Local News

Suspect arrested after
standoff near Whitney
A 44-year-old Whitney man was arrested by the Hill County Sheriff’s Office after he barricaded himself in a home following a disturbance Wednesday night, July 29.
Deputies were called to the home in the 100 block of Private Road 131 near Whitney just before 10:30 p.m. in response to a domestic disturbance.
According to reports from the sheriff’s office, the subject had reportedly threatened to kill family members and himself, and then retrieved a handgun and pointed it at family members. Deputies were informed that the subject was also threatening to shoot any responding law enforcement officers.
The sheriff’s office reported that the man discharged the handgun inside the house at one point during the disturbance, while family members were still inside. They were then able to leave the residence unharmed.
Deputies reportedly attempted to start a dialogue with the suspect as the sheriff’s office SWAT and K-9 units responded to assist. The sheriff’s office drone was also deployed to provide aerial surveillance for responding deputies.
According to information released by the sheriff’s office, the suspect refused to leave the residence and speak with deputies, although he occasionally came to the doorway to yell at them and throw empty beer bottles out of the house.
The incident came to an end at approximately 12:20 a.m., when the suspect exited the house and began to advance towards the SWAT vehicle and deputies in darkness.
The sheriff’s office reported that the drone’s infrared camera detected the suspect’s movement as he approached deputies, and he was tackled from behind by a deputy.
He was found to be unarmed when he exited the house, according to the sheriff’s office, and no deputies were injured in the incident.
The subject, identified as Ronnie Strickling of Whitney, required approximately 11 stitches due to his head striking the SWAT vehicle as he was tackled, the sheriff’s office said.
He was treated at a local hospital and then transferred to the Hill County Law Enforcement Center, where he was booked on two counts of aggravated assault, deadly conduct and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Bonds were set totaling $125,000.

Smith Foundation announces opening of grant applications
The Board of Directors of the George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation has announced the opening of the 2020 grant application process. Applications for grants to be awarded this year must be received on or before September 1, 2020. Grant awards will be announced in October 2020.
Applicants can access grant information and required supporting documents at the Smith Foundation website (www.smithfoundationhillcounty.org) under the “Application Documents” tab on the website’s homepage. These include the application guidelines, cover sheet, publicity plan and the publicity permission form.
Applicants will need to provide five copies of their application materials to the address shown in the application guidelines and at the bottom of this news article.
The foundation will consider requests for operating budgets, special projects, building and capital campaigns, research and academic scholarships of organizations that are classified as 501(c)(3) non-profit entities in Texas, a political subdivision or governmental entity; or a corporation organized under the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act.
The foundation does not award grants to individuals or to organizations outside the State of Texas. The foundation is also prohibited from funding religious organizations or participation in fund-raising events or activities. In considering requests for funding, the board places priority on organizations and programs serving Hill County.
In 2019, the Smith Foundation awarded more than $102,000 in grants to 11 organizations across Hill County. Grantees included Abbott ISD, Aquilla ISD, Central Texas Senior Ministry, Covington ISD, Hill County Child Protective Services, and Hill County Paw Pals.
Other grant recipients in 2019 were Hillsboro Boy Scouts Troop 345, Hillsboro Interfaith Ministries, Hubbard Volunteer Fire Department, Texas Ramp Project, and Texas Through Time. Grants ranged in amounts from $3,500 to $25,000.
Over the past 26 years of its funding history, the foundation has committed substantial support to a variety of Hill County area organizations amounting to over $2.3 million. Grants have assisted qualified entities in improving the quality of medical, educational, cultural, economic, social, and recreational services to the citizens of Hill County.
The George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation was established in 1992 by the late Ruth Smith Moorman in memory of her parents for the purpose of enriching the lives of citizens in Hill County.
Information about the foundation is available on its website or from: The George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation, P. O. Box 1245, Hillsboro, TX 76645.

