Power line fiasco starts fire

Wells Fargo bank in Rhome caught fire Monday after the power supply was yanked from the building in an unusual accident.

Unusual Accident

UNUSUAL ACCIDENT – Firefighters survey the scene Monday after the power supply was pulled from the Wells Fargo bank in Rhome, sparking a fire. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Just before 1 p.m., a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with a tall piece of equipment caught the power line that stretches between the electrical pole and the power supply on the building. The line was pulled down, and the power supply was ripped from the exterior wall of the bank, sparking the fire.

The driver of the pickup, Justin Cowan, works for Global Logix Inc. out of Houston. He was turning around in the parking lot, according to Rhome Police Chief James Rose.

Smoke was visible from outside the building, and Rhome and Newark fire departments were dispatched to the scene. Oncor was also called to cut off electricity to the building, and the bank was temporarily closed. According to the city of Rhome’s Facebook page, the bank is planning to re-open Thursday.

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Suspect ‘Loves’ then leaves; Man crashes car at truck stop, flees on foot

A traffic stop turned into a brief chase, crash, manhunt and arrest early Friday morning in Rhome.

Amy Michelle Reidy

Rhome Police officer Chance Garrett attempted to stop a car on Texas 114 around 12:15 a.m. when the vehicle sped to a nearby truck stop.

“For some reason, he turned into the Love’s parking lot, drove to the back part where the truckers park, jumped a curb and went down a steep embankment to the creek bed below – where he got stuck,” said Rhome Police Chief James Rose.

With the vehicle lodged in a thicket, the driver jumped out and ran into a nearby wooded area, leaving a female passenger in the car. James said the woman, identified as Amy Michelle Reidy, 39, of Decatur, was arrested on a theft $50 to $500 warrant out of Tarrant County.

Reidy was taken to Wise Regional Health System after complaining of back and shoulder pain. She was treated before being taken to the Wise County Jail.

Sonny Dale Ruble

Officers requested the fire department respond with a brush truck “with a chainsaw” to the area where the driver, who was identified by Reidy as Sonny Dale Ruble, 34, of Rhome had run into the woods.

Because Ruble’s whereabouts were unknown, Love’s went into “lockdown mode,” and an officer was later sent to the store after patrons were yelling about being unable to enter.

Rose said the car the pair was in was stolen – or at least the license plate on the car had been stolen.

As of Friday afternoon, Ruble had not been found. Officer Brody Brown said he will likely be charged with evading arrest with a vehicle and evading arrest on foot. Ruble also has outstanding warrants in both Wise and Tarrant counties, he said.

Reidy remained jailed Friday afternoon.

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Power line dispute, rancher questions placement

Johnny Vinson of Rhome is not your typical underdog. At 82, he is a rancher who has sold more land than most rural Texans could imagine owning. And he has plenty left to stand on, including more than 3,500 acres in Wise County that have ample room for dozens of gas wells, grazing cattle, a ranch house and staff living quarters.

Wrong Place

WRONG PLACE – Johnny Vinson stands on the part of his Rhome ranch where Oncor built a power line through his property. Vinson says the power company didn’t build the line where they said they would. Photo courtesy of Robert Hart, Texas Tribune.

But he is fighting an uphill battle to budge the hulking structure that splits the northwest corner of his ranch: a 345-kilovolt power line sprouting from a torn-up strip of pasture. The line, which runs 40 miles northwest of Dallas, is part of the state’s $7 billion, years-long Competitive Renewable Energy Zone initiative, completed in December, that connects windy, largely secluded, West Texas to cities that need more power.

Vinson, who has not accepted the compensation he was awarded for the line, does not oppose its existence and understands that Texans need the energy it delivers – even if it cuts through his land. “You’ve got to have right of eminent domain,” he said, “because you’ve got to progress.”

But he contends that the project should run 150 feet north of where it does – atop an older, 69-kilovolt line. That is where Texas’ largest transmission operator, Oncor, originally mapped it, but not where the company erected it. After Vinson initially objected to the move, he said he got a condemnation notice for the strip of land, and at the end, the line was quickly built.

More than three years after he negotiated the route and state regulators approved it, Vinson says he is now left with an unusable 11-acre gap between two power line easements and an unanswered question: After landowners sign off on power line routes, can transmission companies install them somewhere else?

Next month, the Public Utility Commission is set to consider a complaint Vinson lodged against Oncor. The rancher argues that transmission companies should not have authority to adjust approved routes without landowners’ consent.

