By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Athens City Council unanimously accepted terms for selling property to Trinity Valley Community College, at the college board’s request. The city will sell the former National Guard Armory property and the adjacent Central Park to the college for a total of $250,000 over the next five years.
City manager Philip Rodriguez was very excited to discuss this development Monday, Nov. 28 during a regular meeting of the city council as a supplemental item to its published agenda. That same evening the TVCC Board of Trustees also met to finalize the authorization to purchase the property.
The city council approved the item with a slight change, giving the city the first right of refusal, should the college ever decide to resell the property for development purposes unrelated to education. Councilman Monte Montgomery pointed out that the college board of directors is subject to change and the city should make sure the property is held for the public good.
When the motion passed, audience members responded with applause.
A portion of the armory is currently being used as the City’s Development Services Center and Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The City will rent the front portion of the building at $10 per month plus pay for its use of utilities for a period of up to 18 months or until the Cain Center expansion is complete. The city will also have sole use of the EOC if needed for an emergency, during the lease.
State law requires the city to use proceeds of park sales to benefit other parks within Athens.
“I’m thrilled we found a way to support TVCC through this sale,” Rodriguez said. “TVCC had discussed wanting to expand its footprint and services here in Athens, and the Council made a great decision in helping the college with that goal. There’s no question that TVCC is a valuable part of our culture and our local economy. They have deep roots here in Athens, and this property only strengthens that important tie to our community.”
Terms of the sale include TVCC covering all closing costs and delivering to the city $125,000 at closing. Another $100,000 will be delivered over the next five years in the form of 10 scholarships each year for the endowment of Athens residents, leaving another $25,000 to be paid by the end of the fifth year.
In other business, council members:
Heard a plea from Larue resident Brent E. Muecke to consider using the current City Hall, when and if it should be considered real estate for sale (in light of plans moving forward to move the city’s administration hub to the Cain Center), as a Senior Citizens facility. The centrally located building could be open daily for various activities enjoyed by retired seniors, such as a center for socializing, group hobbies such as sewing, quilting, knitting, artful painting, playing dominoes, card games, light exercise classes, coffee drinking, along with outdoor activities, such as horseshoes and washer pitching. He reminded the council that the city is designated as a Go Texan Retirement Community.
Received updates on water and wastewater rehabilitation projects
Agreed to replace the West Scott Street ground storage tank which is now in a state of noncompliance with state guidelines with a concrete one, whose functional life is estimated at greater than 50 years.
Authorized the purchase of five SUVs and one mid-size sedan for the police department from Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford through the State of Texas purchasing contract in the amount of $149,744. This purchase is within the department’s budget.
Named Bancorp South the city’s agent of record for medical and dental insurance, due to its lowered commission rate of 3 percent (current agent contract is 4 percent) plus other benefits, including a one-stop shopping enrollment guide. Councilman Edward McCain abstained due to conflict of interest.
Posted by : December 1, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : December 1, 2016| On :
Special to The News
ATHENS–Henderson County D.A. R. Scott McKee reports the July Term, 2016, Grand Jury returned the following True Bills for the Nov. 9 meeting. In addition, three cases are indicted under seal.
•Raul Almaraz, JR, 20, Racing on a Highway,
• Michael Glenn Barnes, 35, Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear,
• James Edward Horton, 69, Cruelty to Animals,
• Phillip Wayne Brown, 62, Driving While Intoxicated,
• Gerald Don Williams, JR, 49, Possession of Controlled Substance (PCS),
• Tyler Jimmy Ray Brown, 21, Escape,
• Tommy Clyde Hurt, 40, Tampering with Evidence,
• Jose Antonio Carreon-Aguilera, 49, PCS,
• Blaine Anthony Christopher, 28, Unlawful Possession of Firearm ,
• John Tanner Forrester, 22, three countsof Burglary and Credit Card or Debit Card Abuse,
• Randall Clayton Boone, 27, Burglary
• Paula Kay Forester, 51, Hindering Apprhension or Prosecution,
• Travis Brax Davis, 19, Theft of Property
Benjamin Douglas Harmon, 22, Assault,
• Dvahje Marquel Hayward, 20, Theft of Firearm,
• Gary J Hampton, 61, Forgery,
• Christopher Doyle Savage, 29, Aggravated Assault,
• Scott Matthew Butler, 26, Driving While Intoxicated with Child Passenger,
• Terrance Joseph Samuel Benton, 25, PCS,
• Shandra Suzette Oliphant, 29, PCS,
• Dustin Ray Snyder, 28, Aggravated Assault
• Zanon James Sherman, 44, PCS,
• Lorenzo Demarkas Patton, 34, PCS,
• Michael Dwayne Lindley, 50, PCS,
•Danny Lee Mclemore, 61, Unauthorized Use of Motor Vehicle,
• William Lee Shaddox, 53, Burglary,
• Terry Paul Bevill, 54, Burglary,
• Robert Allen Shaddox, 49, Burglary,
• James David Walker, 27, PCS,
• Steven Michael Green, 45, PCS,
• Joshua Lynn Epperson, 35, PCS ,
• Johnny Craton Pope, 49, indicted for Aggravated Assault,
• Kristen Tennile Patterson, 40, PCS
• Jeffrey Mark Keith, 61, Evading Arrest,
• Kristy Anne Kidan, 37, Credit Card Abuse,
• Phillip Norman-Clinton James, 29, Assault Public Servant,
• Joshua Paul Rogers, Attempted Burglary of Habitation and Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument,
• Robert Britt Gandy, 36, Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Felon,
• Christopher Lee Fischer, 27, Burglary,
Jeremy James Strawn, Burglary,
• Dean William Kjeldgaard, 54, Indecency with a Child.
