Man knocked unconscious in accident

A Chico man was injured in a two-vehicle accident at Texas 114 and Farm Road 51 shortly before 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Jimmy Shelton, 54, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Traffic Stopper

TRAFFIC STOPPER – Paradise firefighters and Wise County medics load Jimmy Shelton onto a stretcher after an accident on Texas 114 Thursday morning. Shelton was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital by ambulance. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“He was complaining of neck pain and had an extended period of unconsciousness,” said Department of Public Safety Trooper Zeb Siebeneck. “He became conscious and alert on the scene.”

According to Siebeneck, Shelton turned left from southbound FM 51 onto 114 in a 2000 Jeep Cherokee in front of a Direct TV Ford van driven by Kristopher Earley, 27, of Springtown. The van, which was westbound on 114, struck the SUV near the front wheel well on the left side.

Earley was uninjured in the wreck.

Siebeneck said a witness behind Earley said he was driving under the posted speed limit of 65 mph.

The trooper added that Shelton would be cited for failing to yield the right-of-way.

The crash shut down 114 in both directions for nearly an hour.

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From Facebook to jail book-in; Gibbon arrested for copper thefts

An Alvord man was arrested for copper theft this week after seeing his photo posted on social media.

John Edward Gibbon Jr.,

John Edward Gibbon Jr., 32, turned himself in to Decatur police Wednesday, according to Decatur Police Sgt. Gerald Wright.

“He’d heard about the video still posted on the Messenger’s website,” Wright said. “He looked at it and decided to turn himself in. He said, ‘Yes, that’s me.’”

One of the photos, which was posted on the Wise County Messenger’s Facebook page and published in the Saturday, July 19, issue of the paper, showed Gibbon walking through a parking lot at Wise Electric Co-op on Farm Road 730 in north Decatur. The business was burglarized twice, on July 11 and 14.

Wright said Gibbon confessed to both of those burglaries and a copper theft at nearby Perkins Construction, located on Old Decatur Road.

Overall, Gibbon is accused of stealing six complete rolls and four partial rolls of copper wire for a total value of $1,037.50.

“He said he took the copper to Fort Worth and had someone else sell it for him,” Wright said. He added that the reason Gibbon gave for stealing and selling the copper was that “he needed money.”

Wright said Gibbon told him he was not involved in other copper thefts around the county.

Wright worked with investigators at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and said it’s possible other arrests could be made in connection with the case.

Gibbon has been charged with theft of material (copper) valued at less than $20,000 – a state jail felony. He posted $10,000 bond and has been released from jail.

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Overall values up 5.3 percent

The certified tax roll came out Friday, and overall values in Wise County are up 5.3 percent.

Wise Appraisal District releases values each year, giving cities, school districts and other tax-supported public entities a tax roll they can bill off as they finalize their budgets.

There were few big winners in Friday’s numbers, but no one saw any huge losses, either.

“It was pretty healthy overall,” Chief Appraiser Mickey Hand said. “With so much of the oilfield activity moving south, 5.3 percent for the county is a pretty good increase.”

Boyd ISD, with an overall increase of nearly 13 percent, was the healthiest school district. Boyd’s big gains came in minerals (up 24.4 percent) and industrial, utility and personal (IUP) property (up 13.5 percent).

The city of Boyd topped all Wise County cities, too, with a 5.18 percent overall increase in tax values. The big gains, again, were minerals and IUP.

“Those IUP increases came primarily in oilfield compression and pipelines coming in,” Hand said.

He noted Decatur and Bridgeport both had new processing plants that came online during the year, as Devon expanded a plant and Targa built one.

The losses, he noted, came mostly in the city of Chico as oilfield equipment was moved out of the county, and in the city of Rhome where some of the older mineral values had simply depleted.

“On the minerals, you’re not sure how much longer it’s going to continue, but there’s always going to be wells here,” Hand said.

New construction continued to gain, with $76,203,902 countywide compared to just over $71 million last year. Hand said housing, too, was “pretty decent for the most part.”

Some of the highlights from the chart:

  • Bridgeport ISD, up 8 percent overall;
  • Alvord ISD, up 6.3 percent overall;
  • City of Chico, down 6.7 percent overall despite a 191 percent gain in minerals;
  • Wise County overall up 5.3 percent;
  • new construction countywide at $76,203,902;
  • new construction $21,314,224 in Decatur ISD, $4,239,140 in the city of Decatur;
  • new construction $10,202,231 in Bridgeport ISD, $3,732,490 in the city of Bridgeport;
  • new construction in the city of New Fairview $5,923,980;
  • new construction in the city of Aurora $4,400,060;
  • new construction in the city of Boyd $3,891,190
  • new construction in Rhome and Runaway Bay just over $1 million;
  • Northwest ISD up 3.07 overall, with new construction at $18,538,398.
Salesd Tax Chart

REAL – Real Estate consisting of all land and improvements
BPP – Business Personal Property consists of all business inventory, furniture, fixtures, and equipment
MIN – Minerals consisting of all oil, gas, rock and sand values in operating wells and quarries
IUP – Industrial, utility and personal property consists of utilities, pipelines, industrial machinery and equipment
% Change – The percentage change from the certified values from 2013.

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Highway intersection temporarily closed for construction

The intersection of U.S. 81/287 and Business U.S. 287 on the south side of Decatur will be closed for approximately eight weeks, starting Tuesday.

The Texas Department of Transportation issued a press release that stated the intersection would be closed starting July 29 for reconstruction of the north tie-in of Business U.S. 287 to U.S. 81/287.

Northbound motorists on U.S. 81/287, traveling to Business U.S. 287, will detour to exit Farm Road 730 South to College Street. Motorists will turn right, traveling north on College and will turn right on Hale Street, traveling east to U.S. Business 287.

Motorists on Business U.S. 287 traveling to U.S. 81/287 will travel the same route but in the opposite direction to arrive at the highway.

Ultimately, this $12.1 million project will construct a diamond interchange that will provide a four-lane grade separation of U.S. 81/287 over U.S. Business 287 South. Two-lane service roads for local access will also extend from just north of U.S. Business 81 South to Farm Road 2264. Entrance/exit ramps on both the east and west sides of U.S. 81/287 will be constructed.

