Wise Regional to acquire nursing facilities

Wise Regional Health System will acquire and operate two nursing facilities in Fort Worth after action at a Monday meeting of the hospital’s board of directors.

Fort Worth Center for Rehab and Cityview Care Center are currently owned by Skilled Healthcare, Inc.

Wise Regional has been studying the proposal for several months. Their external accounting firm, BKD, LLP, provided a “due diligence” report on the facilities for the board to consider, and the hospital’s outside legal counsel, RCMH, Law PLLC was the primary negotiator in the sale.

The hospital will enter into a formal management relationship with Skilled Healthcare to continue providing all aspects of operational management at the two facilities.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jim Eaton told the board the hospital system overall had an increase in net assets of $329,000 for May, on gross patient charges and other revenues of $49.9 million.

Inpatient admissions were up 6 percent, while outpatient services decreased 2 percent from the prior month. The system’s new Parkway campus opened May 5.

The board made a special presentation to Sheila Boggs, RN for being voted “Best Nurse in Wise County” by readers of the Wise County Messenger and to honor her for 37 years of service to the hospital and community.

Hospital CEO Steve Summers provided an administrative report, outlining ongoing internal leadership training for Wise Regional’s managers and directors. Programs are presented throughout the year on topics including management strategies, retention and organizational development.

He also discussed the recent presentation made in Dallas on the 1115 Waiver program by Paul Aslin, Chief Operations Officer for Wise Clinical Care Associates.

Summers said through Aslin’s leadership, Wise Regional has been recognized as a leader in navigating the Delivery System Reimbursement Incentive Project (DSRIP) initiatives.

He noted the upcoming Texas Hospital Trustee educational meeting in July that will be held in Dallas for board members.

OTHER BUSINESS

Other matters coming before the board included:

  • Summers announced a contract had been finalized with a new OB/GYN physician. Cynthia Hartman, D.O., will join Russell Edwards, D.O. at Array Women’s Health in Decatur in September.
  • Summers congratulated Wise Regional’s Marketing & Communication department, which recently won two national design awards by APEX Awards for Publication Excellence for its community newsletter, “HealthScoop” and the hospital’s re-designed website at WiseRegional.com.
  • The president of the Bridgeport hospital auxiliary reported to the board on membership, hours of service and the presentation of five $1,000 scholarships to students who plan to pursue medical training.
  • The Decatur auxiliary reported they recently donated $61,100 to the hospital for the purchase of a new piece of lab equipment. Representatives also attended a state volunteer convention and placed second in the scrapbook and first in the tray favor competitions.
  • The board approved new appointments to the medical staff based on the recommendations of Wise Regional’s Medical Executive Committee and accepted the medical staff’s reappointments and first year reviews.

The next regular meeting is Monday, July 28 at 6 p.m. in the Administration Board Room at 609 Medical Center Drive.

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Autopsy reveals no alcohol in Johnson’s system

Results of the final autopsy report for former Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson confirm that she did not have alcohol in her system at the time of her fatal crash in April.

Terri Johnson

Terri Johnson

According to the autopsy report, obtained by the Messenger through an open records request from Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mandy Hays, Johnson’s blood tested negative for the presence of alcohol or drugs. The autopsy was performed by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The report also noted that Johnson had a “history of diabetes mellitus.” The toxicology report did test various electrolyte levels, but nothing in the report could definitively point to a diabetes-related medical emergency as a cause of the wreck.

The official crash report obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation noted that Johnson’s driving on the wrong side of U.S. 81/287 was the contributing factor in the wreck, and it said illness and/or speed “may have contributed” to the incident.

The medical examiner concluded that Johnson died as a result of blunt force injuries, and the manner of death was accidental.

The accident happened April 26 just south of Decatur. Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper William Cooper said Johnson was driving her Volkswagen Passat at a high rate of speed southbound in the northbound lanes of U.S. 81/287 when she struck a northbound Chevy Trailblazer, killing three adults in that vehicle. The accident happened about a quarter-mile north of the crossover at County Road 4228 near National Ropers Supply (NRS) Trailers at 5:52 p.m.

Those killed in the Trailblazer included the driver, Juan Jose Rios, 31, of Quanah; and two passengers, Amy Dee Culwell, 35, of Chillicothe and Sherry Ann Rios, 50, of Quanah. Juan and Amy’s 4-year-old daughter, Taylee, was seriously injured and flown from the scene to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. She was treated and has been released from the hospital.

Multiple calls to 911 received in the seven minutes leading up to the crash indicate that Johnson was driving erratically as far north on U.S. 81/287 as the roadside park north of Decatur. Johnson crossed through the median between Karl Klement Ford and the intersection with U.S. 81/287 Business in south Decatur.

Hays also ordered autopsies for Juan and Sherry Rios and Culwell, but those reports are not yet available.

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JP 2 candidate named

The Wise County Republican Executive Committee Monday named Craig Johnson of Decatur as the candidate to be placed on November’s ballot for Precinct 2 justice of the peace.

Johnson, a retired police officer, is husband of the late Precinct 2 JP Terri Johnson. She was running unopposed this year for a third term but died in a car accident April 26 on U.S. 81/287 south of Decatur.

The executive committee, which is made up of the party’s precinct chairmen, was charged with naming someone to replace her on the ballot.

“It was done with a very heavy heart,” said Party Chair Allen Williamson. “Everyone was very somber about the task we were called to do, but Craig has already proven to be a great JP.”

Mr. Johnson is currently serving the remainder of his wife’s second term. He was appointed interim Precinct 2 justice of the peace last month by county commissioners.

Williamson said the executive search committee, headed by Chico Mayor J.D. Clark, sent questionnaires to people on the Republican Party email list and the staff at the Precinct 2 JP office, inquiring about qualities, skills and experiences they felt were important in a justice of the peace.

“I think at the end of the day, while there were other good candidates, Craig was the best,” Williamson said.

The search committee accepted applications through May 21, and Clark said nine people applied, all of which had “strong merits.”

“Wise County would have been well-served by any of them,” he said, “but his law enforcement background and criminal justice experience and community involvement caused him to rise to the top.

“It wasn’t an easy task, but we feel good about Craig doing it,” he said.

Mr. Johnson retired in 2013 from Grapevine Police Department and was working as a private investigator at the time of his wife’s death. He had been with Grapevine PD since 1994 and prior to that was an investigator with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.

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Education, not moderation: Assault on diabetes focuses on lifestyle

”Moderation in all things, and all things in moderation.”

