Thursday, January 4, 2007



  Storm swamps dealership
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Severe thunderstorms rumbling through the Cedar Creek Lake area Friday left one family soaked after their vehicle hydroplaned into a ditch, and left a historic Mabank business with major damage.
Storm-warning sirens went off in Seven Points, Mabank, Eustace and Gun Barrel City just before a funnel cloud was spotted five miles south of Gun Barrel City.
Reportedly, the tornado never touched down, but the winds and heavy rains generated in the vicinity heavily damaged Tri-County Ford in Mabank.
The dealership’s original shop building, which dates from the late 1920s, collapsed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, narrowly missing a cleaning woman.
A husband-and-wife team cleans the auto dealership’s offices after hours, and the woman was in the shop area, service manager Chris Pickens reported.
“She heard the building start to creak, and she got out,” he said. “About two minutes later, it fell in.”
Pickens said he got to the business about 10 minutes after that, and found “two to three inches” of water standing in the building.
“Of course, it was still raining,” he added.
The Tarrant Regional Water District office at the lake spillway reported receiving 2.93 inches of rain Friday and early Saturday. As of Tuesday morning, the lake level had risen 1.21 feet since The Monitor’s last check Thursday, Dec. 28.
Insurance will cover most of the loss at Tri-County Ford, which was extensive, owner Andrea Pickens said Tuesday.
In addition to the building itself, some equipment – such as a wheel-alignment machine – was damaged, as well as one Lincoln Town Car, a trade-in being prepared for placement on the dealership’s used-car lot.
While adjusters had already visited the business, Andrea Pickens said she did not have a damage estimate yet.
“My feeling is we will have to go back with a new building,” she said. “The worst part is that all our power and all the (telephone) connections are in that building.
“We’ve got some (service) bays that are not hurt, so they can be ready as soon as we get power,” she said. “We’ve also got records that got wet.”
Mabank Electric employees were on the scene Tuesday trying to restore electric power to the dealership’s showroom and office building, which was not damaged.
The dealership employs about two dozen people, and about half of them work in the shop area.
“This will stop us from taking care of our customers, and that’s a big problem,” Chris Pickens said. “I’ve been wanting to add on to the shop for a while, and it looks like I’ll be able to do that.
“I had planned on a little different approach, though,” he added. “We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
Andrea Pickens said the dealership could begin selling cars as soon as power (and heat), along with telephone and Internet access, were restored to the showroom/office building.
Ford Motor Company regional and main offices were closed for the New Year’s holiday, and many remained closed Tuesday as part of a federal holiday declared following the death of former President Gerald R. Ford, Dec. 27.
“I’m going to put up some Mason jars around town (for donations),” co-owner Joe Pickens joked. “I know insurance is not going to take care of everything.”
Gun Barrel City firefighters were called out during Friday evening’s downpour to rescue a family of five, who had left their mobile home seeking more substantial shelter in town.
The unidentified family, which included several children, was driving down Welch Lane when their vehicle hydroplaned and landed in a ditch.
The car immediately took on water. Firefighters were called out to rescue them, Gun Barrel City police investigator Judie Burley told The Monitor Tuesday.
They were transported to the police department and provided with towels and blankets.
No injuries were reported, Burley said.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Tri-County Ford service manager Chris Pickens eyes a collapsed
roof atop a Lincoln Town Car inside the downtown Mabank auto
dealership’s service area Tuesday. The roof on the historic building,
 which dated back to the late 1920s, collapsed during a severe thunderstorm Friday.

Office holders sworn in
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–Family, friends and citizens packed the 86th District Courtroom in Kaufman County Monday, as 14 office holders were sworn.
After Kaufman County Judge Wayne Gent issued the oath of office to the new district attorney, Rick Harrison, Harrison’s staff of assistant district attorneys and investigators took their oath of office.
The ceremonies began as 422nd District Judge B. Michael Chitty gave the oath of office to Gent and three other judges – incumbent 86th District Judge Howard Tygret and incumbent County-Court-at-Law Judge Erleigh Norville, along with Judge David Lewis, who was elected in November to preside over the newest court, County Court-at-Law No. 2, which officially began with his oath.
Gent took over the swearing in of county officials, including incumbents beginning another term – Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Johnny Perry, Precinct 2 JP Don Cates and two newly elected justices, Precinct 3 JP Mike Smith and Precinct 4 JP Johnny Adams.
District Clerk Sandra Featherston and County Clerk Laura Hughes also recited their oaths of office.
Gent also issued the oath of office to County Treasurer Johnny Countryman.
Newly elected Precinct 2 Commissioner Ray Clark was sworn in.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Deller also took the oath of office.
Gent commended Deller as the Kaufman County commissioners’ court senior member.

Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Newly sworn in Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Johnny
 Adams (left) and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Ray
Clark sign their bond papers. See more photos, page 4A.

Project to restore Trinity River wetlands
Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–One of the state’s largest wetland restoration project is under final review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“They’re taking land that was historically bottomland floodplain forest, cleared years ago for agriculture, and it’s going to be restored to those pre-settlement conditions,” Brent Jasper explained to a Dallas Morning News reporter recently.
Jasper is one of those reviewing the project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The project, when fully developed, will encompass about 4,200 acres in Kaufman County between Seagoville, Crandall and Combine, along the East Fork of the Trinity River, once the Caroline Hunt Trust Estate.
It’s called land mitigation banking.
When wetland is encroached upon by roads and development, builders are required by federal policy to restore wetland acreage elsewhere.
This is done through land exchanges, or monetary contributions overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers towards wetlands restoration.
About 1,840 acres of the project will have a secondary use.
The North Texas Municipal Water District will be piping water, after the natural processes have cleaned it, 40 miles north to feed water-starved Lake Lavon, similar to what the Tarrant Regional Water District is doing near Corsicana.
Six wastewater plants in cities east of Dallas discharge their treated effluent into the East Fork of the Trinity River.
Not only will it be a supplier of water to drought-stricken counties near Lake Lavon, the project will provide a haven for plants, birds and other wetland wildlife.
By 2030, the East Fork project is designed to provide as much water itself as Lake Lavon does when full, Jasper said.
Partial approval last summer enabled the construction of pump stations, and massive wetland “cells” have been forming on both sides of U.S. Highway 175 between Seagoville and Crandall.
The project, when fully approved (in the coming months), will be known as the Bunker Sands Mitigation Bank, after the late Bunker Sands, son of Caroline Hunt and nephew to Bunker Hunt and the late Lamar Hunt, whose vision for the project was ahead of his time.
Sands died at age 54 in 2003 after winning state and national awards for his conservation work.
Mike Rickman of North Texas Municipal, Jasper and John Dziminiski, who oversees the land of the bank, see the project as a win-win-win for the environment, for the North Texas water district’s 1.6 million customers, and for developers who might find it difficult to create new wetlands to offset those they destroy.
Dziminiski plans a nature center in honor of Sands to educate generations to come of the importance of conservation and wetland habitats.