The service road will provide an extension of Farm Road 2264 northward to U.S. Business 287 South, which will operate as a two-way roadway. All other service roads will continue to operate as one-way.

The project is slated for completion in the fall of 2015.

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County looks at information system

Elected officials are taking a hard look at the county’s computer system.

County Judge Glenn Hughes told commissioners at their July 14 meeting that he’d been in talks with Prince Computing Corp. about reviewing the county’s information technology (IT) system.

“They’ll tell us what we need to get to the 21st century,” he said.

A Prince representative on July 16 gave a presentation to county department heads with the exception of commissioners. Since it wasn’t a public meeting, all commissioners couldn’t attend, but Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Potts and Hughes were present.

They will likely give a report in Monday’s regular commissioners meeting.

Hughes told commissioners in the July 14 meeting that the cost would be “about $125 per hour,” but the company was not charging for the initial consultation and meetings.

“All I’m really doing today is letting you know that we’re considering this … it’s not a contract,” Hughes said.

The judge said Prince would audit the county’s entire system and help them devise a five-year plan for IT. He explained that he thought it would save money in the long run because equipment purchases would be made according to a plan and everything would be compatible.

“If we buy three computers and they’re not compatible with monitors or servers or anything else, it causes us to go buy five more,” he said. “I’m not saying anyone has done anything wrong.

“I’m just saying we need some help in telling us where we need to be.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance said he thinks everyone agrees improvement is needed.

“Most department heads I’ve talked to feel this is mandatory,” Hughes said.

In Monday’s meeting, commissioners will hear a presentation by Extension agents Todd Vineyard and Chrissy Karrer on summer 4-H activities. Wise County 4-Hers who were awarded scholarships at Texas 4-H Roundup will also be recognized.

In other business, each commissioner will present their annual road reports.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur.

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Near-drowning makes parents water-safety advocates

When school let out for the summer two years ago, Melanie and Michael Tittor of Paradise and their family prepared themselves for a full slate of pool time and sunshine.

Melanie had enrolled her daughters – Emma and Lana, then ages 5 and 3 – in swim lessons, which were to begin a few weeks later.

The older daughter was not thrilled.

Water Safety

WATER SAFETY – After Lana Tittor (left) nearly drowned two years ago, her mother, Melanie (center) became an advocate for water safety, enrolling Lana and her sister, Emma (right), in swimming lessons and encouraging those she knows to become CPR certified. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“But you hear about people drowning,” Emma argued.

Her mother replied, “Sister, kids only drown when the parents aren’t paying attention.”

That very afternoon, the family learned that isn’t always the case.

SILENT SLIP

Melanie, a kindergarten teacher at Paradise Elementary School, and a group of teacher friends and their spouses gathered for a Memorial Day barbecue complete with swimming.

While in the pool, Lana always wore a flotation device that extends across her chest and around the arms. When it came time to eat, she had removed the cumbersome device and left it floating in the shallow end of the pool.

When it was time to swim again, Melanie sent her to retrieve the floatie.

Lana was walking across the shallow end of the pool when she stepped too far. She fell into water over her head and didn’t come back up.

“It wasn’t one of those wild scenes of seeing her struggle,” Melanie said. “She didn’t make a sound.”

Melanie recalled coming back to the porch and moments later realizing Lana hadn’t come back.

A group of junior high boys in the pool saw Lana wading in the shallow end and didn’t think much of it at first.

Then, one of those boys, Martin Crawford, spotted the youngster lying at the bottom of the pool. Melanie estimates Lana was underwater no more than five minutes. By the time Martin reached her, she was already unconscious.

He swam down and picked her up. By then, Michael and other adults realized what happened, and they ran to the edge of the pool.

Michael plucked his daughter out and immediately, a Paradise ISD school nurse (Tammy Pewitt) and Ben, Martin’s father, began performing CPR.

By the time medics arrived, Lana was conscious and talking. She was flown by helicopter ambulance to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth anyway.

“They didn’t know if she might’ve accidentally hit her head when she stepped off the step or how much water she had ingested,” Melanie said. “Because they did full-on chest compressions, she could’ve very well had a broken rib or punctured lung.”

Fortunately, she was fine. There was a little bit of water in her right lung so doctors kept Lana overnight so she could be monitored. But she was discharged less than 24 hours after she was brought in.

A follow-up visit to the pediatrician later in the week cleared her.

“Everything turned out OK,” Melanie said. “But it’s made me very conscious and diligent.”

These are traits she advocates and strives to spread.

ADVOCATING

Among her efforts is the desire to dispell the myth of drowning, a perception she once mistakenly held herself.

“It wasn’t one of those situations where we weren’t paying attention – we were all right there,” Melanie said. “I knew what she went to do. It wasn’t that I lost track of her or that she got back in without permission. She knows she has to have her floaties on.

“You think you’re paying attention, but it just happens so fast,” she continued. “It was minutes, literally minutes, that we were apart.”

Although she commends Martin and the other junior high boys for their quick reaction, she encourages others who find themselves in a similar situation to yell for help.

“None of the kids in the pool said anything. They just all started moving toward her,” Melanie recalled. “We’ve really tried to teach the kids if they even think someone’s struggling to yell to an adult. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

In addition, she pushes the importance of conquering the fear.

Although the girls weren’t to begin their lessons until the end of June, they were bumped up and back in the pool with instructors within a week of the accident.

Emma, who originally was hesitant, did very well on her own. Lana and Melanie enrolled in the Mom and Me class.

“We were the oldest ones in that class, but that was OK,” Melanie recalled. “We just wanted to get her in and let her splash around to help her get over her fear of getting back in. It wasn’t until the end of that summer before she would let go or trust a floatie to keep her from going under. She wouldn’t get her head wet at all, and she definitely struggled with going under. Unfortunately, she remembered all of what happened.”

Now, Lana doesn’t need the flotation device unless she’s swimming with a large group of people or in a pool she’s not comfortable with.

“She is fearful in that she knows she can’t just bail off into the deep end without somebody right there, and she won’t go in by herself,” Melanie said. “But she’s not scared to get in the water … I’m very thankful she’s not traumatized.”

LIFESAVERS

Beyond defining circumstances that lead to drowning, calling for help and swim lessons, Melanie mostly pushes for CPR certifications.

Twelve adults were at the Memorial Day gathering. Six of them were CPR certified, including Melanie.

