Weatherford College honors winter graduates

Seventy-nine graduates were recognized Dec. 4 at the Weatherford College Workforce and Continuing Education Winter Graduation Ceremony on the college’s main campus in Weatherford.

Students were recognized from the Dental Assistant, Nurse Aide, Medication Aide, EKG Technician, Pharmacy Technician and Computer Skills for Business programs.

Dental Assistant Graduates

DENTAL ASSISTANT GRADUATES – Ready to enter the workforce as dental assistants are (front, from left) Maria Leyva, Stephanie Crowley, Alejandra Beltran, Kendra Massie, Melinda White and Instructor Julie Merida, (back, from left) Michelle Wagner, Annie Welch, Madeline Kohl and Bridgett O’Shields. Not pictured are Angela Marsh and Alyssa Whitten. Photo courtesy of Zachary Peterson

The WC Wise County campus had students who were recognized along with the main campus, Weatherford High School, the WC Education Center at Granbury and the WC business partnership with Center of Hope.

EKG Tech Graduates

EKG TECHNICIAN GRADUATES – Earning certification as EKG technicians were (from left) Jennifer Elrod, Mary McCune, Becky Mulder, Mary Lou Yerian, Instructor Kathi McKenzie, Cheli Buchanan, Taylor Evans and Julie Vu. Photo courtesy of Zachary Peterson

Also recognized were partnerships with Holland Lake Nursing Center, Keeneland Nursing and Rehab, Harbor Lakes Nursing and Rehab, Senior Care-Bridgeport Nursing and Rehab, and Weatherford Cosmetic and Family Dentistry.

For more information on the WC Workforce and Continuing Education programs, visit www.wc.edu/academics/wfce.

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Blaze devours mobile home

Blaze devours mobile home

A mobile home northeast of Decatur was destroyed Friday in an early morning fire.

The Decatur, Greenwood/Slidell and Krum fire departments were called to the house in the 2000 block of County Road 2320 about 2:30 a.m.

Home Destroyed

HOME DESTROYED – Greenwood/Slidell firefighters douse the blackened debris of a mobile home on County Road 2320 Friday morning. Messenger photo by Jake Harris

The structure was already engulfed in flames, but no one was home. The home was being rented by Brandon Whisenant.

The fire was extinguished about 3:20 a.m.

Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Fireworks play part in New Year’s celebrations

Jerrell Cook runs back and forth from his camper to his fireworks stand, helping customers make the perfect selections for New Year’s fun.

Cook lives by Lake Palo Pinto near Mineral Wells and drives 70 miles to set up just west of Bridgeport on U.S. 380. Cook and his wife sell the full gamut of fireworks with their best seller being “mortar shells.”

Fire Up the Fun

FIRE UP THE FUN – Jerrell Cook has been selling fireworks for about 20 years and is set up just west of Bridgeport on U.S. 380. His best seller is the “mortar shell.” Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

“We love selling fireworks and messing with the kids,” Cook said. “I just enjoy selling fireworks. On New Year’s Eve, there will be so many people out here, you couldn’t stir them with a stick.”

People have been able to buy fireworks in Wise County since Dec. 20 and can still purchase them until Jan 1. Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said there are no burn bans in place, and the weather has been wetter than in the past, but people shouldn’t get overconfident.

“We’ve had a lot of rain, but it’s still dry,” Beard said. “If the wind picks up, everything will dry out, and we’ll be right back where we were.”

Beard said there aren’t as many firework stands currently operating because many had a great July 4th and sold out. Cook said he knows several who completely sold out of everything they had this summer.

“July 4th was good; we had a ball. We almost sold out, too,” Cook said. “We had to buy more so we could sell for New Year’s.”

Cook said July 4th sales are three times that of his New Year’s sales.

FIRE SAFETY TIPS

  • Always purchase fireworks from a reliable source.
  • Use fireworks as directed on the consumer product safety label. Never alter products.
  • Observe local laws and use good common sense.
  • Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot the show.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save alcohol for after the show.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor trash can.
  • Report illegal explosives, like m-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

Source: National Council on Fireworks Safety

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Wise County Sheriff’s Office files lost to virus

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office has not recovered information lost earlier this month to the CryptoWall virus.

Sheriff David Walker said they made a $500 Bitcoin payment as instructed by the cyber criminals, but they never received the instructions on how to decrypt the files as promised.

“What we’re going to do is save everything on a hard drive … we’re not going to pay any more money,” he said.

Walker said the encrypted files will be removed from the server and saved on a hard drive. He still has a digital security expert working on the issue, and if they do receive decryption instructions at a later date, those files will be readily available.

The CryptoWall virus is a form of malware and is also known as “ransomware” because the infection offers users a way to recover their files if they pay a ransom. Once the ransom is paid, the user is provided decryption instructions to restore the lost files.

If the information has been backed up, users can generally restore the information themselves and avoid paying the ransom. Unfortunately, this particular sheriff’s office server, which was new, had not been backed up.

Walker said the problem was discovered the evening of Dec. 11 when some files weren’t accessible and there were a few problems with email. He said they immediately contacted Prince Computing Corp., a consultant hired by the county in August, and Prince began working with the county’s information technology manager, Randy Joy, and Heinrich Downes, the S.O.’s in-house IT specialist.

Walker said any information on that server tied to criminal cases was likely already filed in the prosecutor’s office, and some of the photos had already been downloaded and saved to the department’s master file, in addition to being on that server.

“It’s unusual because it’s been working as advertised across the world – but for us, it isn’t,” Walker said.

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Hospital takes over 2 more nursing facilities

Wise Regional Health System will acquire two more nursing facilities – but a brief discussion revealed some board members are nervous about the system’s entry into that business.

The board finally voted to take over two nursing facilities from Cantex Continuing Care Network. Acquisition of those facilities, located in Southlake and the Heritage Trace area of north Fort Worth, bring to 11 the number acquired by Wise Regional since June.

Under each agreement, the hospital becomes owner of the facility, then turns around and leases it back to the seller. An operating agreement keeps them running basically as they have, with Wise Regional’s Donna Stowers overseeing the facilities from this end.

Back in October, CEO Steve Summers explained that new state laws allow nursing facilities to qualify for a higher reimbursement rate if they are affiliated with a public entity, such as Wise Regional.

In June, Wise Regional acquired two facilities from Skilled Healthcare Inc. – Fort Worth Center for Rehab and Cityview Care Center.

In October, the Decatur-based hospital took on seven more, all in the Fort Worth area. Three of those were owned by Sava Senior Care, three by Kindred Health Care and one, DFW Rehab, by Ken Broussard.

