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2009-01-08

2008 - It’s a wrap, part 2

Staff

JULY:
• The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality scheduled a contested case hearing on a proposed wastewater treatment facility to be constructed for Hills of Castle Rock, a subdivision near the intersection of Bandera Road (Highway 16 South) and Park Road 37.

Dallas developer BP Real Estate Investments Ltd. plans to build 3,500 units on 1,766 acres to accommodate 12,000 residents. At build-out, it is estimated that up to one million gallons of effluent - not treated to drinking water standards - would be released into pristine San Geronimo Creek.

Forty acres of the huge residential and commercial development sprawls across the Medina County line into Bandera County.

• After Labor Day, county residents must pay more for depositing their household trash and bulk items at the four county solid waste collection stations - aka dumps. Bandera County Commissioners approved increasing fees after learning the county’s collection stations had been consistently losing money.

After noting, “I have a problem supplementing the collection stations with tax dollars when some people in the county pay for their own garbage pickup,” County Judge Richard Evans untied a 2-2 knot by voting for the increase.

• Jeffrey Scott, son of Kelly and Lo-Rena Scott, earned an acting fellowship with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. The 1998 graduate of Bandera High School was selected from 16 finalists during the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship auditions at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

AUGUST
• Steven Shannon Veselka was arrested Friday, August 8, in Kerrville on capital murder charges, stemming from the 2001 death of 22-month-old Cheriko Ressler in Bandera County. Veselka allegedly killed Ressler by blunt force trauma to the head in October 2001. If found guilty, Veselka could receive the death penalty.

• In an uncharacteristic about face, 216th District Judge Stephen Ables bound John Ivan Heinen, 32, over for trial on charges of intoxication manslaughter in the 2007 death of his brother. Previously, Heinen had pleaded guilty to a third felony DWI. His punishment was 10 years probation, a $1,000 fine, enrollment in an alcohol treatment program and suspension of his driver’s license.

However, Heinen’s three pending DWI charges in Oklahoma precluded his acceptance into the rehab program. After learning that Heinen could not fulfill the terms of his plea bargain, Ables scheduled him for trial.

Additionally, after determining Heinen could not receive a “fair and impartial” trial in Bandera County, Ables transferred the case to Gillespie County.

• At the request of Bandera County Judge Richard Evans, County Attorney Kerry Schneider investigated allegations that the county’s stray dogs and cats are routinely disposed of illegally. During a July budget workshop, Judy McKee of the Bluebonnet Pet Crematory in Converse claimed her facility had received animals from Bandera County that had been shot and drowned.
Although Schneider asked McKee to cooperate in the investigation, McKee failed to respond to any of Schneider’s enquiries.

Information subsequently uncovered allowed Schneider to determine that her allegations were unfounded.

• Despite swirling rumors, horses have not been banned from the streets of the Cowboy Capital of World, but parties responsible for their equines’ defecation must mount a poop patrol at conclusions of celebratory weekends.

Prior to an August meeting of Bandera City Council, local businessman Greg Schmidt had lodged a complaint with city officials about piles of horse poop left in the street outside his taxidermy shop on Hackberry Street. His complaints led to an agenda item that considered changing a city ordinance and possibly banning all horses inside the city limits or requiring a “bag” or diaper for all horses ridden within the city.

SEPTEMBER

• Less than six hours before he was scheduled to die for participating in the 1996 murder of a clerk in a Kerrville service station, Jeffrey Lee Wood, 34, was granted a stay of execution. United States District Judge Orlando Garcia delayed Wood’s execution until medical tests could determine his mental competency.

In 1998, a Bandera County jury had found him guilty of capital murder after the trial was moved from Kerr County. Wood’s co-defendant, Daniel Earl Reneau, was executed for the crime in 2002.

• A Bandera County jury sent a strong message to drug manufacturers and dealers operating in the county by finding Raul Gallegos Jr., 27, guilty of possession and manufacture of methamphetamine. The next day, the jury sentenced him to 120 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

• The first unveiling of a “90 percent complete” Bandera Comprehensive Land Use Master Plan occurred to decidedly mixed reviews. “I like the idea of bringing historical districts and tourism together,” said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Cindy Harrington, “but I don’t know if we can implement it.”
“That’s the challenge,” offered City Councilman Robert Koimn.
“I will express our strong dissatisfaction with the document and ask representatives of Urban Design Associates to attend a meeting to address our concerns,” said Jim Hannah, chairman of the Planning and zoning commission.