“Had I been put in a situation where I would’ve had to do CPR on my own kid, of course I could,” she said. “But I was very thankful that it wasn’t me because it was the most surreal moment. I’m so thankful they were there. I’m so glad they knew what to do. That helped saved her life.”

The fall after Lana’s accident, Melanie and the school nurses coordinated a training for Paradise ISD employees and the community, where more than 30 people became certified, including Lana’s dad.

Melanie anticipates the district will continue with the class this year, which previously cost around $20.

“It’s not much to pay to know what to do in a life-or-death situation,” she said. “Just take that precaution, and be proactive instead of reactive.”

Decatur Fire Marshal Deroy Bennett agrees. In 2007, his department established the Community Heart Savers, monthly CPR training programs.

His department offers the classes three times a month.

On the first Tuesday, and fourth Thursday, they offer a four-hour Heartsavers/AED certification class. Cost is $5 for those who live and work in Decatur or $25 for anyone else.

A class for healthcare providers and a Heartsaver/AED/First Aid class are typically offered on the third Saturday.

The healthcare providers class is for anyone with any type of medical certification (nurse’s aides, dental hygienists, etc.), while the latter training adds basic first aid techniques (dealing with lacerations, bug bites, bandaging, etc.)

Cost for the class, which is eight hours, is $25, which covers materials.

Bennett hopes the low prices will entice residents to enroll.

“Typically, the normal, average citizen will say, ‘Yes, I’d like to have that,’ but they’re not going to go out and pay $45 or $65 or $85 for that,” Bennett said. “However, they’ll do it for $5.”

Decatur firefighters who are certified by the American Heart Association teach the classes. Bennett said that when the program began, the department had four instructors. That number has grown to about a dozen.

Other courses, class dates and times are available. Certifications are valid for two years.

Classes range in size from seven or eight to large groups of more than 20, especially if a large group from a specific church or business registers together.

To register, call the fire department at 940-627-3199 or email heartsavers@decaturfd.com.

“The ultimate goal is to get more trained people in the public to help save people in these instances,” Bennett said. “It could be me. It makes me feel safer knowing there might be somebody out there that would be trained to save me or my family.

“I find great satisfaction in my job – and always have – knowing that if I could make someone in my community safer in any way, whether that’s teaching them CPR or saving their property or them in the event of a fire.”

“You just can’t be too careful,” Tittor said.

COMMUNITY HEART SAVERS

The Decatur Fire Department offers CPR trainings three times a month – the first Tuesday, third Saturday and fourth Thursday.

Classes include Friends and Family CPR, Heartsaver CPR, Heartsaver CPR/AED, Heartsaver/AED/First Aid and BLS for Healthcare Providers.

To register or for information, call Decatur FD at 940-627-3199 or email heartsavers@decaturfd.com.

TODDLER TRAGEDY

At the request of Kimberly Aaron, medical director of the emergency department at Cook Children’s Health Care system, the hospital system newsroom released a story Thursday following three drownings in one week.

The report contained several alarming statistics including:

  • Texas has the highest incidence of swimming pool- and spa-related childhood drownings in the United States. All three children previously mentioned died following pool-related incidents.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths for children 1 to 4 years of age.
  • In many drowning situations, an adult was just a few feet away from the pool and didn’t realize anything was wrong because he or she didn’t hear any sounds of distress, such as splashing or yelling.

“It’s unusual for us to have three cases in one week … and we still have many weeks of summer left,” Dr. Aaron said in the article. ” … We realize that it could happen to anyone. It happens very, very quickly. We’re not being judgmental. We feel so strongly about this and knowing how it impacts us we wanted to reach out and raise awareness to the community.”

source: www.checkupnewsroom.com/3-toddlers-die

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Ross continues argument in appeals court

David Fielding, attorney for former Precinct 4 County Commissioner Terry Ross, filed a brief July 14 in a continued effort to appeal his removal from office.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

The appellant brief, filed in the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, summarizes Ross’ version of the facts and contends the summary judgment in his removal case was unwarranted.

District Judge Roger Towery issued the judgment, removing Ross from office March 19 to settle a civil suit filed by retired Texas Ranger Lane Akin of Decatur in June of 2012.

That suit was filed in the midst of an investigation that Ross had built a playhouse for his grandchildren in the county barn, using county money and employees on county time.

Ross was eventually charged with tampering with governmental records, theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant, and abuse of official capacity greater than $20 and less than $500. After multiple delays, he was scheduled Sept. 23, 2013, to go before a judge and jury, but instead accepted a plea deal.

Ross pled guilty to abuse of official capacity, a misdemeanor, and got $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year. As part of the agreement, the two felony charges were dismissed.

Ross claims in the appellant brief that “at the time of the plea, (he) understood that he could be reinstated to his position with the county with full back pay.”

Fielding outlines in the brief that Ross’ removal should be reversed based on the following three arguments:

  • Ross’ conviction of a Class B misdemeanor does not permit his removal from office under the “immediate removal” statute.
  • The misdemeanor conviction did not involve official misconduct, and therefore Ross’ case was not subject to a summary judgment and removal.
  • Ross did not waive his right to a jury trial in the removal case just because he waived his right to a jury trial by pleading guilty to the criminal charge.

County Attorney James Stainton must file a response by Wednesday, Aug. 13. A three-judge panel will eventually rule on the appeal.

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Williamson added to firm’s name

Mike Simpson, senior partner of the Wise County law firm Simpson, Boyd and Powers, announced Wednesday that the firm name has changed to add the name of new partner Allen Williamson.

Allen Williamson

“I am pleased to announce that the partners of the firm have decided to add the name of Williamson to the firm name,” he said in a press release. “Allen has been with the firm since 2006 and has been an equity partner since January. We feel that the time is right to change the name to Simpson Boyd Powers and Williamson.”

The firm was founded in 1998 by Mike Simpson, Derrick Boyd and Ross Simpson. In 2003, Alan Powers’ name was added.

A native of Hobbs, N.M., Williamson received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in 1996 and his law degree from Texas Wesleyan School of Law (now Texas A&M School of Law) in 1999. He began his career in the Wise County district attorney’s office before joining the firm.

