Local News

Court makes ESD 2 board appointment, considers plan to update county facilities

The Hill County Commissioners’ Court appointed a commissioner to the Hill County Emergency Services District (ESD) 2 board and heard a presentation regarding upgrades to county facilities Tuesday morning, November 27.
The court voted to appoint Jimmy Lehmann to serve on the board, which oversees ambulance service in many portions of the county.
Lehmann, owner of Lehmann Real Estate and Insurance in Hillsboro, is from the Brandon area and will replace Chuck Jones, who recently resigned from the board.
Terms on the ESD 2 board are for two years, and there is one year remaining on the term. Lehmann will begin his duties with the ESD 2 board immediately.
Commissioners heard a presentation from Jim Swan, account executive with Johnson Controls, about ways to make county facilities more efficient with upgrades to HVAC units, lighting and other improvements to aging infrastructure.
Under a performance contracting plan, Swan said there is no risk to the county and upgrades can be done within the county’s current operational budget.
By upgrading to more efficient systems, utility and repair costs go down, and previously budgeted funds are used to pay for the debt service.
Swan said that by law, the company must work within the savings to perform the work, eliminating any risk to the county. If there are additional savings after the initial agreement, the company must write the county a check for the difference.
Johnson Controls would act as a single point of contact for the county, eliminating the need to work with a variety of architects, engineers and construction managers.
Swan said that the company has visited facilities including the courthouse, county jail, annexes, the former jail on Waco Street and the fairgrounds.
After the initial assessment, Swan said that some obvious areas that could be improved are windows, which could be outfitted with solar film to reduce the heat load and minimize ultraviolet rays in county buildings, newer HVAC equipment that will reduce costs and be monitored with new technology.
Updating lighting to LED systems that will eliminate the need for constant maintenance and cut down on costs is another area to be considered, he said, along with water conservation efforts to outfit facilities with low-flow devices.
The courthouse presents many opportunities for improvement and cost savings, Swan said. He added that currently, aging systems pose a risk for potential failure and major downtime. It is also getting harder to find parts when repairs are needed to current systems.
Any work would be done in compliance with requirements to protect the historic structure, Swan explained.
In addition to the aforementioned upgrades, a backup generator could be useful at the courthouse, Swan said. County Judge Justin Lewis said that when the courthouse loses power, he often has to shut operations down. “I don’t shut the courthouse down lightly,” he said.
In addition to electricity being needed to conduct business, power outages can cause issues with the septic system backing up into the basement.
Looking at the county’s utility expenditures, Swan said that current utility expenses for electricity, natural gas and water come to around $215,000. “We believe, conservatively at this preliminary level, that we can reduce that by 20 percent, or about $44,000,” he said.
The project would result in about $1.1 million in improvements to county facilities, according to preliminary numbers.
“That’s not money out of your pocket,” Swan said. “The savings gets shifted over to debt service, so your budget stays the same, but you get over a million dollars in improvements, and you get them done today.”
Lewis said that he believes the plan is a way to take care of a lot of the problems that need to be addressed with costly repairs or replacements coming up soon.
“We have a duty to run as efficiently as we can,” the judge said. “I like this idea a lot.”
No action was taken after the presentation, and the judge said that he wanted commissioners to do research and consider the idea before taking action at a future meeting.
Commissioners also voted to request proposals for expenditures from the county’s hotel occupancy tax funds, which are used to promote tourism locally. A request for proposals to maintain the county’s tourism website was also approved.
Proposals will be due in the county judge’s office by 3 p.m. Friday, December 21, to allow the court time to take action by the end of the year.
A bid received for a smooth drum roller for use in Precinct 4 was approved from Bane Equipment of Fort Worth at $78,675.
A financing agreement for $380,000 with Government Capital for the purchase of new trucks for Precinct 4 was approved. Three trucks are expected to be delivered in the next six weeks.
The meeting that would have fallen on Christmas day was canceled by commissioners, and any additional agenda items will be considered during the court’s meeting Monday, December 31.

Enhanced HCAD website offers information, payment options

The Hill County Appraisal District (HCAD) has announced enhancements to its website, according to Chief Appraiser Mike McKibben.
The website is intended to offer readily available information to the public.
“We strive to provide transparent and accountable information and public service, so if there is something not listed on our website people would like to see, please give us a call,” McKibben said.
Maps of Hill County are now located on the HCAD website at http://www.hillcad.org. To access the maps, simply click on the map tab in the top right corner of the home page.
Another feature allows taxpayers to pay taxes online with a smoother and more streamlined process than before. Taxpayers can select the ‘Pay Taxes Online’ tab on the middle left side of the home page and follow the prompts.
Fees associated with paying taxes online go to a third-party vendor and not to the appraisal district or taxing entity.
McKibben invited the public to contact the appraisal district office with any questions or suggestions on appraisal matters or the website at 254-582-2508 or by email at hcad@hillcad.org.

