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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Weatherford College enrollment outpaces other community colleges

Like most Texas community colleges, Weatherford College saw a decrease in enrollment for the fall 2014 semester.

The good news is that among its peer group – other Texas colleges with similar enrollment numbers – WC performed very well.

Normally, as unemployment drops, so does community college enrollment. A stronger economy means fewer people going back to school for training in a new field.

But with 5,636 students, Weatherford College is down less than one percent in student headcount compared with last fall. Over the past two years, WC still holds a 1.3 percent increase while statewide enrollment is down 3.2 percent over the same period.

College President Dr. Kevin Eaton told the board Thursday that he is encouraged by WC’s enrollment data when compared with the rest of the state.

The WC Wise County campus has a 1.75 percent increase in its student population year-to-year, and dual-credit and online courses continue to increase in popularity across the entire five-county area served by WC.

In a strategic plan update report later in the meeting, Dr. Arleen Atkins, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, further discussed the increasing popularity of dual credit courses, where students earn high school and college credit at the same time.

WC now has agreements with all the high schools in its service area to offer courses to their students.

In other business, the board approved:

  • Bids for color and web printing;
  • The purchase of JET grant welding equipment and ultrasound equipment for sonography;
  • A renewal of proposals for commercial charter bus services;
  • The purchase of radiology equipment;
  • Updates to policies incorporating a ban on all electronic cigarettes and electronic vapor devices.

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Sales taxes slump in August

When it comes to sales tax collections, most Wise County cities have had a pretty good year through three quarters of 2014.

But August was not a terrific month.

When October sales tax figures were released this week, only three of the county’s 12 cities showed a gain over last year. The October sales tax represents sales made in August and reported to the Comptroller on September returns.

The down month left eight cities still in the black for the year, but it put Decatur and the total just below the line.

Decatur took in $310,632, down 9.2 percent compared to last year. The city’s 10-month total of $3.392 million is less than a quarter-percent below last year’s $3.4 million.

Bridgeport’s October check was down 9.5 percent and left the city 5.3 percent behind last year.

Aurora had the biggest loss, percentage-wise, with a 79 percent reduction from last year’s $14,370 to $2,960 this year. That city is 25 percent behind 2013.

Not far behind was New Fairview, which saw October income plummet from $46,692 last year to $16,817 this year – a 64 percent dropoff that left the city 15.7 behind last year through 10 months.

Rhome was up 11 percent in October, Alvord had a gain of 10.8 percent and Boyd’s collections were up 9.7 percent.

Wise County, which gets a half-cent sales tax, saw a 5 percent decline in October.

Statewide, cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts’ October allocations totaled $621.7 million, up 7.2 percent compared to October 2013. For the year they’re up 6.4 percent.

Sales Tax October 2014

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Upcoming Meetings for Saturday, October 11, 2014

DECATUR COUNCIL – The Decatur City Council will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut. They’ll consider several appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustment and will vote on second readings to raise library fines, airport fees, water and wastewater fees. They’ll also look at continuing to contract with the Wise County Appraisal District for property tax collections, and look at a police department request to make Deer Park Road from Eagle Drive to Preskitt a one-way road northbound from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners will consider on Monday a request from Fire Marshal Chuck Beard to hire an outside communications consulting agency to link all the radio towers and systems. They will also discuss trying to acquire two modular buildings through the federal government, as they continue to seek additional office space. Regular business will include consideration of bids, discussion of plats, project agreements and committee and department head reports. Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. The meeting is open to the public.

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Elections administrator’s start date debated

The turmoil over the appointment of Jim Parker as interim elections administrator continued to brew at a Wise County Elections Commission meeting Wednesday.

The group met to clarify what the majority of the members deemed a clerical error in the paperwork naming Parker as interim EA. The resolution submitted to the Secretary of State’s office says Parker will assume the interim EA duties on Sept. 23, which is the same day he was appointed to the post. He also resigned from his vice chair position with the Wise County Republican Party that day.

The majority of the members agree the resolution should have read that Parker would assume the duties on Sept. 29, the Monday following Lannie Nobles’ last day on the job.

But Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith, also an elections commission member, hinted that the discrepancy in dates was underhanded action taken by the Republicans, and she said that Parker began acting as interim EA before his official start date.

Smith had already cried foul over the appointment, which she originally voted against, by filing a lawsuit Sept. 30 in the 271st District Court against the interim elections administrator and the county’s elections commission.

That case will be heard at the Wise County Courthouse 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10, by Judge David Evans of the 48th District Court of Fort Worth.

In the meantime, the commission was tasked with cleaning up its paperwork.

County Judge Glenn Hughes opened Wednesday’s meeting by reminding everyone that Nobles’ resignation letter said Nobles would work through Sept. 26.

He explained that during the commission meeting Sept. 23 when Parker was appointed to replace Nobles, his understanding was that Parker would take over the job on Sept. 29, the Monday following Nobles’ last day.

