teacher.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
Last year, Decatur resident Laura Jeanne went to Tampa, Fla. to compete as a novice in the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Last week, the competition was in Philadelphia.
Jeanne medaled in all five events she entered – including archery.
“Archery was awesome,” Jeanne said. “I was the only one in my class, but I got a score of 528, and a perfect score is 720. Last year, I only got a 325. So, I’m proud of that improvement.”
Jeanne, a former Army helicopter pilot and Texas State Guard member who fought in Desert Storm, was confined to a wheelchair in 2009 after a horse training accident paralyzed her from the waist down.
But it hasn’t slowed her down.
In addition to archery, Jeanne got gold medals in bowling, carding a 309 over three games, and air pistol – an event offered for the first time at the 34th Games.
“That was the best I’ve ever bowled in my life,” Jeanne said.
She also took silver in air rifle and javelin.
Archery is Jeanne’s favorite event. She even has a range set up on her property so that she can shoot her bow and arrow at home.
“This time of year I get up at dawn to go train,” she said. “It’s too hot in the afternoons.”
Jeane’s pistol shooting also improved at this year’s games. It was an event she had never entered before.
“I almost dropped out of it because I was doing horrible in training when we left, and this was the first year they were offering it, and none of us knew anything about it,” Jeanne said.
Her coach told her to try anyway, and had her practice on air rifle targets, which are smaller than air pistol targets. That ended up working to Jeanne’s advantage when she won the gold medal in that event.
“Last year I didn’t have any competition because I was a novice. This year I had competition, so I’m prouder of the medals,” Jeanne said.
Her coach and recreational therapist, Donna Geron, is also glowing from the wins.
“For her to do this well this year, I’m real proud of her,” Geron said.
Geron, who coaches Jeanne in air rifle, air pistol and bowling, said they started training at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth two months before the games.
“They’ve been really accommodating over there to let us use their facilities to train,” Geron said.
Jeanne doesn’t start training for the 35th games until next May, but she’ll stay busy practicing bowling and perfecting her other skills on her own.
She’s also preparing for the Valor Games this October in San Antonio – an event held four times a year and open for any veteran or public service employee with a disability.
“They let in active duty, veterans, public service officials, anyone like that who suffers from an injury,” Jeanne said. “And it doesn’t have to be physical. It could be PTSD, amputees, anything like that. It’s not just wheelchair games.”
The Veterans Wheelchair Games is put on annually by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The Valor Games are run by the VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Jeanne said she would eventually like to enter archery competitions that aren’t just restricted to wheelchair athletes.
“I want to find stuff that’s outside the VA, something around here, to keep me busy,” Jeanne said.
Jeanne uses the donation money in a VA fund in order to attend the Wheelchair Games. Next year, they will be held in Dallas, so she doesn’t expect costs to be too high – she only has to pay for a hotel.
She said she anticipates each new Wheelchair Games like she anticipates Christmas – excitement that the day will come, then relief when it’s over, especially when the event is held in a big city like Philadelphia.
“You have to wait a whole year for something so big that you’re so excited for, but at the end, you wouldn’t want it more than once a year, because it’s such a big event,” Jeanne said. “I like it here – it’s quiet. I don’t know how people live in the city.”
Posted on 27 August 2014.
The public will have a chance to learn details and offer feedback on the 2014-2015 school year budget at Decatur Wednesday.
The school district will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rate at a meeting 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates St. Following the hearing, the board will vote to adopt the budget and tax rate.
The district is proposing a total tax rate of $1.29 per $100 valuation for the 2014-2015 school year. That includes a $1.04 maintenance and operations tax rate and $0.25 for debt service. It represents a one-cent decrease from the current year’s tax rate.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
In the world of gospel music, Joy Roberts of Decatur is no stranger to awards.
In 2012 she earned the International Country Gospel Music Association’s Horizon award as its most promising rising star. Last year she was named the ICGMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year.
So what was left for this year? How about Album of the Year?
That’s the award Roberts captured at the group’s annual three-day music event Aug. 7-9 in West Plains, Mo.
The album, titled “Choices,” was recorded in January in Nashville. One song off the album, “Straight and Narrow,” was released in June to 1,000 radio stations nationwide. It debuted at No. 44 on the Nashville Power Source chart and has since climbed to No. 15.
Roberts was honored at the 58th annual celebration of the ICGMA at the West Plains Civic Center. Three days of comedy and music culminates in the awards ceremony.
