Sisk gets 4-year sentence for burying body

A Boyd man has been sentenced to four years in prison after Tarrant County prosecutors said he helped bury the body of a murder victim in south Wise County.

Criminals

Joseph Daniel Sisk, 24, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors Page Simpson and Kevin Boneberg a couple of weeks ago. He pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence, according to a news release from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

Sisk’s father, William Farris Sisk Jr., 53, of Springtown, also pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The two are accused of concealing the body of Arturo Torres. Javier Hernandez, 38, of Fort Worth pleaded guilty to Torres’ murder and received a 20-year prison sentence.

The investigation into Torres’ death began Aug. 2, 2012, when Torres’ mother went to Fort Worth Police saying she had not seen her son for several weeks. Several months later, witnesses were located who began to shed light on what had happened.

“The witnesses told police that Torres and Hernandez had gotten into an argument at a residence in the 2300 block of Irion Avenue (in Fort Worth) and that Hernandez had shot Torres,” according to the district attorney’s office news release. “Hernandez ordered another man to cut Torres’ throat and finish him off. When he refused, Hernandez strangled Torres with a coax cable.”

The Sisks had come to the house that night to buy drugs, according to the news release, and Hernandez ordered them to take the body back to their property on County Road 4698 in Wise County.

“In the early morning hours of June 26, 2012, the Sisks arrived at a dumpsite off County Road 4698 in Wise County, where they dug a hole for several hours by flashlight. Then they buried the body,” according to the statement.

According to Wise County jail records, Joseph Sisk listed a home address of 1347 CR 4698 when he was booked into jail on an unrelated charge in April of 2012.

Investigators continued to gather information and obtained a search warrant for the property on County Road 4698, a couple of miles east of Farm Road 51. On Jan. 29, 2013, a Fort Worth homicide detective working with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s anthropology team, Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mandy Hays searched the location and found human remains that were later identified as Torres.

Hernandez’ girlfriend, Rocksan Winterberg, 33, also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and was sentenced to two years in prison.

According to the news release, Winterberg and another woman were told by Hernandez to follow Sisk’s truck back to Wise County the night the body was transported to “become a distraction” if police tried to stop the truck.

Winterberg was also later instructed to help dispose of the gun, the release stated.

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Trick or Treat

In Costume 2

IN COSTUME – Yucely Meza’s face paint replicates a sugar skull, a Mexican treat created and sold in the days and weeks leading up to one of the country’s most famous holidays – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Meza, 11, attended Spooktacular in Bridgeport Saturday evening. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

ALVORD

HAUNTED HOUSE – The Alvord High School Halloween haunted house is open indefinitely Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, starting at 10:30 p.m. on the 31st and 6 p.m. on the 1st. All proceeds benefit Alvord Project Graduation.

TRUNK OR TREAT – Alvord Booster Club is hosting trunk or treat at the AHS softball field starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. Pizza will be provided by the First Baptist Church of Alvord.

BRIDGEPORT

FALL FEST – The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport will have a Family Fun Fall Fest 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the church’s Family Life Center. There will be free food and candy, a bounce house, obstacle course, games and prizes. Wear costumes. The church is at the corner of Texas 114 and Cates Street.

COSTUME PARADE – Bridgeport Main Street’s Suit Up and Say Boo Halloween Costume parade down Halsell Street is 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. It begins at Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St.

HALLOWEEN NIGHT – Various streets will be closed 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, in the Oakland Heights Addition for trick-or-treating.

FEARAPHOBIA – The Fearaphobia Haunted House at 1407 Carpenter St. in Bridgeport is open 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays until Nov. 1. Tickets are $15 and $10 at the door for adults and children under 12, respectively, and $10 and $5 online at www.fearaphobia.com/tickets.html. There is also a children’s haunted house for those who feel they might get too scared going on the actual tour. If the event breaks even, designer Robert Chaney plans to give the proceeds to a local charity.

CHICO

HAUNTED HOUSE – The Chico Community Volunteer Fire Department will have a haunted house 6 to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October at the Old Chico Middle School, 400 S. Hovey St. Admission for 12 and under is $3 and 13 and older is $5. All proceeds will benefit the fire department. The haunted house will also have a “kid’s hall” for smaller children.

DECATUR

LIBRARY CARNIVAL – Decatur Public Library’s annual Halloween carnival is 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. There will be Halloween games with prizes, trick-or-treating for books and seasonal crafts. This special event is for grade-schoolers and families with young children. Call 940-393-0290.

TRUCK OR TREAT – First Baptist Church, 1200 Preskitt Rd., in Decatur is having Truck or Treat 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29. There will be a hay ride, games, prizes, hot dogs and candy.

FALL FESTIVAL – Eagle Drive Baptist Church, 1301 Eagle Dr., in Decatur is having a fall festival 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29. There will be a bounce house, ponies, live music, carnival games and free food.

FALL FESTIVAL – Governor’s Ridge Fall Festival is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. There will be a bounce house, games and prizes, a merry-go-round, goblin walk and a hot dog supper, plus trick or treating.

TRUNK OR TREAT – Victory Family Church in Decatur is having a fall festival 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29. There will be bounces houses, food, games, vendors and trunk or treat.

TRICK OR TREAT NIGHT – Decatur City Council voted to move the city’s trick or treat observance to Thursday, Oct. 30, to avoid a conflict with the Eagles’ final home football game Oct. 31. The council agreed to designate Deer Park Road as one-way, northbound, between Eagle Drive and Preskitt Road from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on the 30th to help ease traffic problems in some of the city’s more popular trick or treating areas.

SPOOKY FRIDAY – Decatur Public Library’s Spooky Friday Fun is 10:30 a.m. Oct. 31. Librarians will build reading readiness with stories, songs and puppet play. This special storytime event is for preschoolers and families with young children. Call 940-393-0290.

FALL FUN – The Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation, 201 East Thompson, in Decatur is having a fall festival 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. There will be indoor trick-or-treating, a bounce house, hot dogs, booths, popcorn and a cake walk. Call 940-627-2165.

RHOME

HALLOWEEN FUN – The city of Rhome is hosting Halloween in Family Park 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. Residents are invited to wear costumes and bring candy, along with table and chairs. Call Jo Ann Wilson, 817-638-2388.

SLIDELL

FALL FESTIVAL – Slidell ISD’s annual fall festival is 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at the Junior/Senior High building. Doors open at 5 p.m., and ticket sales begin at 5:30 p.m. Drawings will be at 8:15 p.m.

SUNSET

TRUNK OR TREAT – A Trunk or Treat Festival is 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at the Sunset Fire Hall. The event is hosted by the Sunset Volunteer Fire Department, the Community Park Board and several local churches. There will be games, candy and a hay ride. The hay ride will tour the developing community park where treats will be handed out in the haunted goblin park. The Park Board will also have concessions at the fire hall.

