Clark IDs water, transportation as top issues

County Judge J.D. Clark identified water and transportation as two of the biggest issues facing Wise County during a question-and-answer session at Tuesday’s Decatur Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Decatur Civic Center.

Clark said you only need to look at Lake Bridgeport for a visual reminder of the importance of water.

CLARK TALK – County Judge J.D. Clark, right, answers questions from moderator Carey Williams at Tuesday’s Decatur Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“We pray of course for rain and that the lake will fill up, but we also need to be praying for some really innovative ideas and some new ways of doing business when it comes to water,” Clark said.

As for transportation, the judge said he had a meeting with Parker County Judge Mark Riley about the issue earlier in the day.

“We talked about what they’ve done planning wise, what we can learn from what they’ve done,” Clark said of Wise’s neighboring county. “That’s going to be an issue as well because we are a fast-growing county.”

He added that it’s important to stay on top of the issue rather than just react to whatever transportation issues arise in the future.

Carey Williams asked Clark 10 prepared questions during the Q&A session, with topics ranging from the importance of county government to people living in cities, to the possibility of a new county office building, to the county’s commitment to Weatherford College Wise County.

With the Wise County Youth Fair in full swing, Clark was asked about the improvements and future of the Wise County Fairgrounds.

He pointed out that improvements have been made with new pens in the pig barn, skylights and a new public address system. But the Fairgrounds have uses beyond the annual Youth Fair, he pointed out.

“The Fairgrounds are an economic development tool, rather than just a nice place to have a livestock show,” he said. “That’s evident with the PBR bullriding event which sold out in a day.”

When asked by Williams about the possibility of a covered rodeo arena, Clark replied, “I’d love to see a covered arena, too, but it all comes down to dollars and where does it fall in your priorities. I do think something like that is a perfect opportunity for some private/public partnerships for some folks who are interested in getting involved and seeing the value of a covered arena rather than just saying, ‘Hey county, make this happen.’ I would like to see that develop.”

Williams wrapped up the session by asking Clark if he could make one new thing appear with the county at the snap of his fingers, what would it be?

“An ever-increasing revenue stream not created by increased tax rates,” he said, drawing applause from the Chamber members in attendance.

Posted in News0 Comments

May election filing closes

The filing period for the May 9 city council and school board elections ended Friday, Feb. 27. The places on this year’s ballot, and the people who filed are listed below.

Incumbents are denoted with an “I” following their names.

ALVORD CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Roy King (I)
Place 1 – Robert Carpenter
Place 2 – Clint Mercer (I)

ALVORD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Kevin Wood (I), Rusty Rice
Place 2 – John Schedcik (I)

BOYD CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Rodney Scroggins (I)
Place 2 – Tim Hammonds (I)
Place 3 – Vince Estel
Place 4 – Mark Culpepper (I)

BOYD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 4 – Bill Childress (I)
Place 5 – Trae Luttrell (I)

BRIDGEPORT CITY COUNCIL

Place 3 – Jimmy Meyers (I), Kevin Lopez
Place 4 – Bobby Brazier (I)
Place 5 – Billy Fred Walker (I), Vicki Stokes Holder

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Tom Talley (I)
Place 2 – Charles Mauldin (I)
Place 3 – Alan Powers

CHICO CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Euell Gale Rackley, Greg Taylor and Karen Garrison, Roger Mead
Two at-large seats – Gary Fatheree (I), Colleen Self

CHICO SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – James “Pancho” Redwine (I)
Place 2 – Mark Tate (I)
Place 4 – Lori Clark (I)

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL

Place 2 – Susan Cocanougher (I)
Place 4 – Margaret Doubrava
Place 6 (at-large) – Randy Bowker (I)

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD

Place 5 – Ashlee Bohn, Matt Joiner
Place 6 – Kevin Haney
Place 7 – Marsha Hafer

NEWARK CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Gary Van Wagner
Place 2 – Nobody filed
Place 4 – Mark Wondolowski (I)
Place 5 – Dan Sessler (I)

NORTHWEST SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Josh Wright (I)
Place 2 – Mark Schluter (I)

RHOME CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Michelle Pittman, Joann Wilson
Three at-large seats – Ronnie Moore (I), Flann Bailey, Zachary Grimes, Tim W. Robison, Dawn Davis

RUNAWAY BAY CITY COUNCIL

Three at-large seats – Berry White (I), Dan Ticer (I), Jerry St. John (I)

Posted in News0 Comments

Snowbound: Winter precipitation creates treacherous roadways

Snowbound: Winter precipitation creates treacherous roadways

Winter returned to Wise County Friday morning with periods of heavy snow causing car accidents on many of the county’s major thoroughfares.

Shovelling Sand

SHOVELING SAND – City of Decatur employees Joe Tax (left) and Robert Gage sand streets by hand Friday afternoon. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Multiple accidents were reported on Farm Road 51 and U.S. 81/287, including more than one rollover.

As of press time Friday, there were at least 32 accidents throughout the entire county, according to Wise County dispatch.

By 9:30 a.m. Friday, snow covered most of the roads around the county.

Multiple road closures were also reported at various times throughout the day, including the intersection of U.S. 81/287 and County Road 2195. U.S. 81/287 South was backed up for almost an hour around 11:30 a.m. Friday after an 18-wheeler stalled in the middle of the road near Don Jose’s Mexican restaurant.

Standstill Traffic

STANDSTILL TRAFFIC – Traffic on U.S. 81/287 in Decatur came to a halt for about an hour Friday afternoon when an 18-wheeler stalled in the middle of the highway. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Alvord, Boyd and Paradise schools all called off classes early Friday morning. Weatherford College and county offices also closed. Bridgeport, Chico, Decatur, Northwest and Slidell schools all closed early at different times throughout the day.

The Bridgeport Bulls and Decatur Eagles’ 4A Region I area basketball games were postponed to Saturday. Decatur takes on Wichita Falls Hirschi at 3:30 p.m. in Bowie, and the Bridgeport/Iowa Park game will follow at 5:30.

Amanda Schroeder, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said Friday morning that periods of snow were expected through Friday afternoon, and temperatures were not expected to rise above freezing Friday.

Drive Safe

DRIVE SAFE – A Decatur sand truck drives down the road Friday to ensure the streets are safe for travel. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Additional precipitation was expected Friday night and into Saturday.

“It will transition overnight into freezing rain,” Schroeder said. “Less than a tenth of an inch is expected. Saturday afternoon temperatures will climb above freezing in the afternoon.”

Decatur Fire Department Chief Mike Richardson advised residents to stay inside if possible.

“If you don’t have to be out, stay home,” he said. “If you do have to get out into it, just take it slow.

“Be very careful and make sure someone knows where you’re at at all times,” he said. “Carry a fully charged cell phone with you and some blankets in your car and some food, too, in case you get stranded.”

This was the second winter weather event of the week for Wise County, after a 1/2-inch to inch of sleet Sunday night closed schools Monday and Tuesday.

Schools Out

SCHOOL’S OUT – Bridgeport High school let its students out at 1 p.m. Friday after almost 2 inches of snow fell in the community. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Happy To Go Home

HAPPY TO GO HOME – Gabriela Lopez picks up her son, Julian, from Bridgeport High School shortly before the school closed at 1 p.m. Friday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Snow Angel

SNOW ANGEL – Valeria Valdez shows off her snow angel skills Friday in Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Snow Day

SNOW DAY – Diego, Valeria and Veronica Valdez enjoy their time off from school Friday afternoon in Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

County commissioners to hit the road

Wise County commissioners will venture outside the county seat this year to mix and mingle with the public in a series of four mobile meetings.

