Local News

Repairs, planning underway at White Bluff

The White Bluff Property Owners Association (POA) is moving forward with plans to refurbish the resort’s golf courses and other amenities, according to its board of directors.

The POA and White Bluff developer Double Diamond, Inc. reached an agreement in June to allow the property owners to acquire the amenities for $4.8 million after a legal dispute caused them to shut down in November 2017.

The POA Board of Directors exercised its option to extend the due diligence period by 30 days through September 3. Board President Leonard Critcher said that closing on the amenities acquisition can be expected within 10 days after the due diligence period is over.

The time is being spent verifying paperwork, deeds and agreements related to the assets. The major hurdle and primary reason for the extension is the surveying of all properties.

In order to expedite the process, as well as assure that each amenity is properly identified and included, the board has contracted for an aerial property map that will encompass the entire resort (approximately 3,500 acres) and will have the recorded legal description of each property overlaid on the map, according to Critcher.

“It is the objective of the board to begin refurbishing of amenities as soon as possible following closing,” Critcher said.

Refurbishing efforts on all property currently owned by the POA was set to be completed this week.

Under an interim operating agreement that allows the POA to maintain the golf courses, restoration of the courses has been ongoing through the summer.

“Under the supervision of Interim Course Superintendent Terry Ehrhardt, a carefully laid out plan is well underway,” Critcher said.

Courses have been mowed and cleared to the proper height, irrigation systems have been or are being repaired and watering of the Old Course is underway. Watering of the New Course is scheduled to begin this week.

The goal is to have the Old Course operational for play this fall, and play on the New Course will hopefully begin next spring, according to Critcher.

The first major refurbishing effort will be the Bluff Point Condos and the Log Cabins. Critcher said that the board feels that it is imperative for White Bluff to have lodging facilities available as soon as possible.

“The 28-room hotel will receive a major makeover, and plans are being made for that restoration,” he said.

Two ad hoc committees have been created by the POA to assist in the process after acquisition. They include the Business Development Advisory Committee and the Volunteers Committee.

The Business Development Advisory Committee has been charged with looking at each revenue-producing amenity and formulating ways to best utilize it, maximize its potential for all property owners and be fiscally responsible.

The business committee has been broken down into three subcommittees, which are initially addressing the Lighthouse Restaurant and Trophy Grill, the marina and marina store and the spa and fitness center.

“Findings and recommendations will be made to the board, and it is anticipated that these recommendations will be forthcoming as soon as closing has occurred,” Critcher wrote.

Around 50 property owners have joined the Volunteers Committee to volunteer their time to help however they can to bring White Bluff back, according to the president.

Efforts range from landscaping cleanup to cleaning properties to painting and other jobs requiring skilled labor.

“The volunteers will be ready to go as soon as closing occurs,” Critcher said. “The board is particularly gratified by the outpouring of property owners who want to be a part of the solution.”

The POA Board of Directors has made it a goal to create quality amenities that can be enjoyed by all property owners and their guests.

“It is also an objective of the board to create a closer partnership with the residents of the greater Whitney area and create opportunities for non-property owners who live close by to be able to enjoy the facilities like our dining venues, golf courses and expanded marina services,” Critcher said.

He added that there has been considerable cooperation between the POA and Double Diamond during the due diligence process, which has made it easier for the POA to formulate extensive plans that will be initiated as soon as the amenities are acquired.


Sentences handed down in 66th Judicial District Court

The office of District Attorney Mark Pratt prosecuted the following felony criminal cases in the 66th Judicial District Court of Hill County in July:

Beverly Sue Baker – possession of cocaine under one gram, eight months state jail

Joshua Andrew Welch – possession of methamphetamine under one gram in a drug-free zone, eight months state jail

Joshua David Wallace – sex offender’s duty to register life/annually, three years prison

Jessica Julissa Walker – driving while intoxicated/open alcohol container, third or more, 16 years prison

Robert Monroe Cress – possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams, 15 years prison

