Monthly Archives: November 2009

Lakeside Civic Chorus event raises funds for upcoming Christmas concert

Lakeside Civic Chorus recently sponsored “An Evening of Wine and Song,” which included a silent auction to raise funds  for their Christmas Blessings Concert, Dec. 6, 4:30 pm, at Rockwall’s First Christian Church, 3375 Ridge Rd.

Vocal entertainment was provided by LCC members Shelba Gorham- Bell, Isiak Holiday, Jennifer Sanchez and James Williams, according to a press release from publicist Nancy Beaty. Artistic Director David Bush and accompanist Ken Frerichs accompanied several singers.

Hunter Hammett, sommelier from the Fairmont Pyramid Room Restaurant, paired wine with the country of the songs that were sung and offered his expert knowledge on each of his choices, she said.

Concert tickets may be purchased at the door for Adults $12, Seniors $10, Students-Free.

Beaty wrote that funds raised from the concert will benefit the Marilyn Miller Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides a $1,000 gift to a high school senior in the Lake Ray Hubbard area who plans to pursue a college degree in music. The 2009 Winner was Trevor St. John-Gilbert.

Th non-profit organization was founded in 1984, and the chorus’ success is directly dependent on audience and sponsor support, wrote Beaty.

For info, visit Lakeside Civic Chorus.org.

Rockwall Council member wants meetings live online

At the Nov. 16 Rockwall City council meeting, Council Member Glen Farris recommended the City investigate using social media sites and blogs to better communicate with City residents. We applauded that idea and emailed each of the Council members to congratulate them for approving Glen’s proposal. We hope the City will begin using them right away.

At the same meeting, Council Member Mark Russo also suggested streaming or broadcasting council meetings live online. Sounds like another great idea to us!

Mark told me the other day that he believes it will help increase the Council’ transparency, and help city residents to better understand what Council members are doing. He said City Manager Julie Couch prefers that sessions be edited but he prefers live.

The only problem appears to be budget. Mark worries the cost to start will range between $50-80,000 per year for multiple cameras, editing and production services.

But one or two good video cameras, microphones and Skype.com or YouTube.com could easily solve that problem. Oprah uses Skype for live interviews.

YouTube.com might not show meetings in real time but the proceedings could easily be uploaded within minutes for free!

Council member Farris appalled by our boat docks opinion, WFAA news story

Rockwall City Council member Glen Farris sounds upset.

After my editorial opinion last week stating that the million-dollar boat docks upgrade at The Harbor is a “bad idea” while so many people and organizations are struggling financially, plus the ensuing WFAA-TV News story the next day, Rockwall City Council member Glen Farris wrote on his GlenFarris.com blog Thanksgiving day that he is appalled with my implication that the Council should bail out a non-profit.

He wrote:

“I am appalled at  The Rockwall News and the Boys and Girls Club of Rockwall for implying that the City of Rockwall should give up economic development opportunities and bail out a nonprofit organization.”

He added:

“It is not the responsibility of any City to ensure that non-profits thrive or even survive.”

First of all, I must clarify that the Rockwall Boys & Girls Club did not imply anything. It was just my opinion and mine alone. I’m not connected to the Club – just a big supporter. The Club did not ask me to write the opinion. Any implication is just by me, and no support should be withdrawn from the Club for my opinion.

Secondly, as I admitted in my editorial, I have much to learn about the handling of city tax dollars and municipal bonds. Former Council member Bob Cotti tried helping out by emailing that the boat docks are being paid for by municipal bonds and they cannot be used to assist non-profit agencies.

But as Council member Mark Russo told me two days ago, municipal bonds are really just loans from the bank which the City will then repay with tax dollars. So, as I therefore understand it, it is still tax dollars that are being used to pay for the boat docks.

Now why should the City spend a million tax dollars to repair and expand from nine to 30-40 boat slips? What was the Council’s reasoning? And did Rockwall residents really have much of a say in the matter? Was it publicized that such a decision was being considered?

According to Mark, there are two main reasons why the Council decided to spend the money now.

First, the boat docks were not correctly designed and/or built in the first place by the engineering firm which originally built them (I’m working on getting their name).

Fortunately the City had a warantee built into the contract, requiring the engineering firm to return to repair the docks, but their renovation still didn’t make it right.

So the rebuild is now required because the docks are deemed unsafe.

Among my questions are these: Should the taxpayers and City really have to pay for this renovation? How about holding the feet of the original engineering firm to the fire to pay for it – until they get it right? Is there no other recourse now for the City other than to borrow more money (tax dollars) to pay for it? Do we really have to hire Bellingham Marine to build it right?

And, by the way, it’s my understanding that the contract was awarded to Bellingham without putting the contract up for bids. Is that even legal? I’m told by one Council observer that the City can sign contracts up to $25,000 without using the bid process, but not a million-dollar project. I’m further researching that matter now.

