Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : June 17, 2013

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS-The Athens City Council accepted a bid from Lone Star Equipment to begin repairs and top sealing various roads in Athens. Council members accepted the recommendation of Director of Utilities Glen Herriage, based on experience of previous projects and a competitive bid of $176,886, submitted by the contractor.

Many roads are in serious need of repair, Herriage said. Roads scheduled for repairs, preventative maintenance and seal coating are: Bunny Rabbit, Crestway Street., Lover Lane, St.Thomas, Prairieville, Ben Belt, Laird, W.Clinton, Ford, N.Pinkerton, Murchison, N.Wofford and Baker.

No start date was announced for the top seal 2013 project.

The council also approved $53,000 for water line improvements and expansions on a section of Gibson Road and Robbins Road.
Finally, the council adopted by resolution a Rate Review Mechanism agreement with Atmos Energy. This describes the process for cities to negotiate rate increases with the natural gas utility.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : May 23, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–The Athens Chamber of Commerce continued its tradition showcasing the big business of agriculture with the 50th annual Henderson County Farm and Ranch Tour May 21. The tour was capped by naming Jody Jackson Henderson County Agriculturist of the Year.
Big business it is. According to the US Census Bureau, 83 percent of Henderson County residents are involved in some form of agricultural-related commerce. The business generates $125 million in the county each year.

About 200 people joined for the tour, which began early Tuesday morning with donuts and coffee at the Henderson County Fairgrounds. After a time of visiting, the busses took off at 9 a.m. sharp.
The three stops on this year’s tour were the Milan Quarter Horse Ranch, the Dal Riata woods, wildlife and water property, and the J1 Ranch.

The first stop, at Milan, showed off a stunningly large and beautiful barn used to breed, raise and exhibit some of the finest Halter show horses in America, including the National Palomino Halter winner. Milan is owned by Kelly and Scott Trahan and managed by Tyler O’Neal.

After that, the tour headed to the lakefront property of Dal Riata, owned and operated by the Robertson family. The vision for Dal Riata is to focus on woods, wildlife and water to provide three generations of Robertsons an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The lake is fully stocked with primarily largemouth bass.

The J1 Ranch was the final stop of the Farm and Ranch tour. Agrilife Extension Agent Rich Hirsch said it was fitting to finish the tour at a cattle operation.

“As long as I have anything to do about it, the tour will always include a cattle ranch,” he said.

Chris Johnson, who runs the ranch with his mother, Patsy, said J1 is a “working ranch,” and not just for show.

The Johnsons are currently supporting 300 pair of cattle. Yearly they retain 50 head of heifers for replacements. Calves born in the spring and weaned in the fall. Calves are sold at 22 to 28 months of age, weighing about 1,100 pounds.

After the tour, the luncheon and awards ceremony began.

Hirsch, the Master of Ceremonies for the event, presented Jackson with the presages Agriculturist of the Year Award. Jackson was a Athens High School graduate and now resides in Murchison. His lifelong goal has been to farm, raise cattle and enjoy that way of life.
Jackson began with a few cattle a poultry operation, and now runs a commercial cow/calf operation raising quality Brangus replacement heifers for sale to other ranchers, a feed steer operation growing out approximately 150 steers a year, custom tractor work, baling hay and planting sprigs.

Jackson has also spent time as a trustee for the Murchison ISD, served on the ASCS county committee, was one of the first to serve on the Henderson County Beef Cattle Committee, served as a Grand Jury foreman for the Henderson County DA’s Office, was a former member of the FFA and an officer during high school, a member of Ash Baptist Church and a strong supporter of the Murchison Volunteer Fire Department.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : May 13, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

MALAKOFF–Texas public schools using the STAAR-readiness tool CSCOPE have recently come under fire from conservative groups for teaching an anti-Christian, anti-American and pro-Islamic curriculum with a “hidden agenda.”

Malakoff ISD Superintendent Randy Perry updated Malakoff Rotarians about the situation during their weekly meeting May 7 and said the claims were “misguided” and “not based on fact.”
CSCOPE is a teaching tool used by, according to Perry, 870 of the 1,100 public schools in Texas. Its purpose is to get public school students from kindergarten to high school ready for college using the tougher standards from the Texas STAAR tests.