Regional COVID-19 testing
site now open in Hillsboro
The state has approved a regional COVID-19 testing center for Hill County, which will provide free testing and results within 24 hours. It is located at the Hill County Fairgrounds Exhibits Building.
Hill County Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hemrick said that due to the response to the state’s free testing dates in Hillsboro, and the need for widespread, free testing, the state approved the county’s request for more testing availability.
On weekdays beginning this week, anyone can be tested for free with the cheek-swab COVID-19 test.
The center will provide testing from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary, and all ages can be tested.
This site will be managed by a contractor for the state, which has a plan in place to deliver results quickly.
Hemrick said that his office has been receiving questions from residents who were tested at the recent week-long free testing event offered by the state after some did not receive results in a timely manner.
Hemrick said that he hopes to see those problems solved with the state using a contractor for the service.
The county had 1,256 people report to the fairgrounds for testing during the week-long testing center operated by the National Guard in mid-July.
Some of those people came from other counties, Hemrick said, and the county made the case to the state that there is a need in the area and Hillsboro is easily accessible from surrounding counties.
“It will be established and people will know they can come,” Hemrick said.
Employees who need tests prior to returning to work following an exposure have reported being left with no option than paying for testing at a medical facility.
Even when they have been able to test at a free state clinic held in Hill County, those results are delivered via telephone, when many employers require paperwork.
“Hopefully this will be a solution for our county,” Hemrick said.
The county has been approved to host the regional testing site for at least 30 days, Hemrick said, although that could be extended.
The Exhibits Building is located at 205 Stadium Drive in Hillsboro.

Speak up for kids in foster care from your own home with CASA

CASA of Hill County is calling for community members to step up and advocate for children and families involved in the child welfare system in our local area.
“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing, many of us have been feeling increased stress, anxiety and isolation. Children involved in the foster care system are no exception,” said Don Rawls, Executive Director of CASA of Hill County.
“While we can’t physically be by their side right now, we still want the children who are in foster care right here in our community to know they have an advocate on their side. With so much uncertainty in the world, we want to help give these kids peace of mind, stability and connection. We want them to feel safety and comfort.”
Volunteers with CASA of Hill County are known as CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates. These CASA volunteers advocate for a child or sibling group while they are in foster care.
CASA volunteers advocate in the courtroom, school and other settings for the best interest of the child they are representing, help them stay connected with their families and communities, and work towards family reunification when safe and possible.
Now is a great time to get involved with CASA, Rawls said. With informational sessions, pre-service volunteer training and swearing-in ceremonies currently conducted online, you can make a difference in the lives of children and families in the foster care system—right from your own home.
“COVID-19 has changed how we conduct our advocacy work, but it has not changed our drive and passion to serve the children and families of this community,” said Rawls.
“We are taking precautions with how we conduct our trainings, visits with children and families, volunteer supervision and events to ensure the safety of all involved.”
As a part of their new operating procedures, CASA of Hill County is conducting all training online via Zoom. In addition to this, precautions like wearing CASA masks and disinfecting the office regularly are set in place to help prevent spread amongst the community.
“We are here to serve the children and families of Hill County. We want to do that as safely as possible for the sake of those we serve, our staff, our volunteers and the greater public,” said Rawls. “We never want a child in foster care to go without a CASA volunteer, especially now. That’s why we need our community to stand up and join us in our advocacy.”
If you’ve been looking for a unique way to serve your community, join the CASA movement. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a CASA volunteer or other ways to get involved, visit BecomeACASA.org or casaofhillcountytexas.org. You may also call the office at 254-283-5082.

Response to 2020 Census
is important for veterans
Veterans are reminded that their current census response helps determine the amount of future programming and funding for veteran programs in the county over the next 10 years.
To assist in this effort, census representatives will be at Veterans Pardners, located at 111 North Colorado in Whitney, on Thursday, August 6, and Friday, August 7, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Yvonne W Daniel, Partnership Specialist with the Dallas Regional Census Office, and a veteran herself, reported that very few veterans have completed the 2020 Census.
Daniels recently met with Donna Pickett, Executive Director of Veterans Pardners in Whitney, and discussed how low veteran numbers in the 2020 Census will negatively impact veterans for the next 10 years.
Federal funding for veteran programs are based on the number of veterans in Hill County. “If our Hill County veterans do not step up and complete the census application, federal funding for the next 10 years will severely decline, and veterans under the 2020 Census will receive less and less,” Pickett said.
According to 2018 estimates based on 2010 Census data, there were 35,399 individuals in Hill County, with approximately 2,700 veterans. The last census of 2010 showed a population of 35,089 with 3,365 estimated veterans.
This information, and the percentage of veterans in a county, are used for policy analysis, program planning and budgeting of veteran programs.
“As you can see, the number of veterans is decreasing, which means veteran funding is also decreasing,” Pickett said.
On Thursday and Friday, Hill County veterans can come in and meet with census representatives or call the Veterans Pardners Census Hot Line at 254-206-3852.
“Representatives will assure that Hill County vets are counted,” Pickett reported. “Ask your veteran friends if they have registered, and encourage them to join you in registering.”
Veterans Pardners acts as a supply station to provide support, resources, education, counseling and other assistance to meet veterans’ needs. It is currently open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment.
The non-profit is funded by donations and grants and staffed mostly by volunteers. Call 254-206-3852 for information.