Joy’s roots in gospel and country music are deep. She grew up singing at family gatherings and church while perfecting her horsemanship. As a young wife and mother, she was invited to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo to compete in the “Ranch Girls Barrel Race” for 16 years.
After losing her children’s father when they were 9 and 7, she spent the next several years trying to provide all she could to help them through various school and sports activities. They both went to college on rodeo scholarships.
In the meantime, she met and married Cotton Roberts, who helped with her daughters’ rodeo activities. For years, Cotton and Joy ministered at roping events, bull ridings, churches and any other place they could. Now they own and operate two businesses in Decatur – New Frontier Insurance and Cowgirl Auto Sales.
In addition to solo appearances, Roberts also sings with Texas Praise and is a regular on “The Little Branson Show” at the Decatur Civic Center.
Her CDs are available at David’s Western Wear as well as on her website, joyrobertsministries.com.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
After a month of practices and two scrimmages, the Decatur Eagles will tee up the football for real Friday night.
The Eagles open the era under new head coach Mike Fuller at Springtown at 7:30 p.m.
Decatur, coming off a 9-4 season that included a trip to the third round of the playoffs, wants to get off on the right foot against the Porcupines.
“This is important. It sets the tempo for how the rest of the season is going to go,” said Decatur senior center Jacob Hartsell.
Fuller, who enters the season with a record of 109-49 in 14 seasons split at Coppell and Colleyville Heritage, longs for a win to start his Decatur tenure. But he is also keeping the game in perspective.
“We want to try to win. But we don’t want to put too much stock in this first game,” Fuller said. “You do everything you can to win it, but we’re hoping to build and improve by the time we get to that first district game.”
Over the past month, Fuller has seen steady growth on both sides of the ball. The Eagles took a big leap forward between their first scrimmage against Kennedale and Thursday’s showing against Princeton.
But Fuller is quick to point out that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“Three weeks in, obviously you wouldn’t expect us to be where we’ll be in weeks five or six,” Fuller said. “I have a good feel for what the guys can do.”
Offensively, the Eagles head into the opener unsettled up front after the loss of guard Rickey Roberts for the season. Graham Cowdrey and Terry Hogan are working at the spot.
“The offensive line is having to cope and guys are stepping up,” Hartsell said. “It hurts, but we’re going to overcome it.”
Justin Myers will make his first start at quarterback for the Eagles and will be throwing to a completely new set of receivers that include Ryan Durdon, Payton McAlister and Gunnar Parker.
“We’re coming together,” Durdon said. “We have things we need to fix, but the effort is there.”
Defensively, the Eagles will be tested by Springtown and its pair of big-play threats – running back Ryan Snow, who ran for 1,154 yards last year, and receiver Dillon Springfield, who also might line up at quarterback.
Springfield, who had 681 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in 2013, has shared time at quarterback with Caleb Chesney and Tyler Hickman this fall.
“No matter where [Springfield] plays, he’s scary,” Fuller said.
DECATUR (0-0) AT SPRINGTOWN (0-0)
7:30 p.m. at Porcupine Stadium
Decatur: Harris Rating 212
Notable: Eagles play first game under new coach Mike Fuller.
Springtown: Harris Rating 198
Notable: The Porcupines went 6-6 last year and made the area round of playoffs.
Harris line: Decatur by 11
Posted on 27 August 2014.
Playing larger 5A and 6A schools, the 4A Decatur Lady Eagles went 6-2 over the weekend at the Northwest ISD Tournament.
The strong showing was not enough to keep the defending state champion atop the 4A rankings. Decatur (13-6) fell to second in the Texas Girls Coaches Association poll released Monday. Bushland ascended to the top of the rankings.
Decatur brought home second in the silver bracket of the event after a loss to Rockwall Heath Saturday, 25-19, 25-12.
The Lady Eagles beat Frisco Wakeland, 25-18, 25-23, and Midway 23-25, 25-21, 25-17, to reach the bracket final.
A tight 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 loss Friday to Prosper sent Decatur to the silver bracket.
Decatur started the tournament with four straight wins. The Lady Eagles beat Hereford, 25-18, 20-25, 25-13. The Lady Eagles swept Birdville 25-18, 25-16, and Lamar 25-20, 25-20.
Caroline Lowery put down 81 kills over the course of the tournament. Makayla Mayfield recorded 67 kills, and Cooper Martin 50.
Setter Stormi Leonard doled out 194 assists.
Maclaine Lowery and Mayfield served up six aces each. Courtnie Roberts and Caroline Lowery recorded five aces.
