Lake Bridgeport still short of historic low

Earlier this month, Lake Bridgeport crossed a significant milestone: the lake is more than 24 feet low.

As of Tuesday, the lake level was just under 812 feet. That is having a major impact on those who live on the lake. as well as fishing, recreational boating and other activities.

But it’s not a historic low.

Hydrologist Laura Blaylock of the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) noted Tuesday that back in 1980, the lake was almost 11 feet lower than it is now, at 801.04 feet.

“This is the lowest it’s been since then, but 1980 is the absolute low,” she said.

The lake’s normal water level is 836 feet above sea level.

TRWD manages the lake and supplies water to the communities that surround it, including Decatur and Bridgeport. The water district stopped releasing water from Lake Bridgeport in June of 2013.

Since then, the lake’s steep drop has slowed, with conservation and a milder summer in 2014 playing a role. Over the past 12 months, Lake Bridgeport has fallen only four feet.

TRWD spokesman Chad Lorance said the district has no plans to release water from Lake Bridgeport in the foreseeable future.

“We are holding that water there for municipal purposes, as well as the power generation plants up there,” he said. “That’s why we essentially stopped those releases.”

Blaylock noted that Walnut Creek Special Utility District, which supplies water to smaller cities and rural areas in Wise and Parker counties, recently completed a barge to float their water intake farther out into the lake – into deeper water.

“Walnut Creek and the Brazos generating plant were both facing their intake becoming dangerously close to the water surface,” she said. “They built a barge, and now they have another 10 or 12 feet or so of depth.”

The other four intakes, including the cities of Bridgeport and Decatur, are near the dam, in the deepest part of the lake.

“Nobody’s in any danger of their intake coming out of the water,” she said.

Lorance said the water district’s plan is to stay the course, using water from its East Texas reservoirs, which can be pumped all the way up to Eagle Mountain Lake as needed.

“Fortunately, they’ve seen more rain than these reservoirs have in the west,” he said. “We have been pumping, and are currently pumping water into Eagle Mountain Lake. We’ll have to stop in January due to pipeline maintenance, but just for a short period.”

DROUGHT’S IMPACT FELT

It wasn’t that long ago that Lake Bridgeport was full – in fact, it started 2011 at full capacity. That year, however, saw historic lows in rainfall and the start of what is now a three-year drought. The lake’s decline has been steady since then.

Periodic rain, while welcome, has had little impact over the past three years. The line flattens occasionally, but it does not rise, instead continuing a steady decline.

From October 2010 to November of this year, rainfall in Bridgeport is 37.7 inches below normal and in Decatur, it is nearly 42 inches below normal. Both cities have seen about 75 percent of their normal rainfall over that time.

A year ago, Lake Bridgeport was just more than 20 feet low, sitting at 45 percent capacity. Last week it was at 38 percent of capacity.

Nothing but rain can fill it back up.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s website, enhanced warming throughout the central Pacific suggests a shift to El Ni o – a weather pattern that typically brings more rain. The site said the likelihood of an El Ni o event this winter has increased to 65 percent.

That means the outlook for this winter favors above-normal precipitation – but those chances are greater along the Gulf Coast and into Central Texas, and much less significant along the Red River and in the western portions of North Texas.

The site also says this should be a cooler-than-normal winter – but notes that analysis is based on heavier cloud cover keeping daytime highs lower, not extreme weather events.

In fact, it says, the “predominant zonal flow actually reduces the incidence of arctic intrusions. As a result, extreme cold is less likely during El Ni o winters, and there are typically fewer freezes than normal.”

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New judge leads first meeting

County Judge J.D. Clark led his first commissioners meeting Monday.

The 28-year-old started a new tradition by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and having a moment of silence at the top of the agenda.

Members of the Wise County Veterans Group ceremoniously installed the U.S. and Texas flags in the courthouse’s third floor conference room and then led the group in the pledge.

Also on the agenda for the first time was a community forum. Boyd citycouncilman Tim Hammonds addressed commissioners and asked why, as part of their interlocal agreement, the city is charged $50 for every animal picked up by Wise County Animal Control, but people outside the city limits are not charged for the service.

Commissioners are not allowed to discuss or vote on issues brought up in public forum, but those topics can be placed on a future agenda.

The bulk of the meeting – the last to be held in 2014 – was routine business.

Clark outlined a timeline for hiring an elections administrator and told commissioners the deadline to apply for the job is Friday. The elections commission will decide which candidates to interview and would like to hire someone by the first of the year.

“The goal is to hire an elections administrator by January, and Jim can go on back to the house,” he said with a smile, referencing interim EA Jim Parker.

The county is also looking for a systems coordinator, and commissioners approved creating a hiring committee, which includes Judge Clark, Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes, Sheriff David Walker, Fire Marshal Chuck Beard and Court Coordinator Debbie Barnett.

In other staff-related issues, Clark announced that Becky Dear retired from the county attorney’s office after 25 years, and he had received a letter complimenting veteran service officer Laura Spain.

He also presented a plaque to Hughes, thanking him for his service as interim county judge and interim commissioner, in both Precinct 3 and 4, over the last four years. Clark also recognized Gary Potts, who recently served as interim Precinct 4 commissioner. Potts was not present.

BUYING AND SELLING

Commissioners accepted Warner Radio’s $10 bid to purchase equipment on a radio tower near U.S. 81/287 and County Road 4228. The fire marshal said the equipment is 15 years old and is no longer being used by the county.

