- Real Estate
- Paris Flash
A Paris city councilman asked his colleagues Monday night to consider using a portion of Love Civic Center as an indoor recreation facility.
“There’s widespread interest in an indoor recreation center. We don’t have the money to build something elaborate, and a suggestion that made pretty good sense was what about using the civic center as a rec center also, and have it for a utility building,” District 3 Councilman John Wright said.
“It’s something that we could do for not much expenditure, and it’s something our children would get benefit out of right away,” Wright said.
An item, put on the agenda of Monday’s council meeting at Wright’s request, read: “Discuss and possibly act on an indoor recreation center plan.”
Other council members seemed to be caught off guard when they heard Wright’s suggestion to convert a portion of the civic center into a recreation facility.
“So, it’s my understanding that, in addition to it being the civic center, it would also be used for a recreation center? At various times it would be a recreation center, and at various times it would be used as a civic center?” Mayor AJ Hashmi asked.
“Makes sense to me,” Wright responded.
At a recent meeting of a committee studying a new parks master plan for the city, a number of citizens voiced support for an indoor recreation facility.
“I think we’d be remiss not to explore the possibility that exist out there (at Love Civic Center),” Wright said.
“Building something big an elaborate is out of the question right now without a bond issue, which might not be a popular subject right now,” he said.
Wright’s proposal got an emphatic endorsement from District 1 Councilman Aaron Jenkins, who called it “a wonderful idea, especially for the kids.”
Jenkins has been involved closely with the city’s youth in various sports activities and said during his successful run for the city council in 2012 that one of the city’s major needs was an indoor sports facility.
“I mean, people could use it everyday. I don’t know how we’re going to get (an indoor recreation center) done, but if we do, I don’t want to do it halfway,” Jenkins responded Monday night. “Go all the way with it. I think paris would really do good with it.”
Other council members were dubious.
“I’d like to have some time to digest it and make sure it could be done without any problems,” District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said.
District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson agreed there’s a need for an indoor recreation center, but had questions about putting it in the civic center.
“As far as us going ahead (with a recreation center), I’m all for it. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as far as dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” Frierson said.
“You know, location wise, if you put it at the civic center, I would imagine there are pros and cons regarding the traffic flow and access to it,” he said.
He agreed that “it’s certainly an interesting idea” and suggested some study into the feasibility.
Frierson mentioned that the Visitors and Convention Council runs the civic center and wondered if the council wasn’t invading on that body’s turf.
“I think we all realize there is a desire and a particular need for (a recreation center), and I think all avenues should be explored, including the civic center. My question, and I don’t have the answer, is how is the civic center tied in to the Chamber of Commerce, and what ownership do we have or not have of the civic center,” Frierson said.
Concerning Love Civic Center, the mayor said he believes the city owns the property and has the right “to have something else implanted in it” if it chooses.
Dr. Richard Grossnickle, who represents District 4 on the council, said Wright’s recommendation “is worth exploring,” but added:
“I do have some concerns about how that building might adapt to an athletic use, such as whether there could be showers , because athletes want to shower off after a heavy game of basketball.”
Grossnickle also wondered if a gym floor would have to be added, “as opposed to the existing floor.”
“So there are some issues, but it’s worth considering,” Grossnickle said. “I’m also for exploring fund-raising possibilities for a dedicated recreation center.”
District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster noted there is a lot of sports activities in the vicinity of Love Civic Center, “so that would likely be a good spot, if that building can be adapted. We’d just need to look into it.”
The mayor wrapped up the discussion.
“I think it’s a good idea if it’s doable. Certainly it’s a possible. But I think we have to look at it more closely as to whether it’s feasible,” said Hashmi, who represents District 7.
“So with the council’s permission, I will ask the city manager to look into it and bring back to the council at a future meeting some sort of sense as to whether it’s doable, something short of building a new center,” the mayor said.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
A police dispatcher and several firefighters came in for special commendation Monday night from the Paris City Council for collaborating to rescue a woman trapped in a burning house.
Paris firefighters overfilled the council chambers, showing up in full dress regalia to add their own recognition of the recognition being given their colleagues.
Foreman, 40, fielded a 9-1-1 call about noon on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, from a woman who said her residence at 1149 6th St. NE was on fire, and she was trapped in a back room.
