Local News

COVID-19 Closings, Schedule Changes and Updates
School Announcements
Whitney ISD and other schools are suspending normal district operations until at least Friday, April 3, to support the nation’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Districts are planning to provide meals and continuous learning opportunities and will be contacting families with information.
As this is a quickly-changing situation, districts say that they will continue to monitor information and assess conditions throughout the suspension. Updates will be provided as needed.
Church Announcements
– Cedar Creek Baptist Church of Whitney has suspended church activities until further notice. Sunday service will be livestreamed on the church Facebook page. The church phone and answering machine will be monitored throughout the day Sunday-Friday.
– Fort Graham Baptist Church will remain closed until April 5.
– Our Savior Lutheran Church in Whitney has canceled Sunday services and Wednesday Lenten service.
– Bethel Bible Church’s 40th anniversary scheduled for March 29 will be postponed until further notice. For more information, call 254-580-8491.
– First Baptist Church of Whitney has suspended all activities until further notice. The office will be open only on Mondays from 8:15 a.m. until 1:15 p.m.
– Open Range Cowboy Church in Whitney will be livestreaming services on Facebook.
– Whitney First Church of the Nazarene has suspended services in its building but will have a live feed available.
– King Memorial United Methodist Church, Blum United Methodist Church, King Memorial Thrift Store, Lake Whitney Senior Center and Grandparents Story Time will be closed until further notice. Worship services will be broadcast on the King Memorial United Methodist Church Facebook page.
– Whitney Fellowship is offering a live Facebook feed of services.
Store Announcements
Walmart stores will be open 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. until further notice. This will help ensure associates can clean and stock products.
Brookshire’s has announced that it is dedicating its first hour after opening to senior citizens, allowing them to shop first. Brookshire’s has also shortened its hours again to allow employees to restock and clean. Hours were 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at press time.
Other Announcements
– Note that the City of Whitney office is closed to the public, but business is still being conducted as usual. You may contact the city by phone at 254-694-2261, use the drop-box or online options for payments. The city is also accepting payments by phone during this time to assist the community.
– Lake Whitney Senior Center has announced that if seniors need errands or grocery shopping, volunteers can be reached by phone or email. Seniors who would like to call and chat or talk to Pastor Brad are also invited to do so. Call 254-332-0041 or email lake whitneyseniorcenter@gmail.com.
– Lake Whitney Public Library is offering only curbside services now. Patrons can call the library at 254-694-4639 to order materials and they will be delivered to vehicles. Online services are also still available.
– Lake Whitney State Park has announced that the park headquarters has closed. Group facilities are also closed, but the park is open and visitors may use the self-pay station.
– U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District announced campground reservation cancellations in response to the coronavirus. Refunds will be provided through Recreation One-Stop (1-877-444-6777 or recreation.gov). Reservations after May 15 will be reevaluated at a future date.
– The Whitney High School 2020 senior class is still planning, as of now, to hold a luau on May 3 and baccalaureate on May 17. Please send 3-5 pictures of your senior to an dersda5394@gmail.com.
– Whitney Youth Association follows the Whitney ISD schedule as to when practices will start. As of right now, practices will be canceled through April 3. If the school extends the closure, WYA will follow their decision.
– The 66th Judicial District Court and County Court-At-Law are open by appointment only and are only holding court for essential cases.
– The Hill County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace office will be closed to the public until further notice. Reach them by phone at 254-694-3140 or P.O. Box 1853 in Whitney.
– The Hill County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace office is closed to public traffic, but can be reached by phone, and most business can also be handled online.
– The Hill County Veterans Service Office is open by appointment only.
– The Hill County Sheriff’s Office is complying with the state mandate to allow no jail visitors at this time.
– The Hill County Appraisal District will be temporarily closed to the public through April 3. The staff is still working, and the public is encouraged to communicate through email or telephone if you need assistance during this time. Maps and other useful information are available on the website http://www.hillcad.org.
