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Texas close to gaining first reservoir in 20 years

in Latest News/State by

The Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir was recently approved for its second $500 million loan as the project nears the beginning of construction in North Texas. The dam and accompanying man-made lake will be Texas’ first new major reservoir in almost two decades.

Life in the rural, North Texas county of Fannin is about to change in a big way as construction begins on Texas’ first new reservoir in nearly two decades.

The Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir is expected to eventually provide water for 1.7 million people serviced by the North Texas Municipal Water District. But first, nearly 2,000 workers will converge on the 10,000-person county seat of Bonham during the five-year project that will create a 16,641-acre lake in the backyard of the town by 2022, said City Manager Sean Pate.

Bonham “is expecting something like an oil boom to come with the construction,” Pate said. “Then, we expect people to stay because of … Texans’ fascination with lakes. This is going to create a lot of changes in our community.”

The last time a major reservoir was constructed in Texas was 1999, and water-supply reservoirs seemed to be going out of fashion as environmental regulations tightened and different avenues for water supply opened up. The Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir could point to a changing tide in the search for additional drinking water resources, said former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun, who oversaw the agency when it approved the project’s plans.

But in the rural Fannin County land that’s slated to become a lake bed, opposition to the reservoir is stronger than ever.

“They have water already, and they just want to build this reservoir for inessential uses,” said Harold “Thump” Witcher Jr., a Fannin County farmer and rancher whose land is located in the lake’s planned boundary. “They want to turn it around and take people’s farm and ranch land away so people can water their lawns.”

Landowners like Witcher are likely out of options to block the reservoir because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final federal permit earlier this month for the water district to begin construction.

Fannin County won’t receive most of the reservoir’s drinking water, which will be piped 35 miles away to a treatment plant in Leonard and will provide water to much of northeast Dallas, but the county — and the city of Bonham — are expected to experience the most direct economic impact from the lake. The lake will increase housing values and generate roughly $20 million annually in recreational economic activity in Fannin, according to a study done by the Army Corps of Engineers before it issued the final federal permit.

The anticipated economic upside has city and county officials excited about the reservoir, despite the adjustments to daily life that may be needed, Pate said. The planned lake is expected to draw boaters, fishers and sightseers to the area, Pate said.

“There are definitely some challenges that come with a population jolt,” he said. “A lot is going to change, but there’s just too much good to come from a project like this that it outweighs any of the drawbacks.”

Witcher said there’s a disconnect between what local leaders and average citizens think about the reservoir.

“The Bonham City Council and the mayor all think it’s going to be the finest thing in the world, but if you actually talk to the populace themselves, they’re actually not that in favor of it,” he said. “People are losing their homes and their way of life, and people need to remember that this is a water reservoir, not a recreational facility.”

Construction will begin in the coming months on the reservoir, which is expected to cost $1.2 billion, said Janet Rummel, spokesperson for the North Texas Municipal Water District.

The massive price tag for the reservoir is going to be paid by the district through loans from the Texas Water Development Board’s State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. The board has approved  two loans of more than $500 million, the most recent on Feb. 15. The loans will be paid back over several decades by raising water rates in the district, Rummel said.

“It’s one of the bigger price tags that we’ve seen in Texas in recent history in terms of water infrastructure,” said Bruun.

Part of the price will go toward acquiring the land needed for the dam and reservoir from Witcher and his fellow landowners. He estimates 200 people live in the area.

The water district has already purchased 85 percent of the land necessary for the reservoir, Rummel said. Witcher said he has not begun negotiating with the company. If he refuses to sell his property, the state government could use the power of eminent domain to acquire it.

“I’m not doing anything until I’m forced to leave, but right now we’re kind of just dead in the water,” Witcher said.

Construction on the dam is expected to take three years, followed by another two years for the lake to fill. The region is currently enduring a moderate drought, but Rummel said the dry conditions shouldn’t affect the timeline of the project, assuming the rain returns by the time the dam is completed.

As Texas heads toward building its 189th major water-supply reservoir, the rural farmers and ranchers of Fannin County are bracing for change as their land becomes a water source for the Dallas suburbs.