“It worries me that people think that 870 Texas schools that have the best interest of their kids at heart promote Islam and Communism,” Perry said.

Perry illustrated a confrontation he had with a member of the Red-Hot Conservatives, a group that opposes CSCOPE, last January.

“I’m also a Baptist minister. Lets just say it was the first time I had ever been accused of promoting Islam,” he said.

According to Perry, opponents of CSCOPE, including a Cedar Creek Lake based group operating from the email stopcscope@centurylink.net, pull their arguments from two CSCOPE lesson plans. One, which is no longer in the curriculum, was titled Heroism verses Terrorism.

“The lesson encouraged students to think critically about the Boston Tea Party and how the action was perceived differently by the colonies and the British Crown,” Perry said.

According to Perry, this led opponents to conclude the curriculum pushed anti-American values.
The other point of interest that CSCOPE opponents draw from is the teaching of Islam and World Religions.
Before explaining the criticisms, Perry reminded Rotarians that a basic class on World Religions must be taught in public schools.

“I asked my Social Studies teachers what they thought of the World Religion section of CSCOPE and they concluded that it probably does spend more time on Islam than Christianity,” Perry said. “Last time I checked we were a Christian nation, so my teachers have the liberty to decide how much time they think is needed to teach Christianity as well as the other World Religions.”

Perry said that teachers have the same liberty in any subject, not just in World Religions.
“At Malakoff ISD, we treat our teachers as professionals and use CSCOPE as a tool to assist in meeting testing criteria. They can follow the lesson plans as closely or loosely as they wish.”



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 21, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

MALAKOFF–Students at Malakoff Middle School found out that a little hard work and good presentation can be well rewarded.

Students submitted a video about what makes Malakoff Middle School exceptional to the “Texas Public Schools Rock!” video contest. By early March, the video was floating around the Internet and social media sites, racking up the views.

On March 19, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) announced that Malakoff Middle School won first place and a $5,000 reward to be given to the district to be used in the students’ classrooms and campus.
Only one first place prize was given for all Texas Middle Schools. The context was open to all Texas elementary and secondary public school students.

Malakoff Middle School Principal Quintin Watkins is extremely proud of the students.

“They did such an amazing job,” Watkins said. “Malakoff Middle School has the best students in the state of Texas. They play, learn and grow together so well. Teachers and parents make sure they get the best education they can every day.”

The school will be deciding what will be done with the prize money soon. According to Watkins the students that were a part of the video will meet with teacher Jerri Cheek (who organized the submission) and the campus improvement team to determine the best way to spend the money.

“Whatever we end up doing, we want to make sure to recognize all the students that participated in the video so that future students will know of their legacy,” Watkins said.

There were many videos from Texas public school that TASB sifted through to determine the winner.

“With so many excellent entries, the final choices were extremely difficult,” says said Viola Garcia, TASB president. “We are thrilled that students from all over the state showcased their creativity and enthusiasm for the great things going on in their districts. These winning entries help explain why local schools deserve the support of their communities and appropriate funding from the state. Our students’ voices underscore why all Texans should be proud of their public schools.”



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 14, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The Nerws Staff

ATHENS–The TVCC Lady Cardinals are returning to the Women’s NJCAA Division I National Championship in Salina, Kansas March 18-23.

TVCC (32-1) is the No. 1-ranked Division I junior college team in the country and enters the tournament as the defending champions.

The Lady Cardinals will be making the trip to the women’s basketball championships for the sixth consecutive season. They have been nearly unbeatable for almost two years running.

According to TVCC Sports Information, they have not lost on the floor since the 2011 title game against North Idaho, winning 67 of their last 68 matches. Their one loss this year came by forfeit to Weatherford.

This year’s trip to the national championships will be the 18th in school history.

The Lady Cardinals advanced to the championships after winning the regional tournament March 9 in Tyler. They continue to be a model of consistency, advancing to the regional tournament finals 20 times in the last 22 years.

