Sunday, June 21, 2009




  Aaron’s owner keeps waiting for Heritage Cove to bloom
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Longtime Trinidad residents Pam and John Grove are looking forward to their business’ first anniversary.
The couple bought an Aaron’s franchise and opened the lease-to-own store in Heritage Cove July 15, 2008. Today, the store has exceeded business performance set by its parent company, gaining it the title of “Gold Buster.”
Monitor Photo/ Pearl Cantrell
Aaron’s franchise owner John Grove (right) stands with his day crew Heather Bianchi, Cody McAfee, Michael Smith, Jim Smith, Howard Waldrop and the Aaron mascot Lucky Dog at his Gun Barrel City location in Heritage Cove.

The Groves plan to open a second store in Athens by the end of the year. Part of their business plan is to operate three stores.
Two and a half years ago, John Grove’s sole business was home building. He’s been doing that since he arrived to Cedar Creek Lake 12 years ago. Waterfront Homes has constructed many lake houses and still does.
But when Grove noticed a decline in the housing market, he got serious about finding another income stream. His wife, Pam, is a nurse, working for ETMC-Athens for the past five years.
Grove had been looking at business opportunities for sometime. “I looked at so many. I believe in the franchise idea - a system to follow.
“I looked for about a year, until I found Aaron’s. It’s a great company, and it’s unique in its market,” he said.
Once he decided to open a store, he looked for the best place to build it – Heritage Cove Center, just down the way from Walmart. Aaron’s customers share the same demographics as a Walmart customer, Grove said. “There are 3,000 Walmart stores and only 1,500 Aaron’s outlets. The parent company aims at having an Aaron’s store in the vicinity of every Walmart,” he said.
Grove bought two acres from developer Ken Landers and built a 16,000 sq-ft. retail center with Aaron’s as its anchor, composing about half the space. On either side are two more commercial suites, one ready-made for a restaurant. “It’s got a grease trap and drive-thru window. I’ve talked to lots of people about the space,” Grove said. Even an ice cream parlor would go great in one of these spaces
However, like everyone else, potential businesses are waiting to see what happens with some of the rest of Heritage Cove before signing a lease.
Grove is confident the theater will open by the holiday season. Much of the theater’s furnishings are being stored in one of Grove’s empty suites.
“They had some building delays, but they’re going to open,” Grove hopes. “I get calls all the time, asking me if it’s open yet. Once it gets open that will start the momentum.”
He also points to the corner lot at the entrance to Heritage Cove, “that’s going to be a great spot for someone.”
“Once it’s (the theater open, there will be plenty of business from it,” he said. Until then, and the lease of at least one of his retail center spaces, Grove is treading water.
For now the Gun Barrel City store is holding its own. One of the most popular items is lawnmowers. “I must have leased at least 50 of them so far,” Groves said. “It’s a popular item because people need them.”
“We’re in the business of second chances. We don’t do credit checks,” he said. Grove and Aaron’s believes there are a lot of good people, who have had some financial trouble. They’re still good people, and they still need things, like lawnmowers, appliances, furniture, and need the opportunity to rebuild their credit.
“Some use Aaron’s just for that, so they can purchase something else long-term, like a car,” Grove said. Aaron’s turns no one away for lack of good credit. Darren Day of Day Tire calls Aaron’s, ‘a rent store with a heart,’ Grove said.
Grove takes his customers to full ownership within two years, many in a much shorter time – all with monthly payment agreements. Aaron’s also has a healthy retail business with very competitive pricing. “I’m going to sell to someone who doesn’t have good credit and furniture retailers won’t
Grove said the parent company’s 17 manufacturing plants is the reason Aaron’s can swing the best deals for quality furniture, built under the McTavish Furniture brand. Those owning vacation homes have also come into Aaron’s to replace appliances when they break down or add extra furnishings, he said.
Plans to open a second store in Athens by year’s end next to the Old West Steak House on the old Eaton Motors site is moving forward.
“I think it’s going to be a great location, just 1,000 feet from Walmart,” Grove said.

