Posted by : admin | On : June 5, 2015

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners saw to two main orders of business June 2: extending the county’s local disaster declaration and giving the Halyard Energy tax abatement final approval.

The County extended its local disaster declaration to match Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 4 date for the State of Texas, opening the county and its residents up to flood relief benefits from the state and federal governments. The funds are needed to recover from the storms and flood damages that drenched much of Texas throughout May.
County Emergency Management Coordinator Joy Kimbrough reported to Commissioners that the rains caused $4.5 million dollars worth of county and private infrastructure damage. She reported that $345,000 of it was purely damage to the county. The county easily qualifies for federal assistance, as $275,000 for damages are needed.
“The fact that the disaster has gone on so long and is not over yet have caused serious damage to the county and its residents,” Kimbrough said.

Precinct 4 was hit particularly hard in May, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said. Henderson County Road and Bridge EMployees have been working night and day since storms swept through May 10 and dropped 10 inches of rain on Henderson County.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said the storms have placed his crew two months behind on other projects.
The tax abatement approval came after two workshops and months of discussion. The approval leaves the ball in Halyard Energy’s court to move forward with building a $120 million, natural-gas-fired peaking power plant on County Road 4402 at the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 2588 in Larue.

If Halyard agrees to move forward, the plant will feed additional electricity into the Texas power grid at peak times to prevent brownouts. The abatement would be 95 percent for the first year, and step downward to 75 percent by year 10, the final year of the abatement.

County Judge Richard Sanders said the county will see an estimated $750,000 in tax revenues from the property over a 10-year period, an average of about $75,000 per year.

In other news, Commissioners;
• approved an interlocal agreement between the county and Log Cabin to allow repairs in the community;
• allowed the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office to transfer in-car repeaters to the Coffee City Police Department;
• renewed the inmate housing agreement between the county and Orange County to keep prisoners at a cost of $47 per day in times of disaster, such as a hurricanes;
• approved a contract between the county and the Baxter Volunteer Fire Department for $10,550; and
• paid bills in the amount of $286,708.66.



Posted by : admin | On : March 18, 2015

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners made it clear they support giving small towns the ability to bring tougher restrictions to sex offenders that live in its jurisdiction.
The vote commissioners agreed on Tuesday backs State Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s December legislation, House Bill 384, to provide “general-law municipalities the ability to pass local ordinances to restrict sex offenders from child safety zones.”

The bill would put small towns on equal footing to cities with populations greater than 5,000, which already restrict where sex offenders live.

The commissioners’ vote will have no effect on the legislation, but shows the county’s support.
Talk of the legislation’s need was fueled this month when registered sex offender James William Cassels, 31, moved across the street from a Eustace Independent School District campus earlier this month. Cassels was convicted of assaulting a 5-year old boy.

Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders voiced her displeasure of his residence location and the fact the city’s hands are tied to intervene.

“This monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and cana live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.
If the legislation is approved it will effect most of Henderson County, as the only cities in its borders with a population greater than 5,000 are Athens and Gun Barrel City. The bill was filed last legislative session by State Rep. J.M. Lazano, and former State Rep. Lance Gooden, but neither bill made it out of committee.

In other action, Commissioners:
• re-appointed four members of the Henderson County Regional Fair Park Board, Lee Tackett, Charla Hendrix, Charles Elliott and Brian Childress;
•authorized the transfer of a Brother Intellifax 4100e fax machine to the Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Environmental Crimes unit;
• required Atmos Energy to obtain two road bonds in the amount of $250,000 each for proposed pipeline contraction in Precincts 1 and 2.



Posted by : admin | On : March 13, 2015

Special to The News

EUSTACE–A registered sex offender who assaulted a 5-year-old boy has moved across the street from the Eustace Independent School District campus where children play on the school grounds, Eustace Mayor Elicia Sanders reports.

James William Cassels, 31, who also goes by “Pork Chop” and “Little James” registered this week with the Eustace Police Department as a sexual offender living on Farm-to-Market Road 316 S. in Eustace across from the town’s schools.

