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Ready For The 2013 Youth Fair?

Ladybirds Tie For District Title

Guide Inside Today’s Edition

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WHHAR W ARTO T N COUN COUNTY NTY YYOU OUTH TH FAI AR

Wednesday, We Wednesda ay, y, April Ap Apri pri 2 24, 4, 4, 2013

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Scofflaw captured after city jail break By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

El Campo police captured an alleged meat thief Tuesday who fled from the station while being booked Saturday. Shonna Lynn Wittman, 34, of 220 Palomar was taken back into custody around noon Tuesday after the El Campo Police Department received a tip she may be in the area of the 300 block of Alamo. “Officers chased her, ran her down (on foot) and arrested her,” Sgt. Robert Holder said Tuesday. Wittman is now charged with escape in addition to felony theft two or more convictions. El Campo officers took Wittman into custody Saturday on a charge of theft, Lt. Russell Ur(See ESCAPE, Page 6-A)

JURY CANCELED Wharton County residents who received a jury summons for Monday, April 29 for the 329th District Court can disregard the notice. The court session has been canceled, according to District Clerk Nerissa House.

Copyright ® 2013

VOLUME 129 NUMBER 12 • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2013

46 PAGES, 6 INSERTS

EC’s Earth Day blackened by fire By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

Earth Day in El Campo Monday afternoon included the sight of heavy black smoke covering most of the southern skyline. A pile of more than 50 tires engulfed in flame was to blame – a refuse fire spotted just south of U.S. 59. Leaving the station at 1:52 p.m., firefighting volunteers could see the pillar of smoke from East Jackson Street long before the first unit reached the blaze at 1459 Thrift. While the deluge gun atop the fire department’s pumper pounded the fire, El Campo Fire Chief Jimmy Nielsen called for the county’s environmental officer and spoke to the residents. He was told, the chief said, that a woman in the household had been burning trash, that the fire had run across the roughly 10 feet between the trash pile and tires; and had ignited them. Outdoor burning is currently legal outside the city limits. “But some things are never legal to burn,” Nielsen said. Even when legal items are being L-N Photo by Shannon Crabtree burned, “you’ve still got to be careWaiting For Water ful,” he said. “And you’ve got to be An El Campo volunteer firefighter waits momentarily for water before joining the battle to douse a pile of burning tires on aware of your surroundings.” Thrift Street Monday. The fire had already been hammered by a deluge gun atop the department’s pumper. (See TIRE FIRE, Page 6-A)

County votes to move DA from courthouse By BENJAMIN SHARP news@leader-news.com

The Wharton County Courthouse will soon be one tenant short. Commissioners court on Monday approved by majority vote moving the district attorney’s office out of the building in light of recent concerns over security. District Attorney Ross Kurtz and his seven-person staff will relocate about one block east, to the county-owned General Services Building. Kurtz, who was unable to attend the meeting due to a district court case, said he was pleased with the outcome. “I am extremely grateful to Judge (Phillip)

City Buildings Secure

– See Page 2-A Spenrath, the county attorney and county commissioners for coming together as leaders and fixing this issue so quickly and decisively. On behalf of myself and my staff, I want to tell them thank you,” Kurtz said. Spenrath made the motion for the relocation with Precinct 4 Commissioner James Kainer providing the second. Precinct 1 Commissioner Leroy

Dettling and Precinct 3 Commissioner Steven Goetsch voted in favor of the motion. Precinct 2 Commissioner Chris King cast the sole dissenting vote. King had asked if there were any instances of specific threats being made to the DA and his staff to help justify such a transition. County officials said there have been a handful of complaints, though Spenrath stressed that he was not aware of any “imminent” threat. Kurtz, however, has maintained that he and his staff are “sitting ducks” in their current quarters. He said it’s not uncommon for visitors to

Page 3-B ALSO INSIDE: VIEWPOINT .....................................Page 4-A OBITUARIES ....................................Page 7-A SPORTS.............................................Page 1-B LIFESTYLE ........................................Page 3-B CLASSIFIEDS & REAL ESTATE.......Page 7-B CROSSWORD ................................Page 10-B

By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

LOCAL WEATHER WEDNESDAY Chance of Showers DAY: 40% HIGH: 61º NIGHT: 30% LOW: 56º

THURSDAY Chance of Showers DAY: 40% HIGH: 72º NIGHT: 20% LOW: 66º

FRIDAY

SATURDAY Slight Chance of Showers DAY: 20% HIGH: 81º NIGHT: 20% LOW: 66º

Tops In Brisket

L-N Photo by Keith Magee

Tejano Cookers 1 captured first place in the brisket competition at the Wharton County Youth Fair Barbecue Cook-off Saturday. Because they are a Wharton County team, the award earns them a trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Cook-off next year. Members of the team are Chief Cook Steve Estrada, Henry Lilie, Victor Garza, Mario Banda, Sam Lopez, Paul Lopez, Mario Denker and Joe Olmeda.

LAST WEEK: AVG. HIGH: 76º • AVG. LOW: 53º

R AIN G AUGE Last 7 Days............................... .04 In. Last 30 Days........................... 1.48 In. Same Time In '12 ..................... 3.22 In. Year To Date .......................... 6.76 In. Year To Date '12 ..................... 18.03 In. Data Collected by LCRA at El Campo Memorial Hospital

B URN B AN : LIFTED COUNTY’S MEAN KBDI: 386 Burn Ban is put into effect when the mean KBDI reaches or goes above 500.

(See DA’S OFFICE, Page 6-A)

Mid-May now target start for no-sorting recycling plan

Student Makes Tribute To Teacher

Slight Chance of Showers DAY: 20% HIGH: 82º NIGHT: 20% LOW: 68º

75¢

WCYF cookers help West, win big By KEITH MAGEE news@leader-news.com

CRESCENT — Americans, particularly Texans, had a lot of tragedy to deal with last week after explosions in Boston and, closer to home, the small town of West near Waco. So last weekend’s Wharton County Youth Fair Barbecue Cook-off gave participants a chance to take a break from all the sad news and have some fun. Even so, the Texas victims weren’t forgotten as one group of cook-off participants had a donation box at their campsite for those affected by the plant explo-

sion in West. “My daughter lives in Round Rock, and one of her teachers has family there (in West),” said Sherrie Barker, a former Wharton resident who now lives in Katy. “We came up with it at the last minute.” Barker was a part of Da-Boys team, which has participated in the cook-off for 20 to 30 years, she said. Ronnie Koenig of Wharton heads up the team. “Another friend of ours lost their roof,” Barker said. “We heard last night that they (West victims) really need money.” (See SMOKE RUNNERS 1, Page 5-A)

The city of El Campo hopes to have single-stream recycling available in the area by mid-May. And in the meantime, the pre-sort required bins courtesy of Wharton County Precinct 2 remain in place for city and county residents at the county annex, 605 E. Calhoun. The electricity needed to run the compactor should be connected by the end of the month, City Manager Mindi Snyder said Monday. Minor work is being done on a bin to go along with a compactor, she added, saying that should be completed shortly. It should be ready for public use, Snyder said, by the week of May 13 and will be installed where county bins are currently located. The incoming city program won’t require participants to presort their recyclables – or at least not to the same extent required by the current Precinct 2 system. Information on what can be recycled and what can’t will be released shortly before the system becomes available for public use. The full list is still being put together, but some no-nos are already known. Pizza boxes, for example, will be taboo. Why? It’s virtually impossible to find a used cardboard pizza box that isn’t inundated with grease and liberally coated on the inside with excess cheese – items that can gum up a recycling system. (See RECYCLING, Page 5-A)


El Campo Squads Win District

Pilot Club Officers Installed Page 3-B

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Copyright ® 2013

VOLUME 129 NUMBER 31 • SATURDAY, JUNE 29, 2013

14 PAGES, 4 INSERTS

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Milo harvest could start next week By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

Wharton County’s harvest season may be under way by Monday, but it doesn’t appear to be a bragging rights kind of year at least as far as grain sorghum and corn are concerned. “Some’s good looking and some is drought stressed,” County Ag Extension Agent Corrie Bowen said Thursday. “We’ve got a mixed bag of

expected yields. “It’s a tough one to say (as far as giving a yield prediction),” he added. “Maybe average or below average, but then again, who knows?” This week farmers have been putting harvest aid – a herbicide – on fields to stop growth in preparation for cutting. “There’s some yield loss, but you even out the field which makes for cleaner harvesting,” Bowen said.

Jackson County farmers have already starting bringing corn in, largely due to drier conditions there, he added. Here, the sorghum crop is ahead of the corn with cotton far behind. The milo harvest could start within days. “But I don’t know if there is any corn ready to come out,” Bowen said. West of Hwy. 71, for the most part, has been drier than the east

side of the county and may be ready for harvest first, he added. Because of colder than normal soil conditions in the start of the season, crops that didn’t develop as quickly have faced more issues with insects. Little rain in the last several weeks has added to concerns. But it’s too late for rain now – at least as far as sorghum and corn (See HARVEST, Page 8-A)

Beating The Heat FREEDOM FEST FIREWORKS TONIGHT Wharton County Freedom Fest continues today in Wharton near the courthouse square and will include fireworks. “It should be a great festival if it doesn’t rain,” said organizer Susan Freese. “That’s always a potential problem.” Heat may be another one.

