With 2009 winding down, the Empire-Tribune cracked open the archives in search of the stories that touched the people of Erath County over the last year. From economic hardships and issues affecting local government and its citizens, to senseless crimes and justice in action to the retirement of elected and appointed officials and historic first times, the past year has no doubt shaped the world we live in.
Editors note: This is the second in a three-part series on the local events of the last year, see the Friday edition of the E-T for continuing coverage. The top 10 national headlines will be included in Sunday's edition.
Bruner Motors weathers
After months of financial woes for auto manufacturers and lending institutions, General Motors announced they would close 1,000 dealerships across the nation. Despite the announcement, Greg Bruner, owner of Bruner Motors in Stephenville, said the local dealership, celebrating its 40th year, would forge into the future thanks to high productivity and performance.
Tarleton police seek thieves
The Tarleton State University Police Department sought the public’s help in tracking a thief, or thieves, who stole more than a dozen projectors from classrooms across the campus. According to Tarleton Police Chief Justin Williams, the projectors were valued at about $2,000 each and started disappearing from the university in 2008.
Local dies of TB
An autopsy performed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Dublin resident Feliciano Perez, Jr., 19, died on April 19 of tuberculosis.
DISD hires new super
The Dublin ISD board of trustees approved the hiring of Shaun Barnett as the school district’s new superintendent following the retirement of Roy Neff, who held the position for 23 years. Barnett left the Cumby ISD, where he also served as superintendent, to move to Dublin where he signed a three-year contract for a $95,400 salary.
MTGCD denies city’s request
The Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District denied a request by Stephenville City Administrator Mark Kaiser for an exception the district’s rules. The purpose of the request was to allow for the drilling of three new water wells on two acre lots to supplement city supplies. MTGCD rules would require the lots to measure about 35 acres each. The district explained the city missed the exception deadline.
Familiar faces win in 2009
Following the May 9 election, incumbents Alan Nash and Don Zelman learned they would keep their seats on the Stephenville City Council as they garnered 70 and 72 percent of the votes, respectively. Former council member Joe Cude beat out newcomer Jared Crow for a place on the council while incumbent Mark Murphy was ousted by newcomer Martha Cashon. Meanwhile, Stephenville ISD board of trustees welcomed Gary Sult and Todd McEvoy.
Ty Murray struts his stuff
The “King of Cowboys,” Ty Murray, and his professional dance partner, Chelsie Hightower, danced their way to the semifinals on ABC television’s Dancing with the Stars. Murray attributed their success to Hightower’s abilities and the support of the “Cowboy Army” that continued to vote for the couple week after week. They were eliminated from the competition on May 12.
Postage rates increase, again
Postal patrons faced another postage rate increase as the cost of first-class stamps was raised to 44 cents, an increase of two pennies. Postcard rates increased one penny to 28 cents.
More layoffs at FMC
The third round of layoffs hit employees of FMC Technologies as an additional 79 workers lost their jobs, bringing the year’s total to more than 200.
Local grocer closes down
After 50 years, Piggly Wiggly announced it would close the doors to its Stephenville grocery store, which sent 18 employees in search of new jobs.
Stem cells offer healing
Innovative stem cell therapy offered physical improvements for Stephenville resident Jason Slawson who was paralyzed in a roofing accident a decade earlier. Slawson’s own stem cells were harvested and reintroduced into his body as a part of the therapy, which he underwent at a clinic in Costa Rica.
Dubliner pleads guilty to
Longtime Dublin businessman, Rod Gerhart, was sentenced to seven years probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of prohibited sexual conduct and one count of sexual assault, involving acts against two teenaged victims in 2005 and 2008.
Four decades of cowboying
The Cowboy Capital of the World Pro Rodeo celebrated 40 years. (PICTURE)
Pool gets a name
The City of Stephenville’s new aquatics facility was officially named ‘Splashville’ as the city council voted to approve the moniker which was suggested by elementary students within the Stephenville ISD.
State rep named No. 1
The Texas Insider Online named State Representative Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) the best legislator during the 81st legislative session. The Insider said Miller’s mastery of legislative rules was one of his most important assets. (MUG)
After 65 years of teaching music to Stephenville ISD students, Virginia Bond announced her retirement. Bond graduated from Dublin High School and John Tarleton College before pursuing her master’s degree at the University of North Texas. (PICTURE)
Yellow Jacket heads to
Former Yellow Jacket baseball player Brock Holt was drafted in the ninth round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. (MUG)
More indictments for Dougherty
Former Tarleton State University professor Thomas Dougherty was indicted on an additional six counts of possessing child pornography. He was indicted on three counts in 2008 for possessing similar images on his office computer. The images were detected by a graduate student and reported to university police officials who later turned the case over to the Attorney General Office for further investigation.