Mayor resigns, Brazzell follows
Best deal sought to purchase police patrol cars
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–The Payne Springs City Council accepted the resignation of mayor J.T. Noble Tuesday.
Noble resigned June 8, saying in a letter he had lost confidence in the council, and felt several members were forwarding their own agenda, rather than working for the good of the city.
“I do not want to be associated with this type of behavior, therefore, I resign from office,” he wrote.
The resignation comes one month after three new members were seated without needing to hold an election. They are Linda Carr, Ethel Hagin and Michael McDonald.
The recomposed council met four times in May, rescinding action taken to hire police chief Chris Meyers because hiring a new chief was not listed on the agenda during the meeting where the action was taken.
After interviewing candidates, the council met to properly name Meyers as police chief.
Mayor pro-tem Rodney Renberg tried to keep moving quickly through a lengthy agenda Tuesday, but the meeting lasted two and a half hours.
Among the items on the agenda, a motion to send a list of 21 names of those who improperly voted in the last city election (May, 2008) to the county voter registrar was approved, 3-2, with Hagin and Vic Brazzell opposed.
Brazzell argued passionately against the motion, pointing out that the action was punishing those who voted improperly, many unwittingly so, and who had been on the registrar’s list for years.
He also pointed out that Noble and Karen Juica worked vigorously to clean up the voter’s list, going door-to-door to confirm residencies, and also pointed out the corrected list is now on file with the county.
McDonald responded some illegal voters were flagrant offenders, listing an address in the middle of a pasture as an example.
“We need to send a message to voters that the council protects the rights of citizens to vote,” he said.
The action’s passage drew spontaneous clapping from the audience, and caused Brazzell to get up and walk out of the meeting.
“Yes, I resign,” he told The Monitor outside. “I thought these people would be open to reason, but they don’t want to hear it.”
Commenting on Noble’s resignation, Renberg said he would always refer to the incoming Dollar Store as “J.T’s Dollar Store. We wouldn’t have that store except for what J.T. did to get it here,” he said.
“We appreciate your (Noble’s) effort and many hours of hard work,” Renberg added.
In other business, the council members:
• purchased five culverts at $500 each for the Bandera Bay subdivision, and agreed to resubmit a request to Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney to look into flooding problems in Southwood Shores.
“The five culverts should solve about 80 percent of the problems in Bandera Bay,” Renberg said.
• received an unqualified “clean” audit for fiscal year 2008 from CPA Don Kinney.
“You have more money in the bank than a lot of cities around here, and zero debt,” Kinney said. The treasurer’s report showed $223,000 in the bank, with the loan to set up the police department paid off last year.
• agreed to get “bottom line” numbers on the purchase of one and/or two police vehicles.
“Unit 50 is soon to be buried,” Meyers said. “We desperately need at least one new police vehicle.”
Carr confirmed Meyers’ report. She rode along June 13, and within two hours, the car was hopelessly stalled on the side of the road with speeders honking as they whizzed by.
“It was embarrassing,” she said.
Meyers also noted that he was applying for grants to obtain needed equipment, including a federal grant for a Chevy Tahoe or Suburban.
• agreed to enforce a city ordinance requiring all residents to subscribe to the trash pickup service.
In May, the city received $43,000 in franchise fees from the service provider for 136 city subscribers.
• denied a proposal to convert one 30-hour a week patrol officer position to a full time 40-hour a week position.
Carr demonstrated with a flip chart presentation that the increase of 10 hours a week would cost the city $6,028.40, at the most, and provide two full-time officers for the rest of the year. At the least, the proposal would cost $1,507.10 to provide one full-time patrol officer for the summer.
• assigned council members to specific committees.
• dismissed a request for variance for a fireworks display, due to absence of requester Johnny Brandon.
• tabled three agenda items, including discussion of an impound lot, a sales tax increase and discussion on business permits, garage sale permits and fees.

Mabank, ECCFWSD complete water customers sale agreement
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The approval process is completed for a sale and purchase agreement between the city of Mabank and East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District.
“The city of Mabank has approved and executed this agreement, and with board approval, this completes the approval process,” ECCFWSD general manager Bill Goheen told water district directors at their regular meeting Wednesday.
All parties involved with the sale, transfer, merger application for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) review have completed all portions of the application, except for a few maps, he added.
“The completed applications, with attachments, should be ready to mail before Wednesday, July 1,” Goheen said.
The approval opens the way for the financial process to begin.
With that in mind, the board authorized the general manager and the finance committee to proceed with preliminary procedures to issue $1.38 million in bonds.
“The funds are for the mutually agreed acquisition of Mabank water infrastructure and water customer accounts within the Gun Barrel City limits,” Goheen explained.
First Southwest Company representative Jim Sabonis presented bonding options for the combined acquisition and construction costs.
“The approval to pursue issuance does not obligate the board to the bonds, it simply opens the process for final commitment,” he explained.
In other business, directors:
• heard Goheen report on the multi-screen movie theater project within the Heritage Cove Commercial Development.
“The newly hired contractor has met with our staff, and to date, there are no complications,” Goheen said. “I feel this new contractor will meet all our specifications without much difficulty.”
• heard Athens engineer Chris Weeks report he has requested a 30-day extension for the final closing of the Tamarack Sewer Improvement Grant.
“The reason for the extension is due to problems with the lift station pumps,” Weeks explained. “The supplier is investigating the problem, and should resolve all issues by mid-July.”
• named Stan Backhoe Service and Forney Drilling Company as contractors to install 12-inch gravity sewer lines on the west side of Welch Lane, from the intersection of Welch Lane and State Highway 334 to lift station 39, just north of Hammer Road.
The previous low bid for the project was for $99,000. However, Goheen was authorized to pursue the current bid of $65,950, by negotiation with the same contractor, for a savings of $24,000.
Construction should begin around the first week of July, Goheen said.
• approved an agreement with Damien Franklin, at 367 Box Road, to make payments for material only on an installation.
• approved the regular transfer of bond interest and sinking CDT fund into the Operation Reserve account for the regular bond debt payment to New York Trust Company and Bank of America.

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