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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Paul Gene Roden, chairman of the Paris Junior College board of regents, is seeking a fifth 6-year term in the May 12, 2012, elections. He is being challenged by businessman and former Paris mayor Curtis Fendley.
The seat up for grabs is for District 9 at-large, which means everyone in the PJC district — which comprises the Paris City Limits and the old Cunningham school district — is eligible to vote.
Early voting is at the Lamar County Courthouse (old post office) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday (April 30-May 1), from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday-Thursday-Friday (May 2-3-4) and again from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the following Monday and Tuesday (May 7-8).
Following are opening statements from the two candidates for the District 9 at-large seat, followed by their responses to six questions about how they view the duties of a regent and their plans and goals, should they win election. They were limited to 200 words or less for each reply. Early voting for the two PJC regent seats up for election begins Monday at the Lamar County Courthouse Annex (old post office) and continues weekdays through May 8. Election Day is May 12. PJC regent terms are six years.
Paul Gene Roden: My grandparents, parents and I (except for college) have been lifelong Lamar County citizens. I attended Paris schools and Paris Junior College before graduating from Southern Methodist University as an accounting major in 1960, and from mortuary college in 1961. I am married to a dear high school classmate, Anita Franklin. We have four children and six grandchildren. Before my retirement in 2006, I was a funeral director at Gene Roden’s Sons Funeral Home (now Starrett Funeral Home) for 22 years and then an officer at Northeast United Life Insurance Co. for 20 years. Northeast United specialized in the sale of funeral insurance and pre-arranged funerals through a funeral home of the purchase3r’s choice. I have always been and remain active in civic and charitable affairs, and my family worships at Lamar Avenue Church of Christ.
Curtis Fendley: I graduated from Paris High School, received a BBA in accounting from Texas A&M-College Station and an MBA from Texas A&M-Commerce. From 1975 to 1981, I was assistant administrator for St. Joseph’s Hospital. Since 1981, I have been a partner at Pierson & Fendley Insurance Agency. I served four years on the Paris City Council, three years of it as mayor. I am a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and a recipient of the Marvin Gibbs Award for Economic Development in Lamar County. From 1979 to 1982, I was on the PJC board of regents. I am current chair of the St. Joseph’s Community Development Foundation and am past president or chairman of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, City of Paris Housing Authority, City of Paris Planning & Zoning Commission, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Care Center, Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, and Lamar County United Way. I am on the boards of Love Civic Center, Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority, Lamar National Bank, Boys and Girls Club, and the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, for which I am also regional vice president. I am a former board member of the Red Cross and Salvation Army. My wife, Barbara Riddle Fendley, and I attend Holy Cross Episcopal Church, where I am senior warden.
QUESTION NO. 1: Why have you chosen to run for the PJC Board of Regents?
Paul Gene Roden: As a current member of the PJC board of regents and having served as its chairman for 12 years, I have current knowledge of the college’s affairs and plans. This knowledge and experience enables me to help guide PJC on a continuing path of growth, financial strength, and cost control. We are in the middle of long-range plans for improvements and expansion to the Paris campus, further development to the Greenville campus, and development of a new campus in Sulphur Springs. I want to remain on PJC’s board to help guide these plans to completion. The complexity of our world makes education after high school ever more necessary. Working with our college president and the other regents, I hope to make that education available to more and more of our children, grandchildren and adult citizens.
Curtis Fendley: I have chosen to run for the PJC Board of Regents to assist and insure that PJC remains a strong viable institution in our community. I have long maintained that Paris Junior College is our strongest asset for attracting new industry, and by working with our existing work force we are able to maintain a strong economic presence in this area of Texas.
QUESTION NO. 2: The PJC mission is to advance the education of students while strengthening the economic, social and cultural life of our diverse community. As a regent, what do you see as your role to help the college achieve the mission?
