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GILMER--Upshur County Commissioners Court last week approved requesting proposals for a phone system to be used by county jail inmates.

Sheriff Anthony Betterton told the court Oct. 14 meeting that his office will submit whichever vendor's proposal it recommends the court accept. He said his office was trying to ensure inmates and their families "get the best deal possible," and would recommend the vendor it believes "best represents the county." 

Whoever the inmate phones pays for the call, Betterton said Monday.

County Judge Dean Fowler had opened discussion of the issue by saying the county had not taken proposals for such a system in "quite a while," and that sheriff's Captain James Grunden and Chief Deputy Bobby Sanders wanted to.

Deadline for submitting the proposals to Sanders is 5 p.m. Nov. 13.

In other business last week, the court nominated three current members for reelection to the Upshur County Appraisal District Board of Directors. They are Huey Mitchell, Jim Ragland and Jared Maddox.

Governmental entities which levy taxes on property in the county (such as city councils, school boards and the court) will actually elect the board from the field of entities' nominees.

In other action, the court discontinued paying Able Term for computer software support after Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry said she thought the county was paying roughly $32,000 quarterly for "products we're not using."

The cutoff is effective by Dec. 31.

On Monday, Gentry explained the money will eventually be paid to another vendor for help on the county's new software, and that she hoped the amount will be slightly less.

Gentry added she hoped the county could save up to $32,000 for a quarter of the year by stopping funding to Able Term.

County Auditor Brandy Lee told the court she agreed the county did not need to keep paying that firm since "most of these calls (for support) are related to daily use. . .What we're talking about is support calls."   

The court also voted to table a proposal to add a $2 transaction fee to court costs for justices of the peace's I-Ticket transactions, and to contract with NetData for the I-Ticket program.

Fowler said the system moves tickets, written by state troopers, into a clerk's computer system. He said the county would pay the $2 transaction fee even on tickets which are dismissed, but Betterton said he believed a JP could charge the $2 transaction fee as part of a dismissal fee, and Lee agreed it could be collected if there is a dismissal fee.

However, Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka asked the matter be tabled because Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter, who put it on the agenda, was not present.

In other business last week, the court approved paying $935 for 10 new computer monitors for District Clerk Karen Bunn's office.

Fowler said the court had budgeted $2,000 for the purchase. However, Bunn received a quote for the $935.

She told the court the current monitors are "very old," and her chief deputy, Nicole Hernandez, added their age makes them incompatible with other equipment.

Also last week, the court:  

--approved the annual resolution to receive funding under the Indigent Defense Grant Program.

--approved a state-required non-financial contract and signature authority designation for child welfare services.  

--approved plats for the Saddlewood and Rolling Meadow Estates subdivisions.

--took no action on putting Eagle Ridge Road on the two-year waiting list for county maintenance. County Road Administrator Andy Jordan asked the court delay action so he could change specifications involving the road.  

--approved buying chairs at up to $200 per chair--one for the commissioners court's administrative assistant, Ruth Whiteside, and another for County Treasurer Brandy Vick's office. 

--approved moving the postage meter in the Upshur County Justice Center and assigning the vacant law library in that building to District Attorney Billy Byrd's office to accommodate new crime victims coordinator Yecenia Vargas.

--approved the Barbwire Halo Cowboy Church's request to use the courthouse lawn for an Oct. 20 gathering.





GILMER--The two announced Republican candidates for District 7 state representative, Jay Dean and David Watts Jr., both billed themselves as conservatives in a joint appearance last week before East Texans for Liberty.

They seek to succeed David Simpson, who is vacating the seat representing Upshur and Gregg Counties, to run for the Texas Senate. More than 50 persons heard them speak and answer questions at the Disabled American Veterans post Oct. 12.

Asked the main difference between them at the end of an hour-and-15-minute long joint presentation, Watts said he was the only one who had discussed "the need to aggressively restrain government." Dean, a past Longview mayor and onetime city councilman, noted that unlike Watts (who has never held elective office), "I have a record. I dealt with federal and state mandate(s) and we fought it back every time as mayor."

Another key difference which emerged between the two during the discussion was that Watts said he would not support reelecting Republican Joe Straus as speaker of the house, while Dean would not commit to that.  

Watts complained that Straus is a liberal  who appointed Democrats to 30 percent of committee chairmanships although the GOP holds 98 of the House's 150 seats. Dean said he would "vote for the most conservative speaker" who best represents the ideals of his district and that it is not yet known who all will run for the post.


Watts reiterated his campaign theme of "less government and more liberty" while Dean said "I'm going to rely heavily on the district to help me make the decisions.'




GILMER--A 115th District Court jury sentenced Robert Wayne Fry to 10 years in prison and fined him $6,000 last week after convicting him of burglary of habitation, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.

Fry, 34, of Gilmer, was convicted Oct. 19 of the Jan. 2 burglary of a home on Old Union Grove Road just down from Union Grove School, said Byrd, who prosecuted the case. Fry's attorney, Gilmer lawyer Matthew Patton, argued "the abandoned house was a building and not a habitation since no one was living there" at the time of the break-in, Byrd said in a news release.

"The homeowner (who was not identified in the press release) received a call that someone was breaking into her house. She, along with her son-in-law, went to the house armed. The defendant was found coming out of the rear of the home," and "the son-in-law made him drop the bolt cutters and pliers he had in his hand and (told him to) face the house with his legs crossed or he would be shot," Byrd said.

"The homeowner called 911 and Upshur County (sheriff's) deputies took the defendant into custody. Inside the home, copper and metal wires were found inside a backpack belonging to the defendant," Byrd added.

The 11-woman, one-man jury, selected Oct. 12, heard all evidence before noon Monday, Oct. 19, and took only about 45 minutes to convict Fry, said Byrd. After evidence showed the defendant had a prior felony conviction in Wood County in 2000 for possession of methamphetamine, jurors took about 30 minutes to determine the sentence, said Byrd.

Fry did not testify in the case in which 115th District Judge Lauren Parish presided, the prosecutor said.

Byrd said he was "thankful for the jury's verdict and sentence."





GILMER--A 46-year-old Lindale man was killed, and two men were injured, in a three-vehicle accident on U.S. 271 north of Gilmer Thursday afternoon, said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Jean Dark.

Donald Gene Scott was pronounced dead at the scene by Upshur County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter, said Dark.

Wayne John Glover, 47, of Roxton, and Todd Christopher Williams, 42, of Tyler, were taken to ETMC--Pittsburg in stable condition, she said.

Scott was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro auto while Glover was operating a 2013 Freightliner truck-tractor, towing a semi-trailer, and Williams was driving a 2012 Volvo truck-tractor, also towing a semi-trailer, Dark said.

Preliminary investigation showed the northbound Volvo had stopped for a stopped school bus, and the Camaro was stopped behind the Volvo, when the northbound Freightliner struck the back of the car before hitting the back of the Volvo's semi-trailer, said Dark.

Gilmer Independent School District Superintendent Rick Albritton said the stopped bus was from his district and that it was on the opposite side of the road with its flashers going when the crash happened. A child had been safely let out and the driver was raising the elevator of the southbound bus when the accident happened, Albritton said.

The crash occurred at 3:51 p.m. seven miles north of Gilmer, said Dark. All three drivers were wearing safety belts, she added.

Since the investigation report by DPS Trooper Bobby Dean is preliminary, any charges which may be pending in connection with the wreck would not be reflected in that document, Dark said.

Scott's body was taken to Croley Funeral Home in Gilmer.