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GISD votes for tax hike

By Suzanne Bardwell

Between concerned African-American citizen education concerns and the passage of a higher than expected tax rate, Monday’s school board meeting was focused on the weighty issues of how to ensure academic and fiscal health for the district.

Twelve members of the Concerned Citizens Committee were in attendance with B.K. Johnson addressing issues of concern during the public forum portion of the meeting.

Johnson read from a prepared statement that was a “compilation of alleged infractions within our school system. Numerous complaints, assertions and statistical data brought to the committee through a series of open forum public meetings.”

The issues listed in the statement included limited numbers of minority instructors. According to Johnson, African-Americans make up 20 percent of the student body but only constitute 7.2 percent of the faculty. Other concerns noted included minority performance on standardized testing, limited numbers of minority students in advanced and dual credit classes, over population in remedial programs and the lack of “any active program that actively seeks recruitment of minority personnel for leadership positions.”

The statement concluded with a request for an open forum meeting with GISD Trustees and the superintendent at Garfield Hill Community Center.

Because of plummeting appraisal valuations, the almost certain passage of a statewide homestead exemption of $25,000 which will be on the November statewide ballot and the cost of bond construction in the face of lower revenues, the school board voted 6-0 to set the tax rate at $1.565 for 2016. David Floyd was absent from Monday’s meeting.

The Maintenance and Operation (M&O) is set at $1.17 and the Interest and Sinking which funds building and capital outlay expenditures was raised from 35 cents to 39.5 cents. According to Business Director Susie Stephens the budget concerns lay with making debt payment in the face of the falling appraisal valuations.

“We need to make this plain to the community,” trustee Garth Cockerell reiterated with Superintendent Dr. J.P. Richardson noting that the rate will fluctuate every year depending on valuation with the hopes that it will go down in the future.

In other business the board heard an extensive performance and achievement report from new Asst. Supt. of Curriculum Dr. Julie Davis which noted across the board success for the district including areas of minority achievement in standardized testing. 

The board approved checks to Apex, ESA and RLM for a combined construction project cost of $1,803,692.96. The board also approved a check to RLM for $636,181.54 for stadium and track improvements which includes expanded handicap parking, new home side seating and resurfacing of the track which will now allow track meets to be held at Gladewater.

The board approved the changing of the location and time of the Sept. 21 board meeting to 5 p.m. at Weldon Intermediate to tour the construction.

Resignations received included Chris Clifton and Sherry Davis. Approval of new hires included that of Sandi King new GHS Principal, Cory Kutin-HS, Patricio DeJesus-MS and Heather Rogers-Weldon Intermediate.




Citizens’ help needed for GFD tower


By Suzanne Bardwell

The Gladewater Fire Department training tower used to see a lot of use and not just from local firefighters but from volunteer and area departments as well. According to Fire Chief Wayne Smith city budget constraints and lack of maintenance on the tower led to its demise as a safe training structure. He and his men, with some help from the community hope to change that.

“To be prepared for the dangers that our firefighters face they need to hone their skills regularly,” Chief Smith said. “This fire tower is an essential tool in ensuring their preparedness and knowledge of what to do in specific situations.”

The tower is being worked on by Smith and his men. They have received a $700 grant from Lowe’s as seed money in the form of gift cards. One shift of firefighters has already put in 20 plus hot hours trying to get the tower prepped for further renovation.

Mark and Lola May who own The Screen Door antique store in downtown Gladewater are helping to organize a fundraiser for Saturday, Aug. 29 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Gladewater Fire Department at 511 S. Tyler St. The fundraiser will include hot dogs, bratwurst, boudin, baked beans, chips, cookies and drink for $5 a plate. There will also be a fireman’s boot on the table for donations. The Mays encourage the community to bring a lawn chair or grab the meal as take out to support the department in its efforts to repair the training facility.

“The tower would be a hands-on facility that would save money for the city in the long run because firefighters could train at home and not attend schools outside of the area,” Chief Smith said. “It would also save time and keep the firefighters close to the department.”

The Gladewater Fire Department often serves areas that are not supported by tax dollars because firefighters regularly make calls outside the city limits. In July seven of the 38 calls the department responded to were outside city limits with five in Smith county and eight in Upshur county. With the elevated heat and limited rain in August those calls are expected to increase.

