Thursday, August 10, 2006

Property values up
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Property values in the tri-county area have increased on average more than 10 percent over last year.
Van Zandt County showed the largest property value increase, and correspondingly had the greatest number of protests.
“We had a considerable increase in number of protests,” chief assessor Brenda Barnett said.
The Appraisal Review Board adjusted roughly 20 percent of the 942 protests, Barnett reported.
“I’d say we had about a third more protests this year over last,” she said.
“We have had quite a bit of new construction, but by in large, the increase was due to bringing everything up to market value,” she said. “We are now at 100 percent market value.”
Van Zandt’s 2006 total taxable value came to just over $2 billion and represented a nearly 13.5 percent increase over last year.
Last year, county property values increased 10 percent, compared to 2004.
Kaufman County reported an 11 percent increase, with new construction fueling the rise in property value, according to chief appraiser Richard Mohundro.
The city of Forney led the boost, with a construction boom raising values 25.5 percent over last year.
A new power plant also attributed to the rise in values, Mohundro reported.
Though Forney had the largest percentage increase, it did not draw a high number of protests, he added, as the number of protests in Kaufman County remained about the same as last year.
Mabank also saw a double-digit increase in property values, up 11.2 percent compared to last year.
Henderson County Chief Appraiser Bill Jackson reported Mabank ISD values increased 10.45 percent over last year.
Overall, Henderson County property owners saw an 11 percent increase, with a total taxable value of nearly $4.5 billion.
“The market’s been real good, and all we do is follow the market result on property sales,” Jackson explained.
Among the four school districts, Eustace ISD had the largest increase, at slightly less than 13 percent.
Bucking the trend, the Trinidad ISD saw a market value decrease of about 22 percent.
“That was due to a decrease in oil and mineral production,” Jackson told The Monitor.
“If you were to include all the tax-exempt property – churches, schools, those with exemptions – the county is worth $5,752,497,480, he said.

Copper wire thefts on the rise
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Thefts of copper wire and other copper items used for building materials have contractors seeking to force stiffer requirements for those buying the stolen goods.
“Thieves took wire out of one of the homes I was working on three separate times,” a frustrated Wayne Tanksley, owner of Wayne Tanksley Electric, Inc., said.
Wire is being stolen from every place imaginable – from new homes, schools, building sites and even a parked truck.
Mitch Morgan, owner of Morgan Electric, said rolls of all sizes of copper wire, worth approximately $4,100, were taken from his pickup and driveway, “sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. July 4 or 5,” he said.
“Normally I back my truck into the drive, but this time I pulled forward,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he called the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and made a report, then he drove to several different scrap metal businesses around the area.
Morgan said he found some wire similar to what was stolen from him, and paid the dealer’s price for it, as he needed it for his work.
Both Morgan and Tanksley admit there’s no way to identify wire as being stolen.
Both businessmen believe it would be prudent for city councils and any other affected government entities to require scrap metal purchasers to require the sellers to show a plumber’s or electrician’s license, a driver’s license and to take a picture of the seller with a digital camera.
“No one should have that much wire to sell if they are not a licensed electrician or plumber,” Tanksley said.
“I know for a fact there is no reputable electrician on the lake who will sell that much (a car or truck load) to a scrap dealer,” Morgan said. “It’s worth more than that to them – they need it for their livelihood.”
Gun Barrel Police Department Investigator Judie Burley said copper thefts are happening on a regular basis now.
“It is pretty much a weekly occurrence,” she said. “They are mostly targeting new construction and weekend homes.”
Mabank Police Chief Alex Smith said his department had received only one report of a copper theft so far.
“We have been pretty lucky. We had a report of copper wiring cables taken from a man’s welding rig. It was approximately 200 feet, valued at $600,” Smith said.
Someone recently stripped the wiring from the back of the Beall’s store down to the China Cafe in the Gun Barrel Village shopping center.
“It had to be someone with electrical knowledge, because if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get killed,” Morgan explained.
An example of what can happen occurred in Wise County late on a Sunday evening, July 9.
While it was raining, a man in Aurora was believed to be attempting to steal wire from a transformer that carried more than 13,000 volts.
The man was electrocuted when he cut into the wiring.
More recently, the Dallas Independent School District is racing to get six or seven campus air conditioning units repaired in time for the start of school, because someone stripped the copper wiring from the units.
DISD says the units will cost between $3,000 to $3,500 each to repair.
The cost of the thefts is born by property owners, who sometimes cannot afford the replacement, Tanksley said.
Wire stolen from a building site, or a mobile home, will bring the perpetrator only between $300 to $500.
“But, it can cost the owners up to $1,500 to $2,000 to get it replaced,” Tanksley said.
Neighbors can help each other by being aware of slow-moving cars or trucks on their streets.
“They just drive by, scope a place out and come back later and take what they came after,” Tanksley said.

