Local activists, Earthworks file to intervene in frack ban cases

By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe/ Staff Writer


The Denton Drilling Advisory Group and Earthworks filed motions in court today to join the city of Denton in defending its ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Attorneys for the local activists and the national nonprofit advocacy group that helped them pass the ban prepared petitions in intervention for both lawsuits filed by the state and the oil and gas industry that challenge the ban’s constitutionality.
Cathy McMullen, president of the Denton group, has said the group believes they have the grounds to step in and help defend the ban.
The Denton group incorporated about a year ago as an educational nonprofit. They sought help drafting the original petition to ban fracking, an initiative under the city’s charter, and worked for months to gather the signatures needed and then organize the campaign to get the measure passed.
In a press release, Bruce Baizel, energy program director with Earthworks, explained why the national group, which helped with both the petition drive and the election campaign, got involved in the lawsuits, too.
“Rather than constructively engage with the community, they [state and industry] simply
overlook their regulatory failure and move to overturn democracy through legal action,” Baizel wrote.
The two groups retained their own legal counsel, which included the local law firm, Brown and Hofmeister, as well as two nationally renowned environmental attorneys, Deborah Goldberg, with Earthjustice, and Daniel Raichel, with the National Resources Defense Council.
Goldberg recently represented the town of Dryden in a similar case in New York. This summer, that state’s highest court sided with the town, which allowed towns and cities throughout New York to prohibit oil and gas development within their borders.
In addition to asking the courts to intervene, the Denton group and Earthworks also asked the Travis County court, where the state’s case was filed, to agree to move that case to Denton County.
Speaking on behalf of the Texas General Land Office, which filed suit in November, Jim Suydam declined to comment on either the change of venue request or the intervention petition, citing ongoing litigation.
However, he expected the state would answer the motions in court.
Bill Kroger, attorney of record for the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which also filed suit in November, did not return a call for comment.
More details in tomorrow’s newspaper.

R&B singer SoMo arrested on drug charge

By Ben Baby
Staff Writer

Former North Texas student and R&B singer Joseph Somers-Morales was arrested in Hickory Creek on Sunday night.

Somers-Morales, whose stage name is SoMo, was charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.  The charge is a Class B misdemeanor that is punishable up to a fine of $2,000, a jail sentence of 180 days or both. Somers-Morales posted $1,000 bond and was released from the Denton County jail on Monday morning.

Somers-Morales attended UNT from the fall of 2006 to the fall of 2007, according to the university. This was before the Denison native gained fame on the Internet and caught the eye of Republic Records. Republic signed SoMo in the fall of 2013, adding him to a stable that includes artists Drake, ZZ Top and PSY, just to name a few.

SoMo’s 2012 single, “Ride,” was certified Gold by the RIAA in April. The track was featured on his self-titled debut album.

Little Elm High School not on lockdown, students detained

Two students were detained after a morning altercation at Little Elm High School, according to a Little Elm school district official.

A student was poked in the hand with a plastic utensil from a school cafeteria by another student, according to the district. Both students were detained and the student injured was treated and sent back to class while the other student was taken into custody.

“Rumors circulated that the school was placed on lockdown, however that was never the case,” Julie Zwahr, a district spokeswoman wrote in an email. “The campus was never evacuated and class continued on regular schedule.”

Denton area hosts make their own Final Four

The University of Connecticut Huskies and the University of Kentucky Wildcats will compete for the NCAA men’s championship trophy tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Of the eight individuals selected to host the four teams in the Final Four, four Denton residents are the last ones standing today.

Denton residents Roy Busby and his wife, Jo Ann Ballantine volunteer hosts to University of Connecticut Huskies and Chris Curtis of Flower Mound and Kevin Faciane of Argyle are hosts to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. See the original story here.

The Huskies and Wildcats will compete for the NCAA men’s championship trophy tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Busby said he “couldn’t be more excited” to host a team vying for the NCAA men’s championship.  He said being host to a team competing in the Final Four, one hopes that the team they host will advance to the championship game and coming out of the East Regional in New York City “we had a feeling that this might happen.”

“It’s just one of those great moments in life,” he said.

UConn is “a confident ball club,” Busby said and that was evident in the East Regional and when they fought back to defeat the University of Florida Gators 63-53 on Saturday.

“Nothing seems to rattle them,” he said.

The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 74-73 Saturday to advance to the championship finals.

Faciane could not be reached for comment.

Both teams coming into tonight’s championship game have “great chances” at winning the men’s basketball NCAA trophy, Busby said. Tonight’s game looks to “be a very competitive and spirited game,” he said.

“The best team will win,” Busby said.

