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Jury delivers guilty verdict in drug case

A Paradise man was found guilty Wednesday of possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.

A Wise County jury returned the guilty verdict Wednesday afternoon after about two-and-a-half hours of deliberation. Before the trial began, George David Shannon, 55, elected to have 271st District Judge John Fostel assess punishment in the case, which included mandatory probation since Shannon had no prior felony convictions.

Fostel sentenced him to one year in state jail, probated for two years, plus a $2,000 fine.

Shannon had pleaded not guilty at the beginning of his trial Tuesday afternoon.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry prosecuted the case and asked the jury to find Shannon guilty after investigators found methamphetamine inside Shannon’s home on July 31, 2012.

Wise County Sheriff’s narcotics investigator Chad Lanier testified that he and two other investigators went to Shannon’s home when they were notified that a tracking device had been removed from a vehicle they were following and ended up at Shannon’s house.

He said they were looking for 32-year-old Daniel Anderson, who was staying in Shannon’s home. A third person, 40-year-old Stacie Davis, was also staying there.

Shannon let the officers come inside to speak to Anderson, and they located an automatic rifle in Anderson’s bedroom. Since Anderson had previously been convicted of a felony, he was placed under arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

After obtaining a search warrant, Lanier searched the home and found numerous drug-related items including syringes, baggies, spoons and small amounts of methamphetamine. In Shannon’s room, Lanier found a bag with methamphetamine residue in Davis’ purse on the bed as well as 0.01 grams of methamphetamine in a bag located inside a sunglasses case on the nightstand beside Shannon’s bed.

Shannon’s attorney, Barry Green, argued that the only item in the house that could have possibly been tied to Shannon was the bag in the sunglasses case on the nightstand, but even that item had not been proven to be in Shannon’s possession.

Green questioned Lanier about why the sunglasses case was not fingerprinted, photographed or even taken into evidence. Lanier also testified that two pipes were found in the bedroom, but those items were not fingerprinted either.

In his closing argument to the jury, Green said it was obvious that Davis had been in Shannon’s bedroom, and drugs were found in her purse – so the state had failed to prove that the drugs on the nightstand were Shannon’s.

“There is no question she was in the bedroom,” Green said. “We have proof – her purse is in there. There are drugs in an eyeglass case in a purple baggie (in the purse). A few feet away, on the nightstand, are drugs in a purple baggie. They are almost identical.”

Green told the jury that if they believed the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs belonged to Shannon, they must find him not guilty.

“Hanging out with bad people is not a crime in this country,” he added.

One point of argument during the trial was connecting the evidence found in Anderson’s room to Shannon. Berry intended to argue that Shannon had knowledge of the drugs in Anderson’s room, which was kept locked. However, Fostel ruled that Berry could not refer to that evidence during his closing argument.

Berry instead focused on the methamphetamine in Shannon’s bedroom, telling the jury it was unreasonable to believe Shannon didn’t know it was there. He also rebutted Green’s argument that the drugs on the nightstand might have been Davis’.

“It makes no sense for her to put that meth on the bedside table and leave her purse open on the bed with more methamphetamine inside,” he said.

After the jury found Shannon guilty, both sides made brief arguments about the length of probation. Green argued that Shannon should receive a sentence similar to Davis, who pleaded guilty in February to possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram and received a one-year sentence probated for two years, along with a $1,000 fine.

Berry pointed out that Shannon’s probation should be lengthier since he had been convicted of misdemeanors three times prior to the felony conviction while Davis had no previous convictions. He also pointed out that Shannon was the owner of the home which was “being used as a drug house in this county.” He wanted a two-year sentence probated for three years and the maximum $2,000 fine.

After the trial, Berry said he would continue to prosecute these types of cases.

“I want to set a standard that methamphetamine is not acceptable in our community,” he said. “My intent with these types of cases is to do just that.”

Anderson is set to plead guilty to his charge of possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram on Monday.

Records on file at the district clerk’s office show that Shannon had previously been indicted for possession of less than a gram of methamphetamine in 2011, but the district attorney’s office had dropped the charge due to lack of evidence.

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RRC’s role prime topic at forum

Some key issues facing Wise County residents were on the table Friday evening at a forum sponsored by Concerned Citizens for Responsible Industry.

The group hopes to stop the injection wells it says are directly related to the rash of earthquakes that rattled northwest Tarrant, north Parker and south Wise counties late last year. But the forum at Boswell High School in Saginaw touched on several broader topics.

Ten candidates, for offices ranging from governor to state representative to Texas Railroad Commission to Tarrant Regional Water District board, introduced themselves and fielded questions from the crowd of fewer than 50 people.

Ironically, the forum came on the day the Texas Railroad Commission announced it had hired a seismologist in response to the earthquakes (see below).

On the stage were four Libertarians, two Green Party candidates, two non-partisan Water Board candidates and two Democrats – including Decatur’s Matt Britt, who is running for state representative in District 61.

The absence of Republicans was duly noted. Mark Miller, a PhD petroleum engineer who taught at UT Austin for 18 years, cut to the chase in response to a question about halfway through the evening.

“I can tell you why the Republicans aren’t here tonight,” the Libertarian RRC candidate said. “I’ve heard them speak about the earthquakes. Every one of them denied that there is any connection between the earthquakes and wastewater injection.”

The question, which came from Wise County Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith, tossed a barb at the Republicans but also challenged the Libertarians on the issue of regulating the oil and gas industry.

Smith said the problem is “there’s not enough regulations, and the regulations that are on the books are not being enforced.”

She characterized the Libertarian Party as “a delusion of Republicans who believe in limited government” and said “clearly [that] is what we’re getting now under the Republican regime.

“So why should we trust that more deregulation, as your party’s platform says, is what Texas citizens need in this case?” she asked.

Kathie Glass of Houston, who is running for governor, said the current regulatory environment is “as far from Libertarian as you can get.”

“We don’t have freedom,” the Libertarian candidate said. “We have too much control by the special interests, and the special interests control both the Republican and the Democratic parties. They’re two peas in a pod.

“What’s going on here is not libertarian,” she said. “It’s cronyism. The rich and powerful use the structure and machinery of government to get more rich and powerful – to achieve power that they never would have achieved in the free market.”

Miller, also a Libertarian, added that Libertarians do believe there’s a role for government.

“We have somewhat of a misconstrued reputation of being almost anarchists, and you folks are asking for some protection,” he said. “True Libertarians believe your liberty needs to be protected. One of the roles of government is to protect your liberty.

“The rights of a mineral owner are different from the rights of a surface owner,” he added. “They conflict in many cases, so one of the jobs of a regulatory agency such as the Railroad Commission is to help resolve those issues so that liberties are preserved for everyone, and that economic interests can proceed, mineral rights owners can get some value out of their property, people can have jobs, taxes are paid – at the same time, without intruding on your enjoyment of your property.”

ADVOCATE NEEDED

Steve Brown, the Democratic candidate for Railroad Commission, said the agency needs to be an advocate for the public rather than the oil and gas industry.

“Of the three-member commission, at the very least one person should be there representing the interest of everyday Texans,” he said. “There’s a crony atmosphere, a crony culture at the Railroad Commission that needs to change.”