He is licensed in Texas, Oklahoma, all federal district courts in Texas, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. He is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Williamson has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by a Thompson Reuters Service for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013. This award is given to the top attorneys in Texas under the age of 40. He currently serves on the State Bar of Texas Pattern Jury Charge Committee.

Since 2008, Williamson has been honored to serve in the elected position of Wise County Republican chairman.

He is married to Mendee, and they have three children, Jessica, Amber and Aaron. He and his family reside in Runaway Bay.

Simpson Boyd Powers and Williamson have offices in Decatur and Bridgeport.

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Reunion Royalty

Reunion Royalty

Best Camps

BEST CAMPS — Winners of the Reunion camp awards include the Chapman/Williams camp, best theme; Wren/Schults camp, most creative; Sharon Montgomery camp, best lighting; Young camp, best name; Rottner camp, best decorated; Billy McDaniels camp, most redneck; Bisidas camp, most unusual; Perrin camp, best all around; Trachta/Dodd camp, best entertainment; and Whittenburg camp, most festive. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Toddlers and Tiaras 1

TODDLERS AND TIARAS — Participants in the Mr. and Miss Pageant included Kynzler Elmore, who was crowned Wee Miss Wise County, escorted by her mother, Ishley Elmore. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Toddlers and Tiaras 2

Baizlie Davidson, escorted by her mother, Serria Davidson. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Toddlers and Tiaras 3

J.J. Flores, who was crowned Wee Mr., joined by his mother, Elda Flores. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Toddlers and Tiaras 4

Brothers Rhyder Edmonds and Sturling Edmonds, who was crowned Tiny Mr. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Goodwyn pleads guilty to drug charge

A former longtime court reporter for the 271st District Court in Decatur was back in a familiar setting Friday – but on the other side of the law.

Jeffery Goodwyn

Jeffery Goodwyn

Jeff Goodwyn pled guilty to the charge of manufacturing/delivery of a controlled substance in the amount of 1 to 4 grams, a second degree felony. He agreed to eight years of deferred adjudication and a $1,000 fine.

The 57-year-old Decatur resident was arrested June 14 of last year following an undercover sting. According to a search warrant affidavit in the case, Goodwyn drove to Fort Worth the night of June 13 to obtain methamphetamine and returned to a motel in Decatur during the early morning hours of June 14 to engage in sex and take drugs. Instead, the man he met at the motel was an undercover narcotics officer.

Goodwyn was arrested for the possession of 3.5 grams of methamphetamine and taken to Wise County Jail, where he posted bond the next day.

Following his arrest, investigators searched Goodwyn’s home and collected several computers, DVDs and a cell phone as evidence. No additional charges were filed.

Among the numerous conditions of his community supervision, Goodwyn must perform 240 hours of community service, including no less than 16 hours per month until completion; submit to regular drug testing; complete a drug/alcohol evaluation; submit to a psychological evaluation and attend counseling; not possess firearms and abstain from alcohol.

He must also report to a licensed therapist for a sex offense evaluation “including psychological, psychiatric and/or psychophysical testing, a clinical evaluation and clinical polygraphs if needed, as determined by the therapist conducting the evaluation.”

The conditions do not include any additional jail time. If Goodwyn were to violate the terms of his community supervision, prosecutors could seek to proceed with adjudication. The possible penalty for the second degree felony would be a jail term of two to 20 years.

Goodwyn was employed by the district court for more than 30 years prior to his arrest. Due to his working relationship with the court, Goodwyn’s case was heard by visiting judge Elizabeth Berry, and attorney Lisa Mullen represented the state. Decatur attorney Barry Green represented Goodwyn.

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Estes named to SWIFT advisory panel

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has appointed Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) advisory committee.

The position filled by Estes was vacated by Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, who retired to become chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

Last November, Texas voters approved Proposition 6 and the creation of SWIFT, a state-funded account to assist in financing rural water projects, projects related to conservation and reuse, and water projects in communities and cities of all sizes throughout the state.

The advisory committee is comprised of a designee of the state comptroller, three state senators and three state representatives. It makes recommendations on rulemaking, the fund’s investment policy and how money will be spent. Each year the advisory committee will receive a written report on investments made using SWIFT funds.

“Concerning water availability in Texas, the decisions we make now have great implications for the future,” said Estes. “This is why I will use my appointment to ensure the money allocated by the people of Texas to SWIFT is used wisely and responsibly to develop and conserve water resources in this state.”

Estes serves nearly 820,000 constituents across Senate District 30, which includes Wise and 13 other counties.

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Reunion: Occupation of Joe Wheeler Park begins

Reunion: Occupation of Joe Wheeler Park begins

Several of the historic cabins at the Wise County Reunion grounds are getting makeovers.

Cabin owners and hired hands have been out at the park for almost two weeks, preparing the short-term residences for the week of Reunion.

This Old House

THIS OLD HOUSE – David Wade takes a break from repairing the Woodruff Family Cabin at the Wise County Reunion Grounds. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Chase Chapman, owner of Chapman Irrigation, said his cabin is getting new sod laid to prepare for the ever-popular washer tournament.

“We spend a lot of time out here playing,” Chapman said, “it’s better than just being out in the road.”

Chapman’s team has medaled in three of the past four washer tournaments. This year, the tournament’s single-elimination format has several teams changing their approach to the competition.

Serious Business

SERIOUS BUSINESS – Boards for the washer tourney are laid out. Organizers plan to go for a world record at the event. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“The strategy is simple,” Chapman said. “Don’t lose a game.”

This year’s tournament, to be held on Tuesday, is going for a Guinness world record and is expected to attract more than 100 teams.

Just down the road from Chapman’s cabin, David Wade is busy working on another cabin.

The contractor said time has played a big role in the degradation of several cabins’ structural stability.

“After 60-plus years, things start to fall apart,” Wade said. “You have to stay on top of it. With weathering aging the wood, it’s gotten a bit shaky.”

In recent years, several of the dilapidated wooden structures at the park have been replaced by steel buildings.

For short-term improvements, Wade plans to run braces around the cabin, hoping to make up for years of damage.

“Age has a way of making things wear out,” Wade said. “There’s a lot of work to be done here.”

