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Part 2 Year in Review 2007

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 These are the news highlights for the last six months of 2007 in the Hawkins/Holly Lake area communities.

July: At their regularly scheduled meeting July 5th, the Hawkins school board approved the hiring of Charles Lowery to fill the newly-created post of assistant elementary principal.

The board also heard a preliminary warning about the effects of the wet weather on the $15-million construction and renovation project which went on last summer throughout the campus.

Meeting in their regular session July 16th, the Hawkins City Council faced several residents seeking action to control the mosquito population and to take action against Foster & Sons tire recycling operations. Jessica Kincaid, manager of Hatfield Apartment on south FM 14 said that Foster & Sons was "not taking care of business" with the thousands of tires being stored on property adjacent to the apartments. She said that residents are being plagued by mosquitoes, bugs and snakes and that the nearby tires provided the breeding ground. Mayor Bradley said he would speak with Foster & Sons regarding responsibility on spraying the stored tires at both city site and he was also expecting to enter an interlocal agreement with Big Sandy for the use of that city's spraying/fogging equipment.

At their regular session July 13th, Wood County Commissioners awarded plaques from the FM 2869 Lake Hawkins bridge to the sons of a former commissioners. Wayne and Hurbert Gore, sons of former Pct 3 Commissioner V.G. "Dad" Gore received the plaques from the bridge over the west end of Lake Hawkins. The bridge was being replaced with a new one being built by contractors for the Texas Department of Transportation. Commissioner Roger Pace, Pct. 3, said Gore had been a mentor to him as a young man. Gore, who served 25 years, was, Pace stated, a pioneer in the use of oil sand for the construction of county roads both in Wood County and many other Texas counties.

In Austin, a federal judge approved a sweeping settlement July 9th that aimed to improve access to medical care for more than two million low-income children, ending a 14-year lawsuit over children's Medicaid. State lawmakers had already agreed to more than $700 million necessary to satisfy the term of the settlement, including rate reimbursements to doctors and dentists.

The Hawkins school board held a special meeting July 24th. Trustees approved a shared cost agreement on upgrades and improvements to parking lot repair and repaving projects. An investment of $94,900, from school bond interest earnings, in upgraded plans for the parking lot and some of the drives into and out of campus. The trustees also approved the 2007-2008 editions of the Student Code of Conduct and the Faculty Handbook. The also approved the hiring of Richard Dickerson, a teacher/coach on a one-year probationary contract.

Meeting in regular session July 27th, Wood County commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with Van Zandt County for chip and seal work on asphalt roads in Precincts 1,2, and 4. Commissioners also agreed to seek proposals for inmate medical care. They also approved an engagement letter for the fiscal year 2007 audit.

The State Bar of Texas set up the Texas Free Legal Hotline, intended to help state residents who were impacted by the summer's heavy rains and storms. It would assist people with basic legal questions related to natural disasters. It would provide information of such questions as replacing lost documents, insurance questions and landlord/tenant disputes, among other issues.

In Austin, Governor Rick Perry announced July 27th that Texas A&M University would be getting a six million dollar grant for biotechnology research. The funds would go to A&M's Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies located at College Station. The money comes from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

August: Early in the month, it was announced that the new Lake Hawkins bridge was almost finished and could be open to traffic as early as mid-September. Formerly, the projected opening date was mid-December.

On August 7th, a Wood County Grand Jury returned no indictment after hearing from a number of witnesses un a review of circumstances surrounding the deaths of two boys the previous September on the railroad line near Hawkins. The boys were Christopher Hill, 17, and Harry Tyrone Rutledge, 15. The summary stated that neither individual attempted to get off the tracks prior to impact. Both died from blunt force trauma, consistent with injuries expected when struck by a train. No intoxicating substances were found in either young man, according to autopsy reports.

At their regular session August 10th, the Wood County Commissioners approved a proposed tax rate for 2007-2008 of 47 cents, up one cent over the 2006-2007 rate of 46 cents per $100 property valuation. Public hearing on the proposed budget for 2007-2008 would be held August 29th and September 5th at 10 a.m. At a 96 percent collection rate, the 47 cent tax rate was projected to raise $10,763,173 in revenues.

