Local News

City warns of upcoming arrests

The City of Whitney is encouraging those who may have warrants for Class C misdemeanors in the city to make arrangements before arrests begin next month.

The city has contracted with the Hill County Sheriff’s Office, which has agreed to house inmates arrested on Class C warrants from Whitney.

“Our whole objective is to give people a chance to come in and get these taken care of before this gets pushed over to county and we start arresting people,” said Whitney Municipal Court Clerk Sheri Cain.

Such warrants are generally issued for traffic, city ordinance and failure to appear violations.

The city will begin sending a large number of warrants to the county with arrests to possibly begin mid-October.

They city is trying to make it clear to the public that those with warrants will not be arrested if they come in and take care of their citations.

“Sometimes there are other options besides paying,” Cain said, “but until they come in and talk to us and ask about it, there’s no way to provide that information.”

She added, “There are other means and ways to actually take care of your citation if you do not have the money right away. We just need you to come in and communicate with us and work with us.”

Anyone who thinks they may have a warrant issued for their arrest in the city should contact City Hall at 254-694-2261 or visit City Hall at 115 West Jefferson Avenue.


Bosque County Grand Jury hands down indictments

A Bosque County Grand Jury convened Friday, September 8, and handed down the following indictments:

Marcos Antonio Anaya, 19, of Hewitt, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, between four and 200 grams

Bradley Keith Miller, 35, of Waco, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, less than one gram

Colt Wayne Thompson, 35, of Kopperl, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, less than one gram

Michael Sean Sanderson, 51, of Kopperl, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, less than one gram

James Nelson Spencer, 59, of Morgan, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, between four and 200 grams

Benjamin Clark Walker, 37, of Waco, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon

Joshua James Webb, 31, of Cranfills Gap, injury to a child reckless bodily injury, injury to a child criminal negligence

James George Cotie, 26, of Denton, driving while intoxicated – third or more

Michael Scott Chastain, 55, of Cranfills Gap, possession of child pornography (five counts)

Nicholas Cavazos, 35, of Hillsboro, assault family/household member with previous conviction

Diana Marie Crawford, 28, of Clifton, prohibited substances and items in correctional facility

Darren Edward Dunn, 48, of Waco, indecency with a child – sexual contact (two counts)

Nathan Scott Potter, 30, of Clifton, assault family violence with prior conviction


Monthly sales tax revenue distributed to local cities

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced that he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $668.3 million in local sales tax allocations for September, 6.2 percent more than in September 2016.

Payments for Hill County taxing entities were as follows: Abbott – $8,192.98, up 57 percent; Aquilla – $554.13, down six percent; Blum – $1,141.67, down 39 percent; Bynum – $334.44, down 11 percent; Carl’s Corner – $5,217.38, down four percent; Covington – $3,404.65, up five percent; Hillsboro – $312,909.39, up 20 percent; Hubbard – $12,191.92, up 15 percent; Itasca – $15,130.90, up 59 percent; Malone – $2,206.22, up 78 percent; Mertens – $182.76, up 13 percent; Mount Calm – $1,789.19, up 170 percent; Penelope – $216.56, down 13 percent; Whitney – $46,597.15, up five percent.

Bosque County rebates were as follows: Clifton – $50,750.96, down five percent; Cranfills Gap – $3,023.34, up 105 percent; Iredell – $3,063.19, up 89 percent; Meridian – $15,433.05, up seven percent; Morgan – $2,060.92, up 12 percent; Valley Mills – $11,400.03, up 65 percent; Walnut Springs – $3,982.77, up 20 percent.

These allocations are based on sales made in July by businesses that report tax monthly.


Local resident detained on felony charge

A felony arrest was made by the Hill County Sheriff’s Office at 9:25 p.m. Monday, September 11.

Reports indicated that authorities responded to a disturbance at a residence on Farm Road 3370 in Aquilla.

Following an investigation, deputies detained a 45-year-old Aquilla man for a felony assault on a family/household member impeding breath/circulation charge.

Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bond at $5,000 on Jason Brunett.

Transporting the suspect to the Hill County Law Enforcement Center was Deputy Robert White.


Commissioners approve hotel/motel tax refund

The Hill County Commissioners’ Court met in regular session Tuesday, September 12, and approved a large hotel/motel tax refund that has been pending for the past several years.

The county received amended returns from WB Land Company of Aquilla in August 2012 dating back to September 2008.

At that time, a certified public accountant working on the company’s accounting following the departure of the general manager at that time requested a refund of approximately $80,000 for WB Ranch, which is a corporate retreat.

In the request, the accountant stated that the company’s hotel occupancy tax returns and sales tax returns had been filed incorrectly.

The company also filed amended returns with the state comptroller’s office at the same time.

County Auditor Susan Swilling said that due to the large amount requested, the county waited for the state’s audit report to determine a final amount due.

As the state audit spanned several years, the county continued to budget the approximately $80,000 that would likely be owed to the company.

After receiving the state’s documentation, the county determined that the refund, with interest and penalties, totaled $85,000.

That number includes interest refund due of $8,910.49 and a penalty refund of $305.10.

