HCSO executes search warrant at game room
The Hill County Sheriff’s Office detained multiple individuals and seized gaming equipment following the execution of a search warrant at a local business Tuesday, September 1.
According to information released by the sheriff’s office, authorities executed a search warrant related to alleged illegal gambling at “Sweet Pea’s,” located just east of the Whitney city limits in the 2300 block of State Highway 22.
Reports indicated that deputies seized all of the gaming equipment at the business and documentation relating to the alleged illegal gambling.
The sheriff’s office said that a firearm reported stolen out of Fort Worth was also seized, along with a small amount of methamphetamine and approximately $6,000 in gambling proceeds.
According to reports, the drugs were located after the department’s K-9 alerted on a vehicle that one of the owners was occupying as deputies arrived on scene.
In the press release, the sheriff’s office stated: “In recent Facebook posts, we have mentioned several felony narcotic arrests of individuals who were observed to have just left a business outside of the city limits of Whitney on Highway 22. Sweet Pea’s was that ‘business’ mentioned in those previous posts.”
In addition to the drug arrests of individuals leaving the business, patrol deputies also recovered an occupied stolen vehicle and arrested the driver.
Deputies detained 14 individuals while executing the search warrant, including three owners/employees and 11 patrons.
No arrests were made, but the sheriff’s office reported that arrest warrants relating to illegal gambling, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of methamphetamine are likely to follow.
Deputies assigned to the Criminal Investigations Unit were assisted with the warrant service by patrol deputies, K-9 personnel and crime scene personnel.
The investigation is ongoing, according to the sheriff’s office.
County-wide tourism effort approved by commissioners
The Hill County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with the Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce at its final August meeting that will create a county-wide effort to promote tourism and economic development.
Hillsboro Chamber Director Wendy Ellis and Charles Eaton, chair of the chamber’s board of directors, recently made a presentation to the court about a proposed partnership that would allow the chamber to manage a portion of the county’s special budgets for tourism and economic development.
The two budgets are separate from the county’s general fund and are designated to promote unincorporated areas of the county.
The county’s tourism budget, which is funded from hotel occupancy taxes, can only be used to promote tourism. The economic development fund can be used for anything commissioners deem to be an economic development activity in unincorporated areas.
The tourism budget has a projected beginning balance of $80,000, with revenue estimated at $22,350 in the coming year.
The economic development fund is projected to begin the fiscal year with $147,400, with $200,000 in anticipated revenue projected.
After reviewing plans, the court approved the partnership and created a “program director” position in the county. Ellis will fill the position, with the chamber responsible for her salary and the county offering benefits through funds already allocated to the program.
Some of the goals identified for the program include a county-wide retail study to build a recruitment and retention program, maintenance and expansion of the county’s current tourism website, a county-wide tourism magazine publication, the establishment of a social media program, and collaboration with other chambers of commerce and organizations in the county.
Ellis said that the proposed revenue in the funds would be enough to get the project started in the coming year without tapping into the reserves in the accounts.
The agreement also calls for the chamber to provide quarterly progress reports, accounting documentation and create an annual budget for the county’s approval.
County Judge Justin Lewis said that the agreement contains an opt-out clause in the event that Ellis vacates the position. The agreement would allow both the chamber and county to reevaluate whether to continue the program under a new director.
Lewis said that he is excited about the program. “I think this is beyond past due for us,” the judge said. “We have the funds dedicated, and we have the ability to see if this works.”
Commissioners heard from U.S. Capital Advisors, which was the third company to make a presentation to the court regarding financial advising services. The court is preparing to refund bond that are callable this year and will create a savings for the county.
The discussion about restructuring the county’s debt led to conversation about plans to address the county’s need for more space and security as Hill County’s population continues to grow.
The construction of a justice center to house the county’s courts has been identified as one way to address the issue.
Lewis explained that with multiple judges sharing limited courtroom space, it is difficult to arrange schedules.
Commissioner Martin Lake pointed to feedback the county has received indicating that action needs to be taken to enhance security at the courthouse.
The county is limited by the state as to how much work can be performed on the historic building, which creates issues with enhancing security.
“We can pour millions of dollars into this building and still have great limitations as to what we can do,” Lewis said. The judge added that the courthouse is a good office building, but it is not functioning to meet the needs of today’s courts.
“It was designed for the needs of 1890s Texas,” Lewis said. “It was not designed for the needs of today.”
