Sunday, December 30, 2007






  Trinidad Middle School and MHS named top state schools
Monitor Staff Reports
Two area schools made Texas Monthly magazine’s list of “The Best Public Schools.”
Both Mabank High School and Trinidad Middle School made the list, which was published in the December edition of Texas Monthly.
According to information released by the magazine, Trinidad made the list for its performance on the writing portion of the TAKS test, while Mabank earned the honor because of its reading TAKS scores.
This year marks the fourth time Texas Monthly has ranked the schools.
Middle schools and high schools made the list because their students’ improvement on the TAKS test was higher than predicted by their previous test scores.
For a detailed explanation of the methodology behind the ranking, go to
Last week, Trinidad ISD Superintendent David Atkeisson said, “We are very proud of the efforts our teachers made in that area (writing).
“Our teachers made a concerted effort and our students worked really hard last year. We’re just really proud of our students and staff, and we are going to continue the improvement and expand it out to other subject areas,” he said.
In a letter to Atkeisson, State Sen. Robert L. Nichols wrote, “Please accept my congratulations on Trinidad School being named as one of our state’s high performing schools by Texas Monthly Magazine.
This is a significant accomplishment for your district, and you are to be commended for your hard work.
“This recognition is a testament to your leadership skills. I deeply appreciate your dedication to providing the best possible learning environment for your students and staff, as well as your community.”
In Mabank, Superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall said, “We are so proud of the efforts of our employees and children who continue to show how successful the students at Mabank ISD are.”

A giving family receives a special Christmas gift
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Early in the morning Dec. 22, the Heard family of Kemp was startled by sirens and horns going off in their driveway.
The family rushed to the door, asking what the problem was, and received a big surprise.
Precinct 4 Constable Ken Garvin, sounding his siren and tooting the horn of his squad car, escorted Santa driving a white, four-door Ford F-150 pickup into the family yard, purchased from Paul Murrey Ford of Kaufman.

Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Santa (Scottie Mitchel, far left) hands the keys to a new Ford F-150 pickup to new owners, Harold Heard and wife Esther of Kemp who looks on in awe.

The startled family was surprised even further when Santa (Scottie Mitchell) gave a hearty “Merry Christmas” and presented the keys to the new truck to a very grateful Harold Heard.
“You never know how you might touch somebody’s life,” Heard said.
He and his wife Esther served as missionaries in South America for many years.
The couple have been married for 46 years and have five children (two are adopted) and eight grandchildren. Their first great-grandchild is on the way, Esther said.
Since returning from the missionary field, Harold has suffered an illness which left him legally blind.

Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Harold and Esther Heard of Kemp pose beside their new F-150 Ford pickup truck presented to them anonymously Dec. 22.

Their old truck was totaled in a traffic accident, leaving them without transportation.
“I will be driving the truck,” Esther said in awe as she gazed at the new vehicle.
She wondered aloud who could have done such a wonderful thing, but was told only that the donor wanted to remain anonymous.
Matt Murrey told how the donor came into the dealership the day before and said he wanted to buy a Christmas gift and didn’t want it known who provided the gift. It was a cash transaction, the family was told.
Needing to thank someone, the grateful couple turned and thanked Santa, Garvin and all those present.

The way we were in 2007
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–A number of notable firsts and records were posted this past year, along with some lamentable tragedies.
In May, news of the slayings of two Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies reached all the way to Hawaii.
Hearts, as well as heads, are bowed in prayer during a Sunday memorial service May 20 at the Lord’s Acre in Payne Springs. Law enforcement mourned the loss of two of its own in the tragic slaying of sheriff’s deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn while responding to a domestic dispute call on C.R. 2529. Randall Wayne Mays, 47, is charged with two capital murders and for wounding deputy Kevin Harris in the leg.

The county is preparing to prosecute two capital murder cases against the accused shooter, expected to cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars.
On the other hand, the youth of the area are being educated under some of the finest school administrators in the state, which bodes well for a brighter and more prosperous future.
Some of the firsts and records include:
• The west side of the lake getting its first school.
The Tool Elementary School dynamo of a principal, Bill Morgan, says, “It’s running so smoothly, it’s as if it were there for 20 years.”
• The Mabank ISD community broke another Spirit Week record, raising more than $60,000 – double last year’s record – to build a Habitat for Humanity house for one of its teaching staff. In addition, high school students are building it!