The refund amount was budgeted in the current fiscal year and will not adversely affect the budget, according to the auditor.

The court also voted to approve a contract with the City of Whitney for jail services. Under the agreement, the county will house Whitney’s Class C offenders at a cost of $40 per day to the city.

Sheriff Rodney Watson said that the impact on the sheriff’s office would be minimal and there would be no additional costs associated with the jail’s medical provider.

Arraignment will be the responsibility of the city judge, according to the contract, and a video arraignment option is being evaluated.

The sheriff said that the agreement will provide additional revenue to the county and will help offset jail expenditures.

The actual cost of food, clothing, bedding and expenses associated with each inmate is estimated at around $8 per day.

While no estimate was provided as to how many inmates may be housed for the city, the county retained the right to reject bookings based on population levels or any other issue that would make the agreement a financial burden.

A finance agreement with Government Capital was approved for the purchase of a backhoe in Precinct 4. The total cost of $124,400 will be covered in seven annual payments.

The State Plan of Operations between the state and county was renewed by the court.

The agreement must be in place for the county to participate in the program, which allows local law enforcement agencies to utilize excess property from the Department of Defense.

The financial impact to the county is minimal under the agreement and only includes the cost of maintenance.

The sheriff’s office currently has two vehicles and nine weapons that it has acquired through the program.

The court also declared September 17-23 Constitution Week in Hill County at the request of Fort Graham Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The proclamation states that September 17, marks the 230th anniversary of the drafting of the United States Constitution and asks citizens to reaffirm the ideals of the framers of the constitution by protecting the freedoms granted and remembering that lost rights may never be regained.

Commissioners also voted to appoint Susan Bryant to the Child Protective Services Board during the meeting and appointed County Judge Justin Lewis and Swilling as contracting officer and alternative contracting officer for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program Grant.


Local 9-1-1 system’s accuracy awarded on national level

Hill County Judge Justin Lewis traveled to Anchorage, Alaska last week to accept an award on behalf of the Heart of Texas Council of Governments’ (HOTCOG) exceptional 9-1-1 program.

Lewis is past president of HOTCOG and currently serves as an executive board member. HOTCOG serves Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties and is the administrator of 9-1-1 service for the area, with the exception of McLennan County.

The award was presented at the annual National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) conference in recognition of HOTCOG’s superior effort in community and economic development through the implementation of next-generation 9-1-1 service.

The local implementation of next-generation 9-1-1 was a pilot project that allows authorities to locate a 9-1-1 caller using a cellular phone with a high rate of accuracy.

HOTCOG has the best numbers in the state for 9-1-1 accuracy, according to HOTCOG Executive Director Russell Devorsky.

While the national standard for 9-1-1 location accuracy is 80 percent, HOTCOG’s next-generation system can locate a caller with over 99 percent accuracy.

Devorsky credited Lewis’ efforts at the state level that he said led to the release of funds to support the pilot project for rural next-generation 9-1-1 service.

Devorsky explained that the 9-1-1 tax charged on telephone bills is sent directly to many big cities and districts, but for rural regions, the state comptroller collects the tax to be distributed.

When those funds were diverted due to the economic downturn, Lewis lobbied to get the money released and state councils of governments received $24 million in the 2015 legislative session.

Devorsky said that Lewis testified before the legislature about a local murder case involving 14-year-old Judith Collins in July 2012.

A cell phone call that was made before the shooting was diverted to a tower in Bosque County, although the site was just north of Whitney in Hill County. When the call was dropped, it was impossible for authorities to determine from where the call had originated.

With next-generation 9-1-1 service, the signal is triangulated from the location rather than bouncing off of a tower that may not even be in the area, which means a caller’s location can be quickly pinpointed.

HOTCOG is the first region to implement next-generation 9-1-1 service, which involves updated computer systems and software.

Next-generation availability has been limited to large cities and districts until the local pilot project.

“I’m extremely humbled that we’re winning this award,” Devorsky said. “I’m proud of the staff and leadership team. I’m very excited that we’re being recognized on the national stage for our efforts.”

In addition to the next-generation 9-1-1 service, HOTCOG has also implemented text to 9-1-1 capability to its system.

Devorsky cautioned that text messages to 9-1-1 should be a last resort, but that they can be helpful in emergency situations in which an individual cannot safely talk on the phone.

Calling is still the preferred way to contact 9-1-1 when possible, as text location information is not as accurate as current location technology for phone calls.

In addition, 9-1-1 texts can take longer to receive, as with any text message; text to 9-1-1 is not available in roaming mode; and a data plan is required to send text messages.

Photos and vidoes cannot currently be sent to 9-1-1, and texts to 9-1-1 cannot be group texts.

To text 9-1-1, the number should be entered into the “to” field as you would enter any other phone number.

The first message should be brief and contain your location and the emergency. Then the call taker may ask questions.

Devorsky said that it is also important to use simple words and avoid abbreviations.

In addition, a public information campaign is being launched to inform the public about the importance of avoiding the use of “911” in normal text conversations.

Devorsky said that many people may use “911” when texting family and friends to stress the urgency of a message, but using those numbers in the body of a text can also cause the message to be delivered to 9-1-1 operators.