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2009 - The year in Review - Part II

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2009 - The year in Review - Part II
The last half of 2009 saw a broad variety of local events and stories in the Hawkins and Holly Lake areas.
July: The Hawkins Volunteer Fire department promised the "largest ever" fireworks display for the Fourth of July. The 35 to 40 minute display was scheduled to be held at Lake Hawkins. This is the sixth annual event.
The Republican Chairman of Wood County Helen Heavey announced that several northeast Texas GOP chairmen had joined together to form the North East Texas GOP County Chairmen's Coalition.
In Austin, Governor Rick Perry called a special session of the Texas legislature. He wanted legislators to do the work necessary to keep several state agencies operating until the next Texas Legislature convenes in 2011. The agencies include the Texas Department of Transportation.
On the 9th of July, Hawkins Police Officer Sgt. Eileen Stanfield made a major drug seizure. In the course of a traffic stop, she discovered a large amount of methamphetamine and a substantial amount of methadone hydrochloride, plus an array to drug paraphernalia, some of which could be used for distribution. She also found materials and substances that could be used in the manufacturing process. Clifford France III was arrested.
Meeting in regular session on July 10th, the Wood County Commissioners approved a bid by Equipment Support Services for $38,250 fir a used backhoe for Pct. 1. They also heard requests for changes to the plat of the "Flying W" subdivision.
In Austin, The special session of the Texas Legislature ended on July 2nd after sitting for less than 30 hours. The lawmakers passed two of the three items Gov. Perry wanted them to tackle. Measures passed that will keep five state agencies in business for the next two years. They included transportation, insurance and racing departments. The bills also authorized the expenditure of $2 billion in voter-approved road-building funds.
Former Wood County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Larry Pack lost a federal lawsuit he brought against Wood County. Judge John D. Love, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted a summary judgment in the case as requested by Wood County.
Monthly sales tax returns for July 2009 for Hawkins showed an increase of 9.2 percent versus the same period of 2008. Seven months into 2009, year-to-date tax collections remain ahead of the pace set year.
Meeting in regular session July 20th, the Hawkins City Council voted to increase the hotel/motel tax to seven percent from four percent. This increase made the motel/hotel tax in Hawkins the same as that charged in neighboring cities. The tax is used by local governments to attract tourism. The council also discussed the possibility of special testing on the city's water supply. Water drawn from the Carrizo/Wilcox Aquifer might possibly be contaminated by compounds that may hazardous to health. Mayor Sam Bradley said he would look into the costs associated with testing and report back to the council.
Meeting in special session July 20th, the Hawkins School Board approved a budget for the 2009/2010 school year. Then the trustees set the tax rates for both the operating budget and the debt repayment budget. The budget called for $9,565,000 in expenses and $9,588,000 in revenues. The tax rate was set at $1.04 per 100 valuation for operation and maintenance and $0.1481 for debt repayment.
Meeting in regular session on July 24th, Wood County Commissioners passed a resolution requesting unclaimed capital credits from electrical cooperatives serving the county. This filing must be made by July 31st annually.
The commissioners also approved a budget transfer of $2,000 to JP Pct. 3 Clarence Holmes for his continuing education.
On July 16th, a Wood County Grand Jury returned 20 indictments.
On July 21st, a Wood County jury found Kaleb Richard Hooks, of Winnsboro, competent to stand trial for murder on a 2005 homicide charge.
In Austin, on July 24th, the U.S. Dept. of Education approved Texas' plan for spending the share that the state accepted of the federal stimulus money. The $3.2 billion plan included money for textbooks and a $1.9 billion increase in school funding, which may provide a raise of about $800 for teachers and other school employees.
August: A townhall meeting held by Representative Jeb Hensarling drew a huge crowd of about 300 people. It was standing room only at the main chamber of the Mineola City Hall as people from across the county came to hear what Hensarling had to say about the health care bill in Congress and other issues.
He said he couldn't support any program that put cost ahead of quality and that this kind of approach could result in rationing. He said that liability reforms was being overlooked and well as real measures to cut waste, fraud and abuse in the current system. Hensarling said the plan that currently before Congress would ultimately force Americans into a single-payer system. He added that the plan would add trillions to the deficit and put a heavy and immoral burden on our children and grandchildren. He concluded by taking questions from the audience for about 45 minutes.