OCTOBER
• “I’m just trying to plan for the future,” said City of Bandera Mayor Horst Pallaske as he facilitated the purchase of a parking lot at the corner of 11th and Cedar streets. The Economic Development Corporation would foot the $115,000 bill for the tract. The EDC has rented the lot for five years and this year’s rent has increased to $5,000 plus taxes.
After Pallaske cast a tie-breaking vote, the parking lot joined Bandera City Park, the infamous “bamboo” lot and the city yard as municipality-owned property. Mayor Pro Tem Monica Halsey and Councilman Jason Williams voted in favor of the purchase and Councilmen John Hegemier and Robert Koimn cast nay votes. Councilman Philip Acton was absent.

• Ruth Ann Eledge of the Waters Consulting Group told Bandera County Commissioners that, on an average, local employees receive approximately 14 percent less pay than their peers doing comparable jobs in equivalent counties. Commissioners immediately approved a pay raise of 3 percent across the board effective Oct. 1, the onset of the new fiscal year.
This raise would be in addition to a 4.48 percent cost of living increase approved earlier and included in the 2008-2009 budget.

• After a protracted Oct. 16, special meeting of Bandera County Commissioners Court, the county had terminated its contract with the Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League effective Nov. 1. The motion to terminate was approved 4-1 with Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris casting the lone nay vote.
The animal rescue organization had previously operated the county animal control facility.

NOVEMBER
• A one-vehicle wreck that occurred late Nov. 3, on Highway 173 to Hondo resulted in the deaths of Randall Lee Collins, 20, of Watauga; Tyler James Lewis, 21, of Pipe Creek; Clayton Dean Oliver, 17; and John David Gaddis, 16, both of Bandera.
“The truck took out a utility pole,” said Department of Public Safety Trooper Chip Aragones, “then rolled again before ending up in some cedar trees. All four occupants were ejected. None of them had their seatbelts fastened.”

• The most succinct assessment of the City of Bandera’s current “battle of the bands” was unexpectedly overheard during a November holiday reception when one disinterested by-stander pointed out, “Some seem to like booze and loud music and some seem to like sleep. I’m glad I don’t have to resolve this issue.”
The twin issues of the noise ordinance and special event permits that some citizens consider are being used to circumvent it resurfaced at the Nov. 6 meeting of Bandera City Council.

• Brig. Gen. Victor M. Ortiz Jr., deputy commander of the Texas State Guard Keynote, served as keynote speaker for the fourth annual Bandera Honors Veterans ceremony, Saturday, Nov. 8. Ortiz later attended a special luncheon at Bandera’s American Legion Post 157.

• Bandera County Deputy Chris Wilson was fired after it was determined he had failed to take action on four allegedly intoxicated males who were later involved in a fatal traffic accident. The youths had occupied a pickup truck parked at the Bandera Sonic on Main Street at approximately 10 pm on Nov. 3.
About 90 minutes later, the quartet was involved in a one-vehicle crash on Highway 173 South. According to a law enforcement report, Wilson failed to intervene in a potentially dangerous situation.

DECEMBER
• Showing support for beleaguered Police Chief Jim Eigner, Bandera City Council declined to take action on an indictment that had resulted from his peripheral involvement in the John Heinen intoxication manslaughter trial. A November grand jury had indicted Eigner for aggravated perjury. The indictment charged he had stated under oath that, prior to Oct. 15, he had not been notified about being required to appear as a witness to testify in Heinen’s trial pursuant to a subpoena. If found guilty of the third degree felony, Eigner could face two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

• At the end of the 30-minute closed session on Dec. 4, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Halsey made a motion authorizing legal action to proceed against Guilott Realty, Inc., 129 Highway 16 South. The motion was approved unanimously. Because she has installed a water catchment system for non-potable uses and supplies bottled water for drinking purposes, Guilott balked at city insistence she must connect to city water utilities. The building, however, is hooked up to municipal wastewater utilities. As per Utility Ordinance 174, Guilott will be fined for noncompliance.

• A 19-year-old Bandera County jailer was terminated for having sex with an unidentified 20-year-old female prisoner - despite a prominently posted warning indicating that engaging in such behavior with inmates is a felony. Thomas Scott Sharp, son of BCSO Sgt. Scott Sharp, had been on the job for just five months before being terminated on Dec. 2.

He apparently confessed his sexual transgressions after the object of his affections complained to authorities. The female detainee, who had been arrested on an outstanding warrant, was transferred to another law enforcement facility.