February 18, 2015 - Timpson Police officers have once again received a reprieve from their possible loss of employment as the Timpson City Council, for the third time, presented the adoption of an amended budget and reduction of police during their regular meeting.
A large attendance of citizens, business owners and legal advisers populated the meeting room of the Timpson Council during their meeting on Tuesday, February 18, 2015 with the municipality's peace officers wondering for the fate of their jobs. Three speakers addressed the council on behalf of the officers and the need of 24-hour law enforcement in the city.
Those who spoke include Tony Smith, local business owner; Vaughn Myers, resident; and Noel Johnson, Lead Field Representative for the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA). Smith issued a petition to the community in Timpson which garnered support by way of 114 signatures from citizens in support of the police officers (see related article). Myers warned that cutting down the police force would cause a rift in the department, make the officers that are not let go seek employment elsewhere, and officers who take their place would not be of the same ilk as officers currently on the force.
When Johnson addressed the council, he painted an ominous picture of what it would be like with a reduced police force and suggested the reduction was not entirely because of the budget.
"We are very concerned. The officers that work for this department want to be here, they want to serve the citizens of this community. The citizens of this community should be very concerned, because if you get rid of even one officer you will reduce your ability to have 24-hour coverage," said Johnson. "Shelby County [Sheriff's Office] on many nights just has one deputy on duty, a couple of their deputies have informed me it would easily be a 45 minute to one hour response time."
Johnson commented the TMPA had some of their staff review the city of Timpson budget and according to their review there is no reason to reduce the police force before the end of the budgetary year. There were other things which Johnson says piqued his interest as an 18-year investigator and he shared allegations about council members with the council.
"In July or August of 2014 Councilman [Ronnie] Wolfe approached Officers [Thomas] Jernigan and [Michael] Williams about hiring a Timothy Gibson, who owed Councilman Wolfe money for a bond he had paid on Mr. Gibson, to come to work for their side business which they have to have because they could make more money at other departments," said Johnson. "If it was insinuated or the idea that we're going to have a reduction in force came as a result of Officers Jernigan and Williams not hiring Mr. Gibson, that would be official oppression. We do plan to contact the Attorney General's Office and their office of public integrity and see if there are criminal charges that could be filed in that case."
Johnson stated undue liability would be brought on the city if the reduction were proven to be due to some kind of retaliation. In relation to this, he described an incident in which Councilman George Grace was issued a citation and a statement Grace made to a constable about his opinion of the police department.
"Councilman Grace on October 24, 2014 received a citation for parking in front of a fire hydrant. It's my understanding that Councilman Grace is a volunteer firefighter, so I would hope that would not be the case. After he contacted the [Justice of the Peace] on the citation he apparently told Constable Stanley Burgay, Precinct 5 Constable, that he supported the officers until he got the citation," said Johnson.
The council was presented with three budget options and over the course of three separate meetings failed to pass a motion to approve any of them. Instead, on more than one occasion including at this meeting Kyle Allen, Councilman, has made a motion to approve a budget that kept the five man police department; however, a second of his motion has not been heard at any time and the motion subsequently has failed.
Resulting from the council's failure to approve an amended budget which was presented the 2014-2015 budget was once again automatically adopted.
As the subject of the reduction in force of the Timpson Police Department was broached, Councilman Wolfe stated he obtained from Barbara Hunt a report of all of the expenses of the police department from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015. He then said he acquired a report of the revenue earned by the police department through the municipal court from Paula Mullins.
"When I subtracted those two figures we were $272,000 deficit in the police department. Now we've got when Mr. [Kent] Graham and [Mayor Debra Smith] brought to the council a four man department, we did it. I wish we had 10 policeman, all our guys do a great job. It's not about their job, it's not about having somebody to call, it's about money," said Councilman Wolfe. "We cannot continue to lose $240,000-plus a year, we can't continue to do that. If we've got $1 million, in about four years you're going to go broke."
Wolfe reiterated the issue is not about job performance, but is about money. He accused Mayor Smith of padding the budget and the exchange between Councilman Wolfe and Mayor Smith became somewhat heated, "You Mayor, back in November, you padded the budget with $175,000 sale of land out here that we did not have even an earnest money contract, we didn't really have a bonafide offer on it and you listed it as revenue to make the budget look better."