Meeting is regular session on August 6th, the board of the Wood County Industrial Commission (WCIC) approved participation in a promotional mailing to 300,000 fishermen. The WCIC will spend $5,600 on the mailing which would promote Lake Fork is one of the top trophy large-mouth bass lakes in the nation. The board also received an overview of Lake Fork Reservoir's fish population and aquatic plant infestation from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Meeting in regular session on August 7th, Wood County Commissioners approved a resolution raising the hotel/motel tax to seven percent from the current four percent. The board also approved the appointment of Dan Kirk of Hawkins to the board of the WCIC.
In Austin, the first draft of new social studies standards for Texas public schools was published.
During August, three people were convicted on drug-related charges in Wood County.
Meeting in regular session on August 21st, Wood County Commissioners approved an agreement signed by Try Robinson, president of Bank Texas in Quitman, covering a total of $1,205,000 in six different financial instruments that the county has pledged to the bank as collateral.
Wood County resident Jeanette Sterner of Holly Lake Ranch was nominated for a state-wide post by the Texas Federation of Republican Women. The position is VP-Campaign Activities. She is currently president of the Republican Women of Wood County.
September: The month opened with the news that a new vineyard would soon be opening featuring locally-produced wines. The owner of Fairhaven Vineyards is R.L. Winters of Hawkins.
Also, The Gazette introduced a new feature, a crossword puzzle appearing in each issue.
Additionally, a report on the Texas economic outlook was featured. Texas continued to fare somewhat better than many other states although the state is not immune to some of the effects of the recession. The report indicated that Texas gained 37,000 jobs in July 2009, the first month-to-month increase since October 2008.
Meeting in regular session on September 4th, Wood County Commissioners voted to add dental insurance as an added benefit for county employees. The plan, effective October lst, covers 100 percent of preventive care, 50 percent for basic care and 50 percent of major and orthodontic care up to a maximum of $1,000 per participant per year. Commissioners also approved the addition of $5 to court costs for all cases brought before the county court, the probate court and the district court.
In Austin, a variety of laws that stiffened penalties for several crimes went into effect as of September 1st.
The newspapers began as series featuring a first-hand account of the historic Doolittle raids on Japan.
Elsewhere in the county, the Mineola Historical Museum opened on September 12th in the old historic post office building in downtown Mineola.
Nationally, in mid-month, almost two million people showed up in Washington D.C. as part of the national "Tea Party" movement in protest of the trillions in federal spending and the mounting deficit.
Meeting in regular session on September 21st, the Hawkins City Council held a second public hearing on the tax increase for the 2010 fiscal year. As happened with the first hearing, no citizens showed up to discuss or protest the tax increase. The increase is 1.97 percent to .5176 per $100 valuation. This means that a Hawkins property owner with a property valued at $100,000 will pay $63 more than the previous year to support the city's operating budget. There were people top packed the city chamber, to discuss the proliferation of stray cats on the east side of the city.
The council also raised the water rates ten cents per 1,000 gallons of usage and raised service charges by 25 cents.
The Wood County Sheriff's Office announced the recovery of about $1 million in stolen oil field equipment. The thefts took place over the past two-and-one-half years and stretched across five counties. About $240,000 of the one million was stolen from Wood County. An employee of an oil company who had worked at various in the region was arrested.
The sales tax returns for August and September to Hawkins showed a slight decrease versus the same months in 2008. However, on a year-to-date basis, these revenues were up 10 percent.
Meeting in regular session September 18th, Wood County Commissioners passed a proclamation declaring September 17-23 as Constitution Week in the county. The Daughters of the American Revolution presented a draft resolution to the court affirming observation of Constitution Week. September 17th marked the 222nd anniversary of the framing of the Constitution by the Continental Convention.
Commissioners also approved the renewal of the contract with Medicine Chest pharmacy to provide prescription pharmaceuticals to inmates at Wood County Jail.
The sheriff's department reported that a helicopter assisted officers in the discovery of a marijuana operation just east of Mineola. Officers seized rifles, a semi-automatic weapon, bags of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
In Austin, the battle continued over the social studies content in Texas public schools. The battle is one of left versus in terms of values. Conservatives say the standards promote globalism and downplay patriotism.