The judge wanted each member of the commission to say how he or she on Sept. 23 interpreted the timeline of Nobles’ resignation and Parker’s takeover.

“I assumed that Lannie would work through that Friday, and I don’t know how you felt or if you felt the same way I did,” he said. “But I’m going to call on each one of you, and this will clear my mind on this one issue.”

Smith never said how she first interpreted it but instead shifted the focus to the error made on Parker’s resolution for appointment.

“I didn’t notice it, but I never had the intention for Mr. Parker to go down there and tell Lannie he’s out of office,” said Judge Hughes. “All I’m asking is what we thought at the time (of appointment).

“This was an error that we put the 23rd on there, and we probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Smith expressed disbelief that no one caught the mistake. The resolution was signed by commission members Hughes, Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson, County Clerk Sherry Lemon and Tax Assessor-Collector Monte Shaw. Smith said later in the meeting that she refused to sign the document because it was an “illegal appointment.”

“It was signed by all four of you,” she said. ” It didn’t get caught by four different people.”

Hughes said he should have looked at the date, and he didn’t.

“I wished the date was different, but I’m talking about when we were sitting here in the meeting what was your intention?” he asked.

Smith again skirted the question and attempted to drive the conversation in a different direction before Hughes said his recommendation would be to amend the resolution.

The judge suggested amending the resolution to read that Parker assumed the office on Sept. 29, “which would be the date he started, and I think that was the date he was bonded.”

“So it was a clerical mistake to have the 23rd,” he said. “It should have read the 29th.”

Smith spoke up again at this point and said that Parker was acting in the capacity of elections administrator on Sept. 24.

“He called in the capacity of elections administrator to notify me that our candidates’ campaign signs were out of code, and we needed to have them removed,” she said. “That wasn’t the 29th. That was the 24th.”

This was news to the other commission members.

Smith also presented a letter from Parker, postmarked Sept. 24 about election judge training. After reviewing the letter, Hughes said he agreed that Parker was acting in the capacity of elections administrator by doing these things, but he didn’t see a problem with it because the commission had appointed him to perform those duties and he had already resigned his position with the Republican Party.

Smith asked questions of the judge confirming that Parker resigned from the party after he was appointed.

“Yes, that’s right,” Hughes said. “I don’t know how he would have turned it in before.”

“Well, that’s the spirit of the election code isn’t it?” she asked.

Hughes told Smith she was wrong and he thought she was misinterpreting it. He quoted Election Code 31.035, which reads 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.”

Hughes’ point was that this statute is for people already in the position of elections administrator. He sought additional explanation from Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson.

Williamson referred everyone to section 31.034 of the Election Code, which outlines the eligibility to be named elections administrator.

“It says to be eligible for appointment as elections administrator, a person must be a qualified voter of the state,” he said. “That’s all it says about eligibility. There have been no allegations that says Mr. Parker isn’t a qualified voter of the state, so he is eligible to be elections administrator.”

Williamson said his understanding of the events on Sept. 23 was that the commission accepted Nobles’ resignation effective Sept. 26.

“I think if we make a motion to amend the appointment to the 29th, then I think that solves the problem,” he said. “As far as him acting in the capacity of elections administrator, I haven’t seen that, but it looks like he’s trying to get elections school training going for the election judges of both parties, which would be consistent with us trying to maintain the upcoming election.”

Williamson wanted to make a motion at that time, but Hughes stopped him to seek the opinion of Lemon and Shaw, both of which agreed with the judge and the Republican Party chair.

Lemon and Shaw both said they had no previous knowledge of Parker acting in the capacity of EA before the 29th.

Williamson said he wasn’t going to fault Parker for trying to get the election going.

“I believe all the members of this commission would agree that we had a sense of urgency on the 23rd and that the overriding concern is that this election go off without a hitch,” he said.

He then made a motion to amend the appointment of county elections administrator for the effective date of Sept. 29.

Shaw seconded it.

Smith made a plea to the Democrats in attendance.

“Discussion… anybody?” she asked.

Lena Wells expressed frustration with the date being wrong, and Matthew Britt, Democratic candidate for state representative, District 61, argued Election Code interpretation before a vote was taken on Williamson’s motion.

It passed 3-1 with Shaw, Lemon and Williamson voting in favor, and Smith voting against the measure. Judge Hughes did not cast a vote.

Smith also refused to sign the revised resolution.

A story about Friday’s court hearing on this issue will run in the weekend Messenger.

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Fire marshal: Gas leak handled ‘textbook’

A blowout in a high-pressure gas line in northwest Wise County was handled in “textbook” fashion Monday afternoon according to Deputy Wise County Fire Marshal J.C. Travis.

Travis said just a little after 3 p.m. Monday, a 10-inch high-pressure gas line exploded near the point where it feeds into Targa’s Chico plant.