At a special meeting on August 7th, the Hawkins school board approved a tax rate of$1.1485 for the school year beginning September 1st, 2007. The proposed rate meant a reduction of 23.68 cents per $100 of property valuation. The trustees were told that the new rate reflects the intention of the Texas Legislature in House Bill 1, which called for a property tax reduction of 1/3 over a two-year period.

At their regular meeting August 7th, the Hawkins Community Development Corporation accepted a bid of $31,250 for improvements to the lighting system at the baseball fields at the Hawkins Youth Sports Park. The HCDC directors also approved a marketing/promotions payment of $1,200 to the Hawkins Area Chamber of Commerce.

In the area of sales tax revenues, Hawkins had a particularly strong performance in June when sale tax returns were up by 29.02 percent over the same month in the previous year. July then came in with a 8.31 percent increase over July 2006.

At the regular meeting of the Hawkins school board on August 6th, trustees approved a delay of one week for the start of instruction for students. The delay was prompted after trustees heard a revised construction and renovation schedule for on-going work on all three campuses. Class would begin for all students on September 4th.

The original start-up date for the school was August 27th.

In Austin, on August 7th, Governor Rick Perry named Don McLeroy of Bryan as chairman of the State Board of Education and created an immediate controversy. The Texas Freedom network, a group critical of social conservatives, quickly pointed out that Republican McLeroy was among a minority of board members who is 2003 said biology textbooks should include what they consider weaknesses in Darwin's theory of evolution. McLeroy also voted with a board majority in 2004 for health textbooks that included little information on contraceptives even though state guidelines stated that students should be able to analyze the effectiveness of so-called barrier protection (condoms). A fellow board member said, however, that McLeroy has always been fair to both sides on issues and that he supports the same type of initiatives as the governor does.

At their regular meeting on August 20th, the Hawkins City Council voted to seek bids for sewer repairs in spite of a dispute between two government agencies regarding the selection process which might mean delay or denial of a grant of $250,000 to the city. The issues of mosquito control and a tire recycling operation were again the subject of citizen concern.

At their regular meeting August 24th, Wood County Commissioners received a petition with 400 signatures appealing for additional budget funds to combat the hydrilla problem in Lake Hawkins. In 2007, Pct. 3 Commissioner Roger Pace secured approval of an emergency expenditure of $50,000 to buy chemicals to treat the lake. For 2008, an additional $25,000 was budgeted for chemicals.

At a special meeting of the Hawkins school board on August 7th, trustees approved a tax rate of $1.1485 for the school year starting September 1st, 2007. The proposed rate means a reduction of 23.68 cents per $100 of property valuation. The required public meeting/hearing to approve the rate was held August 27th. The rate supports a budget of $10,029,676 for fiscal 2007-2008, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.

Meeting in regular session on August 20th, the Harmony school board approved a reduction of 30 cents in the tax rate. This translates to a reduction of $252.92 in property on an average residential home in the district.

Properties at Holly Lake Ranch account for more than 80 percent of the district's appraised property tax collections on residences. The proposed tax rate of $1.11896 is based on a budget of $7,765,369 with $1.04005 going to Maintenance & Operations and 0.071 going to Interest & Sinking. (I&S was restructured resulting in the savings of more than a penny on the debt payments.)

On one of the year's saddest notes, Dave Betts died August 26th after a lengthy battle with cancer. He served as county constable and formerly worked with Holly Lake Ranch security. He left a young family behind.

In Austin, a state district judge ruled that the Texas Association of Business, including three officials, must face a civil suit for possibly violating state elections laws. It is alleged that the association collected $1.7 million from several corporations in the time leading up to the 2002 elections. The judge dismissed the companies from the law suit. They included AT&T and several insurance companies. The judge, Joe Hart, wrote that the state election law and court decisions on campaign finance are ambiguous and concluded that the corporate-financed ads did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of any candidate.