Defensively, Mayfield made 82 digs. Caroline Lowery had 74, and Leonard 62.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
The Decatur boys and girls cross country teams opened the season with victories at the Friday Night Hawk Invitational.
“It was a great night,” said Decatur coach David Park. “Everyone competed well.”
Jessica Kyle held off teammate Georgina Palomo to win the 5A race and lead the Lady Eagles to the division title. Kyle finished the two-mile course in 12:31. Palomo was second in 12:34.
The Decatur girls placed six runners in the top 10. Paolo Palomo ran 13:01 for fifth place. Elizabeth Culpepper finished seventh in 13:07. Nicole Neighbors ran 13:11 for eighth. Lluvia Ramos took ninth in 13:14.
Hope Fuller came in 12th in 13:46, and Nancy Torres 14th in 14:02.
For the Decatur boys, Parker Cullop finished second in 10:42 on the two-mile course to lead the Eagles to victory. Tyler Wilson took sixth in 11:17. Hunter Helm crossed the finish line in 11:49. Charles Doubrava came in 11th in 11:52. Bryse Hoyt ran 11:157 for 12th.
Joaquin Aldape took 16th in 12:02, Wyatt Allsbrooks 22nd in 12:21, and Cason Lowe 30th in 12:41.
“That’s how we’ve got to run. We’ve got to run tight,” Park said.
Decatur will head to Denton’s North Lakes Park Saturday to run in the tough Marcus I Invitational.
“It’s the toughest competition we’ll see all year,” Park said. “You go out and see where you’re at.”
The Decatur girls will run in the 6A 5K race. The Decatur boys will also compete in the 5K in the 6A division.
The races start at 7 a.m.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
Frankie Louise Douglas, 89, of Decatur, died Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, surrounded by all her girls.
Graveside service is 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Gooseneck Cemetery in Graham.
Frankie was born June 16, 1925, in Bunger, to Gertrude and Frank Sharp. She married Billy Bob Douglas Feb. 25, 1950, in Bunger. She attended the Church of Christ.
She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters Nola Sharp, Marie Steadham and Mary Dell Crosthwait; and her husband, who died in 2008.
She is survived by her daughters and beloved sons-in-law Janet Fiel and husband, Larry, Julie McDonald and husband, Jim, Jackie Irick and husband, J.W., and Jerri Wilson and Alton Hendrickson; grandchildren Jeannie, Jodi, Mark, Kevin, Matt, Bonnie and Robert; great-grandchildren Kiran, Talya, Ian, Luke, Cohen, Landry, Charlotte and Sophie; and close friend of the family, Pablo Rivas.
Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.
Posted on 27 August 2014.
Becky Rushing, 61, a homemaker, died Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Decatur.
Memorial service is 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur with Gerre Joiner officiating.
Becky was born May 3, 1953, in Decatur to Newell and Margaret (Parish) Adams. She married Michael Rushing Dec. 12, 1996, in Decatur. Becky was a former director of Abundant Life Children’s Home for several years.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Michael Rushing.
Survivors include her daughter, Michelle Haiduk of Decatur; sons Jerry Rushing and Aaron Rushing, both of Decatur; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
Memorials may be made to a charity of your choice.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
Even as a tot, 16-year-old Ben Lunday of Decatur didn’t give his parents the answers they expected.
At 2, he was playing in the yard while his mother, Kristi, tended her plants. Although she can’t recall what exactly he was doing, she remembers scolding him over and over.
“Finally, I told him again, ‘Ben, stop doing that!’” his mother recalled. “He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, don’t get so ‘zasperated’ (exasperated). I knew at that point what I had.”
When he was 6, Ben played with a toy truck that bore “H20″ on the side.
When his dad, David, asked him if he knew what that meant, Ben responded: “Yeah, those are the elements that make up water.”
“Not the answer I was looking for,” his father laughed. “I was just expecting him to say water.”
David asked his son how he knew about elements and Ben replied, “They’re in the periodic table, Dad.”
When David asked how he knew about that, Ben informed him he’d been reading the third-grade level science book his dad had given him.
Ben took the SAT as a freshman. David picked him up after the test and asked how it went.
“It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be,” Ben replied.
“Again, not the answer I was looking for,” David said.
Ben scored in the 90th percentile.
“That kind of stuff,” David said.
Much like his unexpected replies to routine questions, Ben will return to class this fall – but not at Decatur High School.
On Monday, the high school junior will begin classes at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) at the University of North Texas in Denton.
