City and County Notes — November 2011

By Gene Davis, Macy Hurwitz and Joseph Olivieri

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cedar Park

Philip Rodriguez takes job in Van Alstyne

Philip Rodriguez, Cedar Park’s assistant to the city manager, was chosen to be the new city manager in the City of Van Alstyne. Van Alstyne is about a 45-minute drive north of Dallas.

“We are proud that Philip Rodriguez has been selected as the new City Manager for the City of Van Alstyne,” Cedar Park City Manager Brenda Eivens said. “We consider it a huge compliment to the City of Cedar Park, that one of our staff members was selected for this important leadership position within another community. We sincerely appreciate the numerous contributions Mr. Rodriguez has made to the City of Cedar Park and its citizens over the past year and wish him well in his new position.”

Rodriguez joined the City of Cedar Park staff one year ago and will start his new position at the end of this month.

Council attempting to revitalize science center

Cedar Park leaders are trying to revive momentum for a possible Cedar Park science center after differing visions stalled the project.

During an Oct. 20 City Council meeting, Mayor Bob Lemon removed himself from an ad-hoc committee tasked with exploring the feasibility of a science center/planetarium. Councilman Mitch Fuller was chosen to take his place on the committee, which is tasked with, above all, defining the scope of the project.

Progress on a potential science center/planetarium stopped when Lemon and fellow task force member Councilman Don Tracy didn’t agree on the project’s overall vision.

Lemon said the primary focus should be on a planetarium, but Tracy thinks there should be a wider focus on a center that could include other attractions in addition to a planetarium.

Tracy said there was a general consensus on the task force that the center needed to include a number of different things in order to attract the kind of partnerships necessary to run and finance it.


Duncanville City Manager Kent Cagle chosen as Leander’s new city manager

The Leander City Council voted unanimously to hire Duncanville City Manager Kent Cagle as Leander’s new city manager at its meeting Oct. 20. Cagle will start Dec. 1.

The council interviewed five finalists—Cagle; San Angelo Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff; Peoria, Ariz. Deputy City Manager Susan Thorpe; Abilene City Manager David Vela; and Elgin’s interim city manager, Greg Vick—but Councilman Chris Fielder said Cagle stood out and made the decision easy.

The city manager position opened up when former city manager Anthony “Biff” Johnson died unexpectedly March 24. Finance Director Robert Powers became interim city manager, but he was not interested in holding the position permanently.

“We miss Biff,” Fielder said. “No one can fill his shoes, but this is a good move for the city.”

Council OKs infrastructure improvements for parts of Crystal Falls

The Leander City Council voted to accept parts of the Crystal Falls subdivision’s infrastructure into the city’s books Nov. 3.

The Leander City Council, minus Councilwoman Kirsten Lynch, voted to accept infrastructure improvements for several phases of the Crystal Falls subdivision.

The council voted unanimously to accept improvements for Fairways at Crystal Falls Section 4, Phase 1; The Highlands at Crystal Falls, Section 2, Phase 3B; and The Highlands at Crystal Falls, Section 1, Phase 2B.

The council expressed satisfaction to be taking the action signifying the end of a successful development process.

Williamson County

County cuts ribbon for San Gabriel Parkway Phase 2

Representatives of Williamson County, the City of Leander and contractors cut the ribbon for Phase 2 of the project.

The San Gabriel parkway Phase 2 extension will extend the roadway from Toll 183A to CR 270, which is approximately 0.9 miles. The $1.2 million project was constructed by Ranger Excavating over eight months. There are two more segments of San Gabriel Parkway currently under construction by the City of Leander and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Once completed, San Gabriel Parkway will run from Bagdad Road to CR 270.

Ken Crain to run for WilCo DA

A Georgetown attorney and former Navy officer announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for Williamson County district attorney on Oct. 31.Ken Crain, who has practiced law in Williamson County since 1985 and served as assistant county attorney for two years, issued a news release attacking John Bradley, the incumbent Republican district attorney. Bradley is currently serving his third term as district attorney.

In the news release, Crain positions himself as a reformer who “hasn’t been part of the broken system.”