August 23rd, state officials joined together to call for an expanded state sales tax holiday. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said he would like to see the tax-free cap raised from the current $100 per item to $159 maximum per items. He would also like to see the tax exemption expanded to include such supplies as pens and paper. The tax holiday, held during the third weekend in August, is estimated to have saved shoppers about $52 million this year.

On August 29th, the execution of a narcotics search warrant yielded over 150 grams of pure "ice" methamphetamine. ‘Ice" is highly addictive and is one of the most dangerous forms of this drug. The warrant was executed by officers of the Wood County Sheriff's Office at a location on CR 1260 off FM 2225 northwest of Quitman. Along with the "ice", packaging materials, scales and assorted drug paraphernalia was also found and $1,000 in cash was seized. Thadius Lincoln McKenzie, 47 of Mineola, and Cheryl Elaine Bryant, 37, of Quitman, were arrested and charged with the manufacturing and delivery of a controlled substance - over four grams and under 200 grams.

September: Meeting in regular session September 7th, Wood County Commissioners approved a 9-lot plat for the Pleasant Acres subdivision. The nine lots will not involve road construction. They also designated the week of Sept. 17th to the 23rd as Constitution Week. Additionally, the commissioners approved the purchase of some ballot printing software. The ballot printer the county was using charged 27 cents per ballot. The new software will reduce that cost to 9 cents each, The software can also print on demand thus reducing unnecessary over printing.

At its regular monthly meeting Sept. 10th, the Hawkins school board approved a terrazzo floor pattern for the new cafeteria/gymnasium. The focal point of the pattern will be a Hawk with a seven-foot wing spread. Trustees also approved an expenditure of $5,817 to solve a problem with chalk marker boards in 34 classrooms. The finance report showed a balance of $13,822,795 with $8.6 of that being committed to construction.

Meeting in regular session September 19th, the Hawkins City Council set the tax rate for the fiscal year 2007-2008 at 47.99 cents, down 1.9 cents from the 2006-2007 rate of 49.91 cents. The budget proposed $1,886,512.10 in spending for fiscal 2008. The proposed spending will require a draw of $355,000 on the City of Hawkins reserve fund. In other business, some council members argued for using the reserve funds instead of taking out a loan for painting and repair work on the city's water tower and storage tanks.

On September 4th, Gov. Rick Perry, speaking in Mexico City, criticized the U.S. Congress for the failure to make progress on immigration reform. The governor highlighted the importance of developing a foolproof biometric identification system to track individual and ensure that they pay taxes and "live within our laws."

During the 80th Texas Legislature, 10,900 bills and resolutions were introduced. Of those, 5,900 passed and 54 were vetoed. Hundreds of new laws went into effect Sept. 1st. Among these are measures on dog attacks - owners can face up to 10 years in jail if their animal inflicts serious injury. In the case of a fatality, that could go up to 20 years; Elderly drivers - those age 79 and older must now renew their driver's license in person. At age85, the renewal period drops from every six years to every 2 years and a vision test is required; Self-defense - citizens no longer have to try to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves in their home and that right is now extended to the workplace and a vehicle; CHIPS - families can stay in the Children's Health Insurance Program for a full year instead of reapplying every six months; the Texas Pledge - the words "one state under God" have been added to the Texas Pledge of Allegiance; Search warrants - courts are now allowed to seal search warrants affidavits from the public and the media for up to 60 days. These are just a few highlights of new legislation.

It was announced that the Fellowship Church of Grapevine Texas had begun construction of a youth camp and retreat center at the west end of Lake Hawkins off FM 2869. The land, 1,000 acres, was donated by a non-profit agency that had owned it for several years. The camp is projected to open in the summer of 2008.

Meeting September 2lst in regular session, Wood County Commissioners approved a recommendation for a foundation grant which could double funds for hydrilla control measures at Lake Hawkins. The grant would be administered through the Texas Parks & Wildlife department It could provide matching funds to the $25,000 budgeted by the court for 2007-2008. A formal plan for the grant program would have to be submitted by December.

