Special to The News
ATHENS–Athens High School graduate and businessman Drew Douglas was named 2015 Athens Citizen of the Year by the Athens Chamber of Commerce Jan. 22.
Douglas has worked as a real estate agent for Steve Grant Real Estate for many years and opened the Athens Thrift Store in 2010, which has given more than $100,000 to local community organizations.
He is active in the First Baptist Church, participating in outreach ministries to various countries including Mexico and Nicaragua.
He obtained and donated the use of the building for the Furniture Ministry of the First Baptist Church and was instrumental in obtaining the building for the Disciples Clinic of Athens.
Douglas is involved in the Prison Entrepreneurial Program, which encourages those who qualify and nearing release from prison, to learn about business, form a business plan and be successful.
He is also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) board member.
Posted by : February 4, 2016| On :
Special to The News
Posted by : January 21, 2016| On :
The News Reports
ATHENS–Athens Police Department arrested Michael Keith Duke, 19, Jan. 15 for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility and five Athens Municipal Court warrants.
APD says Corporal William Carlow conducted a traffic stop on a pick up truck for an expired license plate around 10:45 a.m. Jan. 15 in the 700 block of East Corsicana Street. During a routine check, it was discovered Duke was wanted on several local warrants.
Carlow arrested Duke and during a vehicle search, found two stolen rifles.
Duke was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and was transported to the Henderson County Justice Center.
During booking, Duke was found to be in possession of a clear baggie containing a substance suspected to be marijuana.
He remains in custody on bonds totaling $20,000.
Posted by : July 14, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–County Commissioners called an election Nov. 3 to create Emergency Services District No. 10 in the Eustace area. Seven ESDs currently serve Henderson County. Emergency Service District spots eight and nine are not available because they are designated to Murchison and Baxter after unsuccessful propositions.
Commissioners also accepted a payment from Oncor Electric Delivery for damage done during power line construction in Precinct 4.
The payment of $35,634.40 was issued after heavy equipment operated by Oncor destroyed portions of the roadway on County Road 4910. In April and May. Precinct. 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said he applied for the funds and county negotiated with Oncor for the settlement.
“We had several discussions with Oncor because of heavy equipment on all of the roads, ” Geeslin said. “That portion was destroyed, as well as three culverts being crushed.”
The $35,634.40 will cover the cost of material and asphalt to resurface the road. The precinct will do patch work and culvert repair until the fall, when Oncor has completed its construction activities.
Commissioners Court also voted on Tuesday to pay bills in the amount of $168,185.90.
Posted by : March 9, 2015| On :
The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (right) thanks Bob McDonald for his contributions to historical preservation and service to the people of Henderson County with a Congressional Resolution during the Memorial Day 2013 dedication of the Veterans Memorial at the Athens Cemetery. McDonald was the moving force behind the cemetery memorial, as well as the Memorial Wall at the East Texas Arboretum. McDonald died last week.
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff
ATHENS–Though relatively few know his name, Bob McDonald leaves a legacy which will impact visitors and Henderson County residents alike for many, many years to come.
The kiosk he designed to assist those looking for the gravesites of relatives and loved ones at the Athens Cemetery is invaluable.
His planning and direction of the Veterans Memorial, both at the cemetery and the East Texas Arboretum stands as a testament to sacrifice and service, of which McDonald himself participated in during the Korean War.
“The work of his hands and heart are seen everywhere you look,” East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society executive director Teresa Glasgow said.
He also served on the board of Trinity Valley Community College, the Athens Historical Preservation, Inc., Keep Athens Beautiful and a handful of other civic committees.
A public celebration of his life is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17 at the Athens Cemetery.
“We are going to miss him in a lot of ways,” co-volunteer and businessman Steve Grant said of his passing.
“It wasn’t just his wisdom and knowledge, he had a heart of gold,” Grant explained. “He wanted to make things better in everything he did. No job was too big or too small; he put a lot of thought into everything he did.”
McDonald succumbed to cancer at the age of 86. He was born Jan. 24, 1929 and died Feb. 27, 2015.
Glasgow pointed to the 20 hours a week he consistently invested at the East Texas Arboretum. He likely put in similar hours at the cemetery on its maintenance and seeing the many improvements over the past 15 years.
