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Thomas Neugent, 74, who is stepping down as director of the Paris Municipal Band during its free weekly summer concerts in Bywaters Park, was honored Monday night by the Paris City Council.
After a stellar 37-year career as a band director at four Texas high schools, Neugent retired in 1995 to the Paris area, where his wife, Jacquelyn, had been named principal of Parker Elementary School in Powderly. They built a white two-story house in the woods next to a lake four miles east of Powderly in the Hidden Lake Estates.
He worked part-time as an adjunct wind instruments instructor at the North Lamar High School Band, a job he continues to do, and in 2001 began directing the municipal band through six free Friday night concerts at Bywaters Park in June and July.
“Mr. Neugent has been an asset, and we have been fortunate for his service to the citizens of Paris with his time and talent,” Mayor AJ Hashmi said during a proclamation at the start of Monday’s council meeting.
The Paris Municipal Band, one of the longest-running in Texas, also plays at the Rotary Club’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show, and wraps up its performances with the annual Paris Council of Garden Clubs’ Crape Myrtle Coronation in mid-July.
The concerts always begin with the Star-Spangled Banner and end with “I Love Paris,” but Neugent brought his own tradition to the band, the mayor noted.
Paris’ municipal band is made up of former members of high school and college bands, along with current high school band members. Members are paid $25 each performance.
“His dedication to practicing and getting musicians to attend the concerts at Bywaters Park will not be forgotten,” Hashmi said. “Mr. Neugent is well-respected by the musicians, and is appreciated by all who know him.”
Neugent was born in Deport on May 1, 1939, and attended school in the Titus County community of Talco, where he played in the high school band from the fifth grade on.
His last 24 years as a high school band director were at Euless Trinity High School, which won UIL Sweepstakes ratings every year he was there. He was inducted in 2005 into the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. Throughout his career, he has served as conductor at summer band camps, adjudicator, all-region clinician and workshop facilitator.
Many of his former students are band directors, music teachers, professional musicians, or still perform at church or in community bands.
His secret to success, he said, is that he always demanded excellence from his students and refused to accept less.
“I played literature above their heads, but we’d stumble through and get it done,” Neugent said in a 2005 interview with me.
“But I wanted to expose those kids to that kind of music, so they could go off to college, or they could sit back and talk to their kids and say, ‘This is what I played when I was in high school,’ “ he said.
The Paris Municipal Band routine under Neugent was the same every time – fast and furious.
“It’s upper left-hand corner to bottom right-hand of each song. Then we go to the next song. We don’t have time to stop and clean stuff up,” Neugent said.
It’s not a place for beginners. Members of the Paris Municipal Band have to be accomplished musicians already.
“Especially the high school students, they have learned they’ve got to be good sight readers. The songs are not all in the same key, the tempo is different for each song, stuff like that,” Neugent said.
Members of the Paris Municipal Band come from as far away as Bonham and other surrounding cities to play — ranging in age from people in their 70s to high school freshmen.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
District 7 councilman Dr. AJ Hashmi was selected by his Paris City Council colleagues Monday night as the city’s mayor for the third straight year, followed by the naming of District 3 councilman John Wright as mayor pro-tem.
The vote at Monday night’s council meeting followed the canvassing of votes for the May 11 election and swearing in of Hashmi, District 4 councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle and District 5 councilman Matt Frierson for their second two-year terms of office. Wright (pictured above, at left) is in the middle of his second term on the council. For the past two years, Hashmi (pictured above, at right) was mayor and Grossnickle was mayor pro-tem.
When the floor opened for nominations for mayor for the next 12 months, Wright nominated Hashmi, and there were no more nominations. District 6 councilwoman Cleonne Drake seconded the nomination, and the vote for Hashmi was 7-0.
Moments later, District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster nominated Wright for mayor pro-tem, and there were no more nominations for the post. District 1 councilman Aaron Jenkins added the second, and again the vote was 7-0.
After the meeting, Hashmi said he was “very thrilled” to be mayor for another year.
“We abolutely have a lot of plans for the coming year, and I’m going to start bringing them out hopefully for the next council meeting. There’s a lot to talk about. We have ways to go and we will continue the progress in the city,” Hashmi said.
Wright said: “I’m humbled that they would vote me in that position. I will do the very best that I can. We have a good group, and I see nothing but a bright future for the city.”
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Paris police officers responded to 324 calls for service over the three-day weekend while arresting 17 persons, including the previously reported pick-up of two individuals on charges of capital murder stemming from an early Friday shooting in west Paris.
On Friday, officers went to the 500 block of East Provine Street where a woman was reportedly under the influence of an unknown substance and appeared to be talking to trees, department spokesman Curtis Garrett said.
The woman ran from officers but was taken into custody after a short chase, Garrett said.
While the woman was being transported to the police station, an officer reported observing her remove one of the cuffs from her wrist and then removing an item fromher clothing and placing it inside her pants.
A review of the in-car video determined that she had placed some type of narcotkic inside her pants, Garrett said.
A search warrant was obtained, and the item was removed, leading to the following charges against 31-year-old Donetta Robinson:
The focus will be on the city’s drainage problems when a citizens’ advisory committee meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday with Longview-based KSA Engineers.
KSA is the company hired by the Paris City Council to develop a long-term plan for replacing the city’s aging infrastructure with the help of a $45 million bond issue approved by city voters on May 11.
Wednesday’s meeting – the fourth between the seven-person committee and KSA — is scheduled for the council chambers at 107 E. Kaufman St.
After that meeting, the committee will have a joint meeting with the Paris City Council in June to recommend which projects it considers the most pressing.
KSA, known for its work in infrastructure, has had teams – each headed by an engineer – working with city staff since early December to assess the city’s water, sewer, street and drainage needs.
The advisory committee’s focus is narrower because a $45 million bond issue approved by residents in the May 11 city election is limited to replacing or extending water and sewer lines.
Follow-up street and drainage construction can be paid for with bond money if it’s follow-up work made necessary by the water and sewer line work.
Other street and drainage work must be funded from the city’s other resources, such as grants or the council’s regular budgeting process.
KSA engineers reported on street conditions in their initial joint meeting with the citizens’ committee on March 7.
A second meeting on March 20 dealt with an assessment of the city’s water lines.
A third meeting on April 17 dealt with sewer issues.
KSA reports have documented the work orders associated with problem water and sewer lines in the city.
The engineering firm is recommending replacement of cast iron water pipes and clay sewer pipes with newer technology PVC pipe. In both cases, the outmoded pipes make up most of Paris’ water and sewer lines.
On the citizens’ advisory committee, each appointed by a city council member, are:
Even as the community continues to bask in the glow of Skinner Bakery’s move into the former Sara Lee plant, PEDC executive director Steve Gilbert told the Paris City Council that two more major companies are looking to move into Paris.
Gilbert used code names — “Project Fryer” and “Project Sims” – in discussing the companies on Monday during the economic development corporation’s quarterly report to the council.
As all are economic development projects in their early stages, Gilbert declined to be more specific.
Discussions are ongoing on several other interesting prospects, he told the council.
So far in 2013, he said, “we have been working on dotting the Is and crossing the Ts with a lot of projects announced in 2012 – including tax abatement of Skinner’s $19.4 million in new capital investment scheduled from now through 2017.”
(The following day, in a meeting of the Paris Economic Development Board, Gilbert said he had just talked with Skinner officials “and they thought they will move fairly quickly toward that 100-employee milestone – sooner rather than later. They’re rocking right along, and so that is a very positive thing. They may have a soft opening event in the early part of June.”)
In Gilbert’s report to the council, he said the PEDC is working with City of Paris staff for an abatement request on behalf of the proposed $150 million Paris Lakes development – a hospital, shopping center, hotel, retirement community and lighted par-3 golf course planned across from Covenant Christian Church on the southeast loop.
“We hope to come before you with that project sometime in June for your consideration,” Gilbert said.
The PEDC has pledged $250,000 toward costs of bringing City of Paris water and sewer to that project, which developer Ron Parker says will bring 800 new jobs, not including 1,000 or more construction workers.
Gilbert also talked about two projects that fell through – including a project originally labeled “Project Jewel,” which was announced last October. Triton manufacturing center was to bring $36.3 million in capital investment and 312 new jobs to Paris over a five-year period.
The investor decided to put the plant in Arizona instead, Gilbert said.
Company officials “indicated if there was an expansion that they would certainly look at Paris, but honestly, I don’t think that’s in the foreseeable future,” the PEDC executive director said.
That drew a rebuke later in the meeting from the mayor, Dr. AJ Hashmi.
“I want to say that you’re doing a good job. I’m very happy with it. But I do want to caution on a few things,” he began.
“I think you need to be very careful when you make an announcement, and wait until such time that we have a more definitive answer as to whether we have it. Otherwise, you raise hopes and then drop them suddenly,” Hashmi said.
As for the tax abatements that are routinely brought as incentives for companies to locate in a community, the mayor noted a recent article in The Dallas Morning News concerning Congress looking into tax abatements and incentives provided to companies.
“It said that 80 percent of those companies that were provided with those incentives were closed within five years and all that money was lost,” Hashmi said.
“In our executive sessions (of the council with the PEDC), we have discussed the fact that if you are going to give tax abatements, we should have a clause in there that in case the company decides to close and move someplace else that they retroactively be obligated to pay those taxes. Please remember that when you come up with abatements,” Hashmi said.
Several council members added their appreciation for the PEDC’s work in attracting potential new companies to Paris.
Regarding Triton, Gilbert said the PEDC provided some funding for a market assessment, and Triton has agreed “to reimburse us and make us whole on all of the out-of-pocket expenses for that project.”
The PEDC proposed 2013-2014 budget includes reimbursements from Triton totaling $58,252.
Gilbert led off his quarterly report to the city council by telling of a prospect that got away.
“I got contacted early this year by a site consultant, and they had a major manufacturing project that was interested in Paris. That company wanted a 275,000-square-foot existing building, and we had only one building that maybe fit into that criteria,” Gilbert said.
“We connected with the owner of that building, and the deal didn’t work out, so we lost the project. It was a very competitive project, and that was pretty early on in the competition, but the point is that at this point the lack of available industrial buildings is a constraint for us,” Gilbert said.
That was an apparent reference to the former Paris Industries building on the northwest loop and Farm Road 79 for which We Pack Logistics last month obtained a $591,000 building permit to renovate.
Gilbert said he has talked with city manager John Godwin about three vacant buildings – the Philips Lighting plant on Clarksville Street that closed several years ago and two dilapidated structures on the northwest loop – the Superior Swift and Oliver Rubber buildings.
“We’re trying to start a discussion to say what our community should do about a few older dilapidated buildings. And of course, we have the industrial park, and one of the things we’re promoting to companies is that we have available land, and that we would put land into a project,” Gilbert said.
“The same goes for the airport. That is a big opportunity. There is ample land for a company that might be in the aerospace industry. So we continue to market to industrial prospects.”
Hashmi noted that for years the one building the PEDC owned in the city’s industrial park remained empty.
“It just recently got occupied, and so as much as one wants to have things ready, just because one project wanted to come and you didn’t have a building ready, to say that now we should get all buildings prepared, I don’t think that is necessarily a very feasible thing to do,” the mayor said.
Hashmi said he is all in favor of improving the available buildings.
“If there is a possibility to fix them, certainly we should try our best to do that and make them usable,” he said.
The mayor said he had looked into the Philips Lighting building for use by industrial prospects and was told that the building’s owners “have a lot of contingencies as to what would be allowed to come into that building.”
“We almost had someone for that building, and it’s kind of sad that they don’t want to pay to maintain it, but they have deed restrictions that really put us at a disadvantage.
“And so, I would request code enforcement to enforce all the codes, so that if we are not allowed to let anyone buy that building, we at least force the owner to maintain it properly on Clarksville Street so we have a halfway decent building.”
District 3 councilman John Wright asked if the environmental problems at the two dilapidated structures on the loop “aren’t covered under some code?”
Godwin said: “I don’t know if they are under the city code, but they certainly are under state codes. We’ve talked recently about both of those projects and given them to the fire department to address.”
District 5 councilman Matt Frierson said: “Another issue as simple as beautification – you drive around the loop, you’re looking at a couple of eyesores.”
Hashmi concluded the discussion by saying, “I think we have discussed that, and I really think we should enforce our building codes around those areas.”
By CHARLES RICHARDS