– The Hill County District Clerk’s office is closed to the public, but business is still being conducted by phone and via the district clerk’s website. For more information, call 254-582-4042.
– Hill County Clerk Nicole Tanner has announced that the county clerk’s office will be closed to the public until further notice. Staff is still available by phone at 254-582-4030 to assist citizens, and online resources also remain available.
– Hill County Tax Assessor/Collector Krissi Hightower has announced that her office will also close to foot traffic. Business will be conducted by phone at 254-582-4000 or online.
– Hill County Treasurer Rhonda Burkhart has announced that the treasurer’s office will be closed to the public until further notice. Staff is available to conduct business by phone at 254-582-4050.
– Hill County Water Supply will be closed until further notice. Customers can still use the drive-through from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., or use the night drop box.
– Lake Whitney Arts has announced that it will postpone its upcoming production of “Two Witches, No Waiting,” which was due to open on March 28. The box office staff will be in contact with current ticket purchasers and season ticket holders.
– Community Healthcare of Texas, formerly Providence Hospice, is canceling monthly grief support meetings for the foreseeable future. If you need support, call 254-694-6009 to arrange phone counseling.
– Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce has announced that it is suspending all chamber events until further notice.
– All activities of the Hill Regional Hospital Senior Circle are closed until May 1. This includes exercises classes, Bingo and Breakfast Club and Lunch Bunch outings.
– The Hill County Democratic Party has canceled its April 13 meeting and will provide a later update as to the status of the May meeting.
– Aquilla has made the decision to postpone its prom with an anticipated reschedule date of May 2.
– Lake Whitney Senior Center has announced that it will be closed through Tuesday, April 7, to protect the health and well-being of local seniors. Anyone with questions may call Director Lynda Bomar at 254-332-0041.
– HILCO Electric Cooperative has locked its office doors and will only have its local drive-through window and drop boxes available for payments and application drop-offs. Phone calls will be answered as usual. This does include Files Valley Water customers.
– Our Daily Bread Food Bank in Whitney will continue to serve the community and operate its regular hours. However, clients will not enter the facility. They will go to the open door to provide their information.
– Bosque County Sheriff’s Office, under the order of the Texas Jail Commission, has suspended all inmate visitation until further notice. The lobby is open and the Kiosk is available to anyone who needs to deposit funds on an inmate’s account.
– Marshall & Marshall Funeral Directors have announced that only 10 people will be allowed to gather at a time for funeral and graveside services and visitations. The funeral home says that it is committed to investigating alternatives, such as video streaming and extended visitations throughout the day. For the complete statement, visit http://www.marshallandmarshallfd.com.
– Many local businesses are modifying their services and offering options such as curbside delivery, drive-through and online ordering to comply with the federal social distancing guidelines. The community is encouraged to continue supporting local businesses in these ways as they remain flexible to serve our area.
– The Red Cross and Texas law enforcement agencies are cautioning the public to be aware of scams that have been reported during the coronavirus outbreak. Officials say if anyone comes to your door claiming to work for the Red Cross and requesting to perform COVID-19 testing, do not let them inside and notify law enforcement. Scammers have also been reported to be calling senior citizens and claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and requesting payment for COVID-19 testing. The CDC will not contact anyone by phone for this purpose and request payment.
Medical Announcements
Whitney Medical Urgent Care and Goodall-Witcher Medical Clinic in Whitney are now providing COVID-19 screening. Call before visiting the facilities if you have respiratory symptoms/fever/etc.
Anyone with respiratory symptoms is encouraged to call local medical facilities before they visit to receive instructions or to be screened by a professional.
Providence Clinic of Hillsboro can be reached at 833-978-0649 for pre-visit screening, Goodall-Witcher Healthcare has set up a coronavirus hotline at 254-675-0004, and Whitney Medical can be reached at 254-332-0123.
Misc. Announcements