Vinson, however, faces a difficult road. Utility commission staff members support Oncor’s position, and last month, an administrative law judge ruled in the company’s favor, saying that “it was clear that Oncor followed good engineering practice” on Vinson’s property. While the ruling is not binding, it will most likely play an important role in regulators’ final decision.

The other obstacle is that the power line has already been built, so any ruling against Oncor would be complicated.

Vinson’s legal team hopes his complaint will spur regulators to clear up confusion for other landowners by setting parameters for how far transmission companies can move power line routes during construction.

“If people are going to have to make a deal, they’ve got to have something they can rely on,” James Brazell, a lawyer representing Vinson, said.

Power line routes commonly move slightly after regulators approve them. But no state regulations address precisely how much leeway transmission companies have, and landowners are rarely warned that approved routes might shift.

“If there really is this kind of wiggle room, I don’t think the public knows it,” Brazell said. “Other people out there are going to get hit by this, and they’re not going to know about it.”

A spokesman for Oncor, Chris Schein, said the company had no ill intent when it moved the route on Vison’s property. The company ran into engineering problems while designing the line, Schein said – primarily the discovery of gas and water pipelines beneath the old power line that made building on the original path unsafe.

Such issues do not commonly arise until a route is being built, Schein said, because companies generally lack access to private land before regulators sign off on the route. It would be too expensive for Oncor to fully survey all potential routes ahead of time, he said.

“No one understands until you go out and really inspect where you’re constructing that it might move,” Schein said. “We do our absolute best to accommodate and to be good neighbors.”

Oncor argues that maps included in a company’s application to build a project on private land – called a certificate of convenience and necessity, or CCN – are merely “indicative” of where power lines will go, and that a company has the power to maneuver around constraints it discovers.

“The Vinsons’ position, if adopted, is dangerous and could result in infrastructure whose reliability and safety is questionable,” Oncor wrote in its response to Vinson’s complaint.

In his complaint filing, Vinson argued that validating Oncor’s position would “eviscerate” landowners’ protection from “abusive routing” and that giving companies that power would unfairly skew negotiations in their favor.

The rancher’s legal team called Oncor’s revelations about underground gas and water pipelines on Vinson’s property a “red herring.” Vinson and his lawyers said they believe that Oncor ran into difficulty with the original route after realizing it had failed to give notice of the CCN proceedings to Vinson’s neighbor to the northwest, whose property would have abutted the power line. That neighbor refused to give Oncor permission to survey his land for an easement.

Oncor denies the claim. Schein said the company followed protocol and called the argument “an attempt to muddy the waters.”

Also following the case is a group of North Texas landowners, including the city of Haslet, the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District and several homeowners associations. In March, those parties submitted a letter in a separate power line case, asking the utility commission to define the rerouting authority of transmission companies.

Schein, the Oncor spokesman, said curbing a transmission company’s route flexibility would have drastic effects in a state that is growing as rapidly as Texas.

“You run the risk of dramatically increasing the time it takes to construct transmission lines,” he said. “The state needs to be able to respond in a timely manner.”

Gazing at the hulking gray metal running across his land, Vinson said he worried for his neighbors who have fewer resources than he does.

“You can’t believe how much I’ve spent on lawyers, and I’m blessed I can afford it,” he said. “I don’t want them to get abused.”

Disclosure: Oncor was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed at www.texastribune.org/support-us/donors-and-members/.

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Linda Mason

Linda Mason

Linda Mason, 64, a retired cake decorator for Wal-Mart, died Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Rhome.

Services will be scheduled at a later date.

Linda was born July 23, 1949, in Whitney to Thelma Wilson Filbert and Clyde Chronic.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Thelma Filbert; her stepfather, Vernon Filbert; and her brother, Clyde Chronic.

Survivors include sons Johnny Chronic and wife, Ruth, of Lubbock, Allen Wayne Carter of Arkansas, Joseph Edward Carter and wife, Julie, of Kentucky and Brian Kenneth Carter of Decatur; daughter Ann Atherton of Rhome; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sisters Charlotte James of Red Oak and Wanda Jackson of Dallas; other family members and a host of friends.

The family suggests that memorials be made to any breast cancer awareness organization.

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Colin James Tucker

Dustin and Joy Tucker of Rhome announce the birth of a son, Colin James, on April 15, 2014, at North Texas Medical Center in Gainesville.

He weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long.