“It’s outlived it’s life expectancy,” he told the Messenger. “It was going to cost us more money to take the equipment off the tower than to just auction it off.”

The equipment sold includes runs of cable and three or four antenna on top of the tower. Beard said the cheapest bid to remove the equipment was $5,800, which didn’t include disposal. He said there is some county equipment remaining on the tower that is currently in use.

Commissioners also approved the installation of aluminum bleachers at the show arena on the Wise County Fairgrounds. They accepted a $26,215 quote from the Texas Department of Corrections as presented by Public Works Director Tom Goode.

Goode said his crews will tear down the current bleachers, and the installation of the new bleachers will be done by state jail inmates. He hopes the job will be complete before the Wise County Youth Fair in March.

Commissioners tabled a vehicle request from County Court-at-Law No. 1, as presented by Sheriff Walker.

They had recently approved the purchase of a new vehicle for the district court bailiff, and Walker said the county court was now asking to replace its bailiff’s car. A 2014 Tahoe has been ordered for the district court bailiff, and the county court was requesting the same.

“They’re driving a Dodge Charger now … they’re low-mileage, about 50,000,” he said.

Walker said if commissioners decided to purchase the vehicle, his department would take the bailiff’s current car and use it to replace one of their high-mileage cars.

Judge Clark questioned why the bailiffs need Tahoes, and he said he’d like to look further into the issue before taking any action.

In other business, commissioners:

  • tabled bids on 3/4-ton pickups at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns;
  • renewed the red flag burn ban
  • tabled increases for Tyler Technologies maintenance
  • approved purchase of a pickup from a co-op for the Public Works Department
  • approved selling an asphalt distributor truck at the request of Burns
  • approved appointing Ken Murray to fill the remaining term of a post on the Wise County Emergency Services District No. 1’s board of directors
  • approved Judge Clark’s bond

Look for more from the Dec. 15 commissioners meeting in the weekend Messenger.

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Not all cities invited to sales tax party

Of the 12 Wise County cities that collect a sales tax, nine showed gains during 2014, compared to the previous year.

That makes the news three-quarters positive, right?

But the three cities that lost money, lost more than the gainers gained – leaving the county overall just under a half-percent short of last year in sales tax collections.

In a year when the state’s 1,149 cities gained 7 percent, and most of the counties around Wise County came close to that amount, having a negative number feels a bit like being out in the yard while there’s a party going on in the house.

When the December numbers were released this week by the State Comptroller’s office, Wise County’s 12 cities had collected $728,946 for the month – down 8.7 percent compared to the $798,480 they took in last December.

That left them with $8,846,832 for the year, down .41 percent or $36,786 compared to last year’s $8,883,618.

Tax Dollars

The winners were:

  • Newark, up 62.2 percent (from $94,487 to $153,281) +$58,794
  • Lake Bridgeport, up 41.8 percent (from $19,486 to $27,646) +$8,160
  • Alvord, up 17.1 percent (from $139,010 to $162,784) +$23,774
  • Runaway Bay, up 16.7 percent (from $64,989 to $75,854) +$10,865
  • Chico, up 11.5 percent (from $249,685 to $278,408) +$28,723
  • Rhome, up 7.5 percent ($391,029 to $420,627) +$29,598
  • Boyd, up 6.7 percent ($323,245 to $345,175) +$21,930
  • Paradise, up 6.4 percent ($110,607 to $117,735) +$7,128
  • Decatur, up 1.8 percent ($3,990,278 to $4,063,898) +$73,620

Those nine cities took in a combined $262,592 more than they collected last year, all with a sales tax rate of 1.5 percent.

But here come the losers:

  • New Fairview, down 20 percent ($363,870 to $291,212) -$72,658
  • Aurora, down 19.4 percent ($46,193 to $37,221) -$8,972
  • Bridgeport, down 7 percent ($3,090,734 to $2,872,985) -$217,749

Those three lost a total of $299,379 compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the counties surrounding Wise joined the party. Those numbers:

  • Jack County collected about $2 million, up 46.7 percent or $642,340 from last year.
  • Montague County took in $3.24 million, up 14.7 percent or $415,675.
  • Denton County’s $119.9 million was up 9.2 percent or $10.18 million.
  • Parker County’s $16.5 million was up 6.1 percent or $954,177.
  • Tarrant County, which collected $465.5 million, was up 5.5 percent or $24.5 million.

The December totals represent October sales reported by monthly tax filers. Most cities budget on a fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, so their numbers will be different from these.

Sales tax revenue goes into the city’s general fund to support fire and police, libraries and other city operations.

Some Wise County cities also dedicate a half-cent of their sales tax to an Economic Development Corp. (EDC) to be used to attract new businesses, retain existing businesses and promote the community.

In Wise County, the county government collects a half-cent tax in all the unincorporated areas to help offset property tax increases. The county’s December check was $444,441 – up nearly 11 percent from last year’s payment – and for the year the county collected just more than $5 million from the sales tax. That’s a 2.8 percent improvement over 2013.

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Man dies in fiery crash

Man dies in fiery crash

Authorities have identified the man who died in a fiery one-car crash Wednesday night on U.S. 380 east of Decatur, but have not released his name pending confirmation from the Dallas County Medical Examiners Office.

The driver’s car flew into a ravine and hit a tree before catching on fire.