The Texas Department of Public Safety will extend the expiration date of driver licenses, identification cards and election identification certificates that expired on or after March 13 valid for up to 60 days after the end of the state disaster declaration. Texas driver license offices are closed, but online services are still available.

Texas is now waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities and titling. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard. Visit http://www.txdmv.gov for more information.

Texas Health and Human Services encourages all Texans in need of COVID-19 information and referrals to community resources to call the 2-1-1 Texas hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Texans, no matter where they live, can dial 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905 and select option six to get information and referrals to COVID-19 social services, including testing, community clinics, unemployment benefits and more.

The Internal Revenue Service has announced that the federal income tax filing due date is extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief.

FEMA has set up a Rumor Control webpage that can be accessed at http://www.fema.gov/coronavirus-rumor-control.

Information from the Texas Department of State Health Services, including current case counts, can be found at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us.


LWA provides update on shows, plans
Due to the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 protocols and precautions, the board of directors of Lake Whitney Arts Association has decided to delay the opening of “Two Witches, No Waiting” by Pat Cook. The new tentative run dates for the show are May 2-10.
Patrons who already have tickets for the show will be contacted by box office staff.
“A Brush and a Beverage Paint Night,” which was scheduled for April 17, has been postponed to May 22.
Auditions for “Hat Tricks,” scheduled for April 18 and 20, will be held by appointment only. Performance dates are June 20-28.
At this time, no rescheduling decision has been made regarding the April 25, Springfest. LWA will continue to monitor evolving protocols and guidelines. For questions or concerns, send an email to info@lakewhitneyarts.org.
“We would like to thank each of you, again, who have expressed your support and understanding as we wade through these waters,” said LWA representative Ed Sanders. “In the meantime, please do everything you can to take care of yourselves. We can’t wait to see everyone again after this crisis has passed.”


HCAD office to temporarily close to public
The Hill County Appraisal District released a statement Thursday, March 19, announcing a temporary closure to its office.
“During these uncertain times, we at Hill County Appraisal District want to reinforce to you our commitment to meeting the needs of the general public,” Chief Appraiser Mike McKibben said. “However, in an effort to support our state and nation’s need to slow the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, Hill CAD will be temporarily closed to the public through April 3.”
McKibben said that the staff is still working, and the public is encouraged to communicate through email or telephone if they need assistance during this time.
Maps and other useful information are also available on the district’s website at http://www.hillcad.org
McKibben encouraged the public to contact the office at hcad@hillcad.org or call 254-582-2508 if they need immediate assistance. Tax payments and other documents can be slipped through the office front doors.
“We feel confident that the precautions that we have put into place will be responsive to the public,” McKibben said. “If you have an urgent matter and do not feel like we have promptly responded, please call me on my cell phone 254-479-7311.”


DMV registration, titling requirements waived
In an effort to reduce the need for in-person transactions, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) worked with Governor Greg Abbott to temporarily waive certain requirements for vehicle registration, vehicle titling and disabled parking placards.
On Friday, March 13, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation declaring a state of disaster for all counties in Texas due to the threat of COVID-19.
Governor Abbott also issued a statement on March 16, 2020, granting a temporary extension to obtain initial registration, renewal of registration, vehicle titling, and renewal of a permanent disabled parking placard.
Governor Abbott also granted a temporary extension for an individual with an expired 30-day temporary permit to obtain another permit or Texas registration.
The temporary waiver applies to vehicle owners in all Texas counties as set forth in the above-referenced proclamation and statement.
This temporary waiver is in effect until 60 days after TxDMV notifies the public that normal vehicle registration, vehicle titling and related services have resumed.
The 60-day period will be the same for all counties.
The purpose of the waiver is to prevent customers from having to physically visit a county tax assessor-collector office to obtain initial registration, to obtain a 30-day temporary permit, to transfer title; or to renew registration or a permanent disabled parking placard.
Customers may continue to renew their registration online at http://www.TxDMV.gov. At this time, TxDMV continues to fill online registration sticker requests and process all other online services.
TxDMV has informed law enforcement agencies and the offices of the county tax assessor-collectors of the temporary waiver.


DPS extends expired driver licenses
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced Sunday, March 15, that it has been granted the authority to extend the expiration of driver licenses in light of Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration regarding COVID-19.
The extension also applies to Texas identification cards, commercial driver licenses and election identification certificates.
DPS will consider a Texas-issued card that expired on or after March 13 valid for up to 60 days after the end of the disaster declaration.
Note that the extension only applies to the expiration date, and a person who is not eligible to drive due to an active enforcement action may use the card for identity purposes only.


Campground reservations canceled
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District has announced campground reservation cancellations in response to the coronavirus.
No new reservations were accepted after Sunday, March 22. First-come, first-serve campsites closed to new campers Thursday, March 19.
Campground reservations scheduled between March 23 and May 15 will be canceled. Refunds will be provided through Recreation One-Stop at 1-877-444-6777 or recreation.gov. Reservations after May 15 will be reevaluated at a future date.
These measures are in addition to operational changes Fort Worth District announced earlier last week.
Those changes included:
All USACE sponsored events, tournaments, volunteer activities and public meetings are canceled until further notice.
Special event or activity permits will not be issued; those permits that have already been granted will be considered for revocation based on the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines.
Visitor centers and lake offices are closed to the public until further notice.
Campgrounds that are currently closed will not reopen until further notice.
Day use facilities, such as group shelters, are subject to evolving conditions and may not be available. Call the local project office at 254-622-3332 for the latest information.
Corps of Engineers personnel will no longer conduct site visits that require personal interactions for shoreline management activities until further notice.
These changes, officials said, are being made in an abundance of caution and to protect guests, volunteers and staff.
Guests planning to visit USACE lakes for any reason are encouraged to call the lake project office before planning their trip to obtain site-specific closures, such as parks and boat ramps.
Fort Worth District lake office contact information can be found on the website at https://www.swf.usace.army.mil/About/Lakes-and-Recreation-Information.
Officials urge anyone visiting a USACE lake to follow the CDC’s guidelines regarding social distancing and remain diligent. CDC guidelines and more information can be found at http://www.conoravirus.gov.