The blowout, which occurred on private property southwest of the plant, rattled the windows at the facility, which is located west of Chico at County Road 1745, just south of Farm Road 1810.

Targa North Texas Area Manager Jimmy Oxford said the line belongs to Energy Transfer Holdings.

“Targa Midstream Services followed protocol and made the 911 call, as the pipeline was near its property, and the employees heard what appeared to be a rupture in the line,” he said via email Monday.

Travis was impressed with the response from both Targa and ETH employees.

“When I arrived you could actually see the gas spewing in the air 40 or 50 feet,” he said. “It was underground, so there was dirt flying. It sounded like a jet engine.”

“The Targa folks immediately went into lockdown and went into emergency procedures,” Travis said. “They sent crews out and discovered the line that ruptured was not their’s but a competitor’s.”

He said Targa personnel called 911 and called ETH to let them know about the blowout. A company representative came out and shut off the line. There was no fire, but he opted to shut down CR 1745 until the gas dissipated.

“I would give Targa an A-plus for their handling of the emergency,” Travis said. “They followed all safety procedures, met me at the gate with all the pertinent information and had already blcok the roadway to keep people from driving through the gas cloud.”

He said virtually everyone he saw at the plant had a gas monitor and was checking LEL (lower explosive limits) levels.

“The humidity was right and wind was high, so most of the product dissipated high into the air,” he said. County Road 1745 remained closed for about an hour-and-a-half, until readings showed no high level of gas at the roadway.

The Chico Fire Department stationed an engine at the north end of the road to divert traffic. Sand Flat Fire Department was at the south end and their chief served as incident commander.

“This thing went textbook-perfect,” Travis said. “It was really a thrill for me to have everybody do what they were supposed to do and follow procedures.”

He said the last set of readings, taken just before 5 p.m., showed the gas had dissipated, so CR 1745 was reopened.

Energy Transfer Holdings personnel will repair the damaged pipeline.

“It’s too early to know what caused the rupture,” Travis said Tuesday.

The Chico plant is the focal point of approximately 2,400 miles of gas gathering pipelines, which come in from wells or compressor stations. The plant has an aggregated processing capacity of 265 MMcf per day.

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Candidates report campaign finances

Local candidates turned in their 30-day campaign finance report forms this week as required by the Texas Ethics Commission.

The reports submitted Monday detail contributions and expenditures from July 1 to Sept. 25. Republican county judge candidate J.D. Clark reported $6,650 in donations, more than any other candidate. This is also the most Clark has reported during any single reporting period, pushing his total contributions to more than $20,000.

The big spender during this reporting period was Democratic county judge candidate Jim Stegall, with $3,923.59. He reported $4,634 in contributions.

Below is a list of local candidates in opposed races and the information as it appears on their campaign finance report forms.

COUNTY JUDGE

  • Republican J.D. Clark: $6,650 contributions, $539.13 expenditures

Contributions included $2,500 from the Wise Republican Women; $2,000 from the Republican Party of Texas in Austin; $1,000 from Louis Dorfman of Dallas; $500 from Wise County Republican Party Chair Allen Williamson; $250 from Jerrod Mowery of Bridgeport; $200 from Mark Duncum of Decatur; and $100 each from Dwight Albert “D.A.” Sharpe of Aurora and Russell and Lynda Childs of Chico.

  • Democrat Jim Stegall: $4,634 contributions, $3,923.59 expenditures

Contributions included $2,000 from Tom and Lori Chivers of Carrollton; $1,000 each from Mary Rebecca Stegall of Mount Lake Terrace, Wash., and Nora and Andrew Ponder of Houston; $500 from Laura and Trevor Armstrong of Fort Worth; and $100 from Larry and Mary Guillory of Rhome.

He reported $34 in contributions of $50 or less.

PRECINCT 4 COMMISSIONER

  • Democrat Kristina Kemp: $400 contributions, $3,117.60 expenditures

Kemp received one donation – $400 from the Wise County Democratic Party.

  • Republican Gaylord Kennedy: $0 contributions, $872.38 expenditures

—–

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4. Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 20.

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Messenger rakes in national awards

Messenger rakes in national awards

The Wise County Messenger brought home 23 awards for advertising and editorial excellence from last weekend’s 128th Annual Convention and Trade Show of the National Newspaper Association.

The meeting was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio. Messenger publisher Roy Eaton, General Manager Mark Jordan and Advertising Manager Lisa Davis attended the three-day meeting which attracted community newspapers people from all over the United States.

National Recognition

NATIONAL RECOGNITION – Robert Williams (left) president of the Southfire Newspaper Group in Blackshear, Ga., presents a general excellence honorable mention plaque to Messenger general manager Mark Jordan, as contest chairman Jeff Farron, president of Kendall County Record Newspapers in Yorkville, Ill, (right) looks on. Farron chaired the contest, which drew hundreds of entries from newspapers all over the U.S. Submitted photo

The Messenger won three first-place awards, seven second-place awards, four third-places and eight honorable mentions – including taking honorable mention in General Excellence category.

