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2007 Year in Review Part One

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In the Hawkins/Holly Lake area, 2007 was year of many newsworthy events covering the full spectrum of community life, government and law enforcement activity, along with progress in education and local athletics.

January: As the year opened, county commissioners recognized the service of interim Wood County Judge Don Hightower. Hightower had been appointed to the position the previous summer following the resignation of former County Judge Royce McCoy.

On January 1st, eleven Wood County newly-elected officials were sworn in at the 402nd District Court. Among these were the newly-elected Wood County Judge Bryan Jeanes, newly-elected Wood County Criminal District Attorney Jim Wheeler, and the newly-elected Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Clarence "Clancy" Holmes Jr.

A sad note turned into an uplifting note as Constable Dave Betts thanked the "angels" who gave his family what he termed their best Christmas ever. Betts was diagnosed with multiple cancers in August 2006. Help in providing a wonderful Christmas for the children and help with mounting medical bills arrived from various "angel" sources: ladies of the Care and Share Bible Class of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler and various sources at Holly Lake Ranch including Holly Lake Kiwanis Club and the people of Holly Brook Baptist Church for their prayers and support as well as the support from friends of the Betts family at Holly Lake Ranch.

A man convicted of the murder of a Quitman convenience store clerk 20 years ago was back in a Wood County courtroom. Michael Riley was sentenced to death but a last minute appeal caused a delay in carrying out the sentence which was scheduled for September 2006. Judge Tim Boswell asked for written summary statements from the defense and the prosecution. He will then make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Appeals. Defense attorneys argued that Riley was mentally retarded, although the prosecution had presented numerous witnesses stating he was not, and the defendant himself said he was not.

December 19th, the Hawkins school board selected the bid of a general contractor, WRL Contractors, to carry out the construction and renovation projects for the district's three campuses.

In Austin, House Speaker Tom Craddick was predicted to be facing two opponents for his position when the House opened for the new session January 9th. It was also predicted that the two major issues facing the Legislature would be immigration and the border plus Medicaid and costs related to nursing homes.

January 13th, Hawkins resident Winona "Pal" McQuaid celebrated her 102nd birthday.

Wood County Commissioners faced a 25-item agenda January 12th. Two major items: Where is the accountability for substandard response time for ambulance service in Wood County - and - would the implementation of a new computer software package at the Wood County Appraisal District require major expenditures and new software packages throughout other Wood County departments? The court also voted to accept a recommendation by the Wood County Victim Assistance Coordinator to realign the function by establishing an office and a staff member at the Wood County Justice Center.

Meals on Wheels distributed 9,101 meals *in the Hawkins/Holly Make area to homebound seniors, the disabled and also to senior centers during 2006. During this month, it was also announced that the Carson & Barnes Circus would be coming to Quitman on March 27th. The event would be sponsored by the Quitman Heritage Foundation and will be a fundraiser for the QHF.

The county saw a 2.48 increase in January sales tax revenues (based on taxes actually collected in November) over January 2006. The city of Hawkins, however, collected 6.36 less than the amount collected for January 2006.

In Austin, Tom Craddick was overwhelmingly re-elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. In January, Gov. Rick Perry presented two emergency items for the Legislature to consider. One was the extension of property tax cuts to seniors. The second items would alter the state's cap on state spending. The emergency designation means that the Legislature can act on these items within the first 30 days of the session.

At the January 2nd meeting of the Hawkins school board, board members heard a report of the annual financial audit from Mike Rutherford of Rutherford, Taylor & Company. The school earned an "Unqualified Opinion" which is the best possible audit report. The board also heard a review of the Accelerated Schools Program adopted by the district in 2006. It was explained that the program concept is that programs used for "gifted" children can work well with all children. It was noted that the staff has offered excellent participation in the program.

The January 26th meeting of Wood County Commissioners Court approved contracts for emergency and fire services with a 12 volunteer fire departments serving the county, The contracts bind each department's service to citizens of Wood County who do not live in cities or municipalities principally served by these departments.

