Stock show ticket office open

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

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

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

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

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Hurdsman arrested for vehicle burglary

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

Trevor Hurdsman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Louis Zehnder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, November 29, 2014

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

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

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911 text service available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN TEXTING 911

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

Information provided by the North Central Texas Council of Governments

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Thieves target unlocked cars

’Tis the season, for car burglaries.

While the holiday shopping season is traditionally a busy time for car burglars, it seems thieves are getting an early start on their own version of Black Friday specials.

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in car burglaries in recent days.

“We’ve just had a rash of them the last couple of weeks,” Wise County Sheriff David Walker said. “The majority, if not all, are vehicles that are left unlocked. It looks like what someone is doing is going around checking cars in the neighborhood.”

Any valuables left inside unlocked vehicles are the targets of the thieves.

On Nov. 17, several cars in the 400 block of Paradise Canyon Circle near Paradise were broken into. In at least one case, the homeowner reported that someone entered their garage to break into a vehicle.

Last weekend 10 vehicles were hit in the same general area south of Decatur, on County Road 3294, County Road 3170, County Road 3198 and Private Road 3143. Among the items taken in those burglaries were a gun, cash and computers. In some cases, the vehicle owners reported nothing was taken. In at least one case, someone entered the victim’s garage.

Investigators are still working on the cases and do not know at this time if the car burglaries near Paradise and Decatur are related.

In the meantime, car owners are reminded to lock their doors and remove valuable items from their vehicles.

“You ought to be able to leave your car in your driveway unlocked without worrying about someone getting in there,” Walker said.

Unfortunately, an unlocked vehicle is proving to be a deal too good to pass up for thieves.

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Sobering evening: MADD class highlights danger of drunk driving

Sobering evening: MADD class highlights danger of drunk driving

The courtroom at the Wise County Jail was almost full last Wednesday. A few people sat together – two girls who looked like they were still in high school, a married couple – but most tried to get a little space around them.

They weren’t here to socialize. They were here because they had been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

Victims Impact Class

VICTIM’S IMPACT CLASS – Ray Carter, Meredith Overbeck and Steve Collier conduct a Victim’s Impact Class in Decatur as part of the probation process for drunk-driving offenders. The class is sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Overbeck works in the Wise County Adult Probation office while Carter and Collier are speakers. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The two-hour Victim Impact Panel, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is required of first-time DWI offenders in Wise County. If they complete it within 90 days, they can avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended.

That’s a very real incentive.

In fact, the entire evening is very, very real.

The people – all ages, all walks of life – file in, fill out a form for Meredith Overbeck of the Wise County Adult Probation Office and take their seats. On the wall at the side of the room, a slide show is playing, showing people killed or injured by drunk drivers.

I was a little shocked to see an old friend’s photo flash up there.

Larry Thompson, a retired hospital administrator, died in February 2010 when an intoxicated driver hit him on Robertson Road near Eagle Mountain Lake. He was on his way home from a community theater production in Azle.

A 34-year-old Arlington man pleaded guity to intoxication manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Wednesday night, speakers Ray Carter and Steve Collier were there to do what they could to keep the audience members from being on either side of that equation – losing a friend or loved one, or doing prison time for taking someone’s life.

It’s hard not to use the word “sobering” when describing the program, although Carter and Collier both found moments of laughter as they told their stories.

RAY CARTER’S STORY

Carter started out with an introduction of MADD, and a barrage of statistics.

  • Two out of every three Americans will be impacted by a drunk-driving crash at some point in their lives.
  • 21,600 people every month are injured in alcohol-related crashes.
  • 28 people die every day in a DWI accident.
  • Drunk driving costs the U.S. $199 billion a year.
  • In Texas, more than 1,300 people die in alcohol-related crashes each year – more than three each day.
  • A drunk driver typically drives drunk 88 times before they get their first DWI ticket.

Carter first told the story of his grandson, and the DWI accident that didn’t get him involved with MADD.

A state champion high school pole vaulter as a junior, he and some friends were hit by a drunk driver a week after the regional track meet. The young man’s arm was broken in two places.

“That instant, his senior year, all the college scholarship offers – that was gone,” he said. Two other boys in the car were even more severely injured, including one a paraplegic.

“The gentleman who ruined their lives plea-bargained 38 years in the penitentiary,” he said.

Then he moved on to the reason he now speaks to 500 to 1,000 people each month, volunteering for MADD.

“I lost my best friend, my business partner, my brother in the motorcycle club – I lost my only son to a drunk driver,” he said. “My world changed. My wife says I changed, that I’ve never been like I was before.”

Carter’s son, Randy, had gone to Austin for a biker rally and was heading down MLK Boulevard with a passenger seated behind him. He stopped at a red light, then got a green protected arrow to make a left turn.

The Travis County Medical Examiner’s office said he never knew what hit him. His passenger was severely injured, but survived.

The drunk driver had a blood-alcohol content two-and-a-half times the legal limit. He also had marijuana and cocaine in his system.

The 31-year-old man was an employee of the city of Austin, married, with three kids. He lost his job and had to mow yards to try and make a living.

