Sunday, March 1, 2009




  Nerves melt down over closed median
Debate over length of raised median in Seven Points heats up
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS-An effort from a Seven Points business owner to shorten a median strip running down the middle of State Highway 334 failed Monday.
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) officials, city council members and more than a dozen business owners met on short notice at the Dairy Queen to hash through the proposed changes, while Congressman Jeb Hensarling’s aide, Richard Sanders, witnessed the proceedings.
Business owners opposed any changes at this point to avoid delays in opening the newly widened intersection of State Highways 334 and 274 as planned.
The median strip will prevent eastbound drivers on SH 334 from turning left into Pritchett Lane, as well as the adjacent north-side businesses. Similarly, westbound drivers will not be able to turn left into businesses on the south side of the roadway.
City officials opposed shortening the median strip running east from the intersection, primarily due to safety concerns about drivers making U-turns to visit about seven businesses on either side of the five-lane street.
Once the intersection is fully opened, making right and left turns to reach streets near the intersection – primarily Pritchett Lane – will present safety issues, mayor Gerald Taylor said.
“If we’re going to make changes to the plan for one business owner, I want a concrete driveway poured at my clinic,” veterinarian Lisa Jones piped in.
TxDoT Tyler regional director Glen Green said though the final decision wouldn’t be based on a majority rule, he wanted to meet with all concerned to keep them appraised of what was taking place, and what had transpired over the weekend.
He assured those present that decisions would be made locally, and not in far-off Austin.
The owner of Unlimited Signs and Graphix, located just west of the El Jacalito Mexican food restaurant, has called TxDoT officials up the chain of command, reaching to Austin by late last week, which had the effect of halting work on the median strip Friday.
Seven Points residents Marilyn and Terry Tanner requested a break in the median to allow access to a shared driveway between themselves and the restaurant.
Both business locations belong to separate property owners, who have had disputes over their neighboring properties in the past, Terry Tanner told The Monitor.
With the median in place as is, westbound customers would have to pass through El Jacalito’s parking lot to get to Tanner’s business, or have to make a U-turn at the intersection to enter his business, he pointed out.
In discussions with TxDoT officials, Tanner offered an alternate plan of cutting back the raised concrete median to a shared driveway. The driveway would be across from Persimmons Circle, a partially closed road.
Tanner is certain his request is not delaying the opening of the intersection, or slowing down the road project.
RK Hall project manager Chad Ingram agrees there are many things to be done before the intersection will be ready to open around April 1.
Taylor contended a shortened median would give access to private property held by Gun Barrel Ranch Rustic Western Furniture, located behind a closed gas station.
The gravel parking lot is being shared by the Catfish Corner restaurant and The Willow Club, located in the rear of McClain’s restaurant, though it is now owned by the rustic furniture manufacturer.
The mayor is suspected by some involved of being partial toward the Catfish Corner, by reason of either kinship or by his operation of a catering service in conjunction with the restaurant, something Taylor strongly denies.
“I am not kin to anyone at the Catfish Corner,” he said during Monday’s meeting.
Taylor said his interest was in protecting all three businesses, and preventing the gravel parking lot from becoming a thoroughfare.
“If that happens, the manufacturer has said he’ll put up a fence around his property,” Taylor said.
Tanner countered that police can write tickets for those trespassing on private property.
“It won’t take long before folks get the message, just as they did when the ‘no left turn’ sign went up opposite Walmart (at the Murphy gas station) when exiting onto Main Street,” he said.
“Just get us easy access in and out,” Tanner said, “not only for our customers, but for emergency vehicles, as well.”
Tanner further noted that none of the other towns and cities in the county use raised medians, adding the same safety issues should be shared by other businesses near the intersection.
Those businesses, including Brookshire’s, Scottie’s Exxon and the Dairy Queen, also have customers entering the flow of traffic.
“That traffic is no different from ours,” Tanner pointed out.
Although Tanner was advised TxDoT had decided to keep the median as is, he said he was prepared “to spend his last dime” in supporting what he feels is right.

Commissioners name Bynum county treasurer
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners appointed county employee Michael Bynum as county treasurer Wednesday.
Following the brief meeting, Bynum was sworn in and bonded.
“I appreciate the commissioners appointing me to this very important position,” Bynum said.”I will represent the county to the best of my ability and try to do a good job for the people of Henderson County.”
The elected position was vacated by Karin Smith last week. Smith returned to her former job as first assistant to the county auditor when an employee in that post left for health reasons.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Henderson County Judge David Holstein (back to camera) administers the oath of office to newly appointed County Treasurer Michael Bynum, previously the assistant to the county treasurer.