The residential program is open to juniors and seniors of Texas high schools who are “high achievers and interested in mathematics and science.”
The two-year program includes a rigorous academic curriculum of college coursework taught by university faculty.
“I am very excited, but there is a sense of apprehension,” Ben said. “It will definitely be the first time that I will struggle to gain understanding and do well in classes. I expect to become a better scholar, more academic and how to better learn and apply my knowledge to the world.”
Ben’s parents admit raising their son was fairly easy.
“I’ve never had to help him with homework,” his dad said, “I’ve never had to say, ‘Do your homework’ because he’s always ahead. We read to him and taught him to read early, but the rest has been him.”
“The challenge has been keeping him not bored,” his mom added.
They found the answer in TAMS.
After hearing about it through a family friend, Elise Keller, who completed the program in 2012, Ben knew he wanted to participate.
“I decided I wanted a more challenging academic experience, and this is really what I really wanted to do in my academic career,” said Ben, who has attended Decatur ISD for all of his schooling. “From that point, I’ve been working up to this point.
“I’ve structured my yearly schedule in school to prepare for the audition process to get into TAMS. I made sure I took challenging classes that would prepare me for the rigor of collegiate courses, and I made sure they best reflected my academic experience.”
Last November, he filed an application that listed the basics and outlined in essay form why he wanted to attend, how he’d fit into the community and other key details.
He was invited to an interview in January, where two diagnostic math exams were administered. Two months later, he received word that he had been accepted.
Approximately 600 students – from as far away as Brownsville, Harlingen and Houston – apply. Only 200 are accepted.
Those students and families attended orientation in June.
“Everything just kind of rolled from there,” Kristi said.
As a TAMS student, Ben will take on a college schedule of rigorous university courses.
“You don’t have a fully-packed day,” he said. “You have different classes on different days. Sixteen hours the first semester, and then we’ll be able to pick our schedule next semester.”
TAMS participants also have the opportunity to do research with professors.
Although the focus of the program is academic rigor, students are also required to complete community service hours and become involved in university clubs.
“They build the well-rounded person instead of just somebody who can study well,” Kristi said.
TAMS students have their own dorm, staff and curfew.
Ben will complete the program in two years, earning a high school diploma from UNT and between 60 to 72 college hours – enough to start college as a junior.
He will have a two-year advantage in the pursuit of his goals.
He plans to complete his undergraduate studies at Rice University before moving on to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Caltech (California Institute of Technology) to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees en route to becoming a particle physicist.
“Those schools are at the top of their game, very prestigious, excellent physics programs,” he said. “As for aspiring to become a particle physicist, I started looking into science and realized that the subatomic part of our world is really quite interesting. It has effects upon every single aspect of our world.”
His first step toward those goals came Thursday when he and the 199 other participants moved into McConnell Hall at UNT.
He was a little nervous, but excitement trumped all other emotions.
“I’ve always been looking for something more in high school,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a challenge. Nothing has ever really personally given me something to grab onto and challenge me to become a better scholar. This will definitely be it, and I’m ready.”
Whether they expected it or not, that is a response his parents are relieved to hear.
WISE COUNTY AT TAMS
Other members of this year’s junior cohort are Renee White of Decatur and Matt Sullivan-Green of Bridgeport.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
All Decatur policemen on the streets will be equipped with body cameras as of Sept. 1.
Police Chief Rex Hoskins said two of his officers have worn body cameras for about a year-and-a-half, and when the price of the technology dropped earlier this year, he decided to purchase enough to outfit every officer who interacts with the public regularly.
While the purchase was made long before the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., Hoskins said he could see what a difference a camera could have made in that situation.
“If this was activated and the officer did what he was supposed to do, by policy, there would be no ifs, ands or buts about what happened. We’d have it on video,” Hoskins said.
Decatur PD has tested five or six video cameras over the past several years, Hoskins said. He chose Taser’s Axon Flex cameras, which can be attached to an officer’s glasses, when he made his initial purchase last year. The two officers who wear the camera work traffic and overnight hours.
Hoskins said the department used to get complaints about traffic officer Keith Hilton, who was eager to wear the camera so an accurate picture could be shown.
“We always got complaints about him being rude, that he’d throw their driver’s license at them, stuff like that,” Hoskins said. “Now when people call up, we look at it and say, ‘No, it didn’t happen. He handed you your license. Would you like to come up here and look at the video?’ They drop it.”