That may be a good philosophy in some ways – but it is not Dr. Brad Faglie’s motto.

Dr. Faglie, a board-certified family physician, does not recommend moderation when it comes to attacking diabetes – a disease that is attacking Wise County residents in increasing numbers.

Teaming Up

TEAMING UP – Chris McKown (left) with Renew Home Health and Dr. Brad Faglie discuss a case earlier this week. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and the sixth-leading cause of death in Texas. It’s estimated that 10.6 percent of Wise County’s population has diabetes, and that number is projected to rise to 17.1 percent by 2020. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It all boils down to diet,” he said Monday as he waited for the monthly diabetes support group members to arrive at the classroom on the second floor of Wise Regional Hospital. “When all else is said, it’s what we eat.”

What Americans eat is killing them. Dr. Faglie should know – he used to weigh 290 pounds.

He also used to have diabetes. He no longer has it, and today he approaches diabetic education with a zeal that borders on evangelistic.

“I run into a lot of misconceptions,” he said. “That unhealthy food is OK in moderation – they’ve been told that.

“That’s being overturned slowly. The research is out there, but the interpretation of the research is just now coming out into the mainstream. Unhealthy food is not healthy in any amount. It’s not OK.”

The support group, sponsored by Wise Regional, Renew Home Health and the Wise and Montague County Medical Society, has been meeting since January at 6:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month – but it’s not the only way the local medical community is attacking diabetes.

Dick Gilley, R.N., a board-certified critical care nurse, works in the ICU at Wise Regional and Baylor. He’s also diabetic and a certified diabetes educator.

“I work with people individually and as a group,” he said. “I teach a group class on Thursday nights – I had eight people for the spring, and I’ve got 25 for the summer.”

The monthly support group is open to all, but a doctor’s referral is required to get into Gilley’s class.

“When we get our program certified, it will be billable to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance – and it bills at 100 percent because it’s preventive care,” he said. “Right now, we’re working with grant money, and it’s free.”

The program’s application for national certification went in the mail last Friday.

“To be where you can be certified in six months, I’m very proud of that,” Gilley said. “We started with nothing.”

Nothing but need, according to the statistics.

A GROWING MENACE

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and the sixth-leading cause of death in Texas. It’s estimated that 10.6 percent of Wise County’s population has diabetes, and that number is projected to rise to 17.1 percent by 2020.

“It is truly an epidemic of the worst proportion,” Dr. Faglie said, citing a sharp uptick in cases in just the six years he’s been practicing medicine. “I’ve actually seen the rise in diabetes and its associated symptoms – obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, heart disease – at younger ages.

“I have 13-year-olds who are getting diagnosed with type II or adult onset diabetes. It’s crazy,” he said.

Diabetes is a serious illness that can and does kill. It’s the primary cause of death for 71,382 Americans every year and contributes to the death of another 231,404.

“Diabetes affects every system,” Dr. Faglie said. “Chronically elevated blood sugar affects the small blood vessels in all systems, so diabetics typically experience chronic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy, leg swelling and therefore ulcers and subsequently, amputations.

“Their vision goes because the blood vessels in the eye are affected,” he said. “Heart disease, the small blood vessels around the heart, and then, dementia. It’s a difficult illness to treat, and it’s become more and more serious.”

Many of the folks in the support group have just been diagnosed. Faglie’s goal is to get them to make immediate and drastic changes in their lifestyle.

He recommends a “paleo” diet that takes humans back about 10,000 years, before food began to be processed.

“What I tell people is, if you can’t pick it, peel it or kill it, it’s probably not healthy,” he said. “If it’s got any sort of processing that takes place in the preparation of that food – such as bread, the milling of grains – it’s not ideal.”

Processed and refined carbohydrates – not just sugar, but bread, rice, pasta, cookies, chips – are the big offenders.

“Essentially, that’s why people are diabetic,” he said.

“Honestly, the patients who are diebetic aren’t bad about eating cherry pie every day. They’ve largely cut out the obvious. It’s the things they’re told they can have in moderation, like bread, that are hard to cut from the diet.

“But that perpetuates it, keeps the diabetes going and even worsens it.”

EDUCATION, BLOOD TESTING THE KEYS

Community-wide education and regular blood testing are making a difference, Dr. Faglie said. He enjoys the classes, where there is a lot of question-and-answer time, because they allow him to teach when he’s not trying to also keep up with a schedule of patient appointments.

Chris McKown of Renew Home Health said some people come straight to the group within days or hours of their diagnosis.

“Most of the people, if they are coming under home health, they have us to teach them,” he said. “But somebody who’s not, the only real education they get is with their physician, in the office – so they run into a time constraint.

“With this program, they can come in, ask questions – it’s been really great. The first one we had was seven people, then 15, then 20, then 28. Every month, it’s grown.”

For most, the diabetes diagnosis comes as a result of a routine physical that involves a blood test. The key number is the hemoglobin A1c.

For people without diabetes, the normal range is between 4 and 5.6 percent. Hemoglobin A1c levels between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicate an increased risk of diabetes, and levels of 6.5 percent or higher indicate diabetes.

“A lot of people feel normal, but the blood work shows an elevated A1c,” Dr. Faglie said. “Some people come to me for neuropathy – that’s tingling in the legs – or a lot of times they have fatigue, they just don’t feel like they felt 10 years ago.

“And then a lot of times they have spouses who bring them in,” he said. “They see how they eat, and they just know something’s wrong.”

The ultimate goal is to prevent diabetes.

“We want to try to catch the younger crowd,” Dr. Faglie said. “Unfortunately, diabetes doesn’t just hit – it grows over the course of years and decades.

“It grows out of a lifestyle, and lifestyle modification is the only true treatment for diabetes.”

CLASS TIME

That’s why a class, a support group – education – is such a key element of the attack.

“A lot of people were coming to the diabetic education classes, and they expect to learn how to use their pump, how to use their insulin, how to take more medicine,” McKown said. “This is completely different. They come and start learning how to eat, how to do even better, and some of them do that very well.”

As Dr. Faglie starts Monday evening’s class, he asks the group, “What is diabetes?”

“Something you don’t want,” says one woman, drawing nervous laughter.

“The inability to make insulin,” says another, and the doctor says yes, but he still wants more.

“The inability to process sugar,” comes the answer.

“That’s right,” he says. “Adult-onset diabetes is the inability to process sugar – or more specifically, carbohydrates.”