The group unanimously approved the program, proposed by County Judge J.D. Clark at their meeting Thursday, despite initial pushback from Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White.

In an effort to reach out to the community, Clark proposed having quarterly evening meetings, each in a different county precinct. At each meeting there will be a community forum, a report from the county judge on recent and upcoming county issues, a report from the commissioner of that precinct on current and upcoming projects and a report from a department head or other elected official to showcase the work of that office or department. Clark also plans to have local students lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Any agenda items would be for discussion only because according to state law, commissioners are not allowed to take action on items while outside the county seat.

Clark explained that 9 a.m. meetings on Mondays are not convenient for many people to attend, and he felt like the mobile meetings would allow officials to “more effectively and directly engage with the communities in Wise County.”

“Instead of expecting everybody to come to county government, then take the county government out to everybody else,” he said. “I think there may be some months where we’re the only ones, but there may be some months where the place is packed, and they want to hear what we’re up to.”

Clark had proposed that if approved, the first meeting be in Slidell during March.

White was quick to voice his opposition.

“I have concerns about this, and I’m going to be very blunt,” he said. “We get asked occasionally to come to different areas to talk … I’ve been asked to come to a certain area east of town to tell people why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them.

“It gets into more of a gripe session than it does anything,” he said. “And like I’ve explained to them, if we went somewhere every time people wanted us, then we might as well tell our wives we’re not going to be at home.”

Clark said these programs would have a structured format, and although people would be allowed to speak in community forum, commissioners are not allowed to discuss anything with them. Commissioners can only listen.

“Then, say you’re the commissioner … and you’re going to report on what’s going on, you don’t have to open it up for the crowd to say, ‘What do you think?'” Clark said.

White wasn’t convinced.

“We don’t have to open it up, but you know as well as I do that they’ll open it up for you,” he said. “I mean, I’ll do whatever. It’s not a bad idea. I agree, but at the same time … are you asking all commissioners to be at Slidell or just the commissioner in that precinct?”

Clark said he’d like for everyone to be there that’s available.

“I think the county would appreciate it,” he said.

“I don’t mind speaking,” White said. “Don’t misunderstand me. But if it’s going to turn into a gripe and complaint session, I have a phone. They can stop by my barn. I don’t have to spend my night times out there doing that.

“Is that OK to say it like that?”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said if it’s moderated right, the meeting shouldn’t result in a “free-for-all.”

White continued to complain.

“Moderated, that’s the key,” he said. “But you’ve got four or five of us up there, and you’ve got 50 people in the precinct …”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy reassured White that he had nothing to worry about.

“I don’t think anyone will turn out to see you anyway,” Kennedy said with a laugh. “So you’re safe.”

Clark said he understood White’s concern, but he felt like it was important to give people a chance to “gripe, praise or whatever,” to which White agreed.

“I can take a minimum of four chewings per year, if that’s all I get,” Clark said.

White finally said he didn’t think it was “that bad of an idea.”

“I think it’s a good faith effort on the part of this court that we do that,” Clark said. “I think it’s good to go out and engage with people. What does it hurt to try it?”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance asked if the program was something they “can vacate if there’s a lack of interest.”

“Lack of y’all’s interest or someone else’s?” Clark asked with a laugh.

The judge went on to say that some months “it may just be us sitting around looking at each other, but I do think we’ll have some people that want to come out and visit with us.”

“I also think it’s a proactive way for each of you to say, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on in this precinct,” he said. “I would appreciate y’all giving it a try.”

Kennedy made a motion to approve the mobile meetings program, and Burns gave it a second. After his protests, even White voted in favor of it.

The first mobile meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at the Slidell High School cafeteria. In addition to the county judge and commissioner’s presentations, Sheriff David Walker will give a presentation on his department’s K-9 program.

Thursday’s meeting was rescheduled from Monday, which was canceled due to inclement weather.

COMMISSIONERS MOBILE MEETING

7 p.m., March 31
Slidell High School cafeteria

Posted in News0 Comments

DPS invites peace officers to become troopers

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is accepting applications for an advanced recruit school designed for current Texas law enforcement officers who are interested in becoming highway patrol troopers.

The application deadline is March 25, and the eight-week school begins June 21.

“We know there are highly qualified Texas peace officers who may be interested in becoming highway patrol troopers,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “DPS values the expertise and training these professionals possess, and this new recruit school is an excellent opportunity for current law enforcement officers to join DPS.”

This particular recruit school provides eligible officers in Texas an accelerated path to becoming a DPS trooper – versus the standard course that spans more than 20 weeks. Graduates of this class will be assigned primarily to DPS Regions 3 and 4 along the Texas-Mexico border to fulfill current needs in those areas.

Applicants must currently be working as a Texas peace officer with at least two years of patrol experience and hold a current and valid peace officer license issued by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).

The two-year experience requirement will not be waived.

Officers who are accepted will receive a salary of $54,128 ($4,510.69 monthly) for the duration of the eight-week school and upon graduation will earn an annual salary of $59,132 during the six-month probationary period. Once probation is complete, the trooper’s salary will be increased to $71,422.

Applicants must meet other eligibility requirements, including being a U.S. citizen and being at least 21 years old by the time they graduate from the academy. Applicants will be required to successfully complete a physical fitness test, written exam, a polygraph exam, background investigation, board selection interview, psychological exam, physical/vision exams and a drug screen.

For information or to apply, visit www.JoinDPS.com and click on “Advanced Commissioned Trooper Trainee School” or call 1-866-898-7667.

Posted in News0 Comments

Grand Jury Indictements for Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Wise County grand jury met Jan. 29 and returned the following felony indictments.

Christopher Raymond Martinez, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (one count); assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count)

Dennis Franklin Scaff, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Garrett Jabe Goyne, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Otis Parker Baird, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (two counts); assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count)

Alica Darlene Young, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Carla Jean Smith, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Greg Anthony Blevins, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Kaela Raeleen Weber, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

William Edward Barber, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Carla Lynn Cherryhomes, possession of a controlled substance 1-4 grams

Nicholas Paul Deason, forgery financial instrument elderly

James France Hale, driving while intoxicated third or more

Regina Denise Cooper, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Richard Dean Gaston, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Terry Ray Henry, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Chester Lee Martin, possession of marijuana 4 ounces-5 pounds

Dennis Wayne Sanders, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Daniel Walter Planty, possession of a controlled substance 1-4 grams

Nicholas Ryan Oneal, manufacturing/delivery of controlled substance 4-200 grams (one count); manufacturing/delivery of a controlled substance less than 28 grams in a drug free zone (one count)

Posted in News0 Comments

Vehicle thefts tied to suspicious fires

Vehicle thefts tied to suspicious fires

Two East Wise Fire Department volunteers had their personal vehicles stolen while they were battling three pre-dawn fires Sunday morning.

Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said that all three fires – called in just after 3 a.m. in an area near County Road 4430 and Private Road 4437 southeast of Decatur – are viewed as “suspicious” and appear to be related to the thefts.