“We were approached by Cantex about two of their nursing home facilities that are in Tarrant County, which is within the 1115 waiver area that the state has approved for us to be involved with,” Summers said. He noted Cantex management had come to Decatur last week to discuss the deal.

“These two facilities have five-star ratings across the board – the highest rating the state gives,” he said. He also noted their Medicaid census is lower than the other facilities Wise Regional has acquired, meaning less cash is required.

After a motion to approve the two purchases Monday, board member Loyd Jackson requested an amendment stating that no more nursing homes be acquired.

“I’m just thinking about the cash outlay that we’re putting out in this, what kind of situation we’re putting ourselves into,” he said.

But before a vote, board member Gary Cocanougher expressed reservations that the amendment might tie the hands of the hospital’s administration.

“If you wanted to revisit this situation, say, six months down the road, does that eliminate that opportunity if something presented itself?” he asked. “I don’t know if I understand the need for the motion. If six months from now, something outstanding comes up, does that mean we don’t look at it?”

Several board members said the board could always come back and reconsider. But Summers said the hospital is basically finished.

“With the timing of all this, there is really no more time to consider anything more,” he said. “The deadline is Feb. 28, so realistically it’s not a viable thing to do anyway.”

Hospital counsel Jason Wren also pointed out that the item on the agenda called for the board to simply vote on the Cantex acquisition, not go back and discuss or restructure the program.

Jackson’s amendment was withdrawn and the purchase was approved.

NO PROFIT IN NOVEMBER

Monday’s financial report showed the hospital system lost money in November – but with corresponding decreases in expenses for payroll and supplies, the loss was held to just $139,000.

Finance Director Todd Scroggins told the board the primary reason for the drop was the Thanksgiving holiday, since outpatient services were essentially closed during that period.

While inpatient admissions were down 7.7 percent and the rehab and behavioral units were down 34 percent, the facility as a whole was still busy compared to previous Novembers. Average daily inpatient census was 79 for the month, compared to 60 in November 2013.

Surgeries were down 8.3 percent from the prior month and non-surgical outpatient services were down 12 percent.

The Parkway campus was $97,000 in the black for November, while the Bridgeport campus lost $208,000.

Plans remain in place to reopen the Bridgeport campus as an Acute Care Facility Jan. 2, operated by Wise Regional. The move, which will close the ER, is designed to stem the losses incurred over the 20 months since Wise Regional bought the Bridgeport hospital in federal bankruptcy court.

Summers said in November that the Bridgeport facility had lost $6.2 million since Wise Regional took it over.

OTHER BUSINESS

The WRHS board also:

  • opted to go with the same workers compensation insurance for 2015, with no deductible and a premium of $609,000, from Texas Hospital Insurance Exchange. Wise Regional had 32 open claims last year, averaging approximately $9,000.
  • noted the Joint Commission has scheduled a survey in January for the hospital’s Primary Stroke Program. The hospital is anticipating its tri-annual Joint Commission survey next summer.
  • heard a building committee report from board member Mark Duncum on the new Fit-N-Wise facility. The committee is reviewing floor plans with architect Mike Hale and hospital staff.
  • approved the re-appointment of board members Carey Williams, Place 1 and Chris Forbis, Place 3, for two-year terms in 2015-2016.
  • approved medical staff recommendations for new active appointments including Monsunmula Babade, MD, Pain Management; Eric Eifler, MD, Orthopedic, and Lesley Richey-Smith, DPM, Podiatry.
  • approved a recommendation to include chemoembolization as a special procedure within the radiology core privileges, and
  • approved a recommendation by the Medical Executive Committee to modify the Bariatric Surgery core privileges language to exempt bariatric surgeons from Center of Excellence criteria if using the Parkway Surgical hospital, which is not currently a Center of Excellence approved facility.

The board’s next regular meeting is Monday, Jan. 26.

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Wreck victim IDed

Authorities have released the name of the man who died in a fiery one-car crash Dec. 10 on U.S. 380 east of Decatur.

The driver was Curtis E. Newberry, 64, of Gainesville, according to Lonnie Haschel, Department of Public Safety spokesperson.

Newberry was driving a Mitsubishi passenger car westbound on 380 about 7:45 p.m., just west of the Highland Hills subdivision, when the car left the roadway to the north and ran through a fence.

DPS Trooper Adam Lawson said on the night of the accident that it appeared the car then veered back through the fence to the south and then weaved through the fence again to the north.

The car hit the edge of a ravine, went airborne, slammed into a tree and burst into flames. Lawson said no one witnessed the accident, and there were no passengers in the car.

The vehicle was destroyed, and the fire was so intense it was impossible at the scene to determine if the driver was male or female. Although DPS later identified the driver, they delayed releasing his name until the medical examiner confirmed his ID.

The crash occurred about a quarter mile away from where the vehicle first left the roadway. Lawson said he believes the car didn’t catch fire until it hit the tree because there were no burn marks in the grass leading to the ravine.

Haschel said Newberry had a history of congestive heart failure, which may have contributed to the accident.

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Commissioners filter through finances

Wise County commissioners ran through a list of financial odds and ends at their final meeting of the year last week.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance did most of the talking, requesting money for tree removal and building repairs.

His first request was for $5,000 from the right-of-way fund for tree removal.

“I have some trees that are next to power lines that I can’t get to,” he said. “They’re in several different places along the roads.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White asked if there was any way to do it cheaper.

Lamance went into great detail about the danger of the job, and the location of some of the branches.

“Why are we even talking about this?” Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns asked.

County auditor Ann McCuiston reminded him that any money used from the right-of-way fund must be discussed at the commissioners meeting and approved by the court.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy said he understood it was a dangerous job, and it might be best for someone else to do it rather than Lamance’s crew.

White continued to ask if it might be done cheaper.

“I’m just wondering if you ought to shop around,” he said. “Horton’s OK …” He trailed off.

“Horton does a good job, and they don’t tear stuff up,” Lamance said. “Most of my men are as old as I am … climbing around in a tree isn’t our business.”

The expenditure was approved.

Lamance also requested spending almost $7,500 to insulate and repair a shed. He said the three-sided structure is on the north side of one of their buildings, and it will be used to store signs and smaller pieces of equipment.

“The north wind is horrific around there because it’s got holes you can throw a cat through,” he said. “We’re just trying to get it bearable in there.”

The money would come from the buildings and grounds fund.

County Judge J.D. Clark said he supported the repairs.

“Really?” White asked, joking.

“I don’t want him throwing any cats through holes,” Clark replied with a laugh.