Mayor Smith disagreed with Councilman Wolfe and denied padding the budget, she explained how budgets by nature are plans and not guaranteed, "It's a plan, we had a plan to sell the land we spent money to sell the land, we paid for an appraisal to sell the land that came in at $100,000 and our council in their esteemed appraisal wisdom decided they didn't want anything less than $250,000. So we wasted $1,000 to get a certified appraisal for land. So, when you point your finger and tell me I padded something, no I didn't."
Councilman Wolfe referred to his time on the council beginning in 1980. He stated the city had just come off of being dead broke and there was a total of $22,000 in all accounts across the board. Wolfe then said that is where the city is heading again and he suggested a self-fulfilling prophecy scanario, "When Mr. Graham and you, Mayor, brought this five man department I told Mr. Graham and if he'd tell you, I told Mr. Graham, 'When this doesn't work, we're going to be back in here doing a [reduction in force].' It's in the minutes."
Kyle Allen, Councilman, cautioned against risking the safety of the citizens of Timpson and suggested the purpose of the funds in the bank is to put the money back into the community.
"What we're taking away is the insurance policy that all the citizens of this town has by reducing the force. I'll agree that it's an expense and that it's a large expense, but I don't feel that the safety of everyone in this community should be jeopardized on something that is not adversely affecting the budget in an overall manner. When we get to the end of the year and we've got more money in the account than when we got started, this isn't designed to make money. We shouldn't have more money each year in a city, we should put the money back out into the town to protect the citizens and to improve the city," said Allen. "Just because we've got a million bucks in the account that does not mean that we should try to have $1.2 million next year. This isn't a for profit business and if we came out with more money working with those officers this last year, I find it ludicrous to think that we need to get rid of them for any other fact than a budgetary reason which seems not to exist in my mind."
Wolfe referred one more time to the budget which contained $175,000 projected for the sale of .96 acres of land and stated that amount placed the city in deficit in November. Allen agreed with Smith's earlier statement that a budget is a plan and it can be reworked.
"When you look at last year working with these officers we came out with more money than what we started with, so I don't understand where the budgetary need comes from and that's just me personally," said Allen. "I understand down the road we might have a situation that arises where we have to get rid of officers, but I see in no manner, in no way that it is something that needs to be put on the table right now, and we've drug these guys along for three months talking about this and we have absolutely no reason to do it."
Allen and Wolfe continued to disagree on the police department having lost $240,000 because the budget covers all departments and needs of the city, not just one.
"Everything that happens in this office is an expense, every employee in this office is an expense that doesn't make us any money, so it runs as a whole, they're all parts of the same machine. So whenever we end up with more money at the end of the year than we started with, as a team we won, as a complete business entity we won," said Allen. "No matter if the police department's negative $240,000 or the electric company's negative $240,000, the one thing that I think that we're jeopardizing is the safety of the individuals that live in this town. I know for sure, we have a volunteer fire department, if my grandfather falls out with a heart attack a police officer's going to be there way faster than an ambulance, and that's just something that I don't want to jeopardize. Until we end up coming in here and we're looking on the bond market to buy municipal debt I don't think there's any reason to jeopardize what we have right now."
After Allen completed his statement it was met with resounding applause from the audience. Mayor Smith then shared with Wolfe a comparative report from January 2014 to January 2015 and across the board there were positive gains with such exceptions as the fire department purchased a vehicle, reflecting a decrease in funds. As another example, in the police account there was $13,785 in 2014 and in the police account currently there is $18,195.
"I just can't see how a lot of you people that's in this room are business people," said Wolfe.
No motion was ever made in reference to reduction in force of the police department.
Following the meeting Noel Johnson was available for comment on the outcome, "They're playing games with employees lives, so now the whole department will go for the next month, 'next month will I be out of the job?' and at some point there's got to be some accountability in local government. They need to be accountable to themselves and step up and make a decision," said Johnson. "I think the train is rolling and more and more people are noticing the inability of the majority of this council to make a decision. A couple of those council members will be up for election in May and I have a feeling the citizens of this community will un-elect them in May and get some skilled professional leadership in city council."