A tour of the new $30 million Mabank High School begins in the commons area in June. High school principal Tommy Wallis (right), who greets the public inspecting the value of their tax dollars, was named the state’s top principal this year.

• The Kemp High School boys basketball team advanced to the Class 3A Region II tournament for the first time in school history. Go Yellowjackets!
• A successful local Realtor saw her son named as NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” top prize winner.
Marie Sligh was joined by friends and supporters at Terry Fator “watch parties,” as the ventriloquist/impersonator/singer/comedian soared to television stardom.
• The drought that had gripped the area for three years broke in a big way.
• The world’s largest brick stopped at the Acme Brick Co. in Malakoff.
• Snow flurries surprised everyone the day before Easter.
• Boaters enjoyed the first lake concert off Tom Finley Park.
• A sci-fi thriller was filmed around the lake, starring the town of Eustace.
• A widow got an extreme home make-over, courtesy of the Christian Life Center and community support.

Mabank residents Tom (pictured) and John Manning show off this 10½ foot, 400-pound alligator, which they fished from their stock pond north of Mabank, just one mile from Cedar Creek Lake April 2.

Of course, there’s nothing new about the generosity habitually shown through numerous fund-raising events taking place all year long. Folks here have hearts as big as Texas.
Other highlights from the year follow.
Mabank stood out on several fronts. In fact, you could say this was a stellar year for the city.
The city obtained a long-sought lowered ISO rating of 4, and when the fire department takes delivery of its new fire truck and completes its No. 2 fire station near Lighthouse Landing, the city expects a new review and possibly an improved rating.

A momentary dip below $2 a gallon was seen last January, following a drop in oil prices to $50 per barrel. Frugal driving and warm weather in the northeastern states were also cited for the lower prices showing up at lake-area gas stations Jan. 17.

The city also got $5.27 million in new construction funds, without increasing its existing debt payment. That’s because Moody’s Investor Service granted the city a rating rare among cities of Mabank’s size.
“This is something you can celebrate. There aren’t many small towns in Texas with that good of a credit rating,” Southwest Securities VP Ken Smith told the city council.
The loan is also secured by AAA-rated insurance from FSA from bonds, “a feat practically unheard of among small Texas cities,” Smith said.
Icy conditions contributed to this flipped patrol car on Pritchett Lane in Seven Points, Jan. 17. While responding to a 911 call, his cruiser hit a patch of ice and ended upside down. The officer had to kick out a window to escape the vehicle and sustained minor injuries.

The growth outlook is up with the development of two affordable housing projects, the doubling of plant capacity at Solar Turbines and Delafield Fluid Technologies, along with two high-end residential developments, the 505 Ranch and The Ranch at Cedar Creek Lake.
Gun Barrel City also is booming. The long-planned Heritage Cove project is starting to take shape, with three structures under construction – slated for a Fuddrucker’s restaurant, La Quinta hotel and 16-plex movie theater.
A new CVS Pharmacy and Express Car Wash are going up next to Wal-Mart, and plans for another small hotel are in the works.
The year also saw the retirement of veteran city manager Corrin McGrath and the hiring of new city manager Gerry Boren.

A remote-controlled robot equipped with a video camera enters the Grand Avenue Apartments in Mabank July 3 to remove two explosive devices which a resident built out of smaller fireworks. The Garland bomb squad was called in to secure and detonate the devices.