Paul Gene Roden: A very high percentage of PJC students are the first in their families to attend college. As such, they are uncertain of what college education entails. Therefore, most need further preparation to do college work and/or do not persist to reach their college goals. Working together, the regents with Dr. Anglin and her staff are causing PJC to make notable progress in these areas – progress that results in keeping a larger percentage of entering students in college, leading to the attainment of more degrees and certificates as well as more transfers to upper-level universities. A recent study shows that the economic impact of Paris Junior College upon its service area (Lamar, Red River, Hopkins, Delta, Hunt and eastern Fannin counties) is $95 million annually – quite an economic impact. PJC has had excellent athletic and fine arts programs for 85 years – baseball, basketball and golf for men, and softball, basketball and volleyball for ladies. Next year, we will add soccer for both men and ladies. The fine arts programs include choir, keyboard instruments, theater, speech and recitation. All of these are open to the public. When the public gathers, special interaction occurs, and we become a closer, strengthened community.
Curtis Fendley: As a board member, one should come together with other members to form a cohesive group and represent the public interest and needs. This includes not only the education of students, but working with PEDC, the City of Paris and industrial leaders to provide requested skill training that ultimately improves the quality of life for our area. The board should be proactive, focusing on the community needs with a visionary outlook to the future. It is the board’s responsibility, along with the college’s administration, to establish a goal-oriented mission statement and then to work as a team to meet those goals
QUESTION NO. 3: What do you consider the most important role of a community college board member?
Paul Gene Roden: The primary role of a community college regent is 1) to elect and appraise the president; 2) to adopt and oversee the annual budget; and 3) to establish policies for the fair and equitable treatment of its students and employees. Regents should NOT micro-manage the operation of the college. That is the president’s job, operating within the policies established by the regents.
Curtis Fendley: As I mentioned in question 2, a board member should know his community’s needs and stay linked within the community. The board must set policy standards for the college and delegate the responsibility of carrying out those established policies to the president of the college. The board should create a positive tone for the entire institution and always be advocates of the college, promote the college within the community, and set a high standard for education within the institution. In all cases, board members must adhere to the state law concerning open meetings.
QUESTION NO. 4: A community college has three main sources of revenue – state appropriations, tuition and fees, and local taxes. With state funding declining, what can you do as a regent to ensure PJC has adequate funding to support its mission?
Paul Gene Roden: Originally, the agreement between a local community college and the state of Texas made the college responsible for the physical facilities and their maintenance, and the state responsible for the cost of instruction. With this arrangement, each paid about 50 percent of the cost of operation. In recent years, the state has failed to uphold its end of the bargain. Currently, the state provides about 30 percent of PJC’s operating cost while the taxpayers in the PJC tax district along with the tuition and fees of students about 70 percent. Regents, college administration, and taxpayers MUST urge our senators and representatives to halt and reverse this downward spiral of state appropriations. The PJC tax district is made up of the City of Paris, Paris ISD, and the old Cunningham school district in southeast Lamar County. It is my belief that everyone within the multi-county PJC service area should also be in PJC’s taxing district. If its entire service area paid taxes to PJC, the college would be more stable, and the tax rate could be lowered significantly. PJC’s tuition and fees have been raised recently and frequently, but they remain at or below the average tuition and fees of other Texas community colleges. It will be my effort to keep PJC competitive for those who wish to attend.
Curtis Fendley: The State of Texas economy is similar to the remainder of the country, in that we have suffered through a recession accompanied by the sagging of oil and gas revenue. This, of course, has reduced the income stream available to community colleges. Texas is continuing to move away from a goods-producing sector such as manufacturing and is focusing more on the service sector for job creation. The fastest growing is the health-related services, and this is where Paris Junior College will accelerate. The institution has a long-standing history of success with the nursing program and other allied health professions. The growth of these programs will obviously result in additional tuition and grants in the future. Changes in industry are inevitable and will require additional training and education for the workforce. Paris Junior College can and does provide additional training to local industries, moving toward, a true business/community partnership.
QUESTION NO. 5: What role do you see Paris Junior College playing now and in the future in the growth and development of Paris and the surrounding service area?
Paul Gene Roden: Every business and industry represented in PJC’s service area and those who consider coming into it are impressed that we have a community college that is actively serving their needs for training. PJC has become the “provider of choice” when they need personalized, basic and advanced training from an outside source. This continuing education and technologies area of PJC offers multiple degrees and certificates on an ongoing basis such as nursing, EMT, surgical technician, dental technician, medical coding, welding, air conditioning and refrigeration, jewelry technology, etd. All of the training needs of business in Northeast Texas can be acquired through PJC.
