Sunday, August 17, 2008





Teen indicted for forcing woman down well
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–A Gun Barrel City teen was indicted on aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery charges Wednesday.
Joshua James Cannon, a resident of the Bonita Point subdivision in Gun Barrel City, is charged with forcing a 63-year-old neighbor down an abandoned well during the early morning hours of May 16.
Cannon was indicted for Aggravated Kidnapping, Aggravated Sexual Assault and Aggravated Robbery, with repeat offender enhancement on all three indictments.
Cannon also was indicted for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon, according to information released by Henderson County District Attorney Donna R. Bennett.
According to investigators, Cannon, then 18 and on parole after being released from jail the week before, broke into the neighbor’s home in the wee hours of the morning, assaulted her and then forced her outside at gunpoint before pushing her down the abandoned 20-foot-deep well.
Investigators said Cannon then took the woman’s vehicle and headed to the Dallas area, picking up a juvenile acquaintance on the way.
Seagoville police stopped the woman’s vehicle later that morning for reckless driving, and impounded the car to determine its owner.
Family members contacted Gun Barrel City police late that afternoon when they found the woman gone and a message on her telephone from Seagoville police about her car.
A search of the neighborhood followed, and the woman was discovered – bruised and battered, but not seriously injured – at the bottom of the well.
Gun Barrel City firefighters rescued the woman, who was transported to a Tyler hospital for treatment of her injuries.
Cannon has been jailed without bond since his arrest.

No burn ban, yet
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The Henderson County Commissioners took no action to institute a 30-day burn ban as requested by the Fire Marshal Stacy Glover on Tuesday’s agenda.
Monday night, heavy rains peppered nearly every segment of the county, especially in Commissioner Ronny Lawrence’ Precinct 3 and in Gun Barrel City.
“Ronny said the prayer for last Tuesday’s meeting and he asked for rain,” County Judge David Holstein noted. And Monday night, I had to pull over onto the side of the road, it was raining so hard,” he added.
Glover pointed out that the forecast for the next two weeks lists the county in the second highest dryness category. She added that half the counties in the state have issued a burn ban.
However, commissioners were vindicated in their decision as Wednesday’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index listed Henderson County at 400-500, mid-range for moisture content of vegetation through most the county. A reading of 600-700 is listed for the west side of Cedar Creek Lake, covering Trinidad, Tool and Seven Points, where it borders Kaufman County.
Kaufman County instituted a 60-day burn ban beginning Aug. 4.
Commissioners pledged to keep the burn ban on the agenda for review week-to-week.
Two grass fires swept through lake area communities in the last two weeks. Thirty to 40 acres were scorched in Payne Springs, last week Tuesday, and 60 acres were blackened in Seven Points the week before. Both were driven by gusting dry winds.
Though taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the burn ban, commissioners agreed to refund overcharged property owners taxes totaling nearly $50,000.
The Athens Best Western, Holiday Inn Express and the owner of several undeveloped lakeside lots sued the appraisal board and won a favorable judgment.
The Cedar Creek Lake front lots values were reduced by $200,000 each.
In other business, commissioners:
• renewed a contract with the Attorney General regarding state cases and local customer services.
• terminated its lessor relationship with owners of the public boat ramp in Caney City, while the property changes hands. The county leases the boat ramp at $10 per month, coming out of Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall’s budget, and is maintained in exchange for continued public access.
Hall said he spoke with the new owners and they are agreeable to continuing the same arrangement with the county. The property is a little less than an acre and will be affected by the bridge construction, Hall noted.
• set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2. to set weight limits at 40,000 pounds and 30 mph on CR 3412
• passed a resolution reflecting the completion of the sanitary sewer system in Cedar Branch Park in Precinct 2.
• added the jail expansion to the current Orkin Pest Control contract for an additional $149 a month and an initial treatment costing $270.
• approved a request from the City of Eustace for road repair assistance on roads listed on the FEMA grant program.
Ten streets were listed. Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney noted the repairs are on short distances on each road.
• accepted two replats of lots in The Pinnacle Club subdivision.
• approved budget amendments as presented.
• noted the price fluctuation of asphalt affecting the county’s request for bids on prime coat and seal coat. “No one will bid it now,” Lawrence said.
• paid bills totaling $239,621.42.

EISD proposes lower tax rate
Monitor Staff Reports
EUSTACE–Eustace School Board members unanimously approved a proposed tax rate at a special called meeting Aug. 7.
As proposed, the Eustace Independent School District’s ad valorem tax rate, $1.2580 per $100 valuation, would be a penny less than last year’s rate, $1.26804.
However, the convoluted rules put forth by the State Comptroller’s office will require the trustees to say they approve a tax increase, EISD Superintendent Dr. Coy Holcombe explained during the 20-minute meeting.
Even though the rate will actually be 1 cent less, the average home value in the district increased by about $5,000, so the district’s effective tax rate (the rate required to bring in the same local revenue) went down, Holcombe explained.
“Our tax values are up a little bit, from about $376 million to $419 million,” he said. “Our effective tax rate last year was $1.40, and we weren’t anywhere close to $1.40.”
With the increase in value, the average homeowner will pay about $43 more in taxes – even with a lower rate – so that requires the “tax increase” language in the board’s motion to set the official tax rate, Holcombe explained.
This year’s rollback rate, the tax rate that could trigger a rollback election, is $1.2967, “and we won’t be close to that,” he said.
The decline comes in the Interest & Sinking (I&S) portion of the tax rate, which goes to pay bond debt, Holcombe explained.
Due to the built-in variations in the bond payment package, this year’s bond payments will total about $20,000 less than last year, which allows the district to drop the rate a penny, he said.
The M&O (Maintenance and Operation) portion of the tax rate pays for everything else, and will remain at $1.04 per $100, Holcombe said.
Although the district likely will have a smaller enrollment – and will lose some state funding because of that – local funds and state funds will still be fairly balanced, he added.
“We knew we were going to have enrollment issues, so we’ve been trying to pare back on the budget,” Holcombe said. “Our budget is built on that ($1.04) M&O rate. The I&S rate will take care of itself.”
Trustees have their regular meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, but will schedule a special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 26, in order to do some last-minute adjustments on the 2007-08 budget (which closes Aug. 31), and officially set the tax rate and budget for the coming school year.

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