Police Activity Report for the month of January: 31 agency assists, 12 motorist assists, 4 escorts, 9 extra patrol requests, 3 calls for loose livestock, 4 animal complaints, 7 warrants served, 3 theft cases, 1 assault, 3 DWIs, 11 disturbances, 1 case of public intoxication, 3 calls for suspicious persons, 5 calls suspicious vehicle, 2 reckless driver calls, 1 resisting arrest, 1 disorderly conduct, 14 investigations, 1 case unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 1 possession of a controlled substance. Total calls for service 117 with 9 arrests Municipal Court Report: 51 citations issued, 57 violations, 1 citation to a minor, 0 citations to juveniles. Total accrued money reported was $18,294.69 for the police department and municipal court. The city's portion 55% estimate $10,062.08
Items on the agenda receiving approval include: Consent agenda items A. Minutes from the regular meeting of January 20, 2015 with amendment from Ronnie Wolfe clarifying he requested a special meeting regarding the reduction in force to be held at the earliest possible time. B. Financial statement for January. C. Accounts payable for February. Award bid to Barry Webb for $17,900 for trimming/cutting down trees in the electric right-of-way with completion date of May 15, 2015. Standard holdback procedure of 10% to be paid at 30 days following the completion of the job. Resolution 021715-1 for the CDBG Block Grant application to the Texas Department of Agriculture for the Community Development Fund; and authorizing the mayor to act as the city's executive officer and authorized representative in all matters pertaining to the city's participation in the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program for the 2015-2016 funding cycle. Order of notice, General Election to be held on May 9, 2015 to elect three City Council members. Interlocal agreement between Timpson ISD and the City of Timpson to hold a General Election May 9, 2015. Accept resignation of Barbara Hunt as of April 30, 2015. Advertise and take applications for the position of City Secretary. Applications must be turned in to the city hall by March 10, 2015. Advertisements to be published in The Light and Champion, Our Town Times, Shelby County Today the City of Timpson website and TML for City Secretary. Interviews to be held on March 17, 2015 at the next regular meeting. Authorize the mayor to hire an election judge and clerk subject to approval by the council for the upcoming General Election early voting period, April 27 through May 5, 2015 and the May 9, 2015 General Election. Adjournment.
February 18, 2015 - Law enforcement and emergency responders were dispatched to a log truck and car collision on U.S. Hwy 96 South near the intersection of CR 1015 Wednesday evening, February 18, 2015.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Jade LaVergne, a red 1984 Peterbilt truck tractor driven by Cody Bryan, age 28 of Center, was hauling an empty log trailer southbound on U.S. Hwy 96 and slowed to a stop to turn onto CR 1015 when a white 2006 Chrysler 300, also southbound, failed to control speed.
The driver of the Chrysler, Juan Diaz, Jr, age 19 of San Augustine, slammed on his brakes leaving marks on the roadway and attempted to avoid a collision by passing on the right; however, the car struck the rear right side of the trailer with its front driver's side. The Chrysler received major damage to its front and came to rest partially in the roadway. The log truck received only minor damage but remained where it was until after law enforcement arrived on scene and the driver then pulled it out of the roadway onto CR 1015.
The Shelby County Sheriff's Department was first on scene to evaluate the crash scene and requested the assistance of the Center Fire Department to assist with traffic control. ACE EMS responded to the crash but no one required transport. Diaz was cited for failure to control speed.
February 17, 2015 - The Timpson City Council met on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 once again to discuss a reduction in the Timpson Police force as well as adopting a new budget for the 2015-2016 year.
Following discussion by council members and public input the council, through no action, adopted the existing 2014-2015 budget and through no action did not reduce the police force at this time. Check back with Shelby County Today for the complete story.
February 16, 2015 - Serious injury resulted from a single-vehicle crash on Sunday, February 15, 2015 and several agencies worked together to help the driver involved in the wreck in Huxley.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, at 8pm Stephanie Guynes, 41, of Center was traveling southbound in a red Ford Taurus SE on FM 3172 one mile after the intersection with FM 139 when, for an unknown reason, the vehicle left the roadway.
The Taurus traveled across the northbound traffic lane and into the barrow ditch where it rolled and landed upright on its wheels. The Taurus then traveled across the roadway once again and through a fence into a pasture on the southbound side of the road.
For reasons not as yet known by Shelby County Today, and as evidenced by tracks from the vehicle, the Taurus took a route which traversed many areas of the pasture. Once the vehicle was in a low area of the field, it finally came to a halt when it became stuck in mud.
The Center Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of the crash to bring Jaws of Life to help extricate Guynes from the car. Center and Huxley Volunteer Firemen worked together to cut through the car and free Guynes.
Once clear access was gained to Guynes, the emergency personnel worked together to get her onto a stretcher and move Guynes 40 yards up a steep hill to a waiting ambulance.
Guynes was in serious condition and attempts were made by ACE EMS to transport her to the Center Municipal Airport for an ambulatory airplane; however, weather caused the plane to change course. Guynes was instead transported to Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital for treatment.
It was believed Guynes' husband, Tommy, had been in the vehicle just previous to the crash and as emergency personnel were working at removing the Taurus from the pasture, he was located on foot by a passerby on CR 3172 near the intersection with FM 139.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is handling the crash investigation. According to a family member, Guynes was released to her husband from Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital early on Monday morning, February 16. Shelby County Today is glad to report Guynes' injuries were not as serious as were originally indicated at the scene of the crash.
February 16, 2015 - A collision at the intersection of Loop 500 and State Highway 7 West caused traffic delays for many travelers as emergency personnel worked to investigate and clear the scene Sunday, February 15, 2015.
Officers with the Center Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff's Department and Center Firemen quickly responded to the two-vehicle crash.
According to Center Police Officer Bobby Walker, at 12:39pm Derek Michael Hughes, 22, of Center was exiting Loop 500 in a black 2014 Dodge pickup truck and was turning left onto State Highway 7 West.
Hughes failed to yield right of way to Dennis Eugene Esch, 64, of Nacogdoches who was traveling eastbound in a blue Ford four-door pickup truck and the Ford struck the left side of the Dodge. The Dodge was spun around and came to rest facing south in the middle of the westbound traffic lanes and the Ford came to rest facing northeast in the westbound traffic lanes.
Only minor injuries were reported as a result of those crash and both drivers declined transport from the scene by ACE EMS.
Hughes was issued a citation for failure to yield right of way.
February 13, 2015 - Savannah Talbert and Ty Fox competed in the U.I.L District 22-2A cross-examination debate contest February 7 hosted at Shelbyville High School.
Fox and Talbert placed first, and Savannah was the high point individual for the district. The two will be competing in Austin at the C.X. State Meet on March 16.
February 13, 2015 - The City of Center is excited to announce that it has joined the ranks of less than 100 proactive Texas cities in the Texas Comptroller’s Leadership Circle, a group of cities committed to financial transparency. “For me financial transparency means that we have nothing to hide,” explained Center Mayor David Chadwick. “We are honored to be included in such company as Dallas, Houston, Austin and to be one of the smaller Texas local governments to reach the highest level.” The transparency award ranges from Bronze to Platinum. For more information about the Leadership Circle, visit www.texastransparency.org
“City staff created a financial transparency webpage which has all sorts of information on the annual budgets, audits, contact information, check registers, charts and graphs. It truly is a one-stop shop for anyone wishing to learn more about how the City of Center operates.” Chadwick continued, “We hope that residents will visit the financial transparency page from our website www.centertexas.org”
“For the past few years, City staff has worked very hard to present more information to the Council and public in an understandable format, whether that be in the budget or website,” reported Center City Manager Chad Nehring. “This is the first step in being recognized in these efforts.”
February 12, 2015 - A man has been life-flighted following a single-vehicle crash on FM 415 near Timpson.
Texas Department of Public Safety State (DPS) Troopers and Shelby County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to the wreck scene located two miles from FM 138 on FM 415. Deputy Roy Bailey and Stanley Burgay, Constable Precinct 5, handled traffic control while DPS, and Timpson Volunteer Fire Department (TVFD) personnel assisted ACE EMS with the driver.
Once the driver was removed from the vehicle ACE EMS transported him from the crash scene to a nearby field for life-flight. The TVFD established a landing zone in the field where Life-Air Rescue then set down.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Anthony LaCount, at 3:15pm Herbert Hearnsberger, 92, of Livingston was traveling southbound at an unsafe speed in a 2001 Toyota Tacoma on FM 415 just before the Stockman Community when he lost control of the truck. The Toyota rolled multiple times in the northbound traffic lane before finally coming to rest in the southbound lane facing north.
