Wise County Hunting Seasons

WHITETAIL DEER
Archery only
Sep. 27 – Oct. 31
General Season
Nov. 1 to Jan. 4
Youth only
Early Youth-Only Season
Oct. 25 – 26
Late Youth-Only Season
Jan. 5 – 18
Late antlerless and spike
Jan. 5 – 18
Bag Limit: Four deer, no more than two bucks, and no more than two antlerless, all seasons combined.

TURKEY
Archery only
Sep. 27 – Oct. 31
Youth only
Early Youth-Only Season
Oct. 25 – 26
Late Youth-Only Season
Jan. 17 – 18
General fall season
Nov. 1 – Jan. 4
Bag composition either sex
Bag limit: The annual bag limit for turkey, in the aggregate for all counties, is four, no more than one of which may be an Eastern turkey.

QUAIL
General season
Oct. 25 – Feb. 22
Daily bag limit: 15
Possession limit: 45

DUCK
Youth only
Oct. 25 – 26
General season
Nov. 1 – Dec. 7
Dec. 20 – Jan. 25
Daily bag limit: Three migratory game birds, singly or in the aggregate.
Possession limit: Nine migratory game birds, singly or in the aggregate.

DUSKY DUCK
Nov. 6 – Dec. 7
Dec. 21 – Jan. 26
Duck daily bag limit: Six in the aggregate. Including no more than five mallards (only two may be hens), three wood ducks, three scaup, two redheads, two pintail, two canvasback, and one “dusky” duck. For all other species not listed, the bag limit shall be six. Mottled duck, Mexican like duck, black duck and their hybrids are closed the first five days of the season in each zone.

MERGANSER DAILY BAG
Limit five in the aggregate, to include no more than two hooded mergansers.
Coot daily bag limit: 15 birds
Possession limit: Three times the daily bag limit

DOVE NORTH ZONE
General season
Sep. 1 – Oct. 20
Dec. 20 – Jan. 5
Daily bag limit: 15 white-winged, mourning and white-tipped doves in the aggregate, to include no more than two whitetipped
Possession Limit Three times the daily bag limit
Daily bag limit: Three in the aggregate
Possession limit: Three times the daily bag limit

GEESE WEST ZONE:
West of US 81/287

LIGHT AND DARK GEESE
Nov. 1 – Feb. 1

LIGHT GEESE
Feb. 2 – Mar. 22
Daily bag limit: Five Dark geese with no more than one White-fronted goose, 20 Light geese.
Possession limit: Dark geese three times the daily bag limit. Light geese, no possession limit.

GOOSE EAST ZONE:
East of US 81/287

CANADA GEESE
Season Sep. 13 – 28
Nov. 1 – Jan. 25

LIGHT GEESE
Nov. 1 – Jan. 25

LIGHT GEESE
Jan. 26 – Mar. 22

WHITE-FRONTED GEESE
Nov. 1 – Jan. 11
Daily bag limit: Three Canada geese, two White-fronted geese, 20 Light geese.
Possession limit: Dark geese three times the daily bag limit. Light geese no possession limit.

Source: TPWD.state.tx.us

LICENSE INFO

GENERAL HUNTING LICENSE
$25
Valid to hunt any legal bird or animal.

YOUTH HUNTING LICENSE
$7
For any resident or nonresident, under 17.

SENIOR RESIDENT HUNTING
$7
Valid only for residents 65 years of age and older.

ANNUAL PUBLIC HUNTING PERMIT
$48

UPLAND GAME BIRD STAMP ENDORSEMENT
$7
Required to hunt turkey, pheasant, quail or chachalaca.

DUCK STAMP
$17
Required for all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older.

TEXAS MIGRATORY GAME BIRD STAMP ENDORSEMENT
$7
Required to hunt any migratory game bird (waterfowl, coot, rail, gallinule, snipe, dove, sandhill crane and woodcock).

ARCHERY STAMP ENDORSEMENT
$7
Required to hunt deer or turkey during an archery only open season.

HUNTER EDUCATION CERTIFICATION
$15
Hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971, must complete a Hunter Education Training Course. Certification info is at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoor-learning/hunter-education/onlinecourse.

Source: TPWD.state.tx.us

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Appeals court to hear Ross case

Former County Commissioner Terry Ross will get yet another day in court.

Or at least, his case will.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth will hear oral arguments in Ross’ appeal of his removal from office at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14. The case will be heard by a panel of three judges – Chief Justice Terrie Livingston, Justice Sue Walker and Justice Lee Gabriel.

Ross’ attorney, David Fielding, requested an oral argument in an appellant brief filed July 14, which summarizes Ross’ version of the facts and contends the summary judgment in his removal case was unwarranted.

Wise County Attorney James Stainton also requested an oral argument in a brief filed Aug. 12, and on Sept. 3, the court set the date for oral arguments.

Ross was removed from office March 19 by a summary judgment issued by District Judge Roger Towery, settling 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 into Ross’ use of county money and employees, on county time, to build a playhouse for his grandchildren in the county barn.

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 but less than $500. After multiple delays, he was scheduled to go before a judge and jury Sept. 23, 2013, 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.”

He contends that he did not waive his right to a jury trial in the removal case just because he waived it in the criminal case by pleading guilty. He also claims that his misdemeanor conviction did not involve official misconduct and therefore was not subject to a summary judgment and removal. His lawyer also said in the brief that conviction of a Class B misdemeanor does not permit his removal from office under the “immediate removal” statute.

In Stainton’s response, he says “the facts leading up to (Ross’) removal from office should not be in dispute.” He also writes that “according to the judgment of conviction, (Ross) pled guilty ‘as alleged in the indictment’ and agreed that his actions constituted an abuse of official capacity.”

The summary of Stainton’s argument says: “… Ross is prohibited from re-litigating any issues in this case, which were previously litigated in the criminal case. Further, regardless of (Ross’) intent, he was automatically removed from office upon his plea and conviction for misdemeanor abuse of official capacity. Thus, the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in this matter should be affirmed.”

Both sides will present an oral argument next month in the Appeals Court – and those proceedings are open to the public. The Second Court of Appeals is in the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center, 401 W. Belknap, Suite 9000, in Fort Worth.

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King to host Town Hall at WCWC; State water, transportation officials due at forum

State Rep. Phil King will host a town hall forum 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, in the lecture hall at Weatherford College Wise County.

King_Phil.jpg

Phil King

Water and transportation issues will be the topic, with guests Kathleen Jackson, director of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), and Victor Vandergriff, commissioner of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Jackson will discuss the TWDB’s role and the need to develop a wide range of solutions to the state’s water needs. Promising technologies and collaborative partnerships to meet current and future water needs can help ensure Texas maintains a healthy and vibrant economy.

TWDB is actively engaged in a new level of public and community outreach across the state to address the development of water resources.

Jackson will highlight policies and procedures that have changed at the agency since the passage of House Bill 4 and will provide an update on implementing the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Vandergriff to the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees statewide activities of TxDOT, on March 26, 2013. He is an attorney and private businessman specializing in business development and legislative issues.

From 2009 to 2013, Vandergriff chaired the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board. He was also a board member for the North Texas Tollway Authority from 2007 to 2013 and served as chairman from 2010 to 2011.

