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December 28, 2012

County’s biggest stories for 2012

Tumultuous year comes to quiet close

Athens — After a sometimes tumultuous 12 months, 2012 came to a quiet close in Henderson County.

In January, the Commissioners Court voted to fund the new Southside Fire Department. The new firefighting entity was formed to serve the area that was once protected by the Shady Oaks Fire Department, which became insolvent in November, 2010.

Also in January, confusion reigned, as Republican and Democratic Party officials watched the Federal courts as they considered redistricting litigation. On Jan. 18, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a 3-judge panel in San Antonio to look at disputed maps.

In February, Commissioners heard from County Election Administrator Denise Hernandez concerning an upcoming election to close the open range in the county. The law, that had been in effect for more than a century, did not require landowners to fence-in livestock. In November, the county voters opted to end the open-range era.

The controversy over the Nativity scene on the County Courthouse lawn grew as it was reported nationwide in December. In March, the county took a look at its property-use policy to remove any doubt as to who was in control over how the county properties are used. Ultimately, the manger scene returned to the courthouse lawn in December, but County Judge Richard Sanders denied a request from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to place a sign among the Christmas decorations.

Election Day finally came May 29. Incumbent State Rep. Lance Gooden defeated Athens doctor Stuart Spitzer in the Republican Primary. A crowded race for County Commissioner Precinct 1 set up a Republican runoff between Scotty Thomas and Ken Hayes for a spot on the November ballot.

In June, County Judge Richard Sanders began work on the 2013 budget. Early indications were that revenues would fall below the amount needed to run the county in the coming year without making cuts. More bad news came in July, when Auditor Ann Marie Lee told the court that tax collections are coming at about 93 percent, slower than the projected rate of 94.45 percent.

The primary election season finally ended on July 31, with runoffs in several races. Scotty Thomas won the Republican runoff in the Precinct 1 Commissioners race, while incumbent David Grubbs overcame a stiff challenge for Precinct 3 Constable.

August brought dry weather and a burn ban for the county. Fire Marshal Darrell Furrh announced Aug. 7 that 90 percent of the county was extremely dry.

On Sept. 18, after several weeks of trimming, Commissioners approved a budget for 2013. After hearing from citizens who’d come to object to cuts, which included eliminating some positions, the document passed. The final result was a budget about 5-percent lower than one passed in 2011.

In October, Commissioners approved a resolution supporting legislation that allows the county to intervene on behalf of its rural water-rate payers, who complained of being gouged by large water companies. Customers of Monarch Water Company and Agua Texas attended the meeting in protest of 67-percent rate increases.

Also in October, the county was shocked by the death of Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Henry Ashford. Interviews for the open position began in November, and resulted in the choice of Athens Mayor Randy Daniel as Ashford’s replacement.

November brought the General Election. Henderson County went against the grain and voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, who was, indeed, elected to another four years in office. Among the county winners were Sheriff Ray Nutt, County Tax Assessor/Collector Milburn Chaney and Republican Precinct 1 Commissioner Candidate Scotty Thomas.

On Dec. 18, Commissioners met for the last time in 2012. Judge Richard Sanders thanked outgoing Commissioner Joe Hall for his 12 years on the court, and 16 years in total service to the county.

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  • • DSC_0162.JPG Ramps for handicapped

    Encino Landscaping is doing a necessary job for the Texas Department of Transportation Tyler District. All four corners of the block upon which the Henderson County Courthouse rests are being converted to better serve handicapped pedestrians.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Appearance and operation of Splash Pad upgraded

    The Splash Pad at Athens Kiwanis Park has been closed this week, as work is being done that will upgrade the appearance of the surroundings and operation of the facility.
    The pad is now well into its first full summer of operation, and has proven to be a popular spot for youngsters in the city.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif GBC official asked to resign

    Gun Barrel City resident Carroll Strickland asked Councilman Marty Goss “to do the right thing and resign.”
    Strickland spoke to the GBC council during the citizen's comment portion of the Tuesday evening’s council meeting. Strickland  accused Goss of trying to take over the GBC Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
    In a prepared statement, Strickland said,  “Marty is doing harm to the city's reputation. I am asking the mayor and the city council to do something about the situation.”

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Nutt says being part of task force has really paid off

    Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt reports that being a part of the Drug Enforcement Task Force in Tyler has paid off in a big way with the arrest of two major drug distributors.
    On May 13, following an investigation initiated in January by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office investigators, Uleyses Roberts, 45, and Dijon Howard, 25, were arrested by a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The men were charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Unemployment jumps up in HC

    The Henderson County unemployment rate jumped up in July, according to figures from the Texas Workforce Commission.
    The Henderson County unemployment rate of 5.7 percent was an increase of .4 percent over June. The county saw both an increase in the size of the workforce and the number without jobs.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-24 gbc.jpeg Gift card to Chili’s

    Ralph Fortner, Chairman of the Gun Barrel City Chapter of the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, presents Jamie Snuffer a gift card to Chili's Restaurant in Gun Barrel City. Fortner was thanking Snuffer for her volunteer efforts on behalf of the GBC Chamber Chapter during the recent July Fest held in GBC. Snuffer is the secretary for the CCLACC Ambassadors.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-23 Coaches at Kiwanis.jpg Coaches speak to Kiwanis Club

    Trinity Valley Community College Volleyball Coach Tosha Spain and Softball Coach Ashley Johnston were guest speakers at the Athens Kiwanis Club on Tuesday. The volleyball season begins in August, and the softball team starts its 30-game fall schedule in September.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-23 Victoria.jpg Emotional response given to Victoria's death

    The tragic news of 4-year-old Victoria Wyatt’s violent death set off an emotional response on Monday, with words of consolation for the child’s family and anger at the girl’s mother who admitted to taking her life. But mostly sorrow at the loss of one so young.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif AISD readies for annual backpack distribution

    Athens Independent School District and the Help Center are teaming up once again to provide backpacks and supplies to students in need.
    The annual Back-to-School Bash is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Athens High School gym during the family fun day.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-23 Open house grace house.jpg Open house at Grace House transition location

    Grace House of Cedar Creek Lake, a faith-based transitional home for women, held an open house on Monday evening. The facility for women is 6,000 square feet on 13 acres in Tool.
    Grace House includes a kitchen and a classroom equipped with computers for training and practice, as well as dorm-type rooms for the residents.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo