Sunday, January 4, 2009

     

 

 

 

 

  County to seek two new courts
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–Two new courts may be on Kaufman County’s agenda in the near future.
At their regular Dec. 29, 2008, meeting, county commissioners approved a resolution asking the State Legislature to create a third county court-at-law and a third district court.
The 81st State Legislature will open its 140-day Regular Session Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“At the moment, we (the judges) are keeping up with our dockets,” 86th District Court Judge Howard Tygret told the commissioners.
“But, with the projected growth of our county, it’s better to stay ahead of the curve,” he explained.
While county population growth has slowed slightly with last summer’s gas price spike, the growth rate is expected to pick back up within six months to two years, Tygret reported.
“If we don’t start now, it will be two years before we can ask again,” he said. “Even after the request is made, it could be up to four years before the courts are started.”
County Judge Wayne Gent asked how the county should follow through on the resolution.
“Just ask that it be done, and then work with the state on the procedures,” Tygret said.
In other business, commissioners:
• appointed representatives to the North Central Texas Housing Finance Corporation.
Wayne Gent was designated as a voting member, replacing former commissioner Ken Leonard.
Kaufman attorney Wade Gent was named the first alternate, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Deller as the second alternate.
• appointed representatives to the County Historical Commission for 2009-10 as recommended.
Precinct 4 appointments include former Tool assistant police chief Martha Decker, George York, Paulette Parker and Elizabeth Grubbs.
• accepted a $1,118 rebate from the BuyBoard Cooperative Purchasing program.
• authorized buying three trucks at a total cost of $38,050 for county departments.
• approved the final plat for Shadow Lakes Phase Four.
• approved the preliminary plat for Shadow Lakes Phase Five.
• authorized Precinct 4 to apply for the TERP (Texas Emissions Reduction Plan) grant.
• accepted the November treasurer’s report as presented.
• approved the deputation of Wesley B. Boyd and Frank Gonzalez for the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department.
• approved a budget transfer as presented by auditor Hal D. Jones.
• paid bills totaling $385,092.90.

Monarch settles with water customers
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer

AUSTIN–Protestors have reached an agreement with Monarch Utilities Inc. over the company’s water and sewer rates, according to Texans Against Monarch’s Excessive Rates (TAMER) chairman Orville Bevel.
The agreement came mid-December, following a second round of mediation talks in Austin between Monarch, the three cities served by the utility, and TAMER, which represents more than half of Monarch’s subdivision customers.
TAMER, a Henderson County-based organization, now represents more than 12,000 people in 59 subdivisions, including the Pinnacle Club on Cedar Creek Lake, Bevel said.
Guiding the mediation was retired district judge Joe Hart.
Bevel said protestors were able to get rate concessions from Monarch that will save customers between $3 and $4 million over the next two years, but admitted, “Not everybody is going to be entirely happy with it.”
The controversy started in September, 2007, when Monarch raised water rates to a monthly charge of $44.37, plus $5.27 per 1,000 gallons up to 20,000 gallons. After that, the rate was $5.80 per 1,000 gallons.
The sewer rate also increased to $49.59, and plans called for that to jump to $61.69 this past September and $73.78 next year.
The new rates, which begin in March, 2009, will take the base water rate down to $40.25. The per-1,000-gallon rate will also be reduced to:
• up to 2,000 gallons: $3.35
• 2,000 to 20,000 gallons: $4.50
• 20,000 gallons and up: $6.50
Those rates will stay in effect until March, 2010, when there will be an 8 percent across-the-board increase for water rates.
The sewer rate will go down to $59 until March, 2011, “which is a substantial savings,” Bevel said.
Monarch agreed that it would not ask for an additional rate increase before January, 2011.
“The advantage that gives us is that we’ll have two sessions of the State Legislature to try and get bills passed to change the way things are done,” Bevel said.
In addition, customers in all subdivisions who are members of TAMER and contributed to the group’s legal fund will receive a $50 credit as a rebate on their March, 2009 bill. This is only for those TAMER members.
Both sides also agreed to pay their own legal fees and expert costs.
According to Bevel, this was an important point for TAMER, because Monarch’s costs were nearly 10 times the $35,000 the grassroots group paid.
Bevel said TAMER attorney David Frederick was “very, very generous” with the group.
“They haven’t billed us for all the stuff they’ve done,” Bevel said.
Don’t expect TAMER to go anywhere, now that this rate case is closed.
Bevel said he, at the request of the TAMER board, would be working with Charles W. Profilet, Monarch vice president for Texas, to set up a statewide panel to meet with Monarch four times a year to work out problems.
TAMER also plans to be very active in the upcoming session of the State Legislature.
Bevel said the group is working with State Rep. Betty Brown and State Senators Robert Nichols and Dr. Bob Deuell on legislation that would stop utilities from collecting increased rates before going through the hearing process.
“TAMER, for the foreseeable future, is here to stay,” Bevel said.