Jumping for Joy

JUMPING FOR JOY – Chase Chapman leaps over newly laid sod Wednesday at the Reunion Grounds at Joe Wheeler Park in Decatur. The grass came in a day before 4 1/2 inches of rain poured down on Wise County. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

REUNION ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

Monday Night

Mr. and Miss Pageant 7 p.m. Ages 6 months to 9 years

Theme: Picnic in the Park

Sponsored by Chalet of Jewelry and Sarah Jane’s Flower Shop. Applications available at Decatur Chamber of Commerce, Legend Bank, Chalet of Jewelry, DATCU and North Texas Bank.

Tuesday Night

“Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” Washer Tournament

Pre-Register at wisecountywashers.com

Registration and check-in 4 p.m. at Reunion Grounds

Tournament starts 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday Night

The Hinkles followed by Rick Bowling and Roland Upton “Ric & Rol” 7 p.m.

Thursday Night

Arrendadores del Valle 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Friday Night

Mike Ryan 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Phil Hamilton 11 p.m.

Saturday Night

Jake Hooker and The Outsiders 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Midway Entertainment Provided By: Happy World

Fresh Grass

FRESH GRASS – Garrett Blevins moves squares of fresh sod around Chase Chapman’s cabin in preparation for the Old Settlers’ Reunion. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Rain, cool temps provide welcome relief

Rain, cool temps provide welcome relief

It would have been hard to script a better scenario for a mid-July day in the midst of a drought.

Cool temperatures and storms that brought several inches of rain, yet no damaging winds or major flooding issues, were a welcome sight Thursday.

Washout

WASHOUT – County Road 2585, east of Alvord, washed out during a torrential rainfall that dumped close to 10 inches on Alvord Wednesday night into Thursday. Repair work should begin next week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The northern part of Wise County, particularly Alvord, received the most rainfall. Weather-watcher reports ranged from 7 to 9.97 inches in the area.

Rising water washed out a culvert on County Road 2585 a few miles east of Alvord. The road was closed, and repair work is expected to begin next week.

During the heaviest rainfall in the early morning hours Thursday, some roadways experienced flash flooding. Water rose over U.S. 81/287 near the roadside park north of Decatur at one point, leaving at least one vehicle stranded. No injuries were reported.

Small lakes and stock tanks with water levels well below normal thanks to the ongoing drought began to fill back up, and creeks that had been dry or reduced to a small trickle or puddles roared back to life.

A flood watch was issued Thursday afternoon for Big Sandy Creek, but a predicted second round of storms stayed to the south, meaning the creek stayed just below flood levels. The creek crested at 11.66 feet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Minor flooding begins at 12 feet.

Rare Sight

RARE SIGHT – Culverts, creeks and bar ditches got an unaccustomed workout during and after this week’s rain. Although impact on Lake Bridgeport was minimal, the deluge did fill up most stock tanks and small lakes in the area. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

At the beginning of the day, the creek had stood at around 1 foot.

The rain brought Lake Bridgeport up only about three inches – meaning the lake remains more than 22 feet low. But it did increase the total acre-feet of water in the lake from 148,600 to 150,700. That 2,100-foot increase translates into around 684 million gallons of water.

To put that in perspective, the City of Decatur drew just over 165 million gallons of water from the lake from January through May of this year.

Perhaps just as valuable was the cloudy skies and cool temperatures, slowing evaporation which can drop the lake level several inches a day on dry, 100-degree-plus days.

The 4.58 inches of rain recorded in Decatur on Thursday alone already makes the entire month of July the wettest since 2010, when Decatur received 5.59 inches for the month. It could also give the city a shot at the rainfall record for July – currently 6.78 inches set in 1996.

It will also ensure a second straight month of above-average rainfall. The average rainfall for July is 2.37 inches. Last month’s 5.01 inches exceeded the average June rainfall amount of 4.26 inches.

You have to go back nearly four years, to Sept. 7, 2010, to find the last time Decatur received as much rain in a single day. The heavy rainfall in 2010 was the result of Tropical Storm Hermine.

That was also the last year Wise County had above-normal annual rainfall, and the last time area lakes were full.

Other rainfall totals from around Wise County Thursday included 4.3 inches in Greenwood, 2 in Bridgeport, 1.8 in Paradise, 1.7 in Cottondale and 1.59 in Rhome.

The cold front that accompanied the rain provided unseasonably cool temperatures Friday as temperatures remained in the 60s into mid-afternoon under cloudy skies. High temperatures were expected to remain in the 80s on Saturday before climbing back into the mid-and upper-90s next week.

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Insurance bite could’ve been worse; County’s loss ratio means higher premiums

Wise County is facing an 11.3 percent hike in employee health insurance rates, effective Oct. 1, but the double-digit increase is not as high as originally anticipated.

In a special meeting last week, Brian Stephens with Stephens, Bastian and Cartwright told county commissioners that the initial renewal rate called for a 38.9 percent increase.

“It’s ugly,” he said. “But honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t higher than that.”

He explained that the key factor in determining insurance rates is medical loss ratio – the dollar amount of claims spent versus the amount of premiums paid into the plan.

“They want you at 80 to 85 percent, and you’ve been at 120 percent,” he said. “That means 20 percent more premiums were paid out than in.”

In a comparison of Wise County’s statistics to other entities on an Aetna plan, every average was higher with the exception of length of hospital stay. Stephens said the categories that probably most greatly affected the rate increase were the higher than average number of surgeries and emergency room visits.

He recommended educating employees on which physicians’ offices are open at night or on weekends, to help cut down on trips to the ER.

“Your loss ratio has been bad for two years in a row,” he said. “You have a large number of large claims and so what we did was in anticipation of this, we asked Aetna, ‘If we don’t take it to market, what’s the best you can do?’

“As it turns out, we got an offer from them that blows me away,” he said. “I’ve never been more certain in my career that this is a deal that we shouldn’t pass up.”

Aetna put a package together that would allow the county to keep its current plan with only a 19.4 percent increase. This would mean an annual total cost increase of $816,612.

Stephens also presented commissioners with two other plans that cost even less but that are slightly different from the county’s current insurance plan.

Option 1 called for a 14 percent increase – an additional $590,448 annually – and option 2 reflected an 11.3 percent increase or $474,852 annually.

The increases affect those across the entire plan (employees and dependents), so a portion will be absorbed by employees. The county pays 100 percent of employees’ insurance costs and 65 percent of dependent coverage.

In their regular meeting Monday, commissioners decided to go with option 2. It also includes a 6.8 percent increase in dental insurance, but no increase for life insurance.

