Local News

Hill Co. commissioners hear update on tourism, economic development
The Hill County Commissioners Court met in a special session Tuesday, April 6, to hear an update from the county’s economic development coordinator and consider several special agenda items.
Last August, commissioners approved an agreement with the Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce to create a county-wide effort to promote tourism and economic development. Chamber Director Wendy Ellis led the effort, with the chamber paying her salary and the county covering her benefits as economic development coordinator.
Ellis told the court that she has accepted a new job and would no longer fill the position, with Tuesday, April 6, being her last day. She expressed her thanks to County Judge Justin Lewis and commissioners.
“I want to assure you that the chamber greatly appreciates the working relationship with the county, and the board is committed to maintaining that and working through the transition,” she said.
Ellis said that she has had two meetings with the Economic Development Advisory Council that were productive, and the council recommended a county-wide retail analysis be conducted locally.
The report would provide information about shopping habits in local communities and help determine what items shoppers buy at home and what they purchase elsewhere. Using this information, communities can work to recruit businesses that offer products desired by local residents.
Ellis said that she has received a proposal from a company that will be preparing a comprehensive proposal to present to commissioners.
She reported that work has also been underway on website updates and licensing efforts and a county-wide visitor guide to promote tourism.
Lewis thanked Ellis for her efforts, noting that much of the work she has done was done behind the scenes.
The original contract between the chamber and county included an opt-out clause in the event that Ellis vacated the position. The agreement allows both the chamber and county to reevaluate whether to continue the program under a new director.
Lewis said that the county looks forward to working with the chamber in the future, but pointed out that the selection of Ellis to fill the economic development position was based on her skill set.
The judge said that it will be up to the county to decide whether her replacement will also be selected to lead the county’s economic development efforts.
In other business, commissioners discussed adding a part-time employee to the 9-1-1 addressing and flood plain permitting office. Commissioner Martin Lake said that 911 Coordinator Karin McClendon has issued over 180 permits this year, compared to 70 at the same time last year.
The issue was set to come back before commissioners Tuesday, April 13, after budget details are worked out.
The court also approved a contract for the purchase of software from Blockitnow, Inc. to facilitate appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations in the county.
The company’s free software does not provide the extended functionality needed by the county, but Lewis said that the $3,000 purchase price will be fully refundable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The judge said that he believes there will be other applications for the software in the future, and commissioners approved the contract pending minor modifications to the wording by the company.
The preliminary plat for phase two of the Blue Skies Estates subdivision near Abbott was approved by the court, and a replat of property in Live Oak Resorts near Whitney was approved.
A new agreement was approved with MRB Group for architectural services related to repurposing the county annex on Covington Street.
The county has an existing master agreement with the company, but it was signed with previous owners. Lewis said that, in the interest of transparency, he would like to sign a new agreement. He pointed out that the county is required by law to retain an architect for such projects.
The contract includes compensation of $21,500 for repurposing the annex, and $14,500 for design of the Extension Office.
Commissioners are expected to meet again in regular session Tuesday morning, April 13.

Hill County Grand Jury convenes, returns April’s list of indictments
A Hill County Grand Jury that convened Thursday, April 1, returned the following indictments:
Joshua Lee Allen, 26, of Fort Worth, theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000
Heather Michelle Bartley, 29, of Milford, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Michael Lynn Bohon, 18, of Covington, possession of THC oil under one gram
Jason Ladon Conn, 32, of Midway, bail jump and failure to appear
Tammy Lynn Flathouse, 48, of Whitney, unlawfully carrying a weapon on alcohol premises
Trig Daniel Gilkey, 24, of Whitney, injury to elderly with intentional bodily injury
Jacob Dean Godfrey, 17, of Itasca, possession THC oil under one gram
Carlos Amador Gomez, 37, of Hutto, evading arrest/detention with a vehicle
Jeremy Stuart Hagen, 46, of Waco, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Nathaniel A Hall Jr., 36, of Waco, aggravated robbery
Reginald Lemont Harris, 44, of Terrell, criminal mischief between $2,500 and $30,000; aggravated assault against public servant; possession of cocaine under one gram
Natasha Nicole Herrera, 38, of Waco, aggravated robbery
Karen Britton Hunter, 61, of Waco, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams; unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon
Melinda Juarez Palacio, 36, of Grand Prairie, misapplication of fiduciary/financial property between $2,500 and $30,000
Calvie Don Kuykendall, 40, of Hillsboro, tampering/fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair
Maximiliano Lara, 32, of Cleburne, injury to a child with intentional bodily injury
Paul Michael Lozano, 33, of Penelope, aggravated robbery
Jesus Mancera, 24, of Hillsboro, possession of promethazine with codeine 400 grams or more; assault family member – imepeding breath/circulation with previous conviction
Ambrocio Martinez-Garcia, 72, of Laredo, unlawful use of criminal instrument; money laundering between $30,000 and $150,000
Mary Angela Ramos, 33, of Dallas, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
Trent Jerome Robinson, 29, of Hillsboro, theft of property under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions; theft of property under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions
David Wayne Sandlin, 69, of Whitney, possession with intent to promote child pornography
Yoel Simon-Gonzalez, 25, of Hillsboro, aggravated sexual assault of a child (three counts)
Donnie Russell Thompson, 36, of Fort Worth, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Ethan Eli Tinney, 26, of Temple, bail jump and failure to appear; bail jump and failure to appear
Loni Rehiannon Vanek, 30, of Bynum, forgery financial instrument; forgery financial instrument
Tony Terrell Williams, 22, of Hillsboro, burglary of a building
The cases were presented to the grand jury by District Attorney Mark Pratt. District Judge Lee Harris presides over the 66th Judicial District Court.

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