Local News

White Bluff POA buys amenities for $4.8 mil 

After being closed for the past seven months, amenities at White Bluff Resort are on track to reopen soon after an agreement was announced between Double Diamond, Inc. and the White Bluff Property Owners Association (POA) last week. 

In a letter to property owners Thursday, June 14, the POA Board of Directors announced that three agreements had been executed with White Bluff developer Double Diamond that would result in the association acquiring amenities, including the resort’s golf courses. 

“This is a pivotal point in the history of White Bluff,” the POA announced. “It is time for the frustrations about closed amenities to end and frustrations about ongoing litigation to end.” 

The POA agreed to pay $4.8 million for the amenities, and POA President Leonard Critcher signed the agreement Wednesday, June 13, following the board’s approval of the final documents. 

An asset purchase agreement, interim operating agreement and comprehensive settlement agreement were signed by the parties. The POA informed property owners that the provisions of the settlement agreement are confidential and are not to be divulged by either party. 

The interim operating agreement will allow the POA to immediately begin working on the two golf courses, which have not been maintained throughout the legal battle. 

“The POA will do its job going forward with a well-conceived plan for getting the golf courses back open as well as the other amenities we have all enjoyed,” the announcement said. 

The board will acquire both golf courses and pro shops and related facilities and equipment, The Trophy Grill restaurant, The Lighthouse Restaurant, the conference center, spa, fitness center, the marina and store, administration building and hotel. Also acquired will be the 4 Bluff Point Condos, the Rustic Pool, the Rustic Pavilion, three log cabins, Golf Drive Mail Center, the baseball field, the laundry center at Trailwood Condos, the playground, various storage facilities, the burn pit and other related assets. 

Critcher said that three professional assessments of the golf courses were obtained, and all concluded that the fairways and tee boxes can be preserved with appropriate mowing and watering.  

Mowing began on Friday, and the preparation for water being delivered to the courses was scheduled for as early as this week. 

“We are ahead of the curve on bringing back the golf courses,” Critcher said. He said that under perfect conditions, at least one of the golf courses could possibly be up and running by October. 

As far as other amenities, such as lodging and hospitality facilities, Critcher said that there are lots of moving parts and the opening dates will be dependent on variables that the board is presently assessing. 

Double Diamond is financing the purchase of the amenities, and the POA will make an initial down payment of $1,250,000 and finance the balance of $3,550,000 at five-percent interest for the first two years. 

In its explanation to property owners, the POA board stated, “Property owners should recall that Double Diamond had laid claim to $1,125,000, citing an indebtedness from the POA to Double Diamond. Whether there was actually an indebtedness may never be known, but the simple fact is that we received $1,125,000 free and clear, and this approximate amount is being used for the bulk of the down payment.” 

Critcher said that with 6,500 property owners at White Bluff, the total purchase price of amenities works out to $740 per property owner. He added that the board has no intention of assessing all property owners that amount to get the amenities free and clear, but it is important to note that the benefits to each property owner far exceed $740. 

“In fact, I would bet that if you took a poll and asked property owners if they would be willing to pay $740 to get this behind us, acquire all the amenities, control our own future and end the lawsuits, there would be a resounding yes,” Critcher said at last Friday’s board meeting. 

“This is a good deal for the POA and our community inclusive of our wonderful lot owners, who will once again be able to enjoy the dream that we all bought into,” he said. 

The POA’s revenue comes from maintenance fees collected from White Bluff property owners, who are required to be members of the POA. 

Critcher said that property owners have been incredibly supportive. “They are volunteering in great numbers to do what is necessary to make White Bluff great again,” he said. 

The amenities had been closed at White Bluff since November, when Dallas-based Double Diamond informed property owners that all hospitality facilities were to be shut down due to lack of income caused by the golf courses being maintained below normal standards. 