And although carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs to produce energy, research is showing that processed, refined carbohydrates are the culprit in diabetes and possibly other diseases.

He draws a modified “food pyramid” on the whiteboard.

“This is what I recommend my patients eat: meat, veggies, beans, nuts, dairy – minus milk – then fruit,” he says. “The carbohydrates in these groups are not bad.”

He said that after years – decades – of processed carbohydrates, the body becomes less able to process that, and the result is chronically elevated blood sugar.

“Basically what happens is, your cells get inundated with too much blood sugar for too long,” he said. “They start pulling those sugar receptors out of the cell walls, and you become insulin-resistant. That’s hard.”

He recommends cutting those carbs out completely.

“If food is unhealthy, it’s unhealthy,” he says. “This food group is really not OK in moderation.”

And when you think about it, that sounds right.

Attacking a killer is no time for moderation.

For information about the Diabetes Support Group at Wise Regional Helath System, call Chris McKown of Renew Home Health at 940-395-7205.

DIABETES AT A GLANCE

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • 79 million Americans have prediabetes
  • 1.9 Million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes annually
  • Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, including more than 25 percent of seniors.
  • As many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 if present trends continue.
  • The economic cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion annually.

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King files amended campaign finance report

State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) has filed an amended campaign finance report showing $37,250 in contributions that had been omitted from previous filings.

Phil King

The amended report was filed June 3 with the Texas Ethics Commission.

King blamed the oversight on an office move that took place during the nine days when the donations were received, between Dec. 3 and Dec. 11, 2013. In a sworn statement to the TEC, he said the error was discovered in a self-audit of the Jan. 15, 2013, campaign finance report.

The lion’s share of the $37,250 was a $25,000 donation to King’s campaign by former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

The Commission is currently investigating an ethics complaint that alleges the omission was an attempt to “launder” money donated by Craddick to King’s campaign, which he then passed on to another political action committee to be used in the campaign of Craddick’s daughter, Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick for her 2012 Republican Party primary runoff campaign.

According to King’s filing with the Texas Ethics Commission on June 3, eight contributions were inadvertently omitted.

“We discovered that these contributions, received between Dec. 3-11, 2012, were not itemized, although the total amount of those contributions was reported correctly and included in the Contribution Balance on page 2 of the cover sheet of the original report.

“During that nine-day timeframe, my staff and I were moving my district, campaign and law offices of 19 years and my Capitol office at the Capitol, causing significant disruption for several weeks.”

The filing states that copies of the eight contributions were “either lost or misplaced” and are still missing. The King campaign used bank digital copies and TEC reports filed by the donors to reconstruct the record for their amended filing.

The omitted entries included:

  • $1,000 from Friends of Baylor Med.
  • $25,000 from Tom Craddick
  • $1,000 from Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP Campaign Fund
  • $1,000 from Ace Cash Express Inc. PAC
  • $250 from Gulf States Toyota Inc. State PAC
  • $1,000 from Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas Casino Revenue Fund
  • $500 from Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell LLP, and
  • $7,500 from the Fort Worth Firefighters Committee for Responsible Government

The amended report requests the TEC “waive or reduce any fine applicable since this was a noncritical report and the errors were due to circumstances associated with a major office move.”

In filing the amended report, King has to swear that the original report was made in good faith and without an intent to mislead or misrepresent and that the amended filing was made not later than 14 business days after he learned that the original report was inaccurate or incomplete.

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1 person attends county public hearing

Mike Pirtle was the only person who attended Monday’s public hearing prior to the commissioner’s court meeting.

The hearing was set to discuss possibly restricting truck traffic on County Road 2474, east of Alvord in Precinct 2.

Pirtle said he attended so he could speak in favor of closing the road to trucks.

“I’ve been there since 1988, and the last few years we’ve seen a tremendous influx of recreational use,” he said. “It’s the third entrance to the LBJ National Grasslands, and our little road was never supposed to handle that kind of traffic.”

Pirtle said Devon is now preparing to drill a well in the Grasslands, and the company has said its trucks will use Forest Service roads.

Pirtle has doubts. He said he thinks truck drivers will still use CR 2472 because it’s a quicker route back to Alvord.

He described the road saying it’s only 16 feet across at the widest point, and one quarter-mile section is only 10 feet wide.

“To improve the road the county would have to acquire a lot of land and tear out fences,” he said. “It ought to be closed to through truck traffic … we’ve learned to live with the recreational traffic.”

The item was not on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting, which started immediately after the public hearing, so commissioners were unable to take action.

It should be on the June 30 agenda.

ANIMAL SHELTER

During the regular meeting, Animal Shelter Administrator Linda Bryan told commissioners the Sheriff’s Office employee who worked at the shelter on Sundays, cleaning the facility and feeding the animals, was no longer able to perform those duties.

Sheriff David Walker said the employee, who’s in his 70s, brought an inmate work crew every week. He was reassigned due to safety issues.

“I don’t want to discuss personnel issues in open court, but he’s been wanting to stop doing this for a while,” he said. “He had been taking four [inmates] down there, and that’s a lot of folks for a 20-year-old to keep track of, much less a 77-year-old.”

Bryan is left with no one to work on Sundays, but she does have a part-time position she can fill in September. Commissioners approved in April adding that post for fiscal year 2015.

Bryan asked if in the meantime she could hire contract labor to cover Sundays until the fall and if her current employees could earn overtime pay, instead of comp time, while they fill in the next few weeks.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns made the motion to hire contract labor to work on Sundays and pay current employees for Sunday work for the next 30 days, during which time Bryan should hire contract labor.

VEHICLE PURCHASES

In a meeting June 2, commissioners approved a myriad of vechicle purchases, most for the Sheriff’s Office.

The county sought bids for small sport utility vehicles and large SUVs for the S.O., but ended up rejecting all bids for the smaller vehicles.

The price difference between the two sizes wasn’t significant, and Sheriff Walker said he thought the larger vehicle would maintain its value down the road.

“I think it’s smart to go with the bigger one,” he said at the previous meeting. “For the $1,500 difference, we’ll get more than that when we go to trade them in.”

Commissioners approved the purchase of seven two-wheel drive Chevrolet Tahoes from Caldwell Country for $28,919. They also approved the purchase of a four-wheel drive Tahoe at $33,340 that Walker had requested as an administrator’s vehicle.

Monday Walker requested to purchase two more full-size Tahoes for special services under the same bid approved June 2, and he asked to purchase a Dodge Charger to be used as a transport vehicle.

