Sep

21

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 21, 2014

Eustace PD received $707K worth from 1033 federal plan

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–The Eustace Police Department is the fifth police department to be suspended from the Department of Defense 1033 Program that provides military surplus to law enforcement agencies.
According to news reports the Defense Logistics Agency enacted the suspension Sept. 8 and turned the case over to its Office of Inspector General for investigation.
Eustace Police Chief Ken Holder was terminated by the city council Sept. 4 for “violations of the employee handbook and police department code of conduct.”
City officials have said they cannot comment further on said violations.
Eustace Police Department’s property room underwent an inventory conducted by the Texas Rangers Sept. 8 to “determine whether the department has adequate controls over seized property, drugs, and evidence to ensure that they are tracked and safeguarded.”
An independent audit was asked for as a result of the removal of the police chief; to establish a baseline for an incoming police chief to begin,” Department of Public Safety spokesperson Jean Dark said Tuesday in a statement.
During an Aug. 7 meeting of the Eustace City Council, no action was taken on an agenda item referring to the 1033 program. Council members were to discuss and vote on an appraisal of equipment procured through the program. The Monitor was informed that no inventory of 1033 equipment was available for the council to review at that time.
According to DLA records obtained by KLTV 7, the Eustace Police Department received $707,000 worth of equipment from the program.
Those items ranged from a truck tractor worth $166,233 to M-16 rifles and even an elliptical issued to the police department.
Federal review called
The federal program has come under scrutiny after the heavy police presence and response in Ferguson, Missouri, following the officer-involved shooting of a young man. After those incidents, President Barack Obama ordered a review of the program.
On Aug. 19, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby acknowledged the “hard job” law enforcement officers are engaged in and that some of the equipment they get through this program makes their job a little easier.
Several groups oppose the 1033 program, including one in Texas.
Anton Montoya of Stop1033.org points out that smaller communities often lack the needed oversight that would recognize misuse or abuse of the military equipment.
Proposed law introduced
Tuesday, Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014. The bill would place restrictions and transparency measures on the 1033 program.
They contend that the program “blurs the line between military and civilian policing,” presenting public safety issues and undermines the right of the accused to due process of law.
The Act would:
• prevent transfers of equipment inappropriate for local policing, such as high-caliber weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, drones, armored vehicles, etc.
• end incentives to use equipment in circumstances when the use is unnecessary. (Removing the requirement departments must use equipment within one year of receipt)
• require agencies certify they can account for all equipment.
• add requirements to enforce tracking of equipment and transfers to agencies.

Sep

18

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 18, 2014

Meetings continue at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at Gun Barrel City Hall to address questions

