Dec

07

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : December 7, 2014

By David Webb
Monitor Correspondent

KAUFMAN–The Kaufman County Commissioners approved an agreement with Mabank Nov. 24 to launch long-awaited repairs to CR 4006.
The agreement provides for the disbursement of up to $200,000 from Kaufman County road improvement bond funds to make the repairs on the county road from Adair Road to Yeoman Road. Voters approved a $56 million road improvement bond package in November 2013 that included the section of CR 4006.
Area residents complained frequently to Precinct 4 Commissioner Tom Manning about the delay in the start of repairs. “I’ve been trying to get this cooking for the last two or three months,”he said.
Manning said he had hoped to see the construction complete before he leaves office at the end of the year, but the City of Mabank will oversee the project now.
The repairs represent the only project in Mabank funded by the bond package, Manning said.
In other action, the court:
• learned a property auction held recently at Kemp High School resulted in the tax resale of 14 pieces of property that will be re-added to the tax rolls. Opening bids started at 25 percent of appraised value; 19 properties failed to sell. The next auction will be held in early 2015.

Dec

04

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : December 4, 2014

Courtesy Photo A building is a total loss when winds carry sparks from a leaf-burning pile on Wood Street Sunday. Refrain from burning leaves on windy days, Payne Springs Fire Rescue Fire Chief Randy Harley warns residents.

Courtesy Photo
A building is a total loss when winds carry sparks from a leaf-burning pile on Wood Street Sunday. Refrain from burning leaves on windy days, Payne Springs Fire Rescue Fire Chief Randy Harley warns residents.

Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–Windy gusts and blowing fall leaves threatened to spread a fire from a two-story structure to at least two other residences in the neighborhood in Cedar Branch Park Saturday.
Payne Springs Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Harley said, the presence of volunteer firefighters staying at the fire station over the weekend and the alert response of a neighbor made all the difference.
“Our response time was just three minutes after receiving the call,” he said. However, the caller reported flames were all she could see.
The house on Anderson Lane was fully involved in flames when firefighters arrived and fire was up against two more nearby structures, Harley reported.
The wind carried sparks and embers to leaves which carried the fire to two more structures, he described.
Quick teamwork on the water lines saved the two additional structures. Once the fire was beaten back, focused effort was put on the original structure fire.
The extremely high wind had burning leaves raining down on the neighborhood, so we had spot fires to the north of the actual fire scene, he added.
Firefighters from Eustace and Gun Barrel City were called in to assist, totaling 25 firefighters in all with two engines, a ladder truck, two tankers and a rehab and medical unit standing by. No one was hurt.
On the following day, a second fire was called in, this time on Wood Street, just opposite of the Pinnacle Club area. There the resident lost control of a burn pile of leaves that swiftly set a building alight. When firefighters arrived, the structure was fully involved in flames and was a total loss.
Harley warns area residents to use extreme caution when burning leaves and said the chore should not be attempted, if even light breezes exist.
The presence of so much combustible material, low humidity and windy conditions make for a “very dangerous situation” if a fire is ignited, he said.