The newspaper’s top award was connected to the chase and shootout last March that ended the life of escaped Colorado fugitive Evan Ebel.

Published March 23, 2013, the news package headlined “Chase ends here” earned first place in the Best Localized National Story category.

It featured the work of editor Kristen Tribe, reporters Brandon Evans and Brian Knox, photographers Joe Duty and Jimmy Alford, and graphic artist Todd Griffith.

“Fantastic reporting with thorough follow-through and clear details,” the judges commented. “The ‘Anatomy of the Chase’ was a great visual of the action. The follow-up stories represented solid investigation, and editorials shared the impact of the story that came to your front door. Extremely well done.”

Griffith’s work also earned first place in the Best Newspaper Promotion category. The entry cited was an in-house advertising campaign titled “Keeping You Informed.”

“Cool and creative. Looks awesome. Very good,” the judge wrote.

The other first-place entry was a feature story by editorial director Bob Buckel, with photos by Duty, on storage unit auctions, titled, “What might be in there …” It ran on May 25, 2013.

“Great job at truly telling a story; the essence of any great feature,” the judge wrote. “The author took a rather mundane topic and crafted an interesting story that draws the reader in, keeping them turning the page to read the entire story. This entry stood out above the rest.”

Other awards were:

  • second, Best Breaking News Photo, “Long Walk” by Joe Duty. “Excellent human emotion captured as sheriff escorts suspect away. The intensity of the case jumps out from all aspects of this photo. Photographer caught the action just at the right time.”
  • second, Best Editorial, “No enemies behind these lines” by the Messenger staff. “Great tone. Does good job of explaining what a newspaper does – and why.”
  • second (tie), Best Feature Photo, “Good Book” by Joe Duty. “Each of the 900 crosses can be seen in his worn hands. What excellent detail, your lighting was perfect!”
  • second, Best Humorous Column, by Bob Buckel, “Words that are starting to bug me.” “Wonderful read.”
  • second, Best Special News, Sports or Feature Section or Edition, “Welcome to Wise 2013″ by the Messenger staff. “Out of a number of entries in this division, your entry rose to near the top. A super job in all aspects – copy, photos, graphics, ads, and use of color. A top-notch effort by all members of the team, and it shows. Congratulations for setting such a high standard.”
  • second, Best Sports Photo, “Slipping Away” by Joe Duty. “Joe Duty’s crisp, tightly framed shot captures a three-on-three battle for the ball. The fluid folds of the uniforms, the swirl of arms and of one player’s hair, and the expanding ring of players suggest this composition would make an impressive bronze sculpture.”
  • second, Excellence in Typography, April 27 and Oct. 16 issues by the Messenger staff. “Very graphically appealing. Makes me want to buy the paper, jump right in and read the article”
  • third, Best Newspaper Promotion, “Missing” by Todd Griffith. “Great series. Nice to have similar theme with different looks.”
  • third, Best Single Ad Idea, Color, “Happy Thanksgiving” by the graphic arts department “This entry stood out because it was clean and simple and conveyed its message quickly. In an effort to be creative, most of the ads entered in this category were cluttered and busy and that typically got in the way of the message. Fancy borders, lots of artwork and colors and fonts are not what good ad design is about. It’s about getting attention, yes, but it’s also about quickly and clearly getting a message across in a way that people will remember or act upon.”
  • third, Best Feature Series, “Cross Roads” by Brandon Evans, with photographs by Joe Duty. “Good stories, well-written.”
  • third, Best Feature Story, “Ashlie lives on” by Erika Pedroza, with photos by Joe Duty. “Good work telling a compelling story.”
  • honorable mention, Best Public Notice Section, “Where sex offenders reside” by Todd Griffith.
  • honorable mention, Best Series Ad Idea, Color, “JRobs Sports and Fitness.”
  • honorable mention, Best Single Ad Idea, Black & White, “New Phones to Impress All the Chicks.”
  • honorable mention, Best Breaking News Photo, “Fiery Finish” by Jimmy Alford.
  • honorable mention, Best Breaking News Story, “Chase Ends Here” by Jimmy Alford, Joe Duty, Brandon Evans and Todd Griffith.
  • honorable mention, Best Headline Writing, July 10 and Sept. 11 issues by the Messenger editorial staff.
  • honorable mention, Best Local News Coverage, March 23 and Sept. 7 issues by he Messenger editorial staff.
  • honorable mention, Best Weekend Edition, March 23, Oct. 19 by the Messenger staff.