Carter fought to get him probation so that his wife and kids did not suffer. He even paid for his ankle monitor. But the man violated the terms of his probation and is serving eight years in prison.

Carter and his biker friends fixed up a trailer and strapped Randy’s casket to it for the procession to the cemetery.

“I took my son to his grave,” he said, his voice breaking. “I go visit that grave at least once a month. I go to Austin four or five times a year to visit where he got killed. I cry every day. I think about it all the time.”

He encouraged his listeners to think about the people in their lives who mean that much to them.

“I ask you to make good choices, to think about this,” he said. “That’s why I come here.”

STEVE COLLIER’S STORY

The next speaker is also a motorcycle guy – a big man with no hair on his head, but a beard halfway down his chest.

Steve Collier has a twinkle in his eye and clearly enjoys a good laugh. He brings humor into his presentation as he talks about his small high school class, his family and himself.

A slide goes up of a nice-looking middle-aged couple at a banquet, formally dressed. In the next slide, they’re in full biker gear, out in a roadside park in Colorado. They looked happy in both pictures but obviously more at home on the bikes.

Collier said his mom rode with his dad for about six months before she got her own bike, a Harley Ultraglide. At 5-feet, 2-inches and 130 pounds, she maneuvered the 1,000-pound motorcycle with ease.

The first thing she bought to put on it was a “Ride to live and live to ride” air filter cover.

His delivery slows down when he talks about losing her.

“You remember where you were on 9/11, when the planes hit the buildings?” he asks. Then he describes learning of his mom’s wreck on an August Friday afternoon – when a drunk driver in Oklahoma swerved into a group of five motorcycles, eight people, killing three of them.

“You got those people in this world that you’d trade your life for?” he asked. “That you’d trade your life – no questions, take me, I’m out? I’ve got three of them. I’d give it up right this second.”

His dad, he said, would have given his life in an instant for his wife of 40 years.

Oklahoma state troopers spent 36 hours at the scene, Collier said, measuring and weighing until they could computer-animate the accident.

It occurred at 3:30 p.m. when the group of bikers spotted the car swerving. The first bike just got clipped and didn’t go down, but Collier’s mom, on the second bike, was hit by the passenger-side headlight. With both vehicles going about 70 mph, it was about a 140-mph collision.

She was completely over on the shoulder when the car hit her.

The next bike was Collier’s dad, and he laid it down, avoiding the collision but sustaining fairly serious injuries as he hit the ditch. The two people on the next bike both died, hitting the passenger side of the car full-force.

Collier talked about forgiveness, about making funeral arrangements and the procession. He described the roadside crosses, seeing the bike and salvaging that air filter cover, which his son has put in a shadow box that he takes with him when he makes presentations for MADD.

“Four people lost their lives,” he said. “The fourth person wasn’t killed, but they lost their life, too.”

The drunk driver plea-bargained for three concurrent life sentences. Under Oklahoma law, they will serve 38 years and three months before they are eligible for parole. Collier’s 19-year-old son will be 55.

He closes the presentation with a slide of his mom’s tombstone, on a hill in an Oklahoma cemetery.

“I tell you this whole story to ask you the question,” he said. “Remember that person you thought of earlier, that you’d give your life for? The kids? Your spouse? Put their name up there where my mom’s name is, on that stone.”

Then he pauses.

“Put that person’s name up there where my mom’s name is, and then put your feet up here in my boots, and think what you’d say to you.

“What would you say to you, to keep from doing the thing that got you here in the first place – driving while you’re impaired? What would keep you from taking those keys and putting them in the ignition and doing it again?”

The only sound in the room is a sniff or two, as he draws his talk to its conclusion. It’s anything but preachy.

“What would you say to you, to keep from putting that person’s name that you love the most on that stone where my mom’s name is?”

Then he sits down. The people in the chairs had a survey to take before they left. Most left quietly, although a few came up to thank Collier and Carter for sharing their stories.

MADD estimates they’ve saved more than 300,000 lives since they started their campaign against drunk driving. These programs for first-time offenders may be the most effective.

The supply, however, does not seem to be diminishing.

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Driver error causes most fatalities

If you need another reason to drive safely this holiday season, here’s some information for you.

Data recently obtained by the Messenger from the Texas Department of Transportation reveals that since 2010, more than half of the traffic fatalities in Wise County have been the result of driver errors, such as following another car too closely, ignoring traffic signs or distracted driving.

Drive Safe

DRIVE SAFE – This Google Map, created with data obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation, displays the locations of all 61 fatal traffic accidents in Wise County from 2010 until now. Those 61 wrecks killed 70 people. The different colors represent the different causes of each wreck. Red dots are alcohol/drug-related accidents. Large yellow dots are speed-related wrecks, and blue dots indicate driver fatigue. Green dots are any sort of driver error, such as a failure to yield or running a stop sign. Purple dots are any combination of the above. Small yellow dots are wrecks with any other or no cause of accident. To view an interactive version of this map, visit wcmess.com/map. Map created by Jake Harris using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables

There have been 61 fatal accidents, killing 70 people, since 2010, and 31 of those listed driver error as the cause.