Meanwhile, Bradley said Crain is out of touch with the criminal justice system and has never prosecuted a felony case.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2012. No Republicans have announced their intention to run against Bradley in a primary.

WilCo Ku Klux Klan court records to be preserved

A task force created by the Texas Supreme Court has decided to preserve court records from Williamson County’s Ku Klux Klan trials that ran from 1923 to 1934.

Protecting the court records is part of the first project of the preservation task force created in 2009, according to a Williamson County press release.

“Williamson County is proud of its notoriety of holding the first successful conviction of Ku Klux Klan members that resulted in jail time for the accused,” a Williamson County news release said.

The Ku Klux Klan trial records are currently in the temporary custody of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The records are available in the research room at the downtown Austin facility, the Lorenzo De Zavala State Archives and Library Building, 1201 Brazos St.

People can view the records after the documents return to Williamson County in the district clerk’s office in the Williamson County Justice Center, 405 Martin Luther King St., in Georgetown.

Travis County

County to offer wildfire debris cleanup, permitting

Travis County residents may apply to have the county remove wildfire debris from their property.

The county has developed an application form for qualifying residents to allow county workers onto their property to aid with cleanup efforts.

The form is for residents whose finances or insurance do not allow for debris removal, said Steve Manilla, Transportation and Natural Resources county executive. The county also set up a phone number for residents rebuilding and replacing structures damaged by the Labor Day weekend wildfires. The number is 854-7593.


Cedar Park City Council
550 Discovery Blvd., Cedar Park
Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m.
Watch replays Saturday and Sunday
at noon on CPTV-10 or online.

Leander City Council
201 N. Brushy St., Leander
Dec. 1 and 15, 7 p.m.

Williamson County Commissioners Court
710 S. Main St., Georgetown
Meetings are Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m.

Travis County
Commissioners Court
314 W. 11th St., Austin
Meetings are Tuesdays, 9 a.m.

WilCo voting redistricting map stalled by court order

By Gene Davis

Friday, 18 November 2011

A federal court order has stalled a proposed Williamson County voting precincts redistricting map that would cause approximately 30 percent of county voters to have a new polling location after Jan. 1, 2012.

Click for larger image

The court order postpones the submission of Texas voting precincts redistricting maps until Texas House and Congressional redistricting maps are approved. A three-judge federal panel ruled against the State of Texas on Nov. 8 by stating that the House, Congressional and Senate redistricting maps approved by the Texas Legislature could violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that any redistricting map “not have a discriminatory purpose and will not have a discriminatory effect.”

The court’s ruling means the District Court for the Western District of Texas must draw new maps by Nov. 31 to serve as interim maps. A full trial would be required to determine whether the maps violated the Voting Rights Act, the judges ruled.

House District 149, which is currently in Houston but redrawn to cover Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek and parts of northwest Austin, is among the districts cited by the Department of Justice as potentially violating federal civil rights voting laws. HD 149 in Williamson County would have a significantly lower voting-age minority population than HD 149 in Houston.

The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the map was fair.

“Ironically, DOJ is objecting to districts that the Legislature specifically enacted to protect Hispanic incumbents—who happen to be Republicans—in the same manner that the Legislature worked to protect incumbents of both parties,” Texas Attorney General Office Spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.

If the Texas House redistricting map is redrawn and impacts proposed Williamson County House districts, the county voting precincts map would have to be redrawn. The voting precincts redistricting map was to be sent to the DOJ on Oct. 1 for review, but the deadline was pushed back by the pending litigation.

Williamson County commissioners approved the voting precincts redistricting map in September. The chairs of both the Republican and Democratic parties in Williamson County say the map is fair.

Game warden cases: Deer hunters who try to buck the system usually get the horns

 It’s been a while since we looked at recent cases worked by Texas game wardens, and the opening of deer season a couple of weeks ago  produced an embarrassment of riches.

Well, maybe “riches” isn’t the best word to use, considering several of these cases show that some people have a truly disturbing criminal attitude toward the state’s natural resources and a variety of laws. 

But there are a few embarrassments mixed in with the abject criminal behavior.  I’m sure the couple mentioned in the first brief turned beet red during their encounter with state game wardens. I just wonder how they explained the episode to their son.