Home Burns

HOME BURNS – Firefighters battle a blaze at an unoccupied mobile home Sunday. It was deemed “suspicious” by Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis. It was one of three fires in the same area that started around 3 a.m. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The fires destroyed an unoccupied double-wide mobile home and about 90 round hay bales stacked in an open-sided barn just down the road. Someone also attempted to set fire to a van that had been left on Farm Road 2264 after it broke down earlier in the evening.

“After the guys from East Wise cleared the situation, when they got back to the station, two of them found their personal vehicles had been stolen,” Travis said. “It’s a very weird situation.”

Travis spoke with the van’s owner Sunday morning.

“He said they were driving home Saturday night and a wheel bearing went out around 1 a.m. They pulled over and had someone come get them,” he said. “They came back around 9 a.m. and were dumbfounded.”

Travis said he believes the same people who set the fires also stole the pickups.

“That’s our working theory. It’s just too coincidental,” he said. “The fires were set as a distraction to allow them to steal the trucks, knowing everyone’s going to be out, everyone’s going to be busy.”

Jim Blackney with East Wise FD said the house was fully involved when firefighters arrived on scene.

“It had already blown out the windows when we got here,” he said.

He did have to call a sheriff’s deputy to remove a bystander from the scene. Other fire departments that were called to assist with the blaze include Decatur, Newark, Rhome and Justin.

Investigators from the Wise County Sheriff’s Office were brought in to handle the crime scene at the van and the East Wise fire station.

Sheriff David Walker said they’re working with Travis and the fire department.

“There’s definitely something strange, so we’re looking at all angles,” he said. “It seems to be someone that had to know what areas the fire department responded to and therefore, would have knowledge that the vehicles were left at the station.”

Anyone with information on the fires or the vehicle thefts is encouraged to call the Wise County Fire Marshal’s office at 940-627-5870.

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

White Out: Winter storm brings county to standstill

After rolling into Love’s Travel Stop in Rhome Sunday evening, Stacey Gross checked the tires on his tractor-trailer Monday morning as sleet pelted the ground.

“I’m just leaving. Hopefully, I’ll make it all the places I have to make,” said the truck driver from Yuba City, Calif. He was about to head east to Tyler and Shreveport.

Hitting the Road

HITTING THE ROAD – Stacey Gross checks the tires on his tractor-trailer before making the treacherous trip out of Love’s Travel Stop in Rhome Monday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Gross was one of the few drivers braving the roads in Wise County Monday morning as the second round of wintry precipitation hit with a fury shortly after 6 a.m. The storm dumped 1/2-inch to 1 inch of sleet, according to Dan Huckaby, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.

Much of the precipitation wrapped up by noon, but conditions did not improve significantly with temperatures remaining in the 20s throughout Monday and still below freezing most of Tuesday.

Schools and government offices throughout the county were closed Monday and Tuesday.

Winter Wonderland 1

WINTER WONDERLAND – Sleet covered the roads and ground around Wise County Monday. It made the journey over the U.S. 380 bridge over Bridgeport Lake in Runaway Bay slick. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said there had been only a few accidents in the county on Monday.

“It’s not been too bad,” Beard said. “We had a couple of incidents this morning of vehicles sliding off the road. [Sunday] night around Alvord on 287 there were a couple of accidents but no injuries.”

WINTER WONDERLAND – Julie Chemlis (right) shows off her snowman made of sleet Monday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Beard added Tuesday that there were a few additional accidents Monday evening but none with severe injuries.

“There were quite a few cars sliding off the road but nothing major,” Beard said. “The roads are better, and there’s definitely more traffic. It got rough [Monday] night, and early [Tuesday] morning it was a sheet of ice.”

The Wise County Sheriff’s Department reported 30 accidents between Sunday and Tuesday.

Sabrina Easley of Oncor reported no power outages in Wise County.

“Wise County Oncor customers came through the storm without a hitch,” Easley said. “We did not have one customer without power throughout the entire storm. We are continuing to stay staffed up through the next 48 hours in anticipation of the next weather event.”

A few brave drivers made their way to Brookshire’s Monday to pick up a few items. Rosie Lang said her husband drove her to the store from their house south of Bridgeport.

“He won’t let me drive in this,” she said. “He’s from the north.”

The winter weather won’t let up anytime soon, though, according to Huckaby. He said Tuesday morning that a new storm would roll through the county late Tuesday or early Wednesday bringing snow.

“After midnight, we could see the next round starting sometime around 2 and 3 a.m. and tapering off later in the morning [Wednesday],” Huckaby said. “Tonight’s event will be snow, but it’s putting snow on top of ice, which could be quite treacherous.”

Huckaby said Wise County was on the boundary of the area that would be placed under a Winter Storm Warning. Some parts of North Texas could see 4 inches of snow or more.

“Wise County could see 1 or 2 inches, but if the track of the system goes a little further north, by even 30 miles, it could significantly impact the amount,” Huckaby said. “The snow is not in doubt. The amount is unclear.

“There will be a third morning of dicey driving conditions.”

The storm left high school basketball coaches scrambling to reschedule games. The Slidell boys had their bi-district game pushed from Monday to Wednesday. The Slidell girls, Bridgeport girls and boys were postponed from Tuedsay to Wednesday.

The Alvord girls were still hoping to play Tuesday evening as of midday Tuesday.

Among events canceled in the area was Kay Granger’s appearance slated for Monday at the Decatur Civic Center.

Posted in News0 Comments

Saving lions: Charitable giving supports big cat rescue, life-saving efforts

Peeking through a sliding door, lion cub Zuberi enters CARE’s indoor rehabilitation unit with sibling Araali following closely behind. The pair climb on a mattress surrounded by colorful toys, a scene far different than a few months ago when they were near death.

The Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) recently built the new addition to its facility to save the lives of two of its lion cubs. Because of people’s love for animals and willingness to give, CARE has built and sustained a facility that not only rescues animals, but also saves their lives.

Youve Got a Friend in Me

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME – Andrew Rottner of Decatur visits Zuberi (left) and Araali at the Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) in Bridgeport. Rottner recently spearheaded a fundraising effort to build the lions a space to heal and rehabilitate after being diagnosed with wobbler syndrome. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

First State Bank Decatur Branch President Andrew Rottner said his family has frequented CARE’s annual fall festival the last couple of years.

Last October Rottner met Zuberi and Araali for the first time.

HOME SWEET HOME – Zuberi plays with a toy at the Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) in Bridgeport. Messenger Photo by Jimmy Alford

“The boys were about four months old,” Rottner said. “They are such beautiful animals and through that initial visit we’ve been coming back out and visiting with CARE directors Heidi and Derek and the boys and established a bond with the cats. What they do here – taking care of the cats – is just amazing.”

Rottner said the sheer amount of work that goes into maintaining the facility, plus the love everyone at CARE puts into their work, is tremendous.

“They take these cats in like they are family, and it’s very obvious over the last several months that is what they are – absolutely family, every one of them,” Rottner said. “If you come out and Heidi or Derek are here, every one of the cats run up and rub on the fence, they know them and obviously they’ve been treated very well.”

All the more traumatic and heartbreaking was the life-threatening setback that afflicted the cubs a few months ago. Seemingly out of nowhere, the lions’ health began to deteriorate, according to CARE Executive Director Heidi Krahn.