The second most-prevalent cause of death on Wise County roads was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with 19, followed closely by speed-related accidents at 17. Driver fatigue was listed as the cause of eight fatal accidents, although there was some overlap between all the categories.

The map at right shows the locations of all the fatal accidents in the county from 2010 until now.

The different colors represent different causes of accidents. Red dots are alcohol- or drug-related accidents. Large yellow dots are speed-related wrecks.

Blue dots indicate driver fatigue, and green dots are any type of driver error, such as a failure to yield or running a stop sign.

Purple dots are any combination of the above. Small yellow dots are wrecks with any other or no cause of accident.

An interactive version of the map is online at wcmess.com/map, and it will be updated as more accidents occur.

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Annual Messiah concert set for Dec. 1

The much anticipated Weatherford College choir concert, selections from Handel’s Messiah, is Monday, Dec. 1, at the Alkek Fine Arts Center.

“The college choir, along with talented and enthusiastic singers from the community, form the choir that will perform some of Messiah’s most notoriously challenging songs along with seasonal favorites including ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’ and ‘Hallelujah,'” choir director Rob Laney said.

The Messiah concert at WC began as a way to bring a piece of Dallas culture and arts to Parker County, he explained.

In Dallas, the entire Messiah production is performed on baroque instruments and features the Dallas Bach Choir at the Meyerson Symphony Center. To their west, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform the classic at Bass Hall. And in Weatherford, music lovers are invited to hear selections from the arrangement performed by students and other local talent.

“As you go west, we do only the highlights of the piece with a string quartet here on campus,” Laney said. “My perspective is: We bring a little bit of Dallas to you, so you don’t have to make the drive.”

Messiah begins at 7:30 p.m. Doors open a half-hour prior to the concert, and admission is free.

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Granger to continue as subcommittee chair

Congresswoman Kay Granger, whose district includes the eastern half of Wise County, will remain chair of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee.

Granger will also remain vice chair of the Defense subcommittee. In January, when the new Congress convenes, she will become the fourth highest ranking Republican on the committee and the highest ranking Republican woman on the committee.

“I look forward to continuing the vital work of overseeing all U.S. foreign investments and working to ensure we maintain a robust national defense to meet the needs of the United States and our allies,” Granger said. “Over the last four years as the chair of the subcommittee, I am proud of our efforts to prioritize the programs that have worked efficiently, while making cuts to inefficient or redundant programs. In the process, we have made the State and Foreign Operations budget leaner, but more effective.

“The world is a very complicated place today, and the U.S. faces some of the most difficult foreign policy and national security challenges in our history,” she said. “Our investments in our defense and foreign policy must reflect the seriousness of these challenges and exhibit strong U.S. leadership aboard.

“We must continue to have aggressive oversight and constantly assess the success of our foreign assistance,” she added. “We must also continue to make smart investments and be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds.”

The State and Foreign Operations subcommittee plays a critical role in U.S. national security policy. From supporting key allies like Israel, funding embassy security, addressing the spread of Ebola and stopping the spread of global terrorism, Granger oversees many of the key programs that invest in the protection of the homeland.

The Defense subcommittee ensures the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have the resources they need to ensure military supremacy in the world. With the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, the development of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the building of Bell Helicopter’s V-22 Osprey, and many other important defense companies based in the 12th District and throughout North Texas, the communities Granger represents makes enormous contributions to America’s security at home and abroad.

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Dispatchers earn regional awards

The man on the other end of the line needs help. He can’t tell you his name, where he is or even exactly what is going on.

It’s your job to get him the help he needs.

That was the real life situation Wise County Communications Officer Caitlin Knobel faced last May when she took a 911 call from a man who said he was having a heart attack.

Her quick thinking resulted in a positive outcome and the award for Telecommunicator of the Year from the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

Award Winners

AWARD WINNERS – Four dispatchers at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office (from left) Jeff Doughty, Caitlin Knobel, Zachary Bryden and Angela Smith, were recently honored by the North Central Texas Council of Governments for their outstanding work. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The phone the man was calling from did not have a SIM card, making it difficult to pinpoint his exact location. The closest she could get was the nearest cell phone tower.

The man’s speech was slurred, and communication was very difficult. Knobel was able to find out that the victim was at a friend’s house, and there was a green Dodge Durango outside.

“I tried to keep him on the phone, to let him know we are coming,” Knobel said. “Every now and then, make sure he is OK and make sure he is still responding to you because you don’t want to lose that contact. We had deputies go around certain neighborhoods and turn their sirens on to see if we could hear them, and then we could hear them in the background. And then we’d pull up Google Maps to see if we could see houses and try to describe what we were looking at and what could be the correct address.”

Communications Manager Susan Gomez said Knobel used her “great listening skills” to pick up on background noises to help her locate the man. For instance, she could hear a train horn in the background, so she knew the home was close to railroad tracks. Between the work of Knobel, deputies, the fire department and medics, the victim was finally located in about an hour – at a home next to a house with a green Durango.

“That piece of information that Ms. Knobel obtained early in the conversation was key to locating this caller,” Gomez wrote in her nomination form. “Ms. Knobel remained calm through the entire call and did everything she could possibly do to locate this caller who so desperately needed medical attention.”