The public is invited to this discussion and forum.

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Truck driver treated after FM 455 rollover

A Gilbow Oilfield Services truck driver was treated for minor injuries at Wise Regional Health System after flipping his 18-wheeler over while dodging a deer in the middle of Farm Road 455 Friday morning.

Truck Flip

TRUCK FLIP – First responders examine the crash scene Friday morning on FM 455 after a driver flipped an 18-wheeler when he avoided a deer in the road. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Eli Rucker was driving a saltwater disposal truck south on FM 455 just past the Cooke County line at 9 a.m. Friday when he saw a deer in the road and dodged it, Greenwood/Slidell assistant fire chief Tim Fletcher said.

Rucker missed the deer but flipped the 18-wheeler over to the north side of the road. Wise County medics and the Greenwood/Slidell Fire Department were on scene to assist.

Rucker was transported to Wise Regional Health System via ambulance.

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County to replace jail’s rooftop

The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is the last of 11 county buildings to have its roof repaired after an ice storm nine months ago.

While work was being started on the other structures, county commissioners danced around hiring someone for the million-dollar S.O. job before finally giving the nod Aug. 25 to Eikon Consulting, an engineering firm in Sanger.

The hire was made at the recommendation of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.

The Sheriff’s Office, along with several other county buildings, was damaged by ice in early December 2013. County Asset Manager Diana Alexander said while she was gathering information and specs to bid the repair work, the county was hit by a severe hail storm in February. When commissioners met in March, they decided to add the hail damage to list of repairs and bid out all the work at once – except for the Sheriff’s Office.

The insurance company said the 106,000-square-foot roof that covers not only the administration offices, but also the Wise County Jail, would need to be replaced.

Alexander said the work on other buildings was in the $200 to $500 range per structure and was easy to describe and put into a bid packet. But the scope of the work required to replace the S.O. roof was much greater and would require the insight of an engineer.

In April, commissioners gave Sheriff David Walker authority to find an engineer for the job.

Over the course of the next few months, Walker made several suggestions, including Southwest Architects, the firm that built the jail, but each recommendation seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Although they never discussed it in a public meeting or elaborated on what firm might be better than those suggested, commissioners continually denied Walker’s recommendations and put off making a decision.

On Aug. 11, commissioners changed the way they had gone about seeking an engineer, and decided to ask for requests for qualifications (RFQs). But by Aug. 19, they had changed their minds again. At a budget workshop they discussed ditching the RFQ request and just hiring someone – which was the original plan. Commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg said the RFQ process could take too long, further delaying the work, and complicating budget plans for fiscal year 2015.

Walker suggested another firm, Building Envelope Consultants out of Houston, but that suggestion got zero response from commissioners.

County Judge Glenn Hughes acknowledged Walker’s suggestion before addressing Burns.

“Kevin, do you have someone that you know of? Do you have a name?” he asked the Precinct 2 commissioner.

Burns said he didn’t and trailed off explaining that it could be an architect or an engineer.

“Do you have someone in mind, Kevin?” the judge asked, to which Burns replied he did not.

Eikon Senior Project Manager Nathan McQuillan attended that meeting but did not speak.

He also showed up at the Aug. 25 regular commissioners meeting and was hired that day. Commissioners also rescinded their request for RFQs that day.

Burns told the Messenger last week that Eikon was recommended by Denton County Commissioner Ron Marchant, who was pleased with the work the firm had completed on a detention center in his county. He said McQuillan attended the Aug. 19 meeting after hearing from Marchant that Wise County was looking for an engineering firm.

Alexander said McQuillan will write the scope of the project and likely put it into a bid packet.

“He’s our liasion and our representative on this project and making sure our interests are watched out for,” she said.

The insurance company estimated the damage at $820,000, but a third-party engineer told the county it would cost between $1.2 to $1.3 million. County Auditor Ann McCuiston said the insurance company will likely cover any additional expense but not until the work is complete.

Any expenses that occur in the meantime will be covered by capital expenditure money and replaced when insurance money is received.

The county will pay Eikon a percentage of the final construction cost, but those numbers are still being negotiated.

Walker said McQuillan was on the job bright and early Aug. 26.

MORE ROOF WORK

Rock Roofing and Construction LLC completed repairs – some major, some minor – on 10 other county buildings in late July and early August. Total cost was $47,452, all of which is covered by insurance.

The projects included:

  • Juvenile Probation, 401 Rook Ramsey
  • EMS, 1101 W. Rose Ave.
  • Wise County Animal Shelter, 119 PR 4195
  • Courthouse Annex, 205 N. State St.
  • Bridgeport Annex, 1007 13th St.
  • Precinct 1 equipment shed, 1151 N. FM 51
  • Adult Probation, 105 E. Walnut St.
  • Financial Building, 207 N. Church St.
  • Financial Building storage, 207 N. Church St.
  • WARM/Red Cross, 300 N. Trinity St.

*All buildings listed above are in Decatur except the Bridgeport Annex.

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Wettest summer since ’07 can’t bust drought

For the third month in a row, Wise County received higher-than-average rainfall.

Despite that good news, most of the county remains under “severe drought” conditions as the calendar turns to September.

Drought Graphic

After an abnormally dry spring, rainfall has been plentiful this summer. Weather watcher Doyle Green of Decatur recorded 2.57 inches of rain in August, slightly higher than the average amount of 2.31 inches for the month.

During the meteorological summer (June 1 to Aug. 31), Wise County received 15.66 inches of rain, including a record 8.08 inches in July. The average rainfall for that three-month time period is 9.08 inches. It marked the wettest summer since 2007.

That came on the heels of five straight months of below-average rainfall totals to begin 2014. From Jan. 1 to May 31, the county got only 7.83 inches of rain – 8.57 inches below normal.

For the year, Wise County is now just under 2 inches below normal.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of Aug. 26, the southwestern portions of Wise County were listed as “extreme drought” areas, with the rest of the county categorized as “severe drought.”

The recent rains have also done little to help fill up Lake Bridgeport. As of Tuesday, the lake remained nearly 23 feet below conservation level.

Temperatures achieved a rare feat for August in Wise County. Green’s records indicate the high never officially reached 100 degrees. The highest temperature recorded in August was 98 on Aug. 22 and Aug. 25.

Last August, nine days of 100 degrees or higher were recorded. In fact, the average high temperature in August of 2014 was nearly 4 and-a-half degrees cooler than last August – 92.3 degrees compared to 96.7 degrees.

The lowest temperature last month actually dipped into the 50s when a low temperature of 58 degrees was recorded Aug. 2.

Although September started off blazing hot, forecasters are calling for highs only in the mid-90s this week, with rain chances returning this weekend. By next Thursday, Sept. 11, a high temperature of 79 is predicted.

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United Way kickoff luncheon Thursday

The United Way of Wise County will kick off its 2014 fundraising campaign with a luncheon Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Decatur Civic Center.

The group hopes to raise $450,000 this fall for Wise County charities.

Those agencies will set up display tables at the Civic Center from 10:30 to 11:45 so those in attendance can drop by and see what they do. The United Way in Wise County helps support 28 agencies that focus on basic needs, health, youth development and victim services.

The luncheon program begins with an invocation, posting of the colors by the Wise County Veterans Group and the singing of “America, the Beautiful” by the entire crowd.