“They had brittle bones. They both had broken ribs, and the situation was pretty bad,” Heidi Krahn said. “Some of the video I could show you would break your heart. They were struggling to stand. It was awful. We are guessing that it is genetic.”

Bond with Big Cats

BOND WITH BIG CATS – Andrew Rottner scratches one of the lion cubs on a recent visit to CARE. He has developed a bond with the big cats after first visiting them in October. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

A trip to Texas A&M and several MRIs later put a name to the disorder – wobbler syndrome.

Wobbler syndrome is a disorder that normally affects spines in horses and large breed dogs, like Great Danes, both of which see extensive and quick bone growth during early development.

Heidi Krahn said animals affected by wobbler syndrome are not able to metabolize calcium properly. The symptoms are worse when the animals are still young and growing – when the need for calcium is the greatest. Aside from brittle bones, symptoms also include hypersensitivity and shaky walking, hence the disorder being called wobbler syndrome.

“They had a lot of calcium in their diet,” she said. “This totally snuck up on us and there is no reason for it. It’s got to be genetic. Now that we know about, it we can give them more calcium – loads of calcium.

“That is something we are going to have to maintain throughout their lives because they won’t be able to metabolize calcium like normal lions,” she explained. “I’ve never seen this before. I’ve seen hundreds of cats and never seen this before.”

For Zuberi and Araali, the situation was dire and talk turned to euthanasia as an option. Surgery to ease the symptoms is possible but not until the cats are adults. An intermediate solution was needed and fast.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

Prior to their health problems, Rottner was already formulating plans to raise money for an outdoor enclosure. But that went by the wayside when it became apparent the cubs might not live long enough to need it.

“I did some research on it, and Heidi gave me some information on what it is and what the prognosis is and what the options are,” he said. “The condition that they were in was heartbreaking. They couldn’t even walk.

“I mean he’s trying to crawl across the floor over to you, and everyone is in tears,” he said. “It’s like, we need to at least give them a shot.”

Rottner knew giving the cubs a shot meant 24/7 care as they continue to grow. He said being in the living room would likely not be the best place for them and their keepers.

“We came up with this idea of enclosing the outdoor porch. That way they are accessible and they have safety, and they have access to their outdoor yard until they would hopefully rehabilitate or had to have surgery,” Rottner said. “This seemed like a great solution, but unfortunately, we were coming up on the holidays and the wintertime, so it made it critical for something to happen immediately.”

Rottner called a contractor and plans and estimates began the next day, under the close eye of CARE’s three-legged llama. The idea was to enclose and climate-control a porch that was already in place. It would also have a tunnel leading to the outdoors. The project would cost about $20,000.

“I had brought the bank group out here prior to that and just like I was enraptured with the love of animals, they were, too,” Rottner said. “Several members felt strongly and really appreciated the tour. I said to them ‘Here’s the problem: they need some help, and this is what we’re trying to accomplish.’ Several people at the bank and myself made a contribution toward that effort.”

SUPPORT: LOCAL AND ONLINE

Rottner’s efforts raised nearly half the cost. The rest came through overwhelming online support. Derek Krahn’s Vine account brought in another $15,000, covering the rest of the rehab unit’s costs, as well as the cubs’ expensive medical bills. Framing began on Christmas Eve and was completed three days later.

The cubs’ response has been impressive.

“People really rallied and donated a lot with 21st century tools,” Derek Krahn said. “You look at them now, you’d never know there was anything wrong with them.”

Rottner attributes the great online response to human nature. He said people love animals and love children.

“They look at these babies and see them hurting and want to help,” Rottner said. “People responded to that.”

Heidi said the cubs had been noticeably smaller, but after a couple months of rehab, plus a couple special medical collars donated by Assisi Loop, their growth has completely caught up.

Rottner has continued to visit and become a common face in the lions’ lives and recovery. He said he has enjoyed his time with the lions and knows it won’t last forever. Beyond rehabilitation, CARE’s goal is to let the lions be lions, not pets.

“They’ll know who we are and we’ll have a relationship, but they are not pets,” Heidi Krahn said.

She said eventually the lions would have their own enclosure, which will be the next step. The indoor rehab facility won’t go to waste at that point, though. Heidi said the organization would have plenty of other uses for it and would continue to utilize it to enhance the lives and rehabilitation of animals in their care.

FURRY BACKERS

CARE has more needs than just Zuberi and Alaari. Home to more than 50 animals, CARE is in constant need of funds to continue to operate. One of CARE’s largest contributors is the nonprofit Texas Furry Fiesta, an annual furry fandom convention held in Dallas. The convention, one of the top 10 largest in the world, played host to thousands of furry fans from across the nation and around the globe last weekend. Since 2009, each of those fans has helped feed, house and provide medical care for CARE’s many animals.

ALL SMILES – Dressed as hyenas, furries Jordan McCloud and Kaitlyn Smith attend the Texas Furry Fiesta in Dallas. The convention is a charity event that supports CARE. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

“This is like the seventh year, and we’ve been with them since the very beginning,” Derek Krahn said. “They had us as their featured charity. I thought it was just going to be a one and done kind of thing, but they invited us back year after year and it became this great thing between our respective organizations.”

Convention attendance has grown from 400 to 500 people in 2009 to more than 2,400 this year. Preliminary counts have this year’s donation total at $16,450, bringing the grand total to more than $68,000 donated to date by the Furry Fiesta.

“The amount of support has grown tremendously, and it’s become this big staggering thing,” Derek Krahn said. “It happens at a crucial time of year, too. For nonprofits in general, this time of year is a difficult time to get donations.

“It’s right after the holidays,” he said. “People have just spent all their money on gifts, and it’s difficult for people to find the means to give within their budgets. To have this at that crucial time of year means we can sustain ourselves and our operation without wondering where the money is coming from.”

Posted in News0 Comments

Youth Fair events start Saturday

The 2015 Wise County Youth Fair kicks off Saturday in downtown Decatur and runs through March 7 at the Wise County Fairgrounds.

The 63rd annual event will start with a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, to raise awareness of the fair and encourage families to visit the show. Organizer James Hubbard said Tuesday the threat of inclement weather could cancel the parade, but that decision had not yet been made as of press time Tuesday.

Watching the Show

WATCHING THE SHOW – Youngsters line the edge of the arena at the Wise County Youth Fair horse show. The 63rd annual event will feature livestock shows, as well as craft, baking, photography, horticulture and ag mechanics contests. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Lineup starts at 9 a.m. on Business 81/287 at Sandford Oil in Decatur. The parade starts at 10 a.m., and it will travel west on Walnut Street, south on Lane Street and east on Main Street to return to the start.

This will be the first Youth Fair parade held in several decades. Other events new to the fair in 2015 include a livestock judging contest at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 7, and the Heart of a Champion Show for special needs youth and adults 5 p.m. Friday, March 6.

The traditional lineup of fair events includes the Youth Fair Queens Contest, featuring 4-H, FFA and FCCLA contestants from across the county, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Women’s Building on the fairgrounds. (See this week’s All Around Wise for profiles of each contestant.)

The horse show is 8:30 a.m. Monday and continues Tuesday at the NRS Arena south of Decatur. Shows at the fairgrounds start Tuesday at 8 a.m. with the broilers, followed by breeding poultry; breeding dairy goats at 10 a.m.; the Longhorn show at 2 p.m. and breeding swine at 4 p.m.