Meeting in regular session September 17th, the Harmony school board heard a report that put the enrollment at 1,005.

Meeting in regular session September 17th, the Hawkins City Council faced pressure to repeal a controversial ordinance passed last year that bans the throwing of candy from parade float entries. Some council members, after receiving a citizen petition, remained concerned about safety issues involving children running into the street to retrieve pieces of candy. The vote to continue to observe the ordinance was 5 to 1.

After two months of gains in sales tax revenues, they were down a quarter of a percent for Hawkins compared to the same period last year.

At the September meeting of the Republican Women of Wood County, State Representative Bryan Hughes updated members on recent developments in Austin. He said that tax payers could expect a property tax cut this fall, on average, of 33 cents per $100 property valuation. He added that the 2007 budget showed another surplus. Hughes said, "If we took this surplus and let it grow, accounting for inflation and population, we could eliminate property taxes." Hughes stated, referring to the opposition, "It's a big fight ... to get those guys to give money back to you." \Hughes also related that the controversial TAKS test will be replaced by end-of-course exams. He stated that the Texas Essential Skills & Knowledge criteria would still apply. (TEKS covers the essential knowledge needed in the core curricula.)

On the big issue of the toll roads, Hughes said, "Tolls roads will have to be part of the solution," but it was a "bad idea" to allow a foreign-based corporation to "cut a 50-year lease - government guaranteed monopoly." He stated that the deal had been stopped and that the road will be built by the Texas toll road authority. He added that there is currently a two-year moratorium on any further action of the toll road. He said he understood where the governor was coming from with trade-related traffic expected to "double within 25 years."

On immigration, Hughes said he is against the "open border" concept but noted the border is under federal control. What the states can do while waiting for the feds to act, he pointed out that Texas had added $100 million for added law enforcement in the Texas/Mexico border. This will be largely allocated to the DPS and border sheriffs.

On the employment issue, he said that in Texas, if a business owner knowingly hires illegal aliens, he will lose all state funds and will retroactively have to pay back any funds previously received. At the end of the day, he said, some kind of guest worker program will have to be worked out but "we need to secure our borders first." He also noted that the forging of official documents is now a felony - including driver's licenses and social security cards and other related items.

The September 19th Rotary meeting was the setting for two announcements from a major player on the local business scene. R.L. Winters, CEO of R.L. Winters & Companies, LLC, announced his retirement after 33 tears in the nursery business. His son, James H. Winters, will assume control of the three operational divisions that currently center on the nursery. He will become president and operation chief for the construction, irrigation and nursery divisions. For four years, R.L. Winters has been studying to complete his second degree in enology (the science of winemaking) and at the same time, has been actively developing the newest division of the corporation, Fairhaven Vineyards. Planting and production of new vines has been underway since 2005 and the total planting now exceeds 2,900 mature vines. Eleven acres have been developed and is expanding with plantings of French/American hybrid grapes and varieties of American hybrid grapes. Production of wines is set for July 2008.

October: Meeting October 5th in regular session, Wood County Commissioners approved a recommendation to raise County Employees Spousal Life Insurance Death benefit to $20,000 and raise the dependent child benefit to $5,000. These are voluntary on the part of the employees. In other actions, the commissioners approved a monthly payroll of $241,793.49. They also extended the two-year terms of WCIC Directors Shane Shepherd and Imogene Davis for another two years

On the local political scene, Wood County Commissioner for Pct. 3 Roger Pace announced his intention to seek re-election. After many years of service, the lifetime resident of the county will be running for the second time as a Republican.

Meeting in regular session on October 2nd, the Hawkins Community Development Corporation (HCDC) was told the sound system for the pavilion would cost $2,500. Frank Rucker also told the board that the marketing & promotion budget for Christmas lights and decorations is $2,700.