Citing a recent legal battle in which a community group had to hire a lawyer to get their message heard, he noted, “Not everyone has $100,000 to make sure the right thing is done in this state. That should not be your burden as taxpayers, to have to to find the resources to fight your battles. You should have folks you elected to fight your battles and help you fight those battles.”

Miller said he had three themes in his campaign for the Railroad Commission: increasing the public’s confidence and trust in the agency; reforming and modernization of the agency’s regulations; and protection of surface owner rights.

“The Railroad Commission has arguably done a pretty decent job of resolving conflicts between folks with economic interests – mineral rights owners, small oil companies, major oil companies, pipelines,” he said. “People who have surface rights but no economic interests are often left out of the equation.

“That’s something some of you have been experiencing, and something that needs to change.”

Brown, who visited Decatur last month, said he has issued a press release calling for a moratorium on injection well operations until the state agency can state with confidence that the earthquakes are not a result of injection wells.

“The approach we take as a state agency right now is to put the burden of proof on you, to prove to the state that a link does exist, as opposed to putting the burden on the state to prove that a link does not exist,” he said. “It should be the other way around.”

Brown said government that doesn’t represent its people is a failed government.

“We talk about government as some supernatural entity that we feel like we can’t control,” he said. “Government is people – it’s the people we elect.

“Every one of us has a state representative, a state senator, that we elect. It’s not one of those things that everyone hates Congress but they love their congress person. No. You can’t separate the two.

“Your government is your state representative, and if your state representative isn’t speaking for you on these issues that matter most to you, then they’re not serving you well,” he added. “They are the government that’s failing you – not some unknown entity, but that person, is failing you.”

BRITT MAKES POINTS

The person Decatur’s Matthew Britt is opposing, Republican State Rep. Phil King, is seeking his ninth term in the Texas House. King was listed as one of those who would be at the forum – but he did not attend.

Britt, who ran as a Green Party candidate two years ago, will be on the ballot as a Democrat this November in an effort to represent Parker and Wise counties in the 61st District.

“I know I seem a bit young, but I feel like we need to get involved right now if we’re going to make a change before it’s too late,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of issues. We’re dealing with major water issues right now, and this goes along with the earthquake issue.”

Britt said the Railroad Commission is “not even answering questions” and legislators “won’t listen” to their constituents.

“We’ve just got an unresponsive system right now,” he said. “I really care about families and communities, and I don’t like to see it when we’re put at risk for the sake of a quick buck.”

He said the oil and gas industries are “migratory” – the jobs disappear once the wells are drilled – but longtime residents of communities “get stuck” with the environmental consequences of drilling.

“There’s no liability, no accountability when we have issues like earthquakes, water contamination, loss of water,” he said. “I’m not anti-industry. I just feel like we should be more responsible. We have a huge economic boom coming from this, and we should use this to transition into another economic boom.

“We just can’t destroy what we have here.”

RAILROAD COMMISSION HIRES SEISMOLOGIST

The Texas Railroad Commission announced Friday that it has hired a seismologist in response to the occurrence of earthquakes in southern Wise, northern Tarrant and Parker counties.

David Craig Pearson, who holds a doctorate in geophysics from Southern Methodist University, is a former team leader for a seismic experimental field team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He started work April 1.

“My objective is to develop a broad understanding of the impact of oil and gas extraction activities on the day-to-day lives of Texas residents,” Pearson said. “I believe the Railroad Commission must be able to quickly and factually determine the accurate location of all earthquakes in the state and be able to determine the cause of earthquakes, be they natural or man-made.

“I plan to work to help clarify the root cause of earthquakes occurring by bringing all stakeholders’ concerns, questions, ideas and insights together to identify the best possible solutions,” Pearson said.

Commission chairman Barry Smitherman said he looks forward to Dr. Pearson’s assistance in pinpointing the cause of the “very few and relatively minor seismic events” that have occurred over the past several decades – “compared to more than 144,000 disposal wells operating nationwide.”

Commissioner David Porter said Pearson’s work will allow the agency to “further examine any possible correlation between seismic events and oil and gas activity.”

Commissioner Christi Craddick noted that the first disposal well permit was issued in 1936, and more than 34,000 such wells are currently operating in Texas.

“It is important that sound science be our guide in determining if there are any links to seismic activity,” she said. “I welcome Dr. Pearson’s expertise to help us work on these issues.”

At SMU, while a PhD student, Pearson was a graduate research assistant to Dr. Brian Stump, an SMU professor who is a member of the SMU earthquake team currently studying North Texas seismic activity. Pearson is a member of the Seismological Society of America, American Geophysical Union and American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

A former ranch manager in McCamey, Pearson has been a strong advocate of protecting and conserving Texas groundwater and surface water, and he currently serves as vice president of the Upton County Water District.

As the Railroad Commission’s in-house seismologist, Pearson’s duties will include:

  • coordinating with other academic experts studying seismic events in Texas;
  • obtaining, studying and interpreting various forms of data to evaluate seismic activity associated with known faults and historic and/or ongoing oil and gas exploration and production activities;
  • leading efforts to conduct research as well as internally integrate oil and gas science with seismic science;
  • coordinating communications and information gathering with stakeholders;
  • reviewing, analyzing, interpreting and commenting on technical data from seismic data sources, computer models and digital maps; and
  • developing recommendations and action plans.

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Non-profit opens its arms to needy

There’s a new non-profit in town, and its founders hope to wrap their arms around families in need, helping them become self-sufficient.

Angela Roads of Bridgeport and Wendy Holifield of New Fairview connected through Facebook and shared a passion for helping others. That passion has blossomed into Open Arms of Wise County.

The organization is based in Bridgeport and plans to meet not only the physical needs of clients, but also offer life-building services.

Holifield, a former team captain for the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team in Wise County, said there is a gap between the time Red Cross help ends and the point at which a family is able to stand on its own.

“[With the Red Cross,] I was only able to help families three or four days with hotel, food and clothing,” she said. “There is no organization to help people after the fact.

“I’ve heard from so many people that ‘We don’t have money. We don’t get paid til next week,’” she said. “It’s a major crisis in their life, and they don’t know how to proceed, how to go on.”

Roads is executive director, and Holifield is office manager and case supervisor.

Through Open Arms, clients can receive clothing and household items. Holifield said they also plan to offer various classes including those on budgeting, couponing and job hunting.

Holifield said they will even help clients find jobs and provide transportation to and from work, while helping them acquire a vehicle.

She said clients will fill out applications, and she’ll track them through other agencies as well to monitor their progress and ensure they’re not relying solely on non-profit help without making an effort to improve their situation. Clients will also go through drug screening.

“We don’t want to support people,” said Holifield. “We want to make them self-sufficient.”

Although the group has already been helping families affected by tragedy – specifically folks who have lost their homes to fires – they’re hosting a grand opening noon to 5 p.m. Monday at their newly-established office at 1401 Cates St., Suite 101, in Bridgeport. Refreshments will be served, and there will be a silent auction that remains open through Friday to raise money for the group.

Open Arms is also accepting donations. Holifield said their greatest needs are appliances, plus-size clothing and anything related to the care of infants. They also accept cash and gift cards.

Holifield said everything in the building, even the office furniture and six months’ rent, has been donated and for that, they are grateful.