Although there has been a litigious history covering a wide range of issues at White Bluff, the shutdown was caused by a disagreement over golf course maintenance. It started when a maintenance agreement between Double Diamond and the POA expired in 2015, and then negotiations regarding the POA’s acquisition of amenities broke down. 

Looking forward, Critcher explained that a Business Development Advisory Committee will be created composed primarily of property owners with strong business backgrounds, executive experience and a business vision for the future. 

The committee will be charged with analyzing each potential profit center within the amenities and determining viable alternatives to maximize their monetary potential. 

The POA informed property owners that the next stage in the process is the due diligence period, which could last up to 45 days or longer if there is an extension. During this period, the POA will be verifying paperwork, deeds and agreements related to the assets. 

After the due diligence period is over, closing will occur and the settlement agreement will be in force, according to POA documents. 


Grand Jury  returns June indictments 

A Hill County Grand Jury convened Friday, June 8, and returned the following indictments: 

Marcos Hernandez Alfaro Jr., 23, of Hillsboro, harassment of public servant 

Michael James Bill, 58, of Mesquite, evading arrest detention with vehicle 

Manuel Alfredo Canales, 32, of Dawson, evading arrest detention with vehicle 

Twyla Michelle Cato, 42, of Mesquite, driving while intoxicated with child under 15 years of age 

Jennifer Crystal Floyd, 34, of Wylie, possession of fentanyl 

Jerry Gillispie Hoffman, 56, of Lorena, bribery 

Chance Aaron Jares, 29, of Birome, evading arrest detention with vehicle 

Cindy Ann Jensen, 36, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams.  

Jamal Dekkane Johnson, 21, of Hillsboro, obstruction or retaliation by threat 

Kamesha Rayyenay Johnson, 29, of Houston, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, forgery of a government instrument/money/securities 

Nikki Leshay Lee, 30, of Red Oak, forgery of government instrument/money/securities, four counts 

Misty Dawn Racz, 31, of Hillsboro, endangerment of a child/criminal negligence, two counts 

Dustin Bradley Roberts, 42, of Austin, possession of methamphetamine under one gram 

Amber Dawn Roderick 31, of Red Oak, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams 

Anthony Martin Rodriguez, 29, of Fort Worth, possession of psilocybin mushrooms between four and 400 grams 

Rolando Flores Rodriguez, 41, of Carrollton, forgery 

Jabrari Jakyrin Smith, 17, of Hillsboro, aggravated robbery with deadly weapon 

Roslyn Renee Swan, 52, of Hillsboro, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information under five items  

Brian Kent Timmons, 38, of Malone, theft of between $2,500 to $30,000 from an elderly victim 

Javier Trajo, 18, of Hillsboro, possession of cocaine under one gram 

Samuel Ray Tucker, 49, of Robinson, theft of between $2,500 to $30,000 from an elderly victim 

Chelsea Shantel Wager, 27, of San Antonio, possession of cocaine under one gram 

Joshua Andrew Welch, 35, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram in a drug free zone  

The cases were presented to the grand jury by District Attorney Mark Pratt.  

 Hill, Bosque unemployment rates show decrease in May 

The Texas economy added 34,700 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in May, which marked 23 consecutive months of employment growth. 

Locally, Hill County’s May unemployment rate stood at 3.4 percent, a decrease over last May’s rate of 3.7 percent and the same as April’s rate of 3.4 percent. 

In Hill County, there were 566 unemployed individuals in May out of a total labor force of 16,582. 

Bosque County’s May unemployment rate was 3.5 percent,  a decrease from last May’s rate of 3.9 percent and slightly lower than April’s rate of 3.6 percent. 

There were 291 unemployed Bosque County residents in May out of a total labor force of 8,348. 

As a whole over the year, Texas added 352,100 jobs for an annual employment growth rate of 2.9 percent. Private-sector employers added 34,300 positions over the month. Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in May, unchanged from April 2018. 