“This five-and-a-half foot tall, 280-pound monster was sentenced to 10 years in prison but is free now and can live anywhere he chooses in small Texas towns because the law does not allow us to protect our kids from him,” Sanders said.

Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Dist. 4) has filed HB 384 to prevent registered sex offenders from living near schools, daycare centers and other places children gather. “This is even more proof that we must pass Rep.. Spitzer’s legislation to prevent child molesters from living by our children near schools and parks,” Sanders said.
In larger cities, local laws regulate where sex offenders live.

“Rep Spitzer is leading the charge for his small town protection act and is urging other communities to join the fight against child predators,” she said.

Eustace Police Chief Jason Perrini said that people can rest assured that the police department will keep a close eye on him – “as we do with all sex offenders, to make sure the children of Eustace are safe no matter where they are in town, but this proposed law is needed to protect our schools.”



Posted by : admin | On : August 1, 2013

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS–Voters will decide whether alcohol will be sold in Justice of the Peace Precinct 3, which includes Brownsboro and Chandler to the Smith County Line. Residents gathered more than 1,600 signatures to get it on the ballot, surpassing the requirement of 1,389. The Henderson County Commissioners received approved the petition for a local option liquor election on November 5.
If the approximately 8,000 registered voters in JP3 decide to allow alcohol sales, area convenience and grocery stores will be able to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

Commissioners also set a public hearing for 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. to close a portion of County Road 3718 in Precinct 3. The request from adjoining landowners who ask it be turned into private property and blocked off claim the road is used for dumping and is littered with tires, trash and construction debris. The landowners have agreed to clean the road at their expense, if allowed to block it off.

In other action, commissioners:
•approved an interlocal agreement for the county to provide voting equipment and conduct elections for Coffee City, Gun Barrel City, Tool, Trinidad , Payne Springs and Malakoff ISD.
•approved the hiring of a part-time administrative assistant for the District Attorney’s Office, to be funded from law enforcement budget line.
•accepted tax re-sale deeds of three properties in Precinct 1, bids were accepted for two properties in Cedar Knoll for $1,250 and one property in Woods West, near Seven Points for $300. Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas inspected the land and reported the distressed condition and recommended the bids be accepted.
•approved county assistance for road repairs in and around the Poynor Cemetery in Precinct 4.
•agreed to allow Virginia Hill Water Supply Corp to lay 500 feet of water line on CR 4336 in Precinct 4, after a homeowner’s well dried.
•discussed the appointment of five board members to the new Emergency Service District 6. The board positions are open to residents in portions of precincts 3 and 4, those interested can apply to Commission Court Judge Richard Sanders. Applications will be accepted through the end of August.



Posted by : admin | On : July 13, 2013

Help Center

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–The Henderson County Help Center has been helping residents in their time of need for more than a quarter century.
The Help Center originally got its start in 1987 as a place where local churches could organize and track where resources were going. Executive Director Leslie Saunders explained.

“There was some overlap on where some of the churches were dispensing funds,” she said. “The Help Center assisted in preventing the same people from going from church to church – making their rounds and starting over again at the first church.”
More than simply preventing potential abuse, the purpose of the Help Center was to find out why people needed help and assist them is becoming self-reliant.

In the early ‘90s, the Help Center finally found its home. First Baptist Church offered a very generous lease on a building at 309 Royal St. in Athenswhere it is to this day. The 99-year lease costs The Help Center a dollar.

“First Baptist has been a continued blessing to the county,” Saunders said. “They are still one of our biggest partners today.”

Another Help Center partner which has been there since the beginning is The United Way. In fact, in its origin the program was called “The United Way Help Center.” Today it shows its support through the United Way Help Line,a clearing house of available resources to individuals and families by locating a way to meet their needs. There is a screening process that includes documentation. Residents may recieve financial aid in dire circumstances but ussualy only up to three times, with six month intervils.

In some rare circumstances these rules can be breached, but the need and situation must be merited and urgent, Saunders said.
The Help Center offers many services including various forms of counseling including assistance to physically or sexually abused children, pregnant mothers, school children and new parents.
Other programs include:

• PEP (Pregnancy, Education and Parenting), a school drop out prevention program for pregnant or parenting teens. The program can provide transportation, life skills and day care.