“We’ll use capital expenditure money, and we should still have money left over,” he said. “Then we’ll start gathering up our high mileage vehicles and get them to [County Asset Manager Diana Alexander] to be sold.”

Commissioners also approved at the June 2 meeting the purchase of a new security system for the Wise County Jail at a cost of $67,918. The system is being purchased from MCS off state contract and will be an upgrade from the current system, which has been in place since the jail was built.

OTHER BUSINESS

Commissioners also approved a special interlocal agreement between the county and the following parties: Tarrant Regional Water District, Wise County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, and Wise Soil and Water Conservation District.

Public Works Director Tom Goode said it’s the same agreement currently in place with these entities, but it expires in September.

The agreement ensures technical assistance is provided to agricultural producers in planning and implementing conservation treatment measures to reduce the amount of sediment and fertilizer that runs off into the Eagle Mountain Lake watershed.

Jerry Frank, who said he was with Bridgeport Economic Development Corp. and Friends of the West Fork, congratulated commissioners on “thinking regionally” and collaborating with different agencies.

The court also accepted several donations to the Public Works Department, including $500 from Pleasant Grove Cemetery, $500 from Alvord Cemetery, $400 from Crafton Cemetery and $65 from the Bridgeport Mexican Cemetery.

They also accepted $275.28 from Cans for Canines for the animal shelter and a load of 1-inch limestone that was dumped in the impound yard. County Treasurer Katherine Hudson said the limestone was in the bed of a vehicle parked in the yard, and when the vehicle was picked up, the owner didn’t want the rock.

Commissioners also:

  • authorized County Clerk Sherry Lemon to appoint Kiley Vian and Blanca Tuma as deputy county clerks;
  • approved construction plans for Montecito Estates, lots 1-11, block 1 in Precinct 1;
  • approved the final plat for Magellito Addition, lot 1, block 1, in Precinct 2 with a variance for the frontage requirements because it’s on a private road and the drainage study;
  • approved the bond for Craig Johnson, interim Precinct 2 justice of the peace;
  • approved renewing insurance with the Texas Association of Counties;
  • approved Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White selling a Komatsu maintainer; and
  • renewed the county’s red flag burn ban.

Commissioners’ next regular meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, June 30, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

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Once upon a time …

Once upon a time …

Spinning and Twirling

SPINNING AND TWIRLING – Maids, vultures and evil queens invade the castle in a scene of the Wise Performing Arts Guild’s adaptation of “Snow White.” Performances are 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Decatur High School theatre. Tickets are available at the door. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Little Lady

LITTLE LADY – Peyton Sandate is all smiles before taking the stage as a ladybug. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Leading Antagonist

LEADING ANTAGONIST – The evil queen, played by Christy Mahaffey, twirls around the stage as the maids look on. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Tiny Dancers

TINY DANCERS – Ladybugs and bumblebees bounce and twirl across the stage, perfecting their part in the ballet recital. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Uh Oh

UH-OH – Emma Reeves pleads her case to her mom, Lori, after breaking a wing during dress rehearsal Thursday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Jury gives man 2 10-year sentences

After finding him guilty Tuesday of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, a jury on Wednesday gave Daniel Ray Anderson 10 years on each.

The range of punishment went up to 20 years, with a $10,000 fine possible on each count. The jury did not assess a fine on either charge.

“I’m happy a Wise County jury sent a statement that they’re not going to tolerate people selling drugs in this community,” said Assistant District Attorney Pat Berry, who prosecuted the case. “I’d like for the statement to have been louder.”

Berry said Anderson will likely serve two years or less on the drug case, although the firearm charge might increase his prison time.

The verdict Tuesday represented Anderson’s sixth and seventh felony convictions.

Berry argued for the maximum sentence, while Anderson’s attorney, David Singleton, asked for leniency.

“You’re not going to change the world with your decision in this courthouse today,” Singleton said, “but you are going to have a tremendous impact on Mr. Anderson, his fiance , and his son.”

He told the jury Anderson came from a “messed-up situation” and had gotten caught up in a web of crime.

“We are, at least to some extent, formed by the environment we’re raised in,” he said. “People get in trouble because of the people they surround themselves with.”

Anderson served five years for sexual assault in Johnson County, then went back to prison for failing to register as a sex offender. Somewhere along the way, he became addicted to methamphetamine.

Berry painted a less sympathetic picture.

“What you have is a drug dealer, who is in possession of a gun after he’s already been to prison twice,” he said. “He’s holed up in a room with a surveillance system, night vision – he was set up.”

Anderson’s fiance had testified that he supplied her with meth “once or twice a day” for the last year or so.

Judge John Fostel also mandated drug rehabilitation for Anderson, 32.

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Weatherford College board names library after Eatons

Among the Weatherford College facilities that received new names Thursday was the library/academic research center at the Wise County Campus.

It is now the Roy and Jeannine Eaton Library and Research Center.

The couple are longtime Decatur residents who have generously supported numerous community causes. Roy Eaton, publisher of the Wise County Messenger, was a key force in getting voter approval for the tax to build the Wise County campus, located on U.S. 380 between Decatur and Bridgeport.

Since 2003, the Eatons have contributed more than $50,000 to support scholarships for WC Wise County students.

At Thursday’s board of trustees meeting in Weatherford, several other facilities also got new names.

The old Allied Health Building will soon bear the name of 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight, believed to be the only WC graduate to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Knight, who graduated from WC in 1938, was honored posthumously for actions with the U.S. Army’s 124th Cavalry Regiment in Burma.

The board also approved naming several rooms on the Weatherford campus after long-time supporters of the college.

In other business, the board:

  • heard an update on renovation work in the Business Building and in the old Allied Health Building. The projects have an Aug. 15 completion date.
  • approved sealed bids for medical equipment and supplies for the 2014-15 year totaling $39,424 to six vendors.
  • approved a tax abatement policy and reaffirmed their previous vote to provide a 50 percent tax abatement for five years to KEG1, a warehouse company currently building a facility on BB Fielder Road near Bethel Road.
  • listened to a report on the 2014-15 budget which is still in the refining stage.

In his report, WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton noted an increase in Summer I enrollment and contact hours, as compared to 2013, and recognized several employees and students for outstanding achievements.

The board will not meet in July. Their next meeting is 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.

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Sales tax up in most cities

Summer is off to a pretty good start for most Wise County cities – at least when it comes to sales tax.