“I’m going to retire at the end of March, and my whole dream my whole life has been to retire and live here and enjoy my place finally,” said Witcher, whose family has owned the land since 1865. “I’m going to have to move. I don’t know what I’m going to do and how this is all going to shake out.”

The article above comes from The Texas Tribune. Paul Cobler is a water reporting fellow at the Tribune. The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

After a slow first week, Early Voting begins to pick up

in Latest News/Local Government by

Heavy rains and flooding seem to have kept voters away from the polls last week. Only 742 people showed up to vote early in the first week.

The total number of voters Monday and Tuesday was 641, bringing the total to 1,383.

Across the state, reports are coming out that Democratic voters are turning up in higher numbers than Republicans. That’s not the case here.

Of those who have voted so far in Lamar County, 1,221 (88.6%) voted in the Republican primary while only 162 (11.4%) voted in the Democratic primary.

Registered voters who wish to vote early can go to the Lamar County Services Building at 231 Lamar Avenue (aka “the Old Post Office”) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. this week. Early voting ends Friday, March 2 at 5 p.m.

Polls will open on Election day, March 6 at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. For a list of Election Day voting locations, citizens should check here. (also included below)

UPDATED: This article has been edited to reflect the most recent numbers provided by Lamar County Elections Office. 2/28/18

Body found, identified as missing Ali Burress; 2 killed in fatal bus crash (FPWR)

in Latest News/Local Government by

Free Paris Weekly Headline Round-Up:
Mar. 19-26

A body recently found by local rancher has been identified by the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office as the missing Ali J. Burress1. Burress went missing on June 29, 2015 after she drove her vehicle into a cornfield off of Lamar County Road 14850. The investigation is still on-going at this time.

On last Thursday night, March 23, a Mount Pleasant track team bus and a following passenger car were involved in a fatal collision with a 18-wheeler. The driver of the 18-wheeler was killed and has been identified as 50-year-old Bradley Ray Farmer of Board, Missouri and the driver of the passenger car was also killed, and has been identified as Mount Pleasant’s assistant girl’s track coach, 30-year-old Angelica Beard. At least a dozen students were also injured in the crash.

1. Correction. Her name was Ali Jo Burress, previously mistyped as Burris, based on the press release.

In other news:

  • Paris ISD to cancel election (TPN)
  • NL to talk bond (TPN)
  • Take advantage of NL Townhalls (staff, TPN)
  • NLISD explains bond (Reed, TPN)
  • NL OK’s earlier start date (Reed, TPN)
  • PEDC considers donation (McLaughlin, TPN)
  • PEDC says wait on money (TPN)
  • Paris to get $600k (TPN)
    “Paris ISD is projected to receive $600,000 more in funding from the TEA Allotment,” the The Paris news reported because of the 54 new enrolled students. They plan to buy a bus at what Superintendent Paul Jones says is two-thirds of the cost of a new bus.
  • RRVDSS schedules event to memorialize late member (TPN)
  • March for Meals (TPN)
  • The Paris News earns awards (TPN)
    TPN won first place in General Excellence in the Northeast Texas 2017 Better Newspaper Contest, beating out larger newspapers like Texarkana Gazette and Lufkin News. “Judges recognized The Paris News consistency and effort to focus on all aspects of the community, including youngsters,” the Paris News reported.

City editor Lauren Corbell and managing editor Anna Rae Gwarjanski won third and fourth place, respectively, in column writing. Former sports writer Kevin Kues won first place in sports writing. Lora Arnold took second place in sports photography with “Oh My!,” the photo she took when Paris Wildcat Jalon Pipkins reached back to make a touchdown catch against Alvarado in the playoffs. Former staff writer Amanda Gohn won third place in Journalist of the Year. Source: The Paris News