The court also took further action toward controlling the hydrilla infestation at Lake Hawkins. Commissioners approved advertising for bids for the purchase of a chemical agent known as "Sonar" to treat the hydrilla problem. The chemical will be applied under the direction of Texas Parks & Wildlife officials.

February: Dr. Kent Davis, medical director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler made a presentation of this newly-established practice February 7th at Holly Lake Ranch. The focus of the Center is to help people to age well. It offers seniors a comprehensive assessment that includes an evaluation of their physical and psychological needs. A team of health care professionals includes physicians and nurse practitioners who specialize in geriatrics as well as pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and nutritionists.

A new industry came to Hawkins early in the year. Foster and Sons Scrap Tire Service shred tires and the shredder can shred a maximum of 1500 passenger tires an hour. The shredder produces no dust or emissions. The firm started with 13 full time employees and expected to hire an additional 10 to 20 people over the next six months.

On February 10th, a Hawkins man was killed in a knife fight. Kevin Slaton was found to be deceased when deputies arrived on the scene. Adam Brown was arrested on a charge of manslaughter. On February 11th, he was bonded out of the Wood County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

At the February 8th regular meeting of the Wood County Commissioners Court, the commissioners approved of the county participating in the march 8th Vaughn Auction as a buyer and a seller. Several county departments would provide surplus equipment to be sold at the auction and also participate as a buyer.

Commissioners also approved a request by Pct. 3 Commissioner Roger Pace to seek bids on two new dump trucks. The court also approved the creation of a Wood County Airport Zoning Board and appointed five members to serve on that board.

Meeting in regular session February 12th, the Hawkins school board extended the contracts of all five administrators in the district to August 31st, 2009. At a special meeting February 1st, the contract of Superintendent Dan Rose was extended to August 31st, 2009 at an annual salary of $90,100.

Early in the month the Wood County Sheriff's Department announced that several arrests had been made with regard to a flurry of burglaries that had taken place in the area of Highway 154. and several other cases. Additionally an anonymous tip about stolen motorcycles turned up 4 grams of methamphetamine at inside a pickup truck at the location, Young's Paint & Body Shop. Emmett Leon Lambert, 44, was arrested for warrants out of Van, Texas.

Also in early February, Wood County Sheriff Dwaine Daugherty asked county citizens for help with regard to information on the many thefts of copper wire. The Wood County Electric Cooperative had estimated that thefts of copper wire from them over the previous several weeks amounted to about $36,000.

In Austin, Gov. Rick Perry issued Executive Order No. RP65 which directed the Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules requiring all girls ages 11 and 12 to receive the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine prior to entering sixth grade effective September 2008. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. On February 7th, Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) filed HB 1215 which prevents the vaccine from being made mandatory. He had also prepared a rider to the state budget to prevent any funding from going to a mandatory HPV vaccination. In addition to these pieces of legislation, Rep. Hughes joined a broad coalition of legislators in signing a petition to the governor asking him to rescind the executive order.

On February 10th, Kevin Slayton was stabbed in the back and died. According to the early report, Slayton and Jerry Owens had been in an argument. Owens was injured in the incident. The subsequent investigation resulted in the arrest of Adam Stanley Brown for manslaughter, a second degree felony.

On February 15th, the Wood County Sheriff's Department responded to the report of an assault at Holly Lake Ranch. Donald Chad Massey had driven through the security gate and assaulted his wife and young son. Massey tried to run over a Holly Lake security guard and rammed the guard's patrol vehicle. Massey fled and was eventually stopped, arrested and jailed in Van Zandt County.

At the February 23rd meeting of the Wood County Commissioner's Court, preliminary discussions took place with regard to the establishment of a bail bond board for the county.

Commissioners also approved an out-of-state travel advance for an assistant district attorney to attend the National College of District Attorneys prosecuting homicide cases.

Additionally bids were opened for the purchase of a dump truck for the Pct, 4 road and bridge crew. These ranged from $55,853 to $62,410.