After lunch, catered by Uniquely Wise Catering, event sponsors and providers will be recognized and United Way president Mike McQuiston will offer some remarks. The program continues with a review of the allocations by Vice President Michael Petty, an overview of the campaign by Vice President Sabrina Easley, and a brief message from Executive Director Martin Woodruff.

Tickets for the luncheon are $15 at the door. To be billed, fax the United Way office at 940-627-3684.

For information, visit wisecountyunitedway.org.

BASIC NEEDS AGENCIES

  • American Red Cross/Chisholm Trail Chapter
  • Salvation Army
  • Southeast Wise County Community Services (operated by seven supporting churches, partnering with Tarrant Area Food Bank)
  • South Wise Services (food pantry, clothing and other assistance)
  • TAPS (Texoma Area Paratransit System, a demand-response transportation system for all ages)
  • Texas Ramp Project (builds wheelchair ramps for needy disabled/elderly)
  • TNS Community Services (Texas Neighborhood Services, emergency intervention and energy assistance)
  • Trinity Habitat for Humanity (builds affordable homes)
  • WARM (Wise Area Relief Mission, largest food pantry in Wise County)
  • Wise County Committee on Aging (operates Meals on Wheels and provides transportation)

HEALTH AGENCIES

  • Wise County Community Health Center (Wise County’s only federally qualified Community Health Center)
  • Child Study Center/Fort Worth (diagnosis, treatment for children with developmental problems)
  • Raquel’s Wings for Life (flies patients to medical treatment facilities)
  • ReadyStart/Launchability (early childhood intervention)
  • Southwestern Diabetic Foundation (rehabilitation/education for boys and girls with diabetes)
  • Texas Neighborhood Services Children’s Services (operates Head Start programs)
  • Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center (free services, direction and support for women facing pregnancy)
  • Wise County Christian Counseling (individual, couples and family therapy)

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

  • Boy Scouts of America/Longhorn Council (Scouting activities, character development, leadership and service)
  • Camp Fire USA/First Texas Council (activities for boys and girls)
  • Communities in Schools of North Texas Inc. (drop-out prevention, stay-in-school services to at-risk and economically disadvantaged students in schools in Denton and Wise counties)
  • Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains Inc. (Scouting activities for girls)
  • Wise County 4-H (youth educational, leadership development)

VICTIMS’ AID AGENCIES

  • CASA of Wise County (Court Appointed Special Advocates representing abused, neglected children)
  • STAR Council (empowering individuals, families and communities to choose a substance-free lifestyle)
  • Voices for Youth and Family Services (trained volunteers to serve children in CPS custody, children whose families are in the CPS program, youth in the juvenile probation system and children whose parents are incarcerated)
  • Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force (seeks to curb domestic violence and sexual assault by empowering victims, operates a 24-hour hotline)
  • Wise Kid Care Inc. (care for abused/abandoned children)

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J.W. Hart PBR Challenge raises more than $600K

For the 11th consecutive year, Wise County’s battle of the bull riders – the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge – has bolstered the finances of local non-profit organizations and for a second year has provided free homes for war veterans.

This year, event-sponsor WC Challenger Charities (WCCC) presented $133,500 in all to 20 recipients, raising the total to $674,100.

“Having surpassed $600,000 in donations is a great milestone,” said Andrew Rottner, one of WCCC’s co-founders, “and we look forward to many more years of this volunteer community effort helping our local agencies.”

One of the original WCCC beneficiaries, United Way of Wise County, again received $25,000, bringing the umbrella organization’s total to $274,000.

WCCC gave another $2,500 – for a total of $53,000 – to PBR’s Rider Relief Fund, a financial safety net for injured cowboys who make bull riding possible.

“We’re grateful to our loyal sponsors, fans and supporters for allowing us to contribute to all of these worthy charities,” Rottner said.

Because bull riding and barbecue are a natural fit, pitmasters from as far away as Iowa competed for the first time to provide yet another source of income for WCCC.

“We were overwhelmed by the success of the Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge,” Rottner said. “The 98 teams were the most ever for an International Barbecue Cookers Association inaugural cookoff.

“We have an outstanding committee heading this up, and I predict a great future for this competition,” he continued. “It was also a hit with the public, and we anticipate much larger crowds next year.”

That one event provided $23,500 in direct support to the Wise County Animal Shelter Buddies, Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM), Decatur Fire Department and the Roy Young Memorial Scholarship.

Young, Wendell Berry Jr., Calvin Jackson and Rottner organized WC Challenger Charities in 2004. The first donation to the Young scholarship was for $4,000 in 2013, the year after he died at age 49. It received a $10,000 boost this year.

Berry has spearheaded the local effort known as 1,000 Miles ’til Home, in support of the Military Warriors Support Foundation. It helped provide five homes in both 2013 and 2014.

“This is probably our most meaningful program going forward, and we know Wendell’s continued leadership and passion will achieve more recognition for this outstanding initiative,” Rottner said.

“Words cannot describe the feeling of fulfillment that comes with presenting one of this country’s heroes a mortgage-free, gift tax-free home,” he recalled. “To see the joy in the eyes of these families is simply amazing.”

Now in its second decade, at least 35 organizations and 10 military families have benefited from the Hart bull riding and its related events, tentatively set for May 29 and 30, 2015, at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur.

Supporting Decatur Youth

SUPPORTING DECATUR YOUTH – Andrew Rottner and Alan Sessions of WC Challenger Charities present $3,000 to Connie Redwine and Deroy Bennett of the Decatur Youth Fair Buyers Association. The two organizations have been involved in putting on the JW Hart PBR Challenge since the first bull riding in 2004, and the association has earned $17,950 in all. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Co op Helps Out

CO-OP HELPS OUT – Wise Electric Co-op’s community volunteers, The Outlets, have earned another $3,000 for operating the concession stand at the JW Hart PBR Challenge, bringing their 10-year total to $17,050. From left are WC Challenger Charities’ Alan Sessions and Calvin Jackson, and The Outlet’s Bryan Shriver and Bill Hood. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Decatur Firefighters

DECATUR FIREFIGHTERS – Randy Burkhart, representing WC Challenger Charities, presents $500 to Fire Marshal Deroy Bennett of the Decatur Fire Department. With them are, from left, Andrew Rottner, Mark Tuley, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker and Wendell Berry Jr. Since its inception in 2004, the organization has donated $3,650 to the firefighters. The first Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge funded this year’s check. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Wise Youth Rodeo

WISE YOUTH RODEO – Zane Lasater, center, accepts a $1,000 donation to Wise Youth Rodeo from Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions of WC Challenger Charities for helping to put on the 11th annual JW Hart PBR Challenge at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur on May 31. The youth rodeo was held Aug. 22 and 23 during Chisholm Trail Days. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Donation to WARM

DONATION TO WARM – Wise Area Relief Mission receives $10,000 from WC Challenger Charities. Participating in the presentation are, from left, Ronnie Walker, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Randy Burkhart, Mark Tuley, WARM Executive Director Rene Ashmore, Andrew Rottner, Betty Carson and Rick Ross. WCCC’s first donation to WARM is being funded by proceeds from the first Eighter From Decatur BBQ Challenge. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Benefitting Hospital

