Jun

05

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : June 5, 2015

Cedar Creek flood
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
MALAKOFF–Late Thursday night, May 28, westbound State Highway 31 was closed between Trinidad and Malakoff by Texas Department of Transportation officials because of water washing over the road. That closure came because Cedar Creek spilled over the northern portion of the highway, which is lower in elevation than its eastbound twin.

The southern part of the duplexed highway, which normally carries two lanes of eastbound traffic, was divided into one lane each for east-west traffic flow, with orange traffic barrels denoting the division. Westbound vehicles were forced to take a left over an existing paved median crossing at the top of Booger Hill, joining the southernmost part of the divided highway into Trinidad. That southern side was the original routing before the road was four-laned with a median in the late 1960s, shortly after the completion of Cedar Creek Lake.
Even though Cedar Creek is dammed to form Cedar Creek Lake just above this portion of Highway 31, major flooding along the Trinity River has backed up into the creek. That, along with localized flood waters, caused the closure. Because of Cedar Creek Lake’s construction during the early-to-mid 1960s, TxDOT engineers believed the reservoir would control flooding sufficiently, requiring fewer bridges and a lower elevation for the new, northern, westbound lanes of traffic.

The last time State Highway 31 was closed because of high water in the Cedar Creek bottom between Malakoff and Trinidad was in the spring of 1990, which was another season of heavy rains. Westbound traffic seeking to go past Malakoff on Highway 31 was advised by TxDOT signs at Highway 31’s Y-intersection with U.S. Highway 175 in Athens to detour through Gun Barrel City along U.S. 175 and State Highway 334 to Seven Points, then down State Highway 274 to rejoin Highway 31 in Trinidad.

That 38-mile detour in 1990 past what normally covered the 15 miles between Athens and Trinidad came because state highway officials had already commenced construction on improving the eastbound bridges on the southern side of the Cedar Creek bottom. The 1990 construction had already narrowed that side’s traffic down to one lane, making two-way contraflow infeasible.

Further downstream, Cedar Creek also inundated FM 1667 (League Line Road) near the former Creslenn Park, south of Trinidad. That stretch remains closed as of The News’ June 3 press time for this edition.

Jun

05

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : June 5, 2015

Emergency worker COMP

By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
MALAKOFF – Four people went to the hospital over Memorial Day weekend after bailing off all-terrain vehicles to avoid an oncoming train while riding down its right-of-way.
The Saturday, May 23 incident occurred along the Union Pacific tracks, directly behind Malakoff’s Antioch Baptist Church. It prompted responses from the Log Cabin, Caney City and Payne Springs volunteer fire departments (VFDs).

The train rounded a slight curve about 2 p.m. when the engineer spied the four ATV riders and brought the train to a halt, said Mike Tanner, the Log Cabin VFD assistant chief. Tanner said none of the people or ATVs were struck by the train.

Most injuries appeared to be from the fall down the railroad right-of-way’s steep, rocky side, the assistant fire chief said. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, he added. First responders initially tried two different routes from nearby State Highway 31 in unsuccessful efforts to reach the scene. Muddy conditions and a creek that runs parallel to the railroad bed thwarted those efforts.

Eventually, medical personnel entered through an adjacent gated property and made their way to the scene by foot. One of those injured went to the hospital by East Texas Medical Center ambulance, while another was airlifted to the same hospital in Athens. Two more, Tanner said, went to the hospital by private vehicle.
No further word on the condition of the four people, nor their identities, is known as of Wednesday, June 3’s press time for this edition of The News.

Apr

27

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : April 27, 2015

Julie armstrong
Malakoff ISD Superintendent Randy Perry and board member Rick Vieregge thank Julie Armstrong and First State Bank for their support of the students of Malakoff ISD through the Stand Up For Public Schools program from the Texas Association of School Boards.