Although the victim was unresponsive when found by a deputy, he was taken to the hospital where he was treated for his medical issue and released.

Fellow Wise County Communications Officer Angela Smith was also nominated for Telecommunicator of the Year for a call from a suicidal man in July.

The caller said he wanted to end his life and said he had a gun. Smith kept talking to him and listening as he explained why he didn’t want to go on.

At one point, the man said he had the gun to his head with his finger on the trigger. Smith continued to tell him that help was on the way. Finally, the man locked the gun in another room, and soon after, a deputy arrived on the scene.

“That was probably the longest 35 minutes of my life,” said Smith, who has worked for the county for 10 years.

Gomez said that while both communications officers did outstanding jobs on their calls, she believed the judges awarded Knobel for her critical thinking skills in an unusual situation, particularly by someone who had not been a dispatcher very long at the time of the call. Knobel has worked for the county for about one-and-a-half years.

Two other communications officers received awards that were presented at the NCTCOG quarterly supervisors meeting and luncheon last week. Zachary Bryden, who has worked for the county nearly three years, was awarded 9-1-1 Professional of the Year.

“He was voted dispatcher of the year by the WCSO staff just a few months ago and is an extremely hard worker and will do anything asked of him without complaint,” Gomez said. “It only seemed right that he receive this recognition.”

Shift Supervisor Jeff Doughty, who has worked for the county for 10 years, was awarded Supervisor of the Year.

“He thinks a lot like I do,” Gomez said. “He tries to take care of stuff before I even ask for him to do it. Just working with him for so long, it makes my job a lot easier because I don’t really have to worry about it. If I’m not here, I know he’ll take care of what needs to be done.”

The regional 911 program includes 13 countywide and five municipal systems, which include 43 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).

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Thornberry to chair powerful committee

Congressman Mac Thornberry, whose sprawling district includes the entire Texas Pandhandle and the western half of Wise County, has been chosen to chair the House Armed Services Committee.

New Chairman

NEW CHAIRMAN – Congressman Mac Thornberry (center), whose district includes western Wise County, is the first Texan to chair the House Armed Services Committee after a vote Wednesday. Submitted photo

Thornberry is the first Texan of either party to lead the committee, which oversees the Pentagon, all military services, and all Department of Defense agencies.

“I am grateful for the opportunity and also mindful of the responsibility it entails,” Thornberry said. “The men and women who serve our nation in the military deserve the full support and backing of the Congress and of the country. Providing that support will be my top priority.”

Thornberry was selected to serve as chairman by the Steering Committee of the House Republican Conference. The entire House Republican Conference ratified his selection Wednesday morning.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), praised the Clarendon native for his work on national defense.

“During his time in Congress, Mac has been instrumental in ensuring that our military personnel have the tools, authorities and resources they need to keep America safe. He has also worked to keep the Pentagon and others accountable for taxpayers’ money. Mac is a respected voice, experienced lawmaker and effective leader. I look forward to working with him as the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee.”

Outgoing chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) said the committee “will be in the most capable of hands with Chairman-select Thornberry and so will our Armed Forces.”

He continued, “During my four years as chairman, I’ve come to rely on Mac as a policy expert, a gifted communicator, a trusted confidant and a friend. He has skillfully helped our committee as vice chairman, and his national security smarts have earned the respect of both Congress and defense experts alike.

“But most importantly, Mac is a leader with a servant’s heart. His devotion and loyalty is, above all, to the men and women of our military.”

Thornberry’s counterpart in the Senate is Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who will chair the Armed Services Committee.

The key duties of the committee are to write a defense authorization bill each year, authorize military spending and set policies for the Pentagon to follow.

“This opportunity is only possible because of the help and support I have received over the years from my family, employers and mentors, co-workers, my official and campaign staffs, and especially from the people of the 13th congressional District of Texas,” Thornberry said. “I am extremely grateful for the confidence they have shown in me and will do my best to live up to the responsibilities of this position on their behalf.”

Thornberry, who has served in Congress since 1995, has been a member of the Armed Services Committee through his tenure. He has also served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence since 2004.

Prior to his election, he worked as a congressional staff member on defense issues and as a deputy assistant secretary in the State Department in the Reagan Administration.

“Our country faces a wide array of serious national security challenges from the renewed aggression of major powers to terrorism and attacks in cyberspace,” he said. “Congress has an indispensable role to play in meeting those challenges, and the Committee will work to see that our country remains strong.”