U.S. soldier gets Christmas wish
Family members find dog to make wish come true
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS–A Christmas wish came true for an American soldier on leave for Christmas, after serving the last two Christmases in Iraq.
The result of tenaciousness and fortuitous circumstances brought it about just in time for Christmas.
Infantry squad leader Richard Denham reminded his wife of 3˝ years that she had said the next time they were in Texas, she would see about getting him a heeler puppy.
(Denham had a Queensland Heeler before and had lost it, and had wanted another one ever since. “I really miss her,” he told The Monitor.)
So, the couple were on their way to Seven Points from Fort Riley, Kan., to spend Christmas with Tammy’s parents, Karen and Kenneth Penland.
“I have a neighbor that sometimes raises heeler puppies,” Karen explained. But this wasn’t the year they were available, she added.
When her daughter arrived and let her parents know how important this Christmas wish was, they kicked it into high gear.
Karen asked her local beauty shop owner, who sometimes has heelers or knows where some may be, but no luck.
“By this time, we all decided he really needed to have one,” Tammy said. “We called the chamber of commerce and were about to run an ad in the newspaper.”
Lo and behold, someone was already running an ad in the paper, wanting to give away heeler puppies because he didn’t have registration papers, she said.
The puppy owner, Jimmy Henderson, heard the story and was glad to provide a 10-week-old female to grant a soldier’s wish.
He was sure the dog was purebred, but couldn’t prove it, Karen said. He had also bobbed the dog’s tail and gotten its first two rounds of shots.
“So, we offered to help reimburse his expenses and he agreed,” she added.
Not being from Texas, Denham expressed his appreciation for the support provided by his wife’s family and their church family at A Sinner’s Hope Baptist in Payne Springs.
Last Christmas, the congregation provided a prayer blanket and collected a basket of goodies as their own special gift to him. “It was really great of them,” Rick responded.
Rick, originally from Omaha, Neb., had served in the Marine Corps seven years and was out for 10 when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took place.
“I felt I needed to do something about that,” he said.
So, he reenlisted – this time with the Army. “I had to start all over again from the bottom,” he said.
To date, he’s been in the army five years. All told, including Desert Storm, Rick has served 26 months overseas.
His latest mission has been to provide security to a subdivision in western Baghdad, where both Shiite and Sunni Muslims live in segregated neighborhoods.
As part of Charlie Co., 128th Infantry, 4th Infantry Battalion Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, “We are helping a lot of local nationals get back to work,” he said.
“We help by providing security for local markets, restoring telephone and utility services, and training Iraqi national police and army. They go with us on joint patrols and gain on-the-job training,” he explained.
He declined to speak of any bad experiences, but said he really enjoys passing out school supplies sent from home to students in neighborhood schools.
“When we go to a school and the kids are happy and smiling and grateful even for the gift of a pencil, it fills me with joy,” he said.
One can imagine how grateful they must be for the restoration of basics, such as water and sewer service and electricity.
“When we first got there everyone had to walk through sewage and live on a very primitive level,” he said. “Now, things are much improved and you can see that the level of trust between us and them has grown.”
After his leave ends, Rick will further his training at Fort Sill, Okla., before leaving on a fourth overseas deployment, he said.
The further training is so if any member of the squad should fall, someone else will be able to step in and take over.
“It’s crucial cross-training,” he said.


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