Monthly Archives: August 2008

Are you smarter than Rockwall 5th-grader Bryce, who’s on the TV game show?

“Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” is one of Fox TV’s most popular shows. Now word has it that one of this year’s “class” of fifth-graders on the game show is Bryce, a 10-year-old math whiz from Rockwall, who wants to be a lawyer or accountant when he grows up. No other details are available, but we’ll try to find out more and post a feature story about him.

Rockwall squeaks by Midland Lee 15-14 at Midland

To provide Rockwall Yellowjacket fans with more details about yesterday’s exciting, season-opening  15-14 victory over Midland Lee yesterday in Midland, we found a detailed story on the Internet written by Midland Reporter-Telegram sports reporter Ryan Ferguson.

Here it is:

Rebels Fall To Rockwall, 15-14

A defensive struggle turned into a big-play explosion in the third quarter of Lee’s season opener against Rockwall.

While Lee used the two biggest plays of the game to take a 14-3 lead, the Yellow Jackets scored the game’s final 12 points to claim a 15-14 season-opening victory over the Rebels at Grande Communications Stadium on Saturday.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Rockwall Yellowjackets squeak by Midland Lee High School 15-14

After taking an early 3-0 lead, the Rockwall High School Yellow Jackets football team rallied from a 14-3  deficit to squeak by Midland Lee High School at Midland today, 15-14.

I listened to the game broadcast on FM 92.1 and it just ended.

No other details are available now, but how’s this for fast reporting?

Three County football players listed among most exciting by Dallas Morning News

Three high school football players from Rockwall County were listed among the most exciting in the Dallas area yesterday by Dallas Morning News sportswriter Keith Whitmire.

They are “Speed Back” Kendial Lawrence, running back at Rockwall-Heath; “Big Hitter” Austin Moss, Rockwall Heath linebacker; and “Athlete” Richard Morrison, quarterback at Royse City.

To see the entire list click here.

Wife of Rockwall Congressman Ralph Hall passes away

Mary Ellen Murphy Hall

(Click on photo to enlarge)

The wife of 14-term U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall), Mary Ellen Murphy Hall, passed away today at their Rockwall home. She was 83.

She had been in the hospital for two weeks but returned home Monday, according to Hall’s congressional office. She had long been battling a degenerative disease.

Rep. Hall had spent all his time with his wife since Congress was in recess and was with her when she died, according to Hall spokesman Tom Hughes.

“Mary Ellen was the love of my life and my best friend,” said Hall in a prepared statement. “She was a wonderful woman of great strength and character, a great mother and grandmother, and a wonderful companion and traveler.”

The Halls would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in November. They married Nov. 14, 1944, while Hall was serving in the Navy in Pensacola FL, the same day Hall received his pilot’s wings.

Mary Ellen Hall was active in her church, First United Methodist in Rockwall. She graduated from Texas A&M Commerce with a degree in speech and drama. She served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Rockwall ISD from 1973 to 1978, twice serving as the board’s vice president, according to Rep. Hall’s office.

Hall said he has received many condolence calls.

“I know it is because of the many people she met who admired her and loved her.”

In addition to her husband, Mary Ellen Hall is survived by three sons and five grandchildren.

Funeral services are to be held at 4 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church, 1200 Yellow Jacket Ln. in Rockwall. A visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Rest Haven Funeral Home in Rockwall.

New high school Bible class raises concerns in Texas

School’s in again and, in some high schools across the state, Bible classes are being taught. Here’s a TV news report from last night on WFAA Channel 8 TV revealing that the class is raising concerns:

See the video

I’ll be contacting the Rockwall and Royse City ISDs today to learn whether Bible classes are being taught locally.

Royse City’s cash shortfall now up to $1.9 million; Mayor fears layoffs

Royse City City Council members revealed in their Aug. 21 meeting that the City’s cash shortfall is actually $1.9 million – rather than the $1.3 million previously stated – plus that amount must be cut from its $8.5 million budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

They also explained that the City has only enough money to pay employees for the next two pay periods.

Royse City Mayor Jim Mellody said he fears the City will have no choice but to begin laying off City employees, although no specific cuts were announced.

Most of the 50 people who attended the meeting were City employees who are worried about whether they still will have jobs and were seeking clues.

“We’re trying to figure out if we still have jobs,” said Travis Kimber, who works for the city’s water department.

The cash shortfall news was first reported at the City Council meeting Aug. , when City Manager Karen Philippi was suspended.

City officials said no money is missing, and that Philippi is not suspected of committing any crimes.

According to Jim Carbonies, a financial advisor for the City, she made revenue forecasts that fell short of expenses, based upon a lot of assumptions that Royse City would continue rapid growth, but she didn’t inform the City Council of the growing gap.

Royse City’s population more than tripled between 2000 and 2007.

“They predicted another 500-plus homes being built, but growth almost shut down.”

The shut down has resulted in significant drops in construction fees, fewer homes than expected on the tax rolls, plus a loss of water service fees because demand has decreased.

Mayor Mellody said new interim management now must complete the new City budget in one week, rather than the typical period of three months.