By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
MALAKOFF– Malakoff ISD trustees during April 20’s monthly meeting officially hired Don Enis of Kerens to take over the Tiger basketball program from retiring DeArtis Nickerson.
Enis has also coached at Dawson and Kerens, which he took to the 2012 state semifinal game in Austin. In his eight seasons at Kerens, Enis racked up several district championships and regional appearances, and this past season was named the District 19-2A co-coach of the year.
Enis will teach English at Malakoff, said Superintendent Randy Perry. In addition to Enis, all teachers who have not turned in resignations were rehired by the school district during Monday’s meeting, Perry said, who added that the district has hired Krista Stutts to teach first grade.
Also during the MISD meeting, trustees discussed roofing problems at the Leo Orr alternative campus, as well as possible remedies. Superintendent Perry said there are currently six leaks, none of which are where students are housed. Perry said the school will talk to insurance adjusters about repairs, and said the leaks likely stem from previous hail damage that eventually allowed water to leak through the roof underpinning. Most of the facility is used for storage, he added.
The Malakoff school board also recognized First State Bank of Athens, Malakoff branch during the meeting under the “Stand Up for Texas Public Schools“ program. The program was established by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) to celebrate business support provided in local communities, express appreciation to those who stand up for schools, and encourage more businesses to participate in this sort of community service.
“The TASB program allows us to recognize businesses in district that are especially supportive,” Perry said, “and always being there for anything we needed. Julie Armstrong (FSB branch manager) has been a strong supporter of both our athletics and academics programs. She has made resources available from First State Bank for anything we need. We’re glad they’re such a positive force for Malakoff ISD.”
TASB president Andra Self also was present during the Malakoff meeting, where she presented district staffer and video sponsor Jerri Cheek a check for $2,500, the prize for the school district’s second-place entry in the TASB “Texas Schools Rock” video contest. Perry is “very proud” of the effort, and said the video is available on the school district’s website.
Trustees also reviewed state school funding, as well as the future of the ASATR program, which stands for additional state aid for tax reduction. That is a program instituted by the state legislature in 2006, Perry said, which was when the state also cut property taxes by one-third. One-third of bigger or property-rich districts were defined by the state as “hold harmless,” Perry said, and those districts received additional state funding to make up for revenue loss.
That program is going away in the 2017-18 school year, and Perry reviewed the figures with trustees. For example, Malakoff reverts $1.6 million in taxes back to state, from which Texas sends back $1.4 million, keeping $400,000. That difference would be lost without the ASATR program, as would money considered “recaptured,” a provision of the Texas school finance system through which property wealth in the state’s wealthiest districts is used to help support less-rich districts.
Between loss of ASATR funds and recapture, the district is looking at an additional $1.2 million in cuts to stay balanced, which would follow the $900,000 in cuts the district made in 2011 in response to the state cutting $5.4 billion from education funding during that year’s legislative session. Earlier, trustees also reviewed its spending template. There have been two separate bills before the state legislature with differing amounts on what’s provided for education, Perry said. “We’re kind of in limbo right now, but will adjust when we see what legislature does,” he said.
Trustees also heard reports on the school’s food service audit by the state, and passed a resolution for raising the price of meals for non-students, as well as for second meals. The audit was excellent, Perry said, and the state was very impressed with the school’s food service department, he added. The state did recommend that the district raise the meal prices, which the board did, with a vote to move adult and second meals to $3.50 from the current $3, which will take effect in August.
In addition, the board approved a five-year contract with energy provider MP2. The district pays 5 cents per kilowatt hour now, but the new contract reduces that rate to 4.33 cents. MP2 also provides energy for Palestine ISD and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Perry said.
The board also approved its depository contract with First State Bank of Athens, and also heard Malakoff ISD athletics director and head football coach Jamie Driskell about the “Malakoff Night of Champions,” which will be held Friday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. instead of a traditional athletics banquet. The Night of Champions will allow supporters to come see the student-athletes “put in the work behind the Friday night action or basketball game, all the things they do to get stronger and faster,” Perry said. For instance, there will be a lift-a-thon to raise money for athletics programs, in addition to a dinner during which athletes will be recognized.
Also, Perry told trustees about the school’s UIL academics, which finished a close second at the recent district academic meet, as well as activities that are going “great guns” right now, Perry said, between Malakoff entries at the Henderson County Livestock Show, the first baseball district championship since 1994 success in softball and one-act play advancing to area. State testing continues across the district, Perry said, and the school sent its application to the U.S. Department of Education for the federal government’s Blue Ribbon schools program, for which Malakoff Elementary School was nominated by the state education commissioner. The district is now waiting to hear back for the final report, which Perry said will be issued in September.

Apr

08

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : April 8, 2015

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
TRINIDAD–The City of Trinidad is without its own active police force Wednesday when Police Chief James Cook and officer Andrew Brunette announced their resignation.
Cook and Brunette will be on paid administrative leave until April 21, the date of the next scheduled city council meeting. Trinidad Mayor Larry Estes said he expects council members to begin the process of restaffing the vacancies during that meeting.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Department will be taking over law enforcement in the interim and at press time are transferring city evidence to county detectives.
Estes learned the shocking news during a business meeting with Cook and Brunette early Wednesday morning. Cook had been with the force since July 2013, and Brunette, since October 2013.
The Trinidad Police Department has been with just two staff members since former officer Jarod Mills’ resignation at a special council meeting January 13. The council agreed in the cost-cutting move to not replace Mills and free up money in the budget.
Estes could not specify what circumstances led to Cook and Brunette’s resignation. A call to the Trinidad Police Department Wednesday was unable to uncover specifics either, as Cook was in transition planning. Cook stated “I have no comment and am in a hurry.”
This was Cook’s second stint as the Trinidad Police Chief. He previously served as chief in 2007 and resigned after a dispute with former District Attorney Donna Bennett. He has since served in law enforcement with Jasper County, Log Cabin City and Athens.
His return to Trinidad was heralded with lofty goals to “clean up the city” by enforcing city code to bring property owners into compliance.
“City code enforcement is our first priority,” Cook had said. “We need to get the city presentable to get people to move here, not away from here.”