Here’s this week’s selection of cases culled from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement division field reports:

  • On Nov. 5, opening day of the general white-tailed deer season, Terrell County Game Wardens Saul Aguilar and Kenneth Stannard entered a camp and noticed a tagging violation involving a 10-point white-tailed buck hanging from a cleaning rack.

During the contact, the couple in the camp expressed excitement that the wife had been was able to take her first buck (the aforementioned 10-pointer) and were eager to provide wardens with her license and ID without being asked.

Upon educating the couple on proper tagging requirements, Warden Aguilar decided to take some time and acknowledge the couple’s 9-year-old son, who seemed intrigued by the wardens.

After discussing his favorite superheroes and passion for the outdoors, the boy stated he wanted to shoot a buck like the one his dad shot, and pointed at the 10-point buck.

Citations were issued to the couple after the husband admitted to shooting the deer and using his wife’s license to tag it.

  •  On Nov. 1, Val Verde County Game Warden Dustin Barrett responded to a call concerning a black bear in a tree in Del Rio.

The bear was in a large pecan tree in the back yard of a home located very near four school campuses.

Barrett was soon joined by Game Wardens Isaac Ruiz, Mike Durand and Aaron Willoughby who assisted in keeping the bear treed for over three hours while awaiting TPWD biologist Ryan Schmidt to arrive with the dart gun.

When Schmidt arrived and assessed the situation, he agreed that this particular bear, which has been in the area for several months, met the department’s relocation criteria.

The bear was successfully darted and relocated to the Big Bend area.

  •  On Oct. 28, El Paso Game Wardens Kenn Zuber and Ray Spears were patrolling the desert when they checked San Felipe Park and discovered a site containing approximately 400 cubic feet of trash.

The generator of the trash confirmed that they had paid an individual to properly dispose of the refuse.

The individual was contacted and confirmed that he had decided to dispose of the trash in the park instead of the country landfill.

Felony cases pending.

  •  On Nov. 2, Jefferson County Game Warden Chris Swift and Orange County Game Warden Clint Caywood worked an area known for night shrimping in Jefferson County.

 They filed Class B misdemeanor cases for shrimping at night and in a nursery area along with an undersized red drum case.

They also apprehended two men who were running a gill net.  The men had caught 56 flounder, of which 40 were undersized.

They were arrested the men and filed charges for  illegal means and methods along with possession of undersized flounder and exceeding the daily bag limit.

 The wardens filed 27 cases in all.

Cases and restitution pending.

  •  Early the morning of Oct. 30, Comal County Warden Michael McCall received a call from a local bowhunter who, while in his blind, had observed an unknown person walking in the nearby woods using a flashlight with a red lens cover.

Upon making this observation, the hunter quietly exited his blind and returned to his vehicle where he then called Warden McCall to assist with apprehension of the unknown trespasser.

Warden McCall traveled to the location and at about 9 a.m. made contact with the trespasser as he exited the area.

The trespasser was found to have been deer hunting using a crossbow.  The trespasser stated he did not know whose property he was on and had no idea that the blind he had been hunting from had been occupied by its owner just prior to his arrival.

The “legal” hunter did not want charges of hunting without consent filed, but the trespasser was found to be hunting without a valid hunting license or an archery hunting endorsement.

Case pending.

  •  On Oct. 28 at 9:00 p.m., Van Zandt County Game Warden Trent Herchman was contacted by a concerned citizen about a neighbor skinning a deer in a barn.

Warden Herchman along with Warden Steve Stapleton found a new Cadillac parked in front of the barn with fresh blood running off of the trunk.

Inside the barn was the owner of the Cadillac, the landowner and a freshly killed yearling deer.

After a brief interview, the person who killed the deer admitted that the landowner had problems with deer in his garden and invited him over to kill one.

He used a .30-378 Weatherby Magnum rifle that shot a round darn near as large as the deer.

Multiple cases pending. 

  •  Travis County Game Warden Chad West received a call from a local resident stating a deer carcass was dumped in a creek near the resident’s home.

Warden West located the deer and gathered a tag that the hunter had mistakenly left on the dumped deer.

Warden West contacted partner Game Warden Theron Oatman to assist with searching for hunting activity on the property noted on the tag; no evidence was shown of recent hunting activity.