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Alves wins PBR world title

Alves wins PBR world title

Silvano Alves of Decatur made bull riding history, winning his third PBR world title Sunday in Las Vegas.

The 26-year-old went 6-for-6 at the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the first time in his career, securing the event average on top of the title – 2014 PBR World Champion.

Champion

CHAMPION – Silvano Alves of Decatur holds the cup over his head after winning his third PBR world title Sunday in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy Andy Watson/Bullstockmedia.com

He’s only the second rider to ever win three titles, joining Adriano Moraes, and he’s one of only four to win the world title and the event average in the same year.

Alves, a native of Pilar do Sul, Brazil, was presented a key to the city at the Decatur Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday. He greeted the crowd with a quiet, humble smile and thanked them for their support.

“I’m very happy about the three titles,” he said. “I love it here. It’s my home like in Brazil. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Alves lives in Decatur with his wife, Evelin, and their children, Hanyelle and Eduardo.

Although he’s only been competing in the Built Ford Tough Series for five years, he’s reached legendary status with earnings over $5 million. He was the fastest to hit the $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $4 million and $5 million marks in the history of PBR.

To top it off, Sunday afternoon he rode Asteroid, breaking the 2012 World Champion Bull’s streak of 30 consecutive buckoffs, for 87.25 points – capping off a near-perfect performance in Las Vegas.

The exuberant Alves celebrated with friends and was dogpiled in the arena, but Tuesday he said the accolades and success are more than he ever expected.

Although he trains hard, he said his focus is to simply ride bulls. It’s an attitude that has paid off.

Decatur Proud

DECATUR PROUD – Silvano Alves holds a key to the city of Decatur that was presented to him at Tuesday’s Chamber luncheon. Decatur Mayor Martin Woodruff (left) and Decatur Chamber President Brennan Williams congratulate the three-time champion. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Alves has said the 2014 season was his most difficult. He started the year nursing a separated shoulder and was in a bit of a slump before coming back and entering the finals as the No. 3 rider, trailing leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 511 points. It was the farthest back he had ever started a finals – but he eventually passed Vieira, who finished in second place, and ended the year in front by 1,938.06 points.

Alves led the BFTS this season with 50 rides and a riding average of 54.35 percent. He placed in the top five seven times and posted 12 top-10 finishes.

Now, it’s time to rest and relax, his wife said Tuesday.

Alves said it’s hard to put his feelings into words, but he’s simply happy.

“Just to be one of the two to win three titles,” he said, “that is very exciting.”

The only other Wise County riders to finish in the top 10 were Fabiano Vieira in fifth and Mike Lee in seventh.

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Grand jury indicts 29

A Wise County grand jury met Oct. 16 and returned the following felony indictments:

Darren Alan Berkley, possession of a controlled substance – methylone, 4-400 grams

Latasha Deann Berrier, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Leanne Bradley, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Jennifer Lyn Carroll, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Denise Anne Handy, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Martin Gutierrez Hernandez, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Bobbi Jo Hill, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Laura Ann Hollis, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Ronald Lynn Marlett, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon

Tyler William Mitchum, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, 4-200 grams

Gilbert Ray Morales, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, 4-200 grams

David Klatt Smith, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Megan Joe Houston, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (one count); injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury (two counts); abandon endanger child by omission

Aurelo Tabuyo, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Leslie Dawn Johnson, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (one count); injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury (two counts); abandon endanger child

Edwian Eugene Baker, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Joshua Chase Draper, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Leslie Dawn Johnson, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (one count); injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury (two counts); abandon endanger child criminal negligence (two counts)

James Pier Kimbro, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon

Chet Allen Benson, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury (one count); attempt to commit abandon endanger child criminal negligence (two counts) and injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury (one count); abandon endanger child criminal negligence (two counts)

Sergio Raul Morado-Romo, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Jeff William Walker, injury to a child reckless bodily injury

Daniel Ches Fuller, burglary of a building (one count); credit card or debit card abuse (four counts)

Brian Jadin Crowley, burglary of a building (one count); credit card or debit card abuse (four counts) and theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Daniel Ches Fuller, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Kyle Edwin Honeycutt, unauthorized use of a vehicle

Lakisha Nicole Roberts, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information number of items less than five

Adam Mathew Morgan, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Richard Kent Brock, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Latasha Deann Berrier, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Kevin Roger Musick, forgery financial instrument

Billy London Hughes, forgery financial instrument

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Wise Regional takes over nursing operations

The directors of Wise Regional Health System voted Monday night to affiliate with seven nursing facilities in the area – at their request.

Hospital CEO Steve Summers said the move was requested by those facilities to allow them to qualify for a higher reimbursement rate, under new laws that make more funds available to facilities that are affiliated with a public entity.

The Decatur-based health care system will take ownership of three facilities owned by Sava Senior Care, three owned by Kindred Health Care and one, DFW Rehab, that is owned by Ken Broussard. All are within about an hour of Decatur, mostly in the Fort Worth area.

“We’ve been approached by these entities to be involved with them, to help them secure additional funding,” Summers told the board. “We’ve visited with them, vetted all that, looked at it, and we felt like it’s a reasonable approach to consider being involved with these facilities.”

Wise Regional’s Donna Stowers will oversee them and report back to the board.

“They all have quality standards in place,” she told the board. “It’s in their best interest to have the best quality they can.”

WRHS attorney Jason Wren said the Hospital Authority would actually become the owner of the skilled nursing operations.

“We’ll lease the facilities, then enter into a management agreement with the folks who are operating them now,” he said.

The board approved unanimously.

SLEEP LABS TO MERGE

The board also approved another affiliation – this one with Somnus Healthcare sleep lab.

“We’ve been in discussions for a while now,” Summers told the board. “This is an organization that’s located in Decatur.

“We have an existing lab service, and we thought we would fold in those labs together and offer one service, on the West Campus,” he added. “This way we can offer more services in one setting instead of them being split between the two different organizations.”

Summers said the short-term contract, which calls for a flat payment every month, had been looked at and vetted by the hospital’s legal staff. The sleep lab will continue to be located on the West Campus.

It was approved unanimously.

OTHER ACTION

The board also:

  • approved the purchase of a portable EEG unit for $75,419, making that service available in-house 24 hours a day rather than having to contract with a mobile service and schedule those procedures during the hours it is on campus;
  • approved the revised succession planning and development policy;
  • approved five new appointments to the medical staff;
  • approved 17 bi-annual reviews; and
  • approved three first-year reviews.

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Halloween Events for Saturday, October 25, 2014

ALVORD

HAUNTED HOUSE – The Alvord High School Halloween haunted house is open for a lights on tour 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25. From 7 to midnight, it will be the full haunted house experience. On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, it will be open indefinitely, starting at 10:30 p.m. on the 31st and 6 p.m. on the 1st. All proceeds benefit Alvord Project Graduation.