Posted by : December 1, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–The Athens Hornets used great defensive pressure and a big second half to take a 61-51 victory over Corsicana Nov. 29 at the Athens High School gymnasium.
The Hornets were tied with Corsicana at 25-25 heading into the second half of play, but outscored the visitors 36-25 over the final two quarters to take the win.
The win improves the Hornets’ record to 2-1 on the season. The Hornets will be in action on Dec 1-3 at the Van Dairy Queen Invitational.
Midway through the third quarter, the Hornets cut the Corsicana lead to three with a layup by Gary Lyons. On the next possession, the Hornets tied the score at 34-34 on a three pointer by junior Miles Koehler. The Hornets outscored the Tigers 13-12 in the third quarter.
The defensive pressure the Hornets applied in the fourth helped the Hornets pull away for the big win, as Athens outscored Corsicana 23-14 in the final frame to take the victory.
The Hornets were led by Koehler’s 17 points, eight rebounds, four steals and two assists. Javiry Bowman also added 17 points, two rebounds and a steal in the win, Jabrile Richardson had 10 points, eight rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot. Lyons added eight points and eight rebounds, while Xavious Fulton and Cam Ray each added three points for the Hornets.
Posted by : November 17, 2016| On :
By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–“Today we set aside time to honor all our Veterans,” said David Deas as he opened the East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11 under a sunny, cloudless sky in a beautiful setting.
Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders welcomed the crowd by reminding everyone that, “Freedom is not and never has been free. We are able to go about our daily business because these men and women are here and around the world, protecting our freedom. Many have paid the ultimate price and we owe them a debt of gratitude for making this the great nation it is today.”
David Deas told the story of, “Armistice Day,” which is what Veterans Day was called when it was created to honor Veterans of World War I and to remind nations to seek peaceful relationships between one another in hopes that we would never again be divided by war. After World War II and the Korean War, in 1954, at the urging of service organizations, the 83rd Congress decided to rename Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans. President Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. The gathering then observed a moment of silence to honor all those who served.
U.S. Air Force Veteran Sam Alford played his trumpet to the colors while the flags were raised by members of Boy Scout Troop 343. State Representative-Elect Lance Gooden led the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge to the Texas Flag. Gooden prayed for the Veterans, past and present, and prayed for peace.
South Athens Elementary fourth-grade teacher Barbara Railsback and her students sang, “The Star Spangled Banner” while Sam Alford played “Taps” and a wreath was placed at the monument to honor the Veterans. Alford shared one of the more popular verses for “Taps,” since it is not well known that “Taps” has lyrics
Henderson County District Attorney and incoming District Judge for the 392nd District Court Scott McKee was the featured speaker. McKee’s public service has spanned three decades beginning at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Paratrooper. Speaking about the Veterans, both present in body or spirit, McKee said he felt awed and inspired by the history and sacrifice of these men and women. He went on to talk about the recent election, reminding everyone that whether they are Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Independent, the election process and the peaceful transition of power is crucial to the survival and strength of our great nation. And although neither Hillary Clinton, nor Donald Trump ever served in the military, although they never experienced the loneliness of a deployment, the screaming of a drill instructor or ever heard a gunshot fired in support of a cause greater than themselves. We as Veterans knew that one of them would be our Commander-in-Chief because that’s the way it works.