Warden West contacted the hunter and requested that he meet the wardens at that location.

The hunter stated he killed the deer in a nearby creek but questioning quickly revealed the truth—that he shot it at another location in a nearby town.

The wardens proceeded to the site that the deer was killed and discovered the hunter did not have permission to be on the property.

Warden West located the out-of-area owners of the property and called upon Harris County Game Warden Jennifer Inkster to assist with collecting information and statements.

After several days of investigation and gathering of evidence, the subject was arrested and booked into Travis County Jail.

Felony cases pending.

  •  On Oct. 29, Bell County Game Warden Justin Valchar investigated a trespassing call from a landowner who found a deer feeder on his property and several trees cleared off his land.

Upon inspection, Warden Valchar found tire tracks which led to the neighbor’s house.

When the neighbor was questioned, she denied any knowledge of the issue and stated her husband was at the deer lease.

When asked again, she admitted her husband was, indeed, behind the issues on the adjacent property.

 When asked why she lied, she replied, “Cause you’re a Game Warden.”

Cases filed and pending.

  •  On Nov. 5, while returning to the boat ramp after checking duck hunters on opening day of duck season, Tarrant County Game Warden David Vannoy noticed a large amount of debris in the main body of the lake.

As Warden Vannoy drew closer, he could see the bow of a flat-bottom boat sticking up out of the water.

Warden Vannoy rushed to rescue two hunters whose boat sank just five minutes prior to Warden Vannoy’s arrival.

The two hunters and a dog were pulled from the water and safely returned to their vehicle.

Both hunters were wearing personal flotation devices when the boat suddenly went down, and the PFDs almost certainly saving their lives.

The two were the last hunters out of the hunting area, and no other boats were around because of the high winds and rough water conditions.

One of the rescued hunters stated that he was sure hoping that the game warden was still around, and the other stated that this was his very first encounter with a game warden and was sure happy to see one.

  •  Cherokee County Game Warden Eric Collins received a call about 11 p.m. on Nov. 3 from a local state trooper who advised that he had a truck stopped with a large amount of blood in the bed.

 Warden Collins met the trooper and the driver of the vehicle at the sheriff’s department for an interview.

During the initial interview, the subject stated he had killed a deer a week prior with his bow and the blood was from that animal.

After further interviewing by the warden, the subject confessed to killing the deer at night from a public roadway with a .22-caliber rifle, and hunting numerous times without possessing a hunting license.

He also admitted to only removing the backstraps from the deer, discarding the rest of the meat, and selling the back straps for $15 to one of his friends.

Cases pending.

  •  The evening of Nov. 4, the day before opening of deer season, Montgomery County Warden Brannon Meinkowsky was patrolling for illegal night hunting activity when he noticed a truck driving unusually slow through a subdivision known to hold a large number of deer.

Meinkowsky stopped the vehicle and found it occupied by two males and one female armed with a .17 HMR rifle, a compound bow and three flashlights.  All of the subjects lived about 30 miles away.

 During the investigation, Meinkowsky discovered one of the subject’s phone had pictures of him holding the head of buck deer.

The pictures had all been taken at night and before deer season.

The subject confessed to killing one of the deer out of season and provided information about the other deer killed out of season.

 Multiple cases were filed.  Additional suspects have been identified and charges are pending.

  •  On opening day of deer season, Nov. 5, Montgomery County Game Warden Karin Apple and Alan Biggerstaff investigated a tip from a landowner who believed someone was illegally hunting on his property.

After several attempts to track the trespasser, the wardens were able to apprehend the suspect, who they found sitting in a tree stand on the complainant’s property.

In addition to hunting without landowner consent charges, the suspect was charged with felon in possession of a firearm.

Cases pending.

  •  Jasper County Game Warden Justin Eddins and Captain Tom Jenkins were patrolling the north end of Jasper County on Nov. 6 when Warden Eddins received a phone call from a local hunting club, advising there were two individuals trying to steal pipe from an oil well location.

 Warden Eddins and Captain Jenkins arrived to find two subjects on ATVs trying to steal a 300-pound piece of pipe.

Criminal trespass and theft charges are pending.

  •  On Nov. 5, Harris County Game Wardens Jennifer Inkster and Kevin Malonson were checking waterfowl hunters on the Katy Prairie when they stumbled onto two campers with numerous ATVs.

 While questioning the subjects for paperwork and ownership identification on the vehicles, one 1999 Polaris showed to be stolen out of Brazos County.

The ATV was seized and an investigation is ongoing.

  •  While patrolling Falcon Lake on Oct. 25, Zapata County Game Wardens Roy Martinez and Shane Bailey, wardens observed two Mexican commercial fishing vessels enter Texas waters just north of their location.

As the wardens made their move to make contact, the subjects bailed out into the brush.

Border Patrol marine units were called in to assist, and while in route to the wardens’ location, they observed another vessel just south of the wardens’ location.

A total of three boats, a motor, and 1,980 feet of gill net were seized.

  •  About 11:30 p.m. on opening day of general deer season, Callahan County Game Warden James Brown and Sheriff John Windham observed two pickups parked on the shoulder of the roadway and stopped to investigate.

Driver No. 1 had stopped, exited his vehicle and realized that he accidentally locked himself out of his idling pickup.

He then flagged down Driver No. 2 for help.

After further investigation of Driver No. 2, Warden Brown discovered an ice chest holding a quartered out, untagged, white-tailed deer which could not be identified as a buck or antlerless deer as required by regulations.

Warden Brown cited Driver No. 2 and then administered standard field sobriety tests to Driver No. 1.

After failing the test, Driver No. 1 stated the only reason he was so drunk was because he never drinks and he couldn’t handle the two beers he drank.

After assisting Driver No. 1 and getting his truck unlocked, officers cited him for public intoxication and released him to some friends that live close by.

  •  Llano County Game Warden Kevin Webb and San Saba County Game Warden Brad Reeves responded to a 911 call the afternoon of Nov. 7 in regard to two lost hunters on a 20,000-acre property in San Saba County.

Webb and Reeves, with much appreciated help from the rancher, were successful in locating the two hunters and returning them to their deer camp.

The hunters had wounded a hog that morning and started tracking it when they became lost and kept walking toward a windmill they could see on a tall hill off in the distance.

The hunters were several miles from their camp when wardens and rancher located them.

  •  Leon County Warden Logan Griffin checked a camp on Nov. 6 and issued multiple citations to the son of the property owners.

In the course of his investigation, Warden Griffin also noticed a 2008 Ford truck parked suspiciously away from the main area and behind a tree.

The truck appeared to have been there a while so Warden Griffin wrote down the plate number to check later.

A run of the license plate showed the vehicle was reported stolen from the subject who Griffin had issued the hunting-related citations to earlier.

A search warrant was obtained, and the next day Griffin and Warden Henson recovered the vehicle.

The subject’s parents, who lived on the property, stated they didn’t know anything about the truck parked in their backyard.

After contacting the insurance company and Texarkana PD, an investigation is pending into insurance fraud charges.

  •  Williamson County Game Wardens Turk Jones and Joel Campos were patrolling a subdivision in Liberty Hill on opening day of deer season when Warden Campos spotted a male dressed in camo holding a rifle in his front yard.

The wardens made contact, and the first thing the subject said was “Look at what I shot during archery season,” and showed wardens antlers of an 8-pointer.

Warden Campos inspected the subject’s hunting license and found he had an antlerless tag missing.

Warden Campos brought it to his attention, and the subject stated, “Well, you got me; let’s change the story and say my cousin shot that one.”

Warden Campos told him he couldn’t change his story, and the hunter finally confessed to bragging to people that he had shot the deer when, in fact, he had cut the antlers off a road killed buck.

Antlers were confiscated and citations were issued.

  •  Opening day of deer season, Washington County Game Warden Eddie Hines checked a vehicle that contained a nice 8-point buck.

The buck was tagged with the driver’s son-in-law’s tag.

However the son-in-law was not in the vehicle.

When asked where his son-in-law was, the driver became nervous and could not answer questions specifically.

Finally, Warden Hines was able to get an approximate location of the hunting lease that the son-in-law was on.