BRIDGEPORT

SPOOKTACULAR – Bridgeport Parks and Recreation will host the Spooktacular Fall Festival 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at Bridgeport Community Center. The free event will include a zipline, rock wall, rat race, candy, games, popcorn, cotton candy, balloon animals and face painting. There will be magic shows at 5:45 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., and a costume contest sponsored by Bridgeport Main Street at 6:15 p.m.

TRUCK OR TREAT – Yesterday’s Texas, 305 U.S. 380, in Bridgeport is hosting Truck or Treat 6 to 8 p.m Saturday, Oct. 25. Registration for antique and classic cars and motorcycles is 4 to 6 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for the car show and best costume. There will be candy and games.

FALL FEST – The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport will have a Family Fun Fall Fest 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the church’s Family Life Center. There will be free food and candy, a bounce house, obstacle course, games and prizes. Wear costumes. The church is at the corner of Texas 114 and Cates Street.

COSTUME PARADE – Bridgeport Main Street’s Suit Up and Say Boo Halloween Costume parade down Halsell Street is 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. It begins at Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St. The street will be closed from 4:45 to 6 p.m. for the event.

HALLOWEEN NIGHT – Various streets will be closed 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, in the Oakland Heights Addition for trick-or-treating.

FEARAPHOBIA – The Fearaphobia Haunted House at 1407 Carpenter St. in Bridgeport is open 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays until Nov. 1. Tickets are $15 and $10 at the door for adults and children under 12, respectively, and $10 and $5 online at www.fearaphobia.com/tickets.html. There is also a children’s haunted house for those who feel they might get too scared going on the actual tour. If the event breaks even, designer Robert Chaney plans to give the proceeds to a local charity.

CHICO

HAUNTED HOUSE – The Chico Community Volunteer Fire Department will have a haunted house 6 to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October at the Old Chico Middle School, 400 S. Hovey St. Admission for 12 and under is $3 and 13 and older is $5. All proceeds will benefit the fire department. The haunted house will also have a “kid’s hall” for smaller children.

DECATUR

FALL FESTIVAL – Cornerstone Baptist Church, 701 W. Hale St., in Decatur will have a fall festival 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. There will be games, a hay ride, candy and free food.

TRUCK OR TREAT – Pleasant Grove Cowboy Church is having Truck or Treat 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. The church is located at 4789 S. Farm Road 730 near Decatur. There will be a bounce house, hot dogs and lots of candy. Call 940-627-2860.

TRUNK OR TREAT – The First United Methodist Church of Decatur is hosting Trunk or Treat 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26. The church is located at 104 S. Miller. There will be games, food, dunking booths and bounce houses. Call 940-627-3362.

SPOOKY TALES – Decatur Public Library is hosting Tales from the Critt, a Halloween-themed spoken word program with audiobook ace C.J. Critt, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27. A veteran of Broadway and a staff writer at Radio Disney as well as the original voice of America’s favorite bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, Critt will channel the voices of various mystery and suspense authors she has recorded in her 20-year career with Recorded Books and Harper Audio, and will treat the audience to some classic spooky fare and a lively question-and-answer session. Suggested age is 13 and up.

FALL FESTIVAL – Senior Care, 701 W. Bennett Rd., in Decatur is having its 5th Annual Fall Festival 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28. Wear costumes for trick-or-treating. There will be music, a bounce house, games, cotton candy, hot dogs and face painting.

TRUCK OR TREAT – First Baptist Church, 1200 Preskitt Rd., in Decatur is having Truck or Treat 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29. There will be a hay ride, games, prizes, hot dogs and candy.

TRUNK OR TREAT – Victory Family Church is having a fall festival 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29. There will be bounces houses, food, games, vendors and trunk or treat.

TRICK OR TREAT NIGHT – Decatur City Council voted to move the city’s trick or treat observance to Thursday, Oct. 30, to avoid a conflict with the Eagles’ final home football game Oct. 31. The council agreed to designate Deer Park Road as one-way, northbound, between Eagle Drive and Preskitt Road from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on the 30th to help ease traffic problems in some of the city’s more popular trick or treating areas.

FALL FESTIVAL – Governor’s Ridge Fall Festival is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. There will be a bounce house, games and prizes, a merry-go-round, goblin walk and a hot dog supper, plus trick or treating.

FALL FUN – The Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation, 201 East Thompson, in Decatur is having a fall festival 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. There will be indoor trick-or-treating, a bounce house, hot dogs, booths, popcorn and a cake walk. Call 940-627-2165.

RHOME

HALLOWEEN FUN – The city of Rhome is hosting Halloween in Family Park 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. Residents are invited to wear costumes and bring candy, along with table and chairs. Call Jo Ann Wilson, 817-638-2388.

SUNSET

FALL FESTIVAL – The County Line Cowboy Church fall festival is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. The church is located at 890 N. U.S. 81/287 in Sunset. Mutton bustin’ is at noon, and there will be a bounce house, face painting, a silent auction and horseshoes. Call 940-845-2020.

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Meeting Previews for Saturday, October 25, 2014

WISE REGIONAL ACQUISITIONS – At their 6 p.m. meeting Monday, Oct. 27, the directors of Wise Regional Health System will consider acquiring six nursing facilities and a rehab facility, including sublease, operations and management agreements. Three are nursing facilities operated by Sava Senior Care, three are Kindred nursing facilities and one is DFW Rehab, owned by Ken Broussard. Also on the agenda are several equipment purchases, appointments including medical staff appointments, reappointments and reviews and items to set up a hospital sleep lab with Somnus Healthcare and approve a succession plan for the hospital. The meeting, held in the board room at the West Campus, is open to the public.

WILDFIRE PROTECTION PLAN – The Decatur City Council will consider approving a community wildfire protection plan when it meets 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut. The plan is an agreement between the Decatur Fire Department and the Texas Forest Service. Also on the council agenda are approval of a performance agreement between the city’s Economic Development Corp. and Energy WorldNet, an interlocal agreement with Wise County for road repairs and maintenance, and a request from the Decatur High School junior class to hold a 5K run Nov. 8 as a fundraiser for the prom. A workshop with department reports begins at 5:30, and it’s all open to the public.

SHORT AGENDA FOR ALVORD – The Alvord school board will hear principals’ reports, pay the bills and not much else when they meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the school district’s Administration Building, 100 Mosley Lane. The only two regular agenda items are to consider a contract for property tax collection and assessment services with Wise County Appraisal District and consider regulating substitute teachers. The meeting is open to the public.

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Early voting available this weekend

If your work week schedule doesn’t allow you to vote early Monday-through-Friday for the Nov. 4 general election, you’re in luck this year.

Early voting will take place 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and, for the first time, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Decatur City Hall. Early voters should take note that this location will be used in place of Wal-Mart, which has been used for several years as a Saturday early voting location.