Films from Argyle, Sanger advance to state

Films from Argyle and Sanger high schools will be screened April 16 at the 2014 Focus: University Interscholastic League Young Filmmakers Festival.
It was announced March 28 that the two high schools are among state finalists for this year’s UIL filmmakers competition. The films will be screened at Paramount Theatre in Austin.
The festival is a UIL pilot program that will include original films in the categories of narrative, documentary and animation produced by high school filmmakers.
Advancing to state from Argyle was a documentary film titled “Destiny: A Game for the Ages.” Matt Garnett, a junior, was the film’s director, editor, photographer, videographer and visionary, said Stacy Short, adviser for the film. Other students who participated in the project were: Darby Richhart, a senior who served as a videographer; Tanner Davenport, interview, general helper, grip; Maddie Moseley, videographer, grip; Jeff Short, sound, review, grip; Catherine Read, grip, editing/reviewer; Aubrey Kass, photography; Annabel Thorpe, photography; Josh Block, grip; Maggie DiVecchia, grip; Allie Hommel, grip; Mark Pfohl, review and Chase Kammerer, review.
Sanger High’s animated film “GOAL!” is also a state finalist. The film is directed by senior Tyler Sanders and edited by junior Hunter Bennett with junior Collins Jones as camera operator.
For a complete list of high school films advancing to state, visit bit.ly/1f1KHPD.

Report: Sanger ISD finances clean

SANGER — General fund reserves declined more than $374,000 for the Sanger school district the 2012-13 fiscal year after incurring some security, maintenance and transportation expenses, according to an audit report released last week. However, reserves in the general fund continue to be strong, according to auditors.

At a school board meeting Dec. 11, Rob Seay of  of Denton-based Hankins, Eastup, Deaton, Tonn & Seay, which conducted the school district audit, shared with trustees the decline in savings was a result of the $150,000 in security upgrades, the purchase of an heating and air condition system at the middle school and new school buses.  Sanger completed the 2012-13 fiscal year Aug. 31, with more than $7.5 million in general fund savings, enough to cover about four months of operating expenses, he said.

“You have a strong fund balance as far as that goes. We’re happy for that,” Seay told board members Wednesday. “This audit was a good report.”

The audit indicated no findings or areas of noncompliance.

Debt service reserves grew by nearly $23,000 the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Board President Ken Scribner called the audit “good.”

“We didn’t put as much in the fund balance as we’re use to but it was due to the HVAC, the buses, the security,” he said. “We spent a little money but it was to the betterment of the district.”

The fiscal year for the Sanger school district runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

Area schools resume classes

A majority of area schools were back in session today after an ice storm canceled classes for several days, but not everyone had bus service.

Students in the Ponder school district returned to class at 10 a.m. and the district provided limited bus service.

“We did not go down any rural roads that were ice packed and there were several,” said Superintendent Bruce Yeager. “Just from being out myself, we had a significant amount of the ice still on the roadways.”

Yeager said the district intends to transport all students eligible for bus service home this afternoon.

“We feel like getting up in the 40s today is going to help us significantly,” he said.

On an average day, 700 students ride the bus to Ponder schools. Figures were not immediately available on how many students were impacted by this morning’s limited bus service.

Yeager said the district intends to offer full bus service Friday.

“We really feel as though the temps getting in the 40s today will provide some significant thawing on the rural roadways,” he said.

Others returning to school today included the Aubrey, Denton, Krum, Pilot Point and Sanger school districts and the Texas Education Centers campuses in Denton and Aubrey.

In Sanger, school got off to an “excellent” start, said Superintendent Kent Crutsinger. District staff drove the roads at 4 a.m. to prepare for the school day, he said, and maintenance workers and administrators were out at the schools when they opened to ensure everyone entered safely.

“We are very pleased with the way school got started and no one was injured,” Crutsinger said.  “It’s been a unique weather event, and we’re glad it’s coming to a close.”

Classes resume smoothly Wednesday at some area schools

Administrators with area districts and private schools that resumed classes today said attendance was good, and in some cases, better than expected.

Since Dec. 6, several schools across the region have been closed due to inclement weather that blanketed North Texas, Dec. 5.

“The students seemed eager to get back to school, and several parents seemed grateful for the children to be back to their routine,” Elaine Schad, principal at Immaculate Conception Catholic School wrote in an email Wednesday. “Attendance was close to normal.  There were a few families in outlying rural areas who were unable to navigate the roadways so they notified the school and stayed home.”

The school reopened at 10 a.m. and maintenance crews were out continuing to clear ice from the school parking lot throughout the day, Schad wrote. The school also “arranged alternate arrival and dismissal routes for optimum safety,” she said.

Denton Calvary Academy opened from noon to 3 p.m. for final exams and attendance was “great,” according to Principal Stacey Baxter. Finals will continue Thursday and Friday and students will start Christmas break Friday after finals.

Michelle Simms, marketing and communications director for Liberty Christian School in Argyle, say school officials expected attendance would be low today “but were surprised by a relatively normal, even high, attendance day.”

“The exception was preschool where we had nine absent. I imagine those parents were a bit more cautious, and understandably so,” Simms wrote in an email.