For the most part, all seats are filled on city boards and the Economic Development Corporation hired a top gun to lead its marketing efforts. Also, the city expanded its Christmas parade to a festival this year for the first time, with a record number of spectators in attendance.
Politics continues to plague Payne Springs.
Most citizens say they want to keep the police department, but residents voted out of office the councilmen, who supported an ad valorem (property) tax a previous regime inaugurated to support the department. The tax was also repealed.
A majority of the current council is taking a hard-nosed approach, greatly diminishing financial support for the police department. As a result, the city is on its third police chief in five months and has no other paid officers.
On the up side, the Southwood Shores subdivision in the city is getting sewer service for the first time with a STEP grant, with almost 20 homes hooked up and 25 more to go.
Area school districts were able to report a lot of positive news during 2007.
On this front, Mabank ISD was a standout, with Superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall being named Region 10’s top superintendent for the second straight year, and Mabank High School Principal Dr. Tommy Wallis named the top principal in the state!
It was no surprise that MHS was included on a list of high-performing Texas schools for a second straight year. Trinidad Middle School also made the list published by Texas Monthly magazine in its December issue.
Besides dedicating the new high school and hosting numerous school performances in its large state-of-the-art auditorium, the district added a child care center for its employees, a first in the area.
Malakoff pulled off opening two elementary campuses this year, even while changing superintendents on the home stretch.
The Malakoff Elementary School, destroyed in a pre-dawn fire March 9, 2005, was rebuilt bigger and better, while the new Tool Elementary School opened on time and on budget, despite rainy, wet weather and rising fuel costs.
Eustace second-grader Lark Rhodes leaps into Purtis Creek Lake with a playmate marking the reopening of the newly renovated swimming area at Purtis Creek State Park June 19. Lark is the daughter of park superintendent Justin and Angela Rhodes, who recently transferred to Martin Dies Jr. State Park.

Eustace completed its extensive renovations and additions to the Primary School campus, and remodeled its high school, while Kemp ISD voters approved a $23 million bond election, planned to fund a new high school campus.
Kids got through another round of TAKS tests, and though Eustace and Malakoff schools closed for a couple of days when a high percentage of the student body was absent due to illness, they were able to complete the year with the right number of instructional days.
In May, Henderson County authorities charged Randall Wayne Mays, 47, of Payne Springs with the shooting deaths of deputies Tony Price Ogburn and Paul Steven Habelt and the wounding of a third deputy, Kevin Harris.
The shootings happened May 17, when the deputies were called to Mays’ home on CR 2529 address by a neighbor reporting Mays arguing with his wife, while waving and firing a pistol.
A second tragedy was recorded in November when Michael Whitman was charged with the death of a 2-year-old boy he was supposed to be watching for his girlfriend, the child’s grandmother in Tool.
As the year ends, Van Zandt County authorities are still searching for the body of a 62-year-old Mabank woman who disappeared from her country home under suspicious circumstances and is believed to have been killed.
Police have arrested and charged Walter Burris, her handyman, with her murder.
Gun Barrel City police recognized a suspect wanted in 32 Texas counties for aggravated robbery, including one occurring in July at the Point 1 Beverage store in Seven Points.
Officers were patrolling the Wal-Mart parking lot in October when a fender-bender involved a car fitting the description of one seen leaving the scene of the Seven Points robbery.
Carl Leonard Lively, 54, was picked out of a lineup by convenience store owner Phan Sim, who resisted the robber every way she knew how.
An eight-county task force had been looking for him since May in connection with more than 40 armed robberies.
Copper thieves were particularly vexing this year, with reports of telephone wire being stolen right off the poles along State Highway 274.
One report from Athens told how one would-be copper wire thief managed to electrocute himself in the attempt to further strip the long-vacant old county hospital.
A high-speed chase through Gun Barrel City on SH 334 ended on U.S. Highway 175 when Henderson County deputy Billy Jack Valentine put three shots into the left rear tire of the fleeing Cutlass, which had just rammed another car at a convenience store.
The drama continued with the suspect’s car striking a patrol car and moving out onto U.S. 175. When the driver tried to make a sharp right onto County Road 2922, he lost control and spun into the ditch.
A search of the car revealed marijuana, methamphetamine and paraphernalia used to package and distribute drugs. Lavon Bonsal was held without bond on a parole revocation warrant, and was later indicted on 11 different charges by a Henderson County grand jury.
The West Cedar Creek Municipal Utilities District met the challenge of a main break which drained its water tower in January, and was awarded one of the highest state awards.
It was one of only 31 public water suppliers to earn the Outstanding Drinking Water award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Only three of the TCEQ’s awards went to utility districts.
The East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District continued its plans to upgrade older lines with grant funding for projects in Tamarack and Indian Harbor. Also, the district poured concrete on a new 290,000-gallon clarifier tank at its Brookshire Water Treatment Plant.
Road and bridge work continue to be on tap on most major roads (SH 334, U.S. 175, King’s Bridge and SH 198, scheduled for 2008) in the area, so if you have a crack in your windshield and your deductible is too high to get it replaced, maybe you should just hold off on that until the road work is completed in early 2009.
Progress, can’t live with it – can’t live without it.