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Education Briefs for Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ALVORD

HOMECOMING – Alvord High School homecoming is Oct. 10-11. The homecoming bonfire is Wednesday night (Oct. 7) at 1020 CR 1270 at 6:30. The parade is Friday at 4 through downtown Alvord, ending with a pep rally. The Bulldogs will face Trenton in the homecoming game, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium. Saturday activities open at 9 a.m. at the high school with registration and a continental breakfast, and a barbecue lunch at noon. Tickets for lunch are $10 and will be sold at Legend Bank in Alvord until closing Friday. They will also be sold at Friday night’s game through the first quarter. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Patti Gillespie with the Wise County Genealogical Society will show historical photos of Alvord. The program at 1 p.m. will include door prizes and several awards.

BRIDGEPORT

READING NIGHT – Bridgeport ISD will host the “iRead at the Field” event 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at Bull Memorial Stadium. Families are invited to bring books and blankets to read with students at the community-wide event. Book readings will be done by Bridgeport cheerleaders, theater students and principals. Events include a half-price book fair and free hot dogs. The campus with the most in attendance will win a Readathon, or one full day of reading.

BOYD

FLU SHOTS – Boyd ISD will partner with The Boyd Medicine Store to host Flu Shot Clinics 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 14, at the elementary school and Oct. 21 at the high school.

SCHOOL HOLIDAY – There will be no school Monday, Oct. 13, in observance of Columbus Day.

UIL ACADEMICS – An information meeting for parents of students interested in UIL Academics is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, in the elementary school cafeteria.

READING NIGHT – Boyd Elementary will host the Title I annual parent meeting and reading night 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4.

CHICO

TEXT MESSAGES – Parents who would like to receive text messages through the district’s all call notification system must “opt in” to begin the process. Text YES to 68453 to show your willingness to receive texts. For information, call Traci Umphress in the administration office, 940-644-2228, ext. 0, or visit the Chico ISD website, www.chico.k12.tx.us.

DECATUR

VACCINATION CLINIC – A Movax vaccination clinic will be offered to underinsured students and their parents Wednesday, Oct. 29. Flu shots/flu mist will be given. Insured students must receive vaccinations through their private doctor. Times and locations are as follows: Young Elementary, 8-9 a.m.; Rann Elementary, 9:30-10:30 a.m.; Carson Elementary, 11 a.m.-noon; Administration Building, 12:30-1 p.m.; High School, 1:30-2:30 p.m.; DISD Multipurpose Building, 3-5 p.m. (all MMS students and general public). Cost is $12 for students (children) and $23 for parents (adults). Pay with cash or check. Make checks payable to Movax. Turn in consent forms and money to the campus nurse by Oct. 24.

PSAT – Decatur High School will administer the PSAT test 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18 in the DHS lecture hall. Register in the first floor office with Mrs. Grove. Registration is $20 and payable by cash or check. Seating is limited, and DHS juniors will have first priority. Registration will end Monday, Oct. 13.

ALL-REGION CHOIR – Decatur High School Choir recently participated in the All-Region Choir auditions. Four students entered the competition, and the results are as follows: Xavier Wooten – Bass 2, first alternate; Emily Baker – Soprano 2, fifth District Choir; Elizabeth Culpepper – Alto 2, Third Chair District Choir; Stevi Perkins, Soprano 1, First Chair Region Choir. Stevi advances to the final round to audition for All-State Choir.

PARADISE

NEW PLAYGROUND – The Paradise Intermediate School has secured a $15,000 grant to update its playground, along with an additional $11,000 in donations. It is still more than $23,000 shy of the $50,000 goal. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/e65mis.

PSAT – All PHS Juniors will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday, Oct. 15. The test will be held in the high school cafeteria.

DANCE CLINIC – The Little Rhinestones dance clinic is Friday, Oct. 17. Girls from 4-years-old through the fifth grade can join the Emeralds and learn a routine that will be performed at the football game that night. Find info. at www.pisd.net/pisd/hs/drillteam/rhinestones.pdf

SPECIAL VISIT – Award-winning children’s authors Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel will visit Paradise Intermediate and Elementary schools Monday, Nov. 17. For information, go to www.pisd.net/pisd/elemen/library/authorvisit2.pdf.

NORTHWEST

CRAFT VENDORS – Vendors are needed for the Northwest High School baseball team’s Fall Craft Show 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at Northwest High School. Booths – which include one chair, helpers to unload, parking and wifi – are $75 for 10×10 or $140 for 10×20. Additional items are $10 for electricity, $10 for tables and $5 for chairs. Applications are due Oct. 10. Contact Casci Land, 817-336-6565; Tanda Dovel, 817-996-1790; Suzanne May, 817-897-5303; or Deborah Christenson, 817-726-1075.

EARLY DISMISSAL – Northwest ISD campuses will dismiss early on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 10. Elementary schools will release at 12:15, middle schools at 2, and high schools at 1:15.

DISTRICT OFFERS ACT – Northwest ISD offered the ACT for high school seniors at no cost Tuesday. A makeup test will be offered Oct. 14 for students that could not attend school Tuesday.