If a busy weekend keeps you away from the polls, don’t fret. Early voting continues with extended hours 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at three locations around the county:

  • Decatur City Hall, 201 E. Walnut St.;
  • Rhome City Hall, 105 1st St.; and
  • Bridgeport Law Enforcement Center, 1000 Thompson St.

Anyone registered to vote in Wise County can cast a ballot at any of these locations. Voters should bring a photo ID, along with their voter registration card.

Through the first five days of early voting at the three locations mentioned above, 1,913 votes had been cast. That included 1,043 in Decatur, 467 in Bridgeport and 403 in Rhome.

Interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker said as of Friday, his office had received 758 mail-in ballots.

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Injured rider identified

The most seriously injured rider from last weekend’s motorcycle accident in Rhome is Gary Hayes, 58, of Utah.

Hayes flown Sunday morning from the accident scene on the U.S. 81/287 service road, between Pioneer Road and Texas 114, to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

He’s listed in critical condition.

The second rider, Ronald Arthur Lourenco, 67, was treated and released from JPS. The two motorcycles collided as Hayes attempted to change lanes and enter the highway.

Lourenco was identified in the original news story Oct. 22. Hayes’ name was just released Friday by the Rhome Police Department.

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Early voting off to mediocre start

Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election started Monday and drew more than 400 people to the Wise County polls.

PROUD TO VOTE – A poll worker hands out stickers to every person that casts a ballot. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker said 443 people cast ballots, which does not include limited or provisional ballots.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • 234 – Decatur City Hall, 201 E. Walnut
  • 112 – Bridgeport Law Enforcement Center, 1000 Thompson St.
  • 97 – Rhome City Hall, 105 1st St.

Parker said 46 people voted Monday in the Paradise school board election.

“In 2012, the last real big race with a presidential race, we had 1,000 [voters] on the first day,” he said. “So we’re running about half.”

He said traffic was slow Tuesday with 351 voters. Seventy-six cast ballots in Rhome, 86 in Bridgeport and 189 in Decatur.

Twelve people voted in the Paradise school board election Tuesday.

Early voting at all three locations continues 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 24 and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 27-31.

This weekend, Decatur City Hall will be open for early voting 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precinct polling locations throughout the county.

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Man arrested for arson, assault

A Decatur man was arrested Wednesday morning on felony charges stemming from a trailer fire Oct. 4.

Johnny Leon Moore III

Johnny Leon Moore III, 45, of Decatur was arrested by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office fugitive apprehension unit in connection with the fire at 3222 N. U.S. 81/287, according to the Wise County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Moore was charged with arson causing bodily injury, a first degree felony, and aggravated assault causes serious bodily injury, a second degree felony. He remains in the Wise County Jail with a $100,000 bond for each charge.

Patricia K. Woods, 40, suffered burns on her lower extremities in the fire, and remains hospitalized at Parkland in Dallas.

Woods and Moore were purchasing the trailer from the owner of Brushy Creek RV Park, off U.S. 81/287 just behind the roadside rest area northwest of Decatur. They had lived there about three weeks.

After the fire broke out, Moore reportedly took Woods in a private vehicle to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur, where she was treated and later transferred by helicopter to Parkland.

The Decatur Fire Department was called at 11:18 a.m. the day of the fire, and when they arrived at the location, the RV was fully engulfed. They extinguished the fire and stayed on the scene until 1:25 p.m. – but the RV and contents were a total loss.

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Early voting opens Monday

Come Jan. 1, 2015, Texas will have a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner.

It all starts Monday, when early voting opens statewide.

There’s much more on this year’s ballot: seats in the Texas and U.S. House and Senate, a host of judgeships, even Paradise school board posts.

Wise County will elect a slate of local officeholders too. District and county judge and clerk positions, a county court-at-law judge, county treasurer and two commissioners’ posts are on the ballot along with four justice of the peace jobs.

And voters statewide will give their yea or nay to a constitutional amendment providing additional money from the state’s surplus to the state highway fund.

Early voting is available at the Bridgeport Law Enforcement Center, Decatur City Hall and Rhome City Hall beginning at 8 Monday morning. Anyone registered to vote in Wise County can cast a ballot at any of those locations.

Hours for early voting, which runs through Oct. 31, are:

  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, through Friday, Oct. 24
  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at Decatur City Hall
  • noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, at Decatur City Hall
  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, through Friday, Oct. 31

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precinct polling locations throughout the county.

The most recent Appeals Court decision restored the state’s Voter ID law, meaning those wishing to cast a ballot will need to bring a photo ID with them to the polling place, along with their voter registration card.

There are seven forms of acceptable ID:

  • Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

Voters who don’t have an ID when they show up at the polling place will be issued a provisional ballot, which can become official if they return with an ID within a given number of days.

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Transportation planner touts 287 corridor; Says Texas needs to do more to boost Gulf shipping

In the world of transportation and infrastructure planning, David Dean is a pretty heavy hitter.

And he’s a fan of Decatur.

David Dean

Dean, who served as general counsel to two Texas governors and as Secretary of State from 1981-1983, is president of Dean International Inc., a public policy consulting firm. He’s one of the driving forces behind TEX-21, a 12-year-old grassroots coalition working to find comprehensive solutions to the transportation challenges facing Texas.

Decatur and Wise County are among the roughly 75 public and private entities which are members of the coalition.

“We appreciate the leadership of Decatur and Wise County in this coalition,” Dean said Wednesday, speaking to the Decatur Lions’ Club. “They’ve been able to wave the Wise County flag in Austin and Washington, D.C. and because of that many, many people in the executive and legislative branches of government understand who you are, your business base and what your needs are, better than ever before.”

Dean said the U.S. 287 corridor has long been a vital part of the nation’s transportation system. In fact, a coalition was formed in 1913 – before there was a U.S. highway system – to promote the corridor as a major trade and tourism route from the Texas Gulf Coast to the north and west.

“Over 100 years ago they were trying to create a corridor that would eventually become U.S. Highway 287 – and they were very successful,” he said. “Highway 287 became one of the major north-east-south-west corridors connecting the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, up through what’s now called the Metroplex to Amarillo, Colorado and north.”

BEAUMONT TO YELLOWSTONE – A 1950s-era flyer touts the attractions along U.S. 287, promoting it as a trade and tourist artery from the Texas Gulf Coast to the scenic west. Submitted photo

That group ceased to exist in the 1960s after it was unsuccessful in getting 287 designated an interstate highway. TEX-21 is its successor.

“We’re basically trying to resurrect what our predecessors created,” Dean said. “To get people to think about what’s 50 miles down the road this way and what’s 50 miles down the road that way.”

TAX AVERSION TENSION

Dean said the state’s current model of building and maintaining roads with the tax on gasoline is “not sustainable.” He urged his audience to vote in favor of Prop. 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot, using some oil and gas revenue from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to bolster highway maintenance projects.

Solutions like that are a necessity, he said, in a state and nation that have become “tax-averse.”