Foreman immediately dispatched the fire department to the fire, which was about a half mile south and east of the city’s main fire station.
“Protocol would have been to hang up, but Foreman kept her on the phone, found out where she was in the house, and told her to get low, beneath the smoke,” Police Chief Bob Hundley said.
Within two minutes of the call, firefighters were on the scene.
While enroute, Fire Chief Larry Wright said, Foreman alerted firefighters that there was a trapped occupant in the house, located about one block south of Martin Luther King Drive.
“She had told the dispatcher what part of the house she was in, and he relayed it to the fire crew. He kept her on the line until she actually went unconscious,” Wright said.
By the time firefighters arrived, they had also been informed by Foreman that the woman was now unconscious in a back room of the residence.
Dority and Humphrey deployed a hose line and entered the structure, extinguishing flames as they made their way to the woman in a back bedroom.
Meanwhile, Unruh was breaking through an exterior door at the back of the house.
“The doorway was blocked with a dresser and television and other furniture, so they literally had to physically breach that door to get entry. They didn’t want to drag her out through the fire,” Wright said.”Dority and Humphrey quickly located the unconscious Ms. Cole and moved her to the doorway that Unruh was breaching,” Wright told the council.
At least two more firefighters and two police officers and EMS personnel assisted in getting Cole medical treatment. She was taken to the emergency room of Paris Regional Medical Center for smoke inhalation and later was transferred to a Dallas hospital.
“The dispatchers in the 9-1-1 center are like the hub of a wheel. The call comes to them first and goes out the spokes to the emergency services,” the police chief added.
“Foreman did an outstanding job with the victim during the call. He maintained the connection with her, found out she was unable to get out of the house, identified where she was in the house, relayed that information to the responding firefighters, and talked her into getting close to the floor and under the smoke,” Hundley said.
“The victim stopped responding to him just a minute or so before the firemen were able to reach her and get her out,” Hundley said. “The stress that these dispatchers face every day when they have someone on the phone who is imminent peril is unbelievable.”
Council members praised everyone involved in the rescue.
“This makes me proud that I live in Paris,” an emotional City Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said. “I cannot say thank you enough.”
“Thank you for what you do,” City Councilman John Wright said.
“We’re very proud of you,” City Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
As the saying goes, the times, they are a’ changin’, when it comes to politics in Lamar County.
Used to be, if you wanted to win a race, you had to run as a Democrat. Until 2008, a Republican had never won a race in Lamar County.
Now, as Lamar County Republican Party chairman John Kruntorad happily points out, it’s come full circle.
Out of 20 candidates who have declared their intentions, only one has filed for a place on the Democratic primary ballot. All the rest are running as Republicans.
Filing deadline for the March 4 primary is 6 p.m. on Dec. 9 — a week from Monday.
“It’s going to be an interesting election. I’m excited about it. Lamar County has never had this many Republicans on a primary election ballot — ever,” Kruntorad told eParisExtra.
“I’ve stated several times that for many years Northeast Texas — Lamar County included — has been a very conservative area of our state. But for years, people ran as Democrats because they always heard that’s how you get elected,” Kruntorad said.
“It’s finally dawned on people that their political views didn’t match the party they were signing up with,” he added.
This year, as Lamar County incumbents come up for re-election, people who have run before as Democrats are now filing as Republicans.
“The argument that everyone’s making right now, they’re saying that as a person goes to vote, they’re not going down the ballot, they’re just filling in the ‘R’ space and going home,” said County Judge M.C. “Chuck” Superville, a staunch Democrat who has been county judge for the past 18 years.
“That’s happening at the rate of about 3-to-1 — about 75 percent to 25 percent. It’s really ironic — if I run as a Democrat, it’s not me running against the other guy, it’s me running against the Republican Party,” Superville said.
“I really like what I do. I love this work, and I think I’m good at it. I feel like I have a lot to offer to the county. The only question is what’s the best way for me to go forward, and give the voters a chance to say if they want me to be their county judge. It’s a very interesting time and place, where we are right now, and so I’m just kind of seeing which way to go,” he said.
No one has filed for county judge yet, but Michael Malone, who served as Paris’ city manager for 17 years, says he is “seriously considering” running in the Republican primary for county judge. Malone has already decided on former Paris police chief Karl Louis as his campaign treasurer if he does follow through and file.
