Aug

17

Posted by : admin | On : August 17, 2017

Hensarling Meeting
By Tom Chapman
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Local citizens gathered Thursday for a town hall meeting with U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R).
After opening remarks and introduction by County Judge Sanders, Congressman Hensarling stated that he was honored to occupy the “citizen’s seat” and recognized that despite political or philosophical differences “our citizenship unites us.” He then talked about recent legislative actions in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hensarling informed constituents that the House had been busy, passing about 300 bills. He went on to say that “about 200 of them are sitting in the Senate awaiting action.”
After talking about challenges the country and Congressional District 5 are facing, including healthcare reform, actions on entitlements, fiduciary concerns he opened the floor for questions and comment.
Several citizens asked about healthcare reform, expressing frustrations that deductibles have risen along with costs. The congressman stated the house had been working on a reform bill which preserved choice in providers and made the healthcare exchanges more easily accessible.
Other citizens asked insightful questions about campaign finance, with the general consensus that the citizens thought there were potential conflicts of interest by Congress accepting monies from industries in which congressmen had regulatory oversight.
Congressman Hensarling has represented the 5th district since 2003 and currently chairs the House Financial Services Committee.

Jul

27

Posted by : admin | On : July 27, 2017

Rodriguez

Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill (from left) presents Life Saving Awards to Patrolman Jonathan Hutchison and Corporal Roger Keith for their bravery and outstanding sevice for rescuing a trapped resident from a multi-story structure fire June 28.

Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill (from left) presents Life Saving Awards to Patrolman Jonathan Hutchison and Corporal Roger Keith for their bravery and outstanding sevice for rescuing a trapped resident from a multi-story structure fire June 28.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Athens City Council accepted the resignation of City Manager Philip Rodriguez at the July 25 meeting.
Rodriguez, who has been city manager for about two years, leaves to take a city manager position in Brighton, Colo., his home state. During his tenure in Athens nearly $13 million of capital improvements have begun, including the Cain Center revamp and major work to the water system.
In his resignation letter, Rodriguez detailed accomplishments made and said, “We did all of this and more while establishing a truly impressive city staff that is one of the most capable group of professionals and public servants I have ever worked with.”
Although his resignation is effective Sept. 10, it was announced at the city council meeting that his responsibility for the City of Athens would end on Aug. 8. Rodriguez thanked council members and the city for the opportunity and said a special thanks in his letter to former mayor Jerry Don Vaught for his “consistent support and mentorship.”
Athens Chamber of Commerce President had high praise for Rodriguez. “In the time that I’ve been a part of the Athens community, first with Cain Center and now the chamber, Philip has been very supportive. He is someone I’ve enjoyed working with and I’m very thankful for his service to the Athens community and his part in helping to move things to a place where good things are happening all around.”
Councilman Ed McCain said, “Philip and his family are going home to Colorado. I am very happy for him and he has done a really great job. But I am positive and forward looking. This is a great opportunity for Athens to get even better.”
McCain told The News that Athens has a great city staff and the city is primed for a great next 10 years with projects that are well underway and will be completed in a fiscally responsible manner. He also stated the city has a great possibility for an interim city manager.
Two Athens police officers were presented Life Saving Awards for rescuing a trapped resident during an early-morning structure fire in a multi-story building June 28. Patrolman Jonathan Hutchison and Corporal Roger Keith were the first to arrive on the scene and once they ascertained that there was indeed a trapped resident, they went into action to rescue her. Chief Buddy Hill said, “Without regard to their own personal safety, they pushed past the flames, entered the burning structure, located the resident and removed her.” Both officers and the resident were treated for smoke inhalation but no lasting damage.
Athens Fire Chief John McQueary praised the officers for their extreme bravery in rescuing the woman. “Those flames put out 1,200 degrees of heat and without protective gear or specialized training, they went in. All they saw was a life that needed to be saved.”
When a citizen’s request for de-annexation of his property came before the council, much discussion ensued. This was not the first time this had been brought before the council and was denied in November, 2016. The issue concerns a 31-acre tract of land (Tract 4A Abstract 135 D Cherry Sur) which the property owner was not aware was within city limits as a Lake Athens property when he purchased it.
Property owner Tom Potthoff wishes to develop the land for four homes. The city provides no services to the acreage, some 40 miles outside the city. After presentations by Potthoff and Planning and Development, council members voiced differing opinions and the item was tabled.
In other business, council members:
• heard a resolution presented by Councilwoman Toni Clay honoring Richard “Dick” Dwelle for 63 years of outstanding service to the people of Athens. Dwelle was instrumental in founding the Henderson County United Way, Keep Athens Beautiful, the Athens Industrial Foundation, the Public Library Fund and the Civic Center and Park Fund, serving on several of their boards. Dwelle passed away in June.
• agreed to allow heavy vehicles in commercial property by special-use permit so a business selling new and used trucks may operate on US 175.

Jul

27

Posted by : admin | On : July 27, 2017

Log Cabin City Secretary Belynda Figueriedo (right) admiinisters oath of office to new City Councilperson Rodney Allen. Allen replaces Jennifer Williams who resigned.

Log Cabin City Secretary Belynda Figueriedo (right) admiinisters oath of office to new City Councilperson Rodney Allen. Allen replaces Jennifer Williams who resigned.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
LOG CABIN–Log Cabin City Council accepted the resignation of council member Jennifer Williams and appointed Rodney Allen to take her place at the regular meeting on July 20 at the Log Cabin City Municipal Building.
The council approved some important changes to the payment of water bills and court costs which take effect Sept. 1. Water bill payments will be accepted between the hours of 8 a.m. to noon Monday
through Thursday. The policy was also amended to no longer accept cash for payment of water or court bills. Payment may be made by check, money order or credit/debit card.
Councilperson Judy Bearden told the assembly “This will make it more efficient and save time for the office personnel.” When asked what would happen if someone brought in a payment after hours, she answered, “They can put it in the drop box and it will not affect the bill being late.” The group was told there would be no change in the service fee for using a credit card.
The change will be communicated to residents via signs on the Municipal Building, newsletter and a notice on the water bill.
The council also accepted a bid for repair of the water system in the amount of $19,890 from Cates Welding for repair of the 30,000-gallon ground storage tank with the stipulation that the bid expected next week is not lower. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) informed the city of the violation during a routine inspection and are allowing the city time to make the repair before charging for the violation. The council did not want to wait another month to take action since at this point, they were not being charged a penalty for non-compliance. The bid was the lower of two they had received.
In other business, council members:
• approved hiring Amberlea Commino as a part-time park attendant
• adopted the investment policy for small cities as their official investment policy. City Secretary Belynda Figueriedo informed the council that by state law, they must have an investment policy in place even if they don’t have money to invest.
• renewed the church lease for the current rate of $400 per month at a one-year term.

Jul

13

Posted by : admin | On : July 13, 2017

The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell Mayor Warren Claxton (right) presents a plaque of appreciation to Duane Smith, for his service on the city council.

The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Mayor Warren Claxton (right) presents a plaque of appreciation to Duane Smith, for his service on the city council.


By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
STAR HARBOR—Star Harbor Mayor Warren Claxton told a full room of his fellow residents that the city’s filings before the Public Utility Commission had been dismissed. “A technicality in the form of the application caused the dismissal,” Claxton explained. Star Harbor has a different law firm handling its legal work now, he indicated after public comments. “Whoever was responsible for the application ought to have his feet held to the fire,” Rick Koziol said in closing public comments.
The city is in contention with the City of Malakoff over a sharp rise in the cost of wastewater treatment. Star Harbor produces its own drinking water and is moving forward on building its own wastewater treatment plant.
Former councilman O.R. Perdue presented the quarterly and semiannual report on water and wastewater expenditures. Since January, the city has paid its customary $3,400.41 monthly billing to the City of Malakoff and a much larger amount into an escrow account. The payments total $20,402.46 for wastewater treatment and $98,076.18 toward escrow, totaling $118,478.64 or a monthly payment of $19,746.44 for the community’s 420 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
At the end of 2016, the City of Malakoff presented a new service contract to Star Harbor, representing a 600 percent-plus increase in service charges. The city has repeatedly asked for an explanation of the new charges, a meeting to discuss the new contract and has sent representatives to the City of Malakoff City Council meetings without gaining any response.
The City of Malakoff attorney Hank Skelton to date has not responded to The News queries on this matter, nor has any council member. Since January, Star Harbor has continued to pay the amount it was paying under the former service contract and deposited the balance in an escrow account. After listening to legal advice from a resident who has an active law practice, the council felt that paying according to the new contract would be tacit agreement with the new contract, so in lieu of that an escrow account was set up. It was hoped that the growing amount in escrow would induce the City of Malakoff to enter into a discussion with city officials.
In other business, the council:
• recognized the faithful service of Duane Smith, who most recently served as Mayor Pro-tem, filling in for Dr. Walter Bingham who had to step down due to health reasons. He has also served as a former mayor of the city and on the council for several terms. Smith was not returned to the council during the May 6 election. The council appointed Claxton mayor, since Bingham’s resignation came after the deadline for the May 6 ballot.
• amended Ordinance 165 to coincide with state law requiring slow-moving vehicles to exhibit a triangular caution placard on the rear. Golf carts being used primarily for transportation use will be required to carry the placard. Golf carts traveling strictly between home and the golf course for use on the course are exempt, along with carts kept strictly for use on the greens. Police Chief Todd Tanner explained the need for the amendment.
• discussed amending Ordinance 162 dealing with new construction in five areas, including landscaping, dumpster permit fee, signage, minimum square feet and short-term rentals. The council took a vote on each area separately after discussion and hearing extensive public comment and Building and Zoning Committee recommendations at the beginning of the meeting.
• tabled making changes to landscaping requirements, took no action to implement a dumpster permit, change the minimum building footage requirement of 1500 sq. ft. or change in signage rules, which now reads that only city signs may be posted on city property at the entrance of Star Harbor and other signs must be removed from private property within three days of the event and can’t go up more than three days before the event.
• on a 4-1 vote, approved short-term rental use of properties with the intent to set a workshop to regulate such use.
• heard four building permits were issued since the last meeting.
• recognized the work of resident Gay Morris in preparing the community newsletter which keeps residents apprised of local news and events.

Jul

06

Posted by : admin | On : July 6, 2017

Sentator Nichols with Superintendents
Special to The News
AUSTIN–Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) met with school superintendents from around Senate District 3, June 28 to discuss items which will be addressed during the Special Legislative Session, beginning on July 18, 2017. In addition, they also discussed what occurred during the 85th Regular Legislative Session.
“As we head into the upcoming special session, many of the items which will be addressed are education related. I wanted to make sure I took the opportunity to discuss these important issues with the Superintendents from our local school districts,” said Senator Nichols.
Some of the items discussed included administrative flexibility, teacher pay increases, property tax reform, school vouchers and school finance reform.
“I do not believe the Legislature can successfully make good decisions, unless we are listening closely to those we represent,” said Nichols. “Education is and always will be one of the most important issues we face as a state.”
Senate District 3 represents 101 school districts throughout 19 counties including Henderson County.

Jun

22

Posted by : admin | On : June 22, 2017

City of Malakoff Mayor Delois Pagitt (right) takes the oath of office.

City of Malakoff Mayor Delois Pagitt (right) takes the oath of office.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
MALAKOFF–The Malakoff City Council met June 12 to deal with the results of the May 6 general election. The election left the City Council with no changes as Jeanette King and Tim Trimble were sworn in as council members and Mayor Delois Pagitt was once again sworn in as mayor. Tim Trimble was also re-elected as Mayor Pro-Tem by his fellow council members. The time and date of regular council meetings also remains unchanged.
Auditor Frank Steele of Anderson, Marx & Bohl and P.C. regarding the city’s audit report for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016. The auditor stated the city has $1,060,000 in cash and certificates of deposit and commended the council for their fiscal responsibility as they had spent approximately $100,000 less than budgeted.
The council adopted a resolution authorizing the continued participation with the ATMOS Cities Steering Committee to fund regulatory and activities related to ATMOS Energy Corporation.
The council convened into executive session before item 6 on the agenda which was to hear reports and updates from City of Malakoff Fire Chief Eddie Muehlstein requesting a maintenance fund, permission to destroy inventory or removal of property, permission to hold an open house on June 24 and recommendation of appointments of Officers and personnel. Chief Muehlstein was invited into the executive session.
When the council reconvened back into the regular session, permision was granted to donate some items including a used television. No action was taken on the other items.