“It’s not fun, but it’s the nature of the beast in this day and time,” said County Judge Glenn Hughes.

The new health insurance plan includes a $1,000 deductible, where previously there was none, and a $2,500 out-of-pocket maximum. Specialist co-pay is $60.

The increased cost to employees per paycheck for health insurance is $13.12 for an “employee + 1″ plan, and $18.92 for an “employee and family” plan.

At the meeting, Hughes asked Stephens how long it would take to “get back in the good graces” of the insurance company.

It’s a function of time and number of members, Stephens said.

“The more people in your group, the less time it takes,” he said. “Most carriers will put the most emphasis on the last 12 months.”

He said other considerations are the number and acuity of conditions in the group.

“Health conditions of the group is a major consideration of what next year’s claims are going to be,” he said. “You have a couple of large claims and some of them are ongoing. Large claims data is more than twice of what we’d like to see.”

Stephens did not recommend shopping around for insurance because the county’s medical loss ratio is so poor.

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Constable vehicles will all be marked

There will no longer be any unmarked constable vehicles on Wise County roads.

County commissioners decided Monday that all constable vehicles should be marked in accordance with the Texas Transportation Code.

The issue was brought up when Precinct 3 Constable Doug Parr, who currently drives an unmarked vehicle, asked that regular license plate tags be put on his car.

He currently has exempt tags, which according to the state Transportation Code, are to be used only on marked vehicles.

“I was asking (Judge Glenn Hughes) about getting that fixed so that I’m running legally just like the sheriff’s civil deputies and the county attorney investigators and D.A. investigators and everybody else,” he said. “That was my request, just to put tags on it, so it’s legal.”

But the discussion quickly shifted from the topic of tags to the issue of marked versus unmarked cars.

Commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg said section 721.004 of the Texas Transportation Code requires that county-owned vehicles be marked, but section 721.005 allows commissioners to exempt certain vehicles from inscription, including those belonging to constables.

“The question for the court is whether you want constables to have unmarked vehicles,” he said. “That would allow them to go down and have regular plates.”

Currently, vehicles used by Constables Dennis Hudson and Larry Short, in Precincts 1 and 2 respectively, are marked, and Parr’s is unmarked. Precinct 4 Constable Kevin Huffman’s vehicle is marked, but it’s white-on-white, which is potentially difficult to see.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White was the first to speak up.

“I personally would like to see our constable cars marked,” he said. “Tags on it impress me none.

“If they go out to serve papers or something, they need to be identified when they’re driving up,” he said. “They should have some type of marking visible. I don’t like the black lettering on black cars.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance said as a retired police officer, he understands why Parr might want an unmarked car, but in his current position he agrees with White.

“The citizens are going to call us and are going to say there’s some jasper out there with a gun on, and we don’t know what he’s doing and all that,” he said.

“My question would be why is my department different from others in the county doing the exact same job?” Parr asked.

White said he wasn’t opposed to marking all of them because he sees it as a safety issue.

“Why are we going around with marked cars and unmarked cars for law enforcement?” he asked.

The Sheriff’s Office uses two unmarked cars to serve civil papers and has other unmarked vehicles used by investigators and administrators.

“We have two that both have regular tags, and (the deputies serving papers) wear a gun and a badge and a Sheriff’s Office shirt, not a uniform,” said Sheriff David Walker.

He said at training, unmarked cars are recommended because the papers being served aren’t criminal in nature, and an unmarked vehicle is less conspicous and therefore, less embarrassing for citizens.

“A lot of times you’re serving people civil papers, divorce papers, evicting someone out of a house, and this, that and the other,” he said. “That’s why we do it. Could it be a safety issue? Yes, obviously it can. (The deputies) are both in unmarked vehicles but wear identifiable clothes. They’re forbidden from making traffic stops unless it’s an emergency situation. That’s how we have ours set up.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said he’d heard from local constables and those in other counties that marked constable vehicles deter crime while patrolling, even though they’re not stopping people.

White said he wasn’t trying to run down anyone’s department, but he wasn’t sure a badge and uniform were enough to properly identify an officer.

“You hear in the Metroplex all the time about a man dressed up like a police offer,” he said. “He gets out of a car, rapes a woman or whatever he does, robs them … just because he’s got a badge on doesn’t tell me he’s a peace officer, but if he drives up in a marked car, not everyone is going to drive around in a car that says ‘constable.’ Then if you see them get out with a gun and a badge, you pretty well know they’re employees of the county.

“I’d hate to get out of an unmarked car and serve papers,” he said. “It’s a good way to get shot in my opinion.”

Parr said he’s been shot at before, so that was “of paramount concern.”

“And that was in a marked car,” he said, “so if they’re going to shoot at you, it really doesn’t matter which kind of car.”

Parr said he simply has better luck serving papers in an unmarked car.

“I’ve had a marked car, and as soon as you round the corner in a marked car, half the people you deal with hit the door and won’t answer and that causes me two or three more trips, and I have to get an order from the judge to post it because they won’t answer the door.”

He said some of the people he deals with may also have criminal history and assume a marked car is tied to a more serious infraction, causing them to run or just not answer the door. If he pulls up in an unmarked car, he said people are more likely to at least answer the door, and he can simply hand them the papers.

He also echoed Walker’s statement, saying since his work is not criminal in nature, it’s less embarrassing for citizens when he’s serving papers to have an unmarked car parked in front of their home or business.

“Whatever you guys decide, I’ll be fine,” he said. “Safety is obviously my main concern going out anyway, and I’ll do what I have to do to protect myself.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Potts made a motion to have proper signage on all constable vehicles, and Lamance gave it a second. The motion passed unanimously.

According to the state Transportation Code, marked vehicles should have the name of the county and the office to which the vehicle belongs on each side of the vehicle. The decals must be in a “color sufficiently different from the body of the vehicle so that the lettering is plainly legible.”

It also says the inscription must be legible 100 feet away.

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Former jail employees indicted on drug charges

Two former Wise County Jail employees are facing felony charges, accused of stealing drugs meant for inmates.

Jina Stone Jernigan, 45, of Boyd and Rachel Nicole Flake, 33, of Bridgeport were both arrested July 8 for fraudulent possession of a controlled substance. Jernigan posted $5,000 bond and Flake posted $10,000 bond and were released. The two were indicted June 26 by a Wise County grand jury.