Whitney band earns straight 1 ratings at Cowboys Stadium
Congratulations to the Whitney High School Band for a stellar Fall Season of 2018.
The Wildcat Band earned its third straight superior rating at the UIL marching contest. Students worked hard from summer throughout the fall to perform their marching show entitled: “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,” with music by Aaron Hines and Josh Nowlin.
At the UIL Marching Band contest, three judges score bands with a rating of 1 through 5, with 1 being the highest rating of “superior” or “worthy of first place.” This year, the band achieved straight 1 ratings from all judges.
The band also performed at a new band competition in Madisonville called “US Bands.” The Whitney band’s director, Mr. Josh Nowlin, took the band to this contest hoping for a decent early season run of the show to get ready for UIL. Nowlin said that the band not only had a decent run, the judges loved the show.
A few of the US Bands judges’ comments were: “It’s unique, filled with exciting sounds!”; “attention getting during every second”; “visually very cool and well executed”; ”not many other bands are this prepared this early in the year.”
At the end of the day, Whitney had won first place in all captions, sweeping their class. Soon after, US Bands invited the Whitney Band to perform at their National Contest at Cowboys Stadium.
The event was a huge success with the Wildcat Band coming in fifth place of their class. Every band that scored higher at the nationals level was a larger band, and some were larger by hundreds of members.
The percussion section won first place in their class, better than other bands that have won the state marching contest in past years.
Though marching season is at an end, the Wildcat Band continues to perform at various events, including the 1A-4A ATSSB Region Band Tryouts, the 1A-3A Centex Honor Band Tryouts, UIL Solo & Ensemble and UIL Concert and Sightreading.
At home, the Whitney High School Band will perform their Christmas Concert Monday, December 10, at WHS at 6:30 p.m., the Jazz Band will perform Monday, December 17, at White Bluff Chapel at 6:30 p.m., and the Spring Band Concert is on Monday, May 6, at WHS at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome, and these concerts are free to attend.
On behalf of the band, Mr. Nowlin said that he would like to thank 4 Play Off Road, A&I Sprinklers, B&E Remodeling, Chris Auten Chiropractic, Citizens State Bank, First Security State Bank, First State Bank, Flores Barbecue, Jerry’s Auto, Keith Ace Hardware, Lake Whitney Dental, Martin Showers and Smith, Montes, Swirl My Way, White Bluff Chapel and Whitney Family Eyecare for their financial support of the band this season.
Directors for the band are Josh Nowlin, Sheri Hayes and Elizabeth Martinez.

DynaEnergetics has opened its new facility in Blum, expanding its manufacturing capabilities and increasing the production capacity of the DynaStage well perforating system.
New DynaEnergetics facility opens in Blum
DynaEnergetics, a business of DMC Global Inc., has officially opened its technologically advanced manufacturing, assembly and administrative facilities on its industrial campus in Blum.
The facility spans 74,000 square-feet and significantly expands the production capacity of the DynaStage™ well perforating system. The oil and gas industry’s only Factory-Assembled, Performance-Assured™ solution provides wireline companies and operators with a highly effective plug-and-go system that streamlines perforating operations, while alleviating labor costs, assembly time, maintenance and risk of misfire.
New production resources include six DynaStage assembly lines and multiple CNC turning centers for in-house manufacturing of tandem sub adaptors (TSAs), a key component in the DynaStage system.
In addition, DynaEnergetics is installing two new automated shaped-charge production lines that will more than triple the U.S. production capacity of the business’ advanced perforating charges.
DynaEnergetics also has added administrative and sales offices, employee and customer training facilities, an oversized gathering and dining space, commercial kitchen, employee locker rooms and a tornado shelter.
“Completion of these vertically-integrated manufacturing facilities will enable DynaEnergetics to more efficiently address growing customer demand for our factory-assembled perforating systems,” said Ian Grieves, president of DynaEnergetics.
“We have sold more than 500,000 DynaStage units since the system was introduced approximately two years ago to North America’s onshore unconventional oil and gas industry. The systems have led to a step-change improvement in the efficiency, reliability and safety of our customers’ well completion programs,” Grieves said.
The company’s founder, Alfred Nobel, invented dynamite in 1867. For nearly 150 years, the company has continued to innovate and expand worldwide with the goal of providing effective and creative solutions through close partnership with oilfield customers.
Today, DynaEnergetics continues to deliver the most advanced, compatibility- and safety-tested portfolio of comprehensive perforating and well completion systems worldwide.

$1.4 billion goes to Highway, Rainy Day funds
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced that he recently completed the transfer of $2.77 billion into the State Highway Fund (SHF) and the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”
Each fund received more than $1.38 billion, or 50 percent of the total transfer.
“Texas’ Rainy Day Fund is an important tool established to help our state weather difficult economic circumstances,” Hegar said.
He added, “This transfer pushes the balance in the fund to more than $12 billion. It is crucial that Texas use this amazing asset to maintain our strong fiscal position and our state’s AAA credit rating. That’s why I have asked the legislature to authorize me to invest a portion of the fund in a more prudent and responsible manner and use the returns to address the types of long-term liabilities that have crippled the finances of states such as Illinois and New Jersey. Significant portions of this money have not been keeping up with inflation, and we must not allow the power of this asset to erode over time.”
The transfer amounts are based on crude oil and natural gas production tax revenues in excess of 1987 collections. If either tax generates more revenue than the 1987 threshold, an amount equal to 75 percent of the excess is transferred.
In November 2014, voters approved a constitutional amendment allocating at least half of these severance taxes to the ESF, with the remainder going to the SHF for use on non-toll highway construction, maintenance and right-of-way acquisition.
“Legislators and voters have taken crucial steps to address the infrastructure challenges of our fast-growing state,” Hegar said. “The 50 percent split that flows into the State Highway Fund is critical to address the transportation needs of a dynamic and growing economy that serves a rapidly expanding population.”
According to the Texas Constitution, the ESF transfer must occur within 90 days after the end of the fiscal year. When fiscal 2018 ended on August 31, the ESF balance was $11.04 billion.
With this most recent transfer, the new balance is $12.48 billion, not accounting for currently outstanding spending authority. The balance in the ESF will decline as agencies spend down this remaining appropriation authority.