Hearnsberger was life-flighted in stable condition to a hospital in Shreveport for treatment. The crash remains under investigation. DPS Troopers Dustin Ramos and Keith Jones assisted with the crash investigation.
February 11, 2015 - The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was dispatched to a single-vehicle rollover on County Road 4466 on near Tenaha Wednesday, February 11, 2015.
When DPS Troopers Anthony LaCount and Dustin Ramos arrived at the scene no one was present with the vehicle, which was on its side in a wooded area along the roadway. During the investigation of the crash, the driver and family members returned to the scene.
According to DPS Trooper Anthony LaCount, at 4:05pm Albert Louise, 18, of Joaquin was traveling westbound in a black Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck on County Road 4366 just before the intersection with County Road 4370 when a deer ran in front of the truck. Louise took evasive action and lost control of the truck which traveled off the roadway to the left and into the woods where it received major damage to the front end and rolled onto its left side where it came to rest.
No injuries were reported as a result of the crash and Louise was issued citations for unsafe speed and no driver's license.
February 11, 2015 - The council approved Resolution 2015-9 accepting the visual surface area report for the Center Municipal Airport and remediation response. Nehring addressed the council in reference to the resolution and a few months ago at the second meeting of October 2014 he presented the council with plans from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the airport.
"I brought to the council FAA's notice that they were expanding the visual surface runway approach for instrument landing requirements," said Nehring.
He presented the council with the report based on survey data which was conducted by on-site survey to document any obstacles and trees needing to be moved or removed for the required FAA changes, "Some are going to be relatively easy to remedy, I did not say inexpensive, but relatively easy. Others are off site."
Nehring doesn't expect much difficulty in reaching amicable agreements with property owners around the airport, " We will bring you some cost estimates for actual physical removal of some of these trees in the upcoming future based on your approval and acceptance of this report."
Mayor David Chadwick remarked on the construction which has been taking place on an airplane hangar being built by a construction company hired by Terry Bailey along State Highway 7 East. Chadwick asked Nehring if there will be the need for fencing to keep people off the runway and Nehring described the plans for a gate.
"We're working with the contractor and the owner or builder of the new hangar as much as possible, they're supposed to be making sure that fence and everything stays impassable," said Nehring. "There will be a new gate installed, that is probably the biggest concession that we ended up making. The hangar builder agreed to go ahead and build the already approved entrance off of Highway 7 that council approved 4-6 years ago."
According to Nehring the city will still have to work on gate operation, and he expects once the construction is complete on the new entrance and hangar, the value added to the airport is going to be substantial.
The council approved Resolution 2015-8 authorizing application for the Justice Assistance Grant of the U.S. Department of Justice by the Center Police Department. Chad Nehring, Center City Manager, explained to the council the reason for asking for permission from the council to submit the application. He also stated they are seeking clarification on some criteria they are meant to meet to receive the funding.
"Jim [Gibson] and, I think, Lt. [Jeremy] Bittick have worked to try to identify some funding sources for additional equipment, some that's nearing end of life, primarily our main server and some ancillary computer systems," said Nehring.
After the council addressed the regular agenda items several items of interest were reviewed. The Center Volunteer Fire Department has issued a letter to the City of Center as they are preparing to purchase new bunker gear out of the department's funds. The department will purchase six new sets of gear contingent on the city agreeing to purchase three sets of gear as well, totaling $5,289. The department has applied for an additional grant through the Texas Forestry Service and those grants will be determined in March.
The City of Center website is the recipient of a 2015 Platinum Leadership Circle Award. This was achieved by scoring 21 of 23 points on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts ratings criteria.
Items on the agenda receiving approval include: 1 Minutes of the regular meeting on January 26, 2015. 2 Resolution 2015-8 authorizing application for the Justice Assistance Grant of the U.S. Department of Justice. 3 Resolution 2015-9 accepting the visual surface area report for the Center Municipal Airport and remediation response. 4 Annual Racial Profiling Report from Center Police Department. 5 Zoning Board of Adjustment appointment of James Camp; Hotel Motel Advisory Committee appointment of Rose Spector. In addition other members accepting their appointments were approved.