Fatal Wreck

FATAL WRECK – Department of Public Safety troopers survey the scene after a Mitsubishi ran off U.S. 380 Wednesday night and caught fire, killing the driver. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The unusual circumstances of the accident left investigators and first responders scratching their heads.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Adam Lawson said a Mitsubishi passenger car was traveling westbound on 380 about 7:45 p.m., just west of the Highland Hills subdivision, when it left the roadway to the north and ran through a fence. He said it appears the car then veered back through the fence to the south and then weaved through the fence again to the north.

The car hit the edge of a ravine, went airborne, slammed into a tree and burst into flames. Lawson said no one witnessed the accident, and there were no passengers in the car.

The vehicle was destroyed, and the fire was so intense it was impossible at the scene to determine if the driver was male or female. Lawson said they have since identified the driver and notified his family.

DPS is not releasing the identity until it can be confirmed through dental records.

“We’re about 95 percent sure,” he told the Messenger.

The crash occurred about a quarter mile away from where the vehicle first left the roadway. Lawson said he believes the car didn’t catch fire until it hit the tree because there were no burn marks in the grass leading to the ravine.

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WRHS to operate Bridgeport clinic

A plan by Wise Regional Health System to move its Community Health Clinic operation from Decatur to Bridgeport has been scuttled by restrictions in the Bridgeport hospital’s bond covenants.

A hospital spokesman said Friday that the Decatur Community Health Clinic, which is operated by Wise Clinical Care Associates on the West Campus on Farm Road 51, across from the main hospital, will remain open.

The plan had been to move that facility to Bridgeport.

Plans to convert the Bridgeport campus to an urgent care clinic will go forward, but Bridgeport’s clinic will be operated by Wise Regional Health System, not by Wise Clinical Care Associates as had been proposed.

The bond covenants require Wise Regional to operate the Bridgeport facility, not transfer it to another entity – even a wholly-owned affiliate like Wise Clinical Care Associates.

The affiliate will continue to operate the Community Health Clinic in Decatur.

The Bridgeport campus will transition to an urgent care facility, with no ER, but equipped to handle a wide range of urgent care needs including abdominal pain, allergic reactions, broken bones, breathing problems, burns, cuts, ear infections, falls, sprains, strains, flu and cold symptoms, migraines, pink eye, unexplained pain and swelling, urinary tract infections, wound infections and X-rays.

Starting Jan. 2, it will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Christmas in full swing

Santa has a busy weekend planned for Wise County as he’ll be putting in appearance at several placed around the area.

Hes Coming to Town

HE’S COMIN’ TO TOWN – Cooper Barnes, 4, high-fives Santa Claus in Alvord Monday night. The jolly old elf toured the streets in a fire truck greeting children and their parents. Santa is scheduled to visit Decatur neighborhoods Dec. 14-18. See page 10A for a map detailing his schedule. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

  • Breakfast with Santa is 8 to 11 a.m. today at Boyd High School. Call 940-433-2327.
  • The Decatur Fire Department will also be hosting Santa at their own breakfast at the fire hall 7 to 10 a.m. today. Pancakes are served throughout that time, and Santa arrives at 8:30.
  • Santa on the Streets – the Decatur Fire Department’s annual trek through the neighborhoods with Santa – will be Sunday through Thursday, Dec. 14-18. See the accompanying map for dates and locations.

Santa on the Streets

  • Cici’s Pizza in Decatur will be accepting Toys for Tots through today. Toys should be new and unwrapped. Representatives of the U.S. Marines and Santa Claus will be there to greet and collect the toys as well as pose for photos 11 a.m.-1 p.m. today. For information call 940-627-6273.
  • A Bridgeport neighborhood will host “Santa on Nottingham” 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. today and Dec. 19 through 23. Santa will be on hand, along with a full-sized Olaf, every evening, and there will be a different craft each night. It’s all free. Bring the kids to 137 Nottingham.
  • The Bridgeport Children’s Theater presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson at the Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St. this weekend. Showings will be 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $1. This program is sponsored by Meyers-McComis Agency and presented by Bridgeport Parks and Recreation. Call 940-683-3400.
  • Christmas in Rhome is 7 to 9 tonight at the Rhome Community Center, 261 N. School Rd. Santa will visit 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and door prizes will be given away.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, December 13, 2014

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD – The Bridgeport school board next week will discuss textbook adoption and facility renovations, as well as the results of a districtwide soccer questionnaire. Its meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the administration building, 2107 15th Street, and is open to the public.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – County Judge J.D. Clark will lead his first county commissioners meeting next week. Commissioners will discuss the process for hiring a new elections administrator, hear county engineer Chad Davis’ recommendation for receiving surplus bridge materials from the Department of Public Safety and will discuss maintenance offered by Tyler Technologies. Clark will also give his recommendation on the makeup of the systems coordinator hiring committee. Clark has also added to the agenda a community forum, in which citizens may share comments or observations related to county business. There is a three-minute time limit, and large groups should designate a spokesperson. The meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, in the third floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur. This is the last regular meeting for 2014.

PARADISE CITY COUNCIL – Next week nominees for the vacant Paradise City Council seat will be interviewed, and one will be selected to serve. The process will occur during the city council’s regular meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Paradise City Hall. The council will also conduct a public hearing on the submission of an application to the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program (TxCDBG) in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Affairs. The council will also discuss hiring Carl Deaton to conduct the city’s annual audit.