GBC hires experts; settles Seven Points suit
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Gun Barrel City is moving forward in its purpose to provide its own water and wastewater service.
The city council agreed to hire an engineer and a financial advisor to determine what it would take for the city to carry out its utility plans Tuesday.
Chris Lane, whose contract was turned down at the council’s last meeting, was unanimously selected to guide the city’s financial options in its quest to provide utility services.
“We needed you months ago,” councilwoman Patsy Black said of Lane in the last council meeting. “You‘re the only one who makes sense,” she added.
Black was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, but sent her sentiments in a written statement read by councilman Marty Goss.
Thornhoff Consulting Engineers was also tapped to work under the city manager to determine the physical requirements a water and wastewater utility, along with the associated costs.
Councilman Keith Crozier made the motions to contract with these two experts, and Goss seconded.
Following a 20-minute executive session, the council accepted a proposed settlement in a lawsuit between Seven Points and Gun Barrel City over the boundaries and jurisdictions of the bordering towns.
“Basically, they (Seven Points) settled for what we proposed two years ago,” Goss explained.
The city limits will stand at the present Seven Points city limits sign on the State Highway 334 causeway bridge between the two towns.
The action closes the last chapter in a dispute between the cities over possession of two islands, Pittman Island and the island formerly known as Chamber Isle, home to Tom Finley Park and its adjacent public boat ramp.
Pittman Island, once it can procure water and wastewater services, has been targeted for a major housing/marina/retail development.
In other business, the council:
• granted special use permits for the building and leasing of office warehouses in the Carlton Center, Phase III commercial development.
• heard a first and second reading of an amendment to the SO Sportsplex performance agreement with the city’s economic development corporation, and approved the amendment, which says should the firm fail and decide to sell off or lease any portion of its property, the EDC has the first right to purchase it.
• awarded a three-year contract to its present certified public accountant, Witherspoon, Yeldell & Wilson. It was the only bid received.
“After reviewing the statements prepared by them, I say its some of the best I’ve ever seen,” Crozier said.
• set a budget workshop for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, and a public hearing on the proposed 2006-07 fiscal year budget for Tuesday, Sept. 12.
• accepted the recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Commission of a replat of two adjoining lots in Harbor Point, and set a public hearing for Sept. 12 on the item.
The council also accepted the commission’s recommendation for a replat of a group of lots in the Mid-Cities properties, and set a public hearing on the replat for Tuesday, Aug. 22.

New well operates
Monitor Staff Reports
EUSTACE–The long-awaited new well is up and running.
It went into service Saturday, water/wastewater superintendent John Morris reported Monday.
“It pumped 87,000 gallons Saturday,” Morris told The Monitor.
Last week, the final test results were received, certifying the well as delivering drinkable water.
“This is great news for the city,” city secretary Dru Haynes said.
However, she cautioned that the city still remains under a Stage II (moderate) water conservation plan, and residents shouldn’t take this as license to depart from the alternating watering schedule.
“We appreciate the continued effort at water conservation,” she said. “Keep it up.”
The city council is due to meet this week, and will hear a full report on the city’s water department at that time.
The well is the result of a third attempt by the city to locate water this year.
It is located about two miles west of town on the north side of the expanding U.S. 175 corridor.
“Now, we have to work on filling up the new water tower,” Haynes commented.
The recently completed elevated storage tower holds 125,000 gallons.