Paris City Council unanimously OK’s renaming main fairground road ‘Gene Watson Boulevard’

City manager John Godwin (left) is shown after Monday night’s council meeting with David Millsap, a longtime friend and fan of country music star Gene Watson. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra!

The two-block thoroughfare of the Red River Valley Fairgrounds will be renamed “Gene Watson Boulevard” in honor of the home-grown country music singing star, the Paris City Council agreed unanimously Monday night.

Gene Watson

City manager John Godwin presented a resolution on behalf of “a number of local citizens”who suggested the honor for Watson, 68, a frequent visitor and popular participant at the annual fair.”We’ll have this done for when he comes here in September and make some kind of deal of it,” Godwin said.

“I think this would be a nice gesture,” said mayor pro-tem Dr. Richard Grossnickle, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of mayor AJ Hashmi. The mayor was out of the city and missed his first meeting since joining the council 13 months ago.

The city manager said after the meeting he will ask David Millsap, a local fan and longtime family friend of Watson, to participate in the official ceremony on Sept. 25, when Watson is scheduled to sing at the fair. Millsap led the move to honor Watson with a street named after him.

The street that runs through the fairgrounds is the northern-most extremity of Northeast Sixth Street.

“No addresses exist on this specific segment of the road, so there will be no inconvenience or requirements for change except two city street signs, which will be manufactured and hung in-house,” Godwin said. The rest of Northeast Sixth Street will remain as is.

Although born in Palestine, Texas, Watson grew up in and around Paris. He and all six of his siblings sang, as did his parents, Watson recalled in an interview.

“Ican remember singing as far back as I can remember talking. Singing was something that was not out of the ordinary for me. It wasn’t unique. My whoe family were singers,”he said.

“I sang in church with my sister. My younger brother, Jessie, and me would sing at little school functions and local things. When I was 15 and he was about 12, there was a guy who came to Paris who was supposed to be a big producer and talent scout and all this,” Watson said.

“He thought that Jessie and I had a lot of potential, so he put a show together at the coliseum. That was the big debut for The Watson Brothers. By the time the show was over with, he left town with the proceeds.”

The Watson family shifted from shack to shack as his itinerant father took logging and crop-picking jobs.

Home eventually became a converted school bus. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade to work alongside his parents in the field.

“Seems like my career just kind of happened accidentally. It was purely unintentional. Music was just a sideline. I was going to be playing and singing no matter what line of work I was going to do. I never did really have any high expectations out of the music business,” he told an interviewer.

Watson quit drinking in 1980 and quit smoking in 1990. He underwent surgery and survived colon cancer in 2000-01. Through it all, he continued to record one critically applauded collection after another. In 2002, he was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.

Among his hits are “Paper Rosie,” “Farewell Party,” and “Nothing Sure Looked Good on You.”

In 1981, after moving to MCA Records, his recording of “Fourteen Carat Mind” gave Watson his first U.S. country No. 1 song.

“It’s unbelievable to me that it’s been 50 years,”Watson says. “For most of those years, it seemed like ti took everything I could do to keep working as steady as I needed to. Now that I’m older it seems like everything comes to me without trying,” he said.

“Every time I step out on that stage and see that audience, it’s a new beginning. Even though I’ve sung these songs millions of times, I look at each one like it’s brand new to me. Every night, I try to deliver that song the best that I can.”

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Residents who tied illegally into city’s sewage system say they’re paying too much now

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra!

City manager John Godwin said the Paris City Council will hear the concern by Roger and Sharon Stripland of 3420 Clement Road that they should get a break from the city on their monthly sewer charges.

city manager John Godwin

Originally, it was to be heard Monday night, but Godwin said Friday that the agenda item is being pushed back until probably July 23, when the full council can be present.

Mayor AJ Hashmi is out of the city and won’t be at Monday’s council meeting.

For several months, the city has been trying to solve flooding problems of the Striplands, a close neighbor to District 4 councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle. The Striplands have the first house on Clement Road after 34th Street bends east toward the Brownwood Addition on its way to FM 195.

Mayor AJ Hashmi expressed concern after the flooding problems persisted month after month, saying Stripland is a taxpayer and deserves to have the problem fixed.

But this is about a different matter.

Attorney Bill Flanary appeared on the Striplands’ behalf  during citizens’ input at the June 11 meeting of the council.

Godwin said the Striplands feel they should pay a smaller sewer services bill because, unlike other residents, they paid for their water pump, they paid for their water lines, and they paid for the installation.

What the Striplands are not saying, city officials say, is that they and a few other families tied onto the city’s sewer system illegally more than 10 years ago.

The Striplands and others accepted a refund when the city thought the residents were paying for a service that wasn’t being provided, says finance director Gene Anderson, who was acting city manager when the illegal tie-in was discovered four months ago..

Flanary told the council on June 11 that the Striplands, “and I believe all of the other homeowners affected,” want to pay a fair amount for the city’s facilities.

“But they do not feel it is equitable — by having provided for themselves in large part a service that the city should have been providing – that they now pay the full amount, which on the face of the bills that they have received, really seems to be just an arbitrary amount of sewer charges,” the attorney added.

“They admit that you are processing their waste water, but they have paid for the pump and paid for the lines and installation of the lines,” Flanary said.

