By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–Firefighters in Henderson County provide a valuable service to their communities as medical and fire first responders. While the large majority of fire fighters work on a volunteer basis, the money for the equipment and buildings has to come from somewhere. That’s where the tax dollars of Henderson County residents come in.
Enchanted Oaks Mayor and Fire Lieutenant Donald Warner was concerned about these tax dollars and researched how much tax money the emergency service districts and city fire departments gather from the public and compared that data to their total resources on hand (fire engines, other emergency service vehicles and buildings) and reported service calls.
Warner documented his results and presented a packet to The Monitor in hopes of informing the general population on how their tax dollars were spent. Using public information databases and a few phone calls to the department chiefs, he acquired tax dollars gained from all seven emergency service districts (#1 Trinidad, #2 Payne Springs and Enchanted Oaks, #3 LaRue/New York and Poyner, #4 Tool, #5 Brownsboro, #6 West Side, #7 North 19) and the three city fire departments (Athens, Gun Barrel City and Mabank). Things got insightful when those numbers were compared to the amount of resources each department has at their disposal in labor, apparatus and how many reported responses each department made.
Much of the findings are communicated more clearly in the graph (see page 2A ) than in a written summary. However, Warner did point out a few noteworthy numbers.
He said that it appears the Gun Barrel City Fire Department is doing a lot good work with less resources than the other city departments. The most recent tax dollar information he obtained was from 2016, and in that year GBC collected $76, 005 in tax revenue. Athens and Mabank collected over $200,000 in revenue, but Gun Barrel responded to more calls (977) than any other reporting district or fire department in the entire county.
There was one instance of misfiling and another reported number the Payne Springs Fire Department says isn’t accurate. The Tool Volunteer Fire Department didn’t report their 2015 calls to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), so the department had no public information on its emergency responses for the year. According to the NFIRS, the Payne Springs Fire Department in Emergency Service District #2 responded to 666 calls, but their chief claims the number is actually about twice that high. The Payne Springs Fire Department collected $217,885, the most tax revenue of all seven emergency service districts and second most of all departments. Athens had the most with $242,614.
Warner stressed that reporting these findings wasn’t for pointing fingers or raising hostility toward any fire department, but only to make public information on tax dollars more easily available to residents.
“I’m not throwing anyone under the bus here,” Warner said. “I think it’s important to know where our tax dollars are being spent.”
Warner said that 80 percent of all fire departments work on a volunteer basis, receiving only pride in serving their community as compensation for the labor. He is proud of all fire fighters and the departments for putting in blood, sweat and tears into a second job with no pay.
Posted by : June 24, 2016| On :
By Erik Walsh
Posted by : June 23, 2016| On :
Monitor Photo/Sariah Kendall
Community members gather on the Henderson County Courthouse Square the night of June 20 to remember the 49 victims of the terror attack in Orlando.
By Sariah Kendall
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–A candlelight vigil was held June 20 at the Henderson County Courthouse square in Athens where Athens at 6:15 p.m. Mayor Jerry Don Vaught, Celebration on the Lake Church members and several other community members gathered with heavy hearts to remember to victims of the Orlando night club shooting.
“My heart and I know your hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones and those injured. We need to continue to show support and pray for them and pray for healing in Orlando and for our country,” Vaught said.
The vigil was coordinated by Celebration on the Lake Church member John Hollaway and Randy Norman. Hollaway read off the Orlando victim names as candles were lit. Celebration on the Lake also held a vigil at their church June 19.
The vigil came in the wake of the June 12 attack, deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9-11. A total of 49 people lost their lives at the Pulse night club in Orlando.
Athens is just one of many communities around the world that has come together to mourn and show their support for the victims and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups.
“This time has come for churches and all houses of worship to end spiritual violence that perpetrate against LGBTQ members, Celebration member Tommie Churchman said. “I am angry but I cannot and will not return hate for hate. Hate will not stop the cycle of violence. Not in this country or anywhere in this world.”
Posted by : June 8, 2016| On :
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer
KEMP–Two Kemp residents fell victim to auto theft around Memorial Day weekend. One of the stolen vehicles was recovered and the other is still missing.
Kemp resident Ray Lambert recovered his missing F-250 June 2 in Payne Springs, nearly a week after it first went missing.
According to Lambert, his truck was parked on his property the evening of May 26. When he woke, his truck was gone. He went without word of what happened to the F-250 for nearly a week until he was contacted by longtime Kemp resident Bobby Wood, who said he also was a victim of auto theft.
Woods told The Monitor that he went knocking on doors to track down people in social circles that might know who stole his pickup. After getting the word out, eventually Woods was contacted and led to the dump site in Payne Springs where his Chevy was allegedly parked. When Woods arrived at the site he quickly realized it wasn’t his truck. It was Lambert’s.
The Henderson County Sherriff’s Office was notified and investigated the crime scene, bizarrely finding a work ID belonging to Woods inside. The identification card appears to link the two thefts together, but the HCSO has yet to make an arrest. Lambert was notified and reclaimed his lost F-250.
Lambert’s keys were not in his truck, but were recovered by the Seven Points Police Department in a prior arrest. Lambert picked them up.
According to Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse, the theft of Lambert’s F-250 is still under investigation and no additional details were available to be released to media. Hillhouse said the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department is working with other agencies to identify suspects.