He has one brother: Aurhen Brickle, 8.

Grandparents are Bobby and Shawn Splawn of Boyd, Lisa and Calvin Voss and Gary Tucker of Tyler. Great-grandparents are Ben and Toots Smith of Boyd and Mark C. Osborne Jr. of Cisco.

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Rhome Councilman makes heartfelt request for collaboration

Big changes could be coming to a trademark event in the city of Rhome.

The council discussed several modifications to the traditional Pioneer Days festival at its meeting last Thursday. The festival is held the fourth weekend in September.

At the request of the event committee, officials changed the event’s name to Rhome Fall Festival “to allow for more options theme-wise” and “recover reputation from past mistakes.”

Committee members said Pioneer Days could be held later, possibly coinciding with Founders Day.

The aim, they say, is to incorporate more games and activities and create more of a carnival atmosphere instead of the old western theme.

The council also considered changing the location of the event to the park.

But the biggest change may come in response to a heartfelt request from Councilman Ronnie Moore.

A lifelong Rhome resident, Moore requested the committee collaborate with other organizations in the city to put on the event.

“This thing started because my mother helped create this deal,” he said. ” … It was the fire department and the city, they all worked together. When the function started, the fire department was always there to help. Then six years ago it just … up and smoke …

“It has to change,” he continued. “Every organization in this city is important to the city, and they all ought to be asked … This city’s got to turn around and start working together. And I know everybody’s looking at me saying, ‘Ronnie Moore is saying this?’ But this coming from my heart.”

Committee members are to meet with representatives of other organizations in coming weeks. They will present a budget at the council’s next meeting.

The festival is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26-27, with proceeds going to city parks.


The council also:

  • approved a contract with American Municipal Services for fine collection. “We add 30 percent for every violation, and they collect the 30 percent,” City Secretary Ramah Burns said. “They all do work. We just put it on an Excel sheet and get it to them. Sherrie Dast [city of Reno court administrator] said they went from three or four drawers of file folders down to about a drawer … [AMS] sends us weekly reports, monthly reports and the check. They take out their 30 percent and send us the difference. They work on payment plans, vouchers, however they can with the people who owe the fines to get collected.”
  • tentatively set the Memorial Day program for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at the Veterans Park. Speaker is J.D. Clark. Although Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson said Clark won the primary election, “has no competition” and “will be the new county judge come Jan. 1,” he is in fact opposed by Democratic candidate Jim Stegall on the November ballot.
  • approved transferring $42,000 from the general fund to the water/sewer budget, where the money “more aptly belonged” – $12,000 for the water tower lease and $30,000 as reimbursement for personnel who provide maintenance work for the city. “It’s not going to raise water bills … It’s just reallocating some money,” said Councilwoman Michelle Pittman. ” … The water department works on city buildings and services the city itself, so that $30,000 will pay the water department for their service.”
  • agreed to talk with an engineer to design a restroom facility for Family Park.

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Council, citizens debate carport issue

Carports proved to be a hot topic at the Rhome City Council meeting Thursday.

Residents engaged in a heated discussion over allowing the structures in newer parts of town, like Crown Point. The current ordinance only regulates the structures in “Old Town.”

“I’ve lived in neighborhoods before where this has been an issue, adding carports,” said resident Diane Fletcher. “What it started looking like was a trailer park … Things started looking trashy … I think it’s definitely not going to make Rhome look very good. I don’t want Rhome looking like a trailer park.”

Fellow citizen Sue Isbell concurred.

“Most of the people I’ve talked to do not want carports,” she said. “We’ve lived in that neighborhood for eight years. We had zoning restrictions, and we knew that when we moved there. This has gone on for years about putting carports there. This would depreciate our property value and take away the beauty of our neighborhood.

“We take pride in our homes, and this would not be an appropriate zoning change because it truly would bring the neighborhood values down.”

Nathan Robertson spoke up for the other side.

“I’m all for carports,” he said. “There is no homeowner’s association where we live at. The carports are going to protect my cars. Have you seen the hailstorms that came to Denton and tore up all the cars?”

“We all have garages,” Isbell retorted.

When Robertson asked if her garage was clean enough to get her car in, Isbell said one is.

“OK. Mine’s not, and I have three vehicles at my house,” he said.

When Isbell suggested he get an outbuilding to store his belongings, Robertson informed her he had one and it wasn’t big enough.

“Well you know what? Have a garage sale, I guess,” she said.

