- Category: News
- Published on Friday, 01 August 2014 18:17
- Written by Jim Bardwell
BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS
GILMER--Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler told the first of two public hearings on the county budget and tax rate Thursday that he is recommending an increase of up to approximately 5 cents in the ad valorem rate in order to establish reserve funds.
Fowler said the rate won't necessarily rise that much. But with legal requirements for giving early notice of a proposed tax hike, he said, his proposal allows the county commissioners court room for raising the rate by that level.
The court will not approve the budget and tax rate before holding its second public hearing Aug. 15 (and as detailed later in this article, the Gladewater branch of County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack's office may face closure in the new budget).
As for taxes, "I do believe we need a tax increase of some kind," Fowler said during the court's 4-hour, 10-minute meeting Thursday interrupted by only one 10-minute break. "We need to build significant reserves now."
"We can lower the tax rate later," the judge asserted. "If we have an emergency, we don't have any money to pay for it."
In a paid advertisement in Saturday's Gilmer Mirror, the county announced that the recommended tax rate was 57.66 cents per $100 valuation, about 5 cents above the current rate of 52.23 cents.
In an article published July 23, Fowler had said that since the county's taxable valuation did not change much from last year, he anticipated little if any impact on the tax rate, which he said could rise or fall less than one tenth of a cent.
But Fowler told this newspaper Thursday that he had been talking about the "effective tax rate"--the rate which would generate the same amount of revenue as last year--rather than the rate he would propose.
Fowler said he had thought the effective rate, calculated by County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, would.drop. After he talked to a newspaper for the July 23 article, he said, he learned it increased slightly.
As for the tax rate and reserve funds, Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said at Thursday's meeting the county needed about 3 1/2 to 4 months of operating funds in reserves. Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry added that Fowler's proposed tax rate would be the same the county had in 1998.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner meantime pointed out, "We have cut our expenses by $2 million in the last 4 years."
The final part of Thursday's meeting, which continued uninterrupted for nearly 3 hours, began with the public hearing before the court and some county officials discussed Fowler's proposed 2014-15 budget. Near the meeting's end, Fowler said commissioners had added about $280,000 to his original proposed budget, not including possible pay raises, and he told this newspaper the total proposed budget is now about $11.5 million.
The court is considering the first pay raise for most county workers in about eight years. Fowler said he liked Gentry's proposal to raise most workers' annual pay by $150 for each year they have been with the county, up to a maximum of $1,200 for eight years.
But court members disagreed on whether to raise the salaries of Road and Bridge Department workers who, unlike most county employees, received a raise last year.
Without formally voting, three of the court's five members--Gentry, Fowler, and Berka--said they opposed another raise for those employees, while Pct. 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer and Hefner favored it.
During the public hearing, Upshur County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Miles Jr. told the court it needed to do something for the county workers.
"In county government, there is no such thing as performance raises," Fowler said at one point. "It is against the law."
Gentry meantime ran into opposition when she asked the court to raise commissioners' salaries by $2,442 annually so they would equal the salaries of justices of the peace.
Responded Hefner, "I'm not for that. I don't think we work as much as the JPs." Spencer said he could not think about both increasing taxes "and giving myself a raise."
When Fowler asked the court if it would consider giving Gentry alone a pay raise, Berka objected that would set a "terrible precedent."
Gentry replied it had been a "terrible precedent" that the court had reduced commissioners' annual salaries by about $10,000 between the time she won election to her post in July 2012 and the time she took office the following January. She had unsuccessfully sought a pay raise for herself in her first year in office.
The court also discussed individual department budgets with some elected officials and department representatives. Laminack revealed that "I am thinking about shutting (down) the Gladewater office," which is open two days weekly.
She said one of her employees had resigned, and "we're in a bind sometimes." When Berka asked if she could retain the Gladewater office if the court allowed her a chief deputy, she said yes, and some court members seemed favorable to the idea.
Laminack said she also wanted to raise one of her workers' salary.
Before that, 115th District Judge Lauren Parish had a long discussion with the court concerning her contingency budget.
District Clerk Carolyn Parrott, who leaves office at year's end, requested a raise for her workers. The court meantime informally approved lowering the salary for the clerk in Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Laura Lee Norred's office.
Gentry proposed considering eliminating one of the two clerk positions in Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter's office, pointing out he is the only justice of the peace with more than one clerk. Berka added that Potter's office generated less money than Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch's office, and that the Pct. 3 office does its own collections, while Potter's does not.