The tower training facility would also be used by the Gladewater Police Department in their preparedness training.

The greater Gladewater community is served by a department whose budget limitations can be restrictive but whose job is essential to the protection of property and more importantly, lives. To support the renovation of the training tower either attend the event on Aug. 29 or drop off donations at the fire department to help them save the training tower. For material donation contact Chief Smith at 903-845-7836.


“We have a lot of young firefighters,” Chief Smith said. “The more training they get the better they will do their jobs and the more safely they will perform that job.”




GILMER--Upshur County Commissioners Court last Wednesday accepted a $129,900 bid from Gilmer-based Etex Telephone for a new phone system for county offices and maintenance on it

County offices have been plagued by telephone problems for some time, and the court chose to purchase a new system rather than having maintenance on the current one. Commissioners chose Etex's bid over that of another Gilmer firm, Telephone Specialists Inc., after hearing at least one representative of each business.

Under the deal, the court will pay for a dial tone and new system over 60 months. The new system is a "voice over internet protocol" with new switches and new wiring, County Judge Dean Fowler said after the meeting.

Court members said after the meeting that the court had received a bid of $1,570 monthly from TSI just for maintaining the old system. Although the monthly payment for the new setup and installation combined is $2,165, it amounts to only $1,465 because the county is eliminating an "overriding service" with Etex that currently costs $700 monthly, Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said afterward.

Fowler told this newspaper TSI also submitted a bid for a completely new system which was "perfectly good," but "not really comparable" to Etex's technology-wise. The judge said TSI's bid was submitted some time ago and that he did not recall the amount.

At Wednesday's meeting, County Librarian Cynthia King, District Clerk Karen Bunn and county Road Administrator Andy Jordan told the court about phone problems in their respective offices.

"We do have some days. . .(when) the phone doesn't work," King said, "but we're on a completely different system" from other county offices.

Bunn said the extension lights on her office phone did not work, meaning she has to get up and go see whose line is ringing. In addition, she said, her employees "can't transfer calls to me" and "I can't answer it from my office." 

Jordan, asked by the court about his service, said "Our office loses phones, mainly in bad weather. That's the one time we really need a telephone."

In other business Wednesday, the court made an exception to an aspect of the county health plan for two employees, which will allow the county to reimburse them for charges which were taken out of their paychecks by the third-party administrator, HealthFirst in Tyler.

In separate votes, the court exempted Deputy District Clerk Taylor Weeks and a jail employee, Glen Johnson, after they reportedly did not return phone calls related to a prescription drug program because they did not know what the calls concerned

The vote on reimbursing Johnson was conditional upon his complying with the program. Fowler said Weeks already has done so..

Fowler said Johnson, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting, thought the call was from a salesman. Weeks told the court she did too. Her boss, Bunn, said everyone in her office had received a call except Weeks, and Bunn asked the employee be reimbursed.

The court approved reimbursing Johnson and Weeks $60 each. Both had had $30 deducted from each of two paychecks. 

In other business Wednesday, the court:

--took no action on improving the 115th District Courtroom's sound system. "We're still waiting on some proposals," Fowler said.

--recorded County Auditor Brandy Lee's certification of receiving grant or aid money available for disbursement this fiscal year, but not included in the original budget. In the same vote, the court adopted a special budget for the funds.

Fowler said the funds involved such matters as education for offices of constables, the district attorney and sheriff, and Lee said Walmart had awarded a grant to Sheriff Anthony Betterton's office.

--recorded the replat of Barton Springs lots 70 and 74 in phase four of the subdivision.

--took no action on amending its minutes from Sept. 30, 2014 on accepting Grace Lane into the county road system. Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry said that matter "has worked itself out."




By James Draper

Round Two: The first stack of resumes didn’t turn up Gladewater’s new city manager, and council members officials are rebooting their summertime hunt for the fall.

In a special session last week, the elected officials went directly into a closed meeting and remained sequestered for about an hour as the apparent lone finalist – Gerry Boren, city manager of Gun Barrel City – waited in the council chambers at Gladewater City Hall.

Briefly speaking with Gladewater Police Department Capt. Michael Kirkwood, the council brought Boren into the closed meeting and sent him out minutes later Aug. 12.

“They said they want to look some more,” Boren reported with a shrug.