He referenced President George Bush the elder’s comment, “Read my lips: no new taxes” – later withdrawn as taxes were raised – which likely cost him re-election to the White House.

“‘No new taxes’ has become the settled public policy of national, state, regional and local governments,” Dean said. “There’s no part of the country that embraces a tax-and-spend policy.

“That’s a good thing, but it’s also a challenging thing for a state like Texas that is still growing.”

He noted that the Texas of his boyhood had 9 million residents and was the third most populous state in the U.S.

“I remember going on house calls with my dad [a pediatrician] in the evening, driving from Dallas to Fort Worth and Dad telling me, ‘One day, son, this is all going to be one big metropolis,’ as we passed a dairy farm,” he laughed. “Well, that’s exactly what it is today.

“And I’m here to tell you that one of these days – and many of us will still be living – Decatur’s going to be a part of that metropolitan area and so will all of Wise County. It’s coming, just like the tide, and you can’t stop it.”

He noted that in the 40 years from 1960 to 2000, Texas grew from 9 million to 20 million and passed New York as the second most populous state. Since 2000, Texas’ population has increased by 25 percent, jumping from 20 million to 25 million.

And, he said, within a 60-mile radius of DFW Airport – which encompasses virtually all of Wise County – in 2000 there were 6 million people. Today that number is seven-and-a-half million.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is, in fact, the largest inland population center – not on a coast or a waterway – in the U.S., and the fastest-growing metropolitan area over 3 million people in the U.S.

“About 1,500 people a day are moving into Texas,” Dean said. “Add in 1,100 babies a day. I know a few die and a few leave, but by and large people are getting here as quickly as they can, and they’re staying.

“They’re coming to Texas because they want what we’ve got – quality of life, low taxes, minimal regulation on businesses and generally corruption-free government. That’s the modern miracle of Texas.”

And while all those things are good, he said, Texas has not done a particularly good job of providing the infrastructure needed to accommodate the growing population.

“I’m focusing on transportation, but you could talk about water, criminal justice, higher education, public education,” he said. “If you’ve got a state that’s averse to raising taxes, then eventually there’s going to be major, major tension when it comes to providing essential services in a growing population area.”

SHIPPING OPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES

He shifted the focus to the Panama Canal, which should complete a deepending and widening project in 2016. That will allow huge container ships to transit to the Gulf coast and eastern seaboard.

The use of Texas ports could amplify the importance of 287 in carrying goods from the coast inland.

“Much of what you see coming eastbound on BNSF and UP trains arrived in Long Beach four or five days earlier,” he said. “It’s coming to Alliance Airport or one of the other intermodal centers to be redistributed throughout the country.”

He said U.S. 287, from Beaumont/Port Arthur, is the “sleeper corridor” as far as getting products distributed into the United States and from the metroplex throughout the world.

“There’s going to be a massive shift,” he said. “Those ships coming from all over Asia bringing products to be consumed in the U.S. are not going to have to stop at LA/Long Beach, Oakland or Seattle/Tacoma. They’re going to be able to come south through the Panama Canal, through the canal, and access the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic seaboard.”

One modern container ship, he said, carrying 14,000 containers, is enough to fill 35 trains a mile-and-a-half long, double-stacked.

He said the cost to move one container one mile by water is about 10 cents. By train, it’s about $2 and by truck it’s about $4.

“Economics drives everything,” he said. “The closer you can get your product to the customer by water, the lower the cost is going to be.”

Texas has 16 seaports along 350 miles of coastline, he said, but not one that can accommodate the new cargo ships. And, he added, no one is working to deepen their port to do so.

“These ships are just like trucks,” he said. “They want to fill it back up. That’s 35 trains to unload it and 35 trains to reload it. We’re talking about massive, massive, massive economic development for those ports.

“We’ve got the possibility in Texas, if we get our transportation policy right, to make this happen. We need to wake up and do the things we need to do to diversify our economy and create jobs for all these people who are moving here.”

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Storms roar through county

Storms roar through county

A line of severe thunderstorms with high wind and hail tore through Wise County and North Texas early Monday, leaving a trail of debris and damage.

Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said straight-line winds toppled numerous power poles and left other destruction behind.

Path of Destruction

PATH OF DESTRUCTION – A barn off of Farm Road 2264 was flattened by straight-line winds in Monday’s early morning storms. Most of the damage was in the east and southeast part of the county. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“There was no circular rotation-type damage that I saw anywhere,” he said. “And after talking with the weather service, they confirmed what we saw. They did show that the winds picked up to 70 to 72 mph.”

He also said the National Weather Service showed a significant patch of severe weather and high wind in the southeast part of the county, which correlates with damage he saw stretching between New Fairview and Boyd. (See sidebar on page 7.)

Around midnight, all county fire departments were put on weather watch. Shortly thereafter, the wind began to howl.

Issues with power lines were reported almost immediately, and by 1:30 a.m. a line was down, stretched across the highway about a mile south of Rhome near County Road 4838. It crossed all four lanes of U.S. 81/287 and the Burlington Northern train track.

The highway was shut down for almost four hours with traffic backing up for miles. Many truck drivers climbed into their sleepers and caught a little shut-eye during the delay.

About the same time, power lines and multiple poles were reported down along a one-mile stretch of Farm Road 2264, east of Decatur. A section of the road from the cowboy church on 2264 to Long Branch Road was closed until 4 p.m. Monday while repairs were made.

Wise Electric Co-op’s line superintendent, Russell King, said they had to replace nine poles and a lot of wire.

“This was a straight-line wind that as it blew took out some buildings, like barns,” he said. “There were two or three structures that went through the power lines and broke the poles at the same time.”

King said some residents were without electricity until 1:15 p.m. Monday. Electricity was restored in two waves with the first section about four hours after the initial outage and the second later in the day.

He said damage along 2264 was some of the most concentrated seen by his crews.

“We had some in Aurora and Keeter, too,” he said, “although we saw a lot more tree damage in the Keeter area.”

He said the damage to the trees indicated those winds may have been more tornadic. The outage in that area was scattered, and some of those homes didn’t have electricity restored until 4 or 5 p.m. Monday.

Although the worst damage seemed to be in the eastern and southeastern part of the county, the entire county did get some much-needed rainfall with every community getting more than an inch.

Alvord topped the charts with 4.5 inches for the weekend – including Friday night rains – followed by Greenwood with 2.7 inches.

Chico received 2.1 inches; Cottondale, 1.7; Rhome, 1.67; Decatur, 1.32; and Paradise, 1.1.

Flattened Fence

FLATTENED FENCE – Scott Warner’s fence was pushed down in Monday’s early morning storms. He lives in Reatta Estates just south of Decatur. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

FROM FACEBOOK

Most of the damage from Monday’s storms seemed to be centered in east and southeast Wise County. Below is a selection of reader comments from the Messenger Facebook page detailing destruction in those areas.

Tiffany Dianne: “We had a lot of damage in that area when we were able to drive to town via 2264 (Monday) around 5 p.m. … there were barns and outbuildings completely destroyed, sheet metal and debris scattered across the fields and pastures … one of our neighbors, their windows were blown out and they had a hole in their roof … crazy winds!”

Juanita Ransom: “County Road 4680 in Boyd, major damage! Downed powerlines, several trees down, barn tin everywhere! I think a tornado hit our place!”

Helen Sharp Bowling: “A lot of damage to our place on FM 2264, southeast of Decatur. Front and back porch damage, hay barn damage, chicken house roof gone, big tree down in front yard along with downed power lines! Our neighbors also have damage including some windows blown out!”

Crysti Taylor Lambert: “Prairie View Estates off 2264 … debris everywhere, trees down, mailboxes gone, our AC unit ripped away from our house, fences destroyed, etc.”

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Ross gets hearing, no ruling

For the first time in a three-year drama, oral arguments related to charges against former Wise County Precinct 4 County Commissioner Terry Ross were heard in a court of law.

A final ruling is still 60 to 90 days away.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

Ross’ attorney, David Fielding, and County Attorney James Stainton presented their cases to a panel of judges Tuesday morning in the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas.

With the exception of Ross’ family, there was no audience in the Fort Worth courtroom as Fielding appealed Ross’ removal from office before a panel of three judges – Chief Justice Terrie Livingston, Justice Sue Walker and Justice Lee Gabriel.

Ross was removed from office March 19 by a summary judgment issued by District Judge Roger Towery, settling a civil suit filed by retired Texas Ranger Lane Akin of Decatur in June of 2012.

Fielding argued that the removal was wrongful because it was done under a statute that says a county officer can be automatically removed if convicted of a misdemeanor involving official misconduct.

Fielding acknowledged that Ross was convicted of a misdemeanor; his client pleaded guilty to abuse of official capacity greater than $20 and less than $500, which is a Class B misdemeanor.

But he downplayed the action leading to the charge and argued that it didn’t include, by definition, official misconduct.

“He built a treehouse for his grandchildren and wanted to keep it a secret from them for a Christmas present,” he said. “County property … you could argue that he shouldn’t have done that, but he wasn’t thinking about violating rules or laws, he just wanted to get that built for his grandkids. He and his wife were going to build it together.”

He said the definition of abuse of official capacity doesn’t include “official misconduct,” which he said means intentional, unlawful behavior relating to official duties. He also argued that the words “official misconduct” were not used in the indictment.

Judge Gabriel questioned his point.

“… nevertheless, he judicially admitted acting intentionally or knowingly … correct?” she said. “And he judicially admitted that he misused government proerty.

“How is that not a violation of duties?” she asked.

Fielding argued that the prosecutor was also obligated to show willful or evil intent to prove official misconduct, and he said Ross was not guilty of that.

“Maybe he shouldn’t have used that county barn,” he said, “but if you grew up in a small county like I did, you know people use the county barn for all kinds of things … they build parade floats in them … but in this case he was doing it for his grandkids.

“When it was brought to his intention, he felt bad about it,” Fielding said. “He was not guilty of evil intent.”

Stainton argued that Ross did display official misconduct (intentional and unlawful behavior), pled guilty, and said it was related to his official duties because if he was not county commissioner, he wouldn’t have had access to county property, personnel and materials.

“Simply by virtue of saying, ‘This is not official misconduct’ – I don’t think that gets you out of it,” he said.

Stainton also said Ross shouldn’t have the opportunity to re-litigate the facts of the criminal case.

“You don’t get to come in and take two bites of the apple,” he said. “In this case, the appellant was sitting there on the day of trial with 100 people in the courtroom, ready to go to trial … He had the ability to litigate the facts at the time.

“Instead, he chose to waive his right to a jury, admit he was guilty and plead giulty. He’s litigated those and shouldn’t be allowed to re-litigate.”

One of the judges took issue with this point and reminded Stainton that the central question was whether or not this was, in fact, official misconduct.

The county attorney emphasized that official misconduct is a question for the judge, not a jury, as Ross is seeking. He said jury can only determine whether or not certain things are true – not whether something is official misconduct or whether something is wrong or right.

“Even if you got out to that point and say you’re going to have a jury like the appellant wants, all the facts have already been litigated,” he said. “There aren’t any questions of fact left. Those have been established at this point.”

In his rebuttal, Fielding again mentioned the facts of the case, insisting that Ross’ actions were not out of “evil intent.”

“He was charged with building a playhouse for his grandchildren on public property,” he said. “and I’m not even sure that is a violation of the law, but he did it. It is public property. Second, utilizing public employees … Some of the guys would come in at the end of the day … they’d help him chalk a line or hold a board while he nailed it, right at the end of the day when they didn’t have anything to do.”

He was interrupted by one of the judges who reminded him Ross has already admitted to these facts.

“Really the question is whether or not … the plea of true or guilty of the offense of official capacity constitutes official misconduct.”

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Coalition looks to build mass transit awareness

The Wise County Transportation Coalition discussed a new TAPS route – from Decatur to Fort Worth via Rhome – at its meeting Tuesday morning at Decatur City Hall.

The coalition, formed in August in an effort to improve county public transportation services, is chaired by Jeff Davis, the transportation solutions coordinator for TAPS TAPS (Texoma Area Paratransit System) Public Transit.

Six TAPS buses currently serve Wise County, and TAPS Access began serving the area in September, providing non-emergency medical transportation for Medicaid recipients.

The TAPS service area includes Wise, Clay, Montague, Cooke, Grayson, Fannin and Collin counties.

At the meeting, Davis emphasized that TAPS isn’t just for senior citizens, but for anyone with Medicaid. He also laid out strategies for coordinated public transportation in Wise County, including installing a “park and ride” location in Decatur and making citizens more aware of the public transportation opportunities available to them.

One way TAPS is building that awareness is by installing a new route that goes from Decatur to Rhome to downtown Fort Worth. There, TAPS participants can ride the “T” train or take the TRE to Dallas.

“It would be a fixed route, with set stops in Decatur and Rhome and in downtown Fort Worth,” Davis said.

The origin in Decatur would be the “park and ride” spot, but Davis said he doesn’t know where that would be yet. Suggested locations included local churches, Wal-Mart, and Lowe’s.

“Our biggest challenge so far has been getting the word out [about TAPS and its services],” Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon said. “Right now, if you’re a driver in Texas, you’ve basically got three choices: either you get used to paying a whole bunch of money for tolls, you have to learn to take public transportation or you have to learn to sit in a bunch of gridlock traffic.”

Davis said Texans can help solve the state’s transportation problem by voting for Proposition 1 Nov. 4 – a constitutional amendment which would implement $1.7 billion in funds to the State Highway Fund for renovations the first year it goes into effect.

The coalition also discussed veterans’ services and floated the possibility of holding seminars at City Hall to teach people how to use the TRE.