They are also seeking landlords of local rental property who would be willing to offer Open Arms clients flexibility with down payments, or local hotels that would give the organization a discounted rate so it could temporarily house a client while Holifield and other staff find them a home to rent.

“Everything has just progressed so fast,” said Roads. “It’s a God thing. It has to be.”

Open Arms of Wise County is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily but will remain open later to accommodate clients as needed. For information on Open Arms of Wise County, call 940-683-5036.

OPEN HOUSE

Noon to 5 p.m. Monday, March 31
1401 Cates St., Suite 101
Bridgeport
940-683-5036

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Wise Regional ranks high in safety survey

Wise Regional Health System had top scores among North Texas hospitals in a recent Consumer Reports study on hospital safety.

The maximum score was 100, and the highest score for any hospital in the country was 78. Wise Regional scored a 56, ranking it 12th among 47 hospitals in North Texas. The national average was 51.

The annual Consumer Reports list of hospital rankings uses federal data to grade 2,591 U.S. hospitals on their patient care, overall safety and capacity to save lives. It includes measures of patient outcomes (avoiding infections, readmissions, avoiding mortality, and adverse events in surgical patients), patient experience (including communication about hospital discharge, communication about drug information and other measures) and hospital practices (appropriate use of scanning, and use of electronic health records). Several of these measures are then combined to create a safety score.

“I’m tremendously proud of our standing on the Consumer Reports list,” said Stephen Summers, CEO of Wise Regional Health System. “Wise Regional has worked diligently to provide the best possible care to our patients, and we have received regional and national awards and accreditations for these efforts.”

Some of the highlights from the report included:

  • Wise Regional reported only one surgical-site infection in 93 surgical procedures among its patients between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. This is 51 percent better than national rates for the surgical procedures reported by other hospitals.
  • 97 percent of patients said that doctors always or usually communicated well.
  • 98 percent of patients said that nurses always or usually communicated well.
  • 95 percent of patients said that their pain was always or usually well controlled.

Wise Regional also ranked higher than other hospitals nationally for appropriate use of abdominal scanning and chest scanning. Only 7 percent of scanned patients received double abdominal chest scans and only 1 percent of scanned patients received double chest scans.

Wise Regional has two campuses on Farm Road 51 South in Decatur, another in Bridgeport and a new one about to open on North Tarrant Parkway, off Interstate Highway 35 in Fort Worth.

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Debt data yields wide range in county

It’s no surprise the biggest school district in Wise County has the highest per-student debt.

Northwest ISD, with 17,752 students, has grown by more than 158 percent in the last decade and has ratcheted its debt up to more than $34,000 per student to build new campuses and hire teachers for those children.

School District Debt

More surprising is that the county’s third-smallest district, with a drop in enrollment of 14.4 percent over the last decade, has the second-highest per-student debt.

Chico ISD, with 588 students, has total debt of $30,861 per student according to a report titled “Debt At A Glance” released this week by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

Chico voters approved the issuance of $18.3 million in bonds on Nov. 6, 2007, to build a new high school and elementary school. Before that, the district’s debt was extremely low. Payments since then have been mostly interest, leaving $18.1 million still on the books.

Ironically, while rising enrollment is driving the debt in Northwest ISD, declining enrollment isn’t helping matters in Chico, since the state’s reimbursement formulas are all based on the number of students.

Two other Wise County school districts are above $20,000 in per-student debt. Boyd at $22,575 and Decatur at $21,689 have both built new schools in the last few years – but both are also growing. Boyd has grown by 14.6 percent over the past decade and Decatur by 6.3 percent.

Alvord and Bridgeport both have per-student debt in the $15K range, while Paradise is at $13,546 and Slidell is on the low end at $7,689.

Slidell, with just 251 students, is the county’s smallest district. Enrollment there has dropped by more than 15 percent over the past decade.

No Wise County schools are proposing bonds for the May election cycle.

Area Debt Per Capita

CITY, COUNTY DEBT LOW

Most Wise County cities are keeping debt fairly low.

The two biggest, Decatur and Bridgeport, are just over 100 people apart in population and just over $400 per resident apart in debt.

Decatur, with a population of 6,193, has grown 8.2 percent over the past decade and has $13,690,000 in debt – $2,211 per resident.

Bridgeport, meanwhile, has 6,085 people and has grown a little faster, at a 9.3 percent clip. The city’s $16,085,000 in debt amounts to $2,643 per resident.

It’s no surprise that the fastest-growing city is next. Rhome, with 1,558 people, has added just over 36 percent to its population over the past decade. Debt is still low, with just $2,840,000 on the books, but it amounts to $1,823 per resident.

That tapers off to $785 per resident in Boyd and totals $736 in Alvord, $612 in Runaway Bay and just $256 per person in Newark.

The cities of Aurora, Chico, Lake Bridgeport, New Fairview and Paradise have no debt.

County governments incur debt, too, and Wise County has $35,240,000 on the books. With a population just over 60,000 – that’s 12.6 percent growth over the past decade – Wise County’s debt amounts to $583 per person.

The Weatherford College District has 5,659 students and debt of only $7,485,000 – $1,323 per student.

Part of the county’s debt includes bonds to built, the college’s campus between Decatur and Bridgeport, which is about to wrap up its second year of occupancy.

The district’s enrollment has grown by 34.2 percent over the past decade, while debt has fallen more than 40 percent.

The “Debt at a Glance” online web resource outlines debt totals and trends as well as details on tax rates, bond elections, authorized but unissued debt, certificates of obligation and links to the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for 1,215 cities, 1,026 school districts, 50 community college districts and the 100 largest counties in Texas.

It can be found at texastransparency.org/Special_Features/Debt_at_a_Glance/.

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Crimestoppers: Investigators seek information about vandalism

Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators are seeking information related to vandalism that occurred at Preskitt Cemetery last weekend.

Vandals knocked over and broke tombstones, some of which were more than 100 years old. The incident is believed to have occurred on or about March 23.

To report related information, call Sgt. Clint Caddell at 940-627-5971, ext. 236, or email caddellc@sheriff.co.wise.tx.us.

To report information anonymously, call Crimestoppers at 800-643-TIPS or 940-627-TIPS (8477).

Reward: Up to $1,500.

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A legacy of healthy kids

A legacy of healthy kids

The spirit and enthusiasm the late County Judge Bill McElhaney had for children’s health has been commemorated.

To honor his efforts while in office, The Center for Children’s Health, led by Cook Children’s Hospital, created the Judge Bill McElhaney Award that will be presented periodically to health care “heroes.”

McElhaney Family

MCELHANEY FAMILY – The family of the late County Judge Bill McElhaney attended Monday’s commissioners meeting for an award presentation honoring his efforts to improve children’s health in Wise County. Pictured are (from left) Melissa McElhaney, Blaine McElhaney, Billy McElhaney Jr., Kim McElhaney, Haddie Smith, Katie Smith, Lane Anderson, Stacie Anderson and Bill Smith, Kim’s father. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Monday, Executive Director Larry Tubb presented the award for the first time to the judge’s wife, Kim McElhaney, at the commissioners meeting.

“We want to recognize people who travel with us on our journey, people who have become health care heroes,” he told the crowd. “Judge Bill McElhaney championed children’s health in Wise County.”

