Sunday, September 14, 2008





Three injured in bridge collapse
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

PRAIRIEVILLE–Three people were injured late Wednesday afternoon when a bridge under construction collapsed.
The center span of the Farm-to-Market 1836 bridge across Cedar Creek fell approximately 20 feet into the creek when an 18-wheeler towing a tracked backhoe crossed the bridge.
A sedan following the 18-wheeler also fell with the bridge section, and wound up with its nose wedged under a chunk of the bridge decking.
Truck driver Richard Godsey of Paris said he was delivering the “trackhoe” to the construction site, as the bridge (one of three across the creek bottom about three miles north of the Prairieville Grocery) was undergoing replacement.
“It threw the ass end of my truck about six feet in the air,” Godsey recalled. “I looked in my mirrors and saw nothing but sky.”
The trackhoe was loaded on a “lowboy” trailer, which came loose from Godsey’s truck as the front end flipped up. The tractor cab, with Godsey inside, bounced to a stop.
Godsey recalled it was 5:48 p.m. when he jumped from the cab and grabbed his cell phone to call 911.
First Responders from Mabank, Kemp and Kaufman volunteer fire departments rushed to the scene, and had to use ropes and a basket to remove the three passengers from the car.
The most seriously injured passenger, a woman, had to be cut from the vehicle with power rescue tools. Approximately 25 to 30 firefighters responded to the scene.
“I did all the first aid I could do until the paramedics got here,” Godsey recalled. “She was stuck, and I couldn’t get her out.”
She was transported to Tyler’s East Texas Medical Center by helicopter, while the other two passengers (both adults) were transported by ambulance to Presbyterian Hospital in Kaufman.
Television reports late Wednesday said the woman was listed in “serious” condition, while the other two passengers were listed as “stable.”
Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department Patrol Sgt. Christopher Whatley said Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) representatives had already been to the scene.
“It’s my understanding they keep sort of a diary, where they keep track of all the process of work on the bridge,” Whatley said. “That will help them determined what actually happened.”
TxDoT spokesman Kelli Petras said Thursday the two-lane bridge was load posted for a maximum of 24,000 pounds.
Investigation revealed the tractor and trackhoe weighed approximately 100,000 pounds, Petras said in a prepared news release.
The truck and equipment, which were crossing the bridge when it collapsed, were part of the R.K. Hall construction crew who were beginning to rebuild the bridge. The 150-foot bridge has been under construction for three months.
TxDoT has closed FM 1836 at the Cedar Creek Relief No. 2 bridge location, pending inspection of the bridge and investigation to confirm the reason for the collapse.
In the meantime, FM 1836 will be closed to through traffic for several months, possibly a year or more, while a new bridge is constructed.
Detour signs have been placed marking the route to assist drivers traveling along FM 1836. Routes include:
• southbound traffic on FM 1836 will be detoured north on FM 2515 in Rand to State Highway 243 in Ola. Then, traffic will proceed east on SH 243 to FM 47 in Van Zandt County. Traffic can then head south on FM 47 to FM 90 in Prairieville.
• northbound traffic on FM 1836 will be detoured east on FM 90 in Prairieville to FM 47 in Van Zandt County. Then, traffic will proceed north on FM 47 to SH 243. Traffic can then head west on SH 243 until FM 2515 in Ola, then south on FM 2515 to FM 1836 in Rand.
“TxDoT and R.K. Hall would like to apologize for any inconvenience, and thank area drivers, residents and local businesses for their continued patience and cooperation as crew work diligently to reopen FM 1836 as soon, and as safely, as possible,” Petras said.
As the twilight deepened Wednesday, Godsey looked at the scene and shook his head.
“I think the state waited one load too late to work on that one,” he said.

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Investigators, rescue workers and volunteer firefighters compare notes at the
scene of a bridge collapse on Farm-to-Market 1836 north of Prairieville late
Wednesday. The center span of the bridge fell into Cedar Creek when an 18-wheeler
hauling a tracked backhoe (visible at left) crossed it, and three people in a following
car were injured.