Mayor Chris Moore hammered the gavel, insisting all discussion be directed at the council.

“I’ve lived here for 24 years, and I don’t think it’s going to decrease my property value,” Robertson said. ” … There’s a lot more to worry about with eyesores than carports.”

Tony Isbell said he would not be against carports that met certain requirements. Otherwise, he said, they can be “a blight.”

“A blight is a disease and a deterioration and it takes away from everybody else, and I don’t want to do this to Rhome,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to do this to Rhome.”

Citizen Jimmy Johnson stood in the crowd and labeled himself the guilty one.

“I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed and will continue to push until you kill me,” he said, ” … a carport is nothing but a property increase in value. You don’t have one. I have one. Identical houses sitting side by side. I can get more for mine than you can get for yours. I’ve got a boat, a $20,000 little sports car – all I want to do is protect it.”

Sue offered another alternative.

“When somebody has that much property, or toys, they really need a big lot,” she said. “Why would somebody move into a neighborhood like ours and accumulate all this stuff and expect the rest of the neighborhood to adjust to what they want?”

“… and make it look like a car lot,” Fletcher added.

Later in the meeting she asked the council how much research they had done on the matter.

“It’s not a simple matter,” she said. “You’re affecting a lot of your citizens one way or another. I think some more in-depth investigation of what this can do to your community [is needed].”

The council did not approve an ordinance that outlined building standards for carports, essentially permitting them.

Instead Council member Charles Pennington volunteered to conduct an impact study, and officials will consider allowing the structures on a case-by-case basis, as suggested by Council member Jo Ann Wilson.

“I am the owner of a carport, and I’d hate to beat somebody up,” she said. “Mine is attached to my home, it has brick and the roofline goes with it. It’s served a purpose for me … I’d like to see it be a special exception because it wouldn’t just apply to Crown Point. It would apply to Old Town and any other additions that we have. It would be a one-by-one exception.”

Councilwoman Michelle Pittman agreed with the idea.

“I like that idea because I think the people that really want to have the carports, that would do a good job, will go through the effort,” she said. “If we just do a blanket one we’re more likely to have people just throw stuff up.”

The city attorney chimed in, “… and end up with something that doesn’t fit … This way the council and everybody else has input.”

Councilman Pennington asked residents who opposed the idea how they felt about the special-exception system.

“I think it’s going to inhibit the growth, or even more building of subdivisions,” Tony Isbell said.

“Jo Ann Wilson has a carport; Crown Point didn’t fall apart,” Johnson retorted. “Louis has a carport; Crown Point is still there.”

“I didn’t drive by Jo Ann Wilson’s house to get to Crown Point,” Tony Isbell said.

“But did you drive by Ramah Burns’ house?” Robertson interjected. “You had to have.”

“But that’s the older Rhome, though,” Sue Isbell said. “There were no zoning restrictions when you did that.”

Mayor Moore sounded his gavel again and allowed one more comment.

“City of Saginaw – BOOM!,” Johnson proclaimed. “And they have carports everywhere.”

The council will hold another public hearing and further discuss the matter at its meeting in June.

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Joyce Marcella Lewis

Joyce Marcella Lewis

Joyce Marcella Lewis, 83, a former longtime resident of Rhome, died Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Coryell County.

Funeral was March 30 at Pearl Baptist Church with burial at Slater Cemetery in Coryell County, under the direction of Scott’s Funeral Home of Gatesville.

Pallbearers were Larry Burk, Mark Burk, Bailey Burk, James Smith, Freddie Reed, Tom Moseley, Johnny Zuniga and Johnny Kurten.

Joyce was born Oct. 30, 1930, in Rhome to Lalla Alla Judge Burk and Steve Archly Burk. She was a 43-year member of Pearl Baptist Church.

She is survived by her daughter, Jaynie Lewis Fader and husband, Maynard; and many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 50 years, Jack L. Lewis; son Bobbyjack Lewis; her parents; and eight brothers and sisters.

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Connor Aiden Barrow

Cynthia and Sonny Barrow of Rhome announce the birth of a son, Connor Aiden, on March 31, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20 inches long.

He has one brother: Preston, 3.

Grandparent is Paula Oates.

Great-grandparents are Peggie Griggs and C.J. Griggs.

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Council to consider budget change

According to city staff, the water department in Rhome does more than check meters and fix leaks.

They also take on general maintenance tasks and oversee the water tower.