The council reconvened their public meeting at 6:55 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’ve interviewed two candidates,” council member J.D. Shipp said in a motion to continue the search, “however in the interests of the city we’ve decided to interview more candidates.”

It’s a good hunt, said Gladewater Mayor Harold Wells, with a healthy pool of applications in the initial run.

That said, “We’re still hunting for the right person. Now we’re going to run it again for another 30 days, see who’s still out there,” he explained. Meanwhile, after two key interviews in the first round, “We’ve still got all the old applications there in our files. We’re not going to dispose of any of those.”

Several of the initial candidates may have already been hired elsewhere, he said, but some may still be on the job market.

“See, we’re not in a big hurry to hire because we’ve still got Melba there. She’s sharp. She can run the city, but right now she does not want to be the city manager.” Gladewater City Manager Sean Pate announced his looming departure in late-May after he was hired for a similar post in Bonham, and council members voted 7-0 to formally accept his resignation June 1.

Following Pate’s final day July 2, longtime city secretary Melba Haralson accepted the duties of interim city manager – her third time holding the reins on a short-term basis at City Hall –  while Gladewater’s elected officials kicked off their search for Pate’s permanent successor. 

The city collected 31 resumes by mid-July, vetting resumes and launching the interview process in the open-ended hunt for a new chief executive.

Last week’s meeting doesn’t go all the way back to the drawing board; Haralson was ready to re-advertise the open post Aug. 13. If the group follows the same schedule as before, after re-advertising for the position for another 30 days the council will likely be vetting applications in mid- to late-September.

Haralson confirmed there’s no set date to have a new manager in office, but she allowed an October-hiring isn’t out of the question.


“The council felt it would be prudent and in the best interest of the city to seek more applicants and interviews,” she said Aug. 12. In the meantime, “I’m just willing to serve as interim until they find the right person.”


Rangerettes name 36 young women after week-long tryout

Surrounded by hopes, dreams and years of tradition, 36 young women became the newest members of the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes dance and drill team this morning.


The announcement, made in a closed ceremony in Dodson Auditorium on the Kilgore campus, culminates a week-long process of 96 hopefuls vying for a coveted position on the 76th Rangerette line.


The new Rangerettes will join 36 sophomores to make a line of 72.


The Rangerettes were the first of their kind when they began in 1940 as a vision of the late Gussie Nell Davis. 


The Rangerettes were the first of their kind when they began in 1940 as a vision of the late Gussie Nell Davis. The organization created a unique combination of dance moves and precision drills that quickly earned them the reputation not only as the originators of dance/drill teams, but as the best in the world.


Known for their high kicks and the jump splits, the organization has traveled around the world, entertained millions and spurred a multi-billion-dollar dance/drill team industry worldwide.


For more information, visit



The new freshman members of the 2015-16 Rangerettes, listed alphabetically:

Gabriela Azios – Cedar Park
Hannah Burns
 – Sachse

Madison Cashion – College Station

McKenna Cook – Haslet

Morgan Covin – Gilmer

Emma Cox – Rockwall

MacKenzie Cumpian – Beaumont

Kyla Drake – College Station

Allison Eigsti – Shawnee (Kan.)

Debra Elliott – Flower Mound

Autumn Fleet – Tyler

Taylor Gallaway – Sealy

Tea Jaime – Arlington

Keilin Jeter – Tyler

Lauren Kite – League City

Payton Kornegay – Deer Park

Lauren Ligon – Richardson

Caroline Lucke – Baytown

Cameron Maldonado – Austin

Monica McCarson – Fort Worth

Maddie Minser – Whitehouse

Skylar Morgan – Mount Pleasant

Elise Padilla – Austin

Holly Patterson – Longview

Abby Penprase – McKinney

Erin Phillips – Rowlett

Emily Posey – Rowlett

Shaena Rinehart – Nederland

Megan Roberts – Richardson

Annie Rojas – Garland

Ramsey Shobe – Pflugerville

Emma Soard – Belton

Barbara Vega – Katy

Emma Walls – Plano

Olivia Westmoreland – Georgetown

Juliana Yolland – Baytown


"Kill 'Em Varmints Hunting Tournament" set

GILMER--The Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce will hold its first "Kill 'Em Varmints Hunting Tournament," in which hunters will seek pests ranging from skunks to coyotes, Aug. 14-16.