Award Presentation

AWARD PRESENTATION – Larry Tubb, executive director of The Center for Children’s Health, led by Cook Children’s Hospital, presents Kim McElhaney with the first Judge Bill McElhaney Award, which will be presented periodically to health care “heroes.” Messenger photo by Joe Duty

McElhaney promoted the Cook Children’s Communitywide Children’s Health Assessment and Planning Survey (CCHAPS) in Wise County and was instrumental in forming the Wise Coalition for Healthy Children (WCHC), which evaluated the survey results and developed an action plan for the county.

The coalition decided to focus on child abuse and specifically, its prevention.

Resources were already in place to deal with child abuse after it occurs, but there were fewer programs to address prevention.

The coalition’s first initiative was to work with the Wise Regional Health Foundation to secure two years of funding for the educational program called “Period of PURPLE Crying.” Each mother who gives birth at Wise Regional is given a short video helping parents deal with a child who won’t stop crying – the type of situation that can sometimes lead to shaken baby syndrome if the parent does not know that non-stop crying is often normal for newborns.

The coalition has also worked with local service agencies to make sure the 2-1-1 Texas database has updated resources for Wise County. Information on child abuse and neglect has also been distributed at various health fairs and festivals around the county.

The coalition is now providing free Parent Cafes in the county – small, intimate sessions in which parents and caregivers have the opportunity to discuss their families’ and parenting challenges, as well as share ideas and learn proven parenting techniques.

Tubb said when the Center was contacting county judges in the area to conduct assessments of children’s health, McElhaney was one of the few who actually stepped up to help.

“He was a champion and a friend,” said Tubb. “I think it’s all summed up best by the way he signed a coalition letter, ‘Sincerely and with love for every child.’”

Kim tearfully accepted the award.

“I would like to say how honored we are,” she said. “Since Bill passed away, we have realized more and more what he did. He never bragged about it. He never talked about it. He just did it.

“He was a champion, and he worked until he got it right. He never gave up,” she said. “I want to tell you from the family how much we appreciate this and how honored we are.”

Tubb said the award in the future will go to people who demonstrate that they are champions for improving children’s health, toward meeting the Healthy Children 2020 objectives, a guide followed by the Cook Children’s Promise to improve the health of every child in its region.

Those recognized will also demonstrate active involvement in improving children’s health at both the regional and county level and be actively participating in one or more community collaboratives to improve the health of children.

For information on WCHC and upcoming Parent Cafes, visit www.centerforchildrenshealth.org/wise.

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County taps Hughes as interim judge

Glenn Hughes resigned from one county job Thursday and was named to another one Monday.

Wise County commissioners appointed Hughes interim county judge at their regular meeting this week.

Glenn Hughes

Hughes, the county’s special project manager, had been serving as temporary Precinct 4 commissioner since Terry Ross was suspended in August 2012. He was appointed to that post by District Judge Roger Towery but resigned last week after Towery filed an order removing Ross from office.

The county judge’s seat has been vacant since the death of Judge Bill McElhaney in October. Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns had fulfilled those duties the last five months.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White was the first to speak up in favor of Hughes, recommending him for the post.

“I feel like we have people that are willing to help the county, and I appreciate that, but my thought is I would like to see someone who is knowledgable about what we’re doing in the county.

“We have several things that we have to get resolved as soon as possible, so I feel like knowledge is more important than qualifications,” he said. “I don’t want to say anyone is overqualified or under-qualified. I feel like we could put Glenn Hughes in there, if he’s willing to accept it, and he’s knowledgeable about what we as commissioners are doing right now.”

White asked other commissioners to speak up if they knew of anyone “knowledgable or more knowledgable.” Burns noted that two other men seeking to secure the appointment were also present – Don Alexander of Decatur and Bridgeport Index reporter Charles Duke.

Although Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance didn’t endorse Alexander or Duke, he was not convinced Hughes was the best choice.

“While Glenn has done a swell job, I think it’s our duty to be above reproach on any aspect and in the perspective of appointing someone to this … I don’t know. I have mixed feelings …,” he said. “I hate to be in this position. I wish Judge Bill was still here. It’d be a lot easier on us.

“How the public perceives what we do is important,” he said. “Whatever it is … it’s how they perceive it.”

Although Lamance never mentioned a specific concern, he and Hughes did run against each other in the 2012 Republican primary seeking the Precinct 3 commissioner job. Lamance easily won, 571-335.

Public Works Director Tom Goode spoke up in favor of Hughes and said since he had worked closely with McElhaney, Hughes would be able to move forward with some of McElhaney’s plans.

“I think Glenn is going to continue as Bill would have done,” he said. “That set us all back, him passing. I think this will enable us to continue with the plans that we had made. I feel like it will be OK … Him being in there will be a continuation of what we got started and what we’ve got going.”

Sheriff David Walker echoed Goode’s sentiments.

“I agree with Tom. When Glenn was helping the judge do stuff, he had an office down there with ours, and he knew what we were working on,” he said. “I think Glenn would keep continuity with the court.”

Burns then gave the floor to Alexander and Duke, who was also covering the meeting for the Index.

Alexander said he’d been a resident of Wise County for 26 years. He worked for Denton County 19 of those years, most recently as elections administrator, a job he held from 1999 to 2009, when he retired. Prior to that he held a position working closely with the county judge. He worked on county budgets throughout his tenure.

“I’ve always kept up with things in Wise County,” he said. “I couldn’t be involved in politics here, but I kind of stayed in the background. I have expertise in doing the job, and I’m currently retired. The only thing I would have to adjust is my RV schedule.”

Duke said he’d been an absentee landowner in Wise County since age 9 when his family bought property on Lake Bridgeport. He’s now living on that property. He also cited experience with budgets during his corporate career.

“I think that’s where I was coming from with the court … as far as being able to work with budgets,” he said. “But in light of Glenn Hughes and the situation here, I really don’t know if you can do better than that.”

White said all three were qualified but stuck with his original recommendation of Hughes. He also noted the two are not brothers-in-law, as some people think. (In fact, White’s brother-in-law is Lowell Hughes, Glenn’s brother. Lowell is married to White’s sister, Brenda.)

Burns said he didn’t know of anyone more qualified than Hughes to handle the current issues facing county commissioners.

“Charles brings the most business expertise to the court,” Burns said. “Don has the best record as far as being a former county employee and responsible for budgets, but I will also say that Judge Bill picked Glenn to fill a position and then hired him.”

McElhaney appointed Hughes to temporarily fill the Precinct 3 commissioner job in 2009 when Mikel Richardson died, and later hired him to be the county’s special projects manager.

Burns noted a decision didn’t have to be made at Monday’s meeting, but it did need to be done before work started on the budget for fiscal year 2015.

“A commissioner can’t do the budget. Somone else has to, an appointed officer,” he said. “I’ve been honored to get to do (the judge’s job), but I’m not doing a good job at either place, (my precinct barn) or the courthouse. I’d really like to do one or the other and would like to go back to what I was elected to do, the sooner, the better.”

Hughes spoke, addressing Lamance’s concern, before the vote.

“I know these other gentlemen are probably smarter than me, but no one is more open and honest than me,” he said. “If the public ever questions anything, they’ll never find that I’ve done anything dishonest or illegal. I feel like my honesty will carry us through anything we need to face if there’s an issue in that department.”