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Victory Christian Academy First Nine Weeks Honor Roll

A HONOR ROLL

KINDERGARTEN – Leila Baird, Stella Baker, Charles Bryson, Colton Byrd, Ana Chambers, Pietra Dias, Cadence Earl, Clifton Fairman, Bella Lawrence, Tripp McCarley, Seth Miller, Addison Morales, Grant Nezat, Cheyenne Palmer, Emma Pinkerton, Camp Thomas, Ava Wilson

FIRST GRADE – Desirae Bible, Ayden Bramlett, Brody Brogan, Natalee Caraway, Cash Chambers, Holden Chambers, Caden Cobb, Meredith Earp, Faith Farrell, Jacquelyn Franke, Logan Garrett, Lainey Herrera, Mack Hooker, Karson Kleinhans, Kennan McClure, Lily Meggitt, Cinco Patterson, Jagger Rosenbaum, Jakob Rosenbaum, Ty Sattawhite, Wyatt Yarbrough

SECOND GRADE – Brennen Ables, Kylee Allison, Mayci Becke, Chloe Carpenter, Avery Crawford, Brianna Fairman, Jess Henderson, Layton Huddleston, Dalton Huston, Landree Leake, Catherine Mallory, Lauren Morales, Dryce Neeley, Eden Rodriguez, Maggie Yarbrough

THIRD GRADE – Kaitlynn Babineaux, Logan Blaylock, Cade Crockett, Brittany Duncan, Haylee Boaz, Rubye Helm, Ashlynn Miller, Jaxson Oates, Noah Ricks, Rigby Tarrance, Wyatt Vinzant

FOURTH GRADE – Bethany Alexander, Riley Bates, Madelyn Fernihough, Christopher Jessup, Nyles Neeley, Cora Hardy, Ashlyn Stanford

FIFTH GRADE – Colton Baker, Riley Braziel, Amea Reyna, Bailey Roberson

SIXTH GRADE – Ben Boswell, Clay Earp, Bryson Gardner, Jack Garrett, Kacely Goforth, Gregory Leake, Jenna Roberson, Grant Shriver, Hayden Stone, Trinity Vinzant

SEVENTH GRADE – Claire Mallory, Milly Rowden

EIGHTH GRADE – Molly Yarbrough

NINTH GRADE – Samantha Boswell, Morgan Yarbrough

10TH GRADE – Matthew Schwartz, Courtney Wilson

A/B HONOR ROLL

SECOND GRADE – Zayne Browning, Stone Chambers, Olivia O’Brian

THIRD GRADE – Kyle Cook, Tori Gardner, Ian Gillespie, Nathan Hill, Jaron Howard, Nash Lowrance, Makayla Millburn, Jenna Nobles, Ryleigh Read, Noah Shepard

FOURTH GRADE – Nadia Baird, Averi Byrd, Brandy Duncan, Caroline Mosley, Isaac Reyna, Ty Ricks, Caitlyn Hardy, Cloe Satterfield

FIFTH GRADE – Layla Bryson, Clayton Huston, Nikyla Martin, Kaleb Mayes, Dylan McGee, Andee Nored

SIXTH GRADE – Braden Byrd, Morgan Reaves, Camden Rodriguez, Seth Selensky, Jacob White, Natalie Watts

SEVENTH GRADE – Spencer Rawle, Reagan Harvey

EIGHTH GRADE – Jon Maitland, Kaleb Nobles, Kenzi Potteiger, Meagan Rhine, Lizey Rowden, Davis Shriver, Parker Slaten

NINTH GRADE – Becca Marsh, Shelby Stone

10TH GRADE – Lyndon Harvey

11TH GRADE – Bryce Miller

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New judge takes office

County Judge-elect J.D. Clark is on the job.

During a special meeting Wednesday, county commissioners accepted the resignation of interim County Judge Glenn Hughes and appointed Clark to serve the remainder of Hughes’ term, which runs through Dec. 31.

First Day

FIRST DAY – District Judge John Fostel gives the oath of office to County Judge J.D. Clark Wednesday morning. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Clark was sworn in by District Judge John Fostel, who teased the 28-year-old, saying “this is your last chance,” just before issuing the oath of office.

“How long did it take for Bob Holloway’s hair to turn white?” Fostel joked, in reference to the locks of a former county judge, who served 1983 to 1986.

Clark is likely the youngest currently serving county judge in the state, and Fostel noted that he was the youngest Wise County judge that he could remember, at least during his own tenure in the county.

Clark took the oath before a room packed shoulder to shoulder with family, friends and other county officials.

“It was a little surreal,” he said Friday. “… I was no longer a spectator but part of the meeting.”

Clark has been attending county commissioners meetings for months and said the knowledge he gained during that time will ease the transition. He went straight to work Wednesday afternoon.

“So far it’s been a lot of routine business while I get my bearings here and learn how different procedures work,” he said.

Clark said he wants to “get a feel for what (he) likes and what (he) might do a little differently.”

“It feels like a good fit for me,” he said. “I don’t feel out of place at all. I’m just glad to be at work.”

Taking Office

TAKING OFFICE – Interim County Judge Glenn Hughes (left) swore newly elected Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy into office Wednesday morning. Later in the meeting Hughes resigned his position. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Newly elected Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy also took office Wednesday. Interim Commissioner Gary Potts resigned, and Kennedy was appointed to serve the remainder of his term.

Both Kennedy and Clark will start the terms to which they were elected Jan. 1.

Hughes, who was appointed interim judge following the death of County Judge Bill McElhaney, has returned to his post as county special projects manager – his job prior to filling in as judge.

He thanked all of Wise County Wednesday when he resigned.