“Texas employers continue to put the world class Texas workforce to work, adding 34,700 jobs in May and 352,100 over the year,” said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Andres Alcantar.   

“TWC continues to work with our local and Tri-Agency partners to foster innovative strategies to equip the Texas talent pool with industry aligned skills.  Job creation is strong in Texas,” he said. 

May’s annual growth in the state’s goods producing industries was strong at 5.7 percent. Over the month, the construction industry added 5,800 jobs, followed by mining and logging with 4,100 positions, while manufacturing employment expanded by 3,400 positions. 

In Texas’ service providing sector, eucation and health services added 8,100 positions over the month, and led all industries in job growth for May.  Also within this sector, professional and business services added 4,300 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality with a gain of 3,500 positions. 

“Employers continue to contribute to our state’s great success.  Private-sector employers have accounted for the addition of 346,300 positions in Texas over the past year as the state has continued to expand its workforce,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employer Ruth R. Hughs. 

“As employment continues to grow, I invite Texas employers whose workforce is comprised of at least 10 percent Texas veterans to apply for our We Hire Vets recognition program. We want to thank businesses for their commitment to hiring our nation’s heroes and strengthening the Texas economy.” 

Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA, which had the second lowest with a rate of 2.6 percent.  

The Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan, Lubbock, and Odessa MSAs all recorded the third lowest rate of 2.8 percent for May.   

“Several goods producing industries are showing strength in Texas, including construction,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez.  

“I encourage our labor force to connect with TWC’s apprenticeship training program that can help prepare them for a well-paying career. One of the best ways that adults learn skills is in applied studies.” 

 Whitney police make arrest  after assault 

The Whitney Police Department made an arrest last week following an aggravated assault that was investigated earlier in the month. 

Officers served an arrest warrant Wednesday, June 13, in the 200 block of Lehmann Farm Road in Whitney. A 22-year-old Whitney man was taken into custody without incident on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 

According to police department officials, the incident occurred on Sunday, June 3, when the suspect allegedly assaulted a victim in the 800 block of East Davis Street in Whitney.  

In a press release, the department said that the suspect allegedly doused the victim in lighter fluid and physically assaulted the victim by kicking and punching him before placing him in bushes.  

The victim was taken to Hill Regional Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries and released.  

Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bond at $20,000 on Cirilo Joe Balderas. 

 KMUMC pastor, wife head to Spain on hiking pilgrimage  

So, who are the man and woman who have been hiking all over Whitney for the past several months and why are there scallop shells on their backpacks?  

The two backpackers that you may have seen hiking are local residents Reverend Brad and Amanda Slaten. Rev. Slaten is the pastor of King Memorial United Methodist Church in Whitney and Blum United Methodist Church.  

They have been preparing to go on modern-day pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), hiking about 130 miles across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is the traditional symbol of this ancient journey. 

El Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient routes from all over Europe leading to the Praza Obradoiro Catedral, the cathedral that traditionally houses the earthly remains of St. James the Apostle.  

For over 1,000 years, peregrinos (pilgrims) have walked the pathway from their home to Santiago de Compostela as a means of spiritual renewal. 

During the latter part of June, the Slatens will be traveling with 13 other clergy and spouses from the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church on the ancient Camino Francés, from Ponferrada, Spain to the cathedral, about 130 miles.  

The entirety of the Camino Francés stretches 778.5 km (483.7 miles) from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, winding through the mountains and Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. However, there is no “entire route” to The Camino.  

“Tradition says that The Camino starts where you begin. St. Francis began his Camino in Assisi, Italy,” Rev. Slaton said. “Another tradition says that the Camino starts and ends at your front door.”  

For the Slatens, that is in Whitney. 

If you are curious about The Camino, Rev. Slaten recommends the movie “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, about one man’s journey on The Camino. 

So if you don’t see our two backpackers around town for a while, don’t worry. They are on pilgrimage. Just be sure to ask them about their journey the next time you see them.  

