Sunday, July 4, 2010

     

 

  Kemp police officer arrested
Allegations of drug trafficking raised; abuse of official capacity charged
Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN—A Kemp police officer has been arrested and charged with two counts of Abuse of Official Capacity.
Officer Damon Smith, 34, of Mabank was arrested late Wednesday, according to a press release from the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office.
Allegations against Smith include stealing property from the Kemp Police Department and exchanging the property for drugs.
Smith is also accused of providing known drug dealers in the Kaufman County area with “protection” in exchange for methamphetamines that he, in turn, sold.
Further charges are pending as Kaufman County Narcotics Investigators and the Texas Rangers continue their investigation.
Smith has been employed as a Kemp police officer for the last three years. This was his first police job, Kemp Police Chief Richard Clemmo told The Monitor.
“We have been cooperating fully in the investigation,” he said. In fact, the chief had been looking into these allegations over the past 12 months but could not substantiate any of it, he said.
Last week, he asked the Texas Rangers to look into it. The complainant had first come to the mayor, Clemmo said, and Clemmo was working the case with knowledge of the city council.
The same plaintiff also contacted the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office. “That’s when it started coming together,” Clemmo said.
Wednesday night, Clemmo sent a short e-mail to city council members to inform them of the development and that Smith had been put on administrative suspension until internal affairs completes its investigation.
“The council has been apprised of the situation from the beginning,” Clemmo said.
Smith is being held in the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center. Bail had not yet been set at presstime Thursday.

Local group takes on Lakeshore Utility
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–A group fighting against a water and sewer rate increase by the Lakeshore Utility Company, Inc., has been officially recognized as an interested party in the case.
Texans Against Lakeshore Excessive Rates (TALER) has been working since the beginning of the year and gained recognition by a State Office of Administrative Hearings judge during a June 17 preliminary hearing in Athens.
The recognition means the group – or more specifically, its attorneys – will have a place at the table during the rate case and will be an active participant in the process.
Representatives from State Rep. Betty Brown and State Sen. Robert Nichols were on hand, as well. Both lawmakers have filed legislation in the past two sessions to try and help customers in these types of rate cases.
TALER president Charles Seawright said he was pleased overall with the way the preliminary hearing went.
“The legislators seemed interested and concerned. They seemed to want to follow the process very closely,” he said. “I had hoped they would.”
According to Seawright, Lakeshore has about 870 ratepayers and at least 474 of those have signed on with the group.
Lakeshore serves 26 subdivisions around Cedar Creek Lake, plus two more in Tyler.
The rate case stems from TALER’s protest of an increase that went into effect in March.
The previous rate for 10,000 gallons of water was $65.20 a month and it increased to $126.50. For 30,000 gallons of water, the rate went from $153.20 per month to $256.50.
Sewer rates went from $42 per month to $53 per month.
The preliminary hearing is the first step in a process that could take as long as a year to complete. The interested parties have been designated and attorneys have agreed upon a hearing schedule.
SOAH Judge Craig Bennett explained to listeners the steps in the process, which include the referral and preliminary hearing (both have already happened), discovery, mediation, evidentiary hearing, and judge’s recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) commissioners.
Following an evidentiary hearing, the final decision is made by the three TCEQ commissioners.
During discovery, the two sides will investigate the facts in the case. The evidentiary hearing will be much like a trial, if it reaches that point.
“But, 75 to 80 percent of these cases get settled without a trial,” Bennett said. The sides usually come to some settlement during mediation, he explained.
Seawright said one thing he didn’t like about the preliminary hearing was that TALER’s attorneys did not get to present any of their evidence.
“I had hoped our attorneys would have been allowed to present their slide show,” he said. “It is a little unfair that the utility could present its position in the rate filing, and we have not had that opportunity to date.
“Several of TALER’s members have worked hard gathering information, and as this information becomes available, our position and why (we are protesting) will become clear,” he said.
Lakeshore staked out its reasoning for the increase when announcing it in a letter to ratepayers in December.
In the letter to customers, Lakeshore general manager Thomas Joe Whatley wrote that the increase is “(d)ue to the increase of operating costs, required additional investments in Lakeshore Utility Company Systems, and changing regulatory requirements…”
Whatley wrote that Lakeshore’s last increase was in 2006, based on 2005 costs. 
“Since that time, our cost of service and materials have increased dramatically (purchased water, electricity, telephone, base material used [ie. PVC, steel, copper, fuel, etc.]), resulting in a negative cash flow.
“We have also concluded that the utility’s cash flow position must be vastly improved before any changes to our service area may be favorably considered by the TCEQ,” Whatley wrote. “We hope that you, our customers, will understand the necessity for the increase.”

 

First names engraved on veterans memorial
Monitor Staff Reports
MABANK–After five years of steady effort, engraving began Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Gardens at the Lake.
The memorial is located just to the right (west) of the pavilion in Mabank’s George Watts Park.
VetMemorial.jpg (157942 bytes)Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Dean Fannin oversees the first engraving Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Gardens at the Lake, just west of the pavilion in George Watts Park in Mabank. See more in their ad on page 7A.

Four polished black granite wall faces, one each dedicated to those who served with the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, will bear the names of 80 veterans (so far) both living and dead, who have served our country, Dean Fannin explained.
“It’s important that names are engraved on this wall for future generations to see that their dad, grandfather, uncle or great-grandfather served their country,” he said.
Fannin added that many fine women have also served in the armed forces, and their names are welcome, as well.
There’s room for 4,000 names, he said. Each name will include the years served.
Under each branch will list different war eras, starting with World War I and including the Afghan-Iraq conflict.
Not limited to those from Henderson or Kaufman County, it’s open to anyone from anywhere who served in the military during war time.
VetMemorialEngraving.jpg (120357 bytes)

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Vernon Wagner of Wagner Memorial & Stone Engraving starts the first heading on the Veterans Memorial Gardens at the Lake.

The folks at First State Bank in Mabank contributed $3,500, which pays for engraving the branches of the services and the various conflicts.
“We’re real grateful they chose the Veterans Memorial Gardens to support during the branch’s recent 75th anniversary celebration,” Fannin said.
Branch manager and First State Bank vice president Ronnie Davis said the branch decided to pool its contributions from its employees to a single charity.
“We wanted to make a difference,” Davis said.
Jim Clark, vice president and loan officer, served in the military during Vietnam. “I was in basic training when Saigon fell,” he recalled.
Clark said all of his five uncles also served in the armed forces, one losing his life on Okinawa June 17, 1945. He hopes to get all their names engraved on the wall.
If you want to celebrate Independence Day by having someone’s name engraved, who served in the armed forces, just send the name, branch of service and years served, plus $125 to Veterans Memorial Gardens, P.O. Box 938, Mabank, TX 75147, or 17584 Country Club Drive, Kemp TX 75143.
If you don’t have a name, but would like to contribute to help someone else post a name on the wall, donations of any amount are welcome at the same addresses above.

 



Copyright 2010, MediaOne, L.L.C.