SLIDELL

GT NOMINATIONS – Slidell ISD is accepting nominations for the Gifted and Talented Program now through Oct. 24. Nominations forms are available in the elementary and secondary offices. Call Melissa Fitzgerald, 940-466-3118, ext. 241.

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Water well screening to be held in Montague

The Texas Well Owner Network is hosting a water well screening 8 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at the courthouse in Montague County to give area residents the opportunity to have their well water tested.

The courthouse is located at 266 Franklin St. in Montague.

A meeting explaining screening results will be held at 7 p.m. that day at the Montague County Annex, 11339 Texas 59 North. The Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District will also discuss their ongoing programs regarding local groundwater issues.

The screening is presented by AgriLife Extension and Texas Water Resources Institute in partnership with the AgriLife Extension office in Montague County.

To have water tested, area residents should pick up a sample bag and sampling instructions from the AgriLife Extension office in Montague County or call 940-894-2831 for information.

The cost is $10 per sample and samples must be turned in by 9 a.m. on the day of the screening. Samples will be screened for common contaminants, including fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates and high salinity.

It’s important for those submitting samples to be at the meeting to receive results, learn corrective measures for identified problems and to improve understanding of private well management.

For information, call the Montague County AgriLife Extension Office at 940-894-2831. To learn more about the programs offered through the network or to find additional publications and resources, visit twon.tamu.edu.

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The Wise County Agri-Life Extension Office has water testing kits for pick up at 206 S. State St. in Decatur. After water samples have been taken, they must be either hand-delivered to Tarrant County or mailed to Texas A&M University for testing.

For information, call 940-627-3341.

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Meaning in the ink; Tattoos tell the stories of bearers

Meaning in the ink; Tattoos tell the stories of bearers

For some people, tattoos are therapeutic. So it’s no irony that Michael Moten, a licensed massage therapist, practices out of the Texas Tattoo and Co. parlor in Decatur.

RETIREMENT PLAN – Michael Moten got his first tattoo 15 years ago and has gotten dozens more since then. About a year ago, he began giving them. “I went to school for massage therapy,” he said. “That was my passion. But then when I started doing this, therapy took the backseat. This is my retirement plan.” Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

A year-and-a-half ago, at the insistence of friends, he added one more tool to his belt of ways to help people relax – a tattoo gun.

“Everything just fell into place,” he said. “The same tables that we use to tattoo on are the same that we use in massaging. Everybody started asking me about doing tattoos, and once I did it, it was pretty much addicting.”

Just like getting the ink.

Moten, 32, got his first tattoo at age 17 – his last name.

“When I got it done, I liked the way it was, and it went from there,” he said. “Some people get one tattoo and they’re like, ‘It hurt too bad. No more.’ Me, I got one tattoo and I wanted a lot more.”

That included angel wings down his back, representative of his daughters, age 3 and 7, who he calls his angels.

On one leg, dubbed the “power leg,” there are portraits of the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X.

“My great-grandmother hates tattoos, but she likes some of those,” he said. “That’s cool. At least she likes one of them.”

BACK INK – Michael Moten has gotten tattoos in honor of his children, including angel wings all down his back for his daughters, who he calls his angels. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

He also has the state of Texas, a cross, his nickname, a spiderweb, tributes to his younger sister and son as well as his score on the national exam for massage therapy licensing.

As a tattoo artist, he’s had all kinds of requests – from in memory tattoos to ’90s babies” marks like Ninja Turtles and Nintendo games, as well as military marks.

Among the most popular are script, flowers and the infinity symbol.

The most random one he’s done is a silhouette of birds.

“Any kind of saying, and then they’ll put birds behind it,” he said. “I don’t know why, but a lot of people get that. Some people have good sayings behind them, and then some people, they just get them to get them done.

“Everybody has their own reasons behind getting a tattoo,” he said. “It could be having a kid. That’s when a lot of people come in and get their first tattoo. A death in the family. A lot of girls that have best friends, and they’ll come in and get a tattoo like peanut butter and jelly, stuff like that.

“It’s a good bonding experience for moms and daughters, fathers and sons. We even had a grandma bring her grandson in as a graduation present.”

The thoughts that prompted the ink are worth exploring.

A Mothers Love

A MOTHER’S LOVE – Cat Lafitte commemorated the birth of her daughter, Moxy, now 5, with a tattoo on her left shoulder of a mother holding up her daughter. The rest of her ink work remains unfinished. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

UNFINISHED STORY

Cat Lafitte of Springtown got her first tattoo at age 17.

“And that was going to be the only thing that I got,” she said. “Something small and tasteful, something symbolic, where nobody could see it.”

So she had a Celtic knot inked on her lower back.

“I wanted a symbol, not an object like a bird,” she said. “That was it.”

Then a friend bought a tattoo gun and offered to give her another one in exchange for the practice, for free.

“That should’ve been a red flag right there,” she laughed. “But I was 18 and thought, ‘What a great deal!'”