The 4-H Parade of Fashion is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Market lambs show at 8 a.m. Wednesday, followed by the dog show at 10 a.m.

On Thursday, the market swine show starts at 7:30 a.m., and meat pen rabbits, followed by breeding rabbits are at 8 a.m. The market goat show is 2 p.m., and the Women’s Building will open at 5 p.m. to view 4-H, FCCLA and horticulture exhibits.

On Friday, the prospect steer show is at 8 a.m., followed by the market steer show and naming of the grand champion steer. The breeding beef heifer show starts at 1 p.m., and the agricultural mechanics contest will be judged beginning at noon.

On Saturday, the pet show is at 10 a.m. A barbecue meal will be served 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and awards will be presented in the arena at 12:30. The grand finale, the Youth Fair Auction, begins at 1 p.m.

—–

A youth rodeo will be held Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7, at the rodeo arena at the Wise County Fairgrounds. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the rodeo starts at 7 p.m. Books will be open 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 2. To enter, call 405-238-0212.

Posted in News0 Comments

Schools to send $6 million to state; Local districts hit hard by recapture

After issuing the purchase order for $1,186,633 for Chico ISD’s recapture payment, Superintendent Mike Jones sent a tweet with the hashtag “ouch.”

“We do that every year,” Jones said. “That money could do a lot of good here.”

Jones is not alone among Wise County school leaders. Collectively, the six Chapter 41, or “property wealthy districts,” in the county will send more than $6.62 million to the state in the “share the wealth or Robin Hood” plan.

All Wise County districts with the exception of Northwest and Paradise are considered wealthy districts for 2014-15.

Districts fall into Chapter 41 status if its wealth per resident student exceeds $319,500.

School districts in that category have five options to take care of the recapture – consolidate with another district, detach property, purchase attendance credits, contract to educate nonresident students or consolidate tax bases with another district.

According to the Texas Education Agency, most districts have elected to purchase attendance credits or contract to educate nonresident students. An election is required for both those options after the first time a district is notified it is Chapter 41.

Until enrollment figures are final, the amount of the recapture is an estimate.

“If the enrollment is up 50 to 60 kids, it reduces the amount,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend.

Decatur ISD will be sending the most money this year – an estimated $3.5 million.

“We’ve paid as high as $5 million,” Townsend said.

“It’s a state property tax. Not all the money is going to schools. It goes to the general fund. I think it should be a law that it all stays in the schools.”

Tiny Slidell ISD has budgeted $1.5 million for recapture.

“Starting in February, we’ll send monthly payments,” said Slidell ISD Superintendent Greg Enis.

“It’s one of the many issues in state funding and why the state is being sued now is the inequity in the system,” he said. “We’re a property-poor district but wealthy because of the oil and minerals.”

Enis pointed out that his district is completely funded by taxpayers in this system.

—–

All districts in Wise County except Paradise and Northwest are subject to the Chapter 41 “share the wealth” recapture. Here are the estimated recapture amounts according to local administrators.

  • Alvord: $130,000
  • Boyd: $83,824
  • Bridgeport: $222,745
  • Chico: $1.186 million
  • Decatur: $3.5 million
  • Slidell: $1.5 million

Posted in News0 Comments

Past and future money; Comptroller’s office due here Feb. 25

Wise County residents can claim their unclaimed property and set up a state savings plan for their kids’ college education at a Feb. 25 event scheduled here by the State comptroller’s office.

According to comptroller Glen Hegar, Wise County residents currently have more than $2.8 million in forgotten utility deposits or other refunds, insurance proceeds, mineral interest or royalty payments, dormant bank accounts and abandoned safe deposit box contents. Those assets are held by the comptroller’s office, which works to find their rightful owners.

Representatives from the comptroller’s office will help people search for unclaimed property online, fill out claim forms and answer questions 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office Training Room located at the north entrance at 200 Rook Ramsey Drive in Decatur.

Wise County Treasurer Katherine Hudson is co-hosting the event.

Hegar estimates one in four Texans has money waiting to be claimed.

“Texas has $4 billion in unclaimed property, and as comptroller, one of my jobs is to get that money back in the hands of those who earned it,” Hegar said. “I encourage Texans to search for their money online or contact my office to claim their rightful property.”

Those at the event will also be able to learn about and enroll in the state’s prepaid college tuition program, the Texas Tuition Promise Fund (TTPF). The TTPF enrollment period deadline for this year is Feb. 28.

The TTPF allows Texans to lock in the cost of undergraduate tuition and required fees at Texas public colleges and universities, protecting against future tuition inflation. A TTPF representative will be on hand to discuss the program and help enroll those who are interested.

“Saving for a child’s college education is one of the most important decisions a parent can make,” Hegar said. “As a parent three times over, I’m proud our state has the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, which can help Texans control the spiraling cost of college.”

To search for unclaimed property at any time, or to view how-to videos on the process, visit the comptroller’s unclaimed property website at ClaimItTexas.org. For phone assistance, call 1-800-654-FIND (3463).

For additional information on the TTPF, visit TuitionPromise.org.

Posted in News0 Comments

Estes authors licensed open carry bill

Just change “concealed carry” to “carry.”

That’s what State Sen. Craig Estes’ bill (S.B. 17) would do if it passes – and in some form, it’s likely it will.

Open Carry Author

OPEN CARRY AUTHOR – State Sen. Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, whose district includes Wise County, basically just eliminated the word “concealed” from the current Concealed Handgun Licensing law to create an open carry proposal for Senate and House consideration. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“My bill is licensed open carry,” Estes said Tuesday morning at a breakfast kicking off Wise County Legislative Day in Austin. “That means when you have a CHL (concealed handgun license), it becomes a carry license – and you decide whether you carry open or concealed.

“There are places where concealed is better and places where open carry is better.”

Estes’ bill has already been referred out of committee, even though bills can’t be introduced on the House or Senate floors until March 14.

According to a recent Dallas Morning News article, nearly 75 percent of the police chiefs responding to a recent survey by the Texas Police Chiefs Association said they oppose open carry.

But nearly 90 percent said that if open carry passes, a license should still be required – and 94 percent said if it passes, a licensed weapon should be required to be holstered.

In short, the chances are good you’ll see more guns strapped to the hips of your fellow Texans after the current legislative session.

But the idea that anyone who wants to can simply walk around openly with a gun is unlikely to gain much traction in this legislature.

“The state has every right to vet people and license them,” Estes said.

“Forty-four states have this,” he added. “My bill says, ‘Let Texas go boldly where 44 states have already gone.'”

He said reasonable people can disagree over campus carry – legalizing guns on college campuses.

“There’s some disagreement over whether 21-year-olds with a license should be able to carry on campus,” he said. “I would say there’s plenty of guns on campus now. Also, remember it’s 21 and above. We’re not talking about the 18-year-olds living in the frat houses.”

UT Chancellor Bill McRaven has said he opposes “campus carry” and believes it would make college campuses less safe. Texas A&M’s Chancellor John Sharp said he does not oppose campus carry and that his system would not take a position on the issue.

HOUSE LIKELY TO ‘TIGHTEN’ RULES

Veteran House member Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, who chairs the House Calendar Committee that decides which bills come to the floor, questioned the priority given to open-carry bills in the Senate.

