Thursday, April 10, 2008




  Rabid skunk bites Kemp child
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–All the little Kemp Primary student wanted to do was pet “Fifi,” the skunk featured on a popular children’s program “Dora the Explorer.”
Unfortunately, Fifi wasn’t in the mood for petting, and the child, who lives on south Main Street in Kemp, received a small bite, just a little more than enough to break the skin, city administrator James Stroman explained.
As soon as the parents learned the child was bitten by a skunk, he was taken to the doctor and immediately started on a series of injections to prevent rabies.
“That was a smart thing to do,” Stroman said, adding the skunk was found later, sent to Austin to be tested, and results received April 3 confirmed it tested positive for rabies.
Children often think of wild animals as cuddly, soft pets or friends like they see on television.
“He didn’t perceive the skunk as a dangerous animal,” Stroman explained.
A skunk has been seen wandering around the Intermediate school in the daytime, so the city has a trap set near the school, he said.
Skunks are nocturnal animals that hunt and feed at night. Citizens are being warned if a skunk is around in the daytime, it is almost always rabid.
If one does encounter a skunk and is bitten or scratched, citizens are advised to contact the proper authorities (your police department, medical providers and or animal control).
“Rabies is almost certainly fatal when contracted,” Stroman said. However, with early treatment the disease is preventable.
The city has had several reports of skunks in and around the Kemp area, and as it is springtime, they are probably in other areas as well. Stroman pointed out.

New citizen honored at convenience store
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–Flags, cakes, punch and the singing of the national anthem topped a surprise party for a new American citizen Friday.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Vilma Johnson looks around in astonishment as long-time friend and retired attorney Thomas Hight Sr. (at right) leads a group of well-wishers in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a celebration marking Johnson’s new citizenship Friday.

Employees and regular customers at the TexStop Exxon convenience store (formerly Kidd-Jones) in Eustace gathered to celebrate Vilma Johnson becoming a U.S. citizen.
Johnson, who met her husband Robert in the Philippines and married 31 years ago April 29, officially became a citizen April 3, after passing her citizenship test the day before.
“I’ve been here (in the U.S.) for 26 years,” she said. “My kids said I needed to do it (become a citizen), but I kept putting it off and putting it off.”

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
New citizen Vilma Johnson (center) shares a giggle with fellow employees Tanya Pierce (left) and Elizabeth West after posing for a picture at a surprise party for Johnson Friday.

It took Johnson about six months to become a citizen – she applied for citizenship back in October – and she recalled it took her sister about two years to go through the process.
She has worked at the Eustace convenience store and gas station since 1994, and is the store manager.
“I think it’s great,” store owner Nick Davis of Sherman said. “She’s a terrific lady – every time I see her, she’s working on something, or has a broom in her hand.
“It’s really unusual in my business to have someone with that kind of longevity in the same store,” he added. “I asked her who she was going to vote for, and she said she didn’t know yet.”
Elizabeth West and the other TexStop employees planned the gathering and managed to keep it a secret.
They summoned Johnson back to the rear of the store by yelling about a coffee leak, then greeted her with American flags, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”
“She’s one the best bosses I’ve ever had,” West said.
“This is a sweet, sweet lady,” regular customer Thomas Hight Sr. added.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Vilma Johnson struggles to contain her emotions as she reads cards of congratulations during a special party marking her new U.S. citizenship.





VFD woes plague Tool
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

TOOL–Complaints against the Tool Volunteer Fire Department, the Henderson County Emergency Service District (ESD) No. 4, and city council concerns about both came to a head at a special meeting April 3.
The meeting was called to dissolve the agreement with Tool VFD and contract with the Seven Points Fire Department for services.
After much discussion, the two items were tabled until after the election in May, to give both the ESD and the fire department time to work things out.
“We need fire protection and we don’t have it,” resident Ed Daniel said.
Then, speaking of the district, he added, “I don’t think it has worked, and I don’t think it will.”
One audience member said the ESD has held tax money to the tune of $80,000 away from the VFD.
“Firemen need somebody to give them the money they need,” Daniel said.
Someone in the audience spoke about the price of gasoline. He said the ESD has offered no help to the fire department.
However, Fire Chief Rodney McClain disputed those comments, saying he had not been turned down when submitting vouchers to the district for reimbursement.
Currently, 18 firefighters are on the roster, McClain responded to questions of manpower.
A pervasive complaint had to do with slow responses or no-shows by the department.
ESD president Gary Hash said the complaint was invalid.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, every call made was answered, he said.
“Listed from the 9-1-1 dispatcher were 31 runs for December, 2007, with 14 of those in the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. time frame. There were 36 runs for January with 22 in the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. time,” he said.
There were also 29 runs in February (15 were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and 30 for March (16 were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), he added.
“I don’t know what else we can do,” Hash said.
Some audience members claimed equipment was rumored to be missing, but later in the meeting fire department personnel said the equipment had just been misplaced following a fire.
“Our need is for fire protection and medical service,” Hash said.
For that reason, he explained the ESD has been trying to acquire three acres to put a building on.
“We want to build a ladder tower for training and construct a helipad and ambulance area with paramedics,” he said.
“We hope we can build a building with four bays and eventually living quarters for overnight shifts,” Hash explained.
Mayor Leland Pitts said the city had begun a review of the fire department, which has been very stressful. “We have done a lot of fact-finding, a lot of facts, a lot of rumors, with some rumors turning out to be facts,” Pitts said.
“We found the city can remove itself from the fire department. Then it must provide services, but there is no city fire department,” he said.
“The VFD department declared itself a non-profit organization with no control or accountability to the city. We have fired a shot over the bow, so to speak. Mr. Hash is committed to better oversight (of the ESD). We are not going to see our taxpayers (taken),” Pitts said.
“We all realize the wheel is not exactly round. The question is how do we get it back in shape?” Police Chief Warren Loscuito said.
“We have been at this for five years. We need to stop the animosity between everyone and get back together,” councilwoman Fran Sonka said.
“My feeling is that we allow this matter to be tabled for 30 days and let the city, Mr. Hash and his board provide some oversight and help to the fire department with their paper work (late paper work was also a complaint),” Pitts said.
“It is our responsibility to our citizens. We are going to straighten this out,” councilman A.J. Phillips said.

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