• SAP (Student Assistance Program) provides therapy services to at risk youth at school campuses.

• CAC (Child Advocacy Program) works with law enforcement, child protective services, the District Attorney’s Office and medical and mental health professionals to assist children from suffering abuse.

• Heritage Keepers is an abstinence and life skills education class developed to equip and empower adolescents to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

For more information about The Henderson County Help Center call 903-675-4357 or visit their website at www.the helpcenter.org.



Posted by : admin | On : July 12, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The NewsStaff

ATHENS–Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders has called together a group of experienced professionals throughout the county to talk about, organize and add structure to a collective response to local emergencies.

The group, called the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), is filled with members from all over the career track, including energy production and distribution, emergency management, fire fighting, hospitals and media.

While the committee doesn’t function in actual emergency situations, its role is to identify and catalogue potential hazards, identify available resources, mitigate hazards and writing emergency plans.

Henderson County Emergency Management Coordinator Joy Kimbrough says the committee’s main goals are educating its members about proper safety and emergency protocol and communicating that information to each other and the public.

“It’s all about education and communication,” she told The News. “While we have no direct control on what people do, such as making laws, we can provide the education needed to assist in preventing a disaster.”

Important lines of communication include the facility owners, first responders, city officials and the general public. It is necessary for industry to be a part of this planning process to ensure facility plans are compatible with local emergency plans.
“Not every man-made hazard can be fixed,” she said. “But they can be identified and people will be more aware of what they need to be safe in case of an emergency.”

Emergency planning and safety is fresh on the mind of many leaders in Texas after the deadly explosion in West April 17.
Man made hazardous materials are part of life today, and since they are not going away, as a community, options include handling them safely and responding correctly if something does go wrong.

Athens fire chief and LEPC chair person John McQueary responded to a barrage of media inquires last month when channel 8, WFAA reported that ammonium nitrate, the chemical fertilizer blamed for the deadly explosion in West, was distributed in a building near the square in Athens.

While many people were alarmed to discover the hazardous material was distributed so close to the square, its location is not new. It’s been sold there for more than 15 years.

The News spoke with McQueary about the ammonium nitrate stored at 105 Larkin.

“In a nutshell, the government has deemed it a safe material,” he said. “It takes outside sources to make it volatile. As long as protocol is followed, there should be low risk of an accident. Every explosion is because of an error., not the substance. As long as we work in conjunction with each other and follow regulations, its safe.”

Some regulations McQueary cited to keep ammonium nitrate stable is good ventilation, keeping it clear of other chemicals that could leak or get near it, making sure the building owner is following electricity codes and ensure no gas operated vehicles are stored in the facility.

“We are making sure the building is in compliance,” he said. “Would it be better if it was somewhere else? Yes. Would it be better if it was in a new building? Yes. However, the reality is, it is safe right now. That fertilizer plant was here before most of the city was and consumers need it in a location that is easily accessible.”

McQueary was reassuring about the city’s capability to put out a fire if it broke out at 105 Larkin.
“We have a 2-3 minute response time to that location,” he said. “We have three hydrants right there that could be quickly accessed. In 5-7 minutes the whole place would be flooded.”

McQueary said comparing the facility to the one in West is like comparing apples to oranges.

“West had a huge facility. Transport trucks with gasoline were in it, as well as multiple substances. There was a greater chance of accidents to happen. We have one product in one building. And it’s prime season for farmers. It moves out quickly because farmers want it. It’s gone the next day or two after it arrives.”

He said he is making its safety as one of his highest priorities.

“You had better believe, after West, we are triple checking everything to make sure its in compliance,” he said.