McCuiston also noted that $7,433 was spent on plumbing repairs at the adult probation office, and $2,395 was spent on a dedication plaque honoring all those involved in the construction of Weatherford College Wise County.

The commissioners also approved a handgun upgrade for the sheriff’s department. They paid $4,586 to GT Distributors on the trade-in of .357 Sigs for 9 mm Glocks. The county got $24,862 for the trade-in, which was approved by commissioners in August.

McCuiston also said mileage is going up Jan. 1 to 57.5 cents per mile. It’s currently 56 cents per mile.

In other business, commissioners approved a re-plat for Foreman Addition, lots 1R and 2R, block A, in Precinct 2. They also approved the following final plats:

  • Currey Addition, lots 1 and 2, block 1, in Precinct 1;
  • No Regrets, lot 1, in Precinct 2;
  • Snyder Addition, lot 1, in Precinct 4;
  • Watts Country Estates, lots 7R, block 1, in Precinct 1;
  • Dauenhauer Estates, Phase 2, lots 5-8, block 1, in Precinct 3;
  • Hawk Ridge Addition, lot 1R1, block B, in Precinct 1; and
  • Wilson Addition, lots 1 and 2, in Precinct 1.

—–

Commissioners’ next regular meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 12, in the third-floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse. It is open to the public.

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Santa Claus is comin’ to town

Santa Claus is comin’ to town

There may only be one Santa Claus, but he has a lot of helpers this year in Wise County.

A QUARTER CENTURY OF SANTA- Chan Horne has portrayed Santa in Bridgeport for 25 years now. “It’s always good to see how the kids react positively to Santa and Christmas,” he said. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

All week, there have been numerous Santa-centric events throughout the county, from Breakfast with Santa to the Christmas parade to the Toy Run.

But what’s it like to dress up as the man in the big red suit?

Mario Rondon, who has been portraying Santa Claus at Boyd’s Breakfast with Santa event for three years running, said it’s an unpredictable job.

“Just like any other situation with kids, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” the Boyd High School math teacher said. “But the kids seem to enjoy it, and that’s the best part for me. For some of them, they’re getting over their fear of meeting someone new, and with others they’re just concerned with making sure they can rattle off all the things they want for Christmas.”

Parents can be just as unpredictable.

“When they’re just trying to get that Polaroid moment with their kid for their Christmas card, and the kid isn’t looking, that’s always interesting,” he said.

To Protect and Serve Presents

TO PROTECT AND SERVE…PRESENTS- Decatur Police Sgt. Devlon Campbell stands with some of the multitude of Christmas presents he and other Decatur police officers will deliver to children in need on Christmas eve as a part of the Santa Cops program. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Others who don the beard and coat say that they enjoy making children happy during the holidays – even if that happiness is short-lived.

“The best part of the job is when you make a child’s day and make them forget about the pain and suffering and sadness in the world,” Chan Horne said. He’s been Bridgeport’s resident Santa for 25 years now and has seen a lot of sadness in some of the children he’s met.

“A lot of the kids that visit me aren’t religious, so they ask Santa for some unrealistic stuff. One year, a kid asked for his mom and dad to get back together – that was all he wanted for Christmas.”

MARIO RONDON. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

But Horne said he still enjoys seeing children’s reactions to the spectacle of Christmas and the legend of Santa.

In Decatur, Santa takes the form of a uniform and a badge every Christmas Eve through the Decatur Police Department’s Santa Cops program. Now in its seventh year, the program uses toys that have been donated from local businesses to give to children in need.

The first year, Police Chief Rex Hoskins and his staff hand-delivered presents to 20 children. This year, that has grown to 161.

Currently, the police station’s training room is half-filled with gifts for all ages. A Hot Wheels track sits next to some Legos, which are across the room from stacks of Barbie princess dolls. And that’s not counting the myriad of bicycles that still need to be purchased before Christmas Eve.

“We used to wrap all of them,” Santa cops program coordinator Ashley Dobyns said, “Then more kids qualified for the program, and we had to just start delivering them.”

Police officers deliver the gifts early Christmas morning.

“We’ll be done by noon – we load up pickup trucks, our SWAT truck and other vehicles, and we just drive through town and hand out the presents to the kids,” Sgt. Devlon Campbell said. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

Whether you believe in Santa or not, there’s no doubt the spirit of giving he represents is alive and well in Wise County.

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Volunteers bring inmates glimpses of God

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
“I was a stranger and you invited me in,
“I needed clothes and you clothed me,
“I was sick and you looked after me,
“I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

(Matthew 25: 35-36, NIV)

Wise County Jail Chaplain Marilyn Featherstone said she thinks about that passage a lot.

“That’s the bottom line,” she said. “That is Christianity, in my opinion.”

FAITH BEHIND BARS – The Wise County Jail isn’t a church, but Bibles and Bible study are available for inmates who wish to use their time behind bars to repent, reflect and prepare for a new life once they’re back outside. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

She and a roster of volunteers visit those in jail in Wise County. They do their best to bring faith behind the bars, helping the 180 or so inmates use their sentences as a time to repent, reflect and study – get to know God and lay the foundation for a new life when they get out.

It was a conviction that put them there – often on the testimony of witnesses.

Inside the walls, some experience a different kind of conviction, a different sort of witness. Each volunteer brings a testimony that springs from his or her own life.

The men and women in jail took some wrong turns to get there. Those who minister have traveled the same roads, taken some of the same turns.

Featherstone, a former missionary in Nigeria and Jamaica, worked in law enforcement for years as a secretary to Sheriffs Phil Ryan, then David Walker, and their chief deputies. Her husband, John, was the jail’s chaplain.

“When John died in 1999, the sheriff says, ‘You’ve been doing this all your life. Why don’t you take over?’

“I thought, ‘I can’t do that!’ But I’ve loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

When she retired from the secretarial job four years ago at age 79, Walker asked her to stay on as chaplain. She did. Now she’s a volunteer, there every morning from 8 to 10 a.m.

She will talk, listen, study the Bible or pray with any inmate who requests it. She gives a Bible to everyone who wants one and tries to accommodate each inmate’s wishes to see a minister or practice their faith – whatever it may be.

Ageless Chaplain

AGELESS CHAPLAIN – Marilyn Featherstone, who retired after 20 years as secretary to the Wise County sheriff and chief deputy, was asked to stay on as chaplain. She’s available to talk, pray and counsel with inmates every morning. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

It’s an imperfect system, shackled by laws requiring the segregation of male and female prisoners and maximum, medium and minimum security inmates. Those rules discourage large gatherings of inmates and prevent some of them from getting to “go to church” as often as they would like.

Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, a lineup of ministers, lay preachers and teachers come to the jail and hold Bible studies, pray and worship with the inmates who want to come.

“They come out from churches all over the county,” Featherstone said. “I know there’s Baptist, the motorcycle people, Trinity. We have so many, I can’t even remember what all churches we have. I don’t really pay any attention to it, to tell you the truth.

“This is non-denominational,” she said. “The longer I live, the more I realize that we’re just all in this together, and we’re all the same. We just do what we can.”

Classes are held for men and women – three or four to more than a dozen at a time. Some inmates may not get to attend more than once or twice a month, and they may not be able to study or visit with a minister of their particular denomination.

“Security is our biggest hangup,” Featherstone said. “I know sometimes people get to feeling like, ‘I’m never going to get to go to church again.’ But it’s surprising the amount of interest in church services.

“Usually, the only complaint will be that they didn’t get to go.”

LOTS OF CHALLENGES

Those who minister in jail know they are fighting an uphill battle.

A STORY TO TELL – Cutting horse trainer Bryan Jackson pulls no punches when he talks to inmates about what God has done in his life. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel

Aside from the majority of inmates who simply aren’t interested, they deal with men and women who bring a multitude of problems to jail with them – problems that will still be there when they get out.

Equipping them for that struggle is something those who minister take seriously.

Bryan Jackson is a cutting-horse trainer who lives near Paradise. He is familiar with those challenges.

“This is the beginning of the changing of the heart, the beginning of the changing of the mind,” he said. “I try to teach them to walk as Christian men, and to understand that when you get out, no one’s going to believe you.

“Everyone’s going to look at you and say, ‘OK, now I want to see you walk the walk.'”

Jackson’s own conversion experience, in 2002, was met with skepticism from his friends and family – those who knew him in his wilder days.

Even after he began to go to churches and give his testimony, one minister told him he was not interested in having him come to speak until he’d seen him live his faith for a few years.

“He said, ‘You’re not going to go speak in front of my people, then turn around and live like you used to live,'” Jackson said.

“I was heartbroken. I was so on fire for the Lord and happy – I was just bubbling with it.”

It won’t be any different for the inmates, he tells them.

“We want them to understand, and be prepared for what’s going to take place,” he said. “Why would we accept them at first, at face value, on their spoken word? Most of them have lied and stolen from their family – walking in truth has not been a part of their life.

“People want to see different, not just hear different.”

‘I BELIEVE MY JOB IS TO BE A SOWER.’

Bryan Jackson’s life changed in a moment, on July 29, 2002. He calls it his “Damascus Road” experience – referencing the conversion of Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, in Acts chapter 9.

“I had family turmoil and a bunch of other things that were going on – a bunch of Jerry Springer stuff,” he said. “I was out between those two oak trees over there, having a hat-throwing-down, cussing fit, jumping up and down and yelling.”

In the next moment, he said, he felt a hand on his back.

“The Lord spoke to me and said ‘Bryan, you’re a child of mine, but it’s time for you to come home to me right now.'” he said. “I said, ‘God, I truthfully don’t deserve your forgiveness or your deliverance.'”

But he vowed to do his best to serve God as long as he lived, and immediately, he said, his heart was changed.

“I went outside fighting the demons of addiction and immorality, and walked back in my house delivered,” he said. “I can’t see it any other way.”

Jackson began speaking, giving his testimony, at every opportunity. He started attending Victory Family Church, met Laura Peck, and she invited him to come speak at the jail. At first he resisted, but she convinced him he was uniquely equipped for that ministry.

“She said the people who are effective are the people who have endured,” he said. “The very first time I went, it changed my life.”

He went in with a lesson all planned out, he said. But when he saw the big, scarred, scary man who came to hear him, a different lesson arose.

“I start to talk, and the Holy Spirit just comes over me and I stop and say, ‘Who’s the first person redeemed by the blood of Christ?’ They didn’t know. I said, ‘I want you to understand, the very first person redeemed – by Christ’s profession, ‘You will be in Paradise with me today’ – was a criminal, who hung on a cross beside Christ. All he said was ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.'”

Instantly, Jackson said, the man was on his knees, crying that there was a God who could forgive him for what he had done.

“I was placed there for that man, that day,” he said. “I had judged him. I said, ‘Why is he here?’ – and that was the man I was there to see that day.”

Now, Jackson tells his story without hesitation, relating to the men in ways they may not have expected. He tells them how God has restored the life that Satan had destroyed, and he tells them of God’s infinite patience and love for his children.

“I believe my job is to be a sower,” he said. “One time I was in Stephenville, at a horse show, and I went to church out there in the middle of the country, on a dirt road. One of the guys I had in jail was taking the money.

“He stopped and went right to his preacher and said, ‘That’s the guy! That’s the guy! That’s the guy who changed my life in jail! I knew because of what he’d been through that I could do it.'” Jackson said. “The Lord knew I was needing to see some fruit.

“With that little confirmation that sharing did matter, I’ve been happy ever since,” he said. “I know there’s someone else like him.

“I hope that the ministry in the Wise County Jail is successful. We know if we send God’s word forward that it’s going to perform its deed, no matter what.”

NEXT ISSUE: Results

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Meals on Wheels needs help serving seniors

Wise County Meals on Wheels needs the public’s help in order to meet the needs of local senior citizens.

The program delivers hot meals to the homes of hungry seniors throughout the county. But with the price of food going up, and donations down, they are in danger of not being able to meet those needs.

Paid positions have already been cut to help pay the food bills.

Delivery Time

DELIVERY TIME – Elaine Davis, who has served on the Wise County Committee on Aging board of directors for more than 30 years, helps Peggy Calvert package food for delivery to Meals on Wheels clients Friday morning. The program is in need of financial donations and volunteers. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“We’ve let two (of four) drivers go and let the office manager go, so there’s only myself and two paid drivers now,” said Donna Brown, executive director of Meals on Wheels.

This past week, the organization couldn’t meet its payroll.

Currently, the two drivers are basically doubling up in order to cover the four routes around the county. Brown said a couple of volunteers who would be willing to deliver some meals would be a big help.

The number of clients served has also been reduced, Brown said, from 120 to around 80. New clients can’t be added unless there is a critical need.

More volunteers would not only allow more local seniors to receive meals – they receive a measure of companionship as well.

“With a majority of our clients, (the delivery person) is the only person they see all day, and for most of them, that’s the only meal they get during the day,” said Charles Ross, volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels.

Ross volunteers his time on Mondays to make a delivery route to some of the more rural areas of the county. At least three or four people on his route have no contact with family members, and he can count on spending at least 45 minutes at one house visiting with one of the clients. But the shortage of delivery drivers doesn’t leave much time for visiting.