Genealogical Society to
cancel events
Hill County Genealogical Society (HCGS) has announced that regular meetings scheduled for Monday, April 6, and Monday, May 4, have been canceled in recognition of the limitations on public groups imposed from the coronavirus pandemic.
The officers of HCGS will monitor the situation closely. At this time, the next scheduled meeting is a joint session with Hill County Historical Commission at 6 p.m. Monday, June 1, in the AgriLife Extension room of the Hill County Covington Street Annex at 126 South Covington Street in Hillsboro.
Hon. Robert M. Stem of Mexia is scheduled to speak at the June meeting. Judge Stem is a serious historian who has done extensive research and study on the Mier Expedition in Texas history.
Dues for HCGS are $18 for an individual and $25 for family. Send dues to Hill County Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 636, Hillsboro, TX 76645.
For additional information, contact Joyce Reid at reidj115@yahoo.com or Will Lowrance at lowrancew@sbcglobal.net.


Emergency drought support available to Texas producers

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has designated 83 Texas counties as primary natural disaster areas. Producers who suffered losses due to recent drought may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans.
This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.
The Texas counties with the primary natural disaster designation include Anderson, Atascosa, Bandera, Bee, Bell, Blanco, Brazos, Brown, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Callahan, Cherokee, Coke, Coleman, Colorado, Comal, Concho, Crockett, Dallam, DeWitt, Dimmit, Eastland, Edwards, Freestone, Frio, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Haskell, Hays, Henderson, Houston, Irion, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jones, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, La Salle, Lavaca, Leon, Live Oak, Llano, McCulloch, Mason, Maverick, Medina, Menard, Navarro, Nolan, Palo Pinto, Real, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Shackelford, Smith, Starr, Stephens, Sterling, Taylor, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Van Zandt, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Wichita, Wilbarger, Williamson, Wilson, Wood, Young, Zapata and Zavala.
Producers in the contiguous Texas counties of Angelina, Archer, Austin, Bastrop, Baylor, Bexar, Brazoria, Brooks, Calhoun, Camp, Clay, Comanche, Coryell, Crane, Duval, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fayette, Fisher, Foard, Fort Bend, Franklin, Gregg, Grimes, Hardeman, Hartley, Hidalgo, Hill, Hood, Hopkins, Howard, Hunt, Jack, Jim Wells, Kaufman, Kimble, King, Knox, Lampasas, Lee, Limestone, McLennan, McMullen, Madison, Martin, Matagorda, Midland, Milam, Mills, Mitchell, Moore, Nacogdoches, Parker, Pecos, Rains, Reagan, Refugio, Robertson, Rusk, San Patricio, Scurry, Sherman, Stonewall, Sutton, Terrell, Trinity, Upshur, Upton, Walker, and Washington, along with Union County, New Mexico, and Cimarron, Cotton, Jackson and Tillman counties in Oklahoma, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.
The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is November 7, 2020.
FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.
FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.
Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at farmers.gov/recover.


Governor waives STAAR testing for 2019-20
Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday, March 16, that he has waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.
Additionally, Governor Abbott is requesting that the Department of Education (DOE) waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.
The governor’s office announced that Abbott is working closely with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to ensure that schools continue to deliver instruction to students while students are absent or while schools are closed due to COVID-19.
This includes tailoring instruction for students with special needs so that they have access to the same education as other students in the district.
Governor Abbott said that he will continue to work with the TEA on developing additional methods to ensure that students are learning and ready to succeed at the next grade-level. These discussions are ongoing and more information will be provided as it develops.
In a press release, the governor’s office said that the move to waive testing requirements reflects the governor’s emphasis on public health over all other priorities at this time.
“In normal times, Texas’ assessment system provides educators and parents with reliable information on whether or not their students have mastered grade-level content,” the release stated.
“The governor remains committed to ensuring parents, students, and school districts have access to this information in future years.
“Superintendents should continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty and their families. Their leadership is an important part of our statewide efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect public health.”


 

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