Kruntorad said: “I fully expect, and my hopes are, that after the General Election in November of 2014, every local political office is held by someone who ran as a Republican.”
Every local position on the ballot has a Republican candidate, and so far only one race has a Democratic candidate — incumbent County Treasurer Shirley Fults.
“It started to shift a little bit six years ago, and over the last four years it’s shifted tremendously,” Kruntorad said.
“The first Republican elected in Lamar County was in 2008, when Eric Clifford won the 6th State District Judge’s race, and Kevin Jenkins won as county commissioner for Precinct 4 and Rick Easterwood won as constable for Precinct 4,” Kruntorad added.
Brady Fisher, the Democratic county chairman, noted that even with a heavy Republican turnout, a lot of Republicans voted for Superville in 2010.
“He got by far more than any other Democrat on the ballot,” Fisher said of Superville.
“What I’m saying is, if anybody votes for anybody other than a straight Republican ticket, he will get that vote. He got 70 percent of the vote one time and 65 percent in the other. No other Democrat came even close to that, including (former State Rep. Mark) Homer.”
Under Texas law, three things are required to file for a county elective position. The candidate must:
The folllowing individuals have made known their plans to seek re-election in the March 4 primary for Lamar County elective positions:
COUNTY JUDGE: Incumbent, M.C. “Chuck” Superville.
COUNTY COMMISSIONER, PRECINCT 2: Incumbent, Lonnie Layton.
COUNTY COMMISSIONER, PRECINCT 4: Incumbent, Keith Mitchell.
COUNTY COURT AT LAW:
CONSTABLE, PRECINCT 5:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PRECINCT 1:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PRECINCT 2:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PRECINCT 3:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PRECINCT 4:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, PRECINCT 5, PLACE 2:
DISTRICT CLERK: Incumbent, Marvin Ann Patterson.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
It will be owned and operated by Bret and Sherrie Holbert, former owners of the 24th Street Cafe.
The building — long vacant and at one time a candidate for demolition — has been under extensive renovation in recent weeks.
Cheri Bedford, Paris Main Street Coordinator, cheered the news.
“A building that has been an eyesore for downtown is welcoming a new business,” she exclaimed.
The name of the beer and wine garden will be simply “107″ — for its address, 107 Grand Ave.
“We hope to be open in time for downtown Christmas festivities,” Bret Holbert told eParisExtra.
“We’ll have a food menu along with that which will feature small plates, upscale bar food, things like that. Also, we have a proprietary blend of coffee that will be sold there that will be made just for us,” Holbert said.
“We’ll have a selection of beer and wine. And of course, we’ll offer soft drinks and tea and things like that.”
“Included in the business is another business — custom fire glazed hams. We’ll take orders for custom glazed hams, and in fact, we’re already taking orders for them,” Holbert said.
Anyone interested may place an order at 903.517.1245.
“When we bought the building, the roof had caved in, and we gutted the building,” Holbert said.
“We did an engineering study and secured the exterior walls with metal trusses, things like that,” Holbert said, to assure that the building can withstand any kind of weather problems, even without a roof.
Along with the roof, a portion of the back wall was also removed, and steel beams were installed recently to insure the integrity of the building.
Without a roof the building will remain, except that there will be a cover over the kitchen, serving area and restrooms. There will be some covered seating areas, but everything outside the kitchen and serving area will be open air.
“We’ll have umbrella tables and things like that. We’re fully aware that we’ll be subject to the weather, but that’s OK. When we talk about open air, that’s all within the building still.”
The beer and wine garden will have a seating capacity of somewhere between 60 and 80 people, Holbert said, which is approximately what the 24th Street Cafe accommodated.
A structural assessment on the building was ordered in 2011 to determine the status of the property and make sure it was not a danger to the public, Bedford said.
The funds to pay for the assessment were from a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation secured by the City of Paris and Main Street program.
“The current owners who purchased this property were given a copy of this report and they were very aware of the back wall’s structural integrity,” Bedford said.
“The new owners are extremely excited about their business, love the historic district,” she added.