The June payment from the State Comptroller’s office, representing April sales reported to the state in May, was better than last year’s in 10 of the county’s 12 cities.

Boyd was the only city that saw a big drop in June, collecting $32,054 with its 1.5-cent sales tax compared to $50,638 in the same month last year – a 36.7 percent drop. Paradise’s June payment was off just $36.

Everyone else got a boost in June, from 1.26 percent in Lake Bridgeport to 56 percent in Aurora.

The bigger cities of Decatur and Bridgeport saw modest increases, 4.6 percent in Decatur and 1.49 percent in Bridgeport. For the year, Decatur is three-quarters of a percent, or $15,578, ahead of 2013, while Bridgeport remains 13 percent behind.

Despite healthy increases in June, both Rhome and New Fairview also remain behind last year by 3.4 and 9.3 percent, respectively.

The rest of the county’s smaller cities are ahead of 2013, with increases ranging from Boyd’s 1.8 percent to Newark’s lofty 130.8 percent.

As a whole, Wise County’s 12 cities are down $101,675 – 2.26 percent – from last year. Factoring out Bridgeport’s $203,547 deficit, the other 11 cities are up $101,872 – a respectable 3.4 percent.

Statewide, 1,148 cities have picked up just under $2.5 billion from the sales tax so far this year, running 7 percent ahead of last year.

Wise County, which collects a half-cent, saw their payment drop 15.2 percent in June, from last year’s $446,280 to $378,274. That brings the county’s year-to-date total to $2,577,551, up 2.77 percent over last year’s.

Comptroller Susan Combs said sales tax growth statewide was evident across all major sectors of the economy.

“The growth was led by the retail and wholesale trade sectors, the oil and natural gas mining sector, and the services sector,” she said. “This marks the 50th consecutive month of increased state sales tax revenues, and brings the fiscal year-to-date growth to 5.4 percent.”

Sales Tax

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Yes, you can: WARM, USDA and Messenger staff agree on outdated peas: they’re fine

A gentleman who regularly gets food from the Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM) recently brought to the newspaper office a can of sweet peas he’d received in his box of free groceries.

They were dated, “Best by May 23, 2003″ – a shade over 11 years ago.

He wanted the newspaper to do a story – to inquire about the safety of the groceries being donated to and distributed by the Decatur food pantry, and to warn people to check the dates on the food they eat.

So, we did.

In a nutshell, the peas are just fine.

Still Appealling

STILL AP-PEA-LING – The “best by” date on the can notwithstanding, the peas a reader brought to the Messenger still looked, smelled and tasted just fine. That’s because the can was still in good shape. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

WARM, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Messenger staff say so.

The USDA web site says, “Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 F (32.2 C). If the cans look OK, they are safe to use.

“Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen.”

The can brought to the Messenger office, it should be noted, looked perfectly fine. There were no dents or scratches anywhere on the can, and the label was intact – although graphically, a little outdated.

Ren Ashmore, director of WARM, said she wishes the gentleman would have simply brought the can back or asked someone at the food bank.

“We try to watch for products that are really out of date,” she said. “If it is dented, opened or dirty of course we throw that away – but canned goods, in good shape, don’t expire.

“They just don’t.”

Ashmore said WARM distributed 200,000 pounds of food from January through the end of April, with a full-time staff of two and a corps of dedicated volunteers.

“The majority of the food we get is not brand-new food,” she said.

She said a lot of WARM’s food comes through the Tarrant Area Food Bank, which gets bulk donations from major food chains. Those chains cycle food off their shelves when it goes out of date – but the meat and poultry gets frozen immediately, and the canned goods remain completely safe, though no longer saleable.

Donations like that make up a huge portion of what goes out to the needy in this and other communities all over the U.S.

Canned-food drives also bring in a lot of items that are donated after residents “clean out” their pantries. Ashmore said the National Letter Carriers’ food drive in May, and the Big Sandy competition in the fall between Bridgeport and Decatur bring in tons of items – including outdated cans.

“We try very hard to make sure what we send out is quality,” she said. “Every now and then, something’s going to slip through.

“But we certainly don’t want to discourage food donations or people cleaning out their cabinets.”

Except for on infant formula, product dating is generally not required by federal law.

According to to the USDA web site:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

The can of peas had a “best by” date. According to Messenger staff, the peas tasted just fine.

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Illegal horse track busted near Alvord

Six people have been arrested for operating what investigators say was an unlicensed horse racing facility near Alvord.

The arrests took place after the six people, including two Wise County residents, were indicted by a grand jury for racing without a license, a violation of the Texas Racing Act.

criminalsWise County District Attorney Greg Lowery said the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation into the horse racing operation after receiving a complaint about possible illegal activity. Undercover officers went to the scene on multiple occasions to observe people betting on the outcome of races.

The track was located next to Oak Hill Raceway, a motocross facility south of Alvord. Lowery said the Oak Hill owner did not have knowledge of the horse racing operation.

“From my understanding, it was a straight dirt track,” Lowery said. “They did have starting gates. They took care of the track. They even had people set up at the finish line to take photos if there was a photo finish.”

According to the wording in the indictments, the six people operated a horse race without a racetrack license and had knowledge that people were betting on the outcome of the races. The indictment states that the illegal activity was witnessed on Feb. 16 of this year.

Those arrested were identified by the Department of Public Safety as Homero Caldera, 49, and Guillermo Rodriguez, 30, both with the same address in Aurora; Jose Conception Aguilar, 55, of Farmers Branch; Ultiminio Caldera-Pacheco, 46, of Garland; Jose Enriquez-Trejo, 30, of Grand Prairie; and Gricelda Rodriguez, 32, of Fort Worth. All six posted a $10,000 bail and were released the day of their arrest.

Lowery said he is not aware of any animal cruelty issues related to the horses used at the facility.

Since the investigation is ongoing, Lowery said he could not give any more specific details about the case. He said that none of the six arrested have previous felony convictions.

Racing without a license is a third degree felony offense.

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Anderson guilty on drug, gun charges

After a quick, one-day trial, 32-year-old Daniel Ray Anderson was found guilty Tuesday afternoon in Judge John Fostel’s 271st District Court in Decatur.

Anderson will be sentenced by the jury Wednesday on two counts – possession of a controlled substance in an amount less than one gram and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

It was July 31, 2012, when Wise County Sheriff’s investigators went to a mobile home on County Road 3341, near Paradise, belonging to George David Shannon, 55, where Anderson lived in a rented room.