He said the main reason he decided to purchase the cameras was not for officer discipline, but for the collection of evidence. The body cameras allow for the collection of both more and better quality evidence than the traditional dash-mounted cameras in police vehicles, which the department also uses.
For traffic stops, Hilton said the video captures exactly what he sees, including facial reactions and items inside the car that the dash-mounted camera couldn’t pick up. For a driving while intoxicated stop where a horizontal gaze nystagmus test is given, the camera can see directly into the eyes of the driver. The camera will also pick up more subtle movements like swaying back and forth.
Hilton said reviewing video could also be a way to help improve the officer’s skills.
“If an officer gets into a fight and ends up getting hurt, you can go back and review the tactics that were used,” he said.
Another useful feature is the 30-second pre-record buffer. While the officers manually begin and end the recording, the camera is constantly recording and keeping 30 seconds of video so that when the officer presses record, it automatically saves the preceding 30 seconds of video only, not audio. That can be helpful in capturing the initial infractions such as the speed on the radar gun or a car running a red light.
After seeing the success of the cameras, Hoskins ordered two more of the Axon Flex cameras along with 14 Axon Body cameras, which attach to the officer’s shirt.
The cameras are designed with battery life to function for a full 12-hour shift. Taser uses cloud technology to store the video at Evidence.com, and the video cannot be altered by officers. Officers must also go through several security steps before viewing a video. That video can then be sent to prosecutors working on the case.
County Attorney James Stainton said he has been impressed with the video submitted as evidence in cases he’s prosecuted. In addition to the added evidence on DWI cases, he said the cameras work well in domestic violence cases as well.
“In family violence situations, the victim is so stressed out, they don’t want to go outside and talk in front of a car,” Stainton said, referring to the dash-mounted camera. “With this, they can sit and have a conversation and the injuries can be seen close up.”
Decatur pays a monthly $10 storage fee per camera, and Hoskins said the technology is worth the extra cost.
“The more we can do for our officers to protect them from false claims and provide more evidence for the courts, the better off we are,” he said.
Over the next few days, officers will be trained on the policy for camera usage. Hoskins said any time an officer interacts with the public on a police matter, he wants the camera on.
In the future, Hoskins said he’d like to be able to outfit all his school resource officers with cameras as well.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
It’s not a pool, but it’s water – and when it’s 100 degrees outside, a place to get wet is all most kids are looking for.
By next summer, Decatur may have one.
Several board members of the Decatur Economic Development Corp., along with city personnel, visited the city of Springtown’s new Splash Park a few weeks ago. After a discussion at the EDC board’s meeting Thursday, Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon was asked to move forward with it as a city project, to be funded by the EDC.
The facility, which just opened this year, offers a variety of water features that spray, soak and splash as many as 40 or 50 kids at a time, on a pad surrounded by a drain. Kids can get wet – but they can’t go underwater and consequently, splash parks face none of the water treatment or safety issues that come with a pool.
The water sprays out, does its job, then runs off.
“I think this would be a good project for us to undertake,” said Decatur Mayor Martin Woodruff, a member of the EDC board. “It says something about our commitment to maintain a quality of life for our residents.”
It was EDC Director Mary Poch who first suggested that construction of a splash park might be an acceptable use of EDC funds – as a “quality-of-life” facility that would boost her ability to entice industrial clients to move to the city.
Since then, Shannon and Public Works Director Earl Smith have been checking into such facilities. The Springtown Splash Park is the closest one, and as a new installation it has some state-of-the-art components, like automatic shutoffs and multiple cameras for both security and in case of liability issues.
It cost about $450,000 to build, Shannon said, and includes four picnic areas, restrooms, fencing and a small building for pumps and equipment.
The city charges residents $2 for a day pass (it’s $4 for non-residents) and season passes can be bought for $60 per household – up to five people – or $95 for non-residents. The park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday during the summer, and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
From 6-9 each day, it is available for rent for private parties.
One thing Springtown’s pricetag did not include was a water recycling system – something Decatur would definitely want to add.
“They’re using about 85,000 gallons [of water] a day,” Shannon said. “I’d sure hate to see that go into the sewer.”
Shannon said there are several ways to re-use the water. It can be filtered and cycled back into the park, or stored for irrigation for nearby athletic fields or the landscaped areas of the park itself.
“It’s not overly expensive to do,” he said. Including a recycling system bumped Decatur’s estimate from $525,000 to $550,000.
EDC board member Jay Davidson said it would likely pay for itself in a very short time.