“They have taken advantage of façade renderings from the Texas Main Street Program, received a façade grant from the Historic Preservation Commission, and are glad to be a part of all the exciting things that are happening in downtown.”
Bedford called “107″ a success story that has taken many partnerships to accomplish.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
In a talk to the Rotary Club of Paris, James Skinner Baking plant manager Rodger Coan said company officials in Omaha, Neb., feel the biggest asset they acquired in buying the old Sara Lee Bakery last December was the people of Paris themselves.
“I’m going to speak as well as I can for chief executive officer Audie Keeton, because I myself am from Paris and have been for 30 years,” said Coan, 51, a guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of the club.
“Mr. Keeton has made the comment on many occasions that the biggest asset of coming to Paris, the biggest benefit, is the people of Paris,” said Coan (pronounced Koen).
“The relationship that has developed between Skinner and Paris is one of great cooperation — something the company considers a great benefit,” he said.
The company began operations last June in the old 375,000-square-foot Sara Lee facility that was shut down at Loop 286 and Northwest 19th Street in November of 2011.
Skinner plans to make the 89-acre Paris plant into the crown prince of its operations, Coan said.
The company has announced a schedule of improvements to increase the company’s investment in the plant to $25 million, with most of the additional commitment planned over the next four years.
“You know, there was a time that the Sara Lee plant here employed around 1,100 or 1,200 employees. I would like to see it right back in that same position within the next five or six years,” said Coan, who also managed the plant when it was under Sara Lee ownership.
The company now has 120 employees, plus a few temporary employees, working in two 10-hour shifts, four days a week, manufacturing Skinner’s family pack sweet roll — which is a cinnamon roll, a strawberry roll, a raspberry roll, and a raspberry and cheese roll.
“The line that we now have running has 31 people per shift — a total of 62 people on the line. The rest of the employees are support group, such as maintenance, sanitation, and so forth,” Coan said.
Within the next 30 days, manufacture of croissants will be added to the Paris plant, which will mean another full shift of 40 employees, building up by mid-year 2014 to two full shifts, he said.
“By the end of 2014, we should have three lines running full shifts. I would like to see us, within the next two years, get to 450 employees,” Coan said.
Coan showed on a projector some slides of operations at the James Skinner manufacturing process in Paris, then took questions from Rotary members.
Coan said the conversion of the Sara Lee facility to a James Skinner facility has gone “very smoothly” — considerably faster than most start-up operations.
“Bringing the production line up as quickly as this line came up is generally not done this quickly. It’s taken a lot of work and dedication from our employees, though,” he said.
When asked how many employees James Skinner brought to Paris from Omaha, Coan said: “None.”
“Of the employees now employed here, 82 percent are former Sara Lee employees. That means we hired people that were experts in their field — sheeter employees that already knew how to run the sheeting lines,” he said.
This meant a tremendous savings to Skinner in training costs “because we brought people back to machines they were already familiar with running. It was their own piece of equipment,” Coan said.
“All these people already knew everything about their equipment — the ovens, the mixers, the deep panners, all the other equipment — and were comfortable running them.”
Maintenance men were so familiar with the equipment they had kept running for years they could tell just by the sound whether it was running right, he said.
Asked whether Skinner’s employees are union or non-union, Coan said the Omaha plant is a union operation, but the Paris plant is non-union, and we plan on keeping it that way.”
“Good,” responded the Rotary member who asked the question.
In response to another question, Coan said no preservatives are used in making Skinner’s line of pastries.
The company’s pastries have a shelf life of one week, he said, but added: “If you freeze them, they’re good for a year, and then they have a shelf life of a week.”
Competing products with a shelf life of longer than one week “have preservatives in them,” Coan said.
In 2012, months after the Sara Lee plant was shut down, an affiliate of New Mill Capital bought it for an undisclosed sum and began to market it .
Coan said Keeton had been looking for a couple of years to expand to another city “so he came to Paris and took a look at it. He saw the potential of the plant and visited with some of the people in the plant.”
“The plant was actually going to go up for auction — piecemeal — four days after that. After four hours of looking at the plant, Audie made an offer and told them he had to leave in 20 minutes to get on a plane,” Coan said.
“Ten or 15 minutes after he made the offer, it was accepted, and we’ve been rolling ever since then,” Coan added.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra