Local News

Grand Jury
returns April indictments
A Hill County Grand Jury that convened Friday, April 5, returned the following indictments:
Christa Marie Adams, 30, of Berthoud, Colorado, theft under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions
Linda Louise Anderson, 37, of Waco, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
Jacob Ray Barnett, 33, of Whitney, continuous violence against the family
Anthony Lee Black, 24, of Waco, evading arrest detention with a vehicle
Wesley Dwayne Brooks, 40, of Hubbard, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Olivia Santa Cruz Cobb, 43, of Fort Worth, possession of cocaine between one and four grams
Devin Renee Curran, 31, of Hillsboro, abandon/endanger a child criminal negligence
Denzell Lee Davis, 23, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Ryan William Doyle, 25, of Austin, possession of THC oil under one gram
Naomi Jane Ferrell, 49, of Grand Prairie, driving while intoxicated – third or more
Aaron Joe Flores, 30, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Larry Wayne Fulton, 57, of Hillsboro, violation of bond/protective order two or more times within 12 months
Josephus Demetrius Garrett, 35, of Whitney, burglary of a habitation (two counts)
Devlen Cole Gentry-McCullar, 24, of Greensburg, Kansas, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Christy Jane Graham, 41, of Knox City, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Hector Wallace Grisham, 35, of Grand Prairie possession of THC oil under one gram
Jerry Don Harrell, 49, of Whitney, evading arrest detention with a vehicle, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams with intent to deliver
Eric DeLeon Harrison, 25, of Dallas, theft of property under $2,500 with two or more previous convictions, evading arrest detention with previous convictions
Matthew Lee Henson, 40, of Itasca, sex offender’s duty to register life/annually
Meghan Alyse Howell, 28, of Whitney, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
Linda Jannette Hyden, 60, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, abandon/endanger child criminal negligence
Glenn Edward Johnson, 56, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams, prohibited substance in a correctional facility, tamper/fabricate physical evidence
James L. Johnson III, 50, of Houston, evading arrest detention with a vehicle
Ricky Jordan Jones Jr., 28, of Hubbard, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, tamper/fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair
Kevin Joshua Keiser, 35, of Lexington, Oklahoma, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Rebecca Joan McDade, 47, of Hillsboro, forgery of financial instrument against elderly
Geoffery Montgomery, 63, of Hillsboro, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Catherine Lynn Morlan, 37, of Hillsboro, abandon endanger child criminal negligence, possession of methamphetamine between one and four grams with intent to deliver
Mary Catherine O’Donnell, 58, of Hillsboro, fraudulently obtain/possess controlled substance – prescription schedule III/IV
Matthew Alan Roth, 28, of Cleburne, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Christian Drew Segerson, 24, of Laredo, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, deadly weapon in penal institution
Pamela Songer, 39, of Newport, Virginia, unauthorized use of motor vehicle
Amber Michelle Stuart, 32, of Blum, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Mark Alan Tutton, 38, of Gun Barrel City, bail jump and failure to appear
Charles Glenn Wallace, 50, of Whitney, possession of methamphetamine under one gram
Richard Antonio Zepeda, 19, of Dallas, possession of THC oil under one gram
The cases were presented to the grand jury by District Attorney Mark Pratt, and District Judge Lee Harris presides over the court.