The clients pay for the meals if they can – but most of them can’t.

“I have a lady who gives me $1.82 every month,” Ross said.

“And that’s something, you know,” Brown responded.

The program receives funding from the county, United Way of Wise County, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and, possibly, grant funding. While those institutions help keep it going, Meals on Wheels mostly relies on donations from the community to help cover costs such as the $7,000 a month bill for food alone.

Brown said she’d like to remind the public about their Adopt-A-Senior program. Individuals or groups such as churches can donate $20 per month to adopt a client.

She said she also appreciates all the local businesses and churches that donate services or items.

To find out more about Meals on Wheels or how you can donate, visit www.wisemealsonwheels.com.

One of those businesses helping out Meals on Wheels is Superior Automotive, which is collecting lap blankets for Meals on Wheels clients. Today (Dec. 20) is the deadline to donate. The business is located at 1201 N. U.S. 81/287 next to Decatur Tire.

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Cyber crime strikes Wise County Sheriff’s Office

Local law enforcement fell victim to cyber criminals last week when a computer virus wiped out a server in the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff David Walker said one of his department’s 14 servers was infected with the CryptoWall virus on or around Dec. 18. The virus encrypted all the files on the server, including videos, photos, forms and other case file materials, dating from 2008 to the present.

The CryptoWall virus is a form of malware and is also known as “ransomware” because the infection offers users a way to recover their files if they pay a ransom. Once the ransom is paid, the user is provided decryption instructions to restore the lost files.

If the information has been backed up, users can generally restore the information themselves and avoid paying the ransom. Unfortunately, this particular sheriff’s office server, which was new, had not been backed up.

Walker said the problem was discovered the evening of Dec. 18 when some files weren’t accessible and there were a few problems with email. He said they immediately contacted Prince Computing Corp., a consultant hired by the county in August, and Prince began working with the county’s information technology manager, Randy Joy, and Heinrich Downes, the S.O.’s in-house IT specialist.

“They contained the virus, figured out the machine it came from and took that machine off line,” he said. “By the time we talked to the FBI Friday, (the virus) was contained, and we knew what the damage was.”

He said normally the FBI wouldn’t recommend paying the ransom, but in this case, there are no other options to recover the information. To further complicate matters, the ransom must be paid via Bitcoin, a digital currency.

Walker said he’s working with a digital security expert in the Metroplex to facilitate the payment and the instructions that should follow.

As of Friday morning, a $500 payment had been made via Bitcoin, but no decryption information had been received as promised.

“It’s unusual because it’s been working as advertised across the world – but for us, it isn’t,” Walker said. He and other department officials are trying to decide how long to play the game and whether or not to make another payment.

“Ideally we could get this code and reinstall the data, but it’s looking slimmer and slimmer,” he said. “FBI security experts are trying daily to break this thing and so far it hasn’t been done.”

Walker said if the information can’t be recovered, they’ll be forced to move forward and simply wipe the server clean.

“It’s a huge inconvenience, and it does make you angry,” he said. “There are people who say you shouldn’t be paying these people, but under these circumstances, you weigh your options and have to think, ‘Do you want your files or not?'”

He said any information on that server tied to criminal cases was likely already filed in the prosecutor’s office, and some of the photos had already been downloaded and saved to the department’s master file, in addition to being on that server.

“By no means are we slowed down or out of business,” Walker said. “It’s not going to affect any immediate daily operations we have right now, but over the weekend or by Monday, we’ll have to make a decision about how to proceed if we haven’t received the decryption instructions.”

Joy said the rest of the county’s servers and information should be safe.

“That particular virus doesn’t propagate,” he said. “It got on that one PC, and that PC was connected to that one server with a data share. It can only cause problems with files or documents that are accessible by that individual machine with a network share.”

Joy said generally all the county’s servers are backed up daily, and those with financial information are backed up two times a day.

“That was a new server that I didn’t have much contact with,” he said. “Generally, we never lose more than a day’s worth of work.”

Walker said they believe the CryptoWall virus came through via email and was unleashed when a user clicked on a voice mail link within that email.

“We just need to stress to everyone to be very careful with unsolicited emails and not to click on a link, even though it may look real,” Joy said.

The city of Decatur was struck by the same virus earlier this year, according to technology services manager J.B. McKenzie.

“We got hit with it, and it was isolated in one department,” he said.

He explained that some of the affected files were on a server that was backed up, so he was able to restore those himself, but the user had also saved files on the computer’s C drive, which is not regularly backed up.

He had to make a Bitcoin payment to regain access to that information.

“I actually sent them a fraction of a Bitcoin, which would equal $500, and the guy sent me an algorithm and a list of files that he had encrypted,” he said. “They caught us at a time that we were getting ready to redo our firewall.”

Although the sheriff’s office has yet to determine the origination point for the virus that corrupted its files, McKenzie said the city’s virus protection, Kaspersky, tracked it to the Ukraine.

“We knew within a couple of days where it came from,” he said.

Walker said the incident was “the perfect storm” as his department was in the process of moving information between servers. County officials were also in the process of trying to better coordinate the county’s computer systems and had recently hired Prince to evaluate the network and its needs for the future,

He said the incident has forced them to take an immediate look at the security of their systems and recognize their vulnerability. He anticipates putting increased security measures in place to protect the department’s firewalls, ethernet and the like.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing that we haven’t got (our files) back yet,” he said. “You do everything you can to prevent it … you put up the biggest fence in the world around your stuff, and somebody is smart enough to get over it.”

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Lake Bridgeport still short of historic low

Earlier this month, Lake Bridgeport crossed a significant milestone: the lake is more than 24 feet low.

As of Tuesday, the lake level was just under 812 feet. That is having a major impact on those who live on the lake. as well as fishing, recreational boating and other activities.

But it’s not a historic low.

Hydrologist Laura Blaylock of the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) noted Tuesday that back in 1980, the lake was almost 11 feet lower than it is now, at 801.04 feet.

“This is the lowest it’s been since then, but 1980 is the absolute low,” she said.

The lake’s normal water level is 836 feet above sea level.

TRWD manages the lake and supplies water to the communities that surround it, including Decatur and Bridgeport. The water district stopped releasing water from Lake Bridgeport in June of 2013.

Since then, the lake’s steep drop has slowed, with conservation and a milder summer in 2014 playing a role. Over the past 12 months, Lake Bridgeport has fallen only four feet.

TRWD spokesman Chad Lorance said the district has no plans to release water from Lake Bridgeport in the foreseeable future.