  • NL bus, car in accident (TPN)
    No injuries reported for the kids on the bus at the time. The bus sustained minor damages while the other car involved sustained major front end damage from the bus’s left rear tire. The bus was driven back to NL where kids were placed on a different bus and taken home. source: Reno PD press release
  • Homelessness survey in Lamar County, Coalition hopes to counsel homeless population on resources (TPN)
    This article, written by Sally Boswell, summarizes the Homelessness Coalition’s recent survey and outreach efforts and the needs of our community. She cites the 23,678 homeless Texans who were physically counted by Texas Homelessness Network in 2016. Of that nearly 23,678 people, 7,486 were unsheltered and 16,192 were living in an emergency shelter. Homelessness is a complex issue no doubt, and nearly 65 people identified as homeless in a focused survey of 100 conducted by the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition in January of this year. The real problem with getting people into houses– permanently? The lack of affordable housing in Paris. Studies show that our county is 1,195 doors short of housing units for those with extremely low income and 920 short for very low incomes. April Carl, the outgoing executive director of United Way of Lamar County said, “The affordable housing issue is affecting our working poor as much as the homeless– families that are working day to day and still can’t afford housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that in Lamar County, to be able to afford a basic, one-bedroom apartment, a person has to be making $11 per hour. There is a large percentage of the population here that does not make that an hour, and that basic one-bedroom apartment is in seriously short supply,” to the Paris News. We could save $20,000 by housing someone than allowing them to remain on the street, Carl told the Paris News. They report that she’s spoken with city leaders and economic development officials about reaching out to developers and investors about building apartment complexes and homes in the city telling the Paris News, “To entice new business and industry you have to have housing for the employees. We need to raise awareness of the need of hardworking families who cannot find affordable housing. We need to be creative and find a way and nurture it bit by bit until we can get everyone in Paris and Lamar County suitably housed.”

    To entice new business and industry you have to have housing for the employees. We need to raise awareness of the need of hardworking families who cannot find affordable housing. We need to be creative and find a way and nurture it bit by bit until we can get everyone in Paris and Lamar County suitably housed.” – April Carl, outgoing Executive Director at United Way Lamar County

Backers hopeful Texas ready to screen welfare recipients for drug use (Texas Tribune)

in Latest News/State by

In the past eight years, Texas lawmakers have tried nearly a dozen times to pass a law requiring drug screenings or testing for applicants for state welfare benefits. Ahead of next year’s legislative session, supporters are hopeful momentum is finally on their side.

As of October, fewer than 63,000 Texans — less than 1 percent of the state’s population — were enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provides cash assistance for families struggling to pay for housing, food or utilities. Among the beneficiaries, 54,247 are children.

While the Lone Star State already has some of the strictest eligibility requirements in the country, Republican lawmakers have been determined to take advantage of a federal provision that would allow them to drug screen applicants and ban those who fail drug tests.

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PCT: Why Mame? Because we really do Need A Little Christmas Now! (from the source)

in Events/Sources by

Paris Community Theatre will perform the musical Mame for a second week Dec. 15 through 18.

About: “Roaring Twenties socialite Mame Dennis teaches her orphaned nephew the nature of free living and free thinking, attempting to keep him from the clutches of the uptight world of his late father’s estate executor and, later, his fiancée.”

Starring: Sydney Young, Misty Spinks, Anderson Bunch, Lucia Bunch, Scott Felion, Terry Bull, Jim Hamaker, and Jess Micah Halbert.

Where: Paris Community Theatre

  • Downtown Paris on the Square
  • 36 N. Plaza, Paris, TX 75460

When: This weekend

  • Dec. 15 – 17 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Dec. 18 at 2:30 p.m.

Cost: Buy tickets online, or call 903-784-0259

  • General public – $15 + $1.52 online fee
  • Seniors/Students – $10 + $1.34 online fee

For more information:

A facebook photo album, PCT’s Mame ! 40th Anniversary Revival, from Paris Community Theatre’s facebook page follows below.


Texas lawmakers hope election rhetoric doesn’t swamp beneficial trade deals

in Latest News/State by

United States Senator John Cornyn has been in politics long enough to know that hard line, campaign trail talk doesn’t always survive after elections. And he’s hoping — at least for Texas’ sake — that the tradition holds true this year on at least one issue: international trade.