Higher values reported on appraisals
Property owners across Hill County should be receiving their new 2019 property appraisal notices from the Hill County Appraisal District this week.
Approximately 30,000 notices were mailed Monday, April 15, according to Hill County Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Mike McKibben.
“Properties around the county have been selling at higher prices than the tax appraisal value,” said McKibben.
The vast majority of Hill County property owners are going to find themselves with higher appraised property values this year.
“People are paying some crazy prices, and the new appraisal figures are bringing values closer to what properties are currently selling for,” he added. “And for this reason, properties in Hill County will experience a value increase for the 2019 tax year.”
Those homeowners who have seen the market value of their homestead go up by more than 10 percent will benefit from the state law that protects them from having to absorb such large tax increases in a single year.
That law keeps homeowners with the standard homestead exemption from paying taxes on any more than 110 percent of the previous year’s valuation, unless something new was added.
For example, a homestead with a market value of $100,000 last year may be valued at $120,000 this year, but the appraised value, which determines the amount of property tax due, would increase only to $110,000.
The remaining $10,000 increased value, referred to as the homestead cap loss, would be carried over to the next year.
The protection extends only to a residential homestead and does not affect commercial buildings, second houses or vacant land.
For a person with an over-age 65 homestead exemption, the value can increase but the amount of taxes paid last year will not increase unless you added something new.
The new assessments will soon be available on the Appraisal District’s website, at http://www.hillcad.org.
A valid effort is made to appraise all property at its market value as required in the Texas Constitution.
Property owners who believe their appraised value is higher than what their property would sell for should contact the Appraisal District at 1407 Abbott Avenue in Hillsboro to discuss how the value was determined.
If after the discussion an agreement is not reached, a property owner may file a written protest to have a hearing before the county’s Appraisal Review Board (ARB).
A protest form will be included with the notice and the forms are also available on the HCAD website.
Interested persons are advised that a written protest must be filed/postmarked by Wednesday, May 15, this year to be considered valid. ARB hearings are held during late May and June.
There are several ways a person can appear for an ARB hearing, including in person, by sworn written affidavit, or you may give someone written authorization to appear on your behalf.
In each case, a property owner should submit all evidence for the hearing such as pictures, written estimates or other evidence deemed necessary.
The evidence presented will become a part of the ARB hearing file.
Anyone with questions or concerns should contact the Hill County Appraisal District at 254-582-2508.
The appraisers will be conducting informal conferences at the appraisal district office. If you contact the appraisal district by phone, it will probably take several days for a return call depending on the volume of incoming calls.


Local sales tax rebates
up in April
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced that he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $705.3 million in local sales tax allocations for April, 8.4 percent more than in April 2018.
Whitney’s April allocation came to $51,830.95, up seven percent from last April.
Rebates for other Hill County taxing entities and changes from last April included: Abbott – $10,167.84, up 173 percent; Aquilla – $789.73, up 60 percent; Blum – $3,285.86, down 40 percent; Bynum – $384.13, down seven percent; Carl’s Corner – $6,095.45, up 43 percent; Covington – $3,879.68, up 36 percent; Hillsboro – $220,720, down seven percent; Hubbard – $10,614.33, up 18 percent; Itasca – $12,566.97, up 45 percent; Malone – $1,082.84, down 11 percent; Mertens – $209.07, down 39 percent; Mt. Calm – $853.24, down 61 percent; and Penelope – $365.14, up 21 percent.
Bosque County rebates were as follows: Clifton – $53,658.94, up seven percent; Cranfills Gap – $2,245, down three percent; Iredell – $1,559.87, down 17 percent; Meridian – $14,184.96, down 22 percent; Morgan – $1,306.06, up two percent; Valley Mills – $7,986.89, up 28 percent; Walnut Springs – $3,025.29, up five percent.
These allocations are based on sales made in February by businesses that report tax monthly.


Band closes out spectacular year with “1’s” at all contests
By Whitney Band Director Josh Nowlin
Congratulations to the Whitney High School for their spectacular performance at UIL Concert and Sightreading contest! The band earned straight 1’s on their prepared stage music. They also earned straight 1’s from every judge in sightreading.
The sightreading 1’s are remarkable because the students are expected to look at piece of music and perform it the first time perfectly after just a brief explanation. It is truly a tremendous effort to elevate the band’s performance level to achieve first divisions on stage and in sightreading.
This is the first time ever in school history that the WHS Band earned 1’s from every judge at every contest between the fall, winter and spring contests. For their stage music, the band performed “Three Ayres from Gloucester” by Hugh Stewart, “Excelsior!” by William Owens, and “Into The Arctic” by Brian Balmages. You can hear all of these pieces by searching for their titles on Youtube.
For those of you who wonder, “What does a “1” mean?” and “Why is it a big deal?” Band events are typically scored by ratings, 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. “First Division,” or a “1,” means “worthy of first place.” Second division means “Excellent,” and so forth. For our band program to be considered “worthy of first place” at all venues and events this year truly means our students are working harder than ever and seeing great results from their musical efforts.
It is worth noting that in addition to the Whitney band’s success, our students gain so much from a quality music education. Did you know about the benefits our students receive from studying in band?
Students learn these highly valued skills: collaboration, receiving and utilizing constructive feedback, longer lasting focus, problem solving, creativity, the ability to take risks, flexibility and adaptability.
The College Entrance Examination Board cites that music students score 63 points higher on verbal skills and 44 points higher on math when compared to students with no arts participation.
Music majors have the highest likelihood of all college grads to be admitted to medical school.
The foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians.
Students with four years of music education score 10-12% higher on the SAT than others.
Did you know art and culture industries generate $5.5 billion to the Texas economy and generate $343 million to Texas tax revenue?
Did you know our state’s creative sector employs one in five Texans—nearly 800,000 workers?
Texas schools with more students in music classes have better academic ratings, fewer discipline problems and higher attendance rates.
Facts and figures were taken from NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants), TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association), and http://www.GoArts.org.
It’s worth mentioning all of this to you as students prepare to return to band next year or sign up for band the first time. If your student is a fifth grader and they are interested in joining band in sixth grade for the 2019-2020 school year, make sure to email the band at josh.nowlin@whitneyisd.org or eliz abeth.martinez@whitneyisd.org.
If you missed the sign-up night for your incoming fifth grader on April 12, you can still sign up for band by coming to our “Get Your Instrument Night” on May 2.
We invite all of you to our spring concerts. All are welcome to come and watch our great bands perform. The WHS band will perform at the WMS Gym on April 30th along with the Percussion Ensemble, Clarinet Quartet and Brass Quartet.
The WMS Band will perform at 6:30 p.m. in the WHS Gym on May 6.
“New Blue” (WHS Jazz Band) and Percussion Ensemble will perform at White Bluff Chapel on May 7 at 6:30 p.m.
All concerts are free and open to the public, and we hope that everyone can come and enjoy these truly top level events.
Directors for the Whitney Band are Josh Nowlin and Elizabeth Martinez.