At the February 19th monthly meeting of the Harmony Independent School District's Board of Trustees, trustees reviewed and finalized applicant interview procedures and schedule for the hiring of a replacement for Supt. Ray Miller, who had announced his pending retirement earlier in the year.

The board also approved contract extensions for the district's three principals. The superintendent also reviewed the district's enrollment and attendance figures and outlined the TAKS test schedules.

At their February 19th meeting, the Hawkins City Council heard *of plans to develop three soccer fields at the youth athletic park and again debated the oil derrick issue.

The council also set May 2nd as Election Day to select two council members.

Also in February, the Hawkins Chamber of Commerce received a check for $10,000 from the family of Bobby Manziel, the man who persisted in drilling and found oil on the Morrision Farm in December, 1940. Experts in the 1930s had stated that there was no oil in Wood County. Some of the early wells produced up to 25,000 barrels a day.
On February 21st, in a 6 to 3 vote, the House Committee on Public Health approved a bill that would rescind a recent executive order from Gov. Perry mandating that sixth grade girls be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus which can cause cervical cancer. The bill then headed to the 150-member House where it had 91 co-sponsors.

March: At their regular meeting March 5th the Hawkins school board asked the administration to pursue a replacement for the sign at the main entrance to the school complex from FM 14.

Additionally, following recommendations from principals, trustees extended the contracts of teachers at the elementary school, the middle school and the high school. The board also heard a report from students and teachers representing Hawkins High School as a team at the Academic Decathlon competition in San Antonio.

Promoters announced the Toyota Texas Bass Classic to take place April 9 through 15 in observance of the 25th anniversary of Lake Fork. It was stated that 160 specially selected professional fisherman would gather to showcase their skills on one of the world's premier bass lakes. The event was expected to draw 25,000 during its week-long run.

Wood County Judge Bryan Jeanes said he would approve a temporary liquor license for the event if and when such a application was presented by a charitable organization. He said he was satisfied that safeguards were in place for the controlled sales of these beverages.

In Austin, on March 5th, state leader said they had reached an agreement with the plaintiffs in a 14-year-old lawsuit regarding children's Medicaid, just days before a court hearing on the case. The details weren't available but one attorney for the plaintiffs said the deal was wide reaching. Negotiations had been held up over the rates of Medicaid reimbursements to doctors.

A the March 9th meeting, the Wood County Commissioners opened bids in the $40,000 to $50,000 range for chemicals to address the hydrilla problem at Lake Hawkins. They also considered an expenditure of approximately $15,000 to conduct a special constitutional amendment election at the behest of the state legislature. This election was not scheduled at the time to county budget was being prepared. The amendment will be with regard to the reduction of school property taxes on residence homesteads of the elderly and disabled.

Crime Stoppers offered a reward for anyone who had information involving criminal mischief with regard to an oil derrick located at the city park in Hawkins. The incident occurred on February 25th or 26th. The derrick was erected in October. Climber(s) had damaged the derrick's lighting system the previous month.

At their regular meeting March 19th, the Hawkins City Council passed a new city ordinance prohibiting the "climbing of any city structure." There was also intense discussion of another relatively new ordinance that allows the burning of leaves and brush.

Additionally, the council adopted a resolution proclaiming the observance of "Jarvis Christian College Week."

The Hawkins-Holly Lake Rotary Club sponsored a Japanese youth exchange. Eleven Japanese students and a sponsor were guests of the area. For three days area host families treated the visitors to various area activities, events and Texas-style meals.

At their regular meeting March 23rd, Wood County Commissioners approved the purchase of a road grader for Pct. 4, and approved the purchase of two dump trucks for Pct. 3 at a cost of approximately $42,525 each. Peters Chevrolet of Longview was the winning bidder.

Additionally, commissioners approved the acquisition of nine Taser guns for the Sheriff's Office, the acquisition of Palm Pilots and other equipment for the Election Administrators Office as well as advertising bids for road oil and oil sand mix.

At their regular meeting on March 26th, the Harmony school board did not name a replacement for Supt. Ray Miller. The board had been in search mode since the previous December and had interviewed a number of candidates. However, despite a 40-minute executive session to discuss candidates, the board did not express a choice.

