Thursday, March 8, 2007
Firefighters battle home blaze
Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–Four area fire departments responded to an early-morning house fire that heavily damaged the home of Ronnie and Becky Gartrell.
Smoke alarms woke up the Gartrells a little after 4 a.m. Monday at their home on State Highway 198, Payne Springs Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Randy Harley reported.
Payne Springs Fire-Rescue responded with an engine, ladder truck, two 3,500-gallon tankers and two other apparatus, along with 13 firefighters.
They quickly called in help from Enchanted Oaks, Gun Barrel City and Log Cabin fire departments.
“With the addition of a new tanker this week, we never ran out of water,” Harley reported.
The Gartrells’ home received extensive damage, but firefighters were able to save many family heirlooms and other items, Harley said.
Courtesy Photo/Randy Harley
Payne Springs firefighters respond to an early-morning house fire
Monday that heavily damaged the home of Ronnie and Becky Gartrell.
Two crews were inside the home when this photograph was taken.
Caney City gets new police chief
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CANEY CITY–The small community of Caney City recently named a new police chief.
Paul Redic, a 20-year veteran in law enforcement, accepted the position during a city council meeting last month.
“It’s been a goal of mine to be a police chief for a local municipality,” Redic told The Monitor.
Redic is no stranger to Henderson County. In fact, he began his career as a police officer on the Athens police force.
He is also well-known as the police chief for the Malakoff Independent School District, a job he intends to continue in while serving Caney City.
“I love counseling and mentoring kids,” he said.
Redic and his wife Tamra have reared seven children, the youngest of which is a high school senior in Athens.
His wife works as a nurse, and is accustomed to long hours. Her husband will be putting in some very long days, as well.
“She’s okay with this,” he said.
Redic, 44, is driven with a passion to do help all he can.
“I want to make a difference while I live,” he said.
Besides police work, Redic is a chaplain and member of the Henderson County Interdenominational Ministry Alliance.
“You could say I was religious,” Redic said.
As the Caney City police chief, Redic hopes to focus on credibility and establishing a good rapport with the community.
City releases lien on Heritage Cove project
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Landers Development has cleared its title to 33 acres off Main Street, as far as Gun Barrel City is concerned.
In a special meeting Friday, Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corporation president Dennis Wood informed directors of recent events that triggered the release of lien on the property.
In a nutshell, the EDC had an agreement with Landers to exchange the parcel of downtown Gun Barrel City for development of a road, sewer and water infrastructure and electrical power, Wood explained – all the basics needed for business development.
When East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District signed off on the sewer system construction, that started the five-day countdown to release of lien, as agreed in a previous meeting, Wood told directors.
It took that time to get the verbiage just right, so Landers could take that document and secure interim financing for the construction of a hotel and restaurant planned for the project, Wood explained.
It took three drafts to come up with an acceptable, simple release of lien document, Wood said.
Two other items remain a part of the performance agreement.
It calls for the dredging of the city lake and installation of retaining walls, Wood said.
“He has until June 30 to complete that,” Wood said.
Installation of power lines are being done through TXU, and Landers Development doesn’t have any control over the timing of that, directors heard.
In other business, the directors referred an issue back to committee to develop, involving an offer to buy property behind the proposed new city hall behind the East Texas Medical Center Emergency Center.
At the last meeting, city councilman Marty Goss, who is also a Caldwell Bank real estate agent, presented an opportunity to purchase a six-acre strip of land coming onto the open market soon with an asking price of $279,000.
EDC administrative assistant Rita Evans provided directors with a page from the State Economic Handbook on 4B Projects.
The Handbook points out EDCs may not buy land for speculation, but must have a specific project planned for a specific property.
“It would be a great piece of land for us to have, or for the city to have,” EDC secretary Jennifer Young said. “The city could go buy it.”
“We still can look at some potential projects we could use that land for,” EDC director Dennis Baade said.
“If we come up with something and the land is still available, we could end up buying it. It’s just not going to happen quickly,” Baade added.
Directors heard two other parties were also interested in the property, and one had put in an offer.
The item was returned to committee.
Celebrating public schools week
Monitor Photo/Ronda Pennington
Students from Kemp Junior High reviewed Kemp school history Monday with
a fashion show of school dress from every decade since it opened as the
Academy of Learning in a log cabin across from the Kemp Cemetery. A
PowerPoint presentation by science teacher Mischeal Rowden showed photos
of school history, including a large two-story brick building opened in 1904
known for its belfry. That building was rebuilt in 1936 and was the tallest in
Kemp. By the 50s, the school served students from Kemp, Becker, Lively, Styx,
Stubb, Gosset, Liberty and Tolosa. It served until 1968, when it burned. The
first football program started in 1923, and students voted for the Yellowjackets
to be named mascot and set orange and white as the school colors.
Death penalty one step closer for repeat child molesters
Monitor Staff Reports
AUSTIN–State representatives gave their approval Monday to a bill calling for harsher penalties for sex offenders who have repeatedly preyed on children.
The House bill also creates a new category of crime – continual sexual abuse of a young child or children.
The penalty for this crime carries a minimum of 25 years to life in prison, and possibly the death penalty for a second offense.
The bill’s final form represents a compromise on a broader death penalty provision, due to constitutional issues and concerns it might lead some offenders to kill their victims.
Input from defense attorneys, prosecutors and victim advocacy groups was also considered.
“Nothing we do will be more important,” the Tyler Morning Telegraph quoted Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball), who filed the original bill.
It passed the house with a very wide margin, 118-23.
The bill now comes under the consideration of the Senate, which has also drafted a similar measure.
The bill is referred to as Jessica’s Law, after Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was abducted and killed. More than a dozen states have passed versions of Jessica’s Law.
Gov. Rick Perry has stated he deems passage of a child sex offender bill a legislative emergency.
Some question whether it is constitutional to use the death penalty in cases where the victim did not die.
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the death penalty in a Georgia rape case.
Louisiana has an inmate on death row in a child sex crime, but the case is still subject to appeals in state and federal courts.
The House bill defines continuous sexual abuse of a young child as more than one sex act committed against a victim younger than 14 over a period of 30 days or more.
The first offense would carry 25 to 99 years in prison. If an offender was released and later convicted of the same crime again, he or she would face life without parole or the death penalty.
Lawmakers created a “Romeo and Juliet” exception to avoid prosecuting a situation that might be a high school romance, such as a 17-year-old senior and a 13-year-old freshman engaging in consensual activity, which could still be punishable under statutory rape laws, but not under the new continual sex assault law.
Another feature of the bill is the removal of the statute of limitations for many sex crimes against children, including indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault. The current limit to bring charges is 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
Child advocacy groups are concerned the law may lead offenders to kill victims who may be the only witness to the crime. Also, if the offender is a family member or friend, which is often the case, children will be pressured to keep quiet, or be blamed for sending a relative to prison for life.
Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), who tried to get the death penalty provision removed, was quoted by the Tyler paper as saying, “You will shove a lot of this conduct farther back in the shadows. Children will not come forward.”