TVCC defeated the No. 8-ranked Blinn Buccaneers 69-58 to secure their place in Kansas. Blinn was a top team all year, as supported by their ranking, but couldn’t get past the roadblock that was TVCC. Blinn lost to the Lady Cards three times in the 2012-2013 season, including 94-88 overtime loss in the last game of the regular season.

After the regional tournament was decided, freshman Lady Cardinal Shlonte’ Allen was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, as well as league Co-MVP with Blinn’s Ausrisa Harrison. Teammates Adut Bulgak, Shannon Smith and Krystle Henderson were also named All-Region and to the all-tournament team. TVCC sophomore Savannah Carter was named to the all-conference team.

TVCC has a bye for the first round of the tournament and will not play Monday. The Lady Cardinals take on the winner of No. 16 Weatherford (24-5) and No. 17 Northeast (28-4) at 2 p.m. March 19.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 14, 2013

By Russell Slaton
The News Staff

MALAKOFF–Malakoff’s financial footing is firm, the city’s auditor told the city council at its monthly meeting Monday, March 11.

Reporting on the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, Frank Steele of Anderson, Marx & Bohl, an association of certified public accountants in Corsicana, told the council that it was a “year of progress from a liquidity standpoint.”

“You’re doing OK,” Steele said. “If you are putting back into the fund balance, then you are doing better than most.”

Malakoff’s general fund pretty much broke even, increasing by about $7,000, Steele said, raising the overall general fund balance (assets minus liabilities) to $1,303,000 from $1,296,000 the previous year. He noted that the general fund within the 2012 fiscal year had $450,000 in cash, with a fund balance of $400,000. The city’s water and sewer fund had $327,000 in cash and $3.8 million in the fund balance, Steele said, including an increase in operating income to $151,000, which was $100,000 more than last fiscal year.

That excess revenue from the water and sewer fund will be invested in a $100,000 certificate of deposit through First State Bank-Athens’ branch in Malakoff, an agenda item that later was affirmed at the meeting by the council. This certificate of deposit purchase was the city’s first in about a decade, Steele said.

Certificates of deposit through banks are backed by the federal government via the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Such purchases are standard procedure for government entities, according to City Administrator Ann Barker.
As for debt, the general fund carried $138,000 in notes that was paid down to $96,000, Steele said. The water and sewer fund took on $400,000 in debt last fiscal year for water storage facility improvements, he added, which increased overall water and sewer debt to $1,260,000.

One issue brought up by Steele during his fiscal report to the council was “bank reconciliation,” which is similar to the balancing of a checkbook. When asked by Mayor Pro-Tem Tim Trimble to explain, Steele said, “Last year, the final audit adjustments either didn’t get posted or it was lost being sent over.” That adjustment accounted for the final difference in the city’s balance, Steele said. Council member Jeanette King noted after Steele’s presentation that bank reconciliations are done by the city “every month.”

In other business, the council approved the low bid of $86,363 for Malakoff’s public works department to purchase a third backhoe for the utilities division. This backhoe will be used to help fix ongoing drainage issues and to tear down substandard structures within the city limits, Public Works Director Tim Whitley told the council.

The new backhoe will be a 2013 Case Model 580SN. The department currently owns two backhoes, a 1998 model Case and a 2002 Caterpillar. “The backhoe is something we use every day,” Whitley said, noting that recent creek improvements have put a strain on the department. To pay for the new backhoe, the department “could stay within its means (budget) without increasing costs,” he said.

Whitley told the council that more creek drainage work needs to be done near Pennsylvania Street and Washington Avenue, as well as near the water treatment plant on the city’s west side.

Within the past month, the city has cleared the same creek near Cole and Moss streets, and plans more creek drainage improvements northeasterly toward the city’s Community Center, park and fire department at the intersection of State Highway 198 and Farm-to-Market Road 3062 (Star Harbor Road).

When asked by Council member Vincent Bailey Jr. whether the purchase could cause any budget problems for the public works department, Whitley reiterated, “No, we can put our heads together and keep it in budget. We aren’t coming after (the council) for anything, we’re pretty well set.”