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Weatherford College Board approves child development degree

The Weatherford College board of trustees Thursday approved the creation of an Associate of Arts degree in child development.

By taking courses already offered, students attaining this degree will graduate with their core completed and be able to transfer to universities to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies or a related field like education.

Dr. Richard Bowers, vice president of instruction and student services, said the new AA will better equip students for further study.

“Tarleton State University is developing a new program that will allow a student to earn a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies,” he said. “This is a new development, and it’s giving us an opportunity to allow students to take hours at Weatherford College in that field of study that they will be able to transfer into their four-year degree.”

The degree will be available as soon as the plan is approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In other business the board:

  • extended WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton’s contract by one year to Dec. 31, 2017, following a closed executive session.
  • approved the 2013-14 financial audit presented by Snow Garrett Williams.
  • approved the disposal of obsolete and surplus items through an online auction.
  • accepted bids totaling $88,951 for the purchase of sonography equipment.
  • approved the addition of two courses for varsity baseball and softball, along with $24 fees for each course. The courses will allow athletes to receive transferable credit for each semester they participate.

Eaton reported:

  • the 14th Annual Weatherford College Golf Tournament raised more than $50,000 thanks to the Title III matching grant.
  • more than 6,000 people attended the Safe Halloween program hosted by the WC Police Department, and more than 350 attended a similar event at the Education Center at Mineral Wells.
  • more than 700 fourth graders attended STEMania at WC Wise County organized by Dr. Lisa Welch and hundreds of volunteers. The day included numerous interactive activities enforcing the importance of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • about 1,500 people attended the WC Fine Arts Department’s production of “Young Frankenstein” over a four-day period. Eaton praised the musical as one of the best yet produced at WC and congratulated Nancy McVean and Rob Laney for their work on the show.
  • more than 200 people attended the successful Veterans Day celebration organized by Ralph Willingham.
  • all board members are up-to-date on their required trainings.

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Stilwell indicted for stabbing incident

A Chico man accused of stabbing another Chico resident was indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a Wise County grand jury when it met Nov. 20.

Rickey Gene Stilwell, 35, will face a second degree felony charge. Records became public this week.

Stilwell is accused of stabbing Adam Johnson, 29, on Oct. 4 at Stilwell’s home in the 1100 block of Farm Road 2952. Johnson suffered two stab wounds to the chest and a pierced lung from an object simply described as a “sharp object” in the indictment.

Two days later, when Wise County Sheriff’s investigators attempted to serve an arrest warrant, Stilwell ran out of his house. After a short chase, Stilwell was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

He remains in the Wise County Jail with total bond set at $110,000.

If convicted, the charge carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

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An Aurora city councilman was indicted for indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Cyrus Farver, 78, was arrested Sept. 4 after he allegedly brushed the breast of a female family friend under the age of 17. He was released after posting a $30,000 bond.

Indecency with a child by sexual contact is a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

—–

The grand jury also returned the following felony indictments:

George Michael Fulkerson, driving while intoxicated third or more

Laura Michelle Griggs, burglary of a habitation

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Randall Craig Hillin, burglary of a habitation (one count); unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon (two counts)

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Lewis Emil Holloway, forgery of a financial instrument (two counts)

J. Guadalupe Huerta, driving while intoxicated third or more

Billy Ray Stanley, credit/debit card abuse

Caleb Lyle Strickland, forgery financial instrument elderly

Richard Gerard Windmann, driving while intoxicated with child third under 15

Rusty Tyrell Johnson, burglary of a habitation

Christi Louann Williamson, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Boderick Ambimbolla Komolafe, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Hayden Hannah Bearden, driving while intoxicated third or more

David Eleazar Mendoza, credit card or debit card abuse

Amanda N. Perry, burglary of a habitation

Damon Lee Perry, burglary of a habitation

Jeffrey Clinton Pittman, driving while intoxicated third or more

Jesse Dean Reynolds, driving while intoxicated with child under 15

Tanner Lane Paddock, injury to an elderly with intent to cause bodily injury

Lalani Denise Rhodes, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (two counts)

Angel Perez Rodriguez, driving while intoxicated third or more

Eric Nicholas Ramirez, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count); prohibited substance/item in correctional facility (one count)

Jesus Segura, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

John Ross Shipman, credit card or debit card abuse

Jeffery Shayne Bridges, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Albert Josef Silbaugh, theft of property $1,500-$20,000 (two counts); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count)

John Cecil Burris, theft of material – copper, less than $20,000.

A grand jury indictment is not a ruling of guilt, but a review of evidence by an independent, 12-member panel to determine whether or not it is sufficient to bring the accused to trial.

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Local celebration

Local Celebration

LOCAL CELEBRATION – Raquel Lara (center) and other matachines prepare to perform a dance in honor of the Lady of Guadalupe Thursday night. Also pictured are (from left) Jennifer Huerta, Biatris Martinez, Guirnalda Lopez, Andrea Mora and Joseph Aguilar. The performance and short pilgrammage were part of a traditional Catholic celebration that ended with Mass, a birthday song for the Lady of Guadalupe and a reception with hot chocolate and pan dulce. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Catholic Tradition

CATHOLIC TRADITION – Julianna Delcastillo walked and performed with other matachines in Thursday night’s celebration honoring the Lady of Guadalupe – a traditional Catholic ceremony. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

A Tribute

A TRIBUTE – Ana Martinez is dressed as the Lady of Guadalupe and Francisco Contreras poses as Juan Diego. Catholics believe that the Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego and asked him to build a church. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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2 seriously hurt in head-on collision

2 seriously hurt in head-on collision

A WBAP/KLIF reporter and a De Leon woman were flown to a Fort Worth hospital Friday night after a head-on collision between Boyd and Cottondale.