“It’s a two-way deal, because if you’re not using it, you have to use that much more water to water your park,” he said. “And if you add it to your wastewater, that adds to the volume in your treatment plant. So you’re kind of doubling up on it.”
Springtown welcomes people to bring food, drinks, coolers and lawn chairs – although glass containers are forbidden. Children under 12 must be supervised by an adult, and non-slip footwear is recommended.
“I was very impressed with it,” Davidson said. “I thought they finished it up well with the sidewalks, restrooms and picnic tables.”
Shannon said it complicates matters that Smith is leaving at the end of the month, but he noted that it’s really not a complex project.
“There’s a seam right around the edge, and the cost of the splash park is what is inside that, and the piping into the building,” he said. “I don’t think it took but a couple or three months.”
He said if the board wants to proceed with the project, it should be no problem getting it in place by next summer – probably in Renshaw Park where there’s plenty of parking and space.
“The good news is, it’s not like building a civic center or a fire station or some big structure that takes 12-18 months just to build it,” he said.
Shannon got a clear go-ahead, and it’s likely the next step will be a discussion with the city council.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
Decatur’s Planning and Zoning Commission wants to look at the sidewalk, curb and gutter issue – and they have put a couple of “formal requests” on the city council’s agenda for Monday.
Perhaps the most frequent variance request the commission faces is citizens asking to be excused from the requirement that they install sidewalks, curbs and gutters when they develop property.
Council policy has been to deny those requests, requiring property owners and developers to either put in the curbs, gutters and sidewalks, or deposit the money to do so in an escrow account maintained by the city.
The commission is asking the council to:
Monday’s meeting begins with a work session at 5:30, followed by the regular council meeting at 6 p.m.
Both sessions are open to the public.
The work session will be taken up mostly with reports from Planning Director Dedra Ragland on building permits, inspections, etc. Public Works Director Earl Smith will also report on a list of activities in water/wastewater, streets and other areas.
Fire Chief Mike Richardson is also scheduled to report to the council on his department’s activities.
In the regular meeting, the council will face one of those sidewalk variance requests – this one from Stephen Eckert on Miller Street, for a property he is developing on Shoemaker Street. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the variance.
Eckert’s replat request for the Shoemaker Street property, and a request from Jackie Hutto for a replat on property on Cottonwood Street, are also on the council’s agenda, along with a public hearing on the budget and tax rate.
The council meets at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut St.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
Budgeting for the Decatur Economic Development Corp. is really pretty simple.
The entity has only one source of funds – a half-cent of the city’s 1.5-cent sales tax – and has only one purpose. It exists to promote the city of Decatur and work to attract business and industry to the community to provide jobs.
The sales tax, together with a few dollars in interest, will provide the EDC with estimated income of $1,252,000 next year.
The EDC makes payments on debt that was used to build the Decatur Civic Center ($430,261) as well as water and sewer extensions and a lift station for Landmark Industrial Park ($138,551) – a total of $578,812 next year.
It spends nearly $100,000 marketing the city to potential employers, pays its personnel and sticks some money in the bank – $100,000 next year – so it has funds available to make economic incentive grants, when needed, to companies who are considering moving here.
The EDC board approved the fiscal 2014-15 budget Thursday.
With all the projected expenses covered, the EDC should bank a surplus of slightly more than $200,000.
Directors spent a little of this year’s $125,000 surplus at Thursday’s meeting, funding $28,000 in capital expenditures for the Civic Center. That action came at the city council’s request.
“Council members, during Monday’s workshop, were hoping the EDC would consider coming up with a grant to assist the Civic Center with the capital needs they’ve identified for this year,” Mayor Martin Woodruff said. He and council members Jay Davidson and Jason Wren hold seats on both boards.
“I thought that was a good idea,” he added. “It would help us on the city’s budget. Right now we’re looking at a tight budget with an increase in the tax rate.”
Woodruff suggested that rather than adding the items to the proposed new budget, they be funded out of surplus funds in the current EDC budget, which runs through the end of September.
“It looks like we could stay within our current budget for this year and make a $28,000 grant, in September, to the Civic Center, to cover those costs,” Woodruff said.
Civic Center Director Lori Sherwood itemized the proposed expenses for the board:
City Manager Brett Shannon said it will be no problem to put the action on the board’s next agenda and move the money before the end of the fiscal year.
Other highlights of next year’s EDC budget include $148,600 for salaries, $11,368 for FICA, $22,097 for the Texas Municipal Retirement System and $36,475 for health insurance – a total of $227,540 in personnel-related expenses.