On October 5th, Joseph Leslie Meadows, 25, was apprehended after he escaped from custody in Hopkins County. He had stolen a Hopkins County patrol vehicle on October 4th. He was sighted in Longview and the police there pursued him back to Wood County on Hwy 80. On October 5th, police from Big Sandy and Hawkins joined the pursuit. Meadows wrecked the patrol vehicle on FM 778 and fled on foot into the woods. Law enforcement from across the area, including DPS helicopters, were on Meadows' trail and he was captured in the secured area. He was taken to Wood County Jail then returned to Hopkins County. Sheriff Dwaine Daugherty said local citizens were helpful to tracking the progress of the fugitive.

On October 19th, one person died in a shooting at Lake Holbrook near Mineola. The 911 caller said her husband had shot a man with a rifle after the man came onto their property threatening the couple.

Wood County Commissioners met in regular session on October 19th. They heard from protesting property owners in the former Lake ‘o the Woods subdivision at the western end of Lake Hawkins. Lot owners in the failed subdivision were concerned about plan to build a camp/retreat on 1,000 acres acquired by the Fellowship Church. Access was the main concern. Additionally, the Lake Hawkins Homeowners Association expressed concerns about plans by the church for sewage disposal.

Tracy Jackson was approved as a 4-H Extension Agent for Wood County. She will take this position as of December 15th.

At their regular meeting October 15th, the Harmony school board heard a report that tax collection for the district stood at 99 percent for the year. The trustees also approved a recommendation by Supt. Jed Whitaker that a search be conducted to secure an assistant band director. Whitaker said the band director was carrying the highest teacher load with 172 band students.

Meeting in regular session October 15th, the Hawkins City Council proceeded on steps leading to the use of grant funds of $250,000 for sewer line repairs. The Hawkins application apparently qualified, but a dispute between two state agencies regarding the selection process has delayed the grant. The council also passed an ordinance that allows the city to place a tax on tangible personal property in transit. This tax can be levied on goods that are held in the city for 175 days

The city of Hawkins also enjoyed its largest ever oil parade.

On October 30th, a search on the residence of Joey and Tanya head in Yantis yielded numerous items from various burglaries. A methamphetamine lab was also found along with numerous chemicals and hazardous waste. The Head's nine-year-old son was also living on the premises. Officers also located about 8 grams of methamphetamine. Both were charged with possession of methamphetamine as well as manufacture and delivery of methamphetamine.

November: Meeting November 2nd in regular session, the Wood County Commissioners adopted a resolution calling for a public hearing on the proposed plans by the Fellowship Church for sewage disposal at their new campground and retreat at Lake Hawkins. The court approved a "resolution of concern" which was sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and identified five areas of concern with the church's proposed treatment plant which could release up to 40,000 gallons a day of effluent directly into the lake. Others avenues were suggested to diffuse the effluent before it went into the lake.

Meeting in regular session November 5th, trustees of the Hawkins school board approved the purchase of a new 77 passenger school bus. A Blue Bird bus was chosen at a cost of $83,898 plus the cost of a camera and radio. They also selected a bid for replacement of the gymnasium floor at the elementary school. This will cost $56,329 and will be dine by the same contractor who did the work at the high school.

At Holly Lake Ranch, members received a ballot for a referendum on future food services operations at the Ranch.

In Austin, over the two years that have passed since a law went into effect requiring certain medications containing substance used to make meth, some officials are finding that logs were not being kept. The law requires that persons purchasing these items sign the log with each purchase. State-wide seizures of meth labs has dropped since the law went into effect in August 2005, However, use of the drug has not dropped very much because it is being brought in from labs in Mexico.

November 6th, Election Day, saw a total of 13 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Several touch on property taxes and other property issues. These included Proposition 3 which would authorize the Legislature to provide that the maximum appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem taxation is the lesser of these: the most recent market value of the home as determined by the appraisal entity or 110 percent - or a greater percentage -of the appraised value of the home for the preceding tax year. Proposition 9 would authorize the Legislature to exempt all or part of the residence homesteads of certain totally disabled veterans from ad valorem taxation and would authorize changes in the manner of determining the amount of the existing exemption from ad valorem taxation to which a disabled veteran is entitled.