Posted by : admin | On : July 11, 2013

burn ban 002

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS-Hot and dry conditions across Henderson County were high priority for commissioners Tuesday. A unanimous vote to implement a countywide ban on outdoor burning went into affect, after hearing from area volunteer fire departments, seeing the increase in brush and grass fires and a recommendation from the fire marshal.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas witnessed one recent grass fire in the Seven Points area and said he’s been monitoring the daily reports of fire dangers. “Based on conditions it’s what’s needed,” he said. “We looked at both the state maps showing drought conditions and the index for Henderson County and it is dryer in the western section, we’re going county-wide to keep everyone safe from fires that can get out of control.”

In the past, burn bans were only put in place for parts of the county, but to avoid confusion, the ban will be county-wide through July 23, when commissioners will either extend it or lift it, due to sufficient rainfall. In May, the National Weather Service recorded four inches of rainfall in the county. June and July have reported little or no rainfall amounts. Violations are a C-misdemeanor, punishable up to $500 per incident. Authorities and fire departments will enforce the ban.

Commissioners also held two public hearings; the first took input on the proposed guidelines for right-of-way- use by utility companies. A 19-page document prepared by Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Geesling standardizes requirements for all utility companies to install lines or pipes in the county. The second hearing invited public input on proposed changes to the Emergency Services District 7 boundaries. These changes were accepted and will appear on the November ballot for voters of ESD 7.
In other business, commissioners:

• approved funds for an employee luncheon in connection with the Healthy Rewards program. Fifty county employees successfully completed an eight-week fitness program. Funds totaling $400 from the “Sonicboom” program to promote healthy diets and exercise for the county’s 400 employees. The program motivates healthier lifestyles among employes in an effort to lower insurance rates.

• approved a contract with Gray and Company, a commercial insurance consultant, to manage negotiations for premiums paid by the county for liability insurance and worker’s compensation.

•approved contracts between Henderson County and 29 taxing entities for collection of property taxes for the 2013-14 cycle.
• accepted a tax resale deed for lot 25, in Lake Shadows, Precinct 2, the bid of $500 for the property was considered fair for the distressed property.

• agreed to hold the next Commissioners’ Court at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, instead of July 16.

• paid bills totaling $169,451.75.



Posted by : admin | On : July 3, 2013


Special to The News
ATHENS–Jackie Martez Guthrie, 23, of Frankston was sentenced to Life in the Penitentiary recently after pleading guilty to the July 2012 shooting death of 18-year-old Chantel Barrett of Tyler.

Barrett was found dead outside a Coffee City residence on July 19, 2012. Police found her body while responding to a call about gunshots. Guthrie, 23, was quickly identified as a suspect and a manhunt was initiated. Guthrie was believed to have also kidnapped 19-year-old Tiffany Hurd, who was eight months pregnant with Guthrie’s child at the time.

Approximately 24 hours later, Guthrie was spotted by former classmates, vacationing in Galveston. He was taken into custody without incident. Guthrie had in his possession what prosecutors believed was the weapon used to shoot Barrett. Investigators from the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office traveled to Galveston to interview and transport Hurd back to Henderson County. A funeral service was held for Barrett on July 23, 2012 in Henderson.

Guthrie entered his plea on the morning of June 17 in Judge Dan Moore’s 173rd Judicial District Court. Family members from both sides were in the courtroom during the proceedings.

Prosecutors and investigators believe Barrett was shot while trying to keep Guthrie from nabbing the 8-month pregnant Hurd during a scuffle between Guthrie and Hurd. District Attorney Scott McKee and Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner prosecuted the case. Investigator John Long led the investigation for Sheriff Ray Nutt’s department.

“Chantel was a beautiful young woman who had her life senselessly taken while trying to save her friend. She is a true hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice for someone she cared for,” McKee said.



Posted by : admin | On : June 30, 2013


Special to the News

ATHENS-Tuesday marked the end of a long road for two Henderson County fugitives. Joy Lynn Everett and Pete Quinonez had been on the run from law enforcement but finally ran out of road. Diligent efforts from Sheriff Ray Nutt’s office and District Attorney Scott McKee’s office ensured that the two would ultimately give up and turn themselves in to authorities.