“I want to thank everybody, all the departments, department heads and people of Wise County for putting up with me for the last eight or 10 months,” he said. “It’s been thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve learned a lot, and I appreciate the people of Wise County so much more.”

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King a signer on Straus letter

Wise County State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) was one of seven signers of a letter that went out to fellow Republican legislators Thursday seeking to smooth the way for the re-election of Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) to a fourth term as Speaker of the House.

The Texas Tribune characterized the letter as an effort to “quell a revolt before it has time to develop.”

King was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment, but his chief of staff sent a copy of the letter.

The letter went out after 10 p.m. Thursday to the 98 House members who are Republicans, urging them to back Straus, avoid an internal fight and be team players.

One of the letter’s signers, Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, made news Monday at a Tarrant County Tea Party meeting when he said he would not back challenger Scott Turner of Frisco, who has vowed to force a floor vote for the speaker’s position.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy wrote Wednesday that Capriglione was jeered when he told the Tea Party group in Grapevine that “there is no race” for Speaker.

The letter seeks to re-emphasize that position, ticking off a list of Republican accomplishments over the last few sessions and saying “Republicans were given a clear mandate to oppose Obama-like liberal policies at all levels of government.”

“Other states long to have Texas’ record of legislative success,” it states. “But for this to continue we must work as a Republican team in order to combat the Democrat liberal agenda.”

It quotes Ronald Reagan as saying that “anyone who agrees with you more than 80 percent of the time is an ally” and discourages what would be a “divisive” Speaker’s race by pointing out that Straus has the support of more than 80 percent of the Republicans in the House.

“As members with strong conservative voting records, we acknowledge that there is much work yet to be done,” the letter says. “We commit to focusing on the important issues of advancing freedoms, limited government and the values that have made Texas great.

“Toward that end, we look forward to working with Speaker Straus, Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and all our Republican colleagues.”

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Estes pre-files bill to repeal business tax

Earlier this week, State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) pre-filed legislation to repeal Texas’ business tax, also known as the margins tax or franchise tax.

Senate Bill 105 would make Texas the fifth, and largest, state without a tax on businesses or personal income. The only other states without both those taxes are Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

Scott Drenkard, an economist at the Tax Foundation, has called the Texas margins tax “one of the most destructive taxes on corporate and small businesses in the country” because it leads to “double and triple taxation.” The tax is due whether or not a business makes a profit.

“Creating the margins tax was a huge mistake,” Estes said. “It is inequitable, burdensome, complicated and increases prices for consumers while decreasing wages for workers.

“The margins tax is anti-business, anti-worker and anti-consumer. It is time the Legislature corrected its mistake and repealed that tax once and for all by passing Senate Bill 105.”

Estes said passage of the bill would “supercharge” Texas’ economy. The state has a reputation as being business-friendly, but Texas’ corporate tax ranking is currently 38th in the country.

Passage of the Estes bill would move it to first.

Estes’ Senate District 30 includes all of Archer, Clay, Cooke, Erath, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wichita, Wise and Young counties and parts of Collin and Denton counties.

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County canvasses election results

Wise County interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker reported to county commissioners that 35 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.

Commissioners canvassed the votes at a special meeting Wednesday morning.

Parker said absentee voter turnout was heavy, but overall there were a few hundred fewer votes cast in this election than in 2010.

The final tally of votes was 12,764.

County Judge J.D. Clark won his race with 10,377 votes, and the final number of votes for Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy is 2,558.

The county was required this year to have extended early voting hours, but the last day of early voting accounted for 37 percent of the votes cast for the entire extended voting period.

“Seven to 8 a.m. was a bust – except for in Rhome,” he said. “And the extended hours on the weekend was the same as we would have had at Wal-Mart.”

During the extended hours of 7 to 8 a.m. on the second week of early voting, Parker said 19 voters countywide cast ballots. The 5 to 7 p.m. time period was more fruitful with an additional 312 voters trekking to the polls.

Parker reported that there were seven voters with an ID issue, and only one person returned to the office to present a valid ID.

The next election will be for city councils and school boards in May 2015.

Some information for this story was obtained from a pamphlet Parker distributed at the meeting.

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Veterans are ‘people of love’

Veterans are ‘people of love’

Those who attended Tuesday’s ceremony at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park sacrificed their warmth during the 30-minute program.

It was a small price to pay to remember the much greater sacrifices of our veterans.

I Pledge

I PLEDGE – Bridgeport Elementary student Hayden Joe Butler recites the Pledge of Allegiance at Tuesday’s Veterans Day program at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The annual Veterans Day program put on by the Wise County Veterans Group gives the public a chance to reflect on the service and sacrifice of veterans. WCVG Commander Cliff Dudley summed up the question of, “What is a veteran?”

“A veteran is one who has given his all, if necessary, for the safety and well-being of his family at home and for the freedom that we all enjoy,” he said.

Guest speaker Brian Bosworth, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Decatur, also explored what it means to be a veteran.

“They have hopes and they have dreams, but they are willing to put those on hold while they offer themselves as servants,” he said. “They come from all walks of life, and they serve an ideal that is greater than themselves.”