Fowler suggested lowering the budget for Potter's office to the highest-paid clerk's salary.
Concerning another issue, Fowler told Jill McCauley, who oversees the county jail for the sheriff's office, that the court had had "some concerns" that although the jail population was "quite a bit lower. . .our food costs are almost the same or more."
When she was questioned about it, McCauley said she was present to listen, "not to answer a bunch of questions." But she eventually said she thought the problem stemmed from grocery prices having risen.
When County Auditor Brandy Lee said the jail would probably exceed its food budget this fiscal year, Spencer asked her, "Where are they gonna get the money from (to cover it)?"
Replied Lee, "That's a good question."
Other than Miles and a reporter, only two citizens spoke at the public hearing. David Nix said he opposed any budget cuts for law enforcement, while Ron Cook said it was "necessary to raise the tax rate" to move "forward."
- Category: News
- Published on Friday, 01 August 2014 18:16
- Written by Jim Bardwell
BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS
GILMER--115th District Judge Lauren Parish sentenced 24 persons on felony charges and three for misdemeanor crimes between June 30 and Thursday, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd's office.
Details of the sentencings were as follows, the office reported:
Andrew Lowell Crane, 32, of Houston, received concurrent prison terms of 30 years for aggravated kidnapping and 20 years for abandoning or endangering child after pleading guilty to the crimes July 21.
Gilmer police investigated the Nov. 21, 2012 offenses, which involved a vehicle being stolen at a convenience store across from Bruce Junior High School and the child inside the vehicle later being found unharmed by a roadside. Crane had been released from a mental hospital "a few hours prior to this," said Byrd.
Crane must serve at least half the 30-year term before being eligible for parole, the district attorney added.
Byrd represented the state at sentencing and Longview attorney Edward Choy represented Crane.
William Dale Pullen, 36, of Gladewater, was placed on five years regular probation of a 10-year prison term Thursday upon admitting he had violated a previous "deferred adjudication" probation for the crime of attempted burglary of a habitation.
Under "deferred adjudication," no final conviction appears on a defendant's record if he/she successfully completes probation. The change in probation means Pullen is now a convicted felon.
The Upshur County Sheriff's Office investigated his May 4, 2009 offense. Under his new probation, Pullen must perform 600 hours of community service and make $300 restitution.
Pullen did not commit a new offense, but violated his initial probation in such ways as failing to report to his probation officer, Byrd said.
Byrd represented the state at sentencing. Gilmer attorney Tim Cone represented Pullen.
Brandon Ray Miller, 32, of Big Sandy, was placed on eight years probation of a 10-year prison term July 29 upon pleading guilty to assault against public servant.
The sheriff's office investigated the March 16 offense. Some terms of probation include a $2,000 fine, 600 hours of community service, and receiving instruction in anger management.
Assistant District Attorney Natalie A. Miller represented the state at sentencing. Gladewater attorney Barry Wallace represented Brandon Miller.
Carl Douglas Parsons, 48, of Big Sandy, was placed on five years deferred adjudication probation Thursday upon pleading guilty to deadly conduct.
The sheriff's office investigated the Sept. 14, 2013 offense. Some terms of probation include a $2,500 fine and 400 hours of community service.
Byrd represented the state. Gilmer attorney Dwight Brannon represented Parsons.
Joseph Gene Nehk, 53, of Hawkins, received 10 years probation of a 10-year prison term July 24 upon pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated--subsequent offense.
The Texas Department of Public Safety investigated the Nov. 23, 2013 crime. Some terms of probation include a $2,500 fine, 500 hours of community service, and attending a "DWI repeat offender school."
Assistant District Attorney A. Camille Henson represented the state at sentencing. Attorney Craig Bass represented Nehk.
Celina Kaye Knight McClain, 26, of Gilmer, drew 14 months in state jail for evading arrest/detention with vehicle when her probation for that offense was revoked June 30.
McClain admitted violating terms of probation for the Dec. 1, 2009 offense, which Big Sandy police investigated. Miller represented the state in the revocation while Choy represented McClain.
Christopher Lee Evans, a Gilmerite who turned 18 on July 9, drew 20 years in prison July 2 when he unsuccessfully contested revocation of his probation on a charge of burglary of a habitation.
