Local News

Early voting to begin next week

After a heated primary election in March, a primary run-off in May and months of campaigning by candidates, voting in November’s general election will finally get underway next week. Voters can cast early ballots Monday, October 22, through Friday, November 2, ahead of the Tuesday, November 6, election date.
Early voting for Hill County residents will be in the basement of the Hill County Courthouse in Hillsboro from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays.
Bosque County residents can vote early during the same time period with some extended options available on evenings and weekends at either the Bosque County        Courthouse in Meridian or the Clifton Civic Center in Clifton.
Early voting at the Bosque County Courthouse will be offered from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday, October 22, through Friday, October 26; 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, October 27; Monday, October 29, through Thursday, November 1, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.; and Friday, November 2, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Bosque County early voters can also report to the Clifton Civic Center at the following times: Monday, October 22, through Friday, October 26, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Saturday, October 27, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.; or Monday, October 29, through Friday, November 2, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
In Hill County, there will be two local contested races with Democratic justice of the peace candidates challenging Republican incumbents. Brent Wickliffe will seek the office in Precinct 1 currently held by Martis Ward, and Archie Anderson will try for the Precinct 3 spot held by Brad Henley.
Cody Harris, who defeated Thomas McNutt in the May primary run-off election to secure his spot on November’s ballot, will face Democrat Wesley Ratcliff in the race for State Representative, District 8.
The United States Senator race that has received national attention in recent weeks will also be decided in November’s election as Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke face off on the ballot. Libertarian candidate Neal M. Dikeman is also in the race.
Congressman Roger Williams will be challenged by Democrat Julie Oliver in the race for United States Representative, District 25, along with Desarae Lindsey on the Libertarian ticket.
For Bosque County voters, District 58 State Representative DeWayne Burns will be uncontested on the ballot.
Bosque County voters have two races to decide at the county level, with Republican Luke Giesecke and Democrat John A. Hastings Jr. running for County Court-At-Law judge and the Precinct 2 commissioner race including Republican Terry Townley and Democrat Edward Villalovos.
Bosque County will also have special proposition to consider. Voters will be asked to decide on the creation of a Bosque County Hospital District with the levy of annual property taxes for hospital purposes at a rate not to exceed $0.25 cents on each $100 valuation of all taxable property in the district.
The City of Valley Mills will vote on the adoption of a local sales and use tax at a rate of 1.5 percent, which is an increase of 0.5 percent.
Other statewide races to be decided include: Governor – Greg Abbott (R), Lupe Valdez (D), Mark Jay Tippetts (L); Lieutenant Governor – Dan Patrick (R), Mike Collier (D) and Kerry Douglas McKennon (L); Attorney General – Ken Paxton (R), Justin Nelson (D) and Michael Ray Harris (L); Comptroller of Public Accounts – Glenn Hegar (R), Joi Chevalier (D), Ben Sanders (L); Commissioner of the General Land Office – George P. Bush (R), Miguel Suazo (D), Matt Pina (L); Commissioner of Agriculture – Sid Miller (R), Kim Olson (D), Richard Carpenter (L); Railroad Commissioner – Christi Craddick (R), Roman McAllen (D), Mike Wright (L); Justice, Supreme Court, Place 2 – Jimmy Blacklock (R), Steven Kirkland (D); Justice, Supreme Court, Place 4 – John Devine (R), R.K. Sandill (D); Justice, Supreme Court, Place 6 – Jeff Brown (R), Kathy Cheng (D); Presiding Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals – Sharon Keller (R), Maria T. (Terri) Jackson (D), William Bryan Strange (L); Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 7 – Barbara Parker Hervey (R), Ramona Franklin (D); Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 8 – Michelle Slaughter (R), Mark Ash (L).
Complete sample ballots can be viewed online by precinct at co.hill.tx.us or http://www.bosquecounty.us.
A full list of election day polling places at individual precincts in Hill and Bosque counties will be printed prior to the Tuesday, November 6, election.