Until then, Rev.  Slaton said that you can always pray that they have “Buen Camino!”  

Court reviews plat for new subdivision 

 IT director presents quarterly report… 

The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in a regular session Tuesday, June 12, and approved the preliminary plat for a new housing development in the county. 

The developers told the court that The Ranches at Bobcat Ridge will contain 55 home sites in Hill County west of Rio Vista. The lots will be five to 10 acres each, and some will be on county roads, while others will sit along interior roadways that the developers will build.  

The developers added that they have been in discussions about enhancing county roads in the area while also creating the new roadways to serve the community. 

County Judge Justin Lewis said that the preliminary plat will be submitted to BSP Engineers to ensure it is in compliance with the county’s new subdivision rules and regulations, with the cost of the review to be the responsibility of the developers. 

The court also observed and recorded the quarterly update from Information Technology Director Sharon Camarillo.  

Camarillo provided information about technology updates that have been completed recently, as well as those that are currently underway throughout county departments. 

Among the list of items recently completed was the courthouse security camera update, which drastically improved the resolution and clarity of security camera footage in and around the courthouse. 

Camarillo also said that the 44 laptops purchased for election check-in had been loaded with security features after they were in the county’s possession. 

Security upgrades were also made to the county’s Tandberg video conferencing system, which allows secure access between judges and inmates.  

Without video conferencing capabilities, required face-to-face hearings would be a substantial cost to the county when an inmate had to be transferred over a long distance to the local courts. 

Some of the other projects recently completed included technology upgrades at the Covington Street annex, in-depth security upgrades, an increase in bandwidth for the courthouse to accommodate the new camera systems and new technology. 

Moving on to the projects that are ongoing for the technology department, Camarillo said that her department continues to work with the Odyssey program, making updates and changes as required.  

She added that efforts to merge records are still underway, and about 300 have been completed so far. Merging records will ensure that every entry for an individual appears when their name is entered in the system by an agency. 

The Cartegraph program continues to be utilized by precincts’ 1 and 4 commissioners in their departments, which are pilot departments for the new software.  

Camarillo said that Cartegraph manages road work and tracks labor, assets and materials for commissioners. The system will be rolled out in precincts 2 and 3 soon, she said. 

Upcoming projects include an update to the county’s website through the Texas Association of Counties, and the rollout of the new jury portal that was recently approved by the court. 

The jury portal is expected to improve juror turnout by making the process more efficient. With the portal, prospective jurors will be able to update their personal information, communicate with the county regarding deferrals and excuses and answer questionnaires online. 

The court also approved the addition of two credit cards for the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Rodney Watson said that his deputies are responsible for the transportation of inmates to and from the county jail. These trips can sometimes be several hundred miles, and some trips require an overnight stay. 

The sheriff said that the current policy does not allow the deputy to use a county credit card for meals or fuel, and they must use their own money and seek reimbursement from the county, which can take several weeks. 

Watson said that the card would only be used when transports are time sensitive and the deputy is not able to provide meals to the inmates from the local facility or refuel from approved outlets. 

The court approved the addition of two county credit cards for transport officers. 

Lewis told the court that an additional $225,000 is available to the county from the state to assist in the project to repair damaged soil conservation dams.  

Lewis said that he will submit an agreement for the court’s approval at its next meeting so the county can seek the additional funding. 

Hill County Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hemrick told the court that the drought index is currently at 455, and without precipitation soon, the county could be within the range of considering a burn ban. 

Hemrick said that the recent rescue effort near the Whitney Dam made national news due to the county’s use of a drone to deliver life jackets to the stranded women. 

He expressed his gratitude to the court for approving the purchase of the drone, and he said that it has been used regularly. 

Other items approved at the meeting included a copier contract with CTWP of Waco for the county clerk’s office, and an online auction of surplus copiers and phones via online auction with Kaddatz Auctioneers.