Commissioners approved appointing Hughes 2-1, with Lamance being the lone vote in opposition.

Hughes said Judge McElhaney’s loss left a big void in Wise County government, and he hoped to continue some of his plans.

“I appreciate the confidence,” he said, “and Kevin, we all appreciate what you’ve done.”

Hughes will be county judge until either Republican J.D. Clark or Democrat Jim Stegall is elected in November. Since the office was vacated at the death of Judge McElhaney, the winner will take office as soon as the votes are canvassed instead of waiting until January 2015.

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Friday forum to feature candidates, earthquakes

The dust still hasn’t settled from a series of earthquakes that rocked southern Wise and northern Parker counties late last year.

Several elected officials and candidates in local, state and national races are expected to address that issue at a forum this Friday, March 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. at W.E. Boswell High School in north Fort Worth.

It will feature Democratic and Republican candidates for several state and federal offices.

Some of those expected to attend include Phil King (R-Weatherford,) state representative for District 61, and his opponent in the November election, Matt Britt, a Democratic candidate from Decatur; Mark Greene, a Democrat running for Texas’ 12th U.S. congressional district; and candidates for Texas Railroad Commissioner and governor.

Concerned Citizens for Responsible Industry organized the forum. The group, composed mainly of residents from Wise, Parker and Tarrant counties, was formed in the aftermath of more than 30 earthquakes that shook the region late last year.

The group has called for a moratorium on the use of injection wells, which are blamed for possibly causing the quakes, in the affected region.

The forum will take questions from members of the concerned citizens group as well as audience members.

“We all need to pay more attention to the people who regulate the oil and gas industry, especially since it is such a major part of our economy and community,” said Wise County Democratic Chair Tracy Smith. “This forum will help inform voters on these issues.”

For information, call Darlia Hobbs at 817-237-7972.

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CASA in need of volunteers

When it comes to neglected or abused children in foster care, the need is great but help is lacking.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Wise and Jack Counties currently is serving more than 100 children in 54 cases – mostly in Wise County. But they have only 26 active volunteers to handle that caseload.

“We’ve been running at over 100 children for months and months and months, and we just don’t have enough volunteers to serve all of them,” said Serene Smith, the agency’s executive director. “We’re desperately needing volunteers to come in and take these cases.”

The number of children served has steadily increased over the past few years, from 120, to 143 to 167 last year.

It has gotten to the point where CASA is having to choose who will be assigned an advocate.

“They all need somebody,” Smith said. “When you look at the cases you can’t say, ‘Well this one does and this one doesn’t,’ because each one needs an advocate to stand up for them and make sure they have someone saying, ‘This child needs counseling,’ or ‘This child needs a better placement,’ or checking on the home where they are at. Our volunteers do such a great job.”

CASA volunteers conduct independent investigations into their child’s case, gathering as much information as they can in order to be an advocate for that child. Volunteers regularly visit not only the children, but also their parents to make sure they are making the needed changes in order to provide a safe home for the children.

A case will usually last 12 to 18 months, but Smith said the bonds created between CASA volunteers and the children they serve can last a lifetime.

“A lot of our volunteers are being invited to graduations,” Smith said. “That’s cool when that kid says, ‘I really want you at my graduation.’ They have important things coming up in their lives, and the volunteer is one of the first people they call to say, ‘Can you come?’”

The ultimate goal is for the parents to make the needed changes in their lives so their children can be reunited with them.

“It’s really nice when you see a family get back together,” Smith said. “That’s the neatest thing in the world when you have a parent come back to you and say, ‘thank you.’

“It happens. They figure out, ‘I screwed up, and I really want to get my kid back. They are the most important thing in my world.’ And they put their life back together.”

Smith said a back room at the CASA office is being remodeled to serve as a safe, secure visitation room for parents and their children.

UPCOMING EVENTS

April 3 – Volunteer training; register before Friday, March 28, by calling 940-627-7535.

April 7-10 – Volunteer Appreciation Week

April 19 – Glitzy Girls Trailer Park fundraising event on the Decatur Square

April 25 – Benefit clay shoot

For more information on being a volunteer or the fundraising events, call 940-627-7535.

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District Clerk Records Filed February 2014

ACCOUNTS, CONTRACTS, NOTES

First State Bank vs. Grant Swartzwelder

American Express Centurion Bank vs. Bong Hyun Kim

Chico ISD vs. Texas Association of Public Schools Properties and Liability Fund, Crawford and Co., and Douglas Lumpkin

Wally Yammine vs. DPH Capital LLC and David Paul Healy, personally

FORECLOSURE

151 Private Road 3666 in Paradise

106 Legendary Court in Newark

INJURY OR DAMAGE – MOTOR VEHICLE

Bridgett Herrera, individually and as next friend of Savanah Speed, a minor vs. Decatur Heat and Air Inc. and McClellon Kitner Jr.

DIVORCES FILED

Jason Roy Troutman and Shannon Lorain Troutman

James Patrick Apfel and Misty Apfel

Shanna Marie Barrios and Nikolas Allen Barrios

Hannah Rene Rhine and Gregory Newell Goodwin

Brenda Dee Jolley and Clayton Dane Jolley

Kristy Harnsberger and Dee Lynn Harnsberger

Shelly Dawn Hastings and Justin Ray Hastings

David Scott Herrera and Amber Michelle Herman

Kevin Timothy Cannon and Lauren Elizabeth Cannon

Elizabeth Ann Sutton and Matthew Ryan Sutton

Jeffrey Williams and Shari Baccheschi Williams

Robert E. Dunn Jr. and Stacy L. Dunn

Jodi Lynn McNorton and Randy Lee McNorton

Christina Marie Reinoshek and Fred Moore Javier

Martin Talavera Macias and Norma Jean Rios

Jake William Mast and Lynette Kay Mast

Aaron Bradly Capehart and Amanda Nicole Chandler

Katherine L. Nobles and Rex Dewain Phipps

Justin Cole Hunter and Courtney Christine Hunter

Anya Marie Miramontes and Pablo Alfonso Miramontes

Mark Dobbs and Maricela Dobbs

James Gordon Hatcher Jr. and Vicki Harrington Hatcher

Kristi Deann Boyd and David Ray Ball

Randel Dean Gray and Angela Darlene Gray

Kimberly Ann Neal and Gregory Wayne Neal

Jose Luis Martinez and Juanita Romelia Martinez Salinas

Julie Ruth Lamb and Joel Edwin Lamb

Kristi A. Hale and Kyle Evertte Brewer

Sharon Christina Hill and Robert Wayne Hill

William Earl Roberts and Carol Gene Roberts

Jennie Elizabeth Gordon and William David Gordon

Cheryl Younger and John Tacker

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County Clerk Records Recorded marriage licenses filed February 2014

David Anthony Marino and Donna E. Graham, both of Newark

Timothy Wayne Mitchum and Stefanie Lea Hicks, both of Chico

Radley Len Starkey of Springtown and Shannon Marie Upton of Perrin

Arthur Trevino and Christina Nicole Mull, both of Rhome

Johnze Brad Barron and Brenda Maree Taylor, both of Rhome

Nathan Scott Jones of Decatur and Alexis Richelle Harris of Azle

Cesar Humberto Rosas Hernandez and Karina Mares Pe a, both of Decatur

Ryan Patrick Helterbridle and Morgan Vi-Lorene Stamper, both of Bridgeport

Christopher Michael Rhine of Rhome and Christy Lee Gaddy of Newark

Zachary Dale Rhine and Mary Hannah Miller, both of Decatur

David Benjamin Tamplen and Miranda Shea Hughes, both of Bridgeport

Clide Ponce Gonzalez and Emma Garcia Sanchez, both of Aurora

Mark Allen Wagner of Poolville and Julia Chapman Orr of Mahtomedi, Minn.