Flooding, tornadoes cause damage throughout area
Local first responders who spent much of the summer battling fast-moving grass fires due to the drought spent last week rescuing flood victims as the area experienced a little too much of a good thing.
Last week began with heavy rainfall and flood rescues in Whitney and culminated in two confirmed tornadoes near Hillsboro Saturday. This week began with temperatures dropping drastically from the 80s Sunday to the 40s by Monday, October 15.
Tuesday morning, October 9, Whitney residents saw their rain gauges completely full and road closures began in the area.
Residents of the Creekside Apartments on Polk Street were evacuated by local first responders as rushing water crossed the roadway and the area flooded.
A tornado warning was issued that same morning as a thurnderstorm capable of producing a tornado was detected near Whitney, but there were no official reports of tornado sightings.
Whitney Independent School District enacted its tornado precautions on its campuses during the warning, and as roads closed, school was dismissed at 1:30 p.m. due to the flooding.
By the afternoon, roads had reopened and residents had returned to their homes.
Saturday, October 13, brought more flooding to the area and thunderstorms with heavy rotation were detected.
A tornado warning was issued for Hill County around 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, and two tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down just east of Hillsboro by the National Weather Service.
A strong F-1 tornado with 100 mile-per-hour winds caused extensive damage to a home near Hillsboro west of Interstate 35, but all members of the family were uninjured.
According to the National Weather Service, a small tornado with wind speeds of up to 80 miles per hour first touched down west of Interstate 35 at Johnson Lane south of Hillsboro. That tornado was reported to have damaged the roofs of several homes and knocked down trees in the area.
The second stronger tornado that destroyed the home formed just east of Interstate 35, blowing over transmission lines and picking up strength as it approached the top of a hill in the HCR 3124 area where the home that sustained the most damage was located.
A resident of that home was reported to have clung to his Harley Davidson in the garage as the tornado tore the garage off of the rest of the residence.
Hill County Judge Justin Lewis reported that the tornado traveled along HCR 3124, knocking down trees and power lines and damaging another home in the 500 block of HCR 3124.
The tornado did its final damage on FM 1243, taking the tops off of trees located approximately one and a half miles southwest of the Brandon Cemetery.
“We had one family lose their home today, but thankfully they all survived with no injuries,” Lewis said. “We had another family in that area sustain damage to their home and property as well. They are being assisted by Red Cross. Please keep these families in your prayers.”
By Saturday evening, roads were reported damaged all across the county, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Andrew Montgomery said that his precinct had seen over three inches of rain in an hour’s time.
Montgomery added that commissioners and their crews were working through the night to make sure roads were passable.
Lewis said, “I saw many of our volunteer fire departments out helping their neighbors as I drove across our county today. I am thankful for them and the service they provide our community.”
The judge asked anyone with flood, wind or tornado damage from the storms to report it to county officials.


Commissioners accept bid for construction of county barn
The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in regular session Tuesday, October 9, and accepted a bid for construction of a new county barn in Precinct 2.
In September, the court advertised for bids for the tear-down of the Aquilla barn that was damaged in a July fire and the construction of a new building.
The project includes a 70’x60’x16′ pre-engineered steel building.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Crumpton said that two bids were received, and both individuals were known to perform dependable work.
The higher bid came in at $80,000, and the court accepted the lower bid from Paul Baker at a cost of $60,595.
A donation from DynaEnergetics in the amount of $10,000 that will allow the county to chip seal a road serving the business was accepted by the court.
Commissioners approved an order observing October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Hill County Information Technology Director Sharon Camarillo said that this is the 15th annual observance, which is a collaboration between government and industry to protect against potential cybersecurity threats at the office and at home.
A number of free resources related to cybersecurity information and tools are available, Camarillo said, including the Stay Safe Online campaign at https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam.
In addition to the Stay Safe Online campaign, the Texas Association of Counties will be offering free training to county employees related to protecting data on the computer and phone.
The court voted to advertise for website maintenance services for the Hill County tourism website focusing on the Lake Whitney area.
Hill County Judge Justin Lewis said that although there were no issues with the current provider, it is good business practice to seek bids for services occasionally.
The court also discussed requesting proposals for hotel/motel tax expenditures, as the county does annually. The funding is used to promote tourism in the county.
Lewis said that he expects to bring the issue before the court soon to get the process started early this year.
The 2019 county holiday schedule was approved by the court. It remains unchanged from the 2018 schedule.
Commissioners also approved the creation of a new bank account to handle online credit card payments for 9-1-1 addressing and flood plain permitting.
Lewis said that he was expecting to call a special meeting to cover a couple of time-sensitive agenda items at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 16.


Grand Jury returns Oct. indictments
Hill County District Attorney Mark Pratt presented cases to a Hill County Grand Jury that convened Friday, October 5, and the following indictments were returned:
Kelly Rae Ahlfors, 39, of San Antonio, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Brad Lynn Craig, 56, of Robinson, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams
Daniel Montoya Escobedo, 56, of Waco, evading arrest detention with a vehicle
Azle Keith Fitch, 55, of Speegleville, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams
San Louis Zapata-Gonzaga, 53, of Waco, possession of child pornography (two counts)
Shadaysha Pauline Little, 26, of Hitchcock, engaging in organized criminal activity – theft between $2,500 and $30,000
Quantay Marquay Lucas, 24, of Hillsboro, forgery financial instrument
Louis Anthony Maxey, 29, homeless, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair
John Arnold Minter III, 20, of Hillsboro, possession of tetrahydrocannabinol under one gram
Jeremiah Emery Overturff, 36, of Whitney, driving while intoxicated third or more
Marjorie Suzanne Parham, 40, of Dallas, possession of cocaine under one gram
Sawan Keshav Patel, 34, of Robinson, unauthorized absence from correctional facility (two counts)
Jesus Sigilfredo Pineda, 20, of Hillsboro, evading arrest detention with a vehicle
Joseph Henry Regnier, 21, of Whitney, injury to a child
Robert Harold Richmond Jr., 27, of Morgan, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams
William Rittenbaugh, 47, of Mount Calm, misapplication of fiduciary property over $300,000
Macey Elizabeth Terrell, 19, of Whitney, forgery financial instrument between $750 and $2,500
Rhongena Whiteis, 35, of Hillsboro, theft of property under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions
District Judge Lee Harris presides over the 66th Judicial District Court.