Evans denied the state's allegation he violated terms of probation for the March 11 offense, which Gilmer police probed. Byrd represented the state in the revocation; Brannon represented Evans.
Karri L. Tyler, 31, of Gilmer, drew concurrent sentences of 5 years probation of a 2-year state jail term July 8 upon pleading guilty to two counts of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.
Gilmer police investigated the Jan. 30 crimes. Some terms of Tyler's probation include a $2,500 fine and 400 hours of community service.
Henson represented the state at sentencing. Attorney Clifford Jessup represented Tyler.
Wesley Lowell Dubose, 22, of Gilmer, drew 18 months in state jail July 21 for possession of a controlled substance--less than one gram of methamphetamine--when his probation on that charge was revoked.
Dubose admitted violating terms of probation for the May 30, 2011 offense, which Gilmer police investigated. Miller represented the state, while Longview attorney Scott Novy represented Dubose.
Steven Chaz Spivey, 25, of Gilmer, drew seven years in prison July 23 upon pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child.
The sheriff's office investigated the July 1, 2011 offense. Miller represented the state; attorney Heath Hyde represented Spivey.
Tyler Shane Davy, 18, of Gilmer, received concurrent prison terms of 10 years for attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child, and four years for assault against public servant upon pleading guilty to both crimes July 23.
Big Sandy police investigated the Sept. 25, 2013 attempted sexual assault, while Gilmer police probed the Aug. 13, 2013 assault on the public servant. Byrd and Brannon handled the sentencing.
Leann Waunell Ball, 23, of Winnie, was placed on three years "deferred adjudication" probation July 24 upon pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
The Texas Department of Public Safety probed the Feb. 27 crime. Some terms of probation include a $1,200 fine and 400 hours of community service. Henson and Bass handled the case.
Wallace Dewayne Payne, 54, of Diana, drew concurrent 6-month state jail terms July 25 upon pleading guilty to attempted assault against public servant and theft of firearm.
The sheriff's office investigated the April 2 attempted assault and March 10 theft. Henson represented the state; Gilmer attorney Matthew Patton represented Payne.
Dayon Deshean Thomas, 40, of Gilmer, received nine months in state jail July 25 upon pleading guilty to delivery of a controlled substance--less than one gram of methylenedloxy methamphetamine.
Gilmer police investigated the Feb. 22, 2011 offense. Byrd represented the state, while Longview attorney Steve Kattner represented Thomas.
Larry Rocky Martin, also known as Larry Rock Duncan, 55, of Kilgore, drew three years in prison July 29 upon pleading guilty to unlawful possession of firearm by felon.
The sheriff's office investigated the Dec. 15, 2010 crime. Byrd and Jessup handled the sentencing.
Jeannie R. Creswell, a Gilmerite who turns 18 Tuesday, was placed on three years deferred adjudication probation July 28 upon pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
Gilmer police investigated the June 4 crime. Some terms of probation include 300 hours of community service and receiving weekly counseling.
Byrd represented the state; Longview attorney John Moore represented Creswell.
Stephen S. Sumner, 34, of Blue Ridge, drew four years in prison Tuesday upon pleading guilty to "theft of property of the value of $1,500 or more but less than $20,000--repeat offender."
Gilmer police probed the July 29, 2013 crime, which occurred exactly one year before the date of sentencing. Miller and Jessup handled the case.
Christopher Wade Marshburn, 32, of Avinger, drew 6 months in state jail July 29 upon pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
The Texas Department of Public Safety investigated the April 6 offense. Byrd and Jessup handled the sentencing.
Aureliano Perez Aguilar, 32, of Mineola, received 10 years probation of a 10-year prison term July 29 upon pleading guilty to enticing a child.
Some terms of his probation included a $2,500 fine, 400 hours of community service, and attending sex offender classes, although he was not required to register as a sex offender.
The sheriff's office investigated the Nov. 14, 2011 crime. Byrd and Jessup handled the sentencing.
Paul Everett Sebastian McTyre, 20, of Longview, was placed on four years probation of a 10-year prison term July 29 upon pleading guilty to assault/family violence--occlusion.
Ore City police investigated the Jan. 23 crime. Some terms of probation include a $1,000 fine, 400 hours of community service, a $100 donation to the Women's Center of East Texas, and $175 restitution to the victim.
Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Ojeman represented the state. Novy represented McTyre.