The second reason for the boat dock contract, according to Russo, is to help alleviate the parking  problem at The Harbor, especially on weekends and during summer concerts. Adding 20-30 boat docks was seen as a way to provide additional parking spaces for boaters, which is apparently what Glen considers “economic development opportunities.”

But isn’t that just serving the minute portion of Rockwall residents who have boats? Is it really necessary to invest another million bucks so they can have somewhere to park their boats? Wouldn’t the money be better invested in more parking places for cars and trucks – thereby serving far more Rockwall citizens? And why weren’t more boat slips built in the first place?

If the boat docks would have been built correctly in the first place, would all of this money have been committed to this expansion? According to Russo – admittedly just one council member – probably not! The thinking at the time was that if the City could get a good price now from a contractor – with the economy down – then they might as well do both.

I’d like to hear the answer to that question from more City Council members and plan to ask each of them shortly.

In conclusion, the way I see it, all of this discussion comes down to the basic issue of how successful the private-public partnership at The Harbor is, and whether more tax dollars should be spent there when so many businesses have left, so many store fronts currently stand empty and so few people are shopping there. It almost seems like a ghost town at times!

Obviously the Council can’t let such an important development fail. But is an expansion of boat docks really the answer?

If we’re not going to assist non-profits (which the Council did just last meeting when it approved $20,000 for the non-profit Rockwall Committee On Aging) and really want to expand “economic development opportunities” (as Glen put it), then why doesn’t the Council ensure that The Harbor has an effective advertising and promotion campaign? A million-dollar ad budget would do a lot more to fill businesses with customers than boat docks. The Harbor also needs to recruit better businesses which will attract more customers. Lease rates of just under $10,000 per month for some store fronts also seem incredibly high!

But the promotion of The Harbor is another story which I need to investigate further, so residents can better understand how our tax dollars are being managed and spent. From the digging I’ve done so far, I’ve been told that very few dollars are being spent regularly to promote it.

In conclusion, Glen wrote that he wonders why RISD, the National Boys & Girls Club and the Rockwall Club’s board of directors were not included in the Channel 8 news stories, suggesting they all have some responsibility for the Club’s financial problems.

Good points, Glen, which we will definitely investigate further! TheRockwallNews.com was the first news operation to break the news that the Club is facing a financial crisis, so we’ll follow up on their progress soon. We also plan to ask RISD and the National Boys & Girls Club what they’re doing to help keep the Club open, and we definitely will this week.

We’ll let you know what we learn.

Scrapbooking store near Target gone

Was sorry to see yesterday that the scrapbooking store near Target and the Sports Authority is now gone.

Come to think of it, what happened to all of the scrapbooking stores?

Two years ago or so we had 3-4 scrapbooking stores in Rockwall and they seemed all the rage. Now I guess everybody’s abandoned scrapbooks and is using Facebook or something.

What are all the scrapbookers doing now instead? I’d actually like to make a scrapbook.

Juvanew Spa offering free facials, massages, makeovers this coming week

The new Juvanew Medspa across from Gloria’s at The Harbor is offering free mini-facials, free chair massages and free makeovers this week, plus botox treatment discounts and a jewelry raffle. Each day they’re offering something new. You can also win more gifts and services each night you attend and for every $50 you spend.

Monday – Free mini-facials with Eminence organic skincare

Tuesday – Botox cosmetic $1/unit off

Wednesday – Free holiday makeovers with Colorescience mineral makeup

Thursday – Free chair massages with Every Body Massage

Friday – A jewelry raffle featuring Lia Sophia jewelry, plus Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory samples.

Enjoy!

WFAA-TV broadcasts boat dock story the day after I complain

Maybe WFAA-TV News is now reading TheRockwallNews.com!

What an interesting coincidence that just one day after I published my editorial opinion that the million dollar boat docks at The Harbor are a bad idea during such tough economic times, along comes WFAA-TV News broadcasting a story using the very same rationale that I did!  

Their reporter said critics say expanding the number of boat docks now is a questionable idea, especially when the Boys & Girls Club of Rockwall is close to closing its doors for good.

Maybe I’m just giving myself too much credit and it’s sheer coincidence. Still, maybe they are watching and listening to us. Hope so!

The Rockwall Boys & Girls Club still does need about $50,000 fast!

Donate today!

Over 8,000 fans jam Rockwall Cinemark to see New Moon

Over 8,000 crazy fans jammed into the Cinemark movie theatre in Rockwall this past weekend to see the supernatural heartthrob thriller The Twilight Series: New Moon, helping it shatter box-office attendance records nationwide.

Long lines began forming as early as 5 pm Thursday for the opening Midnight performance, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen and Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen, according to Cinemark Theatres management.

Our daughter-in-law from Forney went to the Thursday Midnight showing and did not return home until about 3:30 am, I’m told.

The film, which is the sequel to Twilight and the second in a series based upon the four novels by Stephenie Meyer, smashed opening day and two day movie records nationwide.