“I don’t understand why open carry and campus carry are so important they had to have a hearing and be voted out next week,” Geren said. “The Senate is just like the House. Nothing can come to the floor before March 14.

Geren said licensed carry will “probably pass” – but not what is referred to as “constitutional carry” – the unlicensed open display of a gun.

“God does give you the right to protect yourself, I believe that part,” Geren said. “But I don’t think he said you can do it with a gun, especially if you can’t qualify to carry one because of your previous behavior.”

Geren carried a gun when he worked as a U.S. Marshal for 10 years before being elected to the Legislature. He does not carry one now.

“I think a person needs to train,” he said.

Geren said he thinks the House will try to “tighten up” Estes’ bill, in particular to regulate the carrying of a gun where alcohol is sold, including bars, restaurants and convenience stores.

“And I think we need to probably decide what level holster a person should have, what type of restraining device you have to have,” he said.

He noted that police officers, even when they’re off-duty, are required to have a restraining system to prevent others from simply grabbing their weapon.

TAX RELIEF

“Tax cuts are on the table,” Sen. Craig Estes said.

His remarks were emphasized a few hours later in Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address, as he detailed cuts in both property taxes and the business franchise tax, which will be considered during this session.

“We’re looking at property tax cuts in some way, which county and municipal officials are looking at with great trepidation,” Estes told the breakfast crowd.

“Rep. King talked about $7.5 billion we left unspent,” he said. “I translate that to mean that we overtaxed. My proposal is to totally eliminate the business franchise tax.”

Estes said eliminating that tax would provide “more bang for our buck” than any other proposal.

“It would supercharge our economy and provide jobs,” he said.

Abbott, in talking to the whole House and Senate, proposed a $2 billion reduction in the business franchise tax and a $2.2 billion cut in property taxes – with the promise of state funds to “make whole” school districts that lose revenue as a result of the cuts.

“I will reject any budget that does not include genuine tax relief for Texas employers and job creators,” Abbott said. “I will also insist on property tax reduction for Texas. It is time for property owners, not government, to truly own their own property.”

Estes thinks such tax reforms will pass, and he tried to alleviate the concerns of those who think that, with the recent drop in oil prices, it may be a bad time to cut taxes.

“The time to kill a snake is when the hoe’s in your hand,” he said. “We can eliminate it and do just fine without it.

“Oil prices are going to come back up,” he assured the Wise County crowd. “Just don’t ask me when!”

He said Texas is already 10th in the nation in tax fairness according to a non-partisan think tank in Boston.

“If we eliminate the business franchise tax, we jump up to third,” he said.

Posted in News0 Comments

Filing begins for May election

The filing period for the May 9 city council and school board elections continues through Friday, Feb. 27. The places on this year’s ballot, and the people who have filed as of press time Feb. 20 are listed below.

Incumbents are denoted with an “I” following their names.

ALVORD CITY COUNCIL

Mayor, Place 1 and Place 2 – No filings

ALVORD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Kevin Wood (I), Rusty Rice
Place 2 – John Schedcik (I)

BOYD CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Rodney Scroggins (I)
Place 2 – Tim Hammonds (I)
Place 4 – Mark Culpepper (I)
Place 5 – No one has filed

BOYD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 4 and Place 5 – No filings

BRIDGEPORT CITY COUNCIL

Place 3 – Jimmy Meyers (I)
Place 4 – Bobby Brazier (I)
Place 5 – Billy Fred Walker (I)

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Tom Talley (I)
Place 2 – Charles Mauldin (I)
Place 3 – Alan Powers

CHICO CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Euell Gale Rackley, Greg Taylor and Karen Garrison
Two at-large seats – Gary Fatheree (I)

CHICO SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – James “Pancho” Redwine (I)
Place 2 – Mark Tate (I)
Place 4 – Lori Clark (I)

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL

Place 2 – Susan Cocanougher (I)
Place 4 – Margaret Doubrava
Place 6 (at-large) – Randy Bowker (I)

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD

Place 5 – Ashlee Bohn, Matt Joiner
Place 6 – Kevin Haney
Place 7 – Marsha Hafer

NEWARK CITY COUNCIL

Mayor, Place 4, Place 5 and Place 2 – No filings

NORTHWEST SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Josh Wright (I)
Place 2 – Mark Schluter (I)

RHOME CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Charles Pennington, Michelle Pittman
Three at-large seats – Louis Godfrey, Ronnie Moore (I), Flann Bailey, Zachary Grimes

RUNAWAY BAY CITY COUNCIL

Three at-large seats – Berry White (I), Dan Ticer (I), Jerry St. John (I)

Posted in News0 Comments

Congresswoman Granger to visit Wise next week

Topics as far-reaching as the United States’ commitments to the Middle East, the Affordable Care Act and the immigration crisis will be on the table Monday during the “Conversation with Kay” event at the Decatur Civic Center.

Kay Granger

Kay Granger

Congresswoman Kay Granger, who represents the eastern half of Wise County in Washington, will be the special guest for the event hosted by the Wise County Messenger.

Granger, who was elected to Congress in 1997, holds several key committee posts, including Appropriations, where her subcommittee handles defense, transportation, state and foreign operations, housing and urban development.

“I am so happy to be doing this,” Granger said Thursday. A similar “Conversation with Kay” occurred in Fort Worth last year, and she said it was a “great way to communicate with her constituents.”

Granger is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan University and is a former councilwoman and mayor of Fort Worth. She began her involvement in politics as a member of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission.

Granger will arrive at 11 a.m. for informal visits with the more than 100 persons who have bought advance tickets for the event. Lunch will be served at 11:30, and the “conversation” between Granger and Messenger publisher Roy Eaton begins at noon. Persons in the audience will be invited to submit questions for the congresswoman to answer.

Tickets for the event are $25 each, and advance reservations are required. Last-minute reservations can be made before 10 a.m. Monday by calling Teresa Mayberry at iCopy in Decatur, 940-627-9000.

Posted in News0 Comments

TAPS finds park-and-ride location

Wise County residents who work in Fort Worth may soon have a new transportation option.

TAPS Public Transit, headquartered in Sherman, has been looking for a park-and-ride location in Decatur to allow a bus route from Decatur to Fort Worth. At Tuesday’s Wise County Transportation Coalition meeting, TAPS Transportation Solutions Coordinator Jeff Davis delivered the “good news:” a location has been found.

Davis said Cornerstone Baptist Church, located at the intersection of Hale Street and U.S. 81/287, has allowed the use of a back corner of its parking lot as a location where people can park their cars and board the TAPS bus. Times and a start date have yet to be announced, but the times and route would be designed to help people travel to work during the work week.

The route would end at Fort Worth’s Transportation Authority, The T, Intermodal Transportation Center downtown, allowing commuters to then use that transportation system to reach their places of employment.

The service would not be limited to workers, Davis said. Others could use the bus route. However, it is likely the bus will leave early in the morning and return in the evening.

Davis said TAPS has been searching for a park-and-ride location in Rhome as well.

TAPS has also applied for a grant that, if awarded, could be used to create a Decatur-Denton-McKinney route.

“We are pretty excited because we think these are the things that are going to connect Decatur and just help with the economic growth,” Davis said of the routes connecting Wise County residents to other counties.

TAPS is expected to announce more information about the Decatur to Fort Worth route soon.

Those who are interested in the route can call Davis at 903-328-2119 for more information or to provide input.