Lynis Parris of De Leon was driving a silver Ford F250 pickup southbound on Farm Road 51, near Farm Road 2048, about 7:45 p.m. when he took evasive action to avoid a car in front of him.

Reporter Flown from Scene

REPORTER FLOWN FROM SCENE – First responders investigate the scene of a head-on collision Friday night in south Wise County. WBAP/KLIF reporter Alan Scaia was critically injured and remains in ICU at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. His condition was upgraded to serious Saturday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Department of Public Safety Trooper Adam Lawson said it was unclear why Parris was trying to avoid the car, but while doing so, he veered into the northbound lanes and hit a Toyota Camry.

The Camry was a marked WBAP radio car and was driven by reporter Alan Scaia. The two vehicles had a head-on collision on the shoulder of the northbound lanes.

The roadway was closed for more than an hour as two helicopters were called to the scene – one to transport Scaia and one to transport Parris’ passenger, Clara Quesnot, also of De Leon.

Scaia was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth by Air Evac Lifeteam 68 with critical injuries. By Saturday afternoon, her condition had been upgraded to serious.

Seriously Injured

SERIOUSLY INJURED – Medics prepare to load Clara Quesnot of De Leon on a PHI helicopter Friday night following a head-on collision on Farm Road 51 South between Boyd and Cottondale. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

WBAP news director Rick Hadley said Scaia broke his right hip in the accident and had surgery Monday.

“I spoke with his mother this morning, and he’s becoming more and more lucid,” Hadley said. “He’s responding to commands and speaking some. He’s on a long road back … it’ll be months.”

Hadley said Scaia remains in ICU at JPS and is heavily sedated. He said he doesn’t know what Scaia was covering Friday night.

“He’s on call 24/7, and he had free reign to come and go and pursue different stories,” he said.

The radio station’s website, wbap.com, says Scaia was recently promoted to morning drive reporter at WBAP/KLIF and had been named a correspondent for a new national news operation. Scaia, 33, lives in Fort Worth.

Quesnot was flown by a PHI helicopter to JPS and was listed in stable condition Saturday. She was no longer listed as a JPS patient Tuesday.

Parris was taken by ground ambulance to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

In addition to the two helicopter ambulances, Wise County’s Rescue 1 and Medic 5 responded, as well as Boyd and Cottondale fire departments. Numerous state troopers and Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis were also on scene.

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Toy Run fight dampens Christmas spirit

A fight between two motorcycle clubs at the Wise County Toy Run Sunday in Decatur threatened to overshadow the good work of the group.

Lt. Art Ferguson with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said the Lost Riders and the Cossacks, which are known rivals, got into a fight about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot on Thompson Street near McCarroll Middle School. More than 1,000 bikers were gathered in the lot for registration and lineup before the 15th annual run started at 12:30 p.m.

Pile O Toys

PILE-O-TOYS – Despite a slightly lower attendance than last year, organizer Big Ed Beckley said more gifts were collected at this year’s Wise County Toy Run. The items will be distributed to local children and families that have applied for help. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Toy Run is a charitable event that collects and distributes toys to children in Wise County. Ferguson said the sheriff’s office has traditionally handled logistics and traffic control for the ride, but this is the first year there’s been a problem.

“There’s been rumors of problems before,” he said, “but never a fight.”

Ferguson said the Lost Riders started walking through the crowd in threes and somehow encroached on the Cossacks’ area. The Lost Riders president was jumped, and the fight went to the ground. Ferguson said the main Cossack rider that was involved was pulled off by his buddies and shuffled away, hidden in the crowd.

Other Cossack members continued to kick and stomp the Lost Riders president until law enforcement broke it up. Ferguson said the man had abrasions all over his body, but for the most part, his injuries appeared superficial. The Lost Riders were outnumbered in the crowd about five to one, according to Ferguson.

He said those involved declined to press charges, and no arrest was made because it was impossible to know who exactly started the altercation.

“We’re going to take steps next year to make sure we keep those groups away from each other,” he said. “We’re already working on a plan to prevent this from happening again.”

Big Ed Beckley of Bridgeport said he and other event organizers didn’t know anything about it.

“I saw one sheriff’s officer and one Decatur cop go down there, and the next thing I knew they were back, said everything was OK,” he said.

According to Beckley, they were more concerned about the rider that crashed just as the group was leaving Decatur.

“Thank God he was wearing a helmet,” he said. “It put a big ol’ gash in his helmet.”

Beckley said the riders were probably driving slowly when the crash occurred, and as far as he knows, the rider suffered only a bruised shoulder.

Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated in this year’s event – down slightly from last year. The ride left the Thompson Street lot just before 12:30 p.m., passed through the Decatur Square and traveled down Trinity Street to U.S. 380. Once on 380, the group drove to Bridgeport and congregated in Harwood Park where they dropped off their toy donations.

“When the first riders appeared in the Bridgeport park, the last riders were just pulling out of the parking lot in Decatur,” Beckley said. Although the number of riders was down, donations increased from last year, he noted.