Hill Co. party chair elected to state Democratic committee
Hill County Democratic Party Chair Thom Hanson was elected by delegates at the Texas Democratic Party’s virtual state convention this summer as a delegate to the State Democratic Executive Committee.
Hanson and Tammie Hartgroves of McLennan County were elected to the committee to represent Senate District 22, which serves all of Hill, Bosque, Ellis, Falls, Hood, Johnson, McLennan, Navarro and Somervell counties, along with portions of Tarrant County.
The State Democratic Executive Committee, or SDEC, carries on the activities of the party in communities across Texas and is composed of leaders from Texas’ 31 senate districts.
Members of the committee work to promote the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) platform, Democratic nominees and maintain a strong Democratic presence throughout the district.
They serve as liaison to county chairs and help party leadership organize and conduct primary elections, county and Senate district conventions and state conventions.
Hanson and Hartgroves said that they are looking forward to serving District 22 and participating in meetings, events and activities and working with Democratic candidates.

Local organizations granted Operation Round Up funds
At a July teleconference meeting, HILCO Electric’s Trust Board voted to disburse $11,100 to four organizations in the HILCO service area through Operation Round Up. These funds were donated during the second quarter of 2020.
Grant checks were distributed on July 15, 2020 from the Itasca HILCO office.
Locally, White Bluff Volunteer Fire Department was awarded $3,700 for upgrades to its rescue boat.
Operation Round Up® is a voluntary program in which residential members of HILCO Electric Cooperative, Inc. sign up to have their electric bills rounded upward to the next dollar.
Every month, those additional pennies, nickels and dimes are added to a special fund. Money from that fund is then distributed to local qualifying organizations within the community.
The most that any member’s account would donate in a 12-month period is $11.88, which is a small investment for such a huge return.
The Operation Round Up® Trust Board, which is comprised of representatives from all the HILCO districts, meets once a quarter to review applications and to decide how the funds are to be allocated.
Since the Operation Round Up® program began in 2001, over $865,819.28 has been returned to communities within the HILCO service area. This has been made possible from the generosity of residential members who have voluntarily opted to participate monthly in the program.
Members may have their names added to or removed from the program by calling HILCO at 254-687-2331 or 800-338-6425. Members can also sign up for the program online at http://www.hilco.coop/oproundup.html.
The next deadline for Operation Round Up® is noon September 15.
Applications are available online at http://www.hilco.coop, or can be picked up at one of the three HILCO offices located at 115 E. Main in Itasca, 4581 FM 933 in Whitney or 300A Silken Crossing in Midlothian.
Organizations can contact Lisa Helms for more information at 254-687-2331 or 800-338-6425, extension 1135.

Sales tax holiday on school clothes, supplies Aug. 7-9
With the Texas economy slowly awakening from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers that they can save money on clothes and school supplies during the state’s sales tax holiday Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 7-9.
The law exempts sales tax on qualified items—such as clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks—priced below $100, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend. The date of the sales tax holiday and list of tax-exempt items are set by the Texas Legislature.
“Even though significant uncertainty remains for our public and private schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales tax holiday is a perfect opportunity to save money on school supplies and other tax-free items at a time when many Texans are carefully monitoring their family finances,” Hegar said. “Online shopping is covered, so I encourage all Texans to shop online or practice social distancing when making in-store purchases. We want folks to stay safe while saving money.”
Apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free are listed on the comptroller’s website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.
To promote social distancing, the comptroller’s office wants all taxpayers to know that during the annual sales tax holiday, qualifying items can be purchased online or by telephone, mail, custom order or any other means (including in-store purchases) tax free, when either:
• the item is both delivered to, and paid for by, the customer during the exemption period; or
• the customer orders and pays for the item, and the seller accepts the order during the exemption period for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the exemption period ends.
Texas’ sales tax holiday weekend has been an annual event since 1999, allowing Texans to save millions of dollars in state and local sales taxes each year.
Uncertainty surrounding consumer activity in the retail sector coupled with a lack of clarity regarding the timing and nature of schools reopening prevents the agency from producing an estimate for dollars saved by taxpayers during this year’s holiday.
Last year’s holiday generated an estimated $102.2 million in savings for Texas taxpayers.


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