“We are holding that water there for municipal purposes, as well as the power generation plants up there,” he said. “That’s why we essentially stopped those releases.”

Blaylock noted that Walnut Creek Special Utility District, which supplies water to smaller cities and rural areas in Wise and Parker counties, recently completed a barge to float their water intake farther out into the lake – into deeper water.

“Walnut Creek and the Brazos generating plant were both facing their intake becoming dangerously close to the water surface,” she said. “They built a barge, and now they have another 10 or 12 feet or so of depth.”

The other four intakes, including the cities of Bridgeport and Decatur, are near the dam, in the deepest part of the lake.

“Nobody’s in any danger of their intake coming out of the water,” she said.

Lorance said the water district’s plan is to stay the course, using water from its East Texas reservoirs, which can be pumped all the way up to Eagle Mountain Lake as needed.

“Fortunately, they’ve seen more rain than these reservoirs have in the west,” he said. “We have been pumping, and are currently pumping water into Eagle Mountain Lake. We’ll have to stop in January due to pipeline maintenance, but just for a short period.”

DROUGHT’S IMPACT FELT

It wasn’t that long ago that Lake Bridgeport was full – in fact, it started 2011 at full capacity. That year, however, saw historic lows in rainfall and the start of what is now a three-year drought. The lake’s decline has been steady since then.

Periodic rain, while welcome, has had little impact over the past three years. The line flattens occasionally, but it does not rise, instead continuing a steady decline.

From October 2010 to November of this year, rainfall in Bridgeport is 37.7 inches below normal and in Decatur, it is nearly 42 inches below normal. Both cities have seen about 75 percent of their normal rainfall over that time.

A year ago, Lake Bridgeport was just more than 20 feet low, sitting at 45 percent capacity. Last week it was at 38 percent of capacity.

Nothing but rain can fill it back up.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s website, enhanced warming throughout the central Pacific suggests a shift to El Ni o – a weather pattern that typically brings more rain. The site said the likelihood of an El Ni o event this winter has increased to 65 percent.

That means the outlook for this winter favors above-normal precipitation – but those chances are greater along the Gulf Coast and into Central Texas, and much less significant along the Red River and in the western portions of North Texas.

The site also says this should be a cooler-than-normal winter – but notes that analysis is based on heavier cloud cover keeping daytime highs lower, not extreme weather events.

In fact, it says, the “predominant zonal flow actually reduces the incidence of arctic intrusions. As a result, extreme cold is less likely during El Ni o winters, and there are typically fewer freezes than normal.”

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New judge leads first meeting

County Judge J.D. Clark led his first commissioners meeting Monday.

The 28-year-old started a new tradition by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and having a moment of silence at the top of the agenda.

Members of the Wise County Veterans Group ceremoniously installed the U.S. and Texas flags in the courthouse’s third floor conference room and then led the group in the pledge.

Also on the agenda for the first time was a community forum. Boyd citycouncilman Tim Hammonds addressed commissioners and asked why, as part of their interlocal agreement, the city is charged $50 for every animal picked up by Wise County Animal Control, but people outside the city limits are not charged for the service.

Commissioners are not allowed to discuss or vote on issues brought up in public forum, but those topics can be placed on a future agenda.

The bulk of the meeting – the last to be held in 2014 – was routine business.

Clark outlined a timeline for hiring an elections administrator and told commissioners the deadline to apply for the job is Friday. The elections commission will decide which candidates to interview and would like to hire someone by the first of the year.

“The goal is to hire an elections administrator by January, and Jim can go on back to the house,” he said with a smile, referencing interim EA Jim Parker.

The county is also looking for a systems coordinator, and commissioners approved creating a hiring committee, which includes Judge Clark, Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes, Sheriff David Walker, Fire Marshal Chuck Beard and Court Coordinator Debbie Barnett.

In other staff-related issues, Clark announced that Becky Dear retired from the county attorney’s office after 25 years, and he had received a letter complimenting veteran service officer Laura Spain.

He also presented a plaque to Hughes, thanking him for his service as interim county judge and interim commissioner, in both Precinct 3 and 4, over the last four years. Clark also recognized Gary Potts, who recently served as interim Precinct 4 commissioner. Potts was not present.

BUYING AND SELLING

Commissioners accepted Warner Radio’s $10 bid to purchase equipment on a radio tower near U.S. 81/287 and County Road 4228. The fire marshal said the equipment is 15 years old and is no longer being used by the county.

“It’s outlived it’s life expectancy,” he told the Messenger. “It was going to cost us more money to take the equipment off the tower than to just auction it off.”

The equipment sold includes runs of cable and three or four antenna on top of the tower. Beard said the cheapest bid to remove the equipment was $5,800, which didn’t include disposal. He said there is some county equipment remaining on the tower that is currently in use.

Commissioners also approved the installation of aluminum bleachers at the show arena on the Wise County Fairgrounds. They accepted a $26,215 quote from the Texas Department of Corrections as presented by Public Works Director Tom Goode.

Goode said his crews will tear down the current bleachers, and the installation of the new bleachers will be done by state jail inmates. He hopes the job will be complete before the Wise County Youth Fair in March.

Commissioners tabled a vehicle request from County Court-at-Law No. 1, as presented by Sheriff Walker.

They had recently approved the purchase of a new vehicle for the district court bailiff, and Walker said the county court was now asking to replace its bailiff’s car. A 2014 Tahoe has been ordered for the district court bailiff, and the county court was requesting the same.

“They’re driving a Dodge Charger now … they’re low-mileage, about 50,000,” he said.

Walker said if commissioners decided to purchase the vehicle, his department would take the bailiff’s current car and use it to replace one of their high-mileage cars.

Judge Clark questioned why the bailiffs need Tahoes, and he said he’d like to look further into the issue before taking any action.

In other business, commissioners:

  • tabled bids on 3/4-ton pickups at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns;
  • renewed the red flag burn ban
  • tabled increases for Tyler Technologies maintenance
  • approved purchase of a pickup from a co-op for the Public Works Department
  • approved selling an asphalt distributor truck at the request of Burns
  • approved appointing Ken Murray to fill the remaining term of a post on the Wise County Emergency Services District No. 1’s board of directors
  • approved Judge Clark’s bond

Look for more from the Dec. 15 commissioners meeting in the weekend Messenger.

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Not all cities invited to sales tax party

Of the 12 Wise County cities that collect a sales tax, nine showed gains during 2014, compared to the previous year.

That makes the news three-quarters positive, right?

But the three cities that lost money, lost more than the gainers gained – leaving the county overall just under a half-percent short of last year in sales tax collections.