“It doesn’t seem like we had as many riders, but we were in the gift mode, so to speak,” he said. “We have more applications from families needing help than we ever have. It’s definitely going to be needed.”

The Show Must Go On

THE SHOW MUST GO ON – A fight between motorcycle clubs during registration didn’t halt the Wise County Toy Run Sunday afternoon. Organizer Big Ed Beckley said between 1,500 and 1,800 riders participated, and as the first riders were entering Harwood Park in Bridgeport, the last riders were just leaving Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Beckley said families apply for help from the group through their children’s elementary schools. In addition to distributing toys, the group uses monetary donations to buy the kids coats and help with other financial needs.

“We’ve even had to help pay rent, the gas bill and electric bill to make sure these kids have not only a Christmas, but a home,” he said.

The Toy Run also gives a $1,000 scholarship annually to every Wise County high school. Beckley estimated that 90 percent of the riders come from outside Wise County.

Bridgeport Assistant Police Chief Steve Stanford said at least some members of both the Lost Riders and Cossacks made it to Harwood Park, but there were no further problems.

“We received information that there was a fight between the two motorcycle gangs [in Decatur] so we called in extra officers,” he said. “We had already called in some extra help for the event, but we called in additional help.”

Sheriff David Walker said his department will reconfigure the law enforcement presence next year.

“At some point, somewhere along the line, someone has lost sight of why the Toy Run was originally organized,” he said. “The fight was ridiculous, and this could potentially cause next year not be as successful because folks don’t want to be involved with that.”

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Veteran wreath-laying ceremony a worldwide tradition

A Beltway tradition will make its way to Wise County for the sixth year in a row this Saturday.

At 11 a.m., the Wise County Veterans Group (WCVG) and Wreaths Across America (WAA) will start a wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Park in Decatur, at the same time when volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia will be placing wreaths on the graves of fallen veterans.

“The great thing about it is everyone starts at the same time worldwide, whether you’re overseas or in America,” event coordinator Drew Bruton said. Bruton is an Air Force Vietnam veteran with the WCVG. “There’s ceremonies at the same time no matter if you’re in Decatur or in Normandy. The idea is to honor those that have fallen in war and to teach future generations about their freedom, and the cost of that freedom.”

Bruton said he helped start the event in 2008 when he was approached by some Decatur residents who thought it would be a good idea to participate in the WAA program. Bruton looked into it, and it seemed like a no-brainer.

“I thought it was a great thing to do,” Bruton said.

WAA began in 1992 when Worcester Wreath, a company in Maine, ended the year with a surplus of wreaths, and company owner Morrill Worcester decided to place the extra ones in an old section of Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.

The project got widespread attention after a photo of the wreaths in the cemetery on a snowy day went viral, and requests poured in from different locations asking to participate.

Now, WAA has almost 160,000 volunteers and 900 locations worldwide, including Wise County.

“We are humbled that Wise County, Texas is participating in our mission to remember, honor and teach,” WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester said.

This year, Wise County’s event will feature guest speaker Major General (Ret.) Eugene LaCoste, a Wise County veteran who assisted in rescue efforts at the Pentagon in the wake of 9/11. Wreaths will be placed on monuments commemorating all of America’s wars and branches of the Armed Forces.

Retired and active military personnel are expected to participate, along with the Boy and Girl Scouts of Wise County and the Wise County Navy Sea Cadets.

“It’s a great ceremony, and it also makes the park look really good this time of year,” Bruton said.

To learn more about sponsoring a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery or learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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County seeks new elections administrator

The search is on for a new elections administrator.

The Wise County Elections Commission met Tuesday morning and finalized a job description for the position of county elections administrator. They also approved a timeline for the search.

“I know we’re all ready to get the process going and hire a permanent elections administrator,” Country Judge J.D. Clark said.

Those in attendance were Clark, County Clerk Sherry Lemon, Tax Assessor/Collector Monte Shaw, commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg, Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith, Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson and interim EA Jim Parker.

The commission agreed to post the job opening on the county’s website and in local newspapers, as well as with the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, National Association of Election Officials and National Association of Counties. They will also post it on various list serves.

Smith asked if the job could also be posted on the parties’ websites, to which everyone agreed.

Resumes will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, and the commission will meet 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, to review candidates and choose those they would like to interview.

Interviews will be set up for 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29.

It was noted that Parker will turn in his resignation to the commission sometime before the end of the year.

Before the meeting adjourned, Smith brought up that she had received several complaints about delayed payment for the election judges in the Nov. 4 general election.

“Some people have expressed that waiting six weeks is entirely too long for a pre-budgeted item,” she said. “It’s difficult to incide volunteerism or people to take their time to run an election, and it’s an important part of our process.

“We don’t want to run them off,” she said. “Maybe we could see about expediting that.”

Clark said he would look into it, and then Parker spoke up and said many election judges didn’t fill the forms out correctly.

“They had to be called back and had to come in to sign them before we could even start,” he said. “Some of them didn’t even put their own name on the compensation form.”

Smith said maybe the election judges needed better training.

Parker said judges should expect to wait six weeks for payment after a major election.

Smith also inquired about the possibility of judges being paid twice – once for early voting and once for election day voting.

Parker said that’s an issue to be decided by the Wise County Elections Board, not the Commission.

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Food drive kicks off this week

Dr. Dan Mallory and his wife, Allison, are encouraging the community to Live Thankfully with their second annual food drive for local families.