At the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall at the cemetery on Memorial Day, 2013, state and national elected officials presented resolutions passed by Congress and the State House, citing his service to better the Athens community through historical preservation.
One of the last projects he designed and directed was the construction of the cemetery’s columbarium.
His love for life, the outdoors and veterans grew from his own military service with the storied 2nd Armored Division as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, during the Korean War.
His practical, logical thinking was groomed by Texas A&M University as a mechanical engineer, who went on to design and build oil, gas and chemical processing plants and offshore structures.
He retired in 1988, and he and wife Leta returned to their hometown of Athens to live on land belonging to the McDonalds for 150 years. The couple reared two sons: Glenn and Mark.
After a brief respite, his second career began, as he poured his energies, heart and mind into his interests as a volunteer.
A matching grant of up to $50,000 has been set aside to form an endowment in Bob McDonald’s name for the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society. To donate go to easttexasarboretum.org/support.
Posted by : March 9, 2015| On :
The News Staff
ATHENS–There will be no elections in Athens this May due to a lack of opposition.
At Athens Independent School District, Board President Rob Risko drew no opposition for Place 3. In Place 4, incumbent Ginger Kirk will not run again. Former board member Jennifer Mahmoud filed for that seat without competition.
At the City of Athens, Mayor Jerry Don Vaught and incumbent councilman Monte Montgomery are both unopposed. Because they are the lone candidates filing for their respective seats for any of the seats, there wilelection.
Malakoff ISD asks voters to approve the issue of $3M in bonds to improve facilities at Tiger Stadium, replace air conditioning units, improve security and purchase new buses – all without raising the tax rate.
The deadline for candidates to sign up for the May 9 Local Election with their prospective cities or school districts was Feb. 27.
Those taxing entities which are cancelling their elections due to unopposed candidates include: Kemp, Log Cabin, and Seven Points, along with school districts in Eustace and Mabank.
The City of Payne Springs is holding a Special Election May 9 to ask voters to renew a quarter percent sales tax dedicated to road repair.
Voters approved the road dedication proposal four years ago and it’s time to reinstate that policy for another four years or let it expire.
City officials report the quarter percent tacked onto purchases made at businesses in the city yeilds about $1,000 in additional funding, monthly.
The city had asked the county to include this item on the November, 2014 ballot, when the city usually holds its city elections; however, the request had been overlooked.
“This is the last opportunity to have it on the ballot,” City Secretary Karen Juica explained. Last time, this proposition only passed by one vote, she added. “This is not a property tax, but a portion of the sales tax,” Juica clarified.
The early voting, along with Election Day polling will be held at the city hall, located at 19601 CR 2529.
In Log Cabin, Judy Bearden will be installed as mayor, taking Larry Nolan’s place, who signed up for a seat on the council. New office holder Jennifer Williams will fill the second open seat, while Jerry Bearden, the brother of James Bearden – who passed away – will fill the unexpired term on the council.
At Eustace ISD, four places came up for renewal. Those seats are being filled with Bobby Karl Ashton, Billy ‘Cotton’ Walker, Steven Bell and James Kirkhart, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term in January.
Entities holding elections in November include Enchanted Oaks, the City of Malakoff, City of Trinidad and Trinidad ISD; East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District and West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District.
Posted by : February 5, 2015| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–After nearly 30 years in operation, the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug Abuse Education Awareness Association is no more.
County Commissioners agreed to disband the once-influential community group after Coordinator Linda Battles told the court a lack of public interest and funding contributed to its shut down Jan. 3.
The Association was originally named the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Task Force when it was created in the 1980s. The name was only changed recently when the sheriff’s office added a drug task force to its law enforcement.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney recalled the Association’s formation and positive impact it had on Henderson County.
“It was a pioneer program,” McKinney said. “When MADD started getting big in the 1980s, the Education Awareness Association took off and was a driving force behind efforts to educate teens and the public about drug and alcohol abuse. Funds started tapering off in the mid-90s when the federal government started funding other similar programs. They became duplicate programs and competitive.”
Battles said that it is in the Henderson County Alcohol/Drug abuse Education Awareness Association bylaws that the Association could only be disband by the Commissioners Court. She also returned a check for $355.69, all unused funding, to the county. Battles said the local Crimestoppers and Teen Court grew out of the efforts of the original task force.