He spoke about the recent protests in Dallas after the election and thanked God that “we live in a country where we have the right to a peaceful protest because Veterans fought for that right. We fought for freedom of speech, the right to assemble, whether we agree with them or not, this right is vital to our nation, to open debate. Government does not give us our rights; our rights are given by God and it’s our Democracy that recognizes those rights and our Veterans that protect those rights.” McKee spoke of the ballot, the right to vote as the most powerful and dangerous weapon, one that everyone of legal age has and one that should never be holstered. It should always be, “locked and loaded.”
“It takes the courage and blood of brave men and women to keep and protect a free democracy. We as Veterans should not just ride off into the sunset like General MacArthur’s speech at West Point all those years ago. We have much to teach our children and our children’s children. Let our voices carry our history and our legacy.”
Deborah Tanner Deas shared a poem written in 1945 by her father World War II Veteran Douglas Tanner entitled, “The 740th Marches On.” Tanner was on the front row. The ceremony concluded with several more patriotic songs by the Central Athens Elementary fourth-grade students, but many stayed behind to view the monument and talk with the Veterans. The day was beautiful and there were many Veterans, from World War II to present day, to thank.
Posted by : November 9, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS—Hoping for a favorable interest rate, the Athens City Council decided to go ahead with its plan to issue certificates of obligation to fund the much-needed overhaul of the Cain Center and to rebuild the Texan Theater.
During the Oct. 24 meeting, the council approved moving forward with a $12.5 million loan, hoping to capture an interest rate of three percent or lower. The bond’s pricing date is anticipated for Dec. 12. The city is required to publish its intent at least 30 days before issuing the certificates.
During an August public meeting and workshop, city officials presented a slide presentation of the repairs needed at the beleaguered civic center, which it had recently taken over. The bottom line of the presentation was that the city had funding options that the privately owned and operated center did not. Repairs are estimated to cost $12.8 million, of which $10.5 million is being sought through certificates of obligation.
The engineering and then repair work is to begin January2017, according to City Manager Philip Rodriguez. The council members at the same August meeting decided to use some of the funding to rebuild the Texan Theater. On Oct. 24, $1.4 million of the loan was allocated for this purpose.
The Texan will deliver a venue for civic events near the courthouse square which would help invigorate downtown with greater economic growth, council members noted in August.
Plans call for the long building with two-level roofing to allow for a panel of high windows for lighting with rooftop a/c units and could be rebuilt and opened within a year’s time. The 6,700 square foot space prices out at around $166 per square foot and holds between 250 and 400 people, depending on the sitting and standing arrangements.
This could be the next jewel in Athens,” Community Development Director Thanansis Kombos said.
Councilman Ed McCain agreed, pointing out that several global companies are planning visits to the city. “A revitalized Texan could be the reason they say, ‘I want to come here.’” McCain said.
The remaining $600,000 is being split between neighborhood park rejuvenation and much needed upgrades to the city’s water and wastewater utilities office.
Though cities are not required to hold an election to issue certificates of obligation, residents may petition for an election on debt incurred through certificates of obligation. If five percent of qualified voters sign a petition before the pricing date, then an election must be held on whether the certificates should be issued.
The Henderson County Voter Registration Office totals 6,936 registered voters in Athens, of which five percent would be 347 voters.
During the Aug.29 public hearing, city officials reported the city’s financial position as strong with a 60-day reserve and one million dollars in an unencumbered fund.
Repayment on the loan wouldn’t start until 2018 and targets three cents of the tax rate over the next 20 years, which could be transferred from the Maintenance and Operations Fund, securities representative Boyd Landen said.
Posted by : October 20, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The Presidential election is of course, top of mind for most. Running on the Republican ticket is Donald J. Trump/Mike Pence and the Democratic ticket is Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine. Also running are Libertarians Gary Johnson/William Weld and Green Party candidates Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka.
United States Representative, Dist. 5 comes down to Republican Jeb Hensarling and Libertarian Ken Ashby.
Railroad Commissioner candidates are Republican Wayne Christian, Democrat Grady Yarbrough, Libertarian Mark Miller and Green Party candidate Martina Salinas.
There are several Justices of the Supreme Court elections. In the running for Place 3, is Republican Debra Lehrmann, Democrat Mike Westergren, Libertarian Kathie Glass, and Green Party candidate Rodolfo Rivera Munoz. Place 5 candidates are Republican Paul Green, Democrat Dori Contreras Garza, Libertarian Tom Oxford and Green Party candidate Charles Waterbury. For Place 9, the candidates are Republican Eva Guzman, Democrat Savannah Robinson, Libertarian Don Fulton and Green Party candidate Jim Chisholm.
Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, Place 2 candidates are Republican Mary Lou Keel, Democrat Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, Libertarian Mark Ash and Green Party candidate Adam King Blackwell Reposa. Place 5 candidates are Republican Scott Walker, Democrat Betsy Johnson, Libertarian William Bryan Strange III and Green Party candidate Judith Sanders-Castro. Place 6 candidates are Republican Michael E. Keasler, Democrat Robert Burns and Libertarian Mark W. Bennett.
State Board of Education, District 9 candidates are Republican Keven M. Ellis, Democrat Amanda M. Rudolph and Libertarian Anastasia Wilford.
Malakoff ISD Board of Trustees candidates are Peggy Dewberry, Stephen Burkhalter, Duana Busch, Michael Kent Monroe and Jerry Spiva. Voters may choose up to three of the candidates.
Crossroads ISD Board of Trustee candidates are Shelly Robertson, Darren Himes, William “Russell” Giles, Jr., Dustin Cook, Kevin Hazelip and Shane Stanfield. Voters may choose three candidates
The City of Caney City has a bond election for $191,000 tax bonds for structing and equipping a fire station.
Also on the ballot for some voters in Precincts 1 and 4 is The Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 special election proposition to confirm the creation of the Henderson County Emergency Services District 11 and the levy by the District of a tax not to exceed the rate allowed by the Section 48-e of the Texas Constitution.
See page 3A for polling locations.
Posted by : October 20, 2016| On :
Special to The News
ATHENS – With more than 700 arrests made in his first four months in office, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse continues his campaign against illegal drugs with the arrest of two men Monday, one a felon with methamphetamines and a firearm.
“Lead Narcotics Investigator Kay Langford, and investigators Brad Beddingfield and Josh Rickman are leading the charge in this war on illegal drugs,” Hillhouse said. “With the rest of my fine team, hundreds of drug dealers and users have been pulled off the street, put in jail and are facing serious time for their crimes.”
James Bedard, 42, has been charged with manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance believed to be methamphetamines between 4 and 200 grams, a first degree felony.
He was also charged for the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, a third degree felony.
Bedard faces up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of the first degree felony charge if convicted. He is being held on bonds totaling $14,000
Jerry Thomas Jr., 52, was arrested at an address on FM 2494 in Athens for possession of marijuana.
“It was during that initial arrest of Jerry Thomas for an outstanding warrant that the investigators saw the suspected methamphetamines,” Hillhouse said. “We obtained a search warrant from Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Milton Adams, and arrested Bedard.”
Thomas was released the following day with a $1,500 bond.
Hillhouse took office June 1, promising to lead a campaign against illegal drugs in Henderson County. His efforts have won the praise of civic and community groups.
“The people told me their biggest concern was illegal drugs – especially the devastating impact of methamphetamines on the community,” Hillhouse said. “So, I made it this Office’s mission to spend every hour fighting drugs on the streets, and in homes, hotels, motels and trailer parks.
“To the dealers and users who don’t believe me, rest assured I have plenty of beds in the jail and if you bring your poison to my county, I’ll find you,” Hillhouse said.
Posted by : October 13, 2016| On :
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–A dangerous felon was arrested after a late-night shooting; and two other men were charged with unrelated possession of illegal drug Oct. 6, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reported.
Michael McFarlin (aka Little Mike) 29, was arrested in Tyler last Thursday following a shooting incident south of Chandler.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a disturbance call and found two victims, a man and a woman, who had been beaten with a baseball bat. Emergency Medical Service was called and took the male victim to Tyler for treatment.
Deputies also found bullet holes in both the home and vehicles at the residence.
After a day-long investigation, Hillhouse’s team – Chief Kevin Halbert, Captain David Jones, investigators Ray Yockey, Wick Gabbard, Deputies Kyle Pochobradsky, Gabriel Shue, and Jacob Sumrall – arrested McFarlin at a medical clinic in Tyler.
Additional charges are likely, and McFarlin remains in the Henderson County Jail. He is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a weapon, deadly conduct discharge of a firearm. His bonds total $75,000 and he is being held without bond on a parole violation.
Prior to going to prison in 2007 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and robbery, he was involved in the manufacture and delivery of controlled substances. Soon after his release from prison, in 2011 he was arrested again for assault, causing bodily injury. He was on his way back to prison when he racked up more charges for family violence, drug trafficking and possession of a firearm by a felon. Upon release from prison a second time a bench warrant was issued for another assault causing bodily injury charge in 2012 and he was returned to prison to serve more time.
“This is one we worked overtime to get off the streets,” Hillhouse said. “He is a danger to this community, and I am proud of my team of deputies for working through the night to get him,” he said.