Victor Oswaldo Rivera and Maria de la Cerda, both of Bridgeport

Daniel Castillo of Joshua and Veronica Sue Fothergill of Rhome

William Duane Peace and Crystal Michelle Fitzgerald, both of Paradise

Wade Kelly Choate of Bridgeport and Michelle Reanee Sons of Krum

Brian Lyndon Cooke of Boyd and Janet Burciaga of Rhome

Darrell Leon Ford of Bridgeport and Temilya Taiwan Harrison of Benbrook

Homer Dene Stuart II of Springtown and Adina Lee Wolverton of Azle

Audie Ray Greenwood Jr. and Cassandra Leija, both of Boyd

Justin Wade Flippin and Rebecca Ann Hedstrom, both of Decatur

Mark Robert Johnson and Christine Marie Barnes, both of Paradise

Ryan Randall Deaton and Suzan Ranee Fields, both of Azle

Francisco Perez Rodarte of Decatur and Celia Gamino of Rhome

Chad Allen Hall and Lauren Bailey Garrett, both of Weatherford

Michael Douglas Fortune and Jennifer Denise Lovett, both of Bridgeport

Matthew Allen Pachall and Arden Ashley Davenport, both of Newark

Skye Randolph Perry of Springtown and Heather Michelle Skidmore of Paradise

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Hospital directors get facilities review

Among the news flashes you hope you never hear from a hospital are “fire,” “tornado,” “hostage situation,” “power failure” and “active shooter.”

But you can be sure that Wise Regional Health System has a plan in place for all those situations, and a few more.

As part of an annual facilities review presented to the hospital’s board Monday evening, David Wright, vice president for facilities, reviewed those kinds of plans as part of the array of possibilities Wise Regional may have to deal with.

“The emergency operations plan is about 30 pages,” he said. “It covers just about every contingency we can think of outside of the typical, routine things we respond to. This could be anything – internal or external, a major equipment malfunction or service outage, or it could be a mass casualty event or a terrorism-related event.”

Part of Wright’s job is to anticipate virtually every scenario and plan for it. The hospital has personnel who are trained to deal with those types of events, but they also involve local law enforcement agencies in the planning and practice drills for each location.

“We have an organizational structure in the hospital by area of expertise and names assigned to those, and we exercise that plan twice a year,” Wright said. “It’s pretty involved, and there’s a lot of activity that goes along with doing that. That plan is under perpetual inspection and update.”

Wright’s report covered things like hazardous materials, fire safety, weather-related emergencies, hostage situations – even what would happen if someone attempted to abduct a baby from the nursery.

And with the imminent opening of the new Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital on Interstate 35 at North Tarrant Parkway in Fort Worth, all those plans have to be in place at four campuses: Parkway, the east and west campuses in Decatur and the Bridgeport campus.

“There’s a lot of activity, as you can imagine,” he said. “Security threats are everywhere.”

In addition to disaster planning, Wright’s report on the overall “environment of care” also include tracking maintenance on the medical equipment at each campus and a host of other items.

“Most of these are perpetual plans,” he said. “They live and breathe every day. We make changes to these as conditions may change.”

One of the more routine items he’s looking at is “alarm fatigue” among nurses.

“That’s one of the hottest topics in health care equipment this year,” he told the board. “It’s when nurses have fatigue from all the different types of equipment you find up and down the floor – whether it be an IV pump, a patient monitor, a respirator or something like that – all these different alarms going off throughout the day.”

He said there’s a nationwide effort going on to review the various alarms and get rid of the ones that aren’t critical to patient care.

VOLUMES DOWN EARLY IN YEAR

A financial report showed the hospital posted a decrease in net assets of $466,000 for the month of February on gross patient charges and other revenues of $40 million. CFO Jim Eaton said both inpatient and outpatient volumes were down from the previous month.

The Parkway surgical center showed a net loss of $172,000 for the month. It is expected to open for patients sometime in April.

The Bridgeport campus had higher surgery volumes, but showed a loss of $93,208 for the month of January. That deepened to $207,000 in February after a decline of 33 percent in ER volume. Eaton said personnel there could not pinpoint any one cause for the drop, but he speculated that perhaps flu cases, which were high in January, tapered off in February.

“It looks about the same this month [March] as it did in February – lower than it has been,” he said. “Cash decreased about $1.5 million – down to 108 days – mostly due to improvements and capital equipment purchases for Parkway and Decatur.”

Chief Operations Officer Leon Fuqua noted Wise Regional has approximately 600 surgeries scheduled and completed for the month of March, which puts it a little ahead year-to-date over last year.

Eaton also noted a donation of $245,000 from Wise Regional Health Foundation in February to offset the cost of the new digital mammography machine that was purchased for the Woman’s Center.

New Board Members

NEW BOARD MEMBERS – Wise Regional Health System CEO Steve Summers welcomed two new members to the Decatur Hospital Authority board at Monday night’s meeting. From left are Dana Manoushagian, Summers and Ray Cook. Cook, a CPA in Bridgeport and a former member of the hospital’s board, was appointed by the Decatur City Council in January to fill a vacant seat. Manoushagian, a Bridgeport attorney, was named to the board this month after the resignation of Lesa Warren. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel

OTHER BUSINESS

Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers reported on several ongoing issues to the board. Among them:

  • He noted Wise Regional’s Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Services did very well in its final review by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation.
  • He said a study by the Hospital Authority’s bond adviser concluded that the Authority could achieve approximately $3 million in savings by refinancing the current bonds. He said he has contacted the law firm of Fullbright and Jaworski, and “we’re going in that direction.”
  • He pointed out that several policy changes have to be reviewed and updated to be sure their language includes the new Parkway surgical center.
  • He suggested moving the board’s April meeting to the 21st rather than April 28, due to a conflict with a meeting. The board agreed.

Board president Andrew Sandford nominated board member Ray Cook to the Wise Health Services board to fill the unexpired portion of Lesa Warren’s three-year term.

The board also:

  • tabled a proposal to construct an underground drainage system on the Decatur West Campus that would be cost shared on an equal basis with Aamir Zuberi, MD, who owns the building. WRHS is likely to put their part of the property, which is used for outpatient dialysis service, up for sale and would like to coordinate the sale and the drainage improvement.
  • approved both a sublease and management agreement with MVP Alliance, LP for the imaging center, equipment and operation of the center nearby the Parkway hospital facility.
  • approved the purchase of six Fukuda Denshi monitors, at a cost of $165,185, for patient rooms in the Emergency Department to better monitor higher acuity patients as the need has grown.

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Terry Ross removed

Precinct 4 County Commissioner Terry Ross was legally removed Wednesday from the job he’s been suspended from performing for more than two years.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

The action by District Judge Roger Towery ends a two-year saga revolving around a child’s playhouse.

