Squirrel triggers local power, phone outage

A rogue squirrel left Wills Point residents in the dark on August 8 causing a small fire at a local power substation while causing major power and phone outages across the area.

The incident disrupted services to local customers began before 8 p.m. and was first believed to be a transformer fire.

The Wills Point Emergency Management Facebook page, which offers updates and notices on happenings in the city, posted a notice stating: “Transformer fire has caused significant power outages in and around Wills Point. Local police and fire non-emergency numbers appear to be not working. All requests for Police, Fire and EMS need to call 911. Any urgent request for assistance with medical devices also need to call 911.”

Teams from Oncor and Trinity Valley Electric Co-Op responded to the scene to assess the damage and initiate repairs.


County goes under burn ban

Proposed tax rate set

A burn ban has been placed on the county for a period of 90 days, as approved by the Van Zandt County commissioner’s court Aug. 11.

Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen approached commissioners asking the county to be placed under a burn ban.

Commissioners approved Allen’s request to place the county under a burning ban Tuesday morning. With temperatures over 100 degrees, and no rain, the Keetch-Bryam Drought Index used by the Texas A&M Forestry Service to predict fire danger for the area, rates that the county is in the dangerous range and expected to rise.

Allen told commissioners that the county is at a level of 700 with the max level being 800.  

“Right now, we are at the 700 level, but that could potentially rise within the next two weeks to a 750. Unless we get some significant rain soon, we will remain under the burn ban,” said Allen.


Allen, Hyde discuss natural disaster effects on county

Van Zandt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Allen and VZC Senior Appraiser Scott Hyde were guest speakers at the Aug. 11 Community Visions meeting..

The meeting opened with President Lisa Morrison thanking former President Judy Rowton for her service to the Visions Club.

Allen and Hyde then both spoke to the gallery about the effects of the Van May 10 tornado both locally and county wide.

 “By the time they say the tornado was on the radar it was already on the ground,” Allen said.  “Until we got down there we didn’t have a true perspective on what we were dealing with.”

Allen talked about what he experienced after the tornado. 

Allen explained that as soon as he came to Van, which was 10 minutes after the tornado struck, he was alerted of people trapped under a house.


Free and reduced-price meals at MMISD

Martin’s Mill Independent School District today announced its policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.  Each school/site or the central office has a copy of the policy which may be reviewed by any interested party. 

Starting on Aug. 24 we will begin distributing letters to the households of the children in the district about eligibility benefits and any actions households need to take to apply for these benefits.  Applications also are available at Martin’s Mill ISD, 301 FM 1861, Ben Wheeler, 75754.

Criteria for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits

1.  Household income that is at or below the income eligibility levels

2.  Household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Distributing Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)


Hensarling covers local, nationwide topics at town hall meeting

U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) held a town hall meeting Aug. 7 to update the citizens of Van Zandt County on his continued efforts to hold Washington accountable to the American people and to hear from them about the issues that are most concerning to them.

Hensarling discussed topics ranging from Obamacare, the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood and the export and import fight. 

The meeting was opened by County Judge Don Kirkpatrick thanking the people for showing up and introducing Hensarling, “he’s a friend to Van Zandt County, East Texas and he serves us well in Washington.”


Crisis Center golf tournament set for Sept. 18

The East Texas Crisis Center will present the fifth annual ETCC Golf Tournament at Van Zandt Country Club Sept. 18.

Funds raised by the tournament will go toward helping victims of domestic violence and sexual.

Entry fee for a team of four costs $400 and includes green fees, golf carts, a team photo, range balls, goody bags and lunch. 

Registration and check in is from 7 to 8 a.m.  Shotgun start is at 8 a.m. 

Lunch and an awards ceremony will follow the tournament.

There will be great prizes and awards for closest to the pin and longest drive along with door prizes and first, second and third place trophies for each player, tourney organizers said.


Community kids invited to Back-to-School Bash at Turner Baptist

Turner Baptist Church is having a community-wide Back to School Bash from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15.  The church is located at 1802 VZCR 3412, Wills Point.

Children from grade school to high school are invited for an old-fashioned field day, church officials said, and parents are also encouraged to attend.  At the end of the event, school supplies and refreshments will be distributed to all children who joined in the fun.

Registration is at 10 a.m. 

Field Day Events will occur from 10:30 to 11 a.m. 

A video will be presented from 11 to 11:30 a.m. in the sanctuary and school supplies will be distributed from 11:30 a.m. to noon. 

Children should bring their school supply list.


Austin Bank names new chief financial officer, controller

Jeff Austin Jr., chairman of the board of Austin Bank, recently announced that Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Keith Chambers has retired.  

Todd Burton, the bank’s deputy chief financial officer, has succeeded him and Sandy Rayburn has been named to serve as controller.

Chambers began his 40-year banking career in 1975 as the chief financial officer with Texarkana National Bank in Texarkana. He joined Austin Bank in September 1997 in the role of the bank’s first chief financial officer and remained in that position throughout his 18 years with the Bank.

“Keith, a friend and valued member of the Austin Bank family, has provided excellent leadership and service to the Bank,” Austin said.  “His commitment to excellence has defined his reputation as a loyal and trusted leader in the banking community.”


Marijuana grow farm found near 859, I-20

Alejandro Avrego

A citizen’s tip led Van Zandt County law enforcement officials to a 10-acre marijuana grow operation located near FM 859 and Interstate 20 Aug. 3.

According to Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Sgt. Heath Burton, sheriff’s deputies, officers from the Van Zandt County jail, Canton Police Department, Wills Point Police Department and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division raided the location which was “concealed from the public.” “The owner of the property did not know of the marijuana operation,” Burton said.

A citizen saw some pumps moving water from a pond and reported the suspicious activity, he said.

More than 1,400 marijuana plants estimated to be worth more than $2 million were seized from the property and subsequently destroyed.

Alejandro Avrego, 27, of Canton, was arrested.

Another suspect escaped, Burton said, and the investigation is still ongoing at this time. 


Precinct Watch Program earns state honors

The Van Zandt County Precinct Watch Program recently received honorable mention recognition in three categories from the Texas Crime Prevention Association in three categories.

The crime prevention group held its summer training conference in San Antonio last month.

The association, established “to encourage the prevention of crime through coordinated and concentrated efforts, and though programs and functions that encourage citizen involvement and participation, to preserve safe environments and communities for the citizens of Texas,” celebrated its 40th anniversary at the event.


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