BENEFITING HOSPITAL – For the seventh time in its 11-year history, WC Challenger Charities has made a donation to the Wise Regional Health Foundation. This year’s $3,000 brings the total to $30,000. Pictured are WCCC’s Andrew Rottner and WRHF’s Michelle Stone and Mike McQuiston. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Young Scholarship

YOUNG SCHOLARSHIP – Roy Young was a founder of WC Challenger Charities, and this year the organization is giving $10,000 to a college scholarship in his memory. The scholarship was started last year with $4,000. From left are Andrew Rottner, Mark Tuley, Carey Williams, Wade Watson, Randy Burkhart, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker, Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions. This donation is being funded by the first Eighter From Decatur BBQ Challenge. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Aggie Backers

AGGIE BACKERS – Jared Laaser of the Cross Timbers Aggie Club accepts a $2,000 donation from Andrew Rottner of WC Challenger Charities as reward for parking cars at the JW Hart bull riding. The club has earned a total of $8,050 from WCCC since 2007. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Freedom s Defenders

FREEDOM’S DEFENDERS – Wise County Veterans Group receives a $2,000 check from WC Challenger Charities, bringing total donations to $6,650 since 2005, the second year of the JW Hart PBR Challenge. From left are WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions, Armed Forces veterans Bob Johnson, Wayne Hartley and group Commander Cliff Dudley, and WCCC’s Andrew Rottner and Calvin Jackson. Additionally this year, WC Challenger Charities gave $60,000 to the Military Warriors Support Foundation, bringing its total contributions to $160,000. Berry led the local effort known as “1,000 Miles ’til Home.” Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Aiding Shelter

AIDING SHELTER – Wise County Animal Shelter Buddies is a first-time recipient of WC Challenger Charities’ generosity, and its $3,000 gift is being funded by a first-time event, the Eighter from Decatur BBQ Challenge. In on the check presentation are Wade Watson, Mark Tuley, Andrew Rottner, Carey Williams, Shelter Buddies’ Brenda Argraves, Randy Burkhart, Debra Walker, Ronnie Walker and Wendell Berry Jr. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

United Way

UNITED WAY – Wendell Berry Jr. and Andrew Rottner of WC Challenger Charities present $25,000 to Sabrina Easley and Mike McQuiston of United Way of Wise County. With them are WCCC’s Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions. WCCC raised the money at its J.W. Hart PBR Challenge bull riding. Over the 11 years of the event, WCCC has given $274,000 to United Way and has been one of the umbrella organization’s biggest supporters. Berry, Jackson, Rottner and Roy Young founded WC Challenger Charities in 2004. Sessions has helped shoulder the load for the volunteer organization since Young’s death in 2012. “Alan has been a tireless worker and partner,” Rottner said. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Decatur Cares

DECATUR CARES – This year the JW Hart PBR Challenge added a local celebrity steer-riding contest as a “halftime” attraction, and WC Challenger Charities made donations to six fearless riders’ non-profit organizations of choice. Here, Wade Watkins presents $2,000 to Ken May of Decatur Cares. With him are WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr., Andrew Rottner, Calvin Jackson and Alan Sessions. Decatur Cares is a community effort to see that children who receive at least one meal a day at school do not go underfed during the summer. May is pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur. Watson owns Texas Custom Trailers. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

Helpful Rotarians

HELPFUL ROTARIANS – The Decatur Rotary Club has parked cars at all but the first JW Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur, earning $10,900 for its volunteer effort, including a record $2,000 this year. From left are WC Challenger Charities’ Alan Sessions, Rotarians Curtis Creswell and Eileen Standridge, club President Lannie Noble, WCCC’s Andrew Rottner, Rotarian John Lanier and WCCC’s Wendell Berry Jr. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

DHS Rodeo Club

DHS RODEO – Decatur High School Rodeo Club’s Chase Wilson and Carolyn Spear accept a $1,000 donation from WC Challenger Charities’ Wendell Berry Jr. and Alan Sessions. The club received $250 last year for helping with the JW Hart professional bull-riding event. The club is hosting a North Texas High School Rodeo Association event Sept. 27 and 28 at the Wise County Fairgrounds arena on South FM51 in Decatur. Messenger photo by Ken Roselle

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Officials optimistic about finance decision

It’s not a surprise – and it’s far from over – but Thursday’s ruling in the Texas school finance lawsuit does push the state one step closer to a possible resolution of its longest-running political drama.

How should we fund public education?

State District Judge John Dietz of Austin issued his long, and long-awaited, ruling Thursday afternoon. The 400-page document says the state’s school finance system unconstitutional on several grounds. Included is an exhaustive set of findings of fact and conclusions of law giving the reasons for the ruling.

Judge Dietz had announced in February of 2013 that the system had evolved into an unconstitutional statewide property tax that fails to fund Texas schools at the level required to provide a constitutionally adequate education.

Several Wise County school superintendents, who have followed the proceedings closely, agree.

“I think it’s a win for public education – however, I don’t think the battle is over,” Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend said. “I think people are beginning to wake up and realize that the state is not pulling their fair share of the weight, but putting more of the cost on local taxpayers while demanding more at the same time.”

Bridgeport’s Eddie Bland said the ruling is exactly what he expected.

“If you can make yourself look at the school finance system objectively, and not from a political agenda perspective, there’s no doubt it’s broken,” he said.

“I have always said the distribution mechanism is relatively equitable when it’s fully funded,” he added. “But they haven’t fully funded it, so they created the inequities with the target revenues and the tweaks they tried to do to it. I believe we are underfunded and inequitable.”

The ruling sets the stage for a likely appeal directly to the Texas Supreme Court.

As part of the judgment, Judge Dietz issued an injunction against the school finance system, but delayed that until July 1, 2015, to give the legislature, which reconvenes in January, an opportunity to address the constitutional shortcomings of the system.

LOCAL TAX DOLLARS TO AUSTIN

With the budget process just wrapping up, several Wise County school districts continue to send local tax dollars to Austin under the state’s finance plan – deemed “Robin Hood” because it captures money from property-rich districts and redistributes it to property-poor districts.

Most of Wise County’s wealth comes from oil and gas. Under the state’s finance system, mineral wealth provides little help to a school district, since the state cuts funding and requires “recapture” of that local tax revenue for statewide redistribution.

Decatur will return about $4.4 million to the state this year. Bridgeport is sending back $174,000, Alvord around $110,000 and Boyd about $83,000. Statewide, that “recapture” has totaled more than $16 billion since 1993 and now accounts for about $1 billion annually.

Boyd Superintendent Ted West said state funding has become a fairly small part of his district’s budget.

“We anticipate bringing in $10.7 million dollars for this year’s budget, and $9.3 million of that is from local taxes,” he said. “We only get about $84,000 from the state this year, and we have to send $83,000 of that back. It’s kind of a shell game how the whole thing works.”

LESS MONEY, HIGHER STANDARDS

Mark Trachtenberg, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said the judge’s ruling makes it clear that the state is failing to provide schools with the resources they need to ensure all students have a meaningful opportunity to achieve state standards.

“Judge Dietz correctly reasoned that the legislature cannot substantially increase academic standards with one hand, and then cut billions out of the public education system with the other,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed after lawmakers cut roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011. In 2013, with the state’s financial picture much brighter, legislators restored about $3.4 billion of that – but Judge Dietz said the underlying problems still exist.