Hill County Salvation Army undergoing changes
As the Hill County Salvation Army (HCSA) Board Members assume office, they want the community to know about the changes being undertaken to keep up with the needs of our community.
Board members for Hill County Salvation Army, under the direction of Bernard Tolan from headquarters in Dallas, currently are: Chris Bentley, Bob Crow, John Thiele, Michael Nemec, Carol Roberts, Sherrill Kidd, Janie Satterwhite, Elsie Burney, Sylvia Moore, Harry Seurkamp and Carol Westbrook.
Since 1865, the Salvation Army has been serving its mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs such as providing food, shelter and assisting in major and minor disasters throughout the world.
The Hill County unit is constantly being educated and trained to be of assistance where needed in the event of a disaster anywhere in Texas as well as where needed in other states.
All donations given in Hill County stay in Hill County to be used for those in need. The Hill County unit is constantly updating and adding new programs to better assist all residents of Hill County.
HCSA President Carol Westbrook commented, “I am so excited about the direction of the updated Hill County Army to break and change the cycle, in creating a stronger, larger and more productive Salvation Army.”
“All programs, especially new programs presented to the board for approval, will still be focused on God, His love for us, in serving others and assisting our community in being self-reliant,” she added.
Elsie Burney, committee chair of the Red Kettle Campaign, reminded the community that bell ringing is one of the area fund raisers that assists current services.
“Join the Salvation Army,” she said, “especially as we enter the season of giving back and sharing. Please make a generous donation when you see the Red Kettle.”
In addition to donations, bell ringers are needed. Bell ringing begins November 23, and will continue through New Year’s Eve.
Volunteers are also needed to assist with the new programs. Contact Carol Westbrook at cwestbrook145@windstream.net or call her at 254-707-1401 for more information.


Unmarked graves to be identified
The fall meeting of the Bethlehem Cemetery Association will be Saturday, October 20, at 10 a.m. The association’s goal for the next year is to identify unmarked graves and place small markers.
The association asks anyone who knows of an individual buried at Bethlehem Cemetery without a marker to help provide the location, name, date of birth and date of death.
Everyone is asked to come out and support the effort. The meeting will be at Bethlehem Cemetery, located on HCR 1245 in Whitney.
For more information or to provide information about a grave, contact Joy Golden at 469-261-6634.


Aquilla ISD implements “Build Your Own Teacher” program
In August, the Aquilla Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees unanimously approved its own district-wide “Build Your Own Teacher” program to help provide financial assistance to those paraprofessionals who are continuing their education to become teachers.
Superintendent Dr. David Edison said, “Paraprofessionals are the heartbeat of what we do every day; they help make this district function and tirelessly give of themselves. To me, this was the least we could do to say thank you, and to encourage them to continue their journey to become a teacher.”
Last spring, Aquilla ISD was denied the Grow Your Own grant provided by the Texas Education Agency. The Grow Your Own grant program was a competitive grant designed to facilitate increased entry of qualified, diverse candidates into the teaching profession, particularly in rural and small school settings.
The program also aimed to elevate the perception of the teaching profession through the development and facilitation of high-quality education and training courses at the high school level, and to address challenges Texas currently faces in terms of recruiting and retaining teacher candidates.
Superintendent Edison stated, “It was very disheartening to hear of bigger districts, even colleges, receiving this grant, yet the districts which I thought the grant was intended for were left out. Despite this setback, I knew we had to find a way to press forward to do what was right for our staff.”
That is when Dr. Edison and his administration created an extensive Aquilla ISD Build Your Own Teacher program that they would present to the board requesting permission to implement a program to assist paraprofessionals who are pursuing their teaching certifications.
Unanimous approval from the school board resulted in a program in which the district pays for up to $1,500 per semester for successful college courses completed by paraprofessionals in their teaching degree plan.
Board president David Snipes stated, “We are simply paving the way for our future teachers whom we hope have found a home here and who we hope know how much we value their service and dedication to this district. It’s a win-win for our district and the future students of this great community.”