Three years ago, in June of 2009, the City of Paris — under the impression that the Striplands and some neighbors were paying for services that weren’t being provided —  refunded the sewer fees and stopped billing them for sewer services.

The free use of the bootlegged city sewer services continued until four months ago, when the city discovered that the Striplands were connected onto the city sewer services illegally and had been for years.

On March 2, after the discovery was made, the city billed the Striplands retroactively back to January of this year, “and they’re all now being billed an identical amount for sewer services — $31.36 a month,” Flanary said. He suggested $25 a month would be fairer.

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Historic Preservation Commission discusses troubled downtown buildings

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra!

The City of Paris historic preservation commission held a lengthy discussion at a recent meeting about two adjacent vacant store fronts in the 100 block of Clarksville Street.

Robert Talley

During a report by city code enforcement supervisor Robert Talley in the June 13 meeting about substandard structures, Talley mentioned 24-26 Clarksville St., which the city’s building and standards commission on May 21 ordered owners of the property to get it repaired and secured within 30 days.

Talley said another of the owners have signed off on the property, and the last reported heir to the property reportedly is saying that not only does she have no interest in the property, she is not an heir.

Commission member Nancy Anderson said she understands the building has a significant water leak that affects adjacent properties.

Talley said because the building owners did not make the required repairs to the building within the specified 30 days, the city has the right to go in and repair the roof and secure the building.

Commission chairman Arvin Starrett asked if there might be a possible buyer in the wings.

Several people are interested in the property, which is one-half block east of the southeast corner of the Plaza. The problem is and always has been, Talley said, getting the heirs to sign off on the property.

Members of the commission discussed at length how to make the property owners take responsibility and move forward.

On other matters, board members requested more information on the former apartment building opposite the Gibraltar Hotel, the “Beard house,” and 107 Grand Ave.

Talley said the building and standards commission ordered demolition of the Beard house, and said a civil engineer had been requested to go into the old apartment building, owned by Kenny Kammer, and come back with a report.

Assistant city building supervisor Jeanna Scott said the heirs have donated 107 Grand Ave. to the city, but first the city wants to get an asbestos survey of the building and get bids for stabilizing the building.

Talley said the owner of the building on the northwest corner of Clarksville Street and Southeast First Street has made all the repairs requested of him.

The capstone, awning and roof have been repaired, there is no water in the basement, and the floor joist in the basement looks sturdy and secure, Talley said.

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In last action, outgoing city-county health board raises new administrator’s salary

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra!

In its last meeting (June 26) before giving way this month to an almost completely different panel, the Paris-Lamar County Health Board approved a pay increase for new administrator Rita Prestridge.

Gina Prestridge

Five of the six new members that will be sworn in later this month were invited into the executive session in which Prestridge’s raise was discussed.

After 45 minutes behind closed doors, the board emerged for a motion by Bill Strathern to raise the administrator’s salary to $51,500 per year, as an executive director. Dr. David Carpenter seconded the

motion, which carried 5-0.

Carpenter then made a motion, seconded by Brady Fisher, to reclassify Cheryl Johnson from a Clerk III to administrative assistant. That motion also carried unanimously.

Other board members present were board chairman Dr. Wally Kraft and Dr. Robert Moseley. Board members absent were Larry Reaves and Dr. Bert Strom.

Of the “old” board, only Strathern, who was appointed to the board last year, will be back. Most of the others had served on the committee for 25 years or  more.

Those whose terms begin this month and run through June of 2015 and were present at the meeting were Dr. Keith House, Dr. William George, Kristi Martin, Dr. Rick Erickson and Dr. Mark Gibbons.

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City of Paris airport advisory commission studies possibilities for September Fly-In at Cox Field Airport

This aerial photo of Cox Field’s improved main runway, which got a new surface in recent months thanks to a grant, was taken from a plane flown by airport advisory commission chairman Billy Copeland.

By CHARLES RICHARDS

eParisExtra.com

At a recent meeting of the City of Paris’ airport advisory commission, a tentative date of Sept. 22 or Sept. 29 was approved for a Fly-In at Cox Field Airport.

Both dates fall on a Saturday..

A subcommittee of Ray Ball, Jeanna Scott, Jack Ashmore, Shannon Barrentine, and airport manager Jerry Richey came up with the dates.

The group also offered several entertainment possibilities that included offering airplane rides on a B17 or B25, at a cost of $450 to $500 per ride, plus tour rates.

Commission chairman Billy Copeland suggested investigating what it would cost to get them here. Copeland also suggested looking at the Devil Dogs as an alternative.

The subcommittee also discussed contacting a DC3, the Bird Dog Flyers, the remote control people, an acrobatic pilot,  sky divers, a ride simulator, EAA, and a T-28.

The subcommittee discussed parking and utilizing the city’s trolley to transport people across the runway area. Parking would be free, and the committee discussed the possibility of getting an organization to oversee the parking.

To help bring out a crowd, the commission discussed handing out tickets to individuals at the fly-in and having hourly drawings for door prizes.

Ball discussed the possibility of offering sponsor placement on advertisement banners, T-shirts, etc., with different levels of sponsorship.

Those attending September’s Fly-In will find improved runways at the airport, thanks to improvements financed by a grant.

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