Jun

08

Posted by : admin | On : June 8, 2017

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Henderson County taxpayers are still paying for the 2007 crimes of Randall Mays after Commissioners approved payment of his capital murder case June 6.
Only Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin opposed the payment, which totaled $21,514.47. This time the expense will go toward a mental evaluation for Mays, who was convicted in May of 2008 for killing Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn.
Geeslin said he is upset the country is still paying for Mays’ crimes and wonders why the county tried to convict him of a capital offense.
Mays was sentenced to death for his crimes and scheduled for execution in March 2015, but the court of appeals delayed the process claiming Mays might not be competent to receive the death penalty. Henderson County picks up the resulting bills for the defense because it is a capital case.
Commissioners also approved the Keep Athens Beautiful and Light Up Athens organizations to decorate the Henderson County Courthouse and lawn this winter.
Dressing up the courthouse with festive lights and decorations is a tradition in Athens, but Commissioners are compelled to go through with the vote each year anyway due to a premise use policy put in place five years ago. According the Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders, the property isn’t a public forum, but individuals or private groups can be contracted to place displays on the property.
In other business, Commissioners approved:
• a payment of $19,000 from Sportsman’s Paradise Property Owners Association for materials to repave 1,200 feet of Mallard Street in Precinct 3;
• a right-of-way permit for the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply Corporation;
• a request for a refund for overpayment of taxes from the Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collector in the amount of $8,586.45;
• payment of regular bills in the amount of $620,047.76.

Jun

01

Posted by : admin | On : June 1, 2017

ATHENS–District Attorney Mark Hall reports that the Henderson County Grand Jury for the January-June term 2017 returned 35 True Bills May 17. In addition, six cases are indicted under seal. They include:
• Kawliger Lee Connelly, 41, Kemp, indicted for Possession of Controlled Substance (PCS).
• Cecil Ray Collum, 49, Malakoff, indicted for Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear.
• Walter Edward George, Jr, 49, Mabank, indicted for Assault.
• Jack Roy Thornton, 31, Kemp, indicted for Failure to Comply with Registration Requirements.
• Matthew Wayne Harris, 34, Athens, indicted for two counts of PCS.
• Matthew James Davis Moreland, 18, Athens, indicted for two counts of PCS.
• Ernest Raydell Smalley, 24, Athens, indicted for Manufacture or Delivery of a Controlled Substance in Penalty Group One (PG1).
• Bruneswick Lakeith Jones, 45, Athens, indicted for PCS.
• James Randolph Sockwell, 36, Athens, indicted for PCS.
• Gary William McCord, 23, Trinidad, indicted for PCS.
• Donald Preston Walsh, JR, 33, Tyler, indicted for Assault.
• Joshua Michael Ochoa, 38, Malakoff, indicted for PCS.
• Jared Isaac Galindo, 31, Gun Barrel City, indicted for Aggravated Assault.
• Amy Lynn Smith, 37, Trinidad, indicted for PCS.
• Ivory Lewis Brown, 70, Athens, indicted for Theft.
• Becky Lynn Kemp, 38, Brownsboro, indicted for PCS.
• Casey Wayne Housewright, 36, Trinidad, indicted for PCS.
• Justin Tyler Beamon, 25, Mabank, indicted for Unlawful Possession of Firearm and Aggravated Assault.
• Joseph Anthony Ask, 34, Athens, indicted for PCS.
• Angelina Francesca McNabb Ferguson, 44, Tyler, indicted for PCS.
• Jesus Salidavar (a.k.a. Armando Zavala), 33, Athens, indicted for Evading Arrest or Detention.
• David Wayne Sumrall, 46, Malakoff, indicted for Assault.
• Tray Daniel Walters, 24, Kemp, indicted for Evading Arrest or Detention.
• Cynthia Ann Sonoff Hodges, 46, Corsicana, indicted for PCS.
• Maurice Cartez Miller, 38, Athens, indicted for PCS. Callie Lanae Chalk, 25, Kemp, indicted for PCS.
• James Robert Huffaker, 58, Kemp, indicted for PCS.
• Bobbie Renee Carroll, 42, Kemp, indicted for Prohibited Substances and Items in Correctional Facility.
• Travis Brax Davis, 19, Murchison, indicted for Burglary.
• Roger Allen Coleman, Jr, 46, Mabank, indicted for Forgery.
• Javier Castaneda, Jr, 18, Athens, indicted for Burglary.
• Scotty Lemond Barker, 34, Athens, indicted for Burglary of Vehicle.
• Brad Wesley McGuire, 26, Athens, indicted for PCS.
• Christopher Emil Mireles, 33, Tyler, indicted for Aggravated Robbery, Unauthorized Use of Motor Vehicle, Burglary, three counts and Unauthorized Use of Motor Vehicle.
• Billy Ray Clark, 48, Athens, indicted for PCS.
• Tray Daniel Walters, 24, Kemp, indicted for Evading Arrest or Detention.