Terry Staton, owner of J7 Vehicle Sales, was indicted on a first-degree felony when an Erath County Grand Jury decided he should face trial for allegedly selling or disposing of 22 vehicles. First Financial Bank of Stephenville held the titles for the automobiles since Staton had secured a loan with the bank and put the vehicles up as collateral.
Football stars host benefit
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb and University of Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead, former Stephenville High School standouts, hosted the first annual one-day Kevin Kolb United Way Football Camp in Stephenville. (PICTURE)
The Texas Department of State Health Services re-designated Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville as a Level IV Trauma Center.
Cheatham and Lansford investigation begins
An investigation into the alleged bad business dealings of Paul Lansford and David Cheatham, partners in the accounting firm, Cheatham & Lansford, CPA got underway. The duo was accused of stealing more than $2 million from their clients’ accounts. (PICTURE)
Shoppers seek 'King of Pop' collectibles
Following the sudden death of Michael Jackson, local fans flocked to shopping spots to buy the ‘King of Pop's’ numerous albums and other memorabilia. Local retailers like Hastings Entertainment, sold out of a number of his albums just days after his death.
Hospital plans to buy surgical center
Employees of the Surgical and Endoscopic Center and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville were informed of the hospital’s plans to purchase the privately owned surgical center.
Fires spread across county
Fire fighters suffered heat exhaustion and hundreds of acres were charred as fires ripped across Erath County. The devastation began just one day after the Erath County Commissioner Court implemented a burn ban in the dry, hot conditions. One of the blazes, on FM 205, was ignited as a controlled burn raged out of control. Despite the constant efforts of local fire crews, it continued to smolder for more than a week. (PICTURE)
Crime increases thanks to economy
As a troubled economy continued to beat down on broke Americans, local statistics showed the people sometimes turn to crime to make ends meet. Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell blamed a drastic increase in motor vehicle burglaries on the economy. Halsell said by July 16, 2007 the police department had recorded 65 vehicle burglaries, which increased to 72 in 2008 and jumped to 120 in 2009.
Upshaw named chief investigator
Less than one year after returning to the ranks of the Erath County Sheriff’s Office, Jason Upshaw was promoted to the position of chief investigator. Upshaw previously gave up his law enforcement career after Multiple Sclerosis left him wheelchair bound. He returned to the department and full-active duty in September 2008 shortly after undergoing stem cell therapy in Costa Rica. (MUG)
Bank robber pleads guilty
David Wayne Crabtree pleaded guilty to robbing Members Trust Federal Credit Union in Stephenville on March 18. He awaited his punishment in a federal detention facility. (MUG)
New fire department established
The Erath County Commissioners Court approved the formation of a volunteer fire department in the Harbin area. Prior to the approval, the area was serviced by Erath County and Dublin volunteers. Chief J.W. Brunson explained the department, although new, was ready to roll with and possessed several pieces of equipment, including a 1,200 gallon tanker truck, brush truck and fire engine.
July was a wet one
Local weather watcher Dr. Stuart Chilton reported rainfall for the month of July topped five inches, the most since April 2008 and 2.8 inches above the July average.
Water park opens
Stephenville’s long anticipated waterpark, Splashville, opened on a sunny Saturday. The $3.5 million attraction hosts a lazy river, zero entry area, an array of toys for small children, a lily pad walkway, eight and 16 foot slides and a large pool. The park has a capacity of 660 and offers a day of fun for a $4 general admission. (PICTURE)
Golf legend honored
Dubliners honored the legacy of golfing legend and Dublin native Ben Hogan as a fundraising event was held to benefit the establishment of the Ben Hogan Legacy Museum. (PICTURE)
County tax rate goes down
The Erath County Commissioners Court discussed the proposed 2009-10 tax rate, which would offer a slight break to area taxpayers. The proposed 39 cents per $100 of appraised value was a decrease of .15 per $100 in comparison to the 2008-09 rate. The break was approved despite a 20 percent hike in health insurance cost.
No phones in school zones
City residents were reminded by Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell that a move by the state’s 81st legislative session meant motorists could no longer use their cell phones in school zones. Signs were soon installed in all of the city’s school zones reminding that phoning a friend could lead to a fine during school time.