Wish I would have thought to have someone take some photos!

For more details, see the story at TheRockwallNews.com.

Rowlett GOP PAC president Sharon Russell to challenge Deuell for state senate seat

Rowlett Republican PAC founder and president Sharon Russell has just announced her intentions to try to unseat State Sen. Bob Deuell in the Republican Senate District 2 primary election March 7.

It won’t be easy.

Sen. Deuell, a family physician in Greenville, was first sworn in January, 2003, and has received numerous awards and recognition for his service since.

Also the chairman of the Rowlett Economical & Development Sub-comittee, Russell is currently a Dallas County Republican party precinct chair and former delegate to district and state GOP conventions. 

According to her new website, Russell, mother of four and grandmother of four, thinks a more conservative Senator is needed to represent District 2. 

“The need for conservative representatives in the Texas Senate cannot be understated,” wrote Russell. “I bring my reputation for reliable conservative actions and high moral character as the Republican of choice in this election.”

(Doesn’t she mean… “overstated?”)

A former small business owner, she claims she is dedicated to family values and straight talk,  plus a tough defender of personal property rights.

“The current economic climate demands judicious spending of every public dollar,” said Russell. “When spending is without consideration for future consequences, the entire State suffers.”

“I stand for family values, I stand for the Constitution, and I will stand for your rights as we fight to take our country back,” she said.

She also said she is never afraid to make her Christian heritage and personal convictions known.

“Russell lives by those principles that guided Texas to greatness in the past, and will so in the future with the right people in office,” she writes on her website. 

For more info, see her website at http://russellforsenate2010.com and her Facebook page.

Million-dollar boat docks at The Harbor a bad idea during tough economic times

I’ve heard a lot of talk around town between people questioning the Rockwall City Council’s decision Oct. 19 to invest nearly $1 million dollars into increasing the number of boat docks at The Harbor from the current nine to 35-40.

Construction is expected to be completed during the summer of 2010.

While I’ll admit that I haven’t taken the time to closely review the budget – which I’m about to do – I have to add my voice to those who think a million dollars for more boat docks is a bad idea right now, particularly during this time of economic hardship for so many families and organizations.

I’m personally disappointed with the Rockwall City Council for approving such a measure.

For example, the Rockwall Boys & Girls Club desperately needs $50,000 immediately to just keep its doors open. If the City Council really wants to invest where it’s needed, how about paying that amount and more to put the non-profit organization on better economic footing? Since opening here a couple of years ago, nearly 200 children daily now attend the Club after school. If the Club closes, where will these children go?

National crime statistics show the majority of juvenile crime is committed after school, when many parents are working. The Boys & Girls Club helps prevent crime by offering children a safe place after school to hang out with friends, do their homework, learn about a variety of things, plus develop their talents and interests – with the help of volunteer mentors. 

The Club even holds pizza parties and stays open late Fridays until 10 pm, so parents can go out on a date once in a while. That’s good for marriages and might just help prevent some divorces.

Another organization which needs funding is the Women In Need women’s shelter office in Rockwall. An average of five women a day – local domestic violence victims – seek counseling and assistance from WIN’s office in the Helping Hands medical facility. But WIN, based in Greenville, is paying about $50,000 per year to staff and operate it – including paying $500 per month for rent there.

No Rockwall funds are currently used to operate the office, from what I understand from WIN’s Executive Director Roger Robertson. And WIN generates most of its income by operating three resale shops in Greenville.

So Rockwall only has an office for domestic violence victims, thanks to the people who purchase items from Hunt Co. resale shops. That’s crazy! Rockwall can definitely afford to pay for an office to help abuse victims.

And then there’s always Helping Hands, the city’s and county’s designated agency for helping those in need. The food pantry is bare right now. How about taking at least a few thousand dollars to pay for some more food for city residents who are out of work or ill?

Yes, The Harbor probably does need more boat docks, so more boaters can party there during Summer concerts, and so more boaters can eat at restaurants there.

And I probably need to better understand what the City can and can’t do with tax dollars.

But I just think there are many better places to invest Rockwall’s tax dollars right now.

What do you think?

The late John Fitzwater honored by Rockwall Police, City Council

The Rockwall City Council honored the late Rockwall Police volunteer John Fitzwater and his wife at their meeting last Monday night when they unanimously agreed to rename the Police Community Service office located in the Brookshire’s shopping center in his honor. 

He passed away Sept. 19, 2009. The Rockwall Police Officer’s Association requested the change.

According to police, Fitzwater donated 724 documented service hours – plus many more undocumented – patrolling neighborhoods and businesses, performing children’s puppet shows and training volunteers how to operate the Sky Watch crime prevention unit, which he often transported.

He began his service in 1998, when he attended the Citizen Police Academy. He then joined the Citizens on Patrol organization and was president of the Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association from January, 2008, until his death.

Rockwall needs more unsung heroes like Mr. Fitzwater.