A budget presented to the council Thursday required issuing $1.2 million in tax notes – essentially a bank loan that the city must pay off within a year.

The modified budget also requires raising Royse City’s property tax rate from 49.45 to 65.86 cents per $100 valuation, the first increase since 1993.

Royse City facing $1.3 million cash shortfall; City Manager suspended

The City of Royse City is facing a one million dollar cash shortfall and perhaps as much as $1.3 million, it was revealed last week by one of the city’s new interim co-managers Larry Lott, who is also the director of the Royse City Economic Development Corporation.

He and City attorney Jason Day were appointed co-city managers by the Council last Tuesday after they suspended City Manager Karen Philippi from her position as City Manager.

In a hastily-called City Council meeting Aug. 16 to discuss the unexpected financial crisis which is suddenly facing the City, Lott outlined the shortfall facing the City.

“I think that $1.3 million is the greatest shortfall we will see,” he said, noting that the city currently has enough funds available to make payroll for the next two week period. Most of the current shortfall is vendor-related debt, he explined.

The amount is even larger than the City Council suspected at the Aug. 12 meeting , according to Royse City Mayor Jim Mellody,

“All I can tell you is that it was never reported to the city council the way it is,” Mellody said.

“As far as my personal feelings, I can tell you I’ve never been more embarrassed in my whole life. I feel like I’ve really let my citizens down, but this is not something we can’t overcome.”

At the Saturday meeting, Mayor Mellody told the Council that he, Lott and city staff have been working overtime since last Tuesday to learn how severe of a financial crisis the city is facing. He added that the research was ongoing and that the full documentation on the issue would be presented as soon as possible.

“The recovery from this is not going to be easy and we’re continuing to work on this,” he said.

According to Lott, the city faced default on two bonds if payments totaling $810,385 were not made by Friday. He explained that the city was able to utilize three non-encumbered bonds to make the payment in the emergency situation.

He added that the City will attempt to arrange a special emergency bond option through the Texas attorney general’s office. If accepted, the bond would cover the $1.3 million discrepancy, but would be issued at a higher rate of interest, would be tax exempt and would have to be repaid within 365 days.

The City is going to have to take a two-part approach to solving the current dilemma, he concluded.

“We’ve simply got to cut our budget as thin as we can and then we’ve got to have a tax increase,” Lott said. “We’re basically going to have to set an amount for these different department heads and they’re going to have to work within that budget. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be very popular but our options are very limited.”

The council also voted unanimously Saturday to hold investigative hearings to learn whether Philippi broke her contract.

Rockwall City Council selects architect to develop master plan for hill above Harbor

The Rockwall City Council voted 6 to 1 Aug. 16 to approve the hiring of an architectural firm to begin developing a master plan for the the Hill above The Harbor.

According to City Council member Glen Farris, who wrote the story on his new blog “Rockwall Talks,” the hill is considered the most important undeveloped land in Rockwall, if not the entire metroplex.

The Council approved Talley and Associates, after the firm was recommended by a subcommittee comprised of Farris, Mayor Bill Cecil, and Council member Margo Nielsen after an extensive selection process during which five firms were considered.

“Talley and Associates will go through a fairly extensive process in order to identify the best mixed use recommendation for this piece of land,” wrote Farris.

“This process will be developed through brainstorming with the City Council and staff as well as working with a team of individuals, including a marketing firm and architectural firm, in order to arrive at the best concept plan proposal for development of this site,” he added.

“A market analysis would be conducted to identify market trends for the type of development that is most ideal as well as an associated estimate on the potential value of the land once it is developed. There will also be a set of design standards that would be brought forth for adoption by the City as well as a concept plan and parking recommendations. View corridor and graphic depiction of the proposed elevation recommendations would also be included in the concept.”

For more details, visit Farris’ blog Rockwall Talks.

Rockwall now has healthy inventory of building lots available

About one year ago, the City of Rockwall was almost out of developed lots available to homebuilders for building new homes.

Now the City has turned that statistic around and has an 89-month supply, with an inventory of about 1,090 lots on the ground, according to Rockwall City Manager Julie Couch.

“Up until about a year ago, we were almost out of new lots,” she said. “We now have an inventory.”

Rockwall also has nearly 2,000 lots that have preliminary plats. Another 800 are zoned for residential use.

According to City Planning director Robert Lacroix, the lot supply is a healthy inventory for a growing community.

“It takes a year to 18 months to go out and develop land so you can sell lots,” Lacroix said. “We’re probably in a very good position for people when things start to change and they want to move.”

Three years ago, Rockwall was fourth on the list of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, increasing at about 4,500 people a year. But annual starts have declined by a quarter to 147.

The city used to see 500 to 700 permits a year, Couch said.

Dick Skorburg, president of The Skorburg Co., is developing the Stone Creek subdivision in Rockwall, which will have 1,700 lots on 800 acres, built in 10 phases, according to Skorburg’s Web site.

“Each submarket needs to be looked at on their own merits because they vary greatly,” he said. “There are quite a few submarkets that are healthy. We’re happy with all of our projects and where we are.”