GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council decided to make an offer to a yet unnamed applicant for city secretary. Longtime officeholder Christy Eckerman has submitted her intention to retire by year’s end. The action was taken after an executive session held Nov. 15, following the regular open session.
“The only thing I can tell you,” City Manager Brett Bauer told The Monitor, “is to be here for the next council meeting,” which was reset for Tuesday Dec. 20, to accommodate the Christmas holiday season.
In other business, the council agreed to move forward with interviewing applicants for the open positions on the Board of Adjustments (BOA), approve an expenditure of $5,000 for a fishing tournament and began to investigate the hiring of a tourism/event director.
The council directed the city manager to report to them in January on what it will take to fund a position focused on bringing tourism to the city. The agenda item was brought up by Councilman David Skains.
City Council members voted to conduct interviews with applicants for open posts on the BOA, although Mayor Pro-tem Rob Rea wanted to table this item to allow more to apply. He said some had missed the opportunity, when it first came up. Rea was hoping to attract others who had not previously served on a city board or committee. He mentioned having “fresh blood” cycling through. However, board members didn’t agree with holding up the process any longer. The board is diminished to four members. This even number would not allow applicants to have a “fair shot,” according to Eckerman.
The Board of Adjustments is comprised of five members and two alternate members appointed by the City Council. Members must be qualified voters of the City. The board hears and determines appeals of administrative decisions, authorizes in specific cases a variance from the terms of the zoning ordinance if the variance is not contrary to the public interest and, due to special conditions; such as, a literal enforcement of the ordinance would result in unnecessary hardship, and so that the spirit of the ordinance is observed and substantial justice is done and such other matters as may be required by the City Council or by law. Decisions made by this board are final. In case of a denial, the applicant’s only recourse is to file an appeal in District Court.
The council approved an expenditure of $5,000 for Texas Tournament Zone to advertise for a fishing tournament they want to hold in May. This tournament will be beneficial to the growth of an interest field in Gun Barrel City, and will bring a boost of revenue to the local businesses, council members heard.
Council members also approved an ordinance that will allow Mayor Jim Braswell to execute an agreement with Texas Department of Transportation on behalf of the city to help pay for the cost of acquiring a right-of-way in connection with the SH 334 bridge expansion equating to 3.4 percent of the cost. City manager Brett Bauer estimates it will be around $800.
Posted by : November 22, 2016| On :
Posted by : November 18, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
TOOL–About 100 community members joined students and staff at Tool Elementary School Wednesday to celebrate its selection as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. As such it is one of 279 public schools nationwide selected for the recognition.
“We’ve proven all schools can achieve high performance,” Principal Christal Calhoun said. That was said with confidence, since last year, the Malakoff school district, of which the Tool school is a part, produced its first Blue Ribbon award winner in Malakoff Elementary School, under the direction of Principal Ronny Snow.
The U.S. Department of Education program began in 1982, targeting best practices in high-achieving schools with 40 percent or more students identified as economically disadvantaged. Calhoun said 80 percent of the student body at Tool falls into that category.
Calhoun and three of her teaching staff recently returned from Washington D.C., where they were recognized and received a beautiful plaque, depicting the department’s official seal, a Texas live oak. The official tree and seal symbolize the Department of Education’s mission to promote student achievement and foster educational excellence.
“Getting recognition on a national level is very awesome,” Calhoun said. “I have the most amazing staff in the world.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon Schools flag gracing a school’s building is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning. National Blue Ribbon Schools are an inspiration and a model for schools still striving for excellence. Now in its 34th year, the U. S. Department of Education has bestowed this coveted award on fewer than 8,500 schools.
About 221 students entered the cafeteria in an orderly manner, climbing the risers, wearing very striking blue T-shirts with the Department of Education Seal and the slogan “We Dream Big” on the front. After leading the room in the pledges to the flags, students performed songs to celebrate their big win, including “Happy” and “Celebrate.”
In a phone call the next day, Calhoun attributed the school’s success to inventorying each student’s weaknesses and strengths, designing an individual plan for each one and then following through on that plan. “We just build on to that all through the year,” she concluded.
During the celebration, the school received many words of congratulations from U.S. Representative Jeb Hensarling, State Representatives John Wray and Lance Gooden and from State Sen. Robert Nichols.
“I don’t have to look too far to see that Texas has a bright future,” Nichols said. Tool Elementary School serves as a model of Best Practices for schools across the state.”
Calhoun recognized all the support her students receive from mentors, volunteers, coaches and local businesses, identifying members of the school board, which “play a large role in our success;” Shirley Leone of Dairy Queen, VFW Post 4376, Dave Bullard, president of the Malakoff Education Foundation; daily morning greeter Fran Sonka, Stanley Brown and Jennifer Rudolf and First State Bank, which provided refreshments for students and visitors.
Posted by : November 18, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Jurors returned a guilty verdict in the trial of Stacie Marie Parsons, 27, who is charged with murdering her 4-year-old daughter, Victoria Wyatt, on July 21, 2014.
The seven-man five-woman jury returned a verdict after roughly 90 minutes of deliberation Thursday.
Juror Barbara Meyer told The Monitor that the defendant didn’t exhibit any reactions or emotions during the 10-day trial that she could tell. She described the members of the jury as open-minded and able to render an opinion based on what was presented.
Meyer said what was the most convincing came from the defendant during several interviews with investigators recorded on video. “She confessed to the crime and believed she’d spend the rest of her life in prison,” Meyer said. “She didn’t show any diminished capacity to know right from wrong.”
173rd District Judge Dan Moore rejected a motion by Parsons’ defense team, pleading diminished mental capacity as a defense. Moore ruled that Parsons’ could not avoid criminal culpability on that basis. “It is not a defense under the criminal law,” Moore said.
In that case, Parsons’ lawyers claimed that Moore was denying Parson her Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel and that they were rendered ineffective. Moore said the two attorneys have been very effective at representing their client.
The defense is sure to seek an appeal since its evidence of intellectual disability and diminished capacity was disallowed from being presented to the jury, but was recorded in a closed session — as well as evidence of Parsons’ mental state or awareness of criminal activity at the time of its commission.
This evidence included depositions from those who have known Parsons, as well as from witnesses who testified as to her childhood and the IQ test she was given shortly after her arrest. Dr. Joan Mayfield found Parsons IQ to be 70. A score of 100 is considered average.
District Attorney Scott McKee told the judge the people were not seeking the death penalty for Parsons because of her mental disability. “Under the law, she does not qualify for the death penalty,” McKee said.
Parsons’ defense team entered a guilty plea by reason of insanity. A guilty verdict carries a sentence of life in prison.
Shortly after 9 a.m. July 21, 2014, Parsons walked into the Athens Police Department and stated she had killed her daughter and informed that the body could be found in the trunk of her car parked at an apartment building on Martin Luther King Blvd.
Police found the little girl with trauma to her head and chest. Later Parsons lead police to the place where the crime was committed under a bridge on County Road 1500. The girl’s father, Gary Wyatt, told news outlets that the girl’s mother had never acted violently toward their daughter before and that the couple had been together for six years. When Parsons left that morning with the little girl it was presumed she was going to register the girl for pre-kindergarten. When she returned without the girl and started walking away, Wyatt approached the car to look for her, “I wouldn’t be in that car if I were you,” Parson is reported as having told Wyatt. When he and a family friend opened the trunk, they found a garbage bag with his daughter’s leg sticking out of it. The two men pulled the body out and started CPR. Water was expelled from her lungs, it was reported.
According to news reports, Wyatt said that the night before, he had threatened to leave Parsons. Looking back, Wyatt said, weeks ago she had threatened to kill the baby if he ever left her, but he had chalked that up to just “angry talk”
“I never thought for a second she’d actually do it,” he said.