The tattoo was so badly done she was forced to go to a shop to fix it. She then had the idea to have her family crest across her back as an honor to her ancestors.

“And it just went on from there,” she said. “Basically every few months, once a year, I would have some brilliant idea that I would have to get.”

Among those ideas were a sacred heart on her heart, a bunny and a kitty. Some have spiritual significance. Others, like the one on her left shoulder of a mother holding up her baby, mark life milestones like the birth of her daughter, Moxy, now 5.

“I was so happy to be able to be a mother,” she said. “I waited a long time and was very responsible in waiting and finally got to do that.”

Lafitte also started in on the theme of duality – nature and technology, water and fire, past and future, east and west.

She envisioned the finished product – ink across her back and arms. And although the line work is there, the pieces are not all colored in.

After a series of events in her life, Lafitte was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the spring of 2011.

“I used to have a really high tolerance for pain,” she said. “Now just even the sounds of the machine and the smells get me worked up. All these things I wouldn’t have thought about twice before, is magnified. Blood, being injured, pain – before I was a police officer, I was a nurse’s assistant. Now I can’t look at wounds. I used to be a cop, now I’m like, ‘Don’t tell me a story about a snake.’ It’s ridiculous.”

Although not being able to complete the work is frustrating, she recognizes the symbolism.

“It’s sad, but I’ve just kind of accepted the facts. Every tattoo tells a story,” she said. “The fact that mine are unfinished kind of tells the story of what happened in my life.”

TATTOO DILEMMA

INK CONFLICT – Although he has ink all over, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Anderson must turn away potential recruits with tattoos that do not meet regulations enacted in March regarding the number, size and placement of tattoos. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Army National Guard recruiter Danny Anderson finds himself in a bit of a dilemma.

The 42-year-old enlisted 25 years ago. Since that time, he’s gotten more than 30 pieces inked on his body in places ranging from his fingers, all down his arms and across his back.

But he is having to turn away some people interested in joining the military because of new tattoo regulations.

In an effort to “maintain the professional appearance of the force,” the Army in March passed restrictions on the number, size and placement of ink for new recruits.

Sleeve tattoos are banned, and a person can have no more than four tattoos below the elbows and the knees. Those pieces must be smaller than the size of the person’s palm with fingers extended.

Ink on the face, neck and hands, as well as work that can be deemed extremist, indecent, sexist or racist, is not allowed.

“I’ve got six right here in Decatur, otherwise perfectly qualified, that I’ve turned away,” Anderson said. “That’s a huge number for a recruiter when my yearly mission is 24.”

Although he understands the military’s perspective, it doesn’t make his job any easier.

“We have a lot of gangs in the military that we’re trying to weed out, and they think that the tattoos are going to knock a bunch of that out,” he said. “But it’s difficult for me being a recruiter with full sleeves to go and tell somebody they’re not eligible. I hope they change something.”

For him, getting tattooed is a stress reliever.

“It just relaxes you because you’re not focused on everything going on,” he said. “You’re just focusing on that moment. It’s not pain, because I haven’t had a tattoo hurt yet. You just forget about everything else you’re doing for those 30 minutes or three hours, depending on the tattoo.”

Most of his have a meaning, whether it’s military or religion.

He got his first tattoo, a black panther, after completing basic training for the Navy.

“Once I realized it didn’t hurt, I started coming up with ideas,” he said.

He integrated the design of two motorcycle brands into one after he purchased the two “dream bikes.”

As a tribute to his Catholic faith and Cherokee roots, he had a barbed wire with a rosary and Cherokee feather inked on his right arm.

A piece across his shoulder blades represents his sniper platoon’s emblem.

He admits that some, like a rose on his chest, have no meaning at all.

“I just wanted to try that area to see what it felt like,” he said.

But for the most part, his tattoos reflect what is important to him.

“Religion and family, those are worthy things of tattoos,” he said. “Something significant in your life – birth, death, memorials, something you’re passionate about, traumatic experiences.”

Tattoed Love

TATTOOED LOVE – Shelby Jackson of Decatur designed a tattoo symbolic of her husband, Scott, and their wedding song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie. The couple celebrated their fifth anniversary yesterday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

COMMITMENT IN INK

Shelby and Scott Jackson of Decatur have memorialized their love for one another in ink.

In fact, their first date included a visit to the tattoo shop.

“We went and watched a movie,” Scott said. “It wasn’t that late. She was 18. Can’t really hit a bar or anything. Go-karts could’ve worked, I’m sure. Batting cages. But it wasn’t on the agenda.”

So the couple trekked down to the tattoo parlor.

It was her first – a heart morphed into a skull below her beltline – and his third – a piece on his wrist. The two have returned several times. She’s added a dove and a giraffe on her side.

“I’ve been to Africa before for a medical missions trip,” she said. “It was a [tribute] to Africa.”

Scott got a fox, designed “by his fox,” on his leg.

