Sunday, April 19, 2009

     

 

 

  Alleged drug dealer caught with goods
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY–The Henderson County Drug Enforcement Unit booked an alleged major area drug dealer in Gun Barrel City Wednesday.
Michael Jeremy Washburn, 28, was charged with possession of a controlled substance, more than 400 grams, following a traffic stop on Welch Lane.
Passengers Alicia Ann Johns, 24, and Lawrence Randall Snyder, 39, were booked on the same charge.
The first degree felony is punishable with a five to 99-year prison sentence.
Bonds were set at $500,000 each.
“This has been an ongoing investigation,” Sheriff Ray Nutt said. “This is a major drug dealer.”
Drug enforcement investigators David Faught, Kenneth Collard, Darrell Waller and Ronny Halbert initiated the traffic stop, shortly after midnight Tuesday on a 1990 Dodge pickup. During the traffic stop a search was conducted and uncovered a large amount of suspected methamphetamine.
“This is the group that had a lab blow up on them in a house over in Oak Harbor, and we were able to tie them to it and file charges in that case,” Nutt added.
On that occasion, Washburn was arrested for arson, manufacture of a controlled substance and evading arrest. He posted bond and was released March 6.
Johns was jailed Jan. 28 on a charge of child abandonment and endangering. She was released Feb. 3 having posted for the $25,000 bond. Less than 24 hours later, Johns was charged with possession of less than a gram of a controlled substance and subsequently bonded out Feb. 4.
While conducting the traffic stop Wednesday, a driver slammed into the back of Faught’s patrol car. Happily, no one was injured.
“We’ve got a damaged pickup truck with damage in the front and in the back. We were fortunate not to have some folks hurt,” Nutt said.

Hazardous waste site probed
Whose responsible for the clean up, since the Malakoff property was lost, due to back taxes?
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer

MALAKOFF–Contractors for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) were in Malakoff most of the past week helping to secure a hazardous waste site on West Mitchum Street.
Malakoff Fire Marshal Garris Strange triggered the action when he declared the building “immediately dangerous to life and health.”

MonitoorPhoto/ Michael Hannigan
The former location of Triple B Bumper Manufacturing holds barrels and chemical vats, which until recently was left unlocked.

The site at 312 West Mitchum St. is the former location of Triple B Bumper Manufacturing, a metal plating business. Inside the metal building – which last week was open to the elements and easily accessible – 55-gallon drums numbering 60, many containing unknown chemicals, and a number of open chemical vats were on site.
According to a federal report, labels on the drums indicate they originally contained “nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nickel chloride, chromium plating reagent, and calcium hypochlorite.”
Local merchants reported seeing children entering the building and lime-green runoff coming from the building during rainstorms. Federal investigators reported evidence of vagrants living in the building.
While TCEQ’s work this week was aimed at securing the building and ensuring none of the chemicals were leaking, a full-fledged cleanup has not been scheduled. Officials say the reason is a dispute over who owns the building.
Fire marshal and EPA
Strange inspected the building, along with several other Malakoff VFD firefighters, on April 2, after receiving a complaint from a nearby merchant.
He report the building was obviously not occupied and “has persistently or repeatedly been left unsecured from unauthorized entry to the extent that it may be entered by vagrants or other unauthorized persons for illegal purposes or could be entered by children.”
He also reported that the building “contains an accumulation of flammable and/or combustible waste, rubbish and hazardous materials that are dangerous to the health, safety, and general welfare of the people the City of Malakoff.”
During a briefing at the Malakoff City Council meeting this week, Strange said, “My biggest concern is that the structure presents an immediate danger of fire spread.”
He added that if the building caught fire, with those chemicals inside, the VFD would be required to evacuate everyone 2/10ths of a mile around the structure during the day, and 6/10ths of a mile at night.
The building is within 100 yards of both First Baptist Church of Malakoff and the Brookshire’s grocery store, as well as several other businesses.
Strange also discovered that the TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been out to investigate the building in 2008.
According to reports obtained by The Monitor, the EPA and TCEQ conducted an inspection of the building on March 18, 2008. The reports state, “The exterior of the facility building showed signs of heavy deterioration with open drainage pathways allowing for offsite migration of contaminants. Stained soils were visible around the perimeter of the building. During the course of the investigation, EPA observed vehicle and pedestrian traffic including small children in the shopping center and roads adjacent to the facility.”
The reports go on to say, “The interior of the building shows further signs of deterioration and poor housekeeping. The building houses 15 open top vats utilized in the metal plating process. These vats contain various liquid and/or solid materials of unknown composition and are all showing extensive signs of corrosion.”
The report then describes the 55-gallon drums and says, “Air and radiation monitoring was conducted both inside of the building and at the site perimeter with no readings observed above background levels.”
The reports conclude: “Proximity of the site to residential and commercial areas may constitute a hazard to the public. Poor site conditions may result in offsite impacts by hazardous materials present on site. Lack of security and ease of access may present a hazard. Local merchants reported seeing children entering the building.”
The report was filed by EPA On-Scene Coordinator Eric Delgado.
When reached by The Monitor last week, Delgado said the conditions at the site did not reach the level of “an emergency response.”
Delgado said the 55-gallon drums were not leaking, adding that the lime-green colored runoff during rainstorms could be because of “minimal chemicals.”
According to Delgado, the main problem with the site is uncertainty over ownership. The building was sold at auction for back taxes, and since that time officials cannot determine who is responsible for the building.
“To get access we have to get permission from the owner,” Delgado said.
The EPA did, however, send investigators out again to meet with Strange at the site last Thursday.
City Officials
As EPA investigators met with Strange Thursday, Malakoff city officials said they were becoming aware of the problem for the first time.
Malakoff City Administrator Ann Barker said she did not know the building contained hazardous waste and said the city was never informed about last year’s EPA inspection. Mayor Pro-tem Tim Trimble said the same thing, as did former mayor Pat Isaacson.
Reports obtained by The Monitor showed that 11 different agencies were contacted in connection with last year’s incident report – including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Department of Health Services – but that the City of Malakoff was not contacted.
By Thursday afternoon, a response team of Barker, Trimble, Strange, Police Chief Billy Mitchell and Public Works Director Tim Whitley were in contact with the EPA, TCEQ and the Department of Homeland Security.
In talks with Delgado, the city was encouraged to contact its lawyer to see about condemning the building.
“That might give us access to the building faster,” he said, although he again reiterated to city officials that he did not feel the site constituted an emergency.
Delgado also agreed to include the city regarding any further action at the site.
An official with the Department of Homeland Security showed concern over the city’s water, since the hazardous waste is within sight of the city’s water tower and water supply. Whitley, however, assured city officials the city’s water was tested every month and was fine.
At that point, the city decided to try and secure the building to keep out intruders. It wasn’t long after that the TCEQ said it would come down to secure the site.
With the site secured, the question of cleanup still remains.
On Tuesday, Strange asked City Council members to start the condemnation process in order to ensure a timely cleanup.
The city, however, faces the same problems as the federal government, the problem of ownership.
City officials said they were waiting for answers from both Texas Municipal League (TML) attorneys and the city attorney regarding the condemnation process before taking the next step.
Trimble said the city would call a meeting to take action as soon as it received the various legal opinions.
 