In other action, the board approved the selection of Sturdy Steel as contractor to replace the visitor's side bleachers at the football field at a cost of $90,000.

March 23rd in Austin, the special master appointed by Gov. Rick Perry stated that thousands of cases at the troubled Texas Youth Commission should be reviewed to determine whether inmates should be released immediately because their sentences were either improperly extended by agency staff or cannot be justified. In the Texas Senate, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) put forward a proposal that would pay pregnant women $500 for choosing adoption over abortion. He said Senate Bill 1567 would provide an incentive to forego abortion. Critics said offering a cash incentive over-simplified the decision a women considering abortion faces.

On March 24th, investigators with the Wood County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at 654 Village Trail at Holly Lake Ranch. Cary Don Whitney, 40, and his wife, Misty Renee Whitney, 35, were the residents. Both were at the residence when officers arrived.

April: Hawkins High School junior Savannah Boyd was selected to attend the 2007 Lead America Conference in Washington D.C. this past summer. She was chosen on the basis of academic excellence, extracurricular involvement and leadership potential. She is the daughter of Jason and Kathy Boyd - both teachers in the Hawkins schools.

Congressman Jeb Hensarling met with residents of Holly Lake Ranch early in the month to discuss the American Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a proposal he authored to protect East Texas taxpayers from excessive tax increases, simplify the tax code and provide greater accountability in federal spending.

At their regular session April 2nd, the Hawkins school board approved the expenditure of $46,188 to replace the sign at the man entrance to the school complex from FM 14. They were also told that flood damage to the gymnasium floor would be covered by bond or insurance. The board also heard a progress report on the construction and renovation program from architect Brice Davis.

At their regular meeting on April 5th, the Wood County Commissioners Court quickly dispatched a brief nine-item agenda. Bids were opened for a Fouke Water Supply Corporation extension project. Commissioners also heard that work was delayed on the replacement of tile and carpeting in the basement offices damaged by flooding to assure repair work on the foundation will prevent reoccurrence. The commissioners also heard a report on the adoption of airport zoning regulations for the Wood County Airport.

Two incumbents and four newcomers sought to fill three seats up for election in May on the Hawkins Independent School District Board of Trustees. Edwin F. Simmons and Ed Tunnell sought re-election while Andrew Stradley, John Dunn, Bill Holmes and Jerry W. Stacks were the new candidates.

The Family Land Heritage Program, *operated by the Texas Department of Agriculture, recognized 20 farms and ranches in Wood County. The program recognizes farms and ranches for being maintained in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for 100 years or more.

Wood County added $50,000 worth of chemicals to aid carp in the battle against the hydrilla in Lake Hawkins. Signs went up to warn people to leave the carp alone.

At their regular meeting on April 20th, Wood County Commissioners Court dispatched a 23-item agenda. Ronnie Robertson, manager of Fouke Water Supply, said that Underground Utilities of Longview had submitted the low bid of $112m131 for materials to fulfill the STEP Community Development Grant to bring water to homes needing water service. Bruce Construction of Lone Oak submitted the low bid for construction work at $15,488.

Commissioners also heard a request of behalf of Carl Wilson to set a date for a public hearing to consider relocating a portion of CR 1423 near Lake Quitman on property owned by Wilson. The work would be paid for by Wilson.

Hawkins sales tax revenues were up 37.8 percent versus the same period in 2006 reflecting the increased commercial activity in the city.
Two burglaries were cleared April 19th by the Wood County Sheriff's Department. Two four-wheelers and a runabout were recovered in the Hawkins area.

In Austin, a hearing was held April 19th on the issue of possibly repealing a Texas law that allows certain illegal immigrants to receive the cheaper in-state tuition rates at state universities. Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, proposed HB 104 which would stipulate that only legal residents could be eligible for in-state tuition. Riddle said her proposal could not prevent illegal immigrants from attending state universities, "but they're going to have to pay (the more expensive) tab." Rick Noriega, D-Houston, disagreed, saying that "When you have students we know have a higher degree of education, they're able to contribute back to the economy."