Curtis Fendley: Paris Junior College has always played a vital role in growth and development in our area. It will continue, as it has in the past, partnering with the Texas Workforce, local industry, and city and other government entities to assure that we maintain a technically well-trained workforce and that we provide the highest quality of education to the community.
QUESTION NO. 6: During the last meeting of the Texas Legislature in the initial appropriations bill four community colleges were zero-funded or marked for closure. What would you do to make sure this doesn’t happen to PJC?
Paul Gene Roden: The four Texas community colleges assaulted by the 2011 Texas Legislature survived that attack; however, in this economic climate I would not be surprised to see some small, rural community colleges swallowed up by a larger, financially healthier community college adjacent to it. In my opinion, such an event was on the horizon in Texarkana until an alumnus recently came to its rescue. It is also my opinion that the Texas Legislature is in the process of getting into a position of shutting down some of the small, rural community colleges. Those in East Texas are among the most vulnerable being in close proximity. Those with small tax bases are especially vulnerable. That puts PJC on the legislature’s hit list. If we want Paris Junior College to continue to be a part of our community, we MUST expand its taxing district to encompass its entire service area. PJC’s financial condition has become stronger and its student body has more than doubled during the last decade. Enlarging PJC’s taxing district, maintaining its strong financial condition, and continuing to attract more demand for its services are all necessary for PJC to remain viable.
Curtis Fendley: I am not certain that the four institutions were marked for closure, but were told funding might be cut if certain items were not addressed by the board. However, if they were marked for closure I would have to assume that the administration and board of those institutions did not have a policy in place to monitor outcomes and a commitment for professional growth of their staff. It is tragic when any business faces closure, but when one does not have clear concise goals that are outcome-oriented and not monitored in a timely fashion, the result is often failure.
Paul Gene Roden: It is my opinion that Paris Junior College is the finest and greatest asset of Paris, Texas, although it remains a hidden gem to many who have grown up here. It improves the lives of our area citizens with a multiple of academic, cultural, social, and athletic programs and events. Matters are not bad at Paris Junior College, but things can always be improved. I want to improve PJC, not fix it. It is worth our time and effort and money to sustain and enrich it. That is my goal as a member of the PJC Board of Regents – to sustain, and improve, and enrich PJC. My opponent in this at-large race is a successful businessman and fine civic servant. Having served in the past as one of PJC’s regents, he has its interest at heart also. Especially now, PJC needs people experienced in business on its board. PJC will be well-served whichever one of us wins. There is no competition between us. There is just one at-large vacancy and two people wanting to fill it. The important thing is that YOU VOTE in the May 12 election.
Curtis Fendley: I am committed to work with the other board members and the community to assure that Paris Junior College remains an economically viable institution in this region of the State of Texas. I believe that the board should consider setting term limits, allowing more individuals in the community the chance to be involved at a local level. I will work closely with our community partners to insure that the main campus always remains in Paris and that Paris Junior College remains a strong financial asset for Paris and Lamar County. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Trase Christian, 29, a candidate in the May 12 election for the District 6 berth on the Paris ISD board, is ineligible because he doesn’t live in the district, school officials confirmed Wednesday.
Christian lives at 2032 E. Polk St., which last year was in District 6. As a result of redistricting earlier this year, his residence is in District 7. The new southern boundary for District 6 is Clarksville Street, four blocks north of Polk Street.
Jane Golden, elections administrator for the Paris Independent School District, said she should have caught the mistake when Christian filed on Feb. 22, but did not.
“It’s too late to cancel. We have to go ahead with the election,” Golden said.
The race between Christian and Jenny Wilson, 42, of 3155 Clark Lane will be on the May 12 ballot to succeed board president Dave Eisele, who is not running for re-election.
Had Christian’s ineligibility been caught in time, the school board could have canceled the election and declared Wilson the winner.
If Wilson should get the most votes, or if the election ends in a tie, she would win.
Please tell everyone it’s important that they still go out and vote,” Wilson said, because if Christian should get the most votes in an election that few people turned out for — well, it would get complicated.
In that eventuality, Golden said, Christian would be declared ineligible and the school board would treat the situation the same way as any other vacancy.
The board would have the option of appointing someone to serve out the new 3-year term or calling a special election for the next uniform election date — next November.
“We have appointed other board members in the past, and it was always for the length of the term,” Golden said.
Golden said it is her responsibility to verify, whenever someone files for the school board, that the candidate lives in the district for which he or she is filing.
Golden said she was aware that redistricting had changed the district lines, but the only map she had with the new district lines in February was small and Polk Street was not labeled.
“For whatever reason, I went back (on Tuesday) to confirm that the two candidates were registered voters, and when I looked for Mr. Christian, I did not find his name,” Golden said.
“So I pulled out the new maps that we’ve gotten from redistricting, which they’re a little better now than what we were working from originally in the redistricting process,” she said.
“I looked and double-checked his application for his address. It was clearly not in Place 6. I’ve confirmed with the county voter registrar Russell Towers that Trase was not registered to vote in Place 6.
“I immediately notified Mr. (Superintendent Paul) Trull and notified Trase and asked him to come by and visit with me, and gave him a letter declaring his ineligibility. He was kind and understood.”
Christian said he met with Golden and Trull on Tuesday afternoon.
“I was disappointed. I guess it was no one person’s fault,” Christian said. Golden told him he was now in District 7 rather than District 6 and that he could run for the District 7 spot next year if he desired.
On the application, Christian wrote that he had been living in Paris all his life and at 2032 E. Polk St. for 22 months.
Towers said Christian would not have been eligible to vote for himself anyway because his voter’s registration is for a residence on East Price Street, which is also not in District 6.
“I don’t know what that’s about, because I just received a new voter’s registration card at my house (2032 E. Polk St.) the other day,” Christian said.
He said he lived in an apartment in the 2200 block of East Price “about six years ago.”
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Councilman Edwin Pickle recommended Monday night that beginning this summer the Paris City Council allocate $1 million a year to pay for new sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines in a 49-square block area of downtown Paris.
The District 6 councilman gave a 20-minute presentation — complete with estimates for a complete re-do of the downtown infrastructure — that drew praise from his colleagues.
For years, the council has been faced with the daunting task of how to replace an aging infrastructure – water and sewer lines that have been in place for up to 100 years for most of Paris inside Loop 286.
Pickle concentrated on the sidewalk replacement work downtown, but also looked at the need to replace water and sewer lines.
Pickle envisions an initial challenge of replacing the infrastructure within an area bounded on the north by the north parking lot of the Lamar County Courthouse; on the south by Sherman Street, south of Bywaters Park; on the west by west Fourth Street; and on the east by east Third Street.
For one block of a street, Pickle estimated it would cost $43,438 for the new water lines, $40,386 for the new sewer lines and $119,600 for new sidewalks on both sides of the street, which adds up to $203,424. He added 10 percent for unknown incidentals for a total of $223,766.40.
At that rate, to put in entirely new infrastructure along the 112 one-block segments within the 49-square-block area would cost $25.1 million.
“But remember, some of the downtown streets already have new sidewalks, and some parts of this have new sewer lines or water lines as well,” Pickle said.
One by one, other councilman indicated a willingness to undertake the project.
“This is something the council has talked about – the infrastructure,” District 5 councilman Matt Frierson said. “While this seems like a large number, it is important for the future of the city.”
District 1 councilman Joe McCarthy also endorsed the plan, but said he is concerned also about the need to address the infrastructure needs “of our neighborhoods.”
Pickle said, “We have to start somewhere, we may as well start downtown, because this is a way we can improve our property values and improve our sales tax revenues. This does not mean at all that if we have a major break and we need to do some things elsewhere in the community, we can’t do it.”
Pickle noted that significant progress has been made with new sidewalks around the downtown plaza and for one or two blocks out in a couple of directions.
And another two-block stretch of new sidewalks will start in a few weeks on two blocks of Clarksville Street just east of the plaza. In that project, the utilities will be moved underground.
“Significant progress is being made, and it is my opinion that the city should continue with the current direction and focus on the downtown area while continuing to develop a plan that addresses other areas of the city that need attention,” Pickle said. “My point is, we are trying, and do want to make downtown more accessible.”