Investigator Chad Lanier and two other officers wanted to talk to Anderson about a stolen tractor.

But when he went inside at around 7:30 a.m., Lanier found Anderson standing in the doorway of a bedroom. At the investigator’s request, Anderson unlocked a padlock on the bedroom door and let him in – where he found a .22 rifle in the corner.

“He said, ‘That isn’t my gun. I can’t have a gun. I’m a convicted felon,’” Lanier testified Tuesday.

Anderson then consented to a search that yielded spoons, baggies, a larger bag containing “a crystal-like substance” and other drug paraphernalia – pipes, pills, a digital scale and an empty laundry detergent bottle filled with discarded syringes.

“It was consistent with being in business,” Lanier said. “It was consistent with drug dealing.”

Anderson, who had been previously convicted for failure to register as a sex offender, was arrested. Lanier testified he later had a conversation with Anderson in which he asked him what he was doing at the house.

“He said he was selling drugs,” Lanier said. “I asked him how he was using meth himself, and he said, ‘With a needle.’”

That interview was videotaped and admitted into evidence, and was available for the jury to see. They deliberated about a half-hour before returning with the guilty verdict just before 5 Tuesday afternoon.

Anderson’s case is the third to be adjudicated out of that July 31, 2012 ,incident.

Shannon, the homeowner, was tried and found guilty in April of drug possession under one gram and sentenced to one year in state jail, probated for two years, plus a $2,000 fine.

Stacie Davis, 40, who was also staying at the house, pleaded guilty in February to the same drug charge and got the same sentence, with a $1,000 fine.

The jury will assess Anderson’s punishment Wednesday.

Assistant Wise County District Attorney Pat Berry, who prosecuted Shannon, handled this case as well. Anderson was defended by attorney David Singleton, who called only one witness.

In summing up the case for the jury, Berry said methamphetamine is “a scourge on our society.”

“It’s related to so many other offenses, it’s unbelievable,” he said.

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First responder: Decatur’s Carr earns statewide honor for EMS work

First responder: Decatur’s Carr earns statewide honor for EMS work

When Decatur firefighter James Carr responded to a medical call at Poco Graphite in Decatur Monday morning, he came full circle.

In the days before, the six-year member of the Decatur Fire Department was named the EMS Responder of the Year by the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas – after receiving the same honor from his home department and the Red River District, to which the Decatur FD belongs.

Responder of the Year

RESPONDER OF THE YEAR – The State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal Association of Texas (SFFMA) named Decatur firefighter James Carr the EMS Responder of the Year at its annual convention, conference and training this weekend in Lubbock. Carr is a six-year member of the Decatur Fire Department. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

But the decorated first responder got his start in the fire brigade at Poco.

“[On Monday] one of the guys there came up to me and said, ‘I read in the Update that you got an award. Good job,’” Carr said. “We parted ways peacefully, but it was there that it all began.”

As a former Poco employee, Carr underwent industrial fire training to join the company’s emergency response team.

“Industrial companies are really good at not letting accidents happen because those cost money,” he said. “So when you work for a fire brigade, you don’t get a lot of experience because there’s just not calls like that.”

But Carr was intrigued by the service and sought a different avenue to get involved.

“There was an ad for the Decatur Citizens Fire Academy, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take this awareness program that they’re putting on, so I can see exactly what the municipal side of the fire service is like,” he said.

He viewed it as possibly a good way for Poco’s emergency response team to forge a relationship with the Decatur Fire Department.

“So I went to it, and Chief [Deroy] Bennett was the one that spoke to us that very first day,” he said. “All he had to do was say, ‘Welcome,’ and that’s pretty much all it took for me.”

Carr enrolled in the academy and underwent the 12-week training program.

“After it was over I said, ‘OK, where do I sign? I’m all about this,’” Carr recalled.

He continued working at Poco, but in 2012, when the city of Decatur approved the hiring of three additional personnel for the fire department, Carr applied – and was hired. He attended the schools and passed the certification exams to become a paramedic the following year and shortly after, he earned the certification to become a CPR instructor.

“From his very first emergency run, James always seemed to be drawn to the EMS element of response at Decatur FD,” said Captain Nate Mara, who was one of several who who wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of Carr for the state-level honor. ” … James has a passion for helping out other people that is second to none.”

After Carr earned his paramedic certification, Mara asked him to take over the EMS process for Decatur FD.

“James keeps up with inventory [of medical supplies and equipment] and all of the administrative elements of the first responder organization,” Mara said. “James has the hard task of keeping up with ever-changing innovations in EMS and the fire service. He balances his own budget and ensures that the medical and wellness needs of our members and our citizens are met year after year.”

For those contributions, the department named Carr the EMS Responder of the Year at its banquet earlier this year. The department then nominated him for the honor at the district level, which he received in April.

With that win under his belt, Carr compiled a packet – which included his work history, achievements and letters of recommendation – and went for state honors.

Officials with the SFFMA interviewed the top three candidates during the organization’s annual convention, conference and training this weekend before naming Carr the winner.

“It is a very humbling honor for me,” Carr said. “I don’t feel myself as a hero. I just do what I need to do with my training at the particular time.”

Along with an award and badge, Carr and his department received a $500 donation from the Volunteer Firefighter Insurance Services of Texas. The money was given to the SFFMA Firemen’s Monument for fallen comrades.

Carr also was picked to serve on the SFFMA EMS advisory board, which adjusts protocols and policies and serves as the liaison between state lawmaker and the fire districts.

He will also be a part of the panel that selects the firefighter and EMS responder superlatives at the state level for the next two years.

“I have made it my mission to try to get an applicant from every district for EMS responder of the year,” Carr said. “They always have plenty of Firefighter of the year applicants, but they haven’t had a lot of applicants for EMS Responder of the Year.”

Changing the number of applicants will help bring light to a common misconception.

“When we go to schools and ask kids what we do for a living, they say, ‘Oh, you put out fires,’” Carr said. “That’s a very small part of what we do … What we do more than anything is EMS.

“Really, we’re like the ghostbusters,” he continued. “When there’s something wrong and people don’t know who to call, they call the fire department … We’re more than just firefighters. We do pretty much anything and everything that we’re called upon.”

And that is exactly what Carr loves about his job.

“The fact that I get to help people when they need help,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s what it’s about.”

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Campers blossom at special camp

Campers blossom at special camp

More than 250 people packed into Decatur’s Joe Wheeler Park this week for Sonflower Camp.