Spouses Serving

SPOUSES SERVING – Bud and Priscilla Gates of Decatur were among the many veterans in attendance at Tuesday’s program. The couple are both retired after serving in the U.S. Navy. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Bosworth quoted from the Bible, John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” to explain that veterans are “people of love.”

“Many who are not among us today have shown that great act of love,” he said. “They’ve laid down their lives. Those who are with us today have been just as willing and stand before us today deserving of our appreciation and praise because freedom is not free. They have worked to ensure the freedom of all people.”

Bosworth said his father served in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps. Growing up in Greenville, the hometown of World War II’s most decorated combat veteran, Audie Murphy, Bosworth compared Murphy’s recognition to that Wise County has for the Lost Battalion – a group of local residents who were captured by the Japanese in March of 1942.

“Many of this Lost Battalion made the ultimate sacrifice, but fortunately for this community and others, many of those veterans returned home after the war and became important to our community,” he said. “They became part of that moral fabric of service and loyalty that has made Wise County and the surrounding communities the great place to live and raise families.”

On Tuesday, that community paused for a few minutes to give thanks to our local veterans.

Memories of Service

MEMORIES OF SERVICE – Governor’s Ridge resident Maxine Stephens examines the items on display at the “mini-museum” created from war memorabilia owned by residents during Tuesday’s Veterans Day event. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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EMS prepares to douse flames

Wise County EMS is adding a new vehicle to its fleet.

Last week commissioners awarded a bid for a rescue truck outfitted with a 300-gallon water tank, two foam tanks and other equipment needed to put out fires.

There was no discussion prior to the Nov. 3 vote, despite tense talks in August when EMS Administrator Charles Dillard first made his request for the vehicle.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to award the $159,607 bid to Steele Fire Apparatus in Haskell. There were no other bidders.

“It’s actually about $5,000 cheaper than what we had budgeted,” Dillard said.

According to the bid sheet, the body will cost $111,505, and the Dodge cab and chassis will cost $48,102. The water tank and two 15-gallon foam tanks will be installed behind the pump, which will be powered by an 18-horsepower Briggs and Stratton gas motor.

The foam system is a Foam Pro 2001, which will allow for use of Class A or Class B foam. Two FlameFighter SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) seats will be installed in the cab of the truck. For a complete list of the truck’s features as described by Steele, go to wcmess.com/emstruck.

Steele said the truck will be delivered 180 days after the receipt of the tank and equipment in its shop.

Dillard told commissioners in August he wanted the specialized truck so his personnel could put out fires when necessary.

“We could use it if someone is trapped in a car, and we’re there but the fire department’s not,” he said. “We’re not looking to fight grass fires or anything else. If someone is trapped in a vehicle and the fire department is not on scene, at least we’d have an option other than sitting there and watching them burn up.”

Dillard said his department is not trying to take over the fire departments’ job. He’s just trying to provide another level of personal safety.

“Some of the [fire] departments are toned out, and they’re en route in minutes,” he said. “But … we’re noticing more and more it’s harder to get a response in the daytime.”

Dillard said half of his personnel are certified firefighters.

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Resignations lead to changes in county lineup

Wise County commissioners are expected to accept the resignations of County Judge Glenn Hughes and Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Potts at a special called meeting today.

Commissioners will also canvass the votes from the Nov. 4 election and will appoint people to fill the unexpired terms of Hughes and Potts.

More than likely, judge-elect J.D. Clark and Gaylord Kennedy, who won the Precinct 4 post, will be appointed to those positions. The meeting is at 10 a.m. in the Wise County Courthouse and is open to the public. (Read more in the weekend Messenger on newsstands Saturday.)

Despite the anticipation of welcoming new officeholders, county officials have plugged along on regular business the last two weeks with meetings Nov. 3 and Nov. 10.

LAW ENFORCEMENT VEHICLES

Commissioners on Nov. 3 approved the purchase of seven Chevrolet Tahoes, six for the Sheriff’s Office and one for the 271st District Court bailiff, at the request of Sheriff David Walker.

The S.O. vehicles will be paid for with designated capital expenditure money, and courthouse security funds will cover the cost of the district court’s vehicle.

The new Tahoes, all 2014s, will help the sheriff out of a bind while providing most of the new vehicles needed in fiscal 2015. Walker reported at the Oct. 13 commissioners meeting that the Tahoes purchased by his department in fiscal year 2014 ended up being 2015 models, instead of 2014 as promised by the dealer.

The sheriff had ordered equipment for the 2014s, but was unable to use it when the newer models arrived.

The equipment supplier said it would give him credit, allowing him to make an exchange, but he told commissioners last week that he was only going to get $4,000 for about $13,000 worth of merchandise.

In an effort to make the most of the 2015 vehicles and the 2014 equipment, he decided to go ahead and acquire the next six Tahoes that were scheduled to be purchased in FY 2015. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1, and capital expenditure money for FY 15 was also available on that date.

The 2014 equipment will be installed in the most recent batch of vehicles approved for purchase, and the 2015 models will be outfitted by a company in Temple.

He told commissioners he plans to use this company for all future equipment installations, too.