Posted in News0 Comments

Geren relishes role on Speaker’s team

Charlie Geren doesn’t mind being the bad guy.

The Fort Worth state representative, in his eighth session in the Texas House, may be the perfect wingman for Speaker Joe Strauss of San Antonio.

Floor General

FLOOR GENERAL – Charlie Geren of Fort Worth (right) watches the action on the floor with Rep. John Kuempel Tuesday morning. Geren heads up the House Administration Committee and serves as a key lieutenant to Speaker Joe Strauss. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“If there’s an issue, he can be the nice guy,” Geren said. “They pay me not to. He doesn’t have to tell people no – I get to tell them.”

Geren, a vice president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, has worked the Junior Heifer Show with Messenger publisher Roy Eaton for more than a decade. He’s also a TCU trustee, a rancher, a Realtor and owner of a popular Fort Worth barbecue joint, the Railhead Smokehouse.

For 10 years, he served as a deputy United States marshal. He has an up-front way of dealing with people, a quick sense of humor and a smile that comes easily. He also has a firm grip on reality and is not easily rattled.

The day we visited, he had just squashed a freshman House member’s attempt to use state funds for political advertising.

“He said it was a judgement call on my part, that it’s not political at all,” Geren said. “But beating up on President Obama, whether you like him or not – it’s political, and the state’s not going to pay for it.”

As chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Geren keeps the members working together so the 150-member legislative body runs smoothly.

“My job is basically to try and keep these members out of jail and out of the paper in a negative way,” he said. “If they want me to sit down and explain it, I’m happy to.

“I don’t want one of my guys getting ripped up in the paper for doing something that’s just really stupid.”

Some of the newer House members don’t always understand why their bills don’t make it to the floor – but the Speaker has to see the big picture and pick his battles.

“If we tell you no, there’s a reason,” he said. “It’s hard to think up something new that hasn’t already been run through.”

Geren was part of the “Gang of 11″ who recruited Strauss to run against three-term Speaker Tom Craddick in 2009. Supporting a challenge to a sitting speaker was politically risky, but enough members signed on that Craddick was deposed.

Strauss is now in his fourth session leading the House and has earned a reputation as a quiet, behind-the-scenes leader who isn’t shy about working with both parties to get things done.

Ultra-conservative Republicans have mounted challenges to his leadership each term, but with the support of most Democrats, along with mainstream Republicans, he has easily been re-elected speaker.

As long as he holds the gavel, it’s likely Geren will play a key role.

After Governor Greg Abbott’s State of the State speech Tuesday – on Wise County Legislative Day – Geren said he is looking forward to working with only the second governor with which he’s served.

“We’re going to be looking through a new set of eyes for the first time in 14 years,” Geren said. “I think it will be very interesting.”

He said Abbott and his staff are working well with the Speaker so far.

“He has hit the ground running,” Geren said. “He has really, really good staff. I’m impressed with a lot of them.”

Abbott’s speech highlighted five emergency issues – early childhood education, higher education research initiatives, transportation, border security funding and ethics reforms – that now become the only bills that can make it to the House floor before March 14.

So far, the only committee that has been meeting is Appropriations – but Geren said most committees would likely start holding organizational meetings next week.

“They’ll wait until they have a significant number of bills to consider,” Geren said. “They don’t want to get everybody together and then meet for an hour. They will meet when they can go for a while and knock some bills out.”

He said he thinks the state will boost funding for school districts, but he does not think the regular session will see any legislation that will impact the school finance lawsuit.

“If we buy down the tax rate again, I’m going to try to make it where we buy down the bonded indebtedness rate,” he said. “We have several districts that are up against the 50 cents, and that’s going to kick off another lawsuit.”

Posted in News0 Comments

Youth Fair parade revived for 2015 event

The 63rd Annual Wise County Youth Fair will be kicked off with a parade Saturday, Feb. 28.

It will be the first Youth Fair parade in several decades, and organizers hope it will raise awareness of the event and encourage families to visit the show March 2-7 at the Wise County Fairgrounds.

Past Parade

PAST PARADE – Alvord 4-H Club’s entry wishing America a “happy birthday” won Best Float in the 1976 Youth Fair parade. This photo was originally published in a Youth Fair catalog. Submitted photo

Youth Fair board member James Hubbard, who came up with the idea, said everyone in the community is invited to participate. Businesses, fire departments, non-profit organizations, school groups, churches and of course, 4-H clubs, FFA chapters and FCCLA groups.

Lineup starts at 9 a.m. on Business 81/287 at Sandford Oil in Decatur. The parade starts at 10 a.m., and it will travel west on Walnut Street, south on Lane Street and east on Main Street to return to the start.

Hubbard said participants in the Heart of a Champion Show will be the grand marshals, and the Youth Fair queen nominees will ride in a horse-drawn wagon.

Awards will be given, and winners will be recognized just before the start of the auction Saturday at the fairgrounds.

To participate in the parade, call Hubbard at 940-389-5735 or fill out an application on wcyouthfair.org.

See the Feb. 25 All Around Wise for a Youth Fair Preview section. It will include the fair schedule, a story highlighting changes to this year’s event and profiles of all the queens contestants.

Posted in News0 Comments

Firm recognizes top agents

Century 21 Sue Ann Denton sales associates were recognized at their annual awards luncheon Feb. 10.

The firm closed more than $55 million in real estate sales in 2014, and top producing sales associates received the 2014 Million and Multi-Million Dollar Producer Awards.

Million Dollar Production Awards were presented to Jana Bearden and Angie Kasner.

Multi-Million Dollar Awards were presented to Laura Blackburn, Rebecca Davis, Joey Duncan, Bob Grommesh, Cindy Grommesh, Jane Kasner, Sue Meek and Kay Stanfield.

Kasner and Stanfield each received the Ruby Masters Award for their 2014 sales production. The firm’s 2014 Top Producer in Sides Closed was awarded to Duncan. The Top Producer in Sales Volume for Century 21 went to Meek. Both Duncan and Meek received the Centurion Producer Award for 2014.

Sue Ann Denton, broker and co-owner expects 2015 to be another excellent year for real estate sales in Texas and specifically, Wise County.

“We are extremely proud of our sales team and their unmatched representation of their clients,” she said.

Century 21 Sue Ann Denton closed 345 transactions, 218 of which were in Wise County. The firm has offices in Bridgeport and Decatur.

Posted in Business0 Comments

Baseball: Wise County teams set to hit diamond

After a few weeks of practice, Wise County baseball teams will get the chance to hit the field for games starting Monday.

Bridgeport, Decatur, Chico and Paradise are hoping to return to the playoffs as Alvord, Boyd and Northwest look to gain a postseason entry.

Here’s a brief look at Wise County’s teams before they hit the diamond.

ALVORD (9-17, 3-10)

Coming off of a 9-17 season, the Alvord Bulldogs have the tough task of replacing one of the area’s top hitters – Lane Peace.

Peace was named All-Wise Offensive Player of the Year despite missing half of the season due to a broken ankle.

In 21 games, the shortstop hit .559 with 28 RBIs, four home runs, a .966 slugging percentage and a 1.577 OPS.

That kind of production was head and shoulders above any other Alvord player in 2014.

The Bulldogs will need to increase offensive production as a whole to deal with that loss.

Luckily for Alvord, it returns six players with 31 or more plate appearances.