Lindsay Morgan Richardson, 24, of Ore City, was placed on five years deferred adjudication probation July 29 upon pleading guilty to burglary of a habitation.
The sheriff's office probed her Nov. 9, 2013 offense. Some terms of probation include a $2,000 fine, 800 hours of community service, and $571.68 restitution to the victim.
Miller and Novy handled the case.
Amanda Michelle Gore, 32, of Gilmer, drew six months in state jail last Wednesday upon pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
Gilmer police probed the May 22 crime. Byrd represented the state; Gilmer attorney Brandon Winn represented Gore.
Randy Lynn Jones, Jr., 38, of Jefferson, was placed on three years deferred adjudication probation Thursday upon pleading guilty to possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
The sheriff's office investigated the March 15 crime. Some terms of probation include a $1,000 fine and 400 hours of community service.
Byrd and Novy handled the case.
Jacob Andrew Wade, 24, of Gilmer, drew concurrent sentences Thursday of eight years in prison for "prohibited substances and items in correctional facility," and one year in state jail for possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
His probation on the first charge was revoked after he admitted violating terms of probation. Meantime, he pled guilty to the methamphetamine offense.
The sheriff's office investigated the April 9, 2013 offense involving the correctional facility, while Gilmer police probed the April 26, 2014 drug offense. Byrd and Patton handled the sentencing.
Details of the misdemeanor cases were as follows, Byrd's office reported:
A 30-year-old Gilmer woman was placed on 18 months "deferred adjudication" probation July 23 upon pleading guilty to attempted possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
In a case probed by Gladewater police, a 35-year-old Gilmer man received 18 months probation of a 1-year county jail term Thursday after pleading guilty to assault--family violence.
A 37-year-old Gilmer man drew 240 days in county jail last Wednesday upon pleading guilty to assault causes bodily injury--family violence.
- Category: News
- Published on Monday, 21 July 2014 22:13
- Written by Jim Bardwell
- Category: News
- Published on Thursday, 17 July 2014 20:39
- Written by Jim Bardwell
Chris Bland was selected from a field of eight to fill the Place 4 seat previously held by Gladewater City Councilman Delbert Burlison.
The Gladewater City Council deliberated for about one hour in executive session Thursday night before announcing their choice.
Councilman J.D. Shipp and Mayor Harold Wells thanked all who submitted letters of interest for the unexpired term. The council reviewed letters from Memori Ruesing, Mark Carpenter, Dr. Dennis Robertson, Paul Hall, Winn King and Brent Bailey, as well as Bland's letter.
Bland said he knew he had big shoes to fill, following Councilman Burlison, who passed away in May. Bland was instrumental in getting the $35 million Gladewater ISD bond passed. He is employed at Good Shepherd Administrative Services Organization, where he has been the Safety Manager since 2001.
Read more about the council's selection and the audience's reaction in next week's Gladewater Mirror.
- Category: News
- Published on Saturday, 31 May 2014 22:35
- Written by Jim Bardwell
A 46-year-old Gladewater man was killed when the flatbed wrecker truck he was working on rolled off ramps and crushed him early Saturday, said Upshur County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter.
Titus Tyrone Prince was installing a muffler on his three-ton rollover wrecker when the accident occurred outside a large metal shop in the 1800 block of Cannon Street, according to information from Potter and Gladewater Police Chief Robert Vine. Emergency medical services personnel pronounced Prince dead at 3:30 a.m., said Potter, who said he also pronounced the victim dead shortly afterward.
The shop's owner tried unsuccessfully to pull Prince from underneath the wrecker before the victim died, said Potter. Jacks were used to extract the body, the judge said.
Police responded to the scene about 3 a.m. after receiving a report of someone being pinned beneath a vehicle, Vine said in a press release. Upon arriving, officers saw the victim pinned under the front suspension area of the wrecker, Vine said.
"When officers were able to reach Prince, he was unresponsive. EMS responded to the scene and could not locate a pulse when a heart monitor was placed on Prince," the chief said.
John Black Jr. of Gladewater told officers Prince had been working on the victim's vehicle when it rolled over him, pinning him underneath, said Vine.
"Black stated Prince had parked the truck on some homemade vehicle ramps at a shop on the property. Prince had been working on his vehicle replacing the exhaust system," the chief said.
Potter said he did not order an autopsy. Prince's body was taken to McCauley and Sons Funeral Home in Gladewater.