The couple celebrated their five-year anniversary yesterday. But a month ago, Shelby got an original piece she designed, between her shoulder blades.

“It’s based on the song ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ by Death Cab for Cutie,” she said. “It’s for him. The anchor is our marriage. I wanted something to tie into the song as well as something symbolic for him.

“The life raft is him saving me. The song is about being beside someone through all kinds of scenarios, to the very end. It was our wedding song.”

Although Shelby isn’t sure she wants any more, Scott said he would probably get another when the two have kids.

Even though all of his pieces don’t have that much significance, he appreciates each one.

“Every tattoo has something that’s important to that person,” he said. “That’s always where it’s going to be the coolest. With that one person, whatever the reason that they wanted. Even if it does turn into something that was just kind of a random, spur-of-the-moment. You got it put on you for some reason. That reason’s yours and yours alone.

“It might be irrelevant. But I’m thrilled. It meant enough for you to sit down in a chair and endure some pain to get through it and get it.”

For the two, a graphic designer and photographer by trade, tattoos are art. They find it disappointing that they are often judged otherwise.

“I feel more comfortable in the presence of somebody else, as a complete stranger, if they have tattoos,” Shelby said.

“They’re not going to come at you with judging,” her husband interjected. “Some people look at it as being a bad thing to do, degrading your body. It all comes back to that individual and what they did it for.”

Intergral Pieces

INTEGRAL PIECES – In two years, Nathaniel Botello has covered his right arm with tattoos honoring loved ones and inked the state of Texas with a cog on his chest. The “backbone” of his arm features the Hebrew word for family, which he says is the “backbone of his life.” Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

FOR FAMILY AND STATE

Each of the nine tattoos that adorn Nathaniel Botello’s body, right arm and chest tells a story.

The first one, which the Chico High School graduate got two years ago at age 21, is an awareness ribbon in memory of his Aunt Marilyn, who lost her battle with bone cancer a year-and-a-half ago.

“When my aunt passed away, I was on an oil rig and couldn’t make the funeral. I felt really guilty,” he said. ” … So I had my own day to reflect on it.”

The tattoo artist advised him he was either going to want just one or that he would be returning to see him a lot.

“Sure enough, in the past two years I’ve gotten my whole right arm done and part of my chest,” he said. “I was one of the ones who liked it. It was an adrenaline rush.”

He continued, getting his parents’ names, Crisantos and Tonie, on his arm.

“They are the reason I’m here,” he said. “They may not be together, but I’m thankful that they were civil with each other and allowed me to have a relationship with both.”

There is also an orchid, in honor of his Aunt Sonia, who he credits as being his “biggest supporter.”

He added the Hebrew word for family and a hope anchor with the word “survive,” along with Michael the Archangel, representative of his favorite biblical story and the support of his family.

“He’s God’s secondhand man,” Botello said. “In my mind, he’s a real superhero. There’s always somebody that has your back. It’s easy to get down on yourself, have a bad day. Everything piles up. There’s always going to be something in your corner. A teacher, friend, Facebook friend, family.”

All of those designs on his right arm are tied together by acanthus leaves.

“Back in the Biblical days, when a king or queen would come into another city, the high-up in that city would send the servants to get the acanthus vines, which means royalty,” he said. “It ties together everything that I put – family, those that have been in my life and passed, who I consider royalty. They showed me a lot, and I wouldn’t be here without them. I wouldn’t know the things I know without them.”

His newest ink is of the state of Texas with a cog.

“A cog is a small part, but it turns a much larger machine,” Botello said. “I’m a huge supporter. I think it’s the greatest state. We have such a rich history, not only within our state lines, but if you think about the nation’s history, we are so involved. I’m just a huge fan. Born here, live here. die here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

He acknowledged that all places have pros and cons.

“But I think Texas has more pros than anywhere else,” he said. “I swear we’re the nicest state. In New Jersey, when I was visiting, I’d ask for directions and people would look at me like, ‘I don’t know you. Don’t talk to me.’

“In Texas, you ask where the Wal-Mart is and they’re like, ‘Hop in my car. I’ll take you there.’ Things as small as holding the door open for somebody, they don’t do that anywhere else.”

But some of the greatest people are those who give him judgmental stares.

“Tattoos don’t make the person at all,” he said. “You can be the scum of the earth and have no tattoos. Or you can be in the public’s eye one of the greatest, should-have-a-key-to-the-city persons, covered in tattoos head to toe.

“I’ve never been jail. I’ve had two tickets for speeding. That’s my criminal history,” he said. “People have something in their mind, and they’re always going to act emotionally off of that. Maybe that’s what they’ve been taught their whole life. Tattoos equal prisoners, drug dealers, bad people. Sometimes that may be the case, sometimes it may not.

“But if you don’t want to learn what those are about and get to know that person, I don’t think you should get to pass judgment on that person based on looks.

“It could be a rusted-up car with an $8,000 motor.”

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