In a year when the state’s 1,149 cities gained 7 percent, and most of the counties around Wise County came close to that amount, having a negative number feels a bit like being out in the yard while there’s a party going on in the house.

When the December numbers were released this week by the State Comptroller’s office, Wise County’s 12 cities had collected $728,946 for the month – down 8.7 percent compared to the $798,480 they took in last December.

That left them with $8,846,832 for the year, down .41 percent or $36,786 compared to last year’s $8,883,618.

Tax Dollars

The winners were:

  • Newark, up 62.2 percent (from $94,487 to $153,281) +$58,794
  • Lake Bridgeport, up 41.8 percent (from $19,486 to $27,646) +$8,160
  • Alvord, up 17.1 percent (from $139,010 to $162,784) +$23,774
  • Runaway Bay, up 16.7 percent (from $64,989 to $75,854) +$10,865
  • Chico, up 11.5 percent (from $249,685 to $278,408) +$28,723
  • Rhome, up 7.5 percent ($391,029 to $420,627) +$29,598
  • Boyd, up 6.7 percent ($323,245 to $345,175) +$21,930
  • Paradise, up 6.4 percent ($110,607 to $117,735) +$7,128
  • Decatur, up 1.8 percent ($3,990,278 to $4,063,898) +$73,620

Those nine cities took in a combined $262,592 more than they collected last year, all with a sales tax rate of 1.5 percent.

But here come the losers:

  • New Fairview, down 20 percent ($363,870 to $291,212) -$72,658
  • Aurora, down 19.4 percent ($46,193 to $37,221) -$8,972
  • Bridgeport, down 7 percent ($3,090,734 to $2,872,985) -$217,749

Those three lost a total of $299,379 compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the counties surrounding Wise joined the party. Those numbers:

  • Jack County collected about $2 million, up 46.7 percent or $642,340 from last year.
  • Montague County took in $3.24 million, up 14.7 percent or $415,675.
  • Denton County’s $119.9 million was up 9.2 percent or $10.18 million.
  • Parker County’s $16.5 million was up 6.1 percent or $954,177.
  • Tarrant County, which collected $465.5 million, was up 5.5 percent or $24.5 million.

The December totals represent October sales reported by monthly tax filers. Most cities budget on a fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, so their numbers will be different from these.

Sales tax revenue goes into the city’s general fund to support fire and police, libraries and other city operations.

Some Wise County cities also dedicate a half-cent of their sales tax to an Economic Development Corp. (EDC) to be used to attract new businesses, retain existing businesses and promote the community.

In Wise County, the county government collects a half-cent tax in all the unincorporated areas to help offset property tax increases. The county’s December check was $444,441 – up nearly 11 percent from last year’s payment – and for the year the county collected just more than $5 million from the sales tax. That’s a 2.8 percent improvement over 2013.

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Man dies in fiery crash

Man dies in fiery crash

Authorities have identified the man who died in a fiery one-car crash Wednesday night on U.S. 380 east of Decatur, but have not released his name pending confirmation from the Dallas County Medical Examiners Office.

The driver’s car flew into a ravine and hit a tree before catching on fire.

Fatal Wreck

FATAL WRECK – Department of Public Safety troopers survey the scene after a Mitsubishi ran off U.S. 380 Wednesday night and caught fire, killing the driver. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The unusual circumstances of the accident left investigators and first responders scratching their heads.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Adam Lawson said a Mitsubishi passenger car was traveling westbound on 380 about 7:45 p.m., just west of the Highland Hills subdivision, when it left the roadway to the north and ran through a fence. He said it appears the car then veered back through the fence to the south and then weaved through the fence again to the north.

The car hit the edge of a ravine, went airborne, slammed into a tree and burst into flames. Lawson said no one witnessed the accident, and there were no passengers in the car.

The vehicle was destroyed, and the fire was so intense it was impossible at the scene to determine if the driver was male or female. Lawson said they have since identified the driver and notified his family.

DPS is not releasing the identity until it can be confirmed through dental records.

“We’re about 95 percent sure,” he told the Messenger.

The crash occurred about a quarter mile away from where the vehicle first left the roadway. Lawson said he believes the car didn’t catch fire until it hit the tree because there were no burn marks in the grass leading to the ravine.

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WRHS to operate Bridgeport clinic

A plan by Wise Regional Health System to move its Community Health Clinic operation from Decatur to Bridgeport has been scuttled by restrictions in the Bridgeport hospital’s bond covenants.

A hospital spokesman said Friday that the Decatur Community Health Clinic, which is operated by Wise Clinical Care Associates on the West Campus on Farm Road 51, across from the main hospital, will remain open.

The plan had been to move that facility to Bridgeport.

Plans to convert the Bridgeport campus to an urgent care clinic will go forward, but Bridgeport’s clinic will be operated by Wise Regional Health System, not by Wise Clinical Care Associates as had been proposed.

The bond covenants require Wise Regional to operate the Bridgeport facility, not transfer it to another entity – even a wholly-owned affiliate like Wise Clinical Care Associates.

The affiliate will continue to operate the Community Health Clinic in Decatur.

The Bridgeport campus will transition to an urgent care facility, with no ER, but equipped to handle a wide range of urgent care needs including abdominal pain, allergic reactions, broken bones, breathing problems, burns, cuts, ear infections, falls, sprains, strains, flu and cold symptoms, migraines, pink eye, unexplained pain and swelling, urinary tract infections, wound infections and X-rays.

Starting Jan. 2, it will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Christmas in full swing

Santa has a busy weekend planned for Wise County as he’ll be putting in appearance at several placed around the area.

Hes Coming to Town

HE’S COMIN’ TO TOWN – Cooper Barnes, 4, high-fives Santa Claus in Alvord Monday night. The jolly old elf toured the streets in a fire truck greeting children and their parents. Santa is scheduled to visit Decatur neighborhoods Dec. 14-18. See page 10A for a map detailing his schedule. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

  • Breakfast with Santa is 8 to 11 a.m. today at Boyd High School. Call 940-433-2327.
  • The Decatur Fire Department will also be hosting Santa at their own breakfast at the fire hall 7 to 10 a.m. today. Pancakes are served throughout that time, and Santa arrives at 8:30.
  • Santa on the Streets – the Decatur Fire Department’s annual trek through the neighborhoods with Santa – will be Sunday through Thursday, Dec. 14-18. See the accompanying map for dates and locations.