October: The newspaper ran a feature story on the national controversy that swirled around the community organizing group known as ACORN. Some videotapes surfaced that showed ACORN personnel offering some illicit advice to two "underground" reporters. The article offered some detailed background on ACORN's inception and function. The organization faces several voter fraud investigations.
Locally, Wood County Judge Bryan Jeanes announced that he would seek another term as county judge and formally declared his candidacy for re-election.
The Hawkins Independent School District received a rating of "Superior Achievement" under Texas' schools first financial accountability rating system. The rating is the state's highest, and demonstrated the quality of the financial management and reporting system of Hawkins ISD.
The board of directors of the Wood County Industrial Commission (WCIC) met in regular session October 1st at Jarvis Christian College. They approved $10,000 in local grants for local promotional activities. These included $2,000 to the Holly Lake Chamber of Commerce as well as $23,00 in grants funds for six fishing tournaments to be held at Lake Fork and year-round "largest fish" promotion by the Lake Fork Chamber of Commerce.
The Wood County Commissioners met in regular session October 2nd. They passed a proclamation declaring October 4-10 as National 4-H Week in Wood County. The commissioners also approved the appointment of Randy Selman as Wood County Fire Marshal.
In Austin, a state board approved the hiring of some - but not all - the food stamp enrollment workers that had been requested by the Health and Human Services Commission. Permission was given to hire 250. The commission had requested 650 to help relieve a backlog on applications for food stamps.
A detailed schedule of events was announced for the 29th Annual Hawkins Oil Festival to be held on October 10th.
During the month, eleven persons received sentences for a variety of offenses in the 402nd District Court of Wood County.
October was declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Wood County. The Victims Services Division of the county district attorney's office provides support to victims of domestic violence in the county.
The newspaper published an update on the outlook for the Texas economy. Foreclosures declined in August from July totals. Also, the oil and gas rig count was the highest since April. Overall, the Texas economy has fared somewhat better than the rest of the nation during the recession.
In Austin, Gov. Rick Perry replaced the head of the Board of Trustees of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. Linus Wright, a retired school superintendent, who was appointed in January, was succeeded by R. David Kelly, a Dallas real estate investor, who had been a trustee since 2007. The board oversees the state's $88 billion teacher retirement fund. The fund was undergoing a long-term shift in strategy to focus on alternatives to stocks and bonds such as real estate and private equity to increase returns.
Wood County Commissioners met in regular session on October 30th. They approved the sale of surplus concrete culvert from Pct. 3 for $1.50 each to Raymond Holmes. They also named David C. Murley, M.D. as Wood County Health Authority. Dr. Murley was re-appointed to serve a two-year term.
Monthly sales tax revenues for October 2009 for Hawkins showed a decrease of 5.04 percent versus the same month in 2008. However, the year-to-date totals were still up by eight percent.
On October 20th, a Wood County Grand Jury returned 38 indictments.
November: The Gazette published a full report on the concerns about the deer at Holly Lake Ranch and discussed issues of deer population and continuing development in the area.
On November 9th, Joseph Alden Burl Beck, 44, of Hawkins, received a life sentence for indecency with a child/sexual contact. Judge Tim Boswell of the 402nd District Court handed down the sentence after hearing testimony from a young female victim from Oklahoma
The Hawkins school board met in regular session November 2nd. The board received word that a law suit brought by Nestle Waters, the parent company of Ozarka Spring Water, is nearing settlement. The lawsuit centered on a challenge by Nestle/Ozarka related to property valuations over several made by the county's appraisal district.
The board also heard a report that repairs to a leaking roof on the new gymnasium would soon be underway along with work on a seepage problem in one corner of the new facility.
Wood County Commissioners met in regular session on November 13th. Commissioners approved naming Linda Hernandez to the Board of the Wood County Industrial Commission, replacing Neal Duncan. They also appointed a plan administrator for the county's "cafeteria" plan, which allows employees to pay for certain expenses such a health care or child care with pre-tax dollars.
The Gazette also ran a feature story on the terrible attack at Fort Hood and the role that political correctness may have played in setting up the tragedy. Thirteen people died and many were injured, some severely. The shooter, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was known by some to hold radical views and had been in contact via e-mail with a radical cleric in Yemen.