“When we order in the future, they will outfit (the vehicles) with radios that work on our system, and stripe them, etc.,” he said. “It’ll be cheaper and quicker and easier for the auditor and everyone because we can make one order, and it comes lock, stock and barrel – done.”

Walker said his department had outfitted its own cars for years, but that was no longer feasible. The most recent vehicles purchased will be used for patrol, and one will be made a canine unit.

OTHER BUSINESS

On Nov. 3 and Nov. 10, commissioners also:

  • approved the Western Surety Co. official bond for interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker and Wise County Auditor Ann McCuiston;
  • approved the Western Surety Co. rider bond for Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Craig Johnson;
  • approved a re-plat of Zimmerman Addition in Precinct 3;
  • approved a final plat for Vista Oaks, lots 1-6, in Precinct 1;
  • approved a re-plat for Stonegate Park, lots 35A and 35B, in Precinct 4;
  • accepted donations to Public Works – $65 from the Bridgeport Mexican Cemetery, $500 from Alvord Cemetery and $500 from Friendship Cemetery;
  • accepted donations to the Sheriff’s Office canine unit – $1,000 from Hanson Aggregates and $2,000 from Devon Energy;
  • accepted a $293.15 donation to the animal shelter from Cans for Canines;
  • approved a list of standing county committees;
  • tabled a final plat for Currey Addition in Precinct 1; and
  • tabled nominating someone for the Wise County Appraisal District board of directors.

After today’s special meeting, commissioners are not scheduled to meet again until Dec. 15.

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County to upgrade IT department

Wise County needs a technology guru.

Monday, county commissioners approved creating a new position – systems coordinator – that will oversee, maintain and manage the county’s technological systems, the largest of which are the computer, radio and security systems.

The move was made at the recommendation of County Judge Glenn Hughes and will result in the complete restructuring of what is now called the Information Technology Department.

“Consultants are saying we need a systems administrator for financial reasons, as much as making the county run more efficiently,” he said. “We feel like we can save countless thousands by having more organization on what we’re purchasing, how we’re purchasing it and who’s purchasing it.

“The county has grown so much technology-wise, this is what will bring us up to speed,” he said. “The consultant’s exact words were ‘every dollar spent on a system coordinator will save you $3.'”

The consulting firm Hughes referenced is Prince Computing Corp., which commissioners hired in August to update the county’s computer systems and help devise a five-year plan.

Hughes said the IT Department is overwhelmed, and there are many systems within the county that aren’t compatible.

“It’s costing us money, big-time,” he said. “One hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. It’s not just computers. It’s everything.”

Hughes referenced the county radio system, which was designed and installed by EFJohnson Technologies of Irving, and still isn’t up and running at full capacity, three-and-a-half years later.

Hughes said whoever is hired may not be an expert in every type of system, but he or she would have the time to properly research every purchase and ensure the best decision is being made.

“I feel like we’ll have so much more control,” he said.

County Auditor Ann McCuiston said the department would now be called Wise County Systems Department.

“You would have a systems coordinator, and you’d also have a technician and assistants under there,” she said. “There will need to be a lot of training and technology upgrades. We’re not up to speed where we should be.”

She said the infrastructure is lacking across the county and especially at the Sheriff’s Office.

The salary for the new position would be up to $85,000.

Hughes acknowledged that $85,000 was a lot of money, but he emphasized that the position would require a strong set of managerial skills in addition to the IT expertise. He said the consultant would help write the job description and later on in the meeting said the consultant might even sit on the hiring committee.

McCuiston reminded commissioners that besides equipment, technology is one of the county’s biggest expenses, and the new hire will oversee all of that.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White was the first to speak up in favor of the new position.

“We hired this consultant for a reason, and if we don’t do what the consultant is suggesting, why do we need a consultant?” he said. “If we’re not willing to do what they suggest to us, we’ve defeated the purpose of hiring a consultant.”

Hughes said it was recognized months ago that more organization was needed.

“I hope this doesn’t sound like a slam on the personnel we have in IT now,” he said.

The IT Department is currently run by Randy Joy, who has two assistant technicians.

“They’re very good technicians,” Hughes said. “Randy is a very good technician.”

The judge asked for a motion to approve the position and was met with momentary silence. Just as he was about to move to the next item on the agenda, Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns spoke up with questions.

“I’m just thinking about qualifications and how we would advertise for it,” he said. “If we can get Public Works, Sheriff’s Office, 911, the CAD system and GIS (geographic information system) all coordinated and radio systems, then I’m all for it.

“It needs to be all-encompassing,” he said.

He went on to say that he wanted to advertise the position in state and national trade magazines.

“It’s not going to do us a lot of good to look amongst ourselves because if we could, we’d already have that position filled,” he said.

Burns eventually made the motion to create the new position, restructuring the department.

To cover the costs this fiscal year, McCuiston said $300,000 that was being moved from reserves into the thoroughfare fund for road work could instead be moved to the general fund to restructure the department.

“This would be a one-time thing, and next year we’d properly budget for it,” she said.

She explained that each precinct already has other money in the thoroughfare fund, and they will also be getting more road money from the precincts’ reserves and from a Texas Department of Transportation grant.

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