Former Justice of the Peace Larry David Pack's conviction for aggravated perjury by a Wood County trial court was reversed. A judgment of acquittal was rendered in an April 25th decision from the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana. The appeals court found that the evidence in the Wood County case was legally and factually insufficient to support Pack's conviction.

At their April 30th meeting the Harmony school board named Jed Whitaker as the new superintendent.

May: At the regular meeting May 7th, the Hawkins School Board was informed that their district was among the ten districts in the state that were winners of a $1,000 award to be used toward their risk management efforts. The award was the fourth annual Texas Association of School Boards' Risk Management Innovation Award. Applications were rated on cost effectiveness, originality, transferability for use by other Fund members, and ability to address current needs at the overall member level.

In May, officials with Trinity Mother Frances Health System announced that Mother Frances Hospital is the first in the region to install a state-of-the-art surgical navigation system from Stryker. The hospital is among the first in the area to use a computer-assisted navigation system in conjunction with orthopedic joint replacement surgery.

Meeting in regular session May 4th, the Wood County Commissioners Court dispatched a 15-item agenda in approximately 50 minutes. Commissioners approved a presentation of the FY 2005 financial statements from the firm of Patillo, Brown & Hill. They also approved a TxDOT State Assisted Airport Development Grant for the Wood County Airport.

In Austin May 4th, the Texas Senate 28 to 2 to cap at 60 percent the portion of a university's freshmen from Texas who must be admitted under a 10-year-old policy that guarantees a spot for students who finish in the top 10 percent at Texas public high schools. The senate measure states that no more than 50 percent of a university's entering class from Texas must be automatically admitted. The plan was sent to the House for further deliberation.

On May 10th in the 402nd Judicial District Court of Wood County found Jose Concepcion Garcia, 55, of Yantis, guilty on four accounts of aggravated assault of child and one count of indecency with a child.

Incumbents Ed Tunnell and Edwin Simmons were re-elected to serve on the Hawkins Independent School District Board of Trustees in the election held on May 12th. Bill Holmes took the third seat as a newly elected member. All three were elected to a full three-year term.

Wood County voters joined fellow voters throughout the state in approving an amendment to the state constitution. The vote will result in property tax reductions for seniors with "frozen" school district property taxes.

In the election for places on the Hawkins City Council, two incumbents were the winners. Clara Kay took the Place 2 seat in a contest with challenger Bob Caldwell. Incumbent Dwayne Hickey and Tom Parker were unopposed.

On May 15th, Wood County officers conducted a search warrant* at a Hawkins residence. Jamie Rashad Evans, 24, and Michael Brando Crittenden, 21, were arrested. They had apparently been selling large quantities of illegal drugs from the house. Six ounces of marijuana and almost 30 grams of crack cocaine, packaged to be sold, were seized along with $1,300 in cash.

Wood County Commissioners met in regular session May 18th. The commissioners accepted a proposal from the Wood County Clerk and the Justices of the Peace to install an online and credit card payment system for taxes, fines and fees.

The court also approved a motion by Roger Pace, Commissioner Pct. 3, to advertise for bids on timber on 18 acres of property owned by the county in Pct. 3.

The Hawkins City Council held their regular meeting May 21st. The council could not reach a consensus on a proposed ordinance that would have required citizens to secure a "burn permit" for any open burning within the city.

In their regular meeting May 2lst, the Harmony school board approved a pursuit of a plan to refund the district's L&S bond debt. The board also selected First National Bank (Gilmer) for the 2007-2009 biennium.

In Austin, on May 18th, the Texas House of Representatives approved the final version of House Bill 8 with a vote of 122 to 17. The measure would enable the state to execute predators convicted of repeatedly assaulting children sexually. The Texas Senate, on May 18th, approved the legislation by a vote of 30 to 1.

An employee of the Wood County Courthouse and her husband died on May 27th when the vehicle her husband was driving hydroplaned and was hit by another vehicle. Tammy Joe Maricle of Quitman and her husband were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident which occurred on Hwy 14 just north of Hawkins.