The nearly weeklong camp, created for special needs children in the area, features eight stations each day, including a group music station and two cars donated by James Woods Motors on which the campers can play, both of which proved popular.

Blooming Fun

BLOOMING FUN – Sara Boyd escorts Ty and Alyssa Sattawhite to the next station Tuesday at Sonflower Camp, a week long day camp for special needs kids at Decatur’s Joe Wheeler Park. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Campers wildly honked the car horns Tuesday morning, but it didn’t drown out the boisterous singing inside the pavilion.

Andrea Duwe, the co-director of Sonflower Camp, said more than 10 churches sent volunteers to help with the event each day. Each camper is paired with a volunteer, and they are divided into eight groups to rotate stations.

Elaine Huff, the children’s pastor at Crossroads Church and camp’s other co- director, said the event presents a great opportunity for campers to meet new friends.

“We’re building a network for special needs individuals in the community,” Huff said. “When they’re at home, their world is pretty limited, especially in the summer with no school, but they can come here and have a real camp experience.”

Most campers also participate in a special needs baseball league, Huff said. Opportunities like these provide new opportunities and sensory experiences, which allow them to grow. This is especially evident in repeat campers.

“It’s fun to watch the changes because they just blossom,” Huff said.

One camper, J.J. Benavidez, was in attendance with his brother, Sebastian. The duo was inseparable as Sebastian pushed J.J.’s wheelchair across the grass and under a pavilion to participate in the group’s next activity. Sebastian and J.J. have been regular attendees at Sonflower for several years.

Having Fun

HAVING FUN – The parachute, along with the musical instruments and cars from James Woods were some of the most popular stations Tuesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“He’s the best brother,” Huff said. “He sits with his J.J. every day at lunch instead of hanging out with his friends.”

Best friends Caroline Parks and Bucky Sledge from Alvord were in attendance for the first time.

Parks said she’s been caring for Sledge since high school and that she’d agreed to volunteer at the camp because it was the only way to persuade him to take part.

“We’ve been together for a long time,” Parks said. “Me and Bucky do our own thing. We always have.”

For Huff, being a part of Sonflower Camp is about seeing the effects on campers.

“This is the highlight of my year,” Huff said, “to look in those faces and just see the joy.”

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Online solicitation among felony indictments

A Paradise man has been indicted for online solicitation of a minor.

Christopher Glenn Ashmore, 21, was indicted by a Wise County grand jury May 29 for allegedly using Facebook to solicit sexual acts from a minor.

Ashmore was arrested last June after he was caught in a sting operation by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. He thought he was communicating with a female between the ages of 13 and 16, but he was actually communicating with an investigator.

When he went to meet the “girl,” he was met by investigators who placed him under arrest.

Online solicitation of a minor is a third degree felony.

The grand jury indicted another 35 suspects on a variety of felony charges:

Steven Del Cummings, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Gustavo Angel Alvarez, aggravated sexual assault of a child

Robert Camden Carder Jr., assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Anthony Glenn Gravely Jr., assault intentional/reckless breathing/circulation family member with previous conviction

Jeffrey Don Hill, fraudulent use/possession of indentifying information

Eric Jordan Bennett, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, less than 1 gram

Jason Craig Croom, prohibited substance in a correctional facility (one count); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count)

Larry Dale Langley Jr., possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Carlos Alberto Lopez-Rodriguez, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Shawn David Massie, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Clifton Alan Skinner, possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram

Jason Hoyt Tally, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram (one count); unauthorized use of a vehicle (one count)

Donald Gene Walton, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

Samuel Ray Weaver, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

Sharon Kay Wolfe, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Jennifer Nicole Young, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Kaylee Lynne Bell, driving while intoxicated third or more

Eric Jordan Bennett, forgery financial instrument

Brian David Brooks, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Jennifer Suzanne Buell, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Joshua Dewane Bryant, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Michelle Denise Combs, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Randy Bryon Nabors, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Kyndra Shealynn Conn, burglary of a habitation

Acey Allen Davis, theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Kenneth Edward Gourd, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (two counts)

Bryson Chase Isbell, unauthorized use of a vehicle

John Carlos Jones, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 (three counts)

Grady Shurl Mansell, burglary of a building

Donald John Morgan, driving while intoxicated third or more

Allen Dale Post, driving while intoxicated third or more

Donald Wayne Ray, theft of service $1,500-$20,000

Aaron Wayne Rivas, burglary of a habitation

Angel Dejesus Rivera, evading arrest/detention with a vehicle

Danilo Turcious-Cuellar, evading arrest/detention with a vehicle

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Man gets probation for sex crime

A 71-year-old Rhome man has received probation after pleading guilty to indecency with a child.

Hollis Glenn Belcher entered a guilty plea in 271st District Court last month to indecency with a child/sexual contact in exchange for eight years deferred adjudication. Belcher must register as a sex offender for life due to the conviction.

Although investigators initially feared there might be several victims, the conviction was for only one victim, who was 9 years old at the time of the crime.

The crime took place at Belcher’s home in the Diamond Ridge subdivision in February of 2013, investigators said.

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Food bank providing free lunches in South Wise

Free lunches are available to children in South Wise through a Tarrant Area Food bank program.

Kids can eat free at neighborhood sites sponsored by the food bank in collaboration with community organizations.

The summer meal sites and the dates and times of meals are as follows:

Victory Learning Center
309 CR 4850, Newark

Starting this week, lunch is at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, through Aug. 22. The site will be open July 4th.

Seven Hills Elementary School
654 FM 3433, Newark

Lunch is at 11 a.m. during a weeklong camp June 23-27.

Godfrey Pegues Library
207 Hudson St., Newark

Lunch is at 11 a.m. during a month-long Reading Camp on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 7-31.

Each year, the Texas Department of Agriculture partners with local organizations like Tarrant Area Food Bank to provide free meals to children when school is out for the summer.

There are no income requirements or registration. Any child under age 18 may come to eat. Meals will be provided to all children without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.

To date, Tarrant Area Food Bank is collaborating with community organizations and apartment complexes to provide summer meals for kids at 25 sites in Tarrant, Parker and Wise counties.

For information, email Sarah Centeno at sarah.centeno@tafb.org.

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‘Home run’; Hospital’s bond sale saves $11.4 million

Wise Regional Health System will save almost triple what it expected to save by refinancing its 2004 construction bonds.

