Thursday, July 13, 2006

 
 


Tool truck snags wires, sparks fire
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–An error in backing up led to a noon-hour fire at a Kemp restaurant Tuesday.
The driver of a Matco Tools service truck was backing into place alongside the recently opened Hey Belle Cafe, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 175 and Farm-to-Market 1895, when the truck snagged the electrical service line going into the restaurant.
“He just kept backing up and jerked the wires down,” restaurant owner Jerry Harris said. “If we hadn’t run out and motioned him to come forward, he’d probably been electrocuted (when he tried to exit the truck).”
Harris, using a couple of fire extinguishers, was able to almost extinguish the fire before firefighters could get there, Kaufman County Fire Marshal Larry Ewing reported.
“We couldn’t spray water on it, because it was still a live electrical wire,” Ewing said. “He (Harris) did a whole lot of good.”
Kemp firefighters were on the scene of a grass fire in the Peeltown community when the alarm went out at 12:27 p.m., Ewing added.
Mabank firefighters responded (both departments respond to each other’s calls under a standing agreement), along with Kaufman Volunteer Fire Department members, totaling 21 firefighters and seven pieces of equipment.
Damage to the restaurant was limited to the northwest corner – where the electrical service panel and meter is located – and the kitchen ceiling, but Harris said all his electrically operated equipment got a big jolt.
“I don’t know how much my equipment’s fried,” he said.
His son, Jason Harris, was among the Kemp firefighters responding to the alarm.
It was very fortunate that the fire was on the north end of the building and not the south end, as a strong southerly breeze likely would have quickly spread the fire through the attic area, Ewing noted.
 

Road material costs rise, squeezing county budget
By Diane Murray
Monitor Correspondent

ATHENS–Building and maintaining roads in Henderson County is going to cost twice as much as before.
The price increase reflects the rising cost of oil and the effects of hurricane Katrina, County Judge David Holstein cited during Monday’s commissioners meeting.
The commissioners reviewed and accepted bids for road materials and related services.
“In January, the road base mix cost $35 a ton, and is now over $55,” Holstein noted.
“What we could build for $30,000 to $35,000 is going to cost a lot more – $50,000 to $55,000,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence said. “We knew it was coming, but there is nothing we could do to stop it.”
“We have to accept these bids as presented by the purchasing office,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry West said. “This is the best we can get, but it is going to be so much higher.”
Bids for hot mix were awarded to Henderson County Asphalt and Armor Material. Other related purchases were awarded to Flex Base, East Texas Crushed Rock and hauling services to S&S Trucking.
Anticipating the rise in prices, the commissioners tried to finish road work projects earlier than planned.
“It is going to cut in half what we were going to do,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said. “So, what we couldn’t get done, the price has doubled, as of today.
“It is going to cost $20,000 for one mile of road,” he added. “Before May of this year, I had already spent half my budget.”
The other major item on the short agenda was to assign a new elevator maintenance contract. The last service contract was awarded to Otis Elevator. Confusion over who was responsible for what repairs ensued.
Commissioners agreed to award the new service contract to AVL Elevator, the company who eventually ascertained why the elevator was always breaking down, and was able to address the source of the problems by rewinding the motor.
“I approve of this company.” Holstein said. “I personally am happy to get AVL on board. They are local – out of Duncanville. When they were working on the elevator, they called me every morning with a report.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• changed the financial officer for the VOCA grant from West Johnston, former county auditor, to the new county auditor, Ann Marie Lee.
• held a public hearing to increase the speed limit to 45 mph on County Road 4511 in Precinct 4. No one spoke for or against the change, which was unanimously approved.
• paid bills totaling $140,458.16.

City to meet with lawyers concerning ECCFWSD & CCNs
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council approved three housekeeping items during its regular meeting Tuesday, without making mention of a special meeting called for Wednesday to meet with its newly appointed legal counsel.
The special meeting’s agenda included two closed sessions: one “to receive legal advice concerning legal issues involved with various options regarding East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District and the District’s service area,” and the second “involving possible litigation related to CCN (certificate of convenience and necessity) issues.”
The third item calls for reconvening in open session to direct legal and city staffs as deemed appropriate.
This special meeting most likely coincides with the city’s decision to back out of a proposed workshop previously called to discuss issues of importance to all the water district’s customers, including the cities of Enchanted Oaks and Payne Springs.
Tuesday, the council accepted a recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Commission regarding requests for special use permits from Herb Gibson, Equity Development Corp. and Robert Emfinger to construct office/warehouse units off Dunaway Street, and set a public hearing for Aug. 8.
A second item amended an ordinance pertaining to certificates of occupancy issued to businesses.
A housekeeping item, as described by city secretary Christy Eckerman, the amendment requires businesses to provide sales and use permit numbers to conduct retail sales in the city.
Lastly, the city formerly recognized and appointed two deputy fire marshals, as recommended by city fire marshal Joe Lindaman.
Firefighter Dustin Conner and litter abatement officer Amy Zamora Lindaman were appointed to the job. Both have been training and performing those duties since Mike Grant was fire chief.
The action meets Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education criteria for being able to file arson cases under law, Lindaman explained.
The three agenda items were passed unanimously.
Councilwoman Kathy Cochran was out of town and not present.