Seven total Bulldogs return with varsity experience, including sophomore Ryan Bartholomew who hit .308 with a .419 on-base percentage as a freshman.

Cassidy Patterson will be one of the five senior leaders on the team and an important piece at the plate and on the mound.

Patterson hit .299 in 2014 with 16 RBIs in 76 place appearances.

The pitcher also finished the season with a 3.50 ERA.

Other seniors like Bryce Bull, Troy Morales, Kory Maag and Mason Clower will also be asked to step up in the coming season.

The Bulldogs also should get a big impact from Kegan Branum at shortstop and on the mound.

BOYD (8-17, 2-12)

In his second year as head coach of Boyd, James Karcher hopes that the familiarity with his team will help the Boyd Yellowjackets improve. District familiarity, on the other hand, will take some time to develop.

“Our district has drastically changed,” Karcher said. “We’re getting away from Brock and Ponder, but we’ve added Holliday and still have Paradise and some good teams.”

Despite the realignment, Karcher has a lot of faith in his players.

“I think we have a chance to get into the playoffs,” Karcher said. “We have a chance to get in. I don’t know where. We have the possibility to do some great things.”

Brandon Hardee will be the ace on the mound for the Yellowjackets.

Center fielder Tyler Kemp will lead off the order. Colton Batterton, Cameron Clark and Anthony Spinelli should all play a role in leading the club.

Underclassman Spencer Pellegrini should also play a significant role on the team.

BRIDGEPORT (8-22, 4-4)

With a young squad, 2014 was a learning year for the Bridgeport Bulls.

But improving throughout the season, the Bulls went 4-4 in district to earn a playoff spot.

Returning the bulk of the lineup from last year, Bridgeport now looks to take a big step forward and compete for the District 8-4A crown.

“We’ll be young again. We have only two seniors,” said Bridgeport coach Ted Leps. “[Last year] will help.”

The Bulls bring back Jared Huff on the mound. Last year, her pitched several key games for Bridgeport. The Bulls will also get back Corbin Coleman. The lefty didn’t throw after Feb. 27 last year because of elbow issues. Leps said he is throwing well now.

Behind the plate, the Bulls return two experienced catchers in Mason Baker and Jake Martinez.

Bridgeport will be breaking in a new infield. Hayden Sutherland takes over at short with Travis Fuentes at second base. Jett Reynolds is expected to be at third base.

Chase Williams and Lane Morrow give the Bulls a pair of speedy outfielders.

Bridgeport hopes to get more production out of its lineup. Last year, Bridgeport lost 14 one-run games.

“We’ll be faster. Hopefully we will steal more bases,” Leps said.

Huff will hit in the middle of the order. He hit .312 last year with seven RBIs.

CHICO (23-7, 10-4)

Chico finished the 2014 season with a loss in the area round to Gorman in a heartbreaking game that went into extra innings.

This year, head coach Brian McBeth expects more out of his club.

“We’re returning a lot of quality kids,” he said. “We don’t have the excuse that we’re young anymore. We’re seasoned now, so we have to produce on the field. We have bright lights ahead of us.”

It’s understandable for McBeth to expect a lot out of his team.

He returns nine players from a season ago including two seniors, six juniors and a sophomore.

Four of his returners were selected to the 2014 All-Wise Team including Pitcher of the Year Tyler Melton who held a 2.01 ERA through 11 starts with an 8-3 record and 62 strikeouts.

Melton is half of a two-headed pitching monster with Brady North, who also was named to the All-Wise team.

North’s 3.57 ERA led to a respectable 6-3 record.

Melton and North were both thrown into the fire so to speak, having to step in as sophomores after Chico graduated three senior pitchers in 2013.

For this year’s version, McBeth wants his team to grow in the cerebral aspect of the game.

“I expect to make a deep run,” the coach said. “Something that we’ve been trying to instill this year is the mental game. I think that’s something that we’ve been lacking.”

Alvord and Graford are two new teams in a district that has been mostly in tact for the last six years. McBeth cites Olney and Alvord as tough district opponents. Poolville and Graford are expected to be scrappy teams.

Center fielder and lead-off hitter Jaston McBee should provide speed on the basepaths along with the ability to cover ground in the outfield. McBeth said that McBee can really fly and put pressure on opposing pitchers when he gets on base.

All-Wise infielder Kalen Johnson will also be returning after hitting .307 and driving in 32 runs.

The Dragons did lose All-Wise outfielder Jericoe McGuire who moved and Creese Redman who has decided not to play.

DECATUR (14-15, 4-4)

The Decatur Eagles will be under a new coach this season with Brian Tickell taking over the program.

A few weeks into workouts, the new skipper likes what he’s seen from his squad.

“We’re getting better each day,” he said. “They are buying into what we’re doing.

“We’re young. We’ll have five or six sophomores.”

The Eagles will have experience on the mound returning its top two pitchers Clayton Egle and Mason Baur. Before a knee injury ended his year, Egle posted a 2.61 ERA and 4-5 record. Baur went 5-3 with 53 strikeouts and a 1.70 ERA.

Tickell said the duo gives him a nice one-two combination.

They will pitch Michael Hicks, who split time behind the plate last year.

A.J. Johnson returns at third. Baur and Egle will split time at shortstop. The Eagles are still trying to nail down second base and first base.

Decatur also lost a pair of outfielders.

Egle is Decatur’s leading returning hitter after batting .348 last year. Johnson sported a .296 average with five RBIs.

NORTHWEST

Entering his second season with the Northwest Texans, John Herrick has higher expectations.

“It’s our second go-around. They know my expectations and what is acceptable,” Herrick said. “They know there are no days off.”

Herrick expects to field another young team.

“We’ll be starting six sophomores,” he said. “A lot of them got a look at the end of last season, and they’ve worked really hard in the offseason.”

A pair of juniors – Bailey Dovel and Dustin May – are expected to be the Texans’ workhorses on the mound.

“They’ve both spent a lot of time in the weight room and are stronger,” Herrick said.

They will be throwing to a new catcher as Dallas Vann has moved from behind the plate to center field.

“He’s too good of an athlete to keep behind the plate,” Herrick said.

Doger Gilliland will take over at catcher.

The Texans lost some pop in the lineup with Elijah Christenson graduating.

Herrick said this year’s lineup will be faster and aggressive on the basepaths.

PARADISE (22-8-1)

The Paradise Panthers were Wise County’s last baseball team standing in 2014, making the area round before falling to 2A champion Sunnyvale.

In 2015, the Panthers will return several key members, including two-time Wise County MVP Dillon Meadows.

But the Panthers may not have Meadows on the mound. The TCU-bound pitcher had Tommy John surgery in the offseason and said in the fall he may not be available until district. He went 6-3 last year with a 1.79 ERA.

Meadows will bring one of the area’s top bats to first base. He hit .484 last year with 27 RBIs.

The Panthers will have other arms available. Austin Hogan posted a 2.38 ERA and a 2-0 record. Caiden Berry also worked some on the mound.

The heart of Paradise’s lineup will be loaded with Meadows and catcher Skylar Black, who hit .471 with 34 RBIs and five homers last year. Hogan hit .386 with 25 RBIs. He also stole 16 bases and scored 27 runs.

Posted in Sports0 Comments

Login

Username:

Password:


Recover password | Create an Account