Meanwhile, lead narcotic investigator Kay Langford and investigators Josh Rickman and Brad Beddingfield arrested Allen Ray Key, 60, at his home of FM 1615 in Athens.
County Court at Law Judge Nancy Perryman granted a search warrant after the Investigators gathered probable cause evidence and information.
Key was found to be in possession of suspected methamphetamine and charged with manufacturing or delivering of a controlled substance up to 200 grams. He was released on a $15,000 bond.
Also Thursday, Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Thomas Goodell arrested James Paul Wilson, 33, of Gun Barrel and charged him with felony possession of suspected methamphetamine.
The Deputy also confiscated $1,002.59 found with the suspected methamphetamine. Wilson and a woman had stopped their vehicle in the median on U.S. Highway 175 between Athens and Eustace and were arguing, which prompted the investigation.
He is being held on a $8,500 bond for possession of a controlled substance less than a gram.
Posted by : October 6, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS—The Henderson County Commissioners issued two proclamations when it met for its first meeting in October, the start of its new fiscal year.
This week marks the National 4-H week, Oct. 2-8, and nine young people accompanied by their AgriLife adult director each took a brief time at the microphone to introduce themselves and tell a little about 4-H and what they liked best about it. They ranged in ages from 8 to 19. While some spoke of their passion for the traditional 4-H areas such as horticulture and animal husbandry, several also showed excitement for the organization’s newest area: robotics.
Justin Jones, the club treasurer, said this is the second year for the robotics program and he has used his experience there to apply for a scholarship to NASA. Presiding officer Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney after hearing from two of the boys on robotics admitted that 4-H has changed a lot since he was young.
“I’m impressed by all of you,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas said. “We’re all very proud of your accomplishments in the 4-H program.”
McKinney noted in the proclamation that 4-H has been active in Texas for 108 years and that 602,000 young people are participating over a diverse swath of the population.
A second proclamation was issued naming October 2016 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month for the county. Representatives from the East Texas Crisis Center were on hand to be recognized for their faithful service to the victims of this oft overlooked “silent” crime that devastates children and families in the county.
To top off a month of awareness activities, the Center is hosting its Hope Awards to recognize community members, especially in law enforcement and the court system for their help to stop domestic violence and offer hope to those trapped by it. This year’s nominees will be recognized at the annual Wine and Cheese fundraiser set for Oct. 28 in Murchison at the Overton Ranch. Tickets are available by calling the ETCC at (903) 675- 2137.
In other business, commissioners
• Agreed to operate election for Coffee City Nov. 8 for its General Election
• Approved a slate of fees updated for the 2017 year for the Sheriff’s Office and Constable precincts.
• Reset a speed limit on 5.4 miles of CR 4400, located in Precinct 4 south of Larue and Poynor to 35 mph.
Paid the bills totaling $150,420.41 and for the purchase of a steel wheel roller for Pct. 4, $17,500.
Posted by : September 29, 2016| On :
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Athens Rotary members heard details about the move by the Henderson County HELP Center and Maggie’s House/Edith Books Child Advocacy Center to North Highway 19, during the club’s weekly luncheon Sept. 22.
The Henderson County HELP Center and Maggie’s House/Edith Books Child Advocacy Center support children who have suffered abuse and neglect with a family advocate to assist them through the court process, and provide counseling for the child victim and non-offending caregivers. Also offered are programs dealing with mental health and pregnancy in schools as well as the United Way Help Line, which can be reached by dialing 211 on telephones.
The child advocacy organizations have roots in that United Way Help Line established at the Henderson County Courthouse in 1987. The organization announced earlier this summer that it was moving from its current location at 309 Royall, just east of the courthouse square, which they has occupied for about a quarter-century. The new property purchased by the center consists of three buildings for a total of 10,000 square feet. The Athens Housing Authority will continue to occupy one of the buildings.
Leslie Saunders, executive director of the HELP Center, said the property would include a serenity garden, nestled between the two buildings being prepared for use, as a private place for those dealing with the complex issues addressed by the organization. Saunders said child abuse cases reviewed by her office have increased 82 percent since Sept. 2015.
The soon-to-be home for the HELP/Child Advocacy Center was financed from an anonymous real estate gift, which was then sold, the proceeds from which were used to buy the State Highway 19 property. The new complex address is 807 N. Palestine, and includes frontage on North Prairieville, which runs parallel to Highway 19.
The News Photo/Russell Slaton
Kathy Benton (left) of Athens Rotary Club is congratulated Sept. 22 for receiving Paul Harris Fellow Plus 1 status by Athens Rotary president Mike Matchael (right), a recognition based on contributions toward the international organization’s humanitarian efforts.