Police find drugs, guns, paraphernalia
Monitor Staff Reports
LOG CABIN–With assistance from a Eustace police officer, acting Log Cabin Police Chief Buddy Barton placed two men under arrest and confiscated two firearms, multiple bags of what appeared to be marijuana, about 2 grams of suspected methamphetamine and numerous utensils used in the use of such drugs.
Mac Dickey and Rex Monroe, both of Athens, were arrested Monday for outstanding warrants in Henderson County and from the Athens police department, plus new charges of unlawfully carrying a weapon, manufacturing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, over 1 gram and under 4 grams (methamphetamine), and possession of a controlled substance, more than 2 ounces and under 4 ounces, will be filed at-large, Barton reported.
Eustace officer Cody Grubbs had been backing up Barton on a previous call in Log Cabin in the wee hours of Monday morning.
On Grubbs’ way back to Eustace, he noticed a suspicious vehicle parked on Tom Hickman Road in Log Cabin.
Upon making contact with the driver (Dickey), he noticed a pair of brass knuckles in the back floorboard.
Grubbs called Barton to his location, and the officers had the driver and passenger, Monroe, exit the vehicle so a search for other weapons could be conducted.
Monroe told the officers a .38-caliber pistol was hidden beneath his seat.
During the initial search, Barton found bags of what appeared to be marijuana, totaling 2.25 ounces, digital scales, a second (loaded) firearm, glass meth pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
A radio check alerted officers to the outstanding warrants on both men.
A thorough search of the vehicle the next day uncovered about 2 grams of what was believed to be methamphetamine, and multiple containers often used to conceal narcotics.
 

Eustace considers police car purchase
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–The Eustace City Council accepted a proposal from Police Chief Robert Walker detailing the advantages to purchasing two new Dodge Chargers Tuesday.
Walker outlined how the city could sell the two police vehicles it currently has – 2003 and 2004 Dodge Intrepids – for the balance owed on them, plus a little more for its police equipment, to a smaller town, such as Log Cabin.
The council agreed, contingent upon breaking even on the deal.
In a related matter, the council also approved the purchase of an electronic ticket writer and associated software and hardware to streamline its court system.
The equipment enables officers to record driver’s licence information with the swipe of the license through the portable machine.
Information collected on the traffic citation would be downloaded electronically into the court’s computer software program via a docking bay, greatly reducing paperwork, time needed for data input, and mistakes made due to illegibly written reports.
The $20,000 package from Advanced Public Safety, a Florida-based company, would be partially financed by the court’s technology fund.
City secretary Dru Haynes explained that since an earlier grant paid for previous court software, the fund still held $10,000.
Walker, who spoke with law enforcement in Athens, who have dealt with APS, assured the council the company was willing to break the purchase up into payments.
If not, the balance would come from the general fund, Haynes said.
Councilwoman Karyn Mullen interjected the police department could pay for it out of what it confiscates in drug busts. Haynes pointed out $4 of every citation goes into the technology fund.
In other business, the council:
• renewed its contract with IESI Solid Waste Collection Services, with a slight upward adjustment in residential services from $8.75 to $10.25 monthly. Commercial charges vary and are billed directly by IESI.
• denied a request to repair the air conditioner in a 1996 Ford truck, estimated to cost $537.19. The truck is used by the water department for short service trips.
• annexed four properties into the city, after the last public hearing that same evening.
• approved the laying of a new sewer line to cross Cook Street and tie in on Meredith Street, contingent upon getting several bids and going with the lowest bidder.
• tabled a review of the auditor’s report, as it was not ready.
• tabled adopting the ICC International Building Code and International Fire Code, while research is done into whether this move requires the city to employ a building inspector.