After the item was approved unanimously, Trimble told those present that “we have had flooding problems in our city. If we ever get heavy water like in past years, it will help keep the creeks clean. It’s nothing but a plus for us.”

The new backhoe will be ready for use within the next month, according to Whitley. Bids for the backhoe were sought through the city’s membership in the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) buy board, a regional council of governments co-op.

The H-GAC Board awards all contracts, which can then be made available to local governments nationwide through HGACBuy, according to the HGACBuy website. The greater bulk purchasing power of HGACBuy allows cities, like Malakoff, to get a better deal, Whitley said.

The city council also approved the minutes of February’s regular meeting, as well as the specially called meeting Feb. 15. In addition, the council authorized paying the city’s financial obligations for February. The council’s next scheduled monthly meeting is Monday, April 8.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 8, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Editor

The Malakoff Rotary Club is preparing to “walk the talk” by committing to serve at the Faith in Action food pantry Tuesday March 12.

Rotarians discussed their roles serving with the Malakoff-based food and clothes ministry during their regular meeting March 5.

“We are going to be working in the back, boxing food,” Julie Armstrong, Malakoff Rotary president said.

The relationship between the ministry and Malakoff Rotary is going so well, Faith in Action Director Teri Caswel is in the preliminary stages of becoming a member. Rotarians unanimously accepted her application. Now she just needs to come to the next meeting and be officially inducted.

Rotarians will be splitting duties among morning and afternoon shifts at Faith in Action. They will not have a meeting March 12.

Armstrong said they may not have a Rotary shirt for new member Scotty Thomas while they serve at the ministry next week.

“What a great problem!” Armstrong said. “More members than shirts is a good problem to have.”

The Malakoff Rotary club’s next business meeting will be at noon March 19 at the Flagg House.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 8, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

Alan Coleman wants to help you help yourself.

That’s why he, and the folks at Gates Community Church in Athens, started The Chariot bus service last year.
The ministry’s motivation is simple: there is a need in the community and Gates Community can do something about it.

“I’ve been pastoring here for 13 years,” Coleman said. “As time went on the need to help people get to work just kept coming up, and as Christians we are called to minister to the whole man, not just the spirit.”
Coleman explained it another way. He believes in a “church without walls.”

“We don’t just give a man a fish,” he explained. “We help him get the fish himself.”

The fish, or course, is the symbol of provision. And Coleman says nothing can replace the dignity a man feels when he provides for his own family. It’s that dignity that he assists Athens residents achieve everyday.
Gates Community Church recently expanded its bus ministry from trips to Tyler to additional trips to workplaces in Athens. It was the expansion of the ministry that caught The New’s attention and prompted the interview.

Coleman says the biggest challenge the ministry faces is a financial one.

To cut costs and make sure Chariot wasn’t spending too much money, adjustments had to be made to the routes shortly after the ministry was launched.

“We found out real quick that saving 3-4 miles a day means something,” Coleman said. Over the course of a year, reducing driving by a block can save thousands of dollars.”

There may be some financial help to the ministry on the horizon.

TxDOT told Alan that there will be public funding for them in the future, but Chariot has some time to wait–it wont come until 2014.

Alan’s faith sustains him.

“I really believe that we are being tested by God,” he said. “We just need to hold on, be faithful and good stewards of what we have right now, and we will be rewarded in the future.”

Currently all of the certified CDL (Commercial Drivers Licence) drivers they have work on a volunteer basis. Alan would love for the ministry to grow to a place where the drivers would be paid for their service. In the meantime, Alan allows the drivers to take the small busses to their work places ease the burden.

Gates Community Church is actively seeking donations to support the Chariot bus ministry.

Ticket costs are $5 each way to Tyler and $2 each way to work in Athens.

To donate, or for more details on tickets visit their website at http://www.thechariotbuslines.com or call 877-776-4335.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : March 1, 2013

By Erik Walsh and
Lace Donaghe
The News Staff

ATHENS–It was a night of joy and disappointment at the Athens City Council chambers Feb. 25 – joy for the splash pad supporters and disappointment for advocates of a proposed veterans rehabilitation center – with a capacity, standing room only crowd in attendance.