May

25

Posted by : admin | On : May 25, 2017

Toni Clay sworn in
Monte Montgomery
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–The newly elected mayor and council member took their seats in Athens Monday night after winning their respective elections earlier this month.
Mayor Monte Montgomery and councilwoman Toni Clay began serving two-year terms after taking oaths of office. Montgomery was sworn in as mayor by County Judge Richard Sanders, and Clay was sworn in as a council member by City Secretary Bonnie Hambrick.
Outgoing Mayor Jerry Don Vaught received a standing ovation when Mayor Pro-tem Tres Winn presented him with a certificate commemorating Vaught’s 10 years on the council, including five as mayor.
Vaught had many kind words during a short speech, including praising the people of Athens for taking care of each other and being wonderful friends to him. “You can’t take that away from Athens,” he said.
Vaught also spoke highly of City Manager Philip Rodriguez, who took over the post in March 2015.
“You’ve turned this city around, and made it outstanding,” Vaught said. “It needed to be done for over 20 years. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know where we’d be.”
In other action:
• Fire Chief John McQueary presented Life Saving Awards to Sarah Barnes, Johnathan Toney and Jay Kinzer;
• Mayor Jerry Don Vaught read a proclamation declaring May as Historic Preservation Month;
• the council approved a re-plat of lots at 600 E. Tyler St. for the future ABC Auto;
• Aaron Smith was reappointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission; and
• the council approved a second reading of an amendment to an ordinance, thereby creating the Cultural Resources Commission.

May

25

Posted by : admin | On : May 25, 2017

By Kate Pittack
Extension 4-H Agent
HENDERSON COUNTY–AgriLife Extension urging Texans to Click It or Ticket.
This year’s Click It or Ticket Campaign will be May 22-June 4, which includes the Memorial Day weekend and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is urging Texas drivers to buckle up.
Once again, the agency is supporting efforts by the Texas Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety and police and sheriff’s departments across the state to save lives by promoting increased seat belt use.
Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by 45 percent for people in the front seat of passenger cars.
“They also reduce the risk of dying by 60 percent for drivers of pickups, because pickups are twice as likely to roll over as passenger vehicles,” AgriLife Extension vehicle safety program manager, College Station, Bev Kellner said.
Texas achieved a nearly 92 percent statewide seat belt use rate in 2016 per Texas Department of Transportation data. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the “Click It or Ticket” initiative in Texas saved 5,068 lives and prevented 86,359 serious injuries since its inception 15 years ago. It also saved more than $19.3 billion in related economic costs from 2002 to 2016.
“This year, the campaign is focusing on wearing seat belts all the time, especially at night,” Kellner said “Fifty-seven percent of fatal crashes in Texas happen at night. And last year, of all crashes in Texas in which people died and weren’t wearing a seat belt, 62 percent happened at night.”
She said Texas law requires the driver and all passengers in a vehicle to be secured by a seat belt.
“Unbuckled adult drivers and passengers, even those in the back seat, can be fined and face court costs of up to $250,” she said. “Children younger than eight must be in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4–feet 9-inches.”
Kellner said because this year’s campaign time frame includes Memorial Day weekend — when many people take to the road to enjoy a long weekend — drivers can likely expect to encounter additional law enforcement activity, including seat belt and child restraint checks.
“These officers are not out there just to write tickets; they want to help prevent needless tragedies associated with vehicle crashes.”