The regular session of the 80th Texas Legislature ended May 28th. The following bills were passed and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry. 1) The Castle Doctrine allows Texans to defend themselves with deadly force in their home, cars and workplaces. 2) Firearms in Disaster prohibits law officers from confiscating firearms and ammunition during a state of disaster, such as a hurricane, except in cases of a clear threat. 3) Elderly Drivers - requires Texans age 85 and older to renew their driver's licenses and pass a vision test every two years. 4) Handgun records reclassifies as nonpublic records the state licenses granted to residents to carry concealed handguns.

Fifteen other measures were passed and were awaiting action by the governor. *The major bills included the budget which sets out $153 billion to be spent over two years covering all major state programs, plus the steroid testing measure which establishes mandatory steroid testing for Texas public high school athletes in all sports as early as the 2007 football season, as well as a measure that imposes a possible death penalty for sex offenders who are twice convicted of raping children under 14. Among the bills that failed to pass during the session was a measure that would have limited the number of student automatically admitted to state universities under the state's top 10 percent law; a smoking ban in the workplace and other public places and a bill that would have required voters to show photo identification or two other forms of ID, not just a voter registration card.

June: Meeting in regular session June 4th, the Hawkins school board approved a number of items. They approved the addition of an administrative position, assistant principal, at the elementary school. Additionally, they approved the expenditure of up to $50,000 to fully abate asbestos and the expenditure of $29,584 for an additional half-inch of asphalt on the parking lot north of the high school. Other approved expenditures included $6,515 for four suspended electrical heaters at the elementary school and $21,981 for student athletic insurance and student catastrophic insurance.

Wood County Commissioners met in regular session June 1st and dispatched a brief 13-item agenda. They approved a bid for remodeling work on the CID space at the Wood County Jail. The accepted bid was $2,170 submitted by Lee Construction of Quitman. They also approved the distribution of Emergency Management funds to six Wood County city governments including Hawkins.

At their regular meeting June 18th, the Hawkins City Council directed Mayor Sam Bradley to look into the process to establish an Emergency Service District to serve the Hawkins/southeastern Wood County area. This move would provide a tax base to support the Hawkins Volunteer Fire Department and the services it provides. Homeowners in the area would be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. Also, the council appointed Dwayne Hickey, Tom Parker and Jerry Jones to the board of the Hawkins Community Development Commission. They will serve two-year terms from 2007 through 2009.
Wood County Commissioners, at their regular June 15th meeting, dispatched a brief agenda in just 15 minutes. Commissioners voted to reappoint Ed Baker to a second term on the Wood County Industrial Commission at the request of Hawkins Mayor Sam Bradley. The commissioners also heard a brief from Jalayne Robinson of the Wood County District Attorney's Office with regard to the VINE program. VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) is a program that provides basic information on jailed suspects/offenders and their scheduled court events. It notifies registered users of changes in jail status and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in English and Spanish. Commissioners also voted to approve the creation of a Board of Adjustment for the Wood County Airport. This puts in place an appeals process with regard to any disagreement about structures at and around the airport area that might be affecting citizens.

At their regular meeting June 29th, Wood County Commissioners were presented with a near-final completion report for a Texas Capital Fund grant for Nestle Waters (Ozarka), which provides funding for electrical utility capital improvements to the Wood County spring water bottling plant. The court also accepted the 2006-2007 annual report from the Wood County Industrial Commission highlighting the economic progress in the county over the past year.

In Washington, Republicans in U.S. House of Representatives rejoiced when they overcame the Democrats plan to establish a slush fund for secret earmarks on June 14th. Faced with a united Republican caucus and the prospect on their scheme becoming known to the American people, the Democrats capitulated. Congressman Jeb Hensarling who heads the conservative caucus known as the Republican Study Committee (RSC) published a full account of the action on his web site. Hensarling said that he had believed from the start that the Democrats "knew they had an indefensible position."


Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2009 16:00  

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