Others returning to school today included the Lake Dallas school district and Winfree Academy Charter School. All Texas Education Centers campuses, with the exception of the schools in Denton and Aubrey, also returned to classes Wednesday. Students in Little Elm and Lewisville school districts returned to school Tuesday.

Baxter said the days school was closed will have minimal impact on the remainder of the year as students have continued school work at home while out of school.

Simms said she anticipates days school was closed for inclement weather will have some impact on middle and upper school semester finals.

Jamie Wilson, superintendent for the Denton school district, wrote in an email that district high schools are modifying upcoming final exam schedule, which begins next week.

Cody Carroll, superintendent for the Krum school district, wrote in an email that dual credit students will make up final exams and preparation for semester exams is being modified.

Administrators with the Argyle, Denton, Krum and Pilot Point school districts say will discuss with their respective school boards requesting waivers from the Texas Education Agency for any inclement weather days over the two they took.

Schad said Immaculate Conception will assess additional make up days after the first of the year.

Private schools are not required by the state to make up school days because as a result of weather as public schools are. Officials with the TEA said public school districts and charter schools first must use designated weather days before requesting a waiving to avoid making up additional days because of inclement weather.

Curious of when area students will make up the days missed for inclement weather?  Here’s a list we’ve compiled based on area school calendars:

Argyle ISD- Feb. 17 and April 21

Aubrey ISD- April 18 and June 2

Denton ISD- April 18 and May 23

Krum ISD- April 18 and May 23

Lake Dallas ISD- April 17 and June 12

Little Elm ISD- May 23 and June 6

Northwest ISD- Feb. 17 and April 18

Pilot Point ISD- May 16 and May 23

Ponder ISD-April 18 and May 23

Sanger ISD- April 18 and May 23

Immaculate Conception Catholic School- May 29 and 30

Winfree Academy Charter School (Denton) – Feb. 17 and April 18

Selwyn College Preparatory Schools- April 18, April 21 and May 26

Texas Education Centers- April 18 and May 23



Denton ISD schools to reopen Wednesday, board to meet tonight

Maintenance and custodial staff reported to work for the Denton school district today to prepare school grounds for the return of students Wednesday, said district officials.

At this point, classes and school activities are expected to resume Wednesday, said Sharon Cox, a spokeswoman for the district.

“We had our maintenance and custodial staff report at 10 a.m. today to clear the sidewalks and get the schools ready for opening tomorrow,” she said. “They’re preparing the schools for the students to arrive tomorrow.”

Transportation staff was also out surveying the roads Tuesday in preparation for transporting students Wednesday, she said.

“We appreciate all the cooperation from our families and staff of being supportive through this storm,” Cox said. “They have been supportive of our decision to close school and keep our students safe.”

Despite the district closing for a third day, district officials announced Tuesday that the school board would continue with its scheduled 6 p.m. meeting.

Board President Charles Stafford said trustees will attempt to complete the meeting “as fast as possible” and get attendees home early. If conditions are safe to hold today’s meeting, the board will do so and if conditions worsen, the meeting will be canceled.

“If it looks like it’s not going to be pretty safe in the parking lot, we’ll cancel it,” he said. “We thought that we would monitor the situation through the day, and if the lots would thaw out, we would go ahead and have our meeting.”

Some items, originally slated for tonight’s meeting, have been rescheduled for January, Cox said, and include presentations, a 2007 bond progress report and a construction report. A workshop discussion on the proposed elementary attendance boundaries will also be postponed until January since the district has been unable to host its second public hearing on the issue due to inclement weather. The public hearing was originally slated for Dec. 5 at Harpool Middle School and was rescheduled for Dec. 9 but was postponed again for a date to be determined when the district reopens, Cox said.

Tonight’s board meeting will take place at the Dennis E. Stephens Central Administration Building, 1307 N. Locust St. in Denton.



A missing piece of history

In today’s paper, we interviewed Ellen Telaneus, the eldest child of Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico, the first doctor to tend to President John F. Kennedy after being fatally wounded at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

According to reports, Dr. Carrico testified before the Warren Commission that he had written a letter to his children that they could read when they were older describing what he experienced Nov. 22, 1963 at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

It’s something Telaneus said neither she nor her two other siblings have ever viewed.

“We’ve never seen it,” she said. “We’ve never seen that letter.

“I think it got lost in a move, or in a file, and we never saw it.”

Sue Carrico, Dr. Carrico’s wife, said they went through his things carefully after his death in 2002 and the letter was never recovered.

Telaneus said as a teenager in 1975, she read the Warren Commission report.

“When I got to be about probably 15, I went and read the report of the Warren Commission and said, ‘Hey, Dad, where’s this letter?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know,’” she said. “We kind of looked around a little bit. It was misplaced at some point.

“I thought, ‘Well, darn.’ When I asked him about it, he couldn’t really recall much of what it said so if you read the Warren report, that’s the closest I know to what it said.”