Donations roll in for county after tornadoes

Several donations earmarked for the Van Zandt County Tornado 2017 Fund were recognized and accepted June 13 by the VZC Commissioners Court.

Monetary donations were presented by WESTEX of FMC Motor Coach Rally Chapter, $1,200; and VZC employee Bonnie LaPrade, $1,800.

Commissioners also recognized and accepted the donation of a portable building from Winslow Carport to be used at the current VZC debris site near Wills Point.

A donation of 450 gallons of fuel and a fuel tank from Duko Oil Co. of Emory was recognized and accepted by the commissioners’ court.

The free installation of a culvert at VZCR 3104, north of VZCR 3106, from citizen Lee Thornton was also recognized and accepted by the commissioners.

VZC Pct. 2 Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr. expressed his appreciation to the other commissioners for their help in his precinct following the April 29 tornadoes.


Cartwright School receives historical marker

Photo by David Kapitan The historical marker dedication at the Cartwright School included a presentation of the United States and Texas flags.

The Cartwright School in Wills Point received its just recognition June 19 with a special ceremony to unveil a historical marker bringing back former graduates and school staff members to the building located at 315 Bertha Street. The Cartwright School was approved as a historical site by the Texas Historical Commission in December 2016, with donors for the marker including Tommy C. Scott, Ora Dell Howard, Corliss Brown, Clarence Harden, Don Skinner, Esther Moorehead-Gibson, Shirlene Shields-Cook, Leatha Williams-Buchanan, the Wills Point Historical Society, Phillip Williamson, Stepz All Star, Junita Myers, Thelma Myers and Cassandra Haynes.


Don’t Get Burned from Scam Claiming to Benefit Tyler Fire Department

BBB Serving Central East Texas is alerting the community about a scam which claims to benefit Tyler Fire Department and reminds consumers to do their homework before sending money to any organization.

The scam was reported via BBB Scam Tracker, an online tool used to provide consumers with a place to report scams and fraud and to warn others about malicious or suspicious activities. A local business owner reported that Firehouse Promotions contacted them for the third year in row claiming to be selling advertisement space on magnetic boards for $500 to help benefit Tyler Fire Department. BBB contacted Tyler Fire Department who confirmed that Firehouse Promotions is not raising money on their behalf.


TxDOT removes Bigfoot trail

TxDOT crews remove Bigfoot footprints on Highway 279 in Edom June 19.

Footprint project washed away in Edom

Downtown Edom said adieu to a project started two weeks ago by the Edom Chamber of Commerce. The Bigfoot Footprint Project was washed away by Texas Department of Transportation crews June 19. What remains of the brightly painted footprints is now a shadow of the once colorful, attention grabbing markers.

The project was designed to draw traffic down to the end of Edom and across the street for a way for visitors to follow and visit merchants. The original project included plans for artists in Edom to paint and embellish the footprints to add color, imagination and creativity for all those to see, stated Beth Brown of Potters Brown in a Facebook posting.

Opinions swirled from Edom residents and business owners concerning the legality of the footprints being painted on Highway 279 and if proper procedures were followed by the Edom Chamber of Commerce when the project was approved.


Fire chief let go during meeting

Ed Leipply

It was a night of high drama at the Wills Point Fire Department headquarters June 20 with the Van Zandt County Emergency Services District #4 taking on an agenda that included potentially taking a vote of no confidence on Chief Ed Leipply.

Word of the agenda item gradually spread since it was posted at both the department and the VZC Courthouse, eventually resulting in a larger than usual crowd finding its way to the fire house for the meeting.

After opening the meeting by approving minutes from the board’s previous meeting on June 6, ESD business shifted to the public comment portion of the agenda (by law, board members are not allowed to directly address or respond to public comment.)

Public Comment

In total eight people, including six current or former fire department members, Leipply’s wife Carolyn, and community member Charlene Miller spoke during the session to voice their support for Ed Leipply ahead of the potential vote.


Grand Saline Salt Festival

The Grand Saline Salt Festival was held in downtown Grand Saline June 10. This year’s festival was a fun fest for all ages which included bicycle races, hula-hoop contests and a sack race. 



Splash Kingdom Waterpark still open after fire

Splash Kingdom Waterpark owners Johnny and Marcie Blevins stand with their son, Brett, in front of temporary buildings at Splash Kingdom.

On April 28, a portion of the Splash Kingdom Waterpark was destroyed by an early morning fire. According to Splash Kingdom Owner Johnny Blevins, no official cause for the fire has been given after investigations from local and county fire officials.

 “The investigation is over,” said Blevins. “The fire officials investigated for two or three days before being interrupted by the massive outbreak of tornadoes that struck April 29 and we totally understood that. Everything in front was burned so completely. They were able to determine that there were no accelerants but they could not determine the start or the cause of the fire.”


East Texas Medical Outreach June 28-29

On June 28-29, the Fifth annual East Texas Medical Outreach Event will be held at Van Junior High School (630 South Oak Street in Van,).

Free health services will be provided to anyone without health insurance, starting at 8 a.m. on both days and will conclude at 4 p.m. on both days.

“Our goal for this program is to provide preventative and primary medical and dental screenings to uninsured East Texans. We want to refer participants that do not currently have providers to medical homes as much as we can and ultimately want to encourage participants to adopt healthy lifestyles to improve their quality of life,” says George Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of NET Health.


Displaced animals head way to Tulsa

The four legged victims of the East Texas Tornados are now ready for the next part of their journey in finding a forever home of their very own. Over the past month, the Canton Animal Shelter took in more than 80 animals that have waited to be reunited with their families. A month later, many did not get reclaimed.

Animal Investigation & Response, a DFW based organization that specializes in large scale emergency situations relating to animals, arrived in Canton on May 1 to assist the shelter with the influx of animals and provide resources to care for, maintain and find placement for the large number of furry companions.

AIR has secured transport and transfer of the unclaimed tornado animals though a well-known, east Texas born celebrity’s foundation to an Oklahoma-based organization. A rescue mobile unit, aptly named Muttnation Foundation, arrived in Canton to assist the animals in getting to their destination where they will prepare them for adoption. 


Texas A&M AgriLife to offer food handlers class

Texas Department of State Health Services accredited food handlers program is being offered by Melisa Rhodes, County Extension Agent.  This class is now required for all food service employees to help promote the service of safe food. The class is a basic overview of food safety practices that are necessary to ensure you serve safe food at your establishment. Some practices discussed are:     

· Good Personal Hygiene

· Cross Contamination

· Time and Temperature abuse

“If you would like to learn more, please come to our two-hour food handlers training. The class will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. July 7.  The cost will be $20 per person.  Upon completion of the program they will earn their food handler’s certification.  Reserve a place today by calling 903-567-4149. Deadline to sign up for the class will be July 5,” said Rhodes.

The class will be held at the Texas A&M AgriLife Van Zandt County Office, 235 East Groves St Canton. 


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