Everett was convicted in early February 2012 for Possession of a Controlled Substance. Prosecutors Justin Weiner and Nancy Rumor tried the case on behalf of the people of Henderson County. All it took was seven minutes for a jury of six men and six women to deliver a convicting verdict. On April 3, 2012, a month later, the court heard evidence at a punishment hearing where Weiner stated: “This is someone who has failed to take responsibility for her actions on every level,” Weiner stated.  “While she was out on bond, and awaiting a trial in this court, she was caught with even more suspected methamphetamine, and went to great and extremely bizarre lengths to try to conceal evidence.” The court sentenced Everett to a term of eight years in prison. Her attorney filed an appeal and she was granted bail, while the appeal was pending. Having secured a bond, she was out on bond, yet again. On April 24, 2013, the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler affirmed the conviction securing Everett’s eight-year sentence.

Everett had been on the run ever since, until some hard work paid off on Tuesday (June 25). Early in the morning, deputy Kyle Pochobradsky received information regarding the whereabouts of Everett. Everett was living in a residence at 117 Estrota Drive in Cherokee Shores with Pete Quinonez, who also was a fugitive from justice. Quinonez had an outstanding bond forfeiture for a Possession of a Controlled Substance case as well as a Motion to Revoke pending for failure to pay child support.

Ultimately, Everett’s presence in the home was verified. Captains Bryan Tower, Kay Langford, deputy Michael Teel, and narcotics investigator Wick Gabbard arrived at the residence where a lengthy standoff ensued. District Attorney’s Office investigator Ronny Halbert and Weiner also arrived on scene. Everett eventually removed the barricade from the front door to the home and came out willingly once she released that legal forced entry was imminent.

Both Everrett and Quinonez were taken into custody and transported to the Henderson County Jail. Everett will await transport to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to serve out her sentence and Quinonez will be held on his current pending charges.

District Attorney Scott McKee praised the work of deputy Pochobradsky for his efforts in locating the fugitives.



Posted by : admin | On : June 26, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

EUSTACE–Sometimes a great legacy can propel us to our former glory. The Jesus Connection in Eustace is experiencing just this kind of renaissance.

For 20 years the First Baptist Church in Eustace has operated a food pantry. Its had times of growth and decline – sometimes servicing a single family, other times filling the entire parking lot with people in need of a meal.

The early 2000’s were a period of prosperity for the food pantry. It was open one Tuesday every month and people came in from the surrounding tri-county area for its services. After a time the leader that organized the weekly pantry fell ill and the ministry transitioned back to a one-room service. It stayed that way for nearly a decade until some of the church’s faithful started talking about a growing need in the county and their ability to do something about it.

“It started during the pantry’s charity golf tournament,” The Jesus Connection organizer Gary Walsh said. “Larry Albertson approached me about it. A conviction was heavy on his heart that the pantry should be bigger than it was. Since I had been organizing the pantry it was on my heart, too. We prayed about it with (pastor) Paul McKinney and God has been leading us in this direction ever since.”

Today, Walsh and Albertson, along with their wives Patty and Carol spearhead the community service ministry with two goals in mind for recipients: feeding both the spiritual and physical sides of man. After some preparation the pantry is again open the first Tuesday every month from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Considering future plans, Walsh said that he hopes the pantry will grow to be open each week to serve more people. If or when the ministry grows again, it surely means more trips to “The King’s Storehouse” in Tyler, where Walsh and Albertson purchase the food. You can count on them being up for the drive.

“Jesus said we are to take care of the poor and needy,” Walsh said. “We are not here to judge anyone, just to serve. We just ask that they take part in a 15 minute Bible study before they leave.”

The response from the community to the resurgence of The Jesus Connection has been phenomenal, Walsh said.

“We already have 12-14 faithful volunteers,” he said. “And we raised $5,000 at Twin Lakes Golf Course earlier this year.”
Walsh draws upon a story Jesus concludes in Matthew 25:40 for inspiration and guidance. The scripture reads; “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Roughly translated, that means “If you’re serious about loving me, be serious about loving people.”

The Jesus Connection is seeking sponsors and donations to better serve the region. For more information call the Eustace First Baptist Church at 903-425-2261.