The Hawkins City Council met in regular session on November 16th. The council heard a second reading of the plans by the Hawkins Community Development Commission (HCDC) to construct an 80-foot by 40-foot structure at the Sports Park. It will contain concessions stands and restrooms. The council also cast the city's 53 votes for Al Harris to serve on the Wood County Tax Appraisal District Board of Directors.
Wood County Commissioners met in regular session November 25th. In the course of the meeting, County Treasurer Beckie Cannon seemed to scold the commissioners for their insistence that a treasurer's report be put on the agenda. Among other things, she said, "I don't appreciate being dictated up and told I should have something on the agenda without being consulted first as to why." Gazette Reporter Sheilah Pepper was told by a highly reliable source that there has not been a treasurer's report approved since 10-30-09 and that report was for 10-30-08. Cannon said a changeover in computer software was the problem and on-going. On another issue, the state attorney general's office is investigation the disappearance of $1,000 which Commissioner Roger Pace had handed over last year to the treasurer's office. That is still unresolved.
On the business scene, the Fairhaven Winery opened its wine-tasting room and began selling its locally produced wines.
The HLR Community Theatre announced that it would present its first production, "A Broadway Review" in March 2010 and invited auditions.
In Quitman, three people were found dead in Quitman on November 28th at Holiday Village. It was an apparent double homicide and suicide.
Elsewhere in the county, on November 25th, the historic Hart Magnolia House in Mineola burned to the ground. Arson was the cause and the arsonist, James Allen Vaughan, later confessed and received a 15 year prison sentence pursuant to a plea agreement.
The Republican Women of Wood County elected its officers for 2010. Voted by acclamation were Shirley Haskins, president; Isobel McGuffin, vice president; Peggy Simmons, secretary and Sammy Hall, treasurer.
In state politics, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison abruptly changed course on November 13th when she announced that she would remain in the U.S. Senate through the Texas gubernatorial primary in March. She is challenging Gov. Rick Perry in the GOP race. The Senator said she wanted to stay in Washington to fight against the Democrat's health care bill and the cap and trade bill.
December: In Austin, it was announced that the new head of the state agency that oversees the state's troubled institutes for people with mental disabilities. He is Christ Traylor, 47, who formerly headed the state's Medicaid program.
On December 7th, Kaleb Richard Hooks, of Winnsboro, was found by Judge Tim Boswell of the 402nd District Court, to be legally insane.
In Yantis, Charles Edward Spencer, 41, was found dead at his home, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
The monthly sales tax returns for December 2009 for Hawkins showed an increase of 4.23 percent versus the same period of 2008. For the year 2009, Hawkins is the only municipality in the county with an increase in sales tax returns for 2009 over 2008.
The Hawkins School Board met in regular session on December 7th. The district received an "unqualified" report from the outside auditor. The firm, Rutherford-Taylor, gave the district an Unqualified Opinion which is the best designation possible. The board also heard a report on improvements by Hawkins students as reflected in the Academic Excellence Indicator System for the 2008-2009 school year.
The Wood County Commissioners Court met in regular session on December 11th. They approved a $14,500 flat-rate contract for redistricting the county's four precincts. They also renewed leases for Texas Health and Human Services offices in Quitman and Mineola.
The Gazette continued the focus on the deer issue at Holly Lake Ranch. The paper ran an article on behalf of the deer written by HLR resident Gary Edwards.
In Austin, it was reported that the Teacher Retirement System of Texas might be feeling the effects of the financial upheaval of the past year, for many years to come. An outside actuary said the depth of what the market did over the past decade would be felt for about 20 years.
The Wood County Sheriff's Department honored officers and employees at an awards banquet held at the Carroll Green Civic Center in Quitman.
The Hawkins City Council met in regular session December 21st. They reviewed Mayor Sam Bradley's effort to revised the city's animal ordinance, Several council meetings over the year had been dominated by discussions with residents concerned about the "cat problem."
Wood County Commissioners met in regular session December 23rd. They heard a report that $99,366.75 had been donated by the Wood County Master Gardeners in services within the county. The court also approved an interlocal agreement between Pct 3 Road & Bridge and the City of Hawkins for work at the city's Sports Park.
It was announced that Early Voting for the March elections would begin on February 16th.
In Austin, it was announced in early December that the Texas Capitol Dome would receive an overhaul. The works was scheduled to begin in late February or early March 2010.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 January 2010 00:30