Sunday, August 6, 2006

Schools get TEA report cards
Kemp ISD promoted to Recognized
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Kemp Independent School District has moved up from Academically Acceptable to a Recognized district.
“We are very excited. We are celebrating. Everyone is very pleased,” KISD superintendent Dr. Peter Running said.
The primary and intermediate campuses are Recognized, while the junior high and high school campuses are both Academically Acceptable.
“But, we had enough improvement that it kicked us over into the Recognized category,” Running explained.
“This is absolute proof we have some good things going on in the district,” he added. “We are proud of our teachers, and we are going to use this as a stepping stone.”
The Texas Education Agency released the accountability ratings for school districts across the state with the good news that more than 1,000 districts statewide improved their standing.
No lake area district fell within the state’s Unacceptable range. Slightly more than 5 percent of districts were rated Unacceptable.
Eustace ISD kept its Recognized rating.
Three campuses – primary, intermediate and middle school – were recognized.
The high school campus was rated Academically Acceptable.
“We are extremely proud of our students and staff for continuing our tradition of academic excellence at Eustace ISD,” assistant superintendent Janice Beasley said.
“We have maintained our Recognized rating for 10 years, and we look forward to becoming Exemplary in the near future,” she added.
Mabank ISD retained its Recognized standing.
Four MISD campuses retained their Recognized rating – high school, middle school, Central and Southside elementary schools.
Lakeview Elementary was named Exemplary.
“We are all extremely proud of our students. The bar was raised, and our students met the challenge,” curriculum director Dena Mojica said.
“MISD teachers and principals worked as a team to develop and deliver a well thoughtout curriculum,” she added. “Our principals are to be commended for their instructional leadership.”
Malakoff ISD received an Academically Acceptable rating.
Malakoff Elementary School received the Recognized rating, while middle school, high school and Gateway were named Academically Acceptable.
Scurry-Rosser ISD earned an Academic Acceptable rating.
The middle school and elementary schools were Recognized campuses.
The high school received an Academically Acceptable rating.
Trinidad ISD also was named Academically Acceptable. The district has one campus.

ECC okays consultant attorney
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District board of directors authorized the District’s attorney, Stark & Groom, to hire Mark Zeppa, a public utility legal expert, to assist it as legal counsel in matters beyond its legal expertise in a 5-1 vote.
Ken Landers cast the dissenting vote during a special meeting Wednesday, where all seven board members were present.
“It sounds like a blank check to me,” Landers commented during the discussion about controlling legal costs.
“It’s our practice to talk to our client before spending large sums of our client’s money,” Mike Groom said.
“We don’t know how far Gun Barrel City is going to go, but hopefully, there won’t be any expense at all,” board president David Burch said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to show that we’ll be the best water and wastewater service provider.”
In related action, the board unanimously authorized the district’s legal counsel to appropriately respond to any actions taken by Gun Barrel City, if it moves to take over any part of the district.
“When we get the first volley, we have to be prepared to react to whatever Gun Barrel City may do,” Burch said. “We’ve got to be able to respond appropriately.”
Groom reassured the board that any major moves would be done with client involvement.
“The client is always the boss. We’re the agent of the district,” Groom said. “Before any major action is taken, it is discussed with the client, whatever legal remedy or option we may advise could be taken.”
“Would there be any matters that Gun Barrel City would bring that would need to be acted on before a special meeting could be called?” Carol Meyer asked.
“No,” Groom answered.
“Would you counsel this board to cease talking to Gun Barrel City about these matters?” Landers asked.
“We would be limited on who we were to speak to,” Groom said. “But, you should be able to keep lines of communication open.”
“I’m going to hold you to that,” Landers said. “I don’t feel litigation is necessary in this matter.”
“We do not have the authority to act without the approval of this board,” Groom said.
The board unanimously realized one agenda item was premature and removed it. “For once, I agree with you,” Landers said to Jim Boyles, marking the momentous occasion.
The board agreed the ad hoc impact fee committee would meet with the general manager to develop a proposal for the equitable application of a fee schedule for big developments, bring its proposal to the full board for discussion, and then offer the solution to attorneys for review and judgment on how it works or doesn’t work with current district policies.
“We probably need an engineer involved. The general manager needs to do that to get it started,” Boyles said.
In the matter of some of the allegations brought up at the last meeting by director Karen Jentzen, the district’s financial auditor, Kerry Johnson, was present to answer questions and enter the discussion.
Some general accounting methods and procedures were briefly explained.
Landers introduced an audiotape of a discussion he felt the auditor should hear between himself and former office manager Debbie Schwanbeck.
Groom said he and the board should hear it first, to protect client-attorney privilege, before deciding to have the auditor hear it.
Johnson assured the board that the financials have followed very conservative practices, choosing expensing for purchases, over-capitalizing it and filing depreciation.
Other allegations were too vague to investigate, he said.
“We need to know specifics to look into any alleged mishandling,” Johnson said. Saying if he could hear from the source what the issues were, that perhaps he could help interpret what the source may be referring to.
“One way or another, this needs to be cleared up,” he said.
When the meeting reopened after an executive session with the attorney, the board took no action.