For that, the council will hold a public hearing then consider amending the budget to appropriate money from the general fund to the water/sewer budget for maintenance reimbursement and the water tower lease.

Another public hearing will be held to discuss carport regulations.

Current ordinance only regulates the structures in “Old Town.”

City officials will also hear a financial review on the city’s volunteer fire department and will discuss a pair of holiday celebrations – the Memorial Day program and the Pioneer Days heritage festival.

The council will also consider:

  • adding restroom facilities and an information center at the Family Park;
  • addressing speeding on Randall Street; and
  • enlisting a warrant collection service.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at City Hall, 105 First St. It is open to the public.

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Scherb released, facing solicitation, porn charges

Merle Scherb, charged with online solicitation of a minor and three counts of possession with intent to promote child pornography, was released from Montgomery County Jail Thursday.

Merle Scherb

Merle Scherb

The 28-year-old was arrested March 20 at his home in the 100 block of Kensington Court for allegedly sending child pornography to an individual in Montgomery County, north of Houston, according to a press release from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon.

The release, received at the Messenger on Friday, said Scherb “allegedly sent four photographs of minor children through the Internet.”

“Montgomery County Precinct 1 Investigator Jerry Serratt identified three of the alleged photographs as child pornography,” it reads.

The press release did not specifically mention the online solicitation charge but said investigators have information that the defendant has possibly been in contact with minor children in Montgomery County.

Serratt declined to comment Friday afternoon, saying the investigation is still ongoing.

Scherb was arrested March 20 when a search and arrest warrant was executed in an early morning raid at his home by the U.S. Marshals Service, Texas Rangers, Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Precinct 1, 2 and 4 constables, Conroe Police Department, Wise County Sheriff’s Department and Rhome Police Department. Computers were also seized from the home.

Last week, Rhome Police Chief James Rose said the arrest was the result of an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force – a program of the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Scherb was arraigned on the solicitation charge March 20 by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson in Decatur with a preset bond of $300,000 and was transported to Montgomery County Jail.

On March 21, he was charged with three counts of intent to promote child pornography.

By midweek, the Montgomery County Jail website indicated the bond for the three pornography charges was $62,000.50 each, and the bond for the online solicitation charge had been reduced to $62,000.50.

The press release says, “Investigators are concerned that there may be victims of the defendant in the [Montgomery County] area.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Division at 936-760-6910.

Scherb, an American Motorcycle Association Pro flat-track competitor, is from Decatur and had lived in Rhome less than 12 months, according to Rose.

A Jan. 5 article on roadracingworld.com said Scherb was one of only two Americans invited to race in the “Superprestigio” dirt-track event in Barcelona, Spain, Jan. 11. The article said he’s an instructor at Texas Tornado Boot Camp in Montgomery, a motorcycle riding school for all ages, and described on its website as a “one stop shop for all ages and skill levels to learn, practice and build your motorcycle skills.”

The Texas Tornado site does not list Scherb as an instructor at this time.

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Saturday Sports Buffet: Back in Austin – Rhome’s Taylor returns to town that gave career a boost

Troy Taylor returned Friday to Austin – the town he’s grown to admire and not for it’s famous nightlife.

“I’ve always ran well there,” said the University of North Texas sophomore. “I like the track and the atmosphere.”

MEMORABLE EFFORT – As a senior at Northwest in 2012, Troy Taylor finished second in the Class 5A 3,200 race at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin. He returns to Austin this week to run in the Texas Relays for UNT. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

But it’s on the streets of the state capitol where the Rhome distance runner had the breakthrough that put him on his current path.

In 2011 after missing the state meet in the 1,600 and 3,200, Taylor went to Austin to run in the prestigious Congress Avenue Mile. The Texan made a late race charge near downtown to move up from 10th to cross the finish line in second-place.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Taylor recalled. “That made me realize that I should take this a lot more serious. George [Lutkenhaus] led me down the right path from there. Now, I’m in college with a year under my belt and running faster.”

The UNT runner is back in Austin to run in the prestigious Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays at the University of Texas’ Mike Myers Stadium. He will compete in the Invitational Jerry Thompson 1-Mile Run Saturday with some of the nation’s best college and club runners. Friday he also ran on UNT’s distance medley.

“I’m excited. Hopefully I can get as close to four minutes as I can,” Taylor said.

As a senior in high school at Mike Myers, Taylor captured a pair of medals. He turned in a 4:10.5 for third in the 1,600. In the 3,200, he took silver, running 9:05.07.