Dec

30

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : December 30, 2014

Athens Fire-Shawna Smith-5-29

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.

Dec

30

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : December 30, 2014

The News
Staff Reports
MALAKOFF–Malakoff Independent School District (MISD) Board of Trustees approved the installation of new turf at Tiger Stadium, which may likely make them one of the preferred ball fields for game play in Henderson County.
The Matrix Synthetic Turf, consisting of two different grass blade sizes and two different colored fibers, will cost $889,083 with installation by Hellas Construction beginning in early May 2015.
The turf, according to the Matrix Turf website, brings together a combination of qualities for ideal light deflection, enhanced playability and system stability on an artificial turf that looks natural in appearance.
The project should take about 90 days to complete but should be ready before football season begins according to MISD Superintendent Randy Perry.
Perry says the school’s band has grown too large to be able to practice on their field and will now be able to do so at Tiger Stadium.
Also in the works for the stadium are restroom and concession stand improvements.
The two women’s restrooms on both sides of the football field will undergo renovations and building additional restrooms may be possible as well.
Malakoff is the sixth Henderson County school to install the Matrix Synthetic Turf at its facilities.

Tiger Stadium

Jun

26

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : June 26, 2014

Train accident2

By Russell Slaton
Monitor Correspondent

MALAKOFF–A 14-year-old Malakoff boy was killed Thursday afternoon when he ran in front of a passing train while trying to cross the tracks.

Kim Suttle, whose son Dakota, 16, witnessed the death, said Harry Smith, 14, was clipped in the leg crossing from his home, directly south of the railroad tracks at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad and FM 3441 (S. Terry Street, in downtown Malakoff.)

The witness was taken to Malakoff City Hall, his mother said, to be interviewed by law-enforcement officials. Officers on the scene included several state highway patrol officers, along with local law enforcement. Henderson County Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Tommy Barnett also was at the scene, as was a law-enforcement chaplain.

Jill Davis of Malakoff said she was at the nearby Methodist Church and heard a train whistle about 3 p.m., then heard a loud crash. “I thought, oh my God, the train derailed,” Davis said. The victim sometimes worked at an antiques business just north of the tracks, she added.

The train was uncoupled, with each segment on both sides of the FM 3441 intersection, through which traffic proceeded. Traffic was blocked by the front portion of the uncoupled train at the Carver Avenue intersection, to the west. None of the train’s cars appeared to be derailed.

Jun

18

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : June 18, 2014

By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent

MALAKOFF–The family of an Iowa man who died of a heart attack following a reckless driving incident with an off-duty Malakoff police officer late last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, where the later-indicted officer remains on administrative leave with pay.

Records obtained through a public information request made April 23 by The News and obtained June 6 include court documents filed April 24 in federal court in Marshall by Tyler and Sulphur Springs attorneys representing the family of William Livezey. The suit alleges that the city of Malakoff used “substandard and inadequate hiring and screening policies” when it hired Ernest Fierro, who has a checkered past as a Dallas police officer.
The lawsuit also claims the city of Malakoff “implemented policies, procedures and practices which actually interfered with and caused (Fierro’s) wrongful acts and/or omissions,” according to the court filing. The lawsuit continues: “These official policies of the city of Malakoff were the moving force behind the wrongful acts and/or omissions plead for herein that was a direct and proximate cause of the death.”

The Livezey lawsuit asks a jury to award an unspecified amount “for each element of damages that is just and fair, based on the evidence.” Also filed in federal district court was an April 28 summons to Malakoff Mayor DeLois Pagitt notifying the city of the lawsuit, which names both Fierro and the city of Malakoff as defendants.
Other documents obtained through the public information request show that Fierro’s Malakoff employment application included his Dallas police record. That record reflects Fierro’s Nov. 2005 resignation while under investigation for a violation of the department’s chase policy, and 2001 termination following Class B misdemeanor criminal accusations not specified in documents, which Fierro successfully appealed down to a 20-day suspension to continue his Dallas police employment. A police officer who resigns while under investigation usually loses his or her state peace officer’s license, but Fierro successfully appealed to state officials to keep it, The Dallas Morning News reported in 2008.