Santa on the Streets

  • Cici’s Pizza in Decatur will be accepting Toys for Tots through today. Toys should be new and unwrapped. Representatives of the U.S. Marines and Santa Claus will be there to greet and collect the toys as well as pose for photos 11 a.m.-1 p.m. today. For information call 940-627-6273.
  • A Bridgeport neighborhood will host “Santa on Nottingham” 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. today and Dec. 19 through 23. Santa will be on hand, along with a full-sized Olaf, every evening, and there will be a different craft each night. It’s all free. Bring the kids to 137 Nottingham.
  • The Bridgeport Children’s Theater presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson at the Bridgeport Stage, 1009 Halsell St. this weekend. Showings will be 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $1. This program is sponsored by Meyers-McComis Agency and presented by Bridgeport Parks and Recreation. Call 940-683-3400.
  • Christmas in Rhome is 7 to 9 tonight at the Rhome Community Center, 261 N. School Rd. Santa will visit 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and door prizes will be given away.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, December 13, 2014

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD – The Bridgeport school board next week will discuss textbook adoption and facility renovations, as well as the results of a districtwide soccer questionnaire. Its meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the administration building, 2107 15th Street, and is open to the public.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – County Judge J.D. Clark will lead his first county commissioners meeting next week. Commissioners will discuss the process for hiring a new elections administrator, hear county engineer Chad Davis’ recommendation for receiving surplus bridge materials from the Department of Public Safety and will discuss maintenance offered by Tyler Technologies. Clark will also give his recommendation on the makeup of the systems coordinator hiring committee. Clark has also added to the agenda a community forum, in which citizens may share comments or observations related to county business. There is a three-minute time limit, and large groups should designate a spokesperson. The meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, in the third floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur. This is the last regular meeting for 2014.

PARADISE CITY COUNCIL – Next week nominees for the vacant Paradise City Council seat will be interviewed, and one will be selected to serve. The process will occur during the city council’s regular meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Paradise City Hall. The council will also conduct a public hearing on the submission of an application to the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program (TxCDBG) in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Affairs. The council will also discuss hiring Carl Deaton to conduct the city’s annual audit.

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Weatherford College Board approves child development degree

The Weatherford College board of trustees Thursday approved the creation of an Associate of Arts degree in child development.

By taking courses already offered, students attaining this degree will graduate with their core completed and be able to transfer to universities to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies or a related field like education.

Dr. Richard Bowers, vice president of instruction and student services, said the new AA will better equip students for further study.

“Tarleton State University is developing a new program that will allow a student to earn a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies,” he said. “This is a new development, and it’s giving us an opportunity to allow students to take hours at Weatherford College in that field of study that they will be able to transfer into their four-year degree.”

The degree will be available as soon as the plan is approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In other business the board:

  • extended WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton’s contract by one year to Dec. 31, 2017, following a closed executive session.
  • approved the 2013-14 financial audit presented by Snow Garrett Williams.
  • approved the disposal of obsolete and surplus items through an online auction.
  • accepted bids totaling $88,951 for the purchase of sonography equipment.
  • approved the addition of two courses for varsity baseball and softball, along with $24 fees for each course. The courses will allow athletes to receive transferable credit for each semester they participate.

Eaton reported:

  • the 14th Annual Weatherford College Golf Tournament raised more than $50,000 thanks to the Title III matching grant.
  • more than 6,000 people attended the Safe Halloween program hosted by the WC Police Department, and more than 350 attended a similar event at the Education Center at Mineral Wells.
  • more than 700 fourth graders attended STEMania at WC Wise County organized by Dr. Lisa Welch and hundreds of volunteers. The day included numerous interactive activities enforcing the importance of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • about 1,500 people attended the WC Fine Arts Department’s production of “Young Frankenstein” over a four-day period. Eaton praised the musical as one of the best yet produced at WC and congratulated Nancy McVean and Rob Laney for their work on the show.
  • more than 200 people attended the successful Veterans Day celebration organized by Ralph Willingham.
  • all board members are up-to-date on their required trainings.

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Stilwell indicted for stabbing incident

A Chico man accused of stabbing another Chico resident was indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a Wise County grand jury when it met Nov. 20.

Rickey Gene Stilwell, 35, will face a second degree felony charge. Records became public this week.

Stilwell is accused of stabbing Adam Johnson, 29, on Oct. 4 at Stilwell’s home in the 1100 block of Farm Road 2952. Johnson suffered two stab wounds to the chest and a pierced lung from an object simply described as a “sharp object” in the indictment.

Two days later, when Wise County Sheriff’s investigators attempted to serve an arrest warrant, Stilwell ran out of his house. After a short chase, Stilwell was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

He remains in the Wise County Jail with total bond set at $110,000.

If convicted, the charge carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

—–

An Aurora city councilman was indicted for indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Cyrus Farver, 78, was arrested Sept. 4 after he allegedly brushed the breast of a female family friend under the age of 17. He was released after posting a $30,000 bond.

Indecency with a child by sexual contact is a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

—–

The grand jury also returned the following felony indictments:

George Michael Fulkerson, driving while intoxicated third or more

Laura Michelle Griggs, burglary of a habitation

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Randall Craig Hillin, burglary of a habitation (one count); unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon (two counts)

Jason Wayne Hall, burglary of a habitation

Lewis Emil Holloway, forgery of a financial instrument (two counts)

J. Guadalupe Huerta, driving while intoxicated third or more

Billy Ray Stanley, credit/debit card abuse

Caleb Lyle Strickland, forgery financial instrument elderly

Richard Gerard Windmann, driving while intoxicated with child third under 15

Rusty Tyrell Johnson, burglary of a habitation

Christi Louann Williamson, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Boderick Ambimbolla Komolafe, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Hayden Hannah Bearden, driving while intoxicated third or more

David Eleazar Mendoza, credit card or debit card abuse

Amanda N. Perry, burglary of a habitation

Damon Lee Perry, burglary of a habitation

Jeffrey Clinton Pittman, driving while intoxicated third or more

Jesse Dean Reynolds, driving while intoxicated with child under 15

Tanner Lane Paddock, injury to an elderly with intent to cause bodily injury

Lalani Denise Rhodes, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (two counts)

Angel Perez Rodriguez, driving while intoxicated third or more

Eric Nicholas Ramirez, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count); prohibited substance/item in correctional facility (one count)

Jesus Segura, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

John Ross Shipman, credit card or debit card abuse

Jeffery Shayne Bridges, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Albert Josef Silbaugh, theft of property $1,500-$20,000 (two counts); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count)

John Cecil Burris, theft of material – copper, less than $20,000.

A grand jury indictment is not a ruling of guilt, but a review of evidence by an independent, 12-member panel to determine whether or not it is sufficient to bring the accused to trial.

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