Live Thankfully 2014 was kicked off with a luncheon Monday at the Decatur Civic Center, where participating entities picked up their collection tubs and learned more about the program.

Force Behind the Food Drive

FORCE BEHIND THE FOOD DRIVE – The staff at Mallory Orthodontics welcomed guests Monday to the Live Thankfully kickoff luncheon at the Decatur Civic Center. Pictured are (from left) Kylie Slaten, Lisa Arnold, Allison Mallory, Dan Mallory, Vicky Kuykendall, Melissa Warner, Yolinde Musgrave and Tonya Garcia. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

More than 80 organizations – schools, businesses and churches – started collecting food Monday and will do so for two weeks. The goal is to provide families in need with a turkey dinner and two bags of groceries.

Dan, an orthodontist in Decatur, said last year Live Thankfully served 65 families, and this year the organization will serve 150 in not only Decatur, but also Alvord, Boyd, Paradise and Slidell.

CELEBRATE GIVING – Monday’s Live Thankfully kickoff luncheon was held at the Decatur Civic Center. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It’s about serving our community, in our own backyard,” he said. “I really wanted to teach my kids that it’s not all about ‘me.'”

He and Allison sought places to serve as a family, even searching in the Metroplex before deciding to facilitate a local effort.

“Let’s find a need and fill it,” he said.

The idea for Live Thankfully came from Dan’s friend, Dr. John Kelley, who started the organization in Fort Worth. In addition to Decatur, the program has also expanded to Granbury.

The group’s motto is: “Our desire is to extend our smiles to the hearts and stomachs of Wise County.”

All the food donated will be given to families identified by school counselors. Once it’s gathered, the Mallorys will host a Party With a Purpose 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Carson Elementary. Anyone from the community is invited to attend and help bag the groceries.

The turkey dinners and groceries are distributed to the families the week before Christmas break.

To donate to Live Thankfully, bring non-perishable food items to Mallory Orthodontics, 2250 South FM 51, Suite 800, in Decatur. The organization also accepts financial donations, which can be made online at livethankfully.org or mailed to Mallory at the above address. Call 940-627-0960 with questions.

To watch a video from last year’s Live Thankfully campaign, go to wcmess.com/livingthankfully

The Wise County Messenger, 115 S. Trinity St., in Decatur is also a dropoff location for Live Thankfully. Bring non-perishable food items to our office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Saddle up for toys

Salt Creek Arena is hosting a barrel racing expo benefiting the Wise County Toy Run 5 to 10 p.m. tonight in Boyd.

Owner Terry Baker said riders can get three expo rides for each unwrapped toy they bring. The arena is at 7204 S. Farm Road 51 near Boyd. For information about the arena or the expo rides, call Baker at 940-399-6223, or go to www.saltcreekarena.com.

All toys collected will go to the 15th Annual Wise County Toy Run and will be given to Wise County Children.

The Toy Run starts 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at the McCarroll Middle School parking lot in Decatur. At 12:30 p.m., a parade of riders will leave for Bridgeport’s Harwood Park with toy donations for children.

Toy Run Organizer Scott Gates said people wishing to donate toys may do so at the McCarroll Middle School field house or at Harwood Park in Bridgeport. Gates will also personally pick up large donations.

Call him at 940-389-0200 for information.

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Stock show ticket office open

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo ticket office opened Monday, and rodeo tickets are available for these traditional favorites:

  • Best of the West Ranch Rodeo – Jan. 16 and Jan. 17 (sold out) at 7:30 p.m. Eight prestigious ranches from the southwest compete for bragging rights in traditional working ranch events. Tickets are $25. It’s all a part of Ranching Heritage Weekend, presented by Western Horseman.
  • Best of Mexico Celebraci n – Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Catch the flavor of the music, dancing and horsemanship skills, unique to the traditions of Mexico, presented by State Farm Insurance, Univision Radio and Telemundo 39. Tickets are $19.
  • Cowboys of Color Rodeo – Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. A multicultural event featuring traditional rodeo action, plus appearances by Circle L5 Riding Club and La Guadalupana, presented by State Farm Insurance, Univision Radio and Telemundo 39. Tickets are $19.
  • Bulls’ Night Out – PRCA Extreme Bull Riding and PlainsCapital Bank proudly brings you this event Jan. 20-21 at 7:30 p.m. The PRCA’s toughest bull riders face off against the rankest bulls on the circuit during two action-packed performances. Tickets are $25.
  • Fort Worth Super Shootout – Presented by Cinch, Jan. 22. This invitation-only, next generation of rodeo competition will feature champions from eight of the most prestigious rodeos across the country competing as teams (and individuals) in bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling. Tickets are $25.
  • World’s Original Indoor Rodeo – Jan. 23 through Feb. 7. The Stock Show’s PRCA rodeo will host more than 1,200 PRCA rodeo athletes during 29 performances of rodeo action. Tickets are $25 for Friday nights and all weekend performances, $19 for Monday through Thursday nights and weekday matinee performances.

The rodeo ticket office will remain open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Fans can also purchase tickets by calling 817-877-2420 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Ticketmaster convenience charges will apply.

The 2015 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is Jan. 16-Feb. 7.

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Hurdsman arrested for vehicle burglary

Wise County Sheriff’s investigators believe they have arrested the person responsible for a rash of recent vehicle burglaries in the Paradise and Decatur areas.