The hospital on Wednesday refunded $87.6 million in bonds on which it was paying an average of 7.1 percent interest, while borrowing an additional $10 million for future construction projects.

Even with all the costs of the transaction folded in – about $2.8 million – Wise Regional still got a 5.39 percent interest rate that will save them $11.4 million over the life of the bonds.

They had expected to save between $4 and $5 million.

“Essentially, we’re lowering the payments about $100,000 a year from where they are right now – and getting another $10 million,” Chris Janning, senior vice president at First Southwest, told the board in a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“The net present value savings is $11,406,059, which is just under 13.5 percent of the bonds,” Janning said. “That’s the principal we’re refunding.”

The Governmental Finance Officers Association (GFAO) has a benchmark that says if an entity can get 3 percent net present value savings or more, it’s a good deal.

“We got four good deals,” board member Gary Cocanougher said. “At that last meeting, we thought $5 million [in savings] would have been a home run – this was a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.”

So how did Wise Regional get such a favorable rate?

Janning said the hospital’s state-of-the-art facilities are impressive – and one firm actually sent a representative out for a tour in Decatur, Bridgeport and the new Parkway facility in Fort Worth. He also credited hospital administration for their openness, answering everyone’s questions.

But the market also played a huge role.

“What’s happened since March is that rates have come way down – almost 1 percent in the general market,” he said. “All these bonds are maturing, and no one’s borrowing money for new projects.”

That means Wise Regional’s $99 million in bonds was one of the best deals on the U.S. bond market that day. When traders started making calls Wednesday morning, they found 17 times as many orders as they had bonds to sell.

When $1.7 billion is available to buy $99 million in bonds, the cost goes down. It’s a seller’s market.

“What you had was essentially a separate auction for each bond,” board member Mark Duncum observed.

Janning agreed.

“It was a negotiation where the Bank of America and Cain Brothers sales people were talking to these buyers, people were putting in orders … then they’ll go back and say, ‘Hey look, we’ve got all these orders. If you really want these bonds, we’d consider a lower rate.’ Then they’ll put in another order.”

He said the firms that don’t get bonds will not be happy.

“Nobody’s going to be happy – except us,” he said.

The board passed a resolution approving the sale and authorizing the issuance of the bonds. That completed the sale, which closes June 25.

“When we pass this resolution and you vote to approve it, you have a hard contract,” Janning said.

Cocanougher commended Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers and his staff for their hard work.

“I think the staff and everybody did a great job getting this done,” he said. “It’s going to be a great thing for the hospital and the whole community.”

Janning said Merrill-Lynch and his firm, First Southwest, will both brag about this transaction coast-to-coast for a long time.

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Punishment light in injury case

It was a short trial and a short sentence this week in the 271st Judicial District Court in Decatur.

After finding Shaun Ray Mullinax, 33, guilty of injury to a child, a Wise County jury quickly gave him the lightest possible sentence Wednesday afternoon – two years in prison.

Testimony began around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and concluded by about 4:30. After final arguments Wednesday morning, the jury deliberated through lunch and came back into the courtroom just after 1 p.m.

The six-woman, six-man jury found that Mullinax did indeed hit his then-12-year-old son on Nov. 7, 2012 at their home in a Rhome subdivision.

The jury then went back out to consider punishment, deliberating for less than 15 minutes before returning to the courtroom.

The punishment range for the third-degree felony was enhanced – from 2-10 years to 2-20 years – because Mullinax had a previous felony conviction. In 2005, he spent seven months in prison for arson after torching his vehicle in Smith County.

Because of the prior conviction, probation was not an option.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Lapham, who prosecuted the case, said he had no quarrel with the jury’s decision.

“This case was more about the guilt than it was about the punishment,” he said. “To take the appropriate action of holding the defendant accountable was much more important.”

MOST FACTS NOT DISPUTED

According to witness accounts, Mullinax had picked his son up at football practice that day and taken him home, with instructions to do his homework and clean up the dishes. He then went to Denton for the evening.

His son reportedly called him and told him the homework and chores were done and was given permission to go to a friend’s house and play video games.

But when Mullinax got home, those things were not done. When his son came home, he confronted him and, he said, attempted to turn him around for a spanking.

The jury, however, believed the boy’s statement that his dad had hit him with a closed fist, repeatedly on the arm and at least once on the head. The prosecution’s evidence included several photographs of bruises on the boy’s arm.

“If this was just a spanking, we wouldn’t be here,” Lapham told the jury before the punishment phase. “This is a grown man taking his fist and hitting his son multiple times.”

The next day, the boy went to his counselor at Chisholm Trail Middle School and told him about the incident. Child Protective Services was called, and the boy called his mother from school. She drove up that day from Floresville, south of San Antonio, and took him to her home, where he continues to live.

Mullinax did go to Floresville sometime after that with a court order to get his son back. But when law enforcement was called and became concerned that the boy appeared to be afraid of his father, he returned home and made no further attempt to contact his son.

The boy did call his father, however – and that recorded conversation was used by the prosecution as an admission of guilt. Lapham encouraged the jury to take the audio CD into the jury room and listen to it again.

“The defendant is saying he’s sorry for what he did, not sorry because [his mom] came up here to Wise County and took her son back to Floresville,” he said.

Attorney Jerry Cobb, who represented Mullinax, asked the jury to consider whether Mullinax’s punishment of his son was “reasonable” according to the law.

“There’s no question he tried to discipline him, and the child resisted, and at some point, he stopped,” Cobb said, pointing out that his client had also tried grounding the boy, taking away privileges and sending him to his room.

He also noted that although the boy told the jury he feared his father, he had never told anyone prior to the Nov. 7, 2012, incident.

Lapham said the jury should believe the boy’s story and the evidence.

“Do you believe a convicted felon who’s got a lot to lose? Or do you believe [the boy]?

“Do you know how much courage it took for him to come up here and face his dad?” Lapham asked. “We tell kids to tell an adult, tell someone, cry out. Then we’re not going to believe them?”

Lapham asked for a five-year sentence to allow the boy to graduate from high school with “peace of mind.” Cobb asked for two years.

Afterward Cobb, a former Denton County district attorney, said the punishment fit the crime.

“You never know when you have two witnesses saying different things,” he said. “I explained to my client that if the jury believes his son, he’s going to get convicted, and if they don’t, he won’t be convicted.

“I think the punishment is appropriate for this type of offense, based on his history and based on what happened,” he added. “I respect the jury’s opinion.”

No word yet on whether Mullinax will appeal the verdict.

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