According to the indictment, the two were in possession of hydrocodone they obtained through their duties at the jail.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said the two were in charge of handing out medication to inmates during the time of the alleged offense around Dec. 12 of last year. Walker said both have resigned from the Sheriff’s Office.

The charge is a third-degree felony.

Other felony indictments returned last month by the grand jury include:

Justin Michael Graham, theft of property less than $1,500 with two or more previous convictions

Johnathan Parker Johnson, four counts of forgery financial instrument

Tara Renee Hopson, abandon/endanger child criminal negligence (two counts)

Jerry Wayne Park, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

John Ted Williams Lampkins, money laundering $1,500-$20,000

Hunter Glyn Shave, forgery financial instrument

Rick Daniel McClure, money laundering $1,500-$20,000

Bobby Joe Sparks, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation (one count); injury to a disabled with intent to cause bodily injury (one count)

Reece Alois Peden, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information less than 5 items

Randall Wayne Price, theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Kris Edward Rau, murder, and tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair human corpse (related story was featured in the July 2 Wise County Messenger)

Bobby Charles Splawn Jr., unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon (one count); possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Francisco Lozan Betancourt, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Brian Keith Crowley, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

James Tyler Capers, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Rodney Adam Hurdsman, theft of property $20,000-$100,000

Bobby Wayne Malone, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram, and three counts of theft of property $1,500-$20,000

Ignacio Alonso Jimenez, prohibited substance in a correctional facility – cocaine

Patrick Ray Patterson, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Jill Helen Dorsett, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information less than 5 items, and forgery government/national institution/money/security

Carlson Dwayne Archer, 16 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and indecency with a child sexual contact (related story was featured in the July 2 Messenger)

David Klatt Smith, two counts of theft of material aluminum/bronze/copper/brass less than $20,000

Michael Shane McGuffin, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury

Khristina Renate Jones, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury

Rusty Allen Hamby, injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury

Thomas Charlie Garrett III, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Craig Coulter Stevens, possession of a controlled – methamphetamine, substance 1-4 grams

Luis Antonio Lara Ornelas, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, 1-4 grams

Keelan Marshall Teel, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Christy Mullen Livingston, manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance – alprazolam, less than 28 grams

Jose Trejo, manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams

Jessica Dianne Puckett, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Leslie Ray Gilmore Jr., possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Rachel Marie Reeder, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Bryan Taylor Davis, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Chbira George Chavira, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 4-200 grams (one count); evading arrest/detention with a vehicle (one count)

Jesus Roa III, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Gregory Don Barnes, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

John Thomas Schaffer, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams (one count); possession of a controlled substance – heroin, less than 1 gram

Gregory Don Barnes, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, 1-4 grams

Ryan Layne Short, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Sharla Hay Baldovino, possession of a controlled substance – dihydrocodeineone, greater than or equal to 400 grams (one count); possession of a controlled substance – morphine, 4-200 grams (one count); possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, 1-4 grams

Blake Elliot King, assault family/household member impede breath/circulation

Clayton Wayne Harwell, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

Bobbi Jo Hill, possession of a controlled substance – methamphetamine, less than 1 gram

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4-H’ers place at district competition

Wise County 4-H’ers recently submitted record books to the Rolling Plains District 3 competition, which was judged at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Archer City.

There are 24 counties in Rolling Plains District 3, and 213 books were entered in 39 different project areas. These included 64 junior records, 82 intermediate records and 67 senior records.

Junior and intermediate records were placed first through fifth.

First place senior records will be submitted to state competition where they will compete for scholarships and awards.

Below is a list of Wise County participants, the category entered and how they placed.

JUNIORS

Ross Edwards, beef, first place
Angelina Newbold, clothing and textiles, first place
Kailee Beth Buyers, clothing and textiles, fourth place
Allie Tribe, clothing and textiles, fifth place
Abigail Newbold, companion animal, first place
Brianna McKeever, companion animal, second place
Easton Vanover, consumer education, first place
Jessi Torres, food and nutrition, fourth place
Maranda Haschke, gardening, first place
Dustin Meadows, goat, fifth place
Rylee Maggret, horse, first place
Luke Tribe, photography, first place
Clayton Meyers, photography, second place
Cale Laaser, poultry, second place
Jacob Lowrie, poultry, fourth place

INTERMEDIATE

Johanna Buyers, beef, participant
Kaylyn Shallene, beef, participant
Saydee Herndon, companion animal, first place
Michaela Martin, dairy, first place
Clint Demmitt, goat, second place
Cassady Craddock, horse, third place
Autumn Martinets, horse, participant
Ray Edwards, personal development, second place
Brady Vanover, photography, first place
Hannah Buckner, photography, second place
Lauryn Luttrull, rabbit, first place
Carson Read, swine, third place
Danae Meadows, swine, participant

SENIOR

Seth Byers, beef, third place
Fallon Sachse, clothing and textiles, first place
Keaton Vawter, companion animal, first place
Lyndi Luttrull, consumer education, first place
Logan Moore, foods and nutrition, first place
Olivia Bettesworth, goat, fourth place
Morgan Barnes, health, first place
Sarah Jennings, horse, fifth place
Christian Cross, leadership, first place
Caitlin Pruett, personal development, first place
Shelby Vanover, photography, second place
Haylee Barksdale, safety, first place
Clayton Egle, wildlife and fisheries, second place

Record books involve keeping track of all of the activities, community service, awards, and any other things related to a 4-H’er’s major project.

Record books allow students to learn responsibility, creative writing and effective record keeping that will benefit them later in life, and parents appreciate the collection of records when it’s time for their seniors to apply for scholarships.

Wise County seniors brought home $72,000 in scholarships this year, and that wouldn’t have been possible without all they learned through keeping record books.

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Solar rollers: Sun-powered cars to pass through Decatur Tuesday

The 2014 American Solar Challenge – a cross-country race from Austin to Minneapolis – will roll through Decatur Tuesday morning.

They won’t be stopping for gas.