Last year in his first year at UNT, he turned in a mile time of 4:11.38 at Iowa State and 3,000-meter best of 8:25.19 at the Howie Ryan Invite. His best in the 5K was 14:45.41.

This past fall in cross country, he finished 33rd at the NCAA South Central Regionals, running 31.21 in the 10k. He also finished ninth in the 8K at the Conference USA Championships in 25.30.35.

“Over time I’ve realized that I’m not much of a cross country guy,” Taylor said. “I do a lot better on the track and am more of a track guy.”

During the indoor season this winter, Taylor turned in a 4:07.84 in the mile at the Iowa State Classic.

To open the outdoor season, Taylor won the 800 at the TCU Invite in 1:53.42.

Taylor said he was trying to help some buddies set personal records in the race.

His fast times this year, he credits to added strength and not speed.

“From last year to this year, it’s not that I’ve improved in running. I’ve improved my strength. I’m a lot older and my body can handle more,” he said.

He’s hoping his body can help him get to 3:43 in the 1,500 to break the school record.

“That’s the equivalent to a 3:58 mile,” Taylor said.

His other goal is to get to the NCAA regionals.

But this weekend it’s another enjoyable stay in a town full of good memories.


  • After accepting the job at Sherman Monday, Bill Patterson said one of the things that drew him to the Bearcats’ sidelines was the fact that it was a one-school community. The week before, newly hired Decatur coach Mike Fuller said that was one of the draws that got him here from Colleyville Heritage. What both said does hold some water when looking on who is playing for and winning state titles on the football field. Of the 12 teams that played in the 3A through 5A title games last December only Denton Guyer and Northside Brennan were from multi-school districts. Guyer was the only state champion from a multi-school district in 2012 and Spring Dekaney in 2011
  • After a long nine-inning game Tuesday against Bridgeport, the Decatur Eagles caught a fortunate break in scheduling with their District 9-3A bye Friday. The Eagles will have their top two pitchers Clayton Egle and Mason Baur back at full strength against Sanger Tuesday
  • We’re two weeks out from district track meets. Several area athletes look primed for trips to Austin. Two of the most impressive this spring remain Decatur’s Brandon Rivera in the 800 and Northwest’s Desiree Freier in the pole vault. Rivera torched the track Thursday, running a 1:56. Freier, who went to the Texas Relays this weekend, cleared 14-2.75 to set a national record at the New Balance Nationals in New York City earlier this month
  • What a delightful sports week we have next week in North Texas. It’s Opening Day for the Texas Rangers. The Final Four is coming to Arlington. NASCAR arrives at Texas Motor Speedway with the unveiling of Big Hoss. Hopefully the weather cooperates
  • Speaking of the Rangers, most fans have been in panic mode all spring due to the injury situation. It’s not great that three starters from last year’s rotation to open the season are not available for the start of this one. But three should be back in the first month – Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. Derek Holland will return later in the season. My real concern is can Joakim Soria be dependable to get the 27th out each night. No one in the American League West will run off and leave the rest of the division. Also, the Rangers still get a bunch of games with the Houston Astros. I’m not going to rule out 90 wins and that may be just enough to win a mediocre division.

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Klan supporters recruit in neighborhood

Last week, under the cover of darkness, someone distributed flyers in a Rhome subdivision attempting to recruit members for the Ku Klux Klan.

The flyer was distributed in the Shale Creek neighborhood off Texas 114 by a group calling themselves the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. It references data blaming illegal immigration as a burden on Texas taxpayers due to prison and health care costs. The flyer pictures a drawing of a Klansman in full regalia with the words “The KKK Wants You!” around it.

NOT WELCOME – About a week ago flyers seeking recruits for the Ku Klux Klan were distributed by unknown actors in the Shale Creek subdivision in Rhome. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It offers a phone number and a website for potential recruits to contact.

Mark Potok, senior fellow with Southern Poverty Law Center, said the Loyal White Knights of the KKK have been using this type of pamphleteering to dramatically grow their numbers in the past two years. The SPLC is a non-profit organization based in Montgomery, Ala., that supports civil rights and tracks “hate groups” such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam.

The number of hate groups in the U.S. dropped last year for the second year in a row, after peaking at 1,018 in 2011. It fell to 1,007 in 2012 and 939 last year. But the numbers of the Loyal White Knights continued to grow over that time frame.

Texas has the third-largest hate group contingent with 57, while California and Florida continue to lead the nation.