The coalition, which is open to anyone with an interest in transportation issues, will meet again at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 9 at Decatur City Hall.

Brian Knox contributed to this report.

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Bands head to contest Saturday

Six Wise County high school marching bands will compete this Saturday in the Region 2 University Interscholastic League Marching Contest at C.H.Collins Athletic Complex in Denton.

Forward March

FORWARD MARCH – The Bridgeport High School marching Bulls will be one of six Wise County bands competing in the Region 2 University Interscholastic League Marching Contest Saturday at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in Denton. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

The conference 2A and 3A bands will open the contest, with Alvord (2A) performing at 9 a.m., Boyd (3A) at 9:30 and Paradise (3A) at 10:45.

After a short break in which the results for those divisions will be announced, the 4A bands will kick off at 11:15.

Bridgeport marches third in that set, with a performance time of 11:45. Decatur is scheduled to march at 12:30 p.m.

Class 4A results will be announced during the lunch break which begins at 1:30.

The 5A bands start at 2:15, and 6A bands will begin at 4. Northwest is slated to march at 5 p.m.

Alvord is the only 2A band in the contest. There are seven 3A bands, nine 4A bands, six 5A bands and eight 6A bands.

Bands in conference 4A and 6A will have an opportunity to advance to UIL State Marching Contest this year. All the other conferences will be eligible for state competition next year.

General admission for Saturday’s marching contest is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

C.H. Collins Athletic Complex is located at 1500 Long Rd., just off Loop 288 on the northeast side of Denton.

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Wise Regional gears up for Ebola

As national attention on Ebola intensifies in the U.S., and additional cases are identified, Wise Regional Health System in Decatur is taking precautions to make sure the hospital’s staff is prepared should there be a suspected case.

“The proximity of the initial patient to our hospital definitely increased our awareness of the disease and the need to be prepared,” said Kellye Souther, Emergency Room Director.

Souther said Wise Regional has held weekly meetings with staff from approximately 15 different departments since the first U.S. patient with Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas on Sept. 28.

That patient, Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, died Oct. 8. On Oct. 10, a nurse who helped care for him at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital reported a fever and on Oct. 12 a diagnosis of Ebola was confirmed.

It is still unknown how the nurse, 26-year-old Nina Pham, contracted the virus – but medical personnel across the country are on high alert.

“The team meetings review our internal protocol procedures, supplies and department needs,” Souther said. “We also discuss the most updated guidelines and information from the CDC.”

In addition to Wise Regional’s staff, representatives from Wise County EMS also have been involved in the planning sessions. Local EMS has implemented precautions in dispatch to include CDC-protocol questions – asking patients their symptoms, travel history and potential exposure risks – so that crews are prepared upon arrival.

All of that information would also be relayed to the hospital. If an at-risk patient were to be identified, preparations would begin to receive the patient through an isolated entrance and into a negative-pressure anteroom.

The isolation room has a ventilation system that generates negative pressure to allow air to flow into the isolation room, but not escape from the room. Each floor of the facility has an isolation room that could be used to treat a patient, if needed.

“The hospital has a detailed infectious disease plan in place,” said Sally Stokes, Wise Regional’s Director of Infection Control. “We have included the updated guidelines and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Although the risk is low, if a patient exhibits symptoms of Ebola, we are prepared to follow infection control protocols established by the CDC, beginning with placing the patient in isolation,” she added.

Stokes also said that any suspected cases would be reported to local and state health departments and the CDC as quickly as possible, and the hospital would continue to follow the guidance of those organizations regarding the care of the patient.

She added that Dallas now has the ability to test Ebola samples locally, rather than send them to the state lab in Austin, allowing for quicker diagnosis and treatment.

Additional measures include preparing designated carts with all the needed protective equipment, so that it is readily available at triage – regardless of whether the patient comes by ambulance or the front door.

Wise Regional would also be able to call upon its designated Decontamination Team, which drills year-round on properly putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to safely and effectively decontaminate patients who present to the Emergency Department.

“The hospital is taking the issue very seriously,” said LeeAnn Cummings, the incoming Chief Nursing Officer. “We participate in all scheduled conference calls that include the state health department, CDC and the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.”

Cummings said the hospital will hold a mock drill in the coming week to review protocols and processes, and to make sure communication between departments is running smoothly.

Wise Regional has placed additional information on Ebola and the Enterovirus-D68 on its website under Health Information on the main page at WiseRegional.com.

At press time, the nurse in Dallas was reportedly improving.

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Judge upholds appointment

Judge upholds appointment

Wise County Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith dropped her head in her hands as the judge announced his ruling shortly after noon Friday at the Wise County Courthouse.

Intense Discussion

INTENSE DISCUSSION – Winford Cash and Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith consult during Friday’s hearing at the Wise County Courthouse. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. of Fort Worth’s 96th District Court denied the injunction Smith had requested against interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker and the Wise County Elections Commission.

“I think the spirit of the law was not adhered to,” she said afterward. “I don’t feel like the intent of the law was followed, either. It’s unfortunate.”

Several witnesses testified during the two-hour hearing before a crowd of about 20.

Smith’s attorney, Steve Maxwell, who is chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, said most of the facts in this case were not in dispute.

The Elections Commission appointed Parker interim EA Sept. 23 to replace Lannie Noble, who had resigned to accept the same position in Denton County. At the time of Parker’s appointment, he was a vice chair of the Wise County Republican Party. He turned in his letter of resignation to Party Chair Allen Williamson immediately following the appointment.

Presenting His Case

PRESENTING HIS CASE – Wise County Attorney James Stainton makes his opening statement during a hearing Friday in which Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith sought an injunction against the appointment of Jim Parker as interim elections administrator. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

At the same meeting, they accepted Noble’s resignation letter, which stated he intended to work through Sept. 26. Later in the week of Sept. 23, a resolution naming Parker interim elections administrator was submitted to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, and it said Parker would assume duties of the office Sept. 23.

Smith had refused to sign the document because she said it was an illegal appointment. She filed the lawsuit Sept. 30, and on Oct. 8, the commission reconvened to clarify its appointment and amend the resolution to reflect a start date for Parker of Sept. 29.

“The disputed issue of fact is whether Mr. Noble was to remain on the job until Sept. 26 or not,” he said. “Our position is not only was that not discussed in the meeting, but an order of an elections administrator appointment was entered on that very day, Sept. 23.”

He also said the proper procedure was not for the commission to amend the document but instead re-do the appointment in accordance with the law.

Maxwell cited 31.035 in the Election Code, which says in part, “A county elections administrator may not be a candidate for a public office or an office of a political party, hold a public office, or hold an office of or position in a political party. At the time an administrator becomes a candidate or accepts an office or position in violation of this subsection, the administrator vacates the position of the administrator.”

Since Parker’s appointment, resignation, and start date all appeared to be the same date – the 23rd – they said it was in violation of the statue.