Wade Preston Garrett Jr. –  sexual assault of a child (four counts), aggravated sexual assault of a child (two counts), 25 years prison

Jennifer Ann Wagers – possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 13 months state jail

Casey Dewayne McAdams – theft of property under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions, seven months state jail

Christopher Lee McIntyre – tampering with a witness, five years prison

Emigdio Leon-Gonzalez – possession of methamphetamine under one gram, six months state jail

Shantazur Cortakeisha Gaines – unauthorized absence from community or correctional facility, 18 months state jail

Christian Scott Erwin – sexual assault of a child, 11 years prison

Misty Rae Adkins – endangering a child, 17 months state jail

Casey Ann Henderson – possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams, four years prison

Crystal Perez – possession of cocaine under one gram, 12 months state jail

District Judge Lee Harris presided over the court.


Seized cattle now available for adoption

Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) announced last week that it is ready to adopt more than 200 Longhorn and Longhorn cross cattle that were seized by the Hill County Sheriff’s Office in February.

HSNT was awarded custody of the cattle and is now accepting applications for adopting the animals.

HSNT has approximately 20 bulls, 13 steers, 63 heifers, 87 cows and 29 calves available for adoption.

The organization reported that the cattle appear to be predominantly Longhorn or Longhorn crosses but added that none of the cattle are registered and HSNT does not warrant that the cattle are a specific breed.

All adoptions will take place at HSNT’s ranch in Joshua, where approximately 50 cattle are currently available and can be viewed on the hsnt.org website.

HSNT intends to only adopt the cattle to individuals who agree to keep the animals for the remainder of their natural lives and not sell the cattle for slaughter.

All cattle have been vaccinated and dewormed.

Adoption fees for each animal are based on approximate “market” value to discourage adopters from selling any animal for profit or slaughter.

All adopters must complete a Longhorn/Longhorn Cross Adoption Application, which is available at hsnt.org. Completed Longhorn/Longhorn Cross Adoption Applications must be emailed to livestock@hsnt.org.

The animals were seized from a large ranch near Aquilla in February after the owner was accused of animal cruelty.

The Hill County Sheriff’s Office has issued warrants for the owner, but she has not been located.


Search team recovers body after drowning near dam

Search teams recovered the body of a drowning victim at Soldiers Bluff Park near the Whitney Dam just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, August 1.

Hillsboro Fire Rescue’s Special Operations Unit was called to the scene at 6:54 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, to assist Hill and Bosque county authorities after it was reported that a male had gone under the water and did not resurface.

The man was reportedly in a group of swimmers who began struggling in the waves caused by high winds, according to lake officials. Bystanders assisted the group, but the man was not able to be located.

The search resumed the next morning, and the victim’s body was found in approximately 40 feet of water, according to lake officials. The man’s identity has not been released to the public by authorities.

Hill and Bosque county sheriff’s deputies, park rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife search teams, Whitney Fire Rescue, West Shore Volunteer Fire Department, North Bosque EMS and emergency management  officials responded to the scene.

Corps of Engineers’ officials said that with the lake level dropping, lake visitors should note that cliffs are higher above the water and unseen dangers may lurk under the water.

The Corps encourages lake visitors to always wear a life jacket and take advantage of life jacket loaner stations at all Whitney parks.


Annual PGCD report presented to commissioners’ court

The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in a special session Tuesday, July 31, to observe and record the annual report from the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD). General Manager Jim Conkwright presented the district’s yearly update to commissioners.

Conkwright said that the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature saw the introduction of a substantial number of groundwater-related bills that demanded the time and resources of the district and time spent in Austin.

“When the dust settled, at the end of the session, our hard work paid off, maintaining the district’s ability to protect the private property rights of our landowners in their groundwater and to be able to give due consideration to their investment-backed expectations in groundwater,” Conkwright wrote to the court in his report.

“While our legislative efforts in 2017 were an unqualified success, the projections coming out of Austin for another busy groundwater session in 2019 have already begun,” he continued. “Our landowners can be assured that the district will continue to do its part to try to protect their interests at the statehouse to maintain local control and fend off legislative approaches to groundwater management that may make little or no sense in our area.”

Conkwright added that the district always welcomes and benefits from the assistance of local citizens in its efforts to stave off one-size-fits-all, unfunded state mandates.

He said that the board is working on development of its permanent rules and regulations, and numerous committee meetings have been held and stakeholders input has been received.

PGCD’s number of monitor and observation wells increased in 2017, Conkwright said, and the district’s public awareness program had its best year yet. Efforts included visits by the Water Education Trailer to area schools and other locations, where hundreds of people of all ages learned more about the district and the importance of water conservation.

Property was purchased at 208 Kimberly Drive in Cleburne for the district’s future office, and construction is scheduled to begin this year.

During 2017, the district’s board of directors adopted a two-acre minimum tract size requirement to drill a well. Conkwright said that this should ensure a longer, more trouble-free and productive life for the well and will help prevent heavy aquifer decline in a localized area.

In 2017, an additional 128 wells were registered with the district, bringing the total number of registered wells to 1,338. Eight of those wells were registered in Hill County last year.

The total number of registered wells in Hill County is 148, according to the district’s data.

Commissioners also renewed the county’s policy with the Texas Association of Counties for health insurance coverage.

The cost of insurance for county employees increased around $120,000 this year, with the health plan going up six and a half percent and dental benefits rising just over two percent. That amounts to around $49 per employee.

County Judge Justin Lewis said that he had worked with County Treasurer Rhonda Burkhart and an outside consultant regarding health insurance options, but the county has a good plan and the value would likely decrease with the other options considered.

Lewis will have to figure in the increase as he continues to work on the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The judge was expected to deliver the first draft of the budget to commissioners last week.

Commissioners are set to hold budget hearings this week to give department heads their annual opportunity to make requests before a final budget is approved in September.


Over 400 historic marriage licenses returned to families

Returning unclaimed original marriage licenses to family members is a joint project of the Hill County Historical Commission and the Hill County Genealogical Society.

There have been 452 unclaimed marriage licenses returned to families and relatives of brides and grooms who were married in Hill County from 1873 to 1950.

The index has over 8,000 original marriage licenses which were never claimed by the bride and groom. If you have ancestors who married in Hill County during that period, you may locate their names in the Unclaimed Marriage License Index of Hill County and request the original marriage license. The earliest license is dated 1873, and there are even a few in the 1950s.

The index for unclaimed marriage licenses can be searched in the Genealogical Section of the Hillsboro Public Library or in the Office of the Hill County Clerk. The Genealogical Section of Hubbard Museum has copies of indexes for part of the licenses.

If you find the license of your relatives listed, contact Mollie or Bill Stinson by: mail – P.O. Box 1134, Hillsboro, TX 76645; phone – 254-582-3242; or e-mail – CrescentJ2@hillsboro.net.

Please provide: the name of your ancestors, both bride and groom; the year the marriage took place; box number of the index where you found the marriage license; your name, address and telephone number with area code.

There is no charge to have an unclaimed marriage license returned to the family. This information may also be left at the circulation desk of the Hillsboro Public Library.

Volunteers will search the Unclaimed Marriage License Index for you if you live out of town. Send the name of the bride and groom and the approximate year they married, if you know it, to Mollie Stinson at the above address. Be sure to include your name, mailing address and phone number. Or you can call them at 254-582-3242.

Other Hill County Genealogical Society members contributing to this indexing project were Mildred Lee, Kathryn and Jim Atchison, the late Roy Bessire and the late Richard Greenhill.

 

A total loss offer was accepted on a 2003 Ford F350 pickup that was damaged in the July 3 fire at the Precinct 2 county barn.

The offer came to $6,420, which was calculated using the actual cash value of $8,920, minus the $1,000 deductible and $1,500 salvage value.

Commissioners also approved an agenda item designating the county auditor to complete Chapter 59 Asset Forfeiture Reports on behalf of the county.

                The reports must be submitted to the state annually regarding any assets from drug seizures.