The EDC also projects to spend $96,500 for marketing and promotions, $11,000 for travel and training and $8,900 on utilities.
Also at its Thursday meeting, the board voted to update its performance agreement with United Rotocraft, LLC.
The company, which operates a 55,000-square-foot facility at Decatur Municipal Airport, customizes helicopters for air medical, military, law enforcement and corporate use.
In 2010, the EDC provided a $200,000 grant to help the company renovate the building, which is owned by Wise Electric Co-op. In return, the company pledged to hire 50 additional employees by March 2015.
Thursday’s action extended that deadline to March 2020. The new agreement also updates the name of the company to Air Methods Corp. and re-sets the base number of employees to 33. Under the agreement, they must have at least 83 employees by March 2020.
Air Methods is headquartered in Englewood, Colo.
Also on Thursday, the board heard updates on current recruitment efforts from director Mary Poche and handled other routine business. The EDC’s office is in the Visitor’s Center at 106 S. Trinity.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
With 2:36 left in the live session of Thursday night’s scrimmage, Justin Myers and the Decatur offense got the ball with a chance for a two-minute drill.
The senior quarterback made the most of the opportunity. He connected with Payton McAlister for a 38-yard pass on the first play. Then after a Princeton fourth-down penalty kept the drive alive, he scored on a run from two yards out.
Myers ran for a score and threw for another in the live 30-minute session.
“We did some good things,” Myers said. “It was good to get that two-minute drive.
“I’ve still got to cut out some mistakes.”
Myers was 10-for-14 for 128 yards with one interception and a 9-yard touchdown pass to McAlister in the live session. He also teamed with Ryan Durdon for touchdown passes of 54 and 20 yards in the controlled portion of the scrimmage.
Decatur coach Mike Fuller was encouraged by the offensive performance, especially the two-minute offense with Myers finding McAlister behind the coverage.
“Justin saw the coverage and put it on him,” Fuller said. “We’ve still got a lot to clean up. But I’m proud that we made a lot of progress from last week.”
Defensively, the Eagles allowed a pair of scores in the live session. One came three plays after Princeton picked off a Myers pass and ran the ball back to the Decatur 22-yard line. Princeton’s second touchdown was set up by their quarterback breaking free for 45 yards on a fourth-and-inches near midfield.
Other than those two drives, Decatur held Princeton in check most of the night.
“We improved from last week. We tackled better. They ran a completely different offense than Kennedale,” Fuller said.
Brandon Garza picked off a pass for a second straight week.
“We’re getting more used to the defense,” Garza said. “We have a lot of people back from last year. We’ll do well as a unit.”
Mason Baur also hauled in an interception in the controlled portion of the scrimmage. He was in on three tackles for losses.
“We were doing good the first couple of sessions,” Baur said.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
The Decatur Lady Eagles cross country team finished 2013 as the runner-up in Class 3A. It will begin 2014 as the third-ranked team in the new Class 4A.
The Lady Eagles were ranked third in the Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas’ 4A preseason poll. Decatur was picked behind Liberty Hill and Kaufman.
Liberty Hill finished third last year in the 3A race at the state meet. Kaufman was fourth.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Decatur coach David Park about the rankings. “Preseason polls are respect polls. You take it for what it is. It’s a compliment of past performances. But it’s not an indicator or future success.”
Park said he agreed with Liberty Hill and Kaufman being ranked at the top with their strong returning casts. Liberty Hill brings back its entire top seven. Kaufman has five of its seven returning. Decatur returns five of its seven but lost its second-best runner, Haley Dennard, and fifth runner, Morgan Haney.
Decatur’s boys were unranked in the 4A poll after the graduation of state champion Taylor Clayton. Decatur finished eighth last year at state and graduated three of their top four.
“You don’t lose the top runner in the state and stay [in the rankings],” Park said.
The veteran coach said he’s nicknamed the boys team “The Who.”
“No one knows who our runners are,” Park joked.
The Decatur squads opened the season at the Friday Night Hawk Invite. The Eagles and Lady Eagles ran in the 6A races.
Park said he wanted to use the two-mile event to get some experience for his young teams.
“The first meet is organized chaos,” he said. “I just want the varsity boys and girls to run tight. The times are course-related. The course is slow at night because people run tentative.”
The Paradise Lady Panthers opened up fifth in the 3A poll. Eustace topped the rankings. Holliday, which shares 9-3A with Paradise, is ranked second. Jim Ned is third and East Bernard fourth.