Whitney police arrest wanted woman locally
Whitney police detained a 27-year-old Cedar Creek woman at 5:26 p.m. Wednesday, April 10.
Authorities contacted the subject on North Brazos Street near HCR 1240 north of Whitney.
She was wanted for bond forfeiture on a charge of possession of marijuana between two and four ounces.
Officer Brian Stephens booked the woman into the Hill County Law Enforcement Center.


Court-Appointed Special Advocates sworn in
The first class of advocates for CASA of Hill County has completed their 30 hours of pre-service training and were sworn in recently by the Honorable Judge Matt Crain of the County Court-at-Law.
Each volunteer has completed the interview and background process to be accepted into the pre-service training class.
After meeting on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for four hours each week for three weeks, they are now trained and ready to begin serving the abused and neglected children of Hill County.
When CPS has to intervene in a family to protect the safety of children, the judge can appoint a CASA advocate to the case. These trained volunteers will do their own investigation of the facts surrounding the case and make a determination of what they feel is in the best interest of the child or children. They, along with CPS and attorneys, present their findings to the judge.
CASA advocates can expect to spend about 15 to 20 hours each month involved in the lives of these children. Each CASA advocate is assigned to only one case and will remain on the case until the child is placed in a permanent home.
Often times, the CASA advocate becomes the most consistent person in the life of these children.
In Hill County in 2017, according to statistics from the DFPS, 141 children were in placements outside of their home. While some were with relatives, many are in foster homes or residential treatment centers located as far away as Amarillo.
When CASA advocates are available, they will see these children routinely and follow up on their care, reporting back to the judge. It is the goal of CASA of Hill County that each of these children will have a CASA advocate to be their voice.
If you would like to know more about becoming an advocate for abused and neglected children, visit the CASA of Hill County website at http://www.casaofhillcountytexas.org or call them at 254-283-5082.


Whitney HS science team earns another district win
The defending UIL science state champions from Whitney High School began their title defense with a huge win at the UIL Academic District 17-3A competition at Grandview High School Wednesday, March 27.
Whitney UIL science has now won 12 district championships in a row. The team of senior Tyler Hope, senior Jaden Solis, senior Hayden Ridings and sophomore Fritz Sauer will represent Whitney at the Region-3 UIL academic competition at Blinn College Saturday, April 13, for the right to go to the state championship in Austin.
Whitney took the team district championship with 548 points. Harmony School of Innovation (Waco) finished runner up with 210 points, with Grandview finishing third place with 180 points. Fourth place went to West with 128 points, fifth place to Maypearl with 120 points and sixth place to Clifton with 118 points.
Individually, senior captain Hope won four district championships as the top overall scorer (294 points) and set a new school record, along with the top biology, top chemistry and top physics scores on the district test.
Solis scored second overall and second in chemistry and physics.
Ridings scored third overall and third in biology.
Sauer scored fourth overall and second in biology.
Freshman Cadence Bidwell scored sixth overall, and sophomore Zachary Hubbard scored seventh overall.
Coach Bobby Pierce offered a special thank you to Captain Hope for not only competing, but also coaching chemistry and physics after school to his teammates.