Mar

14

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.

Mar

08

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.

Mar

08

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.

Mar

01

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.

Feb

14

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.

Feb

14

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

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

The Henderson County Libertarian Party discussed their goals for the coming year and listened to activist Clint Stutts discuss how to get involved in politics on the local and state level Feb. 12.

In just the second meeting of the young party, County Chair Desarae Lindsey told the group that at least one member is planning to run for local office.

That member is James Robertson, 27, of Tool. He is making plans and preparing to run for a city council seat in 2014.

Robertson said that he wants to run to be a public servant to Tool residents. Robertson, a military veteran, said his foundational values are freedom and personal liberty. As a veteran, he is also an advocate for local programs assisting veterans.

Stutts said that the best way for Robertson to prepare for stepping into a city council seat is getting familiar with the city’s issues by becoming a regular attendee to city council meetings.

“Nearly nobody attends these meetings,” Stutts said.” The rooms are usually empty. Going to the city council meetings will be a big step in becoming involved and active in local government.”

Lindsey said that the party needs to raise funds for expenses such as literature, a booth at events to increase visibility, or even a billboard. Lindsey will need to get creative with the fundraising efforts as the party collects no dues from members.

After Lindsey finished announcements, Stutts told the group about his work pushing for nullification in Texas.
Nullification is the idea that States have the final authority to determine the limits of the power of the federal government. Nullification could, in effect, nullify federal laws (such as the Affordable Care Act), preventing them from become state law.

“We can tell our representatives that the 10th amendment means what it says and the Federal Government has stepped over the line,” Stutts said.

The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution’s principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people.

Stutts has made several trips to Austin and helped write a bill to nullify Obamacare last year.
Stutts was excited about the 15 person gathering of Libertarians.

“If you all do something and becoming activists, you can make a big difference in Henderson County.

Feb

08

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

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

County inmates will soon be serving the public by clearing fence rows at the Malakoff Historical Society and Museum.

Malakoff Historical Society Director Pat Issacson, is thrilled about getting the assistance.

“This is going to be so much help,” she said. “I am very excited.”

Issacson discussed the idea with The News just a few weeks ago while waiting for a “Friends of Malakoff” meeting at the Flag House to begin. Since then, Issacson made the calls and arrangements and put things into motion. Of course none of it would be possible without the help of county inmates and the approval of County Commissioners.

Issacson said no date has been assigned yet, and the workload is rather heavy, so it most likely will be taking several days to complete.

“There are a lot of fence rows to move,” she said “It’s hard to tell when it was last cleaned out. It’s been years. They are going to help move some big things in the house then do the work outside.”
The city of Malakoff also said it will assist in the effort.

“The city said if we get the fencing close to the road, they will haul it off for us,” Issacson said

After a day’s work is done, Issacson said there would be more opportunities to continue the clean up.
“If there is more that needs done (after the day is over), all I need to do is call them up and they will come out again,” she said.

Issacson expects it will take two or three days to complete all of the work.

Jan

31

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : January 31, 2013

By Pearl Cantrell and Erik Walsh
The News Staff Writers

KAUFMAN–A Kaufman County criminal prosecutor died of gunfire targeting him just before 9 a.m. Thursday morning, as he was arriving to work.

Mark Hasse, 57, an assistant district attorney under D.A. Mike McLelland, was gunned down by what police are reporting were two unknown assailants, dressed all in black, wearing masks and one seen wearing a tactical vest.

An all-points bulletin was issued for two males, dressed in black and believed to be driving a silver or brown-colored older-model Ford Taurus with no license plates.

Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said he confirmed that Hasse was shot outside his vehicle and the attack was totally unexpected. “We are piecing together stories from witnesses to form one accurate picture,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies centered their investigations in the parking lot behind the courthouse annex on North Washington Street across from the courthouse square.

In response to the shooting, area schools were put on lockdown, including campuses in Kaufman, Kemp, Scurry-Rosser and Forney.

Campuses in Mabank initiated a part of the district’s safety and security plan, superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall told Van Zandt News. By noon, most lockdowns and security measures had been lifted.

The Kaufman County Courthouse and Annex business offices were closed the rest of the day.

Hasse was transported to the Kaufman Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

During a 10 a.m. press conference Kaufman Sheriff David Byrnes said the victim was on his way to present misdemeanor cases in court that morning when he was assaulted and gunned down.

Investigators are combing through his case load (340-390 cases a year), looking for suspects.