“This is the fastest-growing Klan group in the United States,” Potok said. “In 2012 they had 16 chapters. By 2013 they had 52. They’ve been very rampant with pamphleteering like this. And it looks like it’s helped increase their numbers.”

The Loyal White Knights of the KKK are headquartered in the small town of Edem, N.C. The group’s imperial wizard is Chris Barker. Potok said they have a chapter in North Texas and now have the highest membership of any Klan group in the nation.

He agreed with Fogarty, adding that as long as the activity has been nothing more than distributing literature, there’s probably not much to worry about.

The Loyal White Knights were contacted, but did not respond by press time. The group’s voicemail signs off with the phrase “if it ain’t white, it ain’t right.”

Ironically, the cover photo for the most recent SPLC publication featured a photo of Evan Ebel, member of a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado who shot a Montague County sheriff’s deputy and engaged in a rolling gun battle with law enforcement in Wise County before dying in a shoot-out in Decatur.

For information on hate groups based in the U.S. and where they are located, go to www.splcenter.org.

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Man faces solicitation, child porn charges

A 28-year-old Rhome man has been charged with online solicitation of a minor and three counts of possession with intent to promote child pornography, all felonies.

Merle Wayne Scherb

Merle Wayne Scherb was arrested early Thursday morning at his home in the 100 block of Kensington Court. Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety, along with the Rhome Police Department and Wise County Sheriff’s Office, executed a search and arrest warrant in the 6 a.m. raid.

Rhome Police Chief James Rose said the arrest was the result of an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Computers were also seized from the home.

Scherb was arraigned on the solicitation charge by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson in Decatur and was transported to the court of jurisdiction. That location, along with the arrest warrant affidavit, were not released due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing.

Scherb’s bond was set at $300,000.

On Friday, he was charged with the three counts of possession with intent to promote child pornography. As of press time Friday, bond had not yet been set for those charges.

Rose said Scherb had lived in Rhome less than 12 months.

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Librarian collapses, dies after work

Linda Gillespie of Rhome worked tirelessly for the town’s small public library for 10 years.

As volunteer, board member and most recently, paid librarian, Gillespie was dedicated to her job and curating the library collection.

After work Wednesday, she suffered a medical emergency that led to her death.

Rhome Fire Department and medics were dispatched about 6:15 p.m. to an injured person call at the library, 265 BC Rhome Ave. Bystanders said a man who lives across the street noticed Gillespie’s car parked at the library after hours and found her unconscious in the vehicle when he went to check on her.

Rhome Police Chief James Rose said Gillespie was slumped in the passenger seat and that it appeared she had been placing items in the car, presumably in preparation to leave, when she collapsed. Gillespie was transported by ambulance to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur where she was later pronounced dead by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Clay Poynor.

Acquaintances of Gillespie on scene in Rhome said she had multiple medical issues.

Lynda Green, library board treasurer, said Gillespie was “dedicated to her job and community.”

“If anybody needed help, she was always there,” she said.

Funeral for Gillespie is 3 p.m. Monday, March 24, at Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Chapel in Colleyville. Visitation is 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 23.

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Linda Faye Holmes Gillespie

Linda Faye Holmes Gillespie, 71, the longtime librarian for the city of Rhome, died Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Funeral is 3 p.m. Monday in Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Chapel in Colleyville. Interment will follow in Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park. Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Linda was born April 24, 1942, in Fort Worth, the daughter of Pete and Dorothy Holmes. She attended Keller High School, graduating in 1960.

That same year, Linda met Leon Gillespie, the love of her life, and they married Sept. 1, 1961. They had two children, Brent Lane and Jana Lyn.

A lifelong member of Chapter 326, Order of the Eastern Star, Linda loved and served the organization for over 50 years.

She is survived by her children, Brent Lane and Jana Lyn; a grandchild, Kyle Jaeger; sister-in-law Shirley Holmes; nephew Tommy Holmes Jr.; nieces Marla and Amanda Holmes; and oldest and dearest friends, C.W. and Charlotte West.

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Rain-slick roads prove hazardous

Rain-slick roads prove hazardous

Two men were injured Saturday afternoon in a one-vehicle rollover in Rhome, just as showers slid into Wise County.

Christopher Ford of Marshall was driving a pickup south on U.S. 81/287 between 1 and 1:15 p.m. He took the Texas 114 exit in Rhome, heading east, but lost control of his vehicle, according to Rhome Police Sgt. Thomas Pennington.