“Originally it was funded by United Way, and Ginger Murchison gave us money,” Battles said. “We were gung ho for about five or six years.”
In other news, Commissioners approved:
• right-of-way permits for the Leagueville Water Supply Corporation to cross County Road 3600 and CR 3613 in Precinct 3;
• a refund of overpaid property taxes requested by the Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collector;
• payment of quarterly state fees in the amount of $132,619.70;
• payment of 2014 bills in the amount of $117,952.43.
Posted by : December 30, 2014| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
HENDERSON COUNTY–Much has transpired in Henderson County in the past year. From the courthouse’s birthday, to school bomb threats, to tragic accidents, these are the stories that mattered to us the most at The News.
AMWA dispute resolved: Voters decided to keep the Athens Municipal Water Authority (AMWA) afloat on Election Day May 10 after 668 voters decided not to dissolve the authority, with 590 voters in favor. The decision came after the Athens City Council voted to dissolve the authority in January. AMWA scrambled to come up with enough signatures to push the decision to a vote decided by Athens residents.
Two Grand Jury Indictments: Two Athens residents were indicted by a Grand Jury in 2014. The first was Stacie Marie Parsons, 25, of Athens. Parsons confessed to killing her 4-year-old daughter July 21 after an argument with her common law husband the previous day. The other was Raheem Mark Miller, 19, of Athens. Raheem was charged with the June 8 shooting death of Malakoff resident Cedrick Collins, 23, whose death occurred during a robbery.
Bomb Threats: Athens had two bomb threat scares in about a two week time frame. The Henderson County Courthouse and all five Athens ISD schools were all evacuated on two separate dates. The courthouse threat was called in Oct. 23 and ISD threat came Nov. 5. No bombs were found and nobody was injured. Athens ISD is offering $1,000 to anyone with information that leads to the arrest of the person responsible for the threats on the schools.
New Athens Chamber President: After a long search, Mike Coston took over the job as the Athens Chamber of Commerce President last August. Coston replaced former president Mark Rathe, who moved back to Oklahoma to be closer to family.
Home of the Hamburger: Good Morning Texas filmed a live segment at the Athens city hall April 23 about Athens being the “Home of the hamburger.” According to many in Athens, the first hamburger in the world was taken from a small cafe in Athens all the way to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Walk-a-Mile: Men put on their high heels for a stroll around the Athens square for the second year in a row for the annual Walk a Mile in her Shoes March 31. The event raises domestic violence awareness and challenges men to put an end to abuse.
Agriculturist of the Year: Ken McGee, Jr., won the Joe B. Fulgham Agriculturist of the Year award May 20 after the annual Farm and Ranch Tour. McGee’s father, Kenneth, won the same award in 1993.
Fertilizer plant fire: Just two week after claiming the Agriculturist of the Year award, McGee watched his storage facility near the courthouse square in Athens burn to the ground days before the Old Fiddler Reunion. The aftermath was initially investigated as a crime scene, but no wrongdoing was found. The fire sparked a blaze of controversy and media attention because the facility stores ammonium nitrate, the same substance found in the massive explosion in West. When the smoke cleared, the Athens City Council approved an ordinance in December not allowing the flammable fertilizer in a zoning district within city limits.
Old Fiddlers: With the area just off the square still on lockdown after the fire, Dale Morris Jr., of Fort Worth, went on to take home the title of Grand Champion at the Old Fiddler’s Reunion on the Athens square May 31.
County Courthouse 100th birthday: Henderson County residents and officials celebrated the 100th birthday of the Henderson County Courthouse May 23. Notable activity included a time capsule placed in the ground, to be opened up in 2114.
Troubled officer: Former Malakoff police officer Ernest Fierro lost his Peace Officer license in a settlement that included nine years deferred adjudication and 40 hours community service on the charge of aggravated assault. Fierro was off duty December 2013 when he stopped and cuffed an elderly Iowa man who later died of cardiac arrest.
Tragedy on the tracks: 14-year-old Malakoff resident Harry Smith died June 26 when he ran in front of a passing train while trying to cross the railroad tracks. Smith was clipped in the leg crossing from his home, directly south of the tracks at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad and FM 3441 and died from his injuries. A memorial for Smith was erected at Jake’s Skate Park in Malakoff.