“The kids are excited,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig about the rankings. “They know they have a lot of work to do.”
Paradise finished fifth in the old Class 2A last year.
The Alvord girls were ranked 10th in the first 2A poll.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
In the back of the latest Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine released this summer, Texas High School records are listed.
Ten years after he last touched the field as a Decatur Eagle, Brian Christian still stands as one of the top receivers in the Texas prep history with his 4,175 yards between 2002-04. His total is fourth behind a few other notable names Jordan Shipley, Mike Hicks and Cody Cardwell.
To Christian, 28, it’s a surprise.
“I don’t know where I stand,” he said. “I haven’t bought a Texas Football since 2007-08. That’s crazy. I didn’t think I’d still be in there.”
And as the game has changed to a wide-open spread attack, with quarterbacks and receivers who hone their skills all summer in 7-on-7 leagues, it is a bit of a surprise that Christian’s career total as well as his touchdown receptions in a game (6 against Little Elm in 2004) still rank among the top five in each category.
“It was rare for us to throw 30 times per game,” Christian recalled. “I saw where a high school kid threw 60 times in a game. I would love that. It’s more fun to watch.”
In 2004, few offenses and few players were more fun to watch than Decatur’s with Christian catching passes from Chandler Dane. Christian hauled in 84 passes for 1,759 yards and 24 touchdowns that season as Decatur rolled to a 12-1 record.
“It was an absolute blast,” Christian said. “We didn’t try to put up big stats. We just had a talented team.
“I wouldn’t have been the receiver I was without Chandler. All I had to do was worry about getting open and he’d get me the ball in full stride. I also can’t do an article without giving credit to the coaching staff.”
In his senior season, Christian averaged 21 yards per catch. He had six games with more than 100 yards receiving. He torched Little Elm for 307 yards and six touchdowns. The 307 yards were the seventh best at the time.
But if Decatur hadn’t been quite so good, his numbers might have been even better.
“Our senior year, we didn’t play in the second half of a lot of games,” Christian recalled. “We played in one fourth quarter in district.”
But after a 12-0 start to the season, the Eagles ran into Abilene Wylie in the third round of the playoffs. In a mistake-filled game, the Eagles fell to Wylie 14-13.
“You can’t play a better game and have more bad luck,” Christian recalled. “We outgained them by 250 yards. We had several turnovers.
“I wish we would have got beat by 40 instead of one.”
Wylie went on to win the state title after knocking out Decatur.
“We have a store in Big Lake,” said Christian, who now works for Lowery Wholesale. “I drive through the southwest part of Abilene and see the Wylie Stadium and everytime I see it, I say ‘Those sorry dogs!’”
Christian said a few years ago he went into the Wylie fieldhouse and saw the 2004 state trophy.
“I had to see it,” he said.
After his record-setting career at Decatur, Christian went to Sam Houston State University. He played his way onto the field as a true freshman and caught his first touchdown pass from former Bridgeport standout Phillip Daugherty.
But by the middle of his sophomore year, Christian had decided he was done with college football.
“I didn’t have it anymore. I lost my drive. It became a job instead of being fun,” Christian said. “I grew up wanting to play high-school football – not college football.”
Not continuing his playing career may have saved Christian’s life. Six months after he stopped playing he had heart surgery after being diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia.
“God let me enjoy football while I could,” Christian said.
While he’s humbled to still be ranked among some of the best in Texas High School football, Christian immediately claims he would much rather have the state title his relative, Caroline Lowery, won in volleyball last November.
“I’d trade all those catches for a state championship ring,” Christian said.
Posted on 23 August 2014.
The 4A top-ranked Decatur Lady Eagles fell in five games Tuesday to the 5A’s ninth-ranked Aledo Lady Cats.
Aledo took the fifth-set tiebreaker by nine points to win the match, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 18-25, 15-6.
Cooper Martin paced the Lady Eagles’ attack with 23 kills. Dylana Hutchins and Makayla Mayfield added 10 kills each. Emily Oxford put down seven, and Courtnie Roberts five.
Setter Stormi Leonard handed out 50 assists over the five game.
Defensively, Maclaine Lowery made 26 digs. Leonard added 19, Mayfield 14, Roberts 12, and Martin 11.
Oxford recorded four blocks. Mayfield had three, and Hutchins two.
Decatur (10-4) rebounded Thursday with three wins over Lamar, Hereford and Birdville in pool play at the Northwest ISD Volleyball Classic.