Judge Towery granted County Attorney James Stainton’s request to issue a summary judgment in the civil suit regarding the commissioner’s removal. The order, filed in the clerk’s office of the 271st District Court, reads:

“The court finds that (Ross) was convicted of a misdemeanor involving official misconduct during the time he held public office. Pursuant to Local Government Code 87.031, the court orders that Terry Ross is immediately removed from the office of Wise County commissioner, Precinct 4.”

Stainton said it’s “the right result.”

“It fits the law. When you plead guilty to a criminal offense tied to your elected office, you shouldn’t expect to stay in office,” he said.

Ross pleaded guilty Sept. 23, 2013, to abuse of official capacity, a misdemeanor, which was tied to the construction of a playhouse for his grandchildren in the Precinct 4 barn. Two felony charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, which gave him $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year.

The removal was the result of a civil suit filed by retired Texas Ranger Lane Akin of Decatur in June of 2012. The civil suit was filed four months after the playhouse was seized from the Ross home as the result of an investigation that started in late 2011.

UNDECIDED ON APPEAL

Ross now has 30 days in which to appeal the ruling on his removal. Friday he told the Messenger he hadn’t yet made up his mind.

“I haven’t even talked to my attorney,” he said.

At stake is close to $150,000. If Ross gets the job back, the county would be required to pay him for the time he was suspended, which totaled $146,453.12 as of March 15. His removal does not affect his retirement.

Ross, 53, has worked for the county for 11 years and was serving his third term as county commissioner.

Despite being temporarily suspended, he ran for re-election in the March 4 primary but was defeated soundly by Gaylord Kennedy, 981 to 319. A third candidate, David Stewart, received 351 votes.

Ross said, “It was kind of hard to [win] with the press,” and doubts that he’ll seek public office again, although his removal doesn’t prohibit it.

“It just depends on what I start right now and get into doing,” he said.

Ross’ attorney, David Fielding, did not return the Messenger’s call.

Stainton said Towery had reviewed the pleadings and had made his decision when he arrived in Decatur Wednesday morning to file the order.

“The lawyers agreed to submit everything without argument,” Stainton said. “It was about as simple as it can be.”

The county attorney said he’s glad to be moving forward.

“It’s taken a significant amount of time from my office,” he said. “But I believed in it from the beginning. When former Texas Ranger Lane Akin brings something to you, you pay attention.”

Stainton said he believes the ruling shows that if a person is entrusted with taxpayer money, he or she will be held accountable for it.

“When you choose to plead guilty, you choose to accept the consequences,” he said.

HUGHES STEPS DOWN

On Thursday, interim Precinct 4 Commissioner Glenn Hughes resigned. He was appointed to the position by Towery in August 2012 at the time of Ross’ suspension. Hughes is also the county’s special project manager.

His resignation leaves two vacancies on commissioners court – the Precinct 4 post and the county judge position, which was left vacant following the death of the late County Judge Bill McElhaney.

Wise County commissioners will discuss appointing an interim county judge at Monday’s commissioners meeting, and the newly appointed judge will later appoint someone to fill the Precinct 4 position.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. The public is welcome.

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Market Place sells stores in Wise, area

Gary and Margie Shelton, owner of seven Market Place supermarkets – five of them in Wise County – this week announced the sale of all seven stores to Lowe’s Market, headquartered in Littlefield.

The sale is effective April 24 and includes stores in Decatur, Bridgeport, Boyd, Chico and Alvord as well as Jacksboro and Gainesville.

New Owner on the Way

NEW OWNER ON THE WAY – Effective April 24, Lowe’s Market, based in Littlefield, will take ownership of the seven Market Place stores owned by Gary and Margie Shelton, including the one on Farm Road 51 in Decatur. The Sheltons are retiring after nearly 50 years in the grocery business. Stores in Bridgeport, Alvord, Chico and Boyd, as well as Jacksboro and Gainesville, are also included in the sale, which was announced Friday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Sheltons plan to retire May 1 after nearly 50 years in the grocery business. They have owned and operated the Market Place chain of stores (formerly IGA Foodliner) since April, 1987.

The Sheltons expressed thanks to their customers for their support over the past 27 years, and to all the employees who contributed to the company’s success.

“The Lowes are a wonderful family and I have seen the way they operate their stores,” Gary Shelton said in a news release issued Friday. “I know they will be a great fit for our communities, customers, and employees.”

He noted that the two families have known each other for many years and said both are committed to making the transition smooth for employees and customers.

The Lowes family has agreed to retain all store-level personnel, ensuring that customers will see the same smiling faces they have throughout the years.

Roger Lowe, Jr., vice-president/CEO for Lowe’s, said his family-owned and operated business is happy to welcome the new stores.

“We appreciate Gary and his family for the many years of service to these communities and we are honored that we have this opportunity to include these stores into our family of grocery stores,” Lowe said.

The Lowe’s company currently operates 145 grocery stores throughout Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. Lowe’s Market was founded in 1964 and has a rich family heritage of traditional Christian values.

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Weatherford College board approves tuition changes

The Weatherford College board of trustees Thursday approved the implementation of “differential tuition” for the college’s allied health programs, starting in the 2014-15 academic year.

College administrators have been studying the possibility of charging more per credit hour for courses that are more costly to operate. Andra Cantrell, vice president of financial and administrative affairs, came back with a suggestion of charging an extra $20 per credit hour for allied health programs such as sonography, respiratory therapy, radiology technology and nursing.

Those programs are a primary focus of the college’s Wise County campus.

Cantrell told trustees she found four other Texas community colleges that currently charge differential tuition – and noted many more discussing the possibility.

Allied health programs were selected as a starting point because the programs require smaller class sizes, expensive equipment and a higher cost for qualified faculty.

The estimated increase in revenue is $174,340 for the upcoming academic year. That won’t cover the actual cost of the programs, but officials say it will help close the gap.

“We don’t want to scare off students,” WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton said. “Even with an increase we are still a third of the cost of a university. You may have five or 10 less applicants, but we will have no problem filling our programs.”

Cantrell noted that most of the programs have two or three times as many applicants as they have openings.

Overall tuition at WC will also increase next year by the following amounts:

  • $4 per semester credit hour or 5 percent for in-district students;
  • $6 per semester credit hour or 5 percent for out-of-district students;
  • $6 per semester credit hour or 6 percent for out-of-district WC Wise County campus students;
  • $6 per semester credit hour or 6 percent increase for out-of-district Granbury campus students;
  • $3 per semester credit hour or 2 percent for out-of-state students.

OTHER BUSINESS

Board members also got a construction update on the Don Allen Health Science Building on the main campus in Weatherford. The facility is ahead of schedule and should open in early May.

They also heard the president’s report, which recognized numerous college employees for achievements, including:

  • The Vocational Nursing Program, for achieving a 100 percent pass rate on the 2013 NCLEX Exam – the licensure exam for VN students. Of the 22 programs which received a 100 percent pass rate nationally, WC had the most test takers at 51.
  • WC Wise County nursing students Kim Taylor, Jamie Battenfield, Lacy Garris, Sarah Ervin and Alex Talamantes, for representing WC at the Texas Student Nurses Convention Brain Bowl where they tied for first place.