New leader at the Performing Arts Center: Longtime Henderson County Performing Arts Center Executive Director Dennis Gilmore retired after 25 years of service last February. Gilmore oversaw a tremendous period of growth from the one-time “Athens Little Theatre.” Gilmore traded a home in Athens for the sunny beaches of Palm Spring, Calif. Marcia Colbert took over the role in March. Colbert has served on the HCPAC board since 2003.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Shirts were on display on the courthouse lawn last October as part of The Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a world wide awareness program that is facilitated locally through the East Texas Crisis Center representing domestic violence victims in Henderson County.
ISD Chief resigns after theft: Former Malakoff ISD Police Chief Todd Gilmore resigned after making bond from the Henderson County Jail last May. Gilmore confessed to stealing $1,500 in cash from Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens after being confronted with video surveillance footage.
Cop killer gets execution date: Convicted killer Randall Wayne Mays knows when his final day will be. Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn, in May 17, 2007 when they responded to Mays’ Payne Springs ranch on a domestic call. Mays execution date is set for March 18, 2015.
TVCC sports: Trinity Valley Community College saw muiltiple sports championships in 2014. The No. 1 ranked TVCC Lady Cardinals won their third consecutive national basketball championship March 22 at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan. The match up was a repeat of the the 2012 title game. The Lady Cardinals now lay claim to eight titles, in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Not to be outdone, the Cardinals football team won the Texas championship by defeating the Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens 27-24 in the Heart of Texas Bowl. They finished the year with a perfect 12-0 record.
Tigers Roar: The Malakoff Tigers football team fielded one of its best squads ever in 2014, maintaining a top-10 state ranking all season. The Tigers ended the season with a 9-2 record and a disapointing first round loss in the playoffs.
Posted by : June 5, 2014| On :
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Monday, investigators reported that the cause of the May 29 fertilizer storage facility fire in downtown Athens is “undetermined.” Criminal intent was ruled out, due to the absence of evidence identifying an ignition source. Until Monday, the facility had been treated as a crime scene. After the findings were issued, the East Texas Ag Supply property was released to its owner.
The findings were issued by the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office in conjunction with the Athens Fire Department, Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Dallas Field Division).
“The fire originated in the northwest quadrant of the building, at ceiling level. Based on the origin of the fire, the only causes that could not be eliminated are related to an electrical failure,” Athens Fire Chief John McQueary stated in a press release.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy stated, “Per national guidelines and standards, the fire will be classified as undetermined because the ignition source and the first material ignited could not be determined.”
The finalization of the fire investigation report is expected in the weeks ahead.
“The city appreciates the hard work and investigation by the agencies involved in determining the final conclusion regarding this incident,” Athens Mayor Jerry Don Vaught said shortly after the findings were released Monday.
The time between the departure of the last person from the facility’s 105 Larkin St. location May 29 and it being engulfed in flames 30 minutes later, had raised suspicion of possible criminal intent. The findings also ruled out weather as a factor.
East Texas Ag Supply owner Ken McGee was the last to leave the facility at around 5:15 p.m., McQueary said during a press conference the following day. “By 5:45 p.m., the building was almost fully enveloped in flames,” McQueary said. “The timetable is highly unusual and may not have been accidental.” McGee had just received 70 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer earlier that day, he added.
The fire caused massive disruption to the downtown area sending up a column of smoke that could be seen from Mabank, leading to an evacuation zone that first included three city blocks and was later expanded to five. More than 300 residents were forced to leave their homes that evening. They were able to return Friday, after officials with the Environmental Protection Agency conducted air quality tests with negative results for toxicity. Fifty displaced residents who could not find shelter at hotels, motels, friends or family stayed at the Cain Center.
The blaze also disrupted the opening festivities to the 83rd annual Old Fiddlers Reunion. The jam session usually held the night before the competition was canceled. The competition slated for May 31, was held at the Athens Courthouse Square as planned, along with the second annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march and fundraiser. Nearby businesses and Trinity Valley Community College closed as a precaution and vehicle traffic was rerouted along Loop 7. On Friday the U.S. Post Office was inaccessible.
According to McQuery, the storage facility contained more ammonium nitrate than the one that caused the massive blast in West last year that killed 15 people. The Athens fire resulted in no injuries.