Alvord Superintendent Bill Branum, reporting to his board Thursday night, was pleased with the ruling.

“He found the system to be inequitable, unsuitable and inadequate, in violation of Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution,” he said. “He also found districts do not have meaningful discretion to adopt tax rates above the statutory maximum, creating a de facto state income tax, in violation of Article 8 of the Texas Constitution.”

“I sincerely hope the legislators will do the right thing this time, and fix – in a fair and equitable way – the public school finance system for the kids of Texas,” he added. “If we get that done, it’ll be a milestone that will pay huge dividends.”

Boyd’s West said the debate over school finance has been “a constant” in Texas education for more than 20 years.

“If you just look at it in one way, it’s optimistic that the system is seen as broken, because it definitely is,” he said. “But there’s nobody out there who has a definitive answer on what we’re going to do next or how we’re going to fix it.”

Townsend said he’s convinced there are too many parties “wanting to get their hands in the cookie jar, not thinking about what’s best for kids.”

“The pendulum needs to swing back the other direction,” he said. “They need to start making decisions based on what’s best for kids, how to meet their educational needs.”

Branum remained upbeat.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, money doesn’t get it done,’ and I would agree with that, to a point,” he said. “But you do have to have enough money to get it done.

“I’m very optimistic that this first step – and that’s what I’d call it – may result in real good things for Texas public school kids.”

“At least the ball is now rolling in a positive direction.”

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School enrollment holds steady

Wise County had its ups and downs the first few days of school this week, but as a rule most school districts’ enrollment held steady compared to the end of school in May and the first day of school last August.

Alvord ISD principals reported enrollment of 691 as of Thursday, down seven students from last year’s 698. The elementary campus is where the decrease hit, as principal Bridget Williams said her school’s enrollment is 327 – down from 343 at this point last year despite a bigger pre-kindergarten group.

Enrollment at the middle school was 156, while the high school’s enrollment was 208. Both of those numbers were up slightly from first-week numbers last year.

First-day enrollment numbers in Boyd ISD showed a decrease of 40 students.

A total of 1,115 students reported for the first day of classes Aug. 26 – including 377 at the elementary school, 254 at the intermediate, 152 at the junior high and 332 at the high school.

Those numbers are down from the 1,155 students who enrolled on the first day last year.

“That being said, we have had an additional 20 students enroll since the first day of school, so our enrollment as of Friday is 1,135,” Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West said. “That enrollment number is about where we ended the school year last year.

“I anticipate that we will get a few more students enroll after the Labor Day holiday.”

Bridgeport ISD had 2,048 on the first day, but that had risen to 2,073 by the end of the week. It was 2,098 last year.

The elementary campus had 537 students, with 424 at the intermediate campus, 467 at the middle school and 620 at the high school.

Superintendent Eddie Bland said the numbers were right where they expected them to be.

“We had 2,079 kids on the last day of school last year, so we’re within five-10 students of where we were at last year,” he said. “We tried to conservatively predict how many kids we would have this year, and we’re right on target.”

Chico Superintendent Mike Jones said his district had 585 students enrolled on the first day – up slightly over last year’s first-day enrollment of 576.

He said the numbers were steadily increasing throughout the first week, and that more students are likely to enroll after Labor Day.

Decatur’s first-day enrollment number, 2,935, showed a slight decrease from the 2,952 enrolled at the end of last year – but this year’s first-day enrollment was higher than the 2,921 who enrolled on the first day of the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Rod Townsend said the numbers were increasing throughout the week, and he hoped enrollment should near the expected 3,000 mark by next week.

“Our optimal level would be 3,100, but we’ve budgeted for around 3,000,” he said.

In Northwest ISD, much of the enrollment is outside Wise County as the district extends into Denton and Tarrant counties. But as has been the norm for the past several years, enrollment continued to grow.

Unofficial numbers included 544 at Seven Hills Elementary – actually down 11 from last year’s 555 – and 438 at Prairie View Elementary, up just one student from last year.

The big jumps were at Chisholm Trail Middle School, which has 894 this year compared to 866 last year, and Northwest High School, which welcomed 2,807 students after seeing 2,669 on opening day last year.

The district has a new high school under construction.

Paradise ISD reported 1,096 on its first day of school, up from about 1,085 at the end of the 2013-14 school term.

Paradise Elementary had 325 students, Paradise Intermediate had 148, Paradise Junior High had 258 and Paradise High School boasted 355 students. Superintendent Bob Criswell said the numbers of students registered has increased to 1,115 since Monday.

“We ended the year at 1,085 last year, so we’re up, and that will help us financially and bring more money to the school,” Criswell said. “It’s always been a rule of thumb that you wait until after Labor Day, but I feel that number is where we are going to be.”

Slidell ISD welcomed 248 students Monday morning.

Superintendent Greg Enis said this was an increase of 10 students from the first day last year. The elementary campus, which includes pre-k through fourth grade, had 111 students, and the secondary campus had 137.

“The high school was right at about 67 students,” Enis said, “but we have two of our smaller classes in the freshmen and seniors.”

Enis said the first graders were split into two classes, but they were already making plans to do that at the end of last year due to the size of the kindergarten. He said the class gained three or four students this week.

Enrollment Numbers

WCWC ENROLLMENT CONTINUES TO GROW

Enrollment at Weatherford College Wise County has steadily climbed through the last five years, and that trend continued this year.

As of Friday morning, 590 students were enrolled, although that number won’t be certified by the state until Monday, Sept. 8, and may still fluctuate.

“Our highest semester ever,” said Matt Joiner, associate dean for instructional services.

The number represents a 2 percent increase over last fall. Over the past five fall semesters, enrollment has grown as follows:

  • 2010 – 438
  • 2011 – 462
  • 2012 – 563 (first semester in the new building)
  • 2013 – 579
  • 2014 – 590

“We are overwhelmed by the positive impacts Weatherford College is having on the lives of students and their families in Wise County,” Joiner said. “Working together, the college, county, students, faculty and staff members are saying loud and clear that higher education in Wise County is a priority.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with our enrollment trends and enrollments,” he added. “This is an exciting time at WCWC.”

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Weatherford College approves 2014-15 budget, tax rate

The Weatherford College Board of Trustees approved the 2014-15 budget and tax rate during a called board meeting Thursday afternoon.

“The board’s action today demonstrates their continued support of both the employees of Weatherford College and the taxpayers of Parker County,” said WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton. “Despite having one of the lowest tax rates in the state, Weatherford College has consistently outperformed its peers. As I have said many times before, it is an honor to work with the best college employees in the state.”

At $54.7 million, the budget is balanced and was presented to the board with no changes from their last meeting. The budget includes a 3.75 percent pay increase for full-time college employees and a $25 per credit hour increase for adjunct instructors.

The tax rate will remain unchanged at 11.464 cents per $100 valuation. This rate includes 10.741 cents for maintenance and operations expenses and 0.723 cents for debt services.

Two public hearings were held on a tax revenue increase since, due to an increase in property values, Weatherford College will receive about $400,000 more in revenue in the coming fiscal year compared to 2013-14. No one spoke during either public hearing.