Gun Barrel gets new pumper
Naming new police chief put on hold
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a $351,509 fire engine from Hall-Mark Fire Apparatus out of Lewisville Tuesday.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
The Gun Barrel City Council stand alongside fire chief Joey Lindaman (center left) and department members Lt. Bobby Nix and Capt. Colby McBride (right) in front of the city's new E-One fire engine. The council unanimously approved the purchase of the last E-One demonstrator model Tuesday.

The E-One Quest loaded with the equipment the city is adding usually sells for $500,000, sales representative Charlie Williams told The Monitor.
The city is getting a demonstrator unit for considerably less, he said. “It’s our last one.”
The city is conducting a lease-purchase through Government Capital Corp. at 4.97 percent over five or seven years, depending on the final negotiations between the city manager and the seller.
The first payment, due Oct. 15, covers just the interest for the year, or $9,746.41.
The next payment, due a year later, falls under the next fiscal year and comes to either $821,938.85 or $61,402.44 depending on the term of the lease.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Capt. Colby McBride and Lt. Bobby Nix look over the all aluminum, Cadillac-like cab of the E-One Quest. "I'm excited that we won't have to fight house fires wth a brush truck anymore," McBride said.

Except for this year, the city has budgeted $65,000 a year for three years toward the purchase of a major piece of firefighting equipment, councilwoman Kathy Cochran said.
Fire chief Joey Lindaman confirmed the statement but also said the city is at the top of the list for receiving a major $150,000 grant from the Texas Forestry Service.
“I hope we’ll hear good news on that by October,” Lindaman said.
“If we get that, we can add some of the monies set aside and purchase a tanker,” he said.
City manager Gerry Boren cautioned the council that if another city applies which has a greater need, they’ll get the grant ahead of Gun Barrel.
Boren would like the city to continue budgeting the $65,000 it has in the past and applying it to the annual payment for the new E-One fire engine.
“If we get the E-One and purchase a tanker, we’ll have enough to furnish two stations in the city – one here (at city hall) and the one by the park,” Boren said. “That will reduce our ISO rating and provide better fire protection throughout the city.”
“And lower ISO rating means lowered home insurance premiums,” Cochran chimed in.
Boren came by news of the available engine through his relationships with the supplier when he worked for a previous city, Fate.
“I immediately recognized that this was a great deal. They’re designed to last for 20 years. It will be a great addition to the safety and welfare of everyone who lives in the Cedar Creek Lake area,” Boren said.
Lindaman will now order the additional equipment – hoses and 35-ft ladder – for installation. It’s estimated the new fire engine will be delivered to the city, ready to roll, within 60 to 90 days.
In other business, council members:
• approved an ordinance providing for environmental, health and safety inspections of child-care facilities.
Code enforcement supervisor Jacqui Callaway explained how one child-care facility in the city was threatened with a shutdown because it couldn’t get the inspection needed from the state Health Department, due to a backlog.
“The city was asked to help out by passing an ordinance and conducting the inspections,” Callaway said.
“Thank you for all your hard work and research done on this issue,” Cochran said.
• tabled naming Damon Boswell police chief. After a lengthy executive session, the council decided to solicit written public comment on the matter.
 

 


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