By David Webb
Monitor Correspondent

GUN BARREL CITY–Fifty residents quizzed city officials last week at the first of a series of scheduled town hall meetings on a proposed city ad valorem tax set for the Nov. 4 ballot.
The residents at the Sept. 11 meeting included full-time residents and weekenders who packed City Hall to hear city officials present the plan to raise the property tax from zero to $0.2599 per $100 valuation. Only full-time residents will be eligible to vote in the election, but weekenders also raised concerns about the new tax liability they would face if voters approve the measure.
Mayor Jim Braswell kicked off the meeting by telling the audience the city could not provide the services residents will need on sales tax revenue alone. “It’s a three-letter word I hate to hear,” Braswell said of the proposed tax. “On the other hand, what I want to see done for this city that you tell me you want can’t be done of sales tax revenue.”
Braswell noted there are 35 empty store fronts in Gun Barrel City, and those business failures represent decreasing sales tax revenue.
Braswell said city officials would no longer pursue a previously announced plan to use new property tax revenue to fund $11 million in bonds for widespread road improvements and upgrades to police and fire protection services. Instead, the estimated $1.1 million in annual revenue from the tax would be directly spent on improvements on a lengthier schedule.
Braswell said city officials could not by state law campaign for the tax, but he asked residents to consider what they could do to improve the city’s quality of life. “We are not here to sell you on a property tax,” Braswell said. “If you don’t want it, vote no. If you want to give back a little to the city, … ask what we as citizens can do to be proud of our town?”
City officials said Gun Barrel City is one of only four cities in the state with a population of more than 4,000 residents that does not assess a property tax. They noted Gun Barrel City is the second largest city in Henderson County and the Cedar Creek Lake area, and that most of the other cities surrounding the lake assess a property tax. Payne Springs was said to have the lowest rate at 3 cents per $100 valuation, but that tax was repealed several years ago. Kemp has the highest tax rate at 92 cents per $100 valuation, according to a document distributed at the meeting. However, a City of Kemp spokesperson told The Monitor the city’s tax rate is 89.3564 cents per $100 valuation.
Braswell said the city needs to become more aggressive in fighting illegal drug activity that spawns other types of crimes, and that it will require the hiring of more police officers and equipment. It costs $100,000 to put another officer in a squad car on the streets, and it cost $250,000 to reconstruct one lane of one mile of road, city officials said.
Braswell said if voters approve the measure, city officials would make the promised improvements and be transparent about the expensing of the funds.
“I’m proud of this little town,” Braswell said. “We are the hub of the lake. We’re going to do nothing but get stronger and better.”
Braswell’s comments met significant criticism from some members of the audience who complained the new tax is starting off too high after being zero, that property taxes are inequitable because residents with more expensive homes pay more for the same services than owners of less expensive homes and that city officials would likely be asking to increase the property tax in future years.
Some residents complained that Gun Barrel City officials had failed the community by not building a public boat ramp that would attract more visitors to the lake. One resident suggested the City Council postpone requesting for the tax increase until it builds more “trust” with the community or that it decrease the amount of the tax.
City officials said they are considering a plan to purchase land that could be used for a public boat ramp, and that the new property tax revenue would help free up some sales tax revenue to help achieve that goal.
After the meeting, Braswell acknowledged many residents seem resistant to the property tax, but he expressed optimism that residents will realize how important its passage is to the city. “I think it’s going to be a hard fight, but we have all the faith in the world we are going to get this through.”
Braswell said the council and other city officials would continue to hold the town hall meetings on the property tax every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall until the election. “We’ll be here every Thursday as until no one shows up,” he said.
The proposed property tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home after exemptions to pay $259.90 in taxes annually.
There will be a $10,000 homestead exemption and a $15,000 over 65-years-old exemption from the appraised value if the measure is approved. Disabled veterans would receive an exemption of up to $15,000 based on the percentage of disability if they are under 65.
The disability exemption would expire when the resident reaches 65 because the over 65 exemption would begin, officials explained.

Sep

18

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 18, 2014

Special to The Monitor
KAUFMAN–The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Kaufman County is holding a “Friend to Friend” party from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 27, at Our Merciful Saviour Episcopal Church to help women learn about and access breast cancer resources.
A health professional will provide information about breast and cervical cancer, and the obstacles that prevent women from getting mammograms and Pap tests.
Help will be provided to direct women who qualify to financial resources that will cover the cost of a screening mammogram.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 202,964 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 women died from breast cancer in 2007.
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races.
The best prevention of breast cancer is early detection, which is why it is important for women receive annual screening mammograms.
Research has shown that mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer leads to a greater range of treatment options, including less-aggressive surgery.
The American Cancer Society recommends women receive an annual mammogram beginning at age 40. As a woman ages, her chances of developing breast cancer increase.
As long as a woman is in good health and would be a good candidate for breast cancer treatment, she should continue to be screened with an annual mammogram.
If there is a question about being a good candidate, women should thoroughly discuss it with their physicians.
Some women choose not to get mammograms because of the cost.
Beginning in 2011, the Affordable Care Act required all new health insurance plans fully cover screening mammograms without any out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. This is also required of Medicare.
For uninsured women and those not eligible for Medicare, resources are available for which these women may qualify.
Our Merciful Saviour Episcopal Church is located at 500 S. Jackson St., in Kaufman.
For more information, call the Kaufman County AgriLife Extension office at (972) 932-9069.