While the board unanimously approved the budget, the tax rate passed 5-1 with Joel Watson opposing. Board member Dr. Trev Dixon was not present.

In other business the board approved:

  • TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) policy service update No. 29;
  • increasing the number of credit hours in the phlebotomy curriculum from 10 to 16 in order for students to receive a WECM (Workforce Education Course Manual) certificate and become eligible for federal financial aid; and
  • insurance and incidental fees for the computed tomography practicum course.

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Hospital board approves acquisitions, appointments

The staff, board and facilities at Wise Regional Health System all experienced a little growth as a result of Monday night’s board meeting.

The board that governs the hospital appointed Carey Williams to place 1.

Matt Joiner, Mary Williams and Linda Rios were named to the Wise Regional Health Foundation board, and three new physicians were also introduced.

Saeid Aryan, M.D., a neurosurgeon, Arshad Mustafa, M.D. a rheumatologist, and Cynthia Hartman, D.O. and OB/GYN, provided brief backgrounds and were welcomed to Wise Regional. Six other physicians, two nurse practitioners and physician assistant were also approved for staff privileges upon recommendation from the Medical Executive Committee.

The board also approved the acquisition of a physical therapy clinic in Argyle and the purchase of two pieces of equipment for spine surgery at the Parkway Surgical Hospital, which opened earlier this year.

A Stryker Sonopet dissection tool was purchased at a cost of $172,195, and a Stryker navigation system for spinal implants was purchased at a cost of $118,739.

In planning for a future Fit-N-Wise fitness/therapy/sports medicine complex, the board OKd a civil engineering contract with Adams Engineering for $65,000, allowing them to begin work on developing the facility, which will sit just north of the main hospital east of Farm Road 51.

OTHER BUSINESS

CEO Steve Summers told the board there has been some interest expressed by representatives of the Wise County Veterans Group for the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide some services in Wise County – possibly at the Bridgeport campus. Summers said he would welcome an opportunity to discuss the issue with VA representatives.

He also told the board the Siemens Healthcare Software division is being acquired by the Cerner Corp. Since Wise Regional uses primarily a Siemens platform for its information technology system, he is anxiously waiting to see how the change impacts the hospital.

CFO Jim Eaton gave the board a financial report, noting the hospital had an increase in net position of $273,000 for July, with patient charges and other revenues of $45.6 million. Both inpatient admissions and outpatient services were up for the month.

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County to seek bids on EMS rescue tanker

Despite a tense discussion Monday, Wise County commissioners are looking into the possibility of purchasing a rescue truck with a tanker.

They approved seeking bids for the vehicle at their regular meeting this week at the request of EMS Administrator Charles Dillard. They also approved his request to purchase two ambulances off Buy Board, a purchasing co-op.

Dillard said he wanted to add the tanker to the rescue truck to enable his crews to put out fires when necessary.

“We would use it if someone is trapped in a car, and we’re there but the fire department’s not,” he said.

Dillard told the Messenger Friday that he could think of seven or eight incidents where this scenario has occurred in the last two years.

“We’re not looking at fighting grass fires or house fires or anything else,” he said Friday. “If someone is trapped in a vehicle and the fire department is not on scene, at least we’d have an option other than sitting there and watching them burn up.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said at the meeting that “some fire departments have issue with that,” and they’re concerned with the safety of the medics.

Dillard said he understood, but noted that but half of his personnel are certified firefighters.

“We’re working with the Commission on Fire Protection where we’ll have the gear and everything also,” he said.

Burns said it was a “major change in protocol,” and that he was not convinced it was a good idea.

“I don’t think you have the personnel to handle all that at a scene do you?” he asked. “That requires another complement of men to do that effectively.”

Burns said two people would be needed on the hose and two people on the truck.

“You need three people out there, minimal, to be effective – to be safe,” he said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance asked if Dillard could put three men on the rescue truck.

Dillard said he couldn’t, but there would also be an ambulance crew on scene to assist. He also explained that he’s considering putting in “red line” – a hose that can be handled by one person.

“We’re not trying to take over anything the fire department is doing,” he said. “We’re just trying to provide personal safety. Some of the departments are toned out, and they’re en route in minutes. But … we’re noticing more and more it’s harder to get a response in the daytime.”

Burns admitted that it is a turf issue, but he also touched on safety again.

“If you don’t have trained guys out there, you might have somebody in harm’s way thinking they’re protected, but if you don’t have an engine out there with a booster, you don’t have anything,” he said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance asked if acquiring more fire extinguishers would be an option.

Dillard said those were only of limited benefit due to their size.

County Judge Glenn Hughes said there were several ways to look at this, and he could see all sides.

“But if you were trapped in a car, you wouldn’t care if that old boy was certified or not, a splash of water in here is all I ask,” he said, eliciting laughter and lightening the discussion.

Dillard asked Burns if he’d like to table the issue and discuss it later.

Burns said he wanted to table it – but then turned right around and made the motion to purchase the ambulances and seek bids for the rescue truck with tanker – with the stipulation that it be used in cross-training with the firefighters and it be available to firefighters on scene.

“If there was a way to figure out coordination with them, it’d be a secondary unit for them,” he said. “But we’d have to coordinate that.”

Dillard told the Messenger Friday that each ambulance will cost $209,000, and he estimates the rescue truck to come in around $165,000 with a small tank (200 gallons) and pump.

Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said Monday that he could also see both sides of the issue. He reiterated that if the truck is eventually purchased and put into service, it would be for use only in the kind of situations Dillard described.

Burns admitted there are “remote places that it’d be advantageous.”

Dillard told the Messenger he’d make the truck available to any department, and he would take it to department meetings to go over its capabilities and do live fire training, if that’s what the chiefs wanted.

“My primary job is to treat citizens like it’s my family member, and if my family member was hung up in that car, what would you want done for them?” he asked.

The ambulances and rescue truck, if a bid is accepted, will be purchased with capital expenditure money set aside for this purpose.

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First Financial Bankshares named No. 1 in nation

First Financial Bankshares Inc. has been selected as the No. 1 top-performing publicly-traded bank in the nation in the $5 to $50 billion asset category by Bank Director magazine.

The magazine’s annual scorecard rates all publicly traded banks in four asset size categories on the basis of profitability, capital adequacy and asset quality.

First Financial has branches in Boyd, Bridgeport and Decatur.

“We are very honored to be selected as the best publicly traded bank in the country in the $5 to $50 billion asset category by Bank Director magazine, which is one of the most recognized publications in the industry,” said F. Scott Dueser, chairman, president and CEO. “We are very humbled to receive this honor for the second time, and it’s a direct result of the tireless dedication of our team, including our board, officers and employees who execute our strategy every day to make sure that our customers receive superior service and that we reward our shareholders.

“We thank our customers and shareholders for their loyalty and support, which has allowed us this great honor,” he said. “This marks the sixth consecutive year that First Financial has been recognized as either No. 1, 2 or 3 in the nation.”

For its scorecard, Bank Director looked at profitability measures including return on average assets and return on average equity; capital strength metrics including the ratio of tangible common equity to tangible assets; and asset quality measures including the ratio of nonperforming assets to total loans and other real estate owned and the ratio of net charge offs to average total loans.