Discussions with attorneys and judges have made it clear that the county needs to make plans for the future, Lewis said. He explained that part of that process is adjusting debt to avoid raising the tax rate while building the facilities needed for future growth.
The current effort that is underway to create secure records storage facility at the former Waco Street jail is helping the county achieve one goal, which is to divest itself of multiple unneeded properties downtown.
In other business, an updated agreement with ICE Construction was approved outlining work to be performed on the county annex on Franklin Street.
Early proposals to replace the building’s facade came in over the county’s budget for the project, which was intended to address basic maintenance issues and repair leaks.
The latest proposal came in at $55,018.87, which was more in line with the anticipated budget for the work.
Commissioners met again in a special session Tuesday, September 1, to consider several agenda items.
With drought conditions still persisting at the time of the meeting and fires increasing, the court implemented a burn ban. Because of the heavy rainfall that began last week after the ban was put in place, expectations were that the ban may be lifted at the court’s next scheduled meeting Tuesday, September 8.
During the special meeting, the court voted to retain U.S. Capital Advisors for financial advising services as the county considers making a private placement of 2010 bonds.
Two agreements were also approved for work that is planned on county facilities. A final contract was approved with Parsons Roofing for roofing work at the Covington Street county annex, and an agreement was approved with ICE Construction to level the floor of the Support Services Building on Waco Street.
The court passed a resolution outlining grant assurances for the Help America Vote Act funds that the county is seeking to cover a portion of the cost of new voting machines. Approval of the resolution was a required step that the county must take to receive the funds of approximately $126,000.
A one-year agreement was approved with the Heart of Texas Council of Governments to allow the county to continue its participation in the reverse 9-1-1 system.
The program is offered at no cost to the county and allows the emergency management coordinator to notify citizens of issues like severe weather, natural disasters, public health threats, crime alerts and other emergency situations.
A credit application was authorized with Data Projections to allow for the purchase of temperature monitors to be placed at the courthouse and county jail. The court previously approved the purchase, which will eliminate the need for deputies to perform temperature scans in close proximity to individuals.
A contract was renewed with the Office of the Attorney General for the Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service, which notifies victims when there is a status change with an incarcerated offender, such as a release from jail.
It was noted that the county is cleaning out storage at the Franklin Street annex, and multiple surplus items, such as pieces of old furniture, were declared surplus property to allow the county to legally sell or dispose of the items.
The court was expected to meet again Tuesday, September 8, to adopt a tax rate and budget for the coming fiscal year.
35th annual Bosque Art Classic goes online for 2020 exhibition
The 35th Annual Bosque Art Classic in Clifton features over 200 pieces of outstanding art by artists from across the nation. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the exhibition and sale will be completely online this year, including the opening night ceremony, which will take the form of a video premiere on Facebook on Saturday, September 12, at 7 p.m. Bruce Greene, Cowboy Artists of America member since 1993, served as judge for the 2020 show, which includes a bumper crop of exemplary representational art. The classic features landscapes, portraits, still life scenes, and, of course, a variety of the western art for which the show has become so well known. The opening night video will feature Greene’s comments on the overall show and on the winning pieces in each of the categories of drawing, oil/acrylic, pastel, sculpture and water media. Greene calls the show “a beautiful grouping of art” and notes he was saddened there wouldn’t be an opportunity to be in the room with the actual pieces due to the conditions right now. “That’s a real loss, because this was a magnificent bunch of artwork that made this show,” Greene said. The online sale will open at 10 a.m. Monday, September 14, after a pre-sale for the BAC Art Patrons, whose membership dues make possible the events put on by the Art Council, sponsors of the classic. The sale closes at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 26. The Art Classic is now viewable at www.BosqueArtsCen ter.org, with a link to the online sale site and instructions on registering to purchase art in the sale. Over 120 artists were juried into the 2020 show, including Kim Mackey, Ezra Tucker, Cindy Long, Robyn Cooke, Brian Asher, Tatsiana Harbacheuskaya, Matt Atkinson, Tanja Gant, Herman Walker and William Schneider. Among the area artists in the show are Lloyd Voges of Clifton, Kathy Tate and Blue Dornan of Stephenville, Van Johnson of Granbury, Brenda Driggers of Cleburne, Margaret Drake of Glen Rose, and Daniel Anz, Joe Barbieri, Joel Edwards, Linda Filgo, Greg Lewallen, and Marsha Wilson, all of Waco. For more information, contact the Bosque Arts Center at 254-675-3724.