Fierro’s employment file also includes letters of recommendation, including one from a former Dallas Police Department (DPD) colleague and another from the mayor pro tem of the Ellis County city of Ferris, where Fierro worked before Malakoff.

“I have always found Ernesto to be very reliable, truthful, ethical and very hard-working,” wrote Armando Dominguez Jr., a senior corporal with the DPD canine squad.

Ferris Mayor Pro Tem Gary Ross also put in a good word for Fierro during his Malakoff job application process. “I recommend him to you without reservation,” Ross wrote. Fierro resigned July 15, 2013 with a general discharge from the Ferris Police Department and was eligible for rehire, according to documents, then was hired July 31 by the city of Malakoff.

Other former employers were not as glowing. In a background investigation questionnaire dated July 25, Ferris Police Chief Sam Love was asked to categorize Fierro as an employee, with choices of excellent, good, average or poor. Love chose average. When asked how Fierro takes receiving corrections or being critiqued by a supervisor, Love wrote “fair.” When asked whether Fierro followed instructions well and worked well with co-workers, the Ferris police chief chose both yes and no.

Another document obtained through the public information request shows that Fierro was placed on administrative leave with pay from the city of Malakoff on Feb. 22 “pending further investigation and completion of a criminal trial,” Malakoff Police Chief Billy Mitchell wrote in a letter sent to Fierro’s Dallas address officially notifying the officer of the leave.

That letter came three days after a Navarro County grand jury indicted Fierro Feb. 19 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, official oppression and reckless driving related to a Dec. 11 incident alongside State Highway 31 east of Corsicana, during which the grand jury indictment alleges Fierro ran Livezey off the road with his motorcycle, then held him in handcuffs until Navarro County deputies arrived on the Chambers Creek bottom scene after numerous calls to 911. Livezey, 70, soon fell ill and collapsed, then was sent by ambulance to Navarro Regional Hospital in Corsicana, where he died of a heart attack. Jury selection for Fierro’s criminal trial is set to begin July 21 in state district Judge James Lagomarsino’s Corsicana court.

Several other documents requested by The News were not produced by the city’s attorney, Hank Skelton of the Athens law firm Kugle, Skelton and Bennett, who claimed the information’s release was protected by state law. Some of those documents include the investigation into Livezey’s death by Cleburne-based Texas Ranger Michael Stoner, a memorandum regarding Fierro from Chief Mitchell to City Administrator Ann Barker the day after Livezey’s death, and an affidavit from Fierro five days after the incident.

May

23

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : May 23, 2014

gilmore

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS-Investigators released new information that led to the May 9 arrest of former Malakoff Independent School District Police Chief Todd Gilmore for theft of property valued between $1,500-$20,000.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit from the Athens Police Department (APD), Gilmore confessed to stealing $1,500 cash from Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens after being confronted with video surveillance evidence.
The affidavit states that video surveillance showed Gilmore arrive at the funeral home in his MISD vehicle, where he was employed as a contract labor embalmer, at 10:23 p.m. April 28. After gaining access to the building, the time stamp on the video surveillance immediately changed from 22:25:35 to 22:51:34 – a 26 minute gap.

Michael Conley, a representative of the funeral home, stated that Gilmore had no contract work at the funeral home that night and, according to the funeral home’s technical support team, unplugging the surveillance system main power cord from the wall outlet would account for the time stamp gap. Conley also brought attention to a chair near the filing cabinet where the missing cash was stored. After the 26-minute gap, the chair in front of the file cabinet had a noticeable change in position. Conley suspected Gilmore moved it to gain access to the filing cabinet.

Additional video showed Gilmore enter the main front office area, turn on the office lights and file a document before turning off the lights and leaving the building. Conley believes Gilmore allowed himself to be seen in the office doing paperwork as an excuse to be in the building, according the affidavit.
The reporting officer to the initial theft report Friday May 2, Corporal William Carlow, of the APD, contacted Gilmore by phone May 6, and the two met at the police department the next day. During the interview, Gilmore admitted to taking the $1,500 cash.

Gilmore was arrested on May 9 and was jailed for six minutes before posting a $10,000 bond. Malakoff ISD Superintendent Randy Perry said Gilmore resigned as MISD Police Chief May 7. Gilmore has been the district’s chief since April 2008. Before that, he served as a police officer with Parkland Hospital in Dallas for eight years, and an officer with the City of Malakoff from 1992-2000. He has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer for more than 25 years.

Mar

31

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 31, 2014

The News Photo/Erik Walsh
Coach Todd Gilleland (right) gives tips and direction to the players on the Rangers Little League team in Malakoff March 21.

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