Meeting in regular session November 16th, Wood County Commissioners were advised by a representative of the Fellowship Church that the road leading to private lots in the former Lake ‘O The Woods subdivision will be maintained and even improved. The church is moving forward with the development of a large camp and retreat at the western end of Lake Hawkins.

Wood County Elections Administrator Dawn Goldthorn told the court that Wood County voters approved 15 out of 16 propositions during the recent election. Only 10 percent of registered voters turned out.

Sales tax revenues for Hawkins jumped 52 percent versus the same period last year. This put the city ahead for the year in total by 11 percent.

On November 10th, the sheriff's department took a report of a theft of three pump jacks in the Winnsboro area. Deputy Tim Baucom located the pumps a short time later at a scrap yard in Sulphur Springs. The total value of the recovery was $30,000 and a warrant for a suspect was issued.

A body was found in the woods near Hawkins on November 19th by a survey crew. No further details were released and it was sent to Dallas to the Southwest Forensics Institute.

A Hawkins couple, Bob and Gypsy Schneider, was invited to attend the unveiling of a portrait of Mrs. Barbara Bush held at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at College Station. Bob flew his TBM Avenger torpedo bomber to a Bush air group reunion 13 years ago.

In Austin, Texas Governor Rick Perry surprised a few people when he announced his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president. Also, on November 16th, the state auditor's office issued a report saying that the Texas Education Agency must improve the way it awards contracts.

Meeting in regular session November 19th, the Wood County Commissioners Court passed a resolution declaring November 30th as Tammy and Billy Maricle Day. The former deputy county clerk and her husband were killed in an auto accident. November 30th was their shared birthday. Additionally, the commissioners approved a new 30-lot subdivision to be known as Wood Creek Estates to be located just southwest of Ed's Place Restaurant. The lots will be one-half acre to a full acre.

Bill Beggs and John Sparks won 2-year seats on the Holly Lake Ranch B Board.

Meeting in regular session November 19th, the Hawkins City Council voted to advertise for a full-time city employee to serve as utilities secretary. The city also held the required public hearing on the issue of taxing "goods in transit."

Soldiers returning from Iraq were met at DFW Airport on November 27th by members of the First United Methodist Church of Hawkins.

Meeting in regular session November 26th, the Harmony School District Board of Trustees heard a report on the TEA academic ratings for the 2006-2007 school year. The elementary campus earned an "exemplary" rating and the district overall earned the "Recognized" rating.

In Austin, Speaker Tom Craddick said the issue of voter fraud will receive further attention during the 2009 legislative session.

December: Meeting in regular session December 4th, the board of the Hawkins Community Development Corporation heard a report with regard to ongoing work at the Hawkins Sports Park. Mayor Sam Bradley reported that 6,000 cubic yards of dirt had been relocated the Hawkins school campus to the sports park where Pct. 3 workers have completed a dirt moving project creating three soccer fields.. He also said drainage systems have been completed, irrigation systems have been installed, grass seed sown and the tractor repaired.

Meeting in regular session December 14th, Wood County Commissioners heard a request by former Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Larry Pack for back compensation. Pack was represented by attorney James P. Wheeler in seeking back compensation and retirement benefits. Pack resigned from office as a condition of probation in a case against him that was prosecuted by state attorneys. Pack appealed the verdict and the verdict has since been reversed on appeal.

The commissioners took no action on the request. Wood County Judge Bryan Jeanes, who was not in office at the time of the Pack trial, commented that the county had officially accepted a letter of resignation from Pack and had no role in the trial or the verdict.

Commissioners also voted to permit the relocation of an historic iron bridge from a county road, to the city of Winnsboro. The state of Texas asked the county to take the bridge out of service. It been be relocated in a city park.

Meeting in regular session December 17th, the Hawkins City Council adopted rental policies for the Hawkins Community Center. They also reviewed more than 40 applications for full time employment as utilities secretary.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2009 15:46  

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