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Elevator expense going up

A state inspection revealed this summer that the courthouse elevator needs improvement.

It may not make the creaky ride to the top faster, but it should be safer.

County Judge Glenn Hughes told commissioners at a July 28 meeting that the elevator, which runs on a single-wall cylinder, must be converted to a double-wall cylinder to meet current safety code. At that time he said Otis Elevator Co., the company that currently maintains the elevator, estimated the cost at $60,000.

Commissioners decided to seek bids, but the only company that threw its hat in the ring was Otis with a formal bid of $70,000. They were awarded the job in Monday’s regular commissioners meeting.

The elevator was installed in the early ’60s, and the hydraulic cylinder that runs it fits into a hole in the bedrock underneath the courthouse.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said Tuesday that they’re not sure how deep the hole is, but it could be up to 12 or 15 feet. The current hole was drilled for the single-wall cylinder and will have to be enlarged to fit the double-wall cylinder. It will also have to be drained of any fluids that may have collected in it. Burns said fluids will also likely drain into it as the elevator is disassembled.

At this point, it’s not clear how or who will drill and drain the hole.

Otis representative Amanda Haynes told commissioners that their bid does not include “drilling or sucking out the hole.” It only includes the parts and labor to change the cylinder.

“The hole you have now is so small that you can’t get the hose down there to suck it out,” she said. “There are a lot of unknowns … as far as putting a price on it, it’s impossible.”

Haynes said the county could hire someone else to drill the hole, but an Otis mechanic would have to be present.

“It’s solid rock under the courthouse, and that’s what they’re worried about,” Burns said. “And that’s understandable.”

The commissioner said Otis could do the work or they might hire it out.

“I wanted to reserve the right to do it ourselves, as well as cleaning out the fluids,” he said. “I’m curious about what type of machinery will be required for the job.”

Commissioners will further investigate the best method to drill and drain the hole so the project can move forward.

The county was notified of the necessary upgrade during an annual state inspection in June and has until June 2015 to complete the work.

If it’s not completed by that time, the elevator will be shut down.

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Applications due for DATCU junior board

DATCU Credit Union recognizes the importance of developing young business leaders with a heart for service and volunteerism.

In 2012, DATCU created their first junior board of directors to help local students further develop leadership, gain insight about the credit union and financial industry and promote community service.

The program was previously for Denton-area students only, but this year it will be open for the first time to students in Decatur and Lewisville.

Last year’s program was successful and led to DATCU’s being awarded the prestigious Dora Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility.

“We received outstanding feedback and are so excited to expand our junior board program. While these bright, young leaders will be gaining valuable business knowledge to complement their lives, just as important, they will be making a difference in the service of others,” said Pat Sherman, DATCU’s vice president of business development.

To apply, visit datcu.org/about us. Requirements include being a high school senior graduating in May 2015, mandatory attendance at four meetings during the school year and submission of an application on or before Thursday, Aug. 28. All applicants will be selected by an external committee and will receive a $250 scholarship to be used toward higher education.

DATCU Credit Union is a member-owned, not-for profit financial institution founded in 1936. They currently serve more than 77,000 members with assets in excess of $700 million and have 10 branch locations.

Membership is open to anyone living or working in Denton, Cooke, Wise, Montague or Clay Counties.

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County judge’s paycheck to shrink

Almost all county employees will see a pay increase in fiscal year 2015 – all except for the county judge.

Under the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, employees will receive a 3 percent increase in pay, but the judge’s position will see a $4,150 decrease.

The shift is the result of County Judge Glenn Hughes trying to keep the county in good standing with the state and keep the judge’s pay equal to commissioners’ without being tied to the state supplement.

He suggested in a July 31 meeting that the county no longer accept a $15,000 state stipend for the judge’s salary because it requires the judge to spend 40 percent of his time on judicial duties.

Hughes doesn’t think that’s possible, or necessary, since Wise County now has two county courts-at-law.

Although it had been previously discussed, Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance still had questions at a budget workshop this week.

“The way the county is structured now versus 15 or 20 years ago, there’s just no way a county judge can spend 40 percent of his time doing judicial duties,” Hughes said. “What’s happened, Harry, is it [could cause] problems … being legal. I’m afraid it’ll get the county in a situation with a lawsuit.”

Lamance asked if the next county judge could reconsider the issue. Auditor Ann McCuiston said he could, but no changes could be made until fiscal year 2016 once this year’s budget is approved.

“I’ve talked to several people, and I’ve done some research on this,” Hughes said. “Everybody I’ve talked to is in concurrence that they don’t feel comfortable putting their name on the dotted line.

“We’ve talked about Judge Bill (McElhaney) in the past, and in people that I’ve talked to, he would have been the closest to anyone to having done the 40 percent.”

Judges who accept the stipend must sign an affidavit stating that they did dedicate 40 percent of their time to judicial issues.

Lamance asked if McElhaney might have even been “a hair under.”

“If he was, I’d say it’s probably hard to do,” Lamance said.

McCuiston said McElhaney handled many mental commitments and filled in for Court-at-Law Judge Melton Cude.

“Do you think he actually made the 40 percent or even with that hard work, do you think he was under?” Lamance asked.

McCuiston said, “Knowing Judge Bill, he wouldn’t have signed it if he was under. He wouldn’t.”

Hughes said he doesn’t feel like he’s currently able to do 40 percent, and he doesn’t think the next judge will be able to, either.

“I don’t think there’s 40 percent out there, even if you wanted it,” he said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said county judges in less populated counties sometimes have to help their county court-at-law judges, but it’s no longer necessary here.

“It will be a decrease in the judge’s salary, but it’s peace of mind,” Hughes said. “I didn’t feel like there’s 40 percent work out there.”

Instead of accepting the stipend, Hughes wants the county to pitch in and cover part of the difference, enough to bring the judge’s salary equal to that of commissioners.

In the proposed budget, the county judge and commissioners will make $77,250, but overall, the commissioners end up making more than the judge due to vehicle allowances.

The judge will receive a $14,000 vehicle allowance for a grand total of $91,250, while commissioners’ $16,000 vehicle allowance pushes them to $93,250.

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Package thief may have hit Wise

If you haven’t received a package you’ve been expecting, you might want to call the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.

Parker County Sheriff’s investigators recently recovered a large amount of stolen property, including many packages believed stolen from homes in Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties that had been delivered by UPS or FedEx.

Jerry L. Weeks

Jerry L. Weeks, 34, of Weatherford was arrested Aug. 13 and charged with theft $50-$500 and theft $500-$1,500 in connection with the case. If it is determined during the investigation that Weeks stole packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, he could face additional federal charges.

According to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, Weeks implicated himself in numerous thefts that took place throughout the three counties.

During the investigation, officers found numerous suspected stolen items in a hotel room rented by Weeks, who claimed he found a large portion of the property in a trash bin located at a storage facility in Wise County. Most of the packages’ labels had been removed, making it difficult to locate who the packages belong to.

Weeks told investigators that he sold many of the stolen items for drugs and money. Other items were thrown away.

Some of the items reported stolen included ammunition, jewelry, clothing, electronics, guitars, a trumpet, iPhones, rodeo equipment, toys, cosmetics, hunting equipment, souvenirs, home decorations, printer paper and ink, crafts, oil field tools, cleaning supplies and a pipeline Geo phone.