Bynum has been working as the county treasurer’s assistant for nearly two years .
Prior to that, he worked for 18 years in the billing department of Trinity Valley Electric Co-op, and served a brief stint with an Athens title search company.
The swiftness of the appointment was due to the fact that the county can’t disperse any funds without a county treasurer, County Judge David Holstein explained.
Commissioners said they were impressed with the quality of applicants who submitted résumés by the deadline.
Eight people came forward to serve the county, Holstein said.
The commissioners expressed their gratitude to the eight qualified applicants before making their decision.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney made the motion to appoint Bynum. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry West seconded the motion, which passed 4-0, with Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall abstaining.
Bynum will complete his term in office Dec. 31, 2010. He may run for the office in the 2010 November general election, and, if elected, serve a full two-year term, Holstein explained.
The county treasurer is paid an annual salary of $47,429.33, plus benefits.
The treasurer is responsible for receiving all monies, dispersing all funds and accounting for all money in custody.
The office also oversees the county’s investments, provides payroll services and fulfills the role of a human resource manager.

Fire extinguisher explodes at courthouse, meeting delayed
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–The sun was glaring, the wind brisk and everyone at the Kaufman Courthouse Annex was just getting seated for the start of Monday’s regular commissioners’ court when County Judge Wayne Gent said there would be a delay.
“The main courthouse is filling up with smoke, and we need to take a minute to see what is wrong,” he said.
The Kaufman Fire Department was already on the scene, and the courthouse was evacuated. In a short time the problem was resolved, and Gent restarted the meeting.
“An irate citizen busted a fire extinguisher near the vending machines in the basement,” Gent reported. “The courthouse was evacuated as a precaution.”
That story was unconfirmed, he added.
Firefighters arrived and declared there was no danger.
But, citizens who breathed in the chemical would probably get their sinuses cleared, Gent added.
The commissioners resumed their meeting near 9:50 a.m. with correspondence.
Gent told commissioners about a letter praising Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Kilgore for his concern and help of an elderly woman Aug. 30, 2008.
A family member wrote the deputy came to the woman’s house and found several inches of water covering the floor of the home.
Kilgore turned the water off, helped the woman find her insurance papers and stayed with her until first responders arrived.
Gent praised Kilgore and said the letter would remain in his service record, adding this was the type of deputy serving the county.
In other business, commissioners:
• cancelled property subdivisions formerly approved for Elmo Acres back in the ’70s, combining the lots into one parcel.
Rules at the time allowed smaller building lots than required today.
• accepted the report for the Children’s Shelter for September through January, as presented by Director LaReta Williams.
Williams said the shelter received large donations of toys during the holidays.
“We had enough to share with needy kids,” Williams said.
• accepted the treasurer’s report for January as presented by Johnny Countryman.
• accepted the auditor’s report for January as presented by Hal D. Jones.
The two-inch thick report will be on Gent’s desk for review.
• allowed the county-wide burn ban to continue.
“When a burn ban is in place, that means no outdoor burning of any kind,” Fire Marshal Larry Ewing reminded visitors.
• accepted the quarterly report for the Riter C. Hulsey Public Library in Precinct 3.
• agreed to purchase a pothole patching machine for Precinct 2 through the BuyBoard Cooperative.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Ray Clark said they (he and purchasing Agent Jack Sabastian) have been researching the $55,000 machine for about a year.
• renewed an annual interlocal agreement for road maintenance with the city of Rosser and authorized Gent to sign the contract.
• accepted the Racial Profiling reports for Precincts 2 and 3.
Gent asked each precinct constable (Joe Don Law, Precinct 2, and Larry Sanders, Precinct 3) if their departments had received any complaints regarding racial profiling during the past 12 months. “No,” they answered.
• hired the Austin law firm of Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta LLP to work on redistricting following the 2010 Census. The firm also handled county redistricting after the 2000 Census.
• named former county tax collector Donna Sprague as the chief census taker for the 2010 Census.
• renewed membership in the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and paid $1,200 dues.
• proclaimed Sunday through Saturday, Feb. 22-28, as Severe Weather Awareness Week in the county.
• approved the deputation of Lawrence S. Brown, Brian M. Simmons and Gilbert A. Mitchell for the sheriff’s department.
• paid bills totaling $1,131,686.02.
• approved budget transfers as presented.

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