Some 75 percent of the entry fees ($100 per two-member team) will be awarded as prizes. The number of prizes will depend on the number of teams entering.

Winning will be based on a point system of 35 points for bobcats, 20 for coyotes, 15 for skunks, 10 for armadillos and five for raccoons. The number of "varmints" a team can enter is unlimited.

Under contest rules, teams may hunt anywhere in Texas. All entrants must have a valid hunting license, each team is responsible for disposing of its kills, and no helpers nor dogs can be used.

Hunters can be on only one team and each team must designate a captain.

Entry fees must be received by 5 p.m. Aug. 14, when hunting opens at 5:30 p.m. Check-in time on Sunday, Aug. 16, is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Yamboree Exhibit Building at the Yamboree Grounds off U.S. 271.

Teams must be checked in before 1 p.m. to qualify for prize money. 

Entry fees can be brought to the chamber office at 106 Buffalo on the downtown square, or mailed to the organization at Post Office Box 854, Gilmer, Texas 75644.

For rules and entry forms, visit the chamber or its website at, or its Facebook group, Upshur County Goes Hog Wild. Information is also available by calling 903-843-2413 or 903-790-3159.

Jeff Dodd is chairman of the event.






GILMER--Andrew Conrad Norwine, the last of three co-defendants to plead guilty in the 2012 slaying of Ronnie Joe Gammage, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a judge June 16 after the charge against him was reduced from capital murder to murder.

Norwine, 23, of Arlington, will not be eligible for parole under current law for 30 years, and waived his right to appeal the sentence assessed by 115th District Judge Lauren Parish on a plea bargain. 

Norwine's co-defendants, Longview residents Daniel Paul Jones and Sarah Haslam, were sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty to capital murder. Jones was sentenced in October 2013, Haslam in February 2014, both by Parish.

Gammage, 27, of Longview, was abducted in that city Dec. 5, 2012 before his throat was cut and his corpse set afire, Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd has said. The remains of the victim, who suffered from disabilities, were found that Dec. 19 in a pasture on Martin Road in Diana before the suspects were arrested that month, according to Byrd.

Byrd, who represented the state at Tuesday's sentencing, told this newspaperthe charge against Norwine was reduced because it would have been "very difficult to prove" he had a role in the kidnapping, which would have been required for a capital murder conviction. (Unlike murder, capital murder is punishable only by lethal injection or life imprisonment without parole.)

However, Norwine was with the other defendants when they abducted Gammage at gunpoint from a Waffle House on Loop 281, did nothing to stop it, later physically assaulted the victim, and encouraged Jones to cut Gammage's throat with a multi-purpose tool which included a knife, Byrd said.

All three defendants were "highly" intoxicated on a variety of illegal drugs, and Jones and Haslam sold drugs, the district attorney added. He said Jones and Haslam, who had met Norwine for the first time only a few days earlier in Dallas, targeted Gammage because they thought he "befriended a person they believed was a snitch against them."

After the abduction, Gammage was driven to a location off Tryon Road in that city, where Jones and Haslam assaulted him, said Byrd. The group then went to Upshur County, where all three defendants assaulted the victim before Jones cut his throat, the prosecutor said.

The defendants then drove to the home of Jones' parents in Longview and obtained a 5-gallon jug of gasoline, which Jones and Haslam poured on the body, Byrd added.

Longview attorney John W. Moore, who along with fellow court-appointed Wood County/Dallas County attorney Doug Parks, represented Norwine, told this newspaper thatthe murder was the "result of a very unfortunate circumstance that shows what drugs can do to a good person."

At the sentencing, Byrd said Gammage's mother, sister and brother had approved the plea bargain. He also said Norwine was absent without leave from the United States Army in Fort Polk. La., when the slaying occurred, and had been dishonorably discharged.

An aggravated kidnapping charge against Norwine in Gregg County was taken into consideration at the sentencing, meaning that county will not pursue it.

The bespectacled, clean-shaven, short-haired Norwine showed no outward emotion during the proceedings, which concluded with a victim impact statement from Gammage's sister, Angela Dees. She told Norwine "you had the chance to walk away" from the other two defendants, who she said Norwine hardly knew, to get help for her brother, "but you chose not to."


She said she hoped someone would also decline to get Norwine help sometime and told him "I hope and pray you will never, ever, ever see the light of day again."