Bigger salaries part of budget
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council approved, 4-1, a fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget, which includes salary hikes of between 7 percent and 12 percent.
It took two tries to gain the four of five votes required to approve the $3.65 million budget, with Councilwoman Kathy Cochran opposed.
The first round, the motion failed 3-2. But when faced with setting another workshop to discuss the salary hike issue, it became uncertain a quorum would be willing and available to meet.
So a second motion, this time from mayor pro-tem Charles Townsend who opposed it the first time, made at the end of the meeting, won the needed 4/5ths approval.
City manager Gerry Boren said his priority for the coming year was to explore employee performance standards and conduct a salary study on which to base future salaries. “Department heads will be held accountable to set performance tasks,” he said.
“These salaries are at about 75 percent of what Athens pays,” Boren said, defending the hike as a way to keep qualified people and save money in retraining new ones.
In actual numbers, the increase amounts to nearly $129,000 above last year’s salary figures. Councilman Todd Hogan pointed out it amounts to just 3.54 percent of the overall budget and was satisfied with that percentage.
However, Townsend and Cochran looked more closely at individual changes in salary and how those levels would be maintained over the coming years.
Townsend noted that salaries account for 58 percent of the budget, leaving 42 percent for everything else.
“I have grave concerns about the lack of funds for infrastructure (capitol improvements),” he said. “A year from now, we’ll be saddled with all these costs (salary increases), and I don’t see a great deal of economic growth two to three years from now.”
Boren forecasted Fuddrucker to do $750,000 worth of business annually when it opens and countered that the budget could easily allow for up to $150,000 for capital improvements.
“This is a very conservative estimate, accounting for only a 3 percent growth rate,” Boren said. He also discussed using standard business practices of making large purchases, such as vehicles and building projects, with leases, payouts and loans.
“I believe in happy people. I want to pay them enough so they don’t have to go to a discount store in Corsicana to buy food,” Boren said.
Cochran disagreed with the $591,000 amount set for police salaries.
“You’re going to be higher than that, more like $640,000, even with a 10 percent attrition rate,” she said. “I’m using actuals to arrive at these numbers.”
“I feel we are using the fund balance ($270,000) to fund raises. That money is not going to be there next year.”
“I know Gerry wants to get us close to a zero fund balance, but raises are permanent and this is temporary. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I voted for it,” Cochran told The Monitor on Wednesday.
The budget anticipates an income of $2.241 million from sales tax to the city plus another $320,179 from sales tax apportioned to the Economic Development Corp. The rest of the $3.6 million is expected to come from the beverage tax, business and franchise taxes, licenses and permits, fines and penalties , fees and miscellaneous revenues.
In other business, council members:
• set tax rate at zero.
• allotted $15,000 from the Hotel Motel Tax fund to reserve a fireworks display following the Christmas Parade.
• approved a Compensated Volunteer Fire Department Policy.
• adopted an ordinance allowing single-family site built homes in the zoned Manufactured Housing District.

Reaching out to Muslims on 9/11
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Kimberly Idrees thinks she knows the answer.
She once was a Muslim – so ardent that other Muslims in her community referred to her as “that holy woman from America.”
But the more ardent her efforts to conform to the truest standards of Islam, the more desperate she became.
“Why can’t I hear my God anymore?” she asked her Muslim husband.
“Are you crazy, woman? Allah does not talk to us,” was his answer.
From then on her marriage began to become strained with tension which reflected her own inner conflict and search for a relationship with God, she told women gathered at a meeting at St. Peter Lutheran Church Thursday.
“In Islam, there is no assurance of heaven. Everyone works very hard to accumulate credits against the day of their death. You just don’t know how many you’ll need,” Idrees explained. “There’s only one sure ticket to Heaven and that is to die in the cause of Islam.”
“That’s why they can strap bombs to themselves, even pregnant women, because of their fear of death,” she said.
There are between eight and 10 million Muslims in the United States, she said and 500,000 of them in Texas.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, meaning one in every five. Projections see by the year 2025, one in three will be a Muslim.
She told her story of once being an active Lutheran. But, without a firm foundation in the Word of God, she faltered when crisis came and she became disillusioned.
Then Muslims starting popping up in her life, offering friendship and a “better way.” At first, she started studying the Koran to refute them.
But, she said without a steadfast reliance on Christ, she found herself studying Islam in earnest, which led to her conversion, marriage to a Muslim man and move to Scotland, where she and her husband operated a Pakistani restaurant in Edinburough.
“I prayed five times a day in Arabic. Allah only hears prayers that are in Arabic,” she said.
Meanwhile, the mother, grown son and daughter left behind were praying for her.
“I firmly believe it was the power of prayer that lifted the ‘veil of deceit’ from my mind, so I could see the truth,” she said.
“Prayer is the greatest weapon at our disposal,” she said. “This is a spiritual warfare, not won on the battlefield.”
Now she works through Women of the Way and commissioned by POBLO-Texas (People of the Book Lutheran Outreach), she is reaching out to Muslim women, meeting their needs, befriending them and helping them learn English.
These “God-orchestrated relationships” have given her many opportunities to shine a light of hope,” she said.
Quoting the words of St. Francis of Assisi, she said, “Always share the gospel; and if necessary, use words.”
She asks whether Americans consider why God may have brought the Muslims to their front doors, so to speak.
Referring to Acts 17:26-27, she suggests it may have been done so many may be reached with Christ’s message of reconciliation.
Those interested in supporting this ministry or getting more information about it may call (214) 368-1371 or go to on the worldwide web.

Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Women gathered at St. Peter Lutheran Church on the seventh anniversary of
the attack on the twin towers in New York to hear the story of an American woman
who converted to Islam. While at first exciting and different, she later came to
experience the despair of that religion, to whom one out of every five people on the
planet claim as their belief system. Kimberly Idrees now reaches out to Muslim
women with the assurance of salvation, lacking in Islam, through acts of kindness
and building relationships in a ministry called Women of the Way, out of Dallas.

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