GBC council takes no action after closed-door discussion
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council spent four minutes of a two-hour, 10-minute meeting in public, and took no major action Tuesday.
Meeting in a special session, the wording of the council’s agenda raised questions about the job security of city manager Corrin McGrath, as well as the city’s actions relating to the long-proposed – but now apparently dismissed – takeover of the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District.
Over the past three months, the city had taken a number of steps to form its own water and wastewater department, with the stated aim of eventually taking over the ECCFWSD.
That proposal drew fire from both of the other cities included in the sprawling water district, Enchanted Oaks and Payne Springs, as each city council voted unanimously to go on record as opposing the proposed takeover.
In its last meeting July 25, the council chose not to take actions relating to establishing a water/wastewater department, indicating the takeover proposal did not have the support of a majority of council members.
Item 1 of Tuesday’s meeting called for an executive session “to discuss the duties and performance of the City Manager.”
Item 2 was to “receive legal advice concerning the legal issues involved with various options regarding the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District and the District’s service area.”
After a motion from councilwoman Kathy Cochran to have Item 2 discussed in open session was defeated, the council spent the next two hours behind closed doors.
When the meeting resumed at 9:08 p.m., Mayor Paul Eaton said, “We’ve come to an understanding on Item 1, and there will be no action at this time on Item 2.”
With no comments forthcoming from the council, Eaton declared the meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

Plans to rebuild form
Mabank EDC approves funds to assist burned out firms
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Just 48 hours after the fire that destroyed four building on historic Market Street, the Mabank Economic Development Corporation agreed to disperse $4,000 from the Emergency Economic Recovery Fund it established on Tuesday.
Angie (formerly, Johnson) Mellorn, owner of Angie’s Southern Salon – one of the businesses burned to the ground in Monday’s fire – is accepting the EDC’s offer to replace tools of her trade.
By Wednesday, she had moved operations to The Finish Line Salon on Mason Street, a short distance from the Mabank High School.
At the EDC’s regular meeting Tuesday, it unanimously approved the creation of an Emergency Economic Recovery Fund of $20,000 to assist the businesses affected by the fire.
“What we want to do is get them back in business in Mabank,” EDC member Judy Junell said.
An advisory board made up of Mayor Larry Teague, J.K. Hyde and Andrea Pickens will oversee the fund as an ad hoc committee.
The committee can disburse funds up to $10,000. Amounts more than that have to be brought to the entire EDC board for approval.
“This is the very roots of economic development,” EDC executive director Scott Confer told The Monitor. “When we have a tragedy like this, we ought to do something to get them back on their feet or help them recover.”
“The economic impact to the city, on a large scale will be minimal,” Teague noted, as only one destroyed business was collecting sales tax.
“But, to the business owner, the impact is total. We recognize that,” he added.
3 For 2 Cleaners operator Tommy Poland said he can’t wait for a rebuild, and is scouting out a new location, so he won’t be returning to Market Street. However, he is still in business at an Athens location (see sidebar).
Don McAfee and sister Diane Mixon plan to rebuild their insurance office in the same location, as does Mellorn. Joe Gregory, the cleaner’s landlord – where the fire started – is still weighing his options, it was reported.
“We have a front seat for the parade, why would we move?” McAfee told The Monitor. “You don’t want to see a big, gaping hole there. I’ve lived here all my life.”
Mellorn expressed similar sentiments.
“My family’s been here forever. Being a part of downtown is very important to me,” she said.
“My shop was 24 feet by 70 feet with 15-foot or higher ceilings,” Mellorn described. “I had just finished restoring and repainting the punched-tin ceiling tiles, and had a lot of antiques.”
She had been remodeling her shop since 2000 to complement the age of the building. To date, Mellorn estimates she’d spent about $30,000 on the restoration and remodeling work.
“We (a stylist and her) were just putting on the final bit of paint and hanging new cabinet doors, when the fire broke out about 3:15 p.m. It was beautiful,” she said. “I was tore apart watching it go.”
Her friend and Finish Line owner Shannon Creagh made room for her and her seven stylists to temporarily set up shop with her. Clients can still reach her at her original phone number, (903) 887-8013.
“She’s (Creagh) been just wonderful,” Mellorn added. “I definitely will rebuild in the old style.”
Putting a price on the loss is almost impossible at this point, except to describe it as “total,” McAfee said, whose company also is the insurer for the buildings.
“Let’s put it this way,” Mike “Hutch” Hutchison, who works for McAfee, said. “If the value of the building on Monday morning was $50,000, it will probably take $80,000 to rebuild, and if it remains as they are (burned out hulks), they’re probably worth only $10,000.”
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, and weren’t issuing any preliminary reports Thursday. However, one investigator said so far there were no “red flags” that would deny a potential insurance claim.