Pickle said the city has been getting grants that have paid about 75 percent of the sidewalk cost.
Mayor AJ Hashmi asked public works director Ron Sullivan if there were less expensive alternatives to concrete in building sidewalks.
“Yopu could use fiber-made concrete as opposed to using reinforced, but anything you do is going to be about the same cost, or even more,” Sullivan said.
Hashmi said he agrees that the council should begin making a serious allocation toward the infrastructure in each budget from here on.
“At some point, it has to be started, and the sooner the better. The cost will be higher the longer we wait, so I strongly support that in this coming year’s budget we have a definite allocation for sidewalks and whatever else infrastructure,” Hashmi said.
After the city elections last year, the mayor assigned each councilman a different specialty, and Pickle’s area is sidewalks.
With a computerized PowerPoint presentation, Pickle showed pictures of downtown sidewalks – some new, but most deteriorated.
“The city of Paris has more than 100 miles of city sidewalks in various condition, depending upon location and the amount of usage by citizens,” Pickle said.
While many of the highly utilized sidewalks have been constructed by the State of Texas, the City of Paris is responsible for their maintenance, he said.
Pickle’s slides included some views of sidewalks that were shown two weeks ago that showed how handicapped people have difficulty maneuvering their way in motorized wheelchairs on Paris sidewalks.
“With the city and county offices being located in downtown, the increase in small businesses and promotion of special events, many citizens continue to utilize downtown, and pedestrian traffic continues to grow,” Pickle said.
He showed deteriorating sidewalks directly across from City Hall and intersections that have no easy access to people in wheelchairs wanting to cross the street.
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Tambarla Savage, a nurse who works for Paris Mayor AJ Hashmi in his cardiology practice, is shown as she sings a verse of the hymn, “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” as the invocation for Monday night’s meeting of the Paris City Council. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
A nurse on the staff of Mayor AJ Hashmi gave the invocation at Monday night’s meeting of the Paris City Council, singing a verse of the hymn “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”
The council meeting always opens with an invocation and pledge of allegiance.
“I’ve taken the liberty of changing the invocation a little bit today. I hope you enjoy it,” the mayor said.
Hashmi, a local cardiologist, then called Tambarla Savage, a nurse who works for him, to the podium.
She sang: “Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise, for it was grace that caused my heart to feel. I do not know just how He came to love me so. He looked beyond all faults and saw my needs. I will forever lift mine eyes to Calvary, to view the cross where Jesus died for me. How marvelous His grace that caught my falling soul. He looked beyond all my faults and saw my needs.”
She followed with a short traditional prayer:
“Our Father, which art in heaven, we come once again with bowed heads and humble hearts. We come begging you, Lord God, for this day and this hour, asking you to be with the mayor and the community and all those that are on the city council, asking you to help these elected officials as they make decisions for the community. We ask that they all be of one accord. These and all blessings we ask in Jesus’ name. Thank God. Amen.”
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Skinny Grille restaurant at 134-136 Clarksville St. in downtown Paris was issued a “Certificate of Appropriateness” on Monday from the Historic Preservation Commission for new signage noting the establishment’s change in name to the Cattle Drive Steakhouse.
The restaurant two blocks east of the Plaza will officially take on the new name on Friday.
The restaurant has changed its menu to add more steak items, and the new name will better reflect that, the owner said. There’s no change of ownership.
It’s the new sign — not the new name — that requires the commission’s approval, commission chairman Arvin Starrett says.
“It has nothing to do with the name, it has to do with the signage — the format, color, texture, size, and so forth,” Starrett told eParisExtra.com.
“When there’s a change in the signage, the city’s sign ordinance requires a sign permit, and the ordinance further states that in the Historic District, a sign permit cannot be issued unless there is a Certificate of Appropriateness from the historic Preservation Commission first,” Starrett said.
“So, it’s a matter that there’s a change in appearance in their signage that has nothing to do with the change in their name. They can call it whatever they want to, but the sign has to meet the design standards of the Historic District, as well as meet the size mandates of both the design standards as well as the sign ordinance.”
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