McLelland said he is confident the criminals will be caught and brought to justice.

“When you deal with bad people on a regular basis, then they may do bad things to you. Mark knew the dangers of his job,” he said.

One news report said past investigations included the Aryan Brotherhood activities, two of whom pleaded guilty in federal court the same day Hasse was killed.

Lawyer James Lee Bright, who arrived at the courthouse just as law enforcement descended on the scene, is reported to have told the Dallas Morning News that the veteran prosecutor had worked on numerous cases over his career and that any one of those could be connected.

Hasse was hired with the Kaufman County D.A.’s Office as a chief prosecutor in July 2010. He also worked as a prosecutor in Dallas County from 1983 to 1990, according to another news report. He was unmarried.
County Judge Bruce Wood said he viewed the event as an attack on justice, itself.

Of Hasse he said, “He was a good man and a good prosecutor.

“When something like this happens – like the murder of the very people we trust to do justice – it’s a horrible crime,” Wood said.

A business owner on the courthouse square was shocked and disturbed at the shooting.

Maple’s Hall operator Bryant Martin told Van Zandt News, “We are a small community. It took us all by surprise. These things happen in other counties, not in ours. It’s very disturbing.”

Sheriff David Byrnes said in his 43 years in law enforcement he has never seen anything like this before. “By all appearances it was an assassination,” Byrnes said.

Kaufman County Crimestoppers has issued a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of individuals involved in the capital murder of a Kaufman County prosecutor Jan. 31. Tipsters remain anonymous by calling 877-TIPSKCC (847-7522) or text to 274637.

Additionally, a Kaufman company, ABOX is offering another $10,000 to informers in this case leading to an arrest and conviction.

Former County Judge Wayne Gent described courthouse security as always tight, but not in the parking lot. He categorized the shooting as an “ambush.”

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins sent out an email shortly after the shooting, with details unfolding in Kaufman County and warned staff to “be aware of your surroundings when leaving the building for your safety.”

Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Pat Laney said all area law enforcement are taking part in the investigation and searching for the suspects, including the Texas Rangers, Department of Public Safety helicopters, Kaufman Police Department, the lead investigator, the Sheriff’s Office and the federal agency of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

No arrests had been made in the case by Thursday afternoon, though Dallas D.A. Watkins had erroneously reported an arrest in an earlier press conference Thursday.

He offered to prosecute the case on behalf of Kaufman County.

“We will provide whatever resources or help they need since Hasse was a former Dallas County prosecutor,” Watkins said.

Jan

25

Posted by : Erik Walsh | On : January 25, 2013

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities highlighted the Jan. 19-20 weekend around Malakoff and Athens and came to a close Monday night with a Candlelight vigil in Malakoff.

The annual event, hosted by the Henderson County Black History Committee, was held at New Hope Corinth CME Church and featured speaker Rev. Billy Wright.

During his speech, Wright reviewed the accomplishments of Dr. King.

“He was a great man and Baptist minister. Because of his efforts, today we have people of color in high public office all over the county.”

He also talked about Dr. King’s “I’ve been on the Mountaintop” speech, alluding to how, like Jesus, Dr. King had faith in the results of his work and persevered even though he suspected he may not live to benefit from it.
Dr. King said “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!

“We have overcome, just like Jesus did,” Wright said.

After the lighting of the candles and the singing of Christian hymns, Wright affectionately closed with the statement “I love you all, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it!”

Jan

17

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

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

SEAGOVILLE–A Malakoff High School student was killed Sunday in a wreck on U.S. Highway 175 just outside Seagoville.

Jamiya Givens Williams, 16, was a sophomore. Also perishing in the crash was Williams’ 11-month-old daughter.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety, the accident occurred when a Ford F-150 truck struck the Chevrolet Cavalier occupied by Williams and her daughter from behind.

Prior to the collision, the eastbound Cavalier, driven by Williams’ mother, Sheryk Givens, 40, blew out a tire and slowed to about 10-15 mph in preparation to exit. That’s when the F-150 struck the economy compact vehicle, last produced in 2005.

Givens’ 18-year-old son Jabari was also in the Cavalier, however no other injuries were reported.
Funeral services will be handled by the Tomlinson Funeral Home. The date of the services are still pending as of Jan. 15.

A fund has been set up to assist the family with funeral expenses for Jamiya Williams and her daughter, Alahna, through the First Baptist Church of Malakoff, P.O. Box 408, Malakoff, TX 75148,designate checks “Jamiya Williams.”