If not, Cornyn could have his work cut out for him trying to keep intact current trade policies, and the benefits they bring to Texas. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have made trade issues hallmarks of their campaigns, each assailing trade deals to different degrees.

“While I think President Obama has been right on trade generally speaking, he hasn’t been a particularly effective spokesman for the benefits,” Cornyn said. “And I think a lot of that has to do with the internal divisions within his party on trade.”

That internal strife has seen Democratic nominee Clinton shift on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade pact Obama and Cornyn support, first calling it the “gold standard” but opposing it in the later months of her candidacy. The switch came after Clinton’s former rival and current supporter, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT. railed against more free trade policies he said will not prop up the middle class.

Meanwhile, GOP nominee Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement the country’s “worst trade deal” and has vowed to end or renegotiate the pact because he believes the agreement ships jobs overseas. Though his comments about Mexico often center on his infamous “rapists” and “murderers” comments and illegal immigration, he’s also said repeatedly stated that the country “beats” the United States on trade.

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Early voting numbers begin to decline, but turnout still considerably higher than 2012

in Lamar County/Latest News by

In the past nine days, well over 8,500 people in Lamar County have cast their vote for the general election.

With less than one week left in an election that seems to have become a kind of caricature of itself, many Lamar County residents cite a desire to get the process over with, and the uncertainty of what election day might bring– in the form of long lines and hectic personal or work schedules– as their prime motivator to get to the ballot box early.

A voter enters the Lamar County Courthouse annex, aka “the Old Post Office” on Lamar Ave. for early voting Wednesday. (Colton Sanders, Paris Free Press)

But turnout has waned since Saturday, with daily totals now dropping below 1,000. Lamar County Elections Administrator Tricia Johnson said that one reason for the drop is that many people think early voting is over.

“Some people think we’re finished voting. They think (the last day) was either last Friday or Sunday,” because early voting typically occurs in the final two weeks of October, Johnson said.

But election day falls later this year, which gives voters until 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4 to vote early. (Election day falls on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November)

During the first week of early voting for this election, turnout was several hundred people above the daily totals from the 2012 election. Only 5,712 people had cast their ballots at this point in 2012.

As of Wednesday, the total number of votes are at 8,762, setting the county on a path to break it’s past record for early voting.

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Lamar County issues emergency burn ban

in Latest News by

At the advice of Lamar County Volunteer Fire Departments and the Lamar County Department of Emergency Management, County Judge Chuck Superville has issued an emergency burn ban beginning today, Oct. 26 through Tuesday, Nov. 2. According to a release, Emergency Management “would like to emphasize that current dry and windy conditions still linger in Lamar County.”

Fines up to $500 could be issued for burning during this ban.

Amid early voting rush, Texas sees voter ID hiccups

in Latest News/Local Government/State by

This much is clear after two days of early voting in Texas: Legal wrangling over the state’s voter identification law is stirring confusion at the polls.

Amid Texans’ mad dash to polling places this week, the front end of 12 days of voting before Election Day, civil rights groups and some voters are questioning how some county election officials are portraying the state’s voter identification requirements, which a federal judge softened in August.

Among the complaints in pockets of Texas: years-old posters inaccurately describing the rules — more than a dozen instances in Bexar County — and poll workers who were reluctant to tell voters that some could cast ballots without photo identification.

Though it’s not clear that anyone walked away from the polls because of misinformation or partial information, civil rights advocates called the sporadic reports troubling.

“Not everybody is an aggressive voter. Some people are shy and laid back, and if you’re told you have to have an ID, it might cause them to get out of line and go home,” said Jose Garza, a lawyer working for groups challenging the state’s strict 2011 voter ID law.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the law discriminated against minority groups, who were less likely to possess one of seven forms of acceptable photo identification.  

In August, a federal district judge drew up a temporary fix for the election, which splits Texans into two groups. Those who possess qualifying photo ID must bring it to the polls. Those who cannot “reasonably obtain” one must present a document showing their name and address, such as a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or voter registration card. They must also sign a statement noting the “reasonable impediment” that prevented them from getting a photo ID.

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