– SEE PAGE 6-A

DVFD COOK-OFF CONTINUES TODAY The Danevang Volunteer Fire Department’s annual cook-off continues today. The event is held on the grounds of United Ag’s Co-op in Danevang with grilling titles on the line.

ALSO INSIDE: VIEWPOINT .....................................Page 4-A OBITUARIES ....................................Page 7-A SPORTS.............................................Page 1-B LIFESTYLE ........................................Page 3-B CHURCH LISTINGS .........................Page 4-B CLASSIFIEDS & REAL ESTATE.......Page 5-B

LOCAL WEATHER SATURDAY Hot DAY: 0% HIGH: 104º NIGHT: 20% LOW: 72º

SUNDAY Chance of Thunderstorms DAY: 20% HIGH: 100º NIGHT: 0% LOW: 73º

MONDAY Partly Sunny DAY: 0% NIGHT: 0%

HIGH: 96º LOW: 72º

TUESDAY Mostly Sunny DAY: 0% NIGHT: 0%

HIGH: 93º LOW: 71º

LAST WEEK: AVG. HIGH: 96º • AVG. LOW: 73º

R AIN G AUGE Last 7 Days.................................. 0 In. Last 30 Days........................... 1.25 In. Same Time In '12 ..................... 2.72 In. Year To Date ........................ 11.32 In. Year To Date '12 .................... 22.54 In. Data Collected by LCRA at El Campo Memorial Hospital

B URN B AN : LIFTED COUNTY’S MEAN KBDI: 524 Burn Ban is put into effect when the mean KBDI reaches or goes above 500.

Patrick Rios, the 5-year-old son of Beth Watson, takes a plunge into a backyard pool on North Washington Street Wednesday. He and others enjoyed the cool water on the blisteringly hot day. Pictured with him (l-r) are Alexis Trevino, the

9-year-old daughter of Ashley Cadriel; Rowan Babcock, the 2-year-old son of Rickie Babcock; and Rowan’s sister, 8-year-old Marley Babcock. L-N Photo by Shannon Crabtree

Precautions urged as South Texas begins to sizzle By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

Enjoy your weekend, but make sure you have ways to deal with the heat. That’s the message authorities are trying to get out to Wharton County residents with excessive heat warning expected for the next several days. That follows a Friday with heat indices reaching into the 108-degree range. Forecasters say Wharton County shouldn’t hit that grill-veggies-on-the-car-hood range today

and Sunday, but it will still be dangerously hot. “High temperatures are expected to exceed 100 degrees inland (today) and warm into the upper 90s on Sunday,” National Weather Service forecasters say. So far no cases of heat-related conditions have been treated by El Campo EMS workers, according to their data. The key to coping with the heat is simple, El Campo EMS worker Joan Rawlinson said Friday. “Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate,” she said. “With water, not a sports drink. And do not mix half and

half (which can eliminate some of the electrolyte replacing benefit a sports drink is designed for). The first choice is water.” Beer does not count as hydration. It actually dehydrates. The National Fire Protection Association recommends consuming small amounts of liquid on a regular basis during activities and at least 16 ounces of fluid within two hours of being in the heat or exercising. (See HEAT NOT, Page 8-A)

EC’s Blessing Cup prepared to assist more area families

City sales tax rebate check back in black

By JODY LARIMER reporter@leader-news.com

By SHANNON CRABTREE scrabtree@leader-news.com

If the economy has left you in dire straights, The Blessing Cup is just around the corner to help. “What we really need is people in need to come forward,” Director Larry Hoelscher said Thursday. Perhaps it is pride or unawareness, he added, “But we want to make sure we are helping the right people in their time of need.” The Blessing Cup, operating in El Campo for decades, has one mission: to help those in need - feed the hungry and clothe the naked, paraphrased from the Bible verse that is displayed on their building. But who is qualified to receive this aid? There is an income level requirement and a justification of need that must be established, Volunteer Dorothy Bacak said.

One El Campo economic indicator bounced back in the black this month after a plunge in May. Month-to-month variances in sales tax rebates, city officials say, are normal. Long-term tracking shows the true trends, according to earlier statement by El Campo City Manager Mindi Snyder. Sales tax rebate checks from the state comptroller’s office to the city of El Campo were up 3.28 percent in June while the city of Wharton and Wharton County’s rebates both dropped. Wharton’s was down 16.57 percent and Wharton County dropped 12.96 percent. Reflecting dollars spent on taxable items during the month of

(See BLESSING, Page 8-A)

Sorting Clothes From Local Donors

L-N Photo by Jody Larimer

Sophie Balcar volunteers her time to sort new donations at The Blessing Cup. All torn and stained items are discarded. The rest are sorted with some remaining local and the rest shipped off. “We keep about one tenth here,” Balcar said.

(See SALES TAX, Page 8-A)


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