The board also approved the reinstatement of the Emergency Medical Services Profession AAS Degree, along with the 2014-15 academic calendar and a transfer rate increase to help fund athletics, student activities and the Oak Leaf annual.

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Sun shines brightly on county government finances

Wise County has been named one of the most fiscally-transparent county governments in Texas by the State Comptroller’s office.

Wise was one of 10 counties and 36 governmental entities overall to be awarded the new Platinum Award through the Comptroller’s Leadership Circle Program, which recognizes local governments that provide online access to their expenses and revenue.

Before this year, the highest level a local government (which includes cities, school districts and other taxing entities) could achieve was the Gold Award.

Governments are scored on a points system. The entity must publish its adopted budget, annual financial report and check register on its website to meet the “major criteria” as well as a number of items listed as “minor criteria” in order to reach the Gold level.

After meeting that criteria, an entity can reach the Platinum level by posting detailed summary information about current bonded debt and how it will be paid off, providing a link to the Comptroller’s website about transparency in government (www.texastransparency.org) and posting a pledge signed by the chief executive about proposed bond packages and existing debt – and providing the Comptroller’s office with a link to that information no later than one business day after the public notice of the bond election.

Wise County’s website, www.co.wise.tx.us, includes all of this information, plus some information not required by the Comptroller’s office, such as financial information on Weatherford College and elected and appointed officials’ salaries.

Wise County Auditor Ann McCuiston said it’s important for citizens to be able to easily find this type of financial information.

“We feel it’s good for our citizens to be able to go to the website and look stuff up,” McCuiston said. ” … It’s the citizens’ money, and it’s there for them to look at.”

This is not the first time the county has applied for and received a Leadership Circle award. In 2010, the county received the Gold level award. Prior to that, the county posted some financial information on its website, but the award criteria and application process showed the county where it could improve its financial transparency.

McCuiston said financial information is given to information technology Director Randy Joy who quickly posts the information on the county website.

The award announcement was made during Sunshine Week, a week set aside to recognize the importance of open government and the public’s right to know.

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Hospital board to meet Monday

Three days before a grand opening reception at Parkway Surgical & Cardiovascular Hospital, the Decatur Hospital Authority board will approve contracts to equip and operate the imaging center near the hospital at Interstate Highway 35 and North Tarrant Parkway in Fort Worth.

Those are two of the items on the agenda for a 6 p.m. Monday meeting at the hospital board room at Wise Regional Health System.

MVP Alliance, LP is the company that will lease the equipment to Wise Regional and provide services to operate the imaging center.

The board is also expected to approve the construction of an underground drainage system on the West Campus in Decatur – the former main hospital facility located across SH 51 from the hospital. Wise Regional will share the cost of that construction with Dr. Aamir Zuberi, who owns the building which is currently used for WRHS outpatient dialysis service.

The hospital’s share of the cost is $64,960.

The board will also consider the purchase of six monitors that will enable six of the ER patient rooms at the hospital to be used for higher-acuity patients. Pricetag for those is a total of $165,185, which was budgeted.

The hospital’s annual Infection Control and Quality Improvement plans are also up for approval, along with new medical staff appointments, reappointments and first-year reviews, administrative and financial reports and a proposed change to move the April meeting to the third Monday.

The board will also consider a nursing policy on patient transfers and appoint a member to the Wise Health Services, Inc. board to complete the three-year term of Lesa Warren, who resigned from the hospital board last month.

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Heroes night dinner planned for next weekend

Last year, the patriotism and generosity of community members enabled WC Challenger Charities – in partnership with 1,000 Miles Till Home – to donate four homes to wounded veterans through the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program.

This year, organizers hope to donate another.

Welcome Home

WELCOME HOME – Chico resident Troy Thornton gets a warm welcome home from his wife, Dorothy, and other members of the Wise County Veterans Group Thursday after a four-day trip back to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, where he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Thornton was 18 when he drove a landing craft bringing U.S. Marines to the beach on Feb. 19, 1945. The 36-day battle cost the lives of 6,800 U.S. military personnel and resulted in 27 Congressional Medals of Honor. The group returned to D/FW Airport Thursday morning. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel

Organizers of the campaign on Friday said that $5,500 of the $20,000 had been raised, and they hope to close in on their goal during the 2nd Annual Military Warrior Heroes Night.

The barbecue dinner fundraiser is Saturday, March 29, at First Baptist Church in Decatur.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6.

There will be a live auction and music.

Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco, founder and chief executive officer of Military Warriors Support Foundation, will be present. He is a former deputy commander of the 49th Armored Division of the U.S. Army and former Commander of the Texas State Guard.

There is no cost to attend, but there will be an opportunity to make a financial contribution at the end of the program.

Seating for the dinner is limited. RSVP by calling Bree at 940-627-3235.

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Wise Regional earns renewal of Chest Pain Center accreditation

The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) has renewed Wise Regional Health System’s accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) it was announced this week.

SCPC-accredited facilities demonstrate expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with heart attack symptoms. The accreditation process includes rigorous evaluation of Wise Regional’s ability to assess, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.

Wise Regional has been continuously accredited by the SCPC since 2011. Facilities are evaluated every three years to determine whether their accreditation will be extended.

Accreditation acknowledges WRHS works to provide its community with the best possible cardiac care, by:

  • reducing the time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis and treatment;
  • treating patients more quickly during the critical window of time when the integrity of the heart muscle can be preserved; and
  • monitoring patients when it is not certain that they are having a heart attack to ensure that they are not sent home too quickly or needlessly admitted to the hospital.

“This was our second time to be evaluated for reaccreditation. The bar is raised each cycle,” said Lee Ann Cummings, director of Wise Regional’s Emergency Department. “We are excited that the SCPC once again recognized the effort we’ve put into caring for our patients and educating our community.”

WRHS offers a comprehensive cardiac program with many of the same services and technologies patients would find at Metroplex facilities. In 2013 physicians performed nearly 1,000 catheterization procedures and more than 65 open-heart surgeries, including several minimally invasive procedures, at Wise Regional.

Wise Regional also continues to look for opportunities to improve treatment for cardiac patients. Earlier this year, WRHS became the second hospital system in the country to use the STOP STEMI application – a cellphone app designed to help efficiently contact and connect health care professionals when a patient experiences a heart attack known as a STEMI.

The recent SCPC accreditation survey emphasized community education. Wise Regional is engaged in a campaign focusing on Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC). The national EHAC campaign was developed by Dr. Raymond Bahr, who is also the founder of SCPC and aims to educate community members about the early symptoms of heart attacks, so they can seek medical intervention sooner.

In February, Wise Regional hosted the third annual Heart Health Expo with an emphasis on Early Heart Attack Care.

“People tend to wait when they think they might be having a heart attack, and that’s a mistake,” said Cummings. “The average patient arrives in the emergency department more than two hours after the onset of symptoms, but what they don’t realize is that the sooner a heart attack is treated, the less damage to the heart and the better the outcome for the patient.”

Staff members from the admissions and emergency departments, critical care unit, cardiac catheterization laboratory, cardiac rehabilitation, and medical and surgical unit, as well as Wise County EMS, were actively involved with preparing for the accreditation visit. Even the hospital’s mascot, Hooty the Healthwise Owl, participated by handing out EHAC-themed magnets on March 7, the day of the survey.

Wise Regional will be up for its next renewal in 2017.

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