County Attorney James Stainton disagreed with that interpretation in his opening statement.

“Mr. Maxwell interprets the statute in one direction that if at any time you hold two positions, you’re automatically out,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the statute says. It says if you’re an administrator and you take an affirmative act to put yourself in a position in a political party, then you are out.”

Stainton also said he didn’t think the Oct. 8 meeting was improper because the change was made to reflect the original intent of the commission.

“Our contention continues to be that the meeting on the 8th was to clarify the will and desire of the commission, and even so … in the first place, we don’t think anything was improper at (the time of the appointment),” he said.

Smith, a staff accountant at a firm in Denton, was the first to take the stand. She’s been chair of the Democratic Party since August of 2013.

She said that although the date of Noble’s last day with the county was in his resignation letter, it was not specifically discussed in the Sept. 23 meeting.

Stainton asked her if discussion was necessary because she and the other commission members had the letter in their hands.

“I wouldn’t call it, ‘There was no need for a discussion,'” she said.

“You had the letter in your hand saying the 26th … everyone else had the letter,” he said. “You didn’t feel the need to challenge the date being the 26th or otherwise bring it up in any form or fashion did you?” he asked.

Smith said she didn’t know it would be necessary before finally answering the question.

Stainton also asked Smith what her impression was on the 23rd of when Parker was to take office, and she said there was “no impression.”

“Despite the fact that you had the letter stating (Noble’s) last day in office was the 26th?” Stainton asked.

Smith insisted the letter was the “intent” of Mr. Nobles, not necessarily the intent of the commission.

She went on to testify that Parker began work before Noble’s last day on Sept. 26. She said her husband received a letter from Parker postmarked Sept. 24 about election judge training in October.

Also on the 24th, she said Parker called her, in the capacity of elections administrator, to notify her that Democratic campaign signs in Bridgeport needed to be moved because they were illegally placed.

When questioned, she admitted the letter she received was not signed by Parker.

“Was it possible that he had no knowledge of that being sent out?” Stainton asked.

Smith didn’t answer the question and instead said Parker was working at the office.

“Were you in the office? Did you see him in the office?” asked Stainton.

“No, I did not,” she said.

“Did he call you from the office phone number?” Stainton asked in reference to the campaign sign conversation.

She said she assumed he did.

“You don’t really know, do you?” he said.

Smith insisted she did.

Deputy Elections Administrator Karen Valenzuela testified, revealing more details about the letter sent from the EA office with Parker’s name on it.

She said she wrote the letter and put the names on it, which included Parker’s, hers and that of Deputy Voter Registrar Luis Valdez. She said this was the same form letter that her department sends every year. “I was letting the election judges know who the new elections administrator would be,” she said.

She said she was instructed to send the letter by Noble, and Parker did not know about the letter prior to it being sent.

Parker also testified, stating his first knowledge of the letter was when his wife, who is an election official, received it.

He also said his phone conversation about signs with Smith was more of a courtesy call and that he, Smith and other party representatives regularly talk about signs and placement and wording of signs and try to give each other a heads-up if they hear of something being wrong.

“Our conversation about the signs lasted maybe two or three minutes,” he said. He said the rest of the conversation was about an upcoming Halloween party and he and his wife’s decision to buy an RV.

He testified that he did not call her in the capacity of elections administrator.

Others testifying in the case included Lee Foster of Alvord, a Democratic precinct chair; County Clerk Sherry Lemon; and Wise County Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson.

After the ruling was announced, Williamson told the Messenger he felt confident going into today’s proceedings.

“On behalf of myself personally, I want to thank Stainton for the work he did,” he said. “He prepared for this case very well and … we believed that we would prevail, and we appreciate the system and the court’s time.”

Smith said she didn’t know what the Democratic Party’s next step would be as she had not yet discussed that with her attorney.

She said she does have concerns about how the November election will be run.

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New program sparks learning

Starting Oct. 15, Weatherford College students will be able to learn a new trade at the college’s Wise County campus.

That’s when the new welding program kicks off.

Fired Up

FIRED UP – Terry Pilgrim of Weatherford College Wise County demonstrates some of the equipment that students will be using in the upcoming sections of the welding class that the college is offering. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Basic welding, metallic arc welding, welding layout, intermediate arc welding, introduction to welding multi processes, advanced arc welding and pipe welding are the seven classes offered through the program.

If a student completes all the classes (a total of 336 hours of coursework), they will receive a basic welding technology certificate.

“We needed another facility. That’s why we’re there,” welding instructor Jeff Langston said. “We also saw there was a need for us to come in and do exactly just that.”

Langston is a welder with Crisp Industries Inc. in Bridgeport.

The program, made possible through grants from the Texas Public Education Grant and the Workforce Investment Act, is being touted as a way to prepare workers for an expanding employment landscape. According to a statement released by WC in July, more than half a million welding-related jobs have opened up since 2008, and jobs will continue to become available over the next four years.

“The U.S. Department of Labor has projected openings for 617,900 workers across America in jobs that require welding between 2008 and 2018, and prospects are good for welders trained in the latest technologies like those now offered by WC,” the statement said.

“We’re working to acquire a way to certify these welders under the American Welding Society, so that will be a nationally recognized certification,” said Terry Pilgrim, a WC workforce and continuing education coordinator. He said another option students could pursue independently is a Canadian certificate.

“I understand there’s a lot of welders going up to Canada right now.”

As for the nuts and bolts of the class, Pilgrim said everyone will start with Intro to Welding, move on to basic shielded metallic arc welding, and then move from there. The further along the students get in the coursework, the more actual welding they will do.

Langston said the first thing every student will learn is safety.

“There’s really not a lot of actual welding in the intro class, but there is a lot of identification of weld quality,” Langston said. “We want to train our people what a good weld looks like.”

The welding layout class “should be 20 to 30 percent class work, just studying blueprints and symbols,” Langston said.

By the time students get to the pipe welding class, they will know how to safely identify welding tools, perform bead and fillet welds, create welding layouts, perform stringer bead and cap welds, art gouging, flux-cored arc welding and pipe fitting.

“It’s the hardest weld test out there,” Langston said of the 6G weld test used to identify pipe welds.

The class will be offered two nights a week, three hours a night, for eight weeks. Students are only allowed to miss three nights if they want to get certified. The $3,780 cost is approved for WIA/Workforce funding.

Pilgrim said he hopes there will be enough interest in the welding program to start a full-time welding school to make it faster to get certified.

“Maybe somewhere down the road we can have a welding academy or welding school, where they can come in and do this in three months instead of taking one class a week. It’s a long process,” Pilgrim said. “But if we can plug in something that they can benefit from – even if it may take a while – that’s alright.”

He added that the welding program is just one among many that the college is looking to implement in the future.

“If we’re not improving ourselves, then we’re getting stagnant, and I’m too old to get stagnant.”

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