Victims are encouraged to call the Parker County Sheriff’s Office at 817-594-8845 to identify their items.

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Wise Regional performs its first therapeutic plasma exchange; Patient doing well following lifesaving procedure

John Foster of Chico was the first patient to receive a therapeutic plasma exchange at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

This lifesaving procedure “deep cleans” a patient’s plasma, the fluid that carries red and white blood cells and platelets around the body.

Lifesaving Machine

LIFESAVING MACHINE – (from left) Katherine and John Foster and nurse Lisa Lambert, RN, show off the machine used to perform a therapeutic plasma exchange on Foster last month. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel

The procedure is necessary when a patient presents with critically high protein levels in their blood. High protein levels can be caused be a variety of conditions involving the blood, nerves or kidneys.

Previously, patients had to be transferred to Dallas to have this advanced procedure.

When Foster was admitted to Wise Regional July 15, his creatinine, or protein, levels were 22 milligrams per deciliter. A typical adult has a creatinine level below 2 mg/dL.

“John had the highest creatinine levels I’ve personally ever seen in more than 20 years of practice,” said Dr. Aamir Zuberi, medical director at Wise Regional’s dialysis clinics.

Initially, Foster had only presented with recurrent diarrhea, but soon after being admitted he began developing additional symptoms, including neuropathy, or numbness, in his hands and feet, as well as vision problems.

“I went to see my family doctor first because I’d been having digestive issues on and off,” Foster said. “[Dr. Richardson] sent me to Wise Regional for blood work. After the blood work, I went to the pharmacy to pick up some medicine he had prescribed.

“Before I even left the pharmacy, the lab at Wise Regional had called me to say I needed to come back and be admitted.”

Zuberi ordered emergency dialysis to filter some of the toxins from Foster’s body, but dialysis alone wouldn’t remove the proteins that were quickly clogging his system. Zuberi also performed a kidney biopsy, which led him to diagnose Foster with multiple myeloma, a condition that results in high plasma cell production.

The plasma cells produce protein, so as their numbers increase, so does protein production.

After consulting with the Critical Care Unit staff and Dr. Maddukuri, medical oncologist with The Cancer Center at Wise Regional, Zuberi decided Foster was a good candidate for Wise Regional’s first use of therapeutic plasma exchange.

Wise Regional acquired the equipment to perform TPE several years ago, and several members of the CCU staff recently underwent training to learn how to administer the treatment. Katy Anderson, RN, and Lisa Lambert, RN, both attended the training and were on duty when the decision was made to treat Foster.

Foster received a total of six plasma exchange treatments over the course of a week. Each time, his blood was removed through a catheter in his neck, filtered and simultaneously replaced with fresh, frozen plasma and human albumin – a common protein important in the growth and repair of tissue.

“During the first treatment, the waste that we filtered out of John’s blood was milky white,” Anderson said. “The process took close to four hours, and we went through three filters.

“The final treatment took about half the time, the waste was clear and we only had to use one filter.”

Foster said other than being cold during the treatment, he experienced little discomfort. After the third treatment, his symptoms had improved significantly. He went from being unable to hold a pen to being able to hold and drink from a cup. His vision also returned.

“When we saw that he was able to read the numbers on his remote control, we were all a little choked up. It was amazing to see how quickly he improved,” said Lambert.

Foster also began receiving additional treatments to eliminate the abnormal plasma cells. He was discharged July 31. He’s continuing dialysis and he and wife Katherine are confident he’ll make a full recovery.

“We trust in God, not only that he’ll heal John, but also that He gave the doctors and nurses the wisdom they needed to provide the best possible care,” said Katherine. “It’s exciting to see that this kind of technology is available so close to home.”

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Commissioners dig into budget

County commissioners have proposed an almost $70 million budget for fiscal year 2015, and Auditor Ann McCuiston hit the financial highlights in a budget workshop Thursday.

The bulk of the discussion centered around declining a state stipend for the judge’s salary, but McCuiston gave the details behind other significant numbers.

She said there was a slight increase in autopsy and inquest expenses, from $120,000 to $130,000. It was noted that Wise County could use either the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office or the Dallas County ME, but Dallas County is the office of choice.

County Judge Glenn Hughes said he tried to compare pricing between the two offices, but there wasn’t much difference.

He asked Justice of the Peace Jan Morrow why the Dallas office is used instead of the one in Fort Worth, and she said it was the preference of District Attorney Greg Lowery.

“We could use Tarrant or Dallas, but with anything criminal, the district attorney has asked that we use Dallas County,” she said. “They feel much more comfortable with any testimony is their reasoning, so we try to go along with the district attorney.”

“So is it that Dallas is a little more technical or professional?” the judge asked.

“Mr. Lowery could probably give you a little more insight into his reasoning,” she said, “but he prefers (Dallas), especially on the criminal ones.”

ENGINEERS/CONSULTANTS

The proposed budget also includes an increase for engineers and consultants due to the continued rising cost of Kimley-Horn engineering.

“I had asked (county engineer) Chad (Davis) if he would stay in touch with them and keep track of what’s going on with them because their costs have doubled in the last three or four years,” McCuiston said.

Davis told commissioners that in 2008, subdivision work dropped drastically, but they’ve “seen a lot more come across the desk” the last couple of years. He’s also started assisting with construction inspections to cut down on the firm’s trips to the county and therefore, their bill.

The FY ’15 budget includes $101,700 for engineers and consultants. Last year $80,000 was budgeted, and the county has spent $92,171 to date. In fiscal year 2013, $112,347 was spent on engineers and consultants, compared to $77,583 in fiscal year 2012.

OIL AND GAS

McCuiston also noted they anticipate a significant drop in oil and gas royalties.

Last year the county budgeted $800,000, but it’s received only $400,199.67 to date. They have budgeted $550,000 for FY ’15.

TEEN COURT

Hughes noted the proposed budget does not include funding for teen court because the group was disorganized, and they didn’t have clear goals. In fiscal year 2014, $18,000 was allotted to the organization.

“They had two or three different names, and I was kind of confused as to who they even were,” the judge said.

Commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg backed up the judge, saying the documentation was confusing. The group that approached the county for funding is Wise Area Teen Court and helpers (WATCh).

“I told them that if they’d get their numbers together and information and tell us what they do, and the benefits, we’d be glad to come back to this,” he said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns also noted the justices of the peace would need to utilize the group to warrant giving them county money.

The only JP present, Morrow, said she doesn’t have enough cases to recommend to teen court, and those she could recommend often don’t want to participate when they learn of the commitment it requires. She said the city courts utilize it more often.

It was also noted that there are now two teen court groups in the county.

Other items of note:

  • $17,000 for IT consultants
  • $500 auto allowance increase for justices of the peace
  • $3,000 increase for Wise County Child Welfare Board
  • $300,000 in cash reserves
  • an increase for election judges (Read more in next midweek’s Messenger.)

This year’s proposed budget is based on the current tax rate of 37.89 cents per $100 property valuation. If approved, this means property owners would not pay more in taxes unless the value of their property increased.

Commissioners will have public hearings on the tax rate at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, and 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

They are scheduled to adopt a tax rate and budget Sept. 8.

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