The splash pad continued to gain momentum Monday night when the Athens Economic Development Corporation’s Grant of $20,000 to the Athens Chamber of Commerce was unanimously approved by the city council. This brings the total for construction of a splash pad at Kiwanis Park to about $140,000 of its $200,000 fundraising goal.
Audience members in the council chambers clapped and cheered when the proposed grant was approved.
The room was much more stoic when the decision was made to take no action on a request to rezone the old hospital site.

Property developer Babit LLC had requested a rezoning of the property from office use to multifamily residential-5.

Babit principal Kevin Hambrick proposes to transform the old building into a rehab center for veterans.
After more than twenty minutes of hearing concerns from residents and nearby business owners – ranging from safety issues to rezoning complications – and receiving feedback from Hambrick, the council ultimately took no action.

“I love the idea of helping veteran,” Mayor Jerry Don Vaught said. “But its important to get the zoning right before we approve the project.”

The reason for the unanimous council decision–with whispers and public comments from the crowd in agreement–was the long term ramification of a zoning change. If the Veterans Rehabilitation Center fell through, the property would still be rezoned and available for sale. Potentially, Hambrick could sell the property and an apartment complex or low-income housing could be built. That was a prospect the council was not ready to embrace.

Though the council took no action, Councilwoman Elaine Jenkens was in favor of the idea and wants to do something to help veterans.

“If there is a zoning issue we need to address, that’s fine, but we should assist the men and women that have put themselves in harm’s way for us.”

The rehab center could cost up to $8 million to build and house around 300 veterans, who served in the military dating back to the Korean War. While there, veterans would be given shelter and job skills to reenter the workforce.

For the Rehabilitation Center to continue, the Planning and Zoning Commission will need to recommend a specific-use permit, and letters to nearby residences and businesses could then be reissued to inform the community.

In other action, council members:
• ordered a city election for May 11, to be conducted jointly with the Athens Independent School District. An agreement with Henderson County was also approved to provide election services.
• adopted a resolution, as required by Texas Community Development Block Grant Program.
• opted out of the PEG Fee by Holders of State Issued Certificate of Franchise Authority. Otherwise local consumers would have been affected by the addition of a 1 percent franchise fee.
• granted the use of city equipment, labor and estimated water usage valued at about $14,596 for the Splash Pad Project at Kiwanis Park and waived all city fees for its construction.
• awarded the bid for a current model half-ton, 4X4, crew cab, four-door pickup for the fire department, to Grapevine Dodge at $22,319.
• awarded bids for a current model two-wheel drive farm tractor with cab, to Athens Tractor and Equipment at $47,535.41 and a current model 17-foot rear-mount boom cutter, to W.C. Tractor at $22,000, both for the Public Health & Safety Department.



Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : February 14, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

3T apartments in Malakoff could be getting a make-over in the near future.

Property Developer James Fieser petitioned Malakoff City Council last Tuesday for a “commitment of funds” as a good faith gesture to begin an application process that could help Fieser acquire a grant to revitalize the property.

Fieser said that getting the grant is the best chance the apartment complex has to increase its property value—a win for both the owner and city.

Fieser said the “good faith” gesture from the city would only be a temporary loan and is needed to show that Malakoff is invested and behind the project. The $12,550 “good faith” money would be placed in escrow and Fieser would write a check back to the city for the same amount. According to Fieser, the grant T3 is competing for is extremely competitive and only applicants with a city’s backing has a realistic shot at winning.

The council discussed details with Fieser for more than twenty minutes before deciding to table committing funds until speaking with the city attorney. The council said they will call a special meeting to approve or deny the commitment of funds before the nearing deadline.

The discussed renovations that T3 would receive are mostly interior restoration like new carpeting, pluming, cabinets and painting.

In other news, the council announced:

•January 30 was the first day to file an application for a place on the May 11 general elcection. The last day to file an application on the ballot will be March 1 at 5 p.m.

•Mayor Delois Pagitt and Council members Jeanette King and Tim Trimble have filed applications for reelection.