When Hines got to the gate of the hunting lease, he could see a truck behind a tree line.

Warden Hines approached the truck, and two hunters got out, one of whom was identified as the son-in-law.

Warden Hines found an illegal 8-point buck in the bed of the truck.

After talking to the two subjects, they admitted to sending the father-in-law out first to see if there was a game warden around.

When they called him and found out that the game warden was at that moment talking to their father-in-law, they decided to wait it out and see if the warden went on by their gate.

 No such luck.

Would a No-Kill animal shelter work in Amarillo?

AMARILLO. TEXAS — Many shelters across the United States are making the transition to no-kill, and animal lovers in the Texas Panhandle would like to see that implemented here.

Amarillo Animal Control euthanized nearly 11,000 animals last year. That is more than the municipal shelter in Austin, which, this past March, had a 92 percent live rate.

According to Animal Control Executive Director Mike McGee, about 2,000 of those animals were wildlife and reptiles. Still, that is 9,000 domestic cats and dogs.

In Randall County, the Amarillo SPCA is No-Kill, but why doesn’t the City of Amarillo have a No-Kill shelter? Could they transition to a No-Kill shelter?

The population of Amarillo alone is 261,000. So, why is it so difficult for animals to find homes when they are clearly out there? Why are so many pets dropped off at Animal Control or left to wander the streets?

McGee said people drop off their animals mostly because of relocation issues or financial burden. Many pet owners do not do research on the cost of properly maintaining a pet and, when the time comes for veterinary visits and food refills, they cannot manage it. Many landlords do not allow pets, and when the pet is discovered, the owner has no choice but to let the animal go. Pets picked up off the street are, McGee says, mostly the result of irresponsible owners who do not take the time to fence in the animal.

Due to the high intake at the shelter, becoming no-kill would be somewhat of a challenge. Budgeting is also a concern.

“Having a designated no-kill facility here would require a tremendous amount of money,” McGee said, “to be able to house all the animals that we intake and keep them and feed them and doctor them and do all the things that need to be done to maintain that no-kill facility.”

However, McGee also noted positive outcomes of a no-kill shelter.

“The pros of having a no-kill facility would be to reduce the stress level of officers that are having to perform that task every day and also giving the animals an opportunity to find them a good home.”

The Humane Society of Williamson County made the transition to no-kill in 2007, and its adoption rate went from an average 60 animals per month to about 200 per month. The executive director feels this is the result of community support for no-kill.

“Whether you create a partnership where there’s a non-profit that works with the municipal shelters to cooperatively handle the two sides of that equation or you create a single organization that does that all, one way or the other it’s doable and there’s plenty of models and templates throughout the United States showing that this is a doable process,” stated Humane Society of Williamson County Executive Director Ron Marullo.

A lot would need to happen to kick off the process of becoming no-kill. According to Sunny Hodge-Campbell of the Amarillo Panhandle Humane Society, owners would need to become extremely responsible. That is, spaying and neutering every pet, keeping their pets fenced in and on leashes and keeping their animals vaccinated.

“Every human would prefer to think an animal’s not being put down or being euthanized,” she said. “I think there is a potential and a possibility, but it’s beyond the Humane Society, it’s beyond Animal Control- being good and responsible pet owners-everyone- to actually make a no-kill work.”

Mcgee and Animal Control Assistant Director Shannon Barlow are traveling to Austin soon with Texas Panhandle Pet Savers President Robin Cupell to see how both the municipal shelter and the no-kill shelter run things. They are hoping to bring back ideas to improve adoption and fostering programs here so animals will have better chances at finding forever homes.

Will no-kill ever take over Animal Control? Right now, no one knows. Is it an option? Possibly.

“I know that some cities have no-kill policies,”A marillo City Commissioner Ellen Robertson-Green said. “Will that work in Amarillo? Don’t know. Should we be looking at it? You bet we should, you bet we should.”

For the time being, the life of the shelter animals will be improved as best it can, something the staff at Animal Control and the Humane Society say they dedicate every day to.

“That’s part of what we do is to enforce those laws that force people- of they’re going to own a pet- that they’re going to properly take care of them,” said McGee. “And you can’t do this job and not have a love for pets. It’s impossible.”

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