“What you had here is somewhat larger than a storage shed in the back that houses your gasoline can, fertilizer, flower seed,” McQueary said. West had a large facility that housed not only ammonium nitrate, but also anhydrous ammonia and trucks that ran on gasoline- and diesel.“They had tractor trailers and a lot of products that can contaminate,” he said.
Posted by : May 23, 2014| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
ATHENS–The Athens Chamber of Commerce hosted its 51st Annual Henderson County Farm & Ranch Tour May 20, culminating with Ken McGee, Jr. receiving the 25th Joe B. Fulgham Agriculturist of the Year award.
After beginning the day at 8 a.m. at the Cain Center with complimentary coffee and donuts, a crowd of more than 200 piled into busses provided by Athens Independent School District and departed for the three agricultural tour sites.
The first stop was the TVCC Ranch, a 254-acre facility in Malakoff. The ranch is managed by TVCC instructors Marc Robinson and Brent Bratton, along with three students who live on the grounds. According to a press release from TVCC, Henderson County Agrilife Extension Agent Rich Hirsch told the crowd on hand that the TVCC Ranch is an important stop on the Farm & Ranch Tour, which aims to highlight the facilities that help fuel a $130 million agriculture industry in the county.
“TVCC offers a lot of good courses in agriculture and ranch management,” Hirsch said. “(This ranch) is not only a great resource for the college, but for Henderson County.”
After loading back onto the buses, the Farm & Ranch Tour made its second stop at the Rafter C Ranch, a 900 acre ranch of rolling hills and Bermuda grass. It is owned by Pete Carr and managed by Clay McCallie. The ranch is home to 270 horses, 50 bulls and 60 roping steers. The National Finals Rodeo picked 17 horses and 10 bulls from the Rafter C Ranch, more than any other stock producer in the country. It is also the home to Wise Guy, past Bucking Horse of the Year. Cowboys scored 90 or above on Wise Guy, more than any other horse in history.
The last stop on the Farm & Ranch Tour was the Sanctuary Ranch, L.P, located five miles west of Cross Roads. Sanctuary Ranch operates on just shy of 3,000 acres and is divided into three segments: cattle, whitetail deer breeding (the offspring are released into the wild to enhance the genetic quality of native deer) and a private segment for the owner, family and friends to enjoy.
Buses arrived back at the Cain Center at 11:45 in time for a noon barbecue lunch.
Former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald was the keynote speaker, citing the importance of being an “ag believer.” He is currently working with the directors of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services and the Texas A&M Forest Service.
A true “ag believer,” McDonald said, can become an “ag leader,” and share the message of agriculture with the public, government officials and fellow agricultural producers. “Ag leaders understand the concept of reaping and sowing,” he said. “Things don’t just happen on their own.”
Finally, the event concluded with Ken McGee, Jr. receiving the Joe B. Fulgham Agriculturist of the Year award. McGee’s father, Kenneth, won the same award in 1993.
McGee is a graduate of Athens High School and Texas A&M University. After college, McKee returned to Athens to join his father in the agriculture business of raising cattle and maintaining a herd of cross-bread steers that are mainly sold to participants in the Henderson County Livestock Show. He is the owner-operator of AgServices in Athens.
Posted by : December 16, 2013| On :
By Tracy Martin
ATHENS-Just before noon on Monday, the lunch crowd started pouring into El San Luis. The chips and familiar salsa were served, and owner Antonio Bolanos walked from table to table thanking his regulars for coming back.
On Nov 21, a fire swept through the restaurant’s Pinkerton St. location destroying everything in the building.
The fire started in the kitchen but quickly spread throughout the structure, leaving nothing to be salvaged.
Undaunted, Bolanos located a building, which had previously housed a restaurant and got to work. In two weeks, he was able to re-open, saying he just knew people would come to the new location. “See they’re here and I’m so thankful,” Bolanos told The News.
The new location on Murchison Street is situated right across the street from the county jail. Though the new location already had some of the restaurant supplies in place, Boanos notes it was still a challenge to open for business so quickly. “Oh yes, it was morning til night, and we all worked very hard,” he said.
Customer Norma Liliana Meeks was a regular at the old location and was happy to hear the restaurant was already re-opened. “We just love the food, it’s authentic, the menu is the same and it’s great that Antonio could come back so fast from the fire,” she said.