Nov

20

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : November 20, 2014

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Henderson County Grand Jury has been asked to look into allegations of wrongdoing by Tarrant Regional Water District. Outgoing Dist. 4 State Rep. Lance Gooden told those attending the November luncheon of the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce that he testified in September on the matter.
Gooden said he strongly suspects wrongdoing and a cover up because his repeated Open Records requests for basic accounting documentation have gone unfulfilled and been repeatedly responded to by letters from lawyers.
“I’ve turned in open record requests in March and they have stonewalled me since then,” he told The Monitor Monday.
Correspondence from TRWD has come back four and five times stating the information Gooden requested is either not kept or further clarification is needed. Another time he was told he has to come down to their office in Austin to view it, he said. Some of his requests include accounting documents, list of expenditures and lobbying contracts, Gooden said.
“There are unanswered questions and possibly law breaking,” he said.
The requests were initiated because a Henderson County landowner asked Gooden to look into the TRWD for mismanagement of funds. The landowner charges that the TRWD owns a costly lakehouse, flies their people in and out by helicopter and provides a number of costly perks to insiders, all the while pumping more and more water from Cedar Creek Lake and raising the cost of raw water and the cost of water to its Fort Worth customers.
“I’ve never had this experience with any other governmental agency,” Gooden said.
Checking with the Henderson County Appraisal District found the TRWD owns 11 properties at Cedar Creek Lake, none of them with a residence.
The TRWD was created in 1924, as a political subdivision of Texas. TRWD provides raw water to more than 1.8 million people, including residents of Cedar Creek Lake, and maintains floodway levees along the Trinity River. It also has broad powers to take private land for eminent domain purposes.
“Any citizen has a statutory right in Texas to appear before a grand jury,” Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee said in a statement on the matter. “Furthermore, grand juries have broad power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to conduct investigations.”
Gooden isn’t the only one having trouble gaining access to basic accounting information. A recently elected board member has also gone to the press complaining of the lack of transparency from the district.
Gooden could not be more specific about his testimony before the grand jury. “Secrecy is a hallmark of the grand jury and its proceedings for a number of reasons,” McKee’s statement explains. “One of those reasons is to protect the integrity of an investigation. Another is to protect the reputation of an individual who might ultimately be cleared by a grand jury investigation. I, along with any witness that testifies before a grand jury, am under a legal obligation to not divulge any testimony, questions or things that they have observed before a grand jury.”
TRWD representatives could not be reached for comment concerning Gooden’s allegation about misuse of funds or the grand jury investigation.
TRWD’s media spokesman Chad Lorance requested that an email be sent to him outlining Gooden’s allegations before he issues a statement. TRWD owns Cedar Creek Lake, and it was built as a water reservoir for Tarrant County in the mid-1960s.
On June 21, TRWD board member Mary Kelleher told a group of journalists and others at the University of Texas at Arlington that the water district was being uncooperative in providing public information.
TRWD Executive Director Jim Oliver responded to her remarks with several years worth of statistics on open-records requests. Kelleher responded that the stats, though probably correct, are misleading. Others including The Fort Worth Weekly have had similar experiences when it comes to gaining public information about the expenditures of the district. Every request is responded to within the 10 working days as the law requires but the requestor is given the runaround instead of the information.
Usually, a letter from a lawyer is received stating that district records do not correspond to information you are seeking. For instance, The Fort Worth Weekly reports: it’s well known that top water district officials put relatives on the agency’s lucrative payroll. But ask the agency for a list of relatives who work there. Ask how many of Oliver’s relatives work there. You won’t get a straight answer. You’ll get a non-answer from a lawyer. However, in Oliver’s mind, that counts as the agency responding to a public information request in a timely manner.
Oliver’s elitist, secretive attitude is one of the reasons Kelleher said she decided to seek a spot on the board in 2013.
Kelleher said Oliver was trying to muddy the waters with his statistics. “The general statistics you attached regarding the district’s responses to open records requests for the last few years imply that these statistics were discussed [at the meeting in June],” Kelleher wrote. “They were not. Instead, we discussed the district’s response to two particular requests for records – one from me, and the other from State Rep. Lance Gooden. It is indisputable that both these requests have been stonewalled … . There is no excuse for the district’s reluctance to freely share information with the public and elected officials when it is a taxing entity and a subdivision of Texas state government.”
Kelleher, who is a school psychologist by education, and employed by Tarrant County Juvenile Services as a Court Intake Supervisor for 22 years, closed with a final thought.
“If we are to move forward in the best interests of the residents and taxpayers of the district, your attempts to bully, intimidate, and harass public officials who demand transparency from the board must stop,” she said. “Your behavior has resulted in a hostile work environment for me and has damaged the reputation of the district.”
Elected to the board in 2013, she and her husband own farm acreage on the east side of Fort Worth.