2 INJURED – Christopher Ford of Marshall and Johnny Andrade of Lynwood, Calif., were injured in a rollover near Rhome Saturday afternoon. Messenger photo by Kristen Tribe

The pickup rolled into the grass on the north side of the roadway and landed upright. Ford and his passenger, Johnny Andrade of Lynwood, Calif., suffered minor injuries, said Rhome Fire Chief Robert Pratt, but both were taken by ground ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Andrade was treated and released, but Ford was still in the hospital Tuesday morning, listed in serious condition.

Also responding to the scene were Rescue 1, a Wise County sheriff’s deputy and a state trooper.

Almost exactly an hour later, an 18-wheeler jackknifed in the northbound lanes of U.S. 81/287 in Decatur, near the U.S. 380 exit. No injuries were reported, but the northbound lanes were temporarily shut down.

Traffic was diverted east onto Wichita Street where drivers could pick up Business 287 and continue north.

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Rhome residents need permits for PODS

In a move to prevent PODS from becoming eyesores, Rhome residents must now obtain a permit from the city before parking temporary outside storage units in front of their homes or businesses.

If they don’t, they could face a steep fine.

At Thursday night’s regular meeting, Rhome City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring the permit for use of PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage) or a similar short-term storage device.

For a $5 fee, City Hall will issue a seven-day permit after registering with the city. If the person can show cause, they can receive a 30-day permit. Anyone requiring a permit longer than 30 days must gain approval from the city council during a regularly scheduled meeting.

Those who don’t get permits can be fined up to $500 for every day they are found in violation.

The council is also working on making changes to an ordinance covering carports. The new rules touch on setbacks and the materials used in building carports. A public hearing on the ordinance change will be held at the next regular meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. April 10 at City Hall.

In other news:

  • council will hold a hearing April 10 to adjust the budget. They plan to move $30,000 from the general fund to the water and sewer department for maintenance reimbursement. They also intend to shift $12,000 earned per year from leases on the water tower over to the water/sewer department.
  • council approved Wanda Richardson to serve as election judge during the May election and Leon Brookens to serve as alternate judge.
  • council approved spending $1,300 to repair the roof on the community center but denied allowing the senior citizens to use part of the old Rhome School for a garage sale. The council condemned the building as unsafe and had it boarded up more than a year ago.

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Virginia Wilkerson Cates

Virginia Wilkerson Cates, 90, a retired restaurant owner, died Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Haltom City.

No service is scheduled.

Virginia was born Jan. 25, 1924, in Rhome to William and Lilly (Slimp) Collins. A former owner of restaurants in Boyd and Rhome, Virginia was a great cook and was said to have made the best German chocolate cakes. She also loved to crochet, tat and was a loving mother and grandmother.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Earl Cates; and sisters Florence Beltch and Patricia Stokes.

Survivors include her son, James Wilkerson and wife, Linda, of Haslet; grandchildren James Darin Wilkerson and wife, Yong Chu, of Bedford, Karen Gayle Uzobuife and husband, Pascal, of Haslet, and Andrew Paul Wilkerson of Fort Worth; six great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and other family members and friends.

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Rhome City Council eyes new rules for PODS

An ordinance being considered by the Rhome City Council may put a limit on the numbers of days a resident can keep PODS in their yard.

PODS – Portable On-Demand Storage units – are trailer-shaped containers typically used for moving or temporary storage. At Thursday night’s regular meeting, the council will eye an ordinance requiring residents who use PODS to get a permit from the city.

“The council has asked what we can do with these animals,” said city attorney Walt Leonard. “It’s OK to have them out for a short time, but what if someone lets it sit out for an extended period of time as a permanent storage building? You can issue a permit that is good for a certain amount of time.”

At an earlier meeting, the council had discussed making the permit good for five days, renewable one time for five more days.

Mayor Chris Moore suggested at that time that the size of the lot be considered, since the city has two PODS of its own.

The council is also slated to discuss an ordinance related to the appearance of carports. If approved, new carports would have to meet certain requirements, such as having a certain amount of brick, stone or other masonry material used.

Other items on the meeting’s agenda, which starts at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rhome City Hall located at 105 First Street, include:

  • replacing the gas light at the Veteran’s Park,
  • consulting with a concrete company,
  • using part of old Rhome school for a senior citizen garage sale fundraiser,
  • repairing the community center’s roof,
  • warrants, and
  • city department heads keeping “council up to date.”

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