People, Places & Events


VZ Commissioners eye 3 percent salary boost
By Sheila Kunick
Monitor Correspondent

CANTON–The Van Zandt County Commissioners Court met in special session Tuesday to consider setting salaries, expenses and other allowances for elected officials in the fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget.
The commissioners, after almost an hour and a half discussion, agreed on a proposed 3 percent increase for elected officials, with no longevity increase and no increase in allowances.
Commissioners considered only elected officials’ salaries, because those increases must be published and the other county employee salary increases do not have to be published.
County elected officials have not had a raise in three years.
County auditor John Shinn explained the 3 percent increase would raise the gross salaries of all employees, including elected officials, to $126,767, with $26,021 in fringe benefits, for a total increase of $152,788.
The longevity pay for all employees would be $59,040, with fringe benefits at $12,119, for a total of $71,159.
The commissioners agreed the county could not afford the 3 percent salary increase and boost longevity pay as well.
Commissioners Ricky LaPrade and Kellis Miller originally wanted the proposed 3 percent increase to apply to longevity pay.
Commissioner Ron Carroll voted against the combination of the 3 percent and the longevity, but did vote for the 3 percent salary increase only.
LaPrade also stated he wanted all employees of the county to receive the proposed 3 percent and the longevity boost, the same as elected officials.
The county is not bound to the 3 percent salary increase, as it is only a proposal for the upcoming FY 2007 budget at this time.
A meeting has been set for Tuesday, Aug. 8, to determine and set all county employees’ salaries, including elected officials. The last date to file a grievance is Monday, Aug. 14, and the proposed grievance hearing date is Monday, Aug. 21.
The commissioners said they wanted the same 3 percent pay increase for all employees, but did not have to vote on that issue at this time.
Shinn said insurance premiums would increase this year, but he did not know exactly by how much.
“My plan is to use the new property on the tax rolls, which is new revenue, basically, for the county, to be able to fund the 3 percent raise,” County Judge Rhita Koches said. “I think we can cover that. I know it will not cover the longevity.”
Miller said taxes would have to increase.
“You have to keep your rates up, and if you don’t you are going to go down. That is what has happened in the past,” Miller said. “We would not be in this spot today if the last 15 years they would have kept the rate up and the taxes in line.”
LaPrade said insurance rates were too high, and he felt employees would rather have more money than the insurance benefits.
Carroll disagreed, and said he felt insurance benefits needed to stay in place.
“We originally looked at 3 percent and 5 percent, and bottom line, we just couldn’t fund 5 percent. We settled on the 3 percent,” Koches said. “At first, we thought the longevity would be less, (but) when Mr. Shinn got the actual figures together, it was not something that we could afford.”

Tuesday, Aug. 1 is National Night Out
Special to the Monitor
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–The 23rd “National Night Out” (NNO), a unique crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), is set for Tuesday, Aug. 1, around the nation.
The organization invites communities to join in and be a part of the Night Out team.
Locally, the Tamarack Neighborhood Crime Watch will host NNO from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1.
Residents in Tamarack are asked to lock their doors, turn on the outside lights and spend the evening with neighbors, police, code and fire departments in the park.
There will be hot dogs and refreshments.
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dale Blaylock will be the speaker for the event.
Boy Scouts will do the flag presentation.
All Tamarack families are welcome.
Last year’s NNO campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses and neighborhood organizations from more than 10,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canada and military bases worldwide.
In all, more than 34 million people participated in NNO in 2005.
Along with a traditional display of outdoor lights and front porch vigilance, towns and neighborhoods “celebrate” NNO with a variety of events, such as:
• block parties,
• cookouts,
• visits from local police and sheriff departments,
• parades, exhibits,
• flashlight walks,
• contests, and
• youth programs.
NNO has proven to be an effective, inexpensive and enjoyable program to promote neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships for a safer nation.
Plus the benefits communities will derive from NNO very certainly will extend well beyond one night.
NNO is designed to heighten drug and crime prevention awareness, generate support and participation in local anti crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, send a message to criminals letting them know that neighbors are organized and fighting back.
The NNO, “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” was introduced in 1984.
The first year, 400 communities in 23 states participated, and 2.5 million Americans took part in the first event.
The NNO was the brainchild of NATW Executive Matt A. Peskin.
“It’s a wonderful way for communities nationwide and police-community partnerships to join together in crime prevention programs,” he said.
For information contact the National Association of Town Watch at 1 Wynnewood Road, Suite 102 P.O. Box 303, Wynnewood, PA 19096 or call 1-800-NITE-OUT or (610) 649-7055 or e-mail to

Talent Box theater to hold auditions
Special to The Monitor
WILLS POINT–Auditions for the 2006-07 season opener will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 19-20, at the theatre, 244 North Fourth, Wills Point.
The “Butler Did It Again,” written by Tim Kelley, will be the opener and is directed by Jane Gamon, and assisted by Karla McDonald.
This mystery/comedy is set in a place called Spanish Moss in the swamps of Louisiana.
A tropical storm comes up, a man-eating alligator and an actual murder makes for a wild weekend.
Miss Maples, book publisher and socialite, Jane Doe, her social secretary, Chips, the family retainer, Miss Denver, housekeeper, mystery writers Chandler Marlowe, Rick and Laura Carlyle, Tony Tallchief, Louie Fan, Father White, Ruth Dice and Charlie the Gator, are the characters in this play.
This play is a carryover from the opening of the 2005-06 season, “The Butler Did It,” and parts for the characters in this play are precast.
Parts available are for four women and two men, ages 20 and up.
For additional information, please call our toll free telephone, 1-877-882-7763.