Trevor Hurdsman

Trevor Hurdsman, 20, of Paradise was arrested Tuesday and charged with one count of burglary of a vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor.

The sheriff’s office received numerous reports of vehicles broken into in the 400 block of Paradise Canyon Circle on Nov. 17. Another 10 vehicles were hit in the same general area south of Decatur, on County Road 3294, County Road 3170, County Road 3198 and Private Road 3143, last Sunday.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said investigators were able to find evidence that linked the crimes to Hurdsman, and a search warrant was served at his home at 134 CR 3382 – not far from the Paradise Canyon Circle burglaries. Officers were able to recover numerous suspected stolen items including computers, televisions, jewelry, purses, more than 50 music CDs and other property.

After being tied to the cases by physical and trace evidence, Hurdsman was placed under arrest for the offenses. While he has only been charged with one count of burglary of a vehicle, Walker said he could eventually be charged with 20 counts, as well as two counts of burglary of a building (for entering two garages during the burglaries) and one count of theft of a firearm.

Hurdsman has also been charged with criminal mischief impair/interrupt public service less than $20,000, for stealing electricity.

He remained in the Wise County Jail Friday with total bond set at $15,000.

Louis Zehnder

Another person living at the home, Louis Zehnder, 61, was also arrested when investigators serving the search warrant discovered he was in possession of drugs. Zehnder was arrested on a third degree felony charge of possession of a controlled substance 1-4 grams. He also remained jailed Friday with total bond set at $11,000.

Walker praised his officers – including those in patrol, criminal investigations and crime scene investigators – for their work on the cases.

“They did a really good job,” Walker said. “Once (Hurdsman) was confronted with the latent evidence and physical evidence from the scene, he gave a confession.”

The next step will be trying to match up the stolen items to their rightful owners.

“We’ll start trying to compare everything they’ve recovered back to our reports,” Walker said. ” … We’ll try to get anybody who is missing items from their vehicles to come by, and if they’ve got a report, we can match to what we have.”

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said 10 to 12 vehicles in the Lipsey Addition neighborhood in the south part of town were also hit by car burglars last weekend, although no items have been discovered stolen. It is not known if those burglaries were tied to the county burglaries.

The common denominator in all of the break-ins was that the vehicles were unlocked. Vehicle owners are reminded to keep them locked, and keep valuables out of plain sight.

Hurdsman and Zehnder were the fourth and fifth persons to be arrested from the same home in the last couple of months. Rodney Hurdsman, whom Walker identified as Trevor Hurdsman’s father, and Rodney’s wife, Stephanie, were arrested at the end of September in connection with a bank robbery in Arkansas and were later charged with robbing the same bank in Round Rock twice.

Kenneth Lee Ulledahl was also charged with aggravated robbery in connection with one of the Round Rock robberies.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, November 29, 2014

ELECTIONS COMMISSION – The Wise County Elections Commission will meet next week to approve a job description for the elections administrator and develop a timeline in which to hire an EA. They will also discuss job posting methods to get the process started. The meeting is 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, in the Wise County Law Enforcement Center training room, 200 Rook Ramsey Dr., in Decatur.

DECATUR P&Z – Decatur’s Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a special meeting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut, to swear in four members and consider five requests – one for a zoning change on West Mill Street, three for final plats on South Cates, West Mill and North Trinity, and one replat request in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction in the South 287 Addition. The meeting is open to the public.

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911 text service available

Thanksgiving is the time for enjoying turkey in the company of friends and family.

But it can also be a time for emergencies. Think kitchen fires, accidents on packed roads or medical issues for those who may have overindulged in the Thanksgiving meal.

TEXTING 911 – Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint customers in Wise County can now text 911 if they find themselves in a situation where they cannot safely speak to a telecommunicator. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

It’s a good time to remind Wise County residents that if they need to call for help during the Thanksgiving holiday, or any other time of the year, they don’t even have to “call” at all.

Wise County made history in February of 2013 when it became the first county to offer a 911 system capable of receiving emergency calls via text message. At the time, the option was available only to Verizon Wireless customers. But as of April 7 of this year, the service was expanded to include T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint customers.

While the service has been slow to catch on with local residents – only two emergency calls have been received by text since the system went live – Wise County Communications Manager Susan Gomez said it is still a potentially useful tool.

“We’d like to get the word out,” she said. ” … There’s definitely some times when it would be helpful. I just think a lot of people don’t know about it.”

More texts have been received by 911 operators, but it turned out the calls were for non-emergency situations. For instance, several texts have been received for animal control issues.

Text to 911 service is also available at the Decatur and Bridgeport police departments. As of October, 37 law enforcement agencies in the North Central Texas Council of Governments area offer the service.

The texting service gives deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired residents direct access to 911 services. It could also be helpful in situations where a person’s safety could be compromised by speaking out loud, such as in an active shooter, domestic violence, home invasion or abduction situations.

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN TEXTING 911

  • The 911 telecommunicator needs to know your exact location and the nature of your emergency.
  • Use simple language; no abbreviations or slang.
  • Do not text and drive. Pull over to a safe location and stop your car before sending a text to 911.
  • Call first if you can, as it takes longer to get all of the information when communicating through text messages.
  • At this time, you can only send a text to 911 using a Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T phone that has an active texting plan.
  • You will receive a “bounce back” message if you are in an area where the service is not available telling you to make a voice call.

Information provided by the North Central Texas Council of Governments

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