Solar Speeders

SOLAR SPEEDERS – The University of Texas Solar Vehicle Team is one of 23 expected to roll through Wise County Tuesday morning in the 2014 American Solar Challenge race. After starting Monday morning in Austin, the race will end July 28 in Minneapolis. Submitted photo

As many as 23 teams, made up of engineering students from universities in the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, Germany, Puerto Rico and Iran, have built vehicles powered by solar energy for the race, which is held every two years.

After three days of qualifying and “scrutineering” on the Grand Prix track at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, the vehicles and teams will charge up and leave Austin Monday morning, heading up U.S. 281 through Lampasas, Stephenville and Granbury before stopping for the night in Weatherford.

They’ll leave Tuesday morning around 9 a.m. from the Weatherford College campus and come up Farm Road 51 through Springtown.

After jogging west on Texas 114, they’ll continue north on 51 into Decatur. The entourage will get on the U.S. 81/287 access road and then take Business U.S. 81/287 northwest until it merges with the main highway north of town.

Then it’s on through Alvord, Bowie, up to Duncan, Okla., and another overnight stop, this time in Norman, Okla.

The 1,700-mile journey ends July 28 on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

At stops along the way, the public is invited to come out, see the cars and talk with team members. Barring unforeseen problems, no one will be stopping in Decatur – but the public is invited to turn out and watch them go by, and local drivers are urged to give them a little space as they move through town.

The winner of the American Solar Challenge is determined by the total elapsed time to complete the race route.

For information on the event, visit americansolarchallenge.org.

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UIL changes play clock

The length of high school football games may shorten this fall with the newest rule change.

The University Interscholastic League will change from the 25-second game clock to a 40-second clock that will start as soon as the previous play ended. Before, the play clock started after officials set the ball.

“It should speed up the game a bit. You’ll be able to play faster,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “You won’t have to wait. It’ll allow you to snap the ball faster.”

While there is support for the change, coaches admit there will be some adjustment this first season.

“Not everyone will be used to it,” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “I don’t think it’ll be consistent this year.”

But Bridgeport coach Danny Henson said it will eventually be a benefit and bring more consistency with clock keepers knowing to reset the clock as soon as a whistle is blown.

The 25-second clock is not totally going away, however. The play clock will still be set at 25 seconds after penalties and to start quarters.

With the tempo of the game expected to increase as teams snap the ball quicker, coaches were focused even more on conditioning this summer.

“With the new rules, you have to get in better shape on both sides of the ball,” Hopkins said.

Several area teams are planning to take advantage of the new rule and play at a faster pace.

“We want to snap the ball as soon as the whistle is blown,” Carter said.

Coaches will also need to consider their approach in the final minute of halves. Without a timeout or dead ball, teams could run the final 40 seconds of a half out without needing to run a play.

The change won’t affect just players and the timers. The UIL released an advisory to schools about ball boys and chain crews.

The UIL recommends that game balls be kept on both sidelines with a pair of ball boys. The league also suggests a ball retriever on the sidelines to assist the ball boys. The UIL also suggested the ball boys be at least in the seventh grade and, optimally, in high school.

The league also stressed the importance of the chain crew being able to work quickly, adding that “the down box/marker must hustle” to the succeeding spot.

The UIL recommended schools have an alternate down box on the opposite side of the field that would mark the previous spot until the ball was marked ready for play.

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Zebra mussels found in Lake

It’s been about a year since zebra mussel DNA was confirmed in Lake Bridgeport.

The old saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has proved true again, as adult zebra mussels have now been found in the lake.

Recently, a diver scouring the bottom of the lake for freshwater mussels native to Texas waters hauled in more than he bargained for. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries expert Bruce Hysmith, attached to his catch were thumbnail-sized zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels cause environmental and economic damage. Some of the most pressing concerns are over community water supplies. The mussels can clog water intake pipes and other machinery necessary to keep the taps flowing.

Lake Bridgeport, owned and operated by the Tarrant Regional Water District, supplies much of Wise county’s drinking water. The reservoir is also used to store water for other lakes downstream, although it has been about a year since TRWD has allowed water from Lake Bridgeport to flow downstream.

TRWD’s Engineering Services Director, David Marshall, said the discovery of adult zebra mussels is unnerving – but it is still early and Lake Bridgeport might not suffer as much as other area reservoirs.

“Lake Ray Roberts has the highest population in Texas, higher even than Lake Texoma,” Marshall said. “We are not sure why there is such a difference between Texoma and Ray Roberts, but we could see conditions like Texoma in Lake Bridgeport.”

Since Lake Bridgeport’s flow goes down the Trinity into Eagle Mountain Lake, it’s likely that reservoir, too, will be impacted. Zebra mussel DNA has already been detected in Eagle Mountain.

Marshall said TRWD has been working with water experts from the northeast, as they have more experience dealing with this species. The consensus is that, because Lake Bridgeport gets warmer than many other reservoirs, zebra mussel growth could be curbed naturally.

“We try to monitor what kind of population there is and right now we have very low population,” Marshall said. “We still have to be vigilant in our maintenance.”

Marhsall said zebra mussels typically affect things like low-flow control valves and intake screens. He said TRWD brings divers in twice a year to inspect, clean and maintain their equipment to avoid costly problems.

This is also a concern for local entities that draw from the reservoir. Decatur Public Works Director Earl Smith said his department might even use closed-circuit cameras to monitor the city’s intake system.

“We can drop them in to see the structures which should be clean,” Smith said. “If the zebra mussels start multiplying, they’ll plug those pipes up.”

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Zebra mussels, which first came into the United States via shipping in the Great Lakes, are a destructive, invasive species that spreads via fishing boats and trailers. They are only about 1- inches long and are clearly distinguished by their zebra-striped shells.

The shells are sharp and pose a danger to swimmers. An abundance of the mussels can also affect water taste and quality.

According to www.texasinvasives.org, zebra mussels are present in Lake Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Lavon and Belton. Evidence of the mussels has also been found in Lake Ray Hubbard, Grapevine, Lake Fork, Takwoni, the Red River below Lake Texoma, the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, and Sister Grove Creek.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the mussels, the state requires anglers and boaters to drain all water from their vessels – including live wells, bilges, motors and other receptacles – on approaching or leaving a body of water.

That law went into effect July 1, and Texas has made possession or transportation of zebra mussels a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Repeat offenses can be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, and jail time up to 180 days.

One zebra mussel can produce up to 1 million larvae, invisible to the naked eye.

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