A look back at our Top Ten stories of 2012

December 29, 2012

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In keeping with tradition, the HCN is closing out the year with a review of the year’s Top Ten stories.

While we were proud of the Olympic accomplishments of Granbury native Dana Vollmer, we were hesitant to rank her achievements over the devastating losses of a Tolar war hero or a former GHS varsity football player whose life was tragically cut short. Nor did we want to say that county elections were more important than property values plummeting along with the lake level.

Therefore, this year we did not rank the stories according to our own perceptions of importance. Instead, we listed them in chronological order.

Next week, we start fresh with a whole new year.

a victory with bra

In January, local officials and members of the Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association (LGWOA) were happy when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) ordered the Brazos River Authority (BRA) to submit a water management study.

The mandate was made when a group from Hood County traveled to Austin for a hearing with the TCEQ. Many of those who live around the lake have been fearful that water rights from the Brazos and Lake Granbury have been stretched to the limit. Lakefront residents are concerned about their property values.

Due to drought conditions and increased water use in the Brazos basin, the water in Lake Granbury began dropping in the spring of 2011 and was 7 feet low by September of that year. Boat ramps were closed for long stretches.

In 2012, both the Granbury City Council and the Hood County Commissioners Court adopted resolutions stating that they want a seat at the table for discussions regarding water rights.

murder at t.j.’s

The body of Rolling Hills Shores resident Ormond “Gene” Sabin was found Jan. 17 at T.J.’s Private Club and Cafe, located near the entrance to the Oak Trail Shores subdivision northwest of Granbury. Sabin, who owned the establishment, had been killed by a single gunshot. His body was discovered by an employee.

The day after the discovery, Justin Ragan was arrested in the homicide case. Two other suspects – Gordon Ray Lewis and Kimberly Danielle Milwicz – later were taken into custody. All three entered not guilty pleas.

District Attorney Rob Christian has declined to comment on whether he will seek the death penalty in the case. The three separate trials are expected to start sometime in 2013.

drama over the opera house

In 2012, it was all about the Opera House. Throughout the year, the Granbury City Council dealt with issues central to the renovation of the historic theater on the square. Its most controversial vote was in turning down the donation of the St. Helen’s building next door. That happened in February. A number of groups assisted Preserve Granbury in raising funds to match large sums pledged by generous donors in hopes that the theater could be expanded.

However, the majority of the divided City Council ultimately decided to stick with the Opera House’s original footprint.

The year also saw months of delays in the renovation work, with a Fort Worth-based construction company being hired late in the year to get the work completed in the summer of 2013.

without a trace

Eighty-two-year-old William “Bill” Moore went missing without a trace in March. His whereabouts is still unknown despite a massive manhunt.

Moore lived with his son, Dave Moore, and his son’s wife, Wendy, in Pecan Plantation. His truck was photographed by Pecan security as it went through the back gate on the day he headed to an auto parts store in town. The elder Moore has not been seen since, despite searches by land and air.

The epa goes away

After months of sweating and nail-biting by local officials, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in May that it would not follow through with plans to lump Hood County into the Metroplex-area nonattainment zone for ozone emissions.

Had it gone the other way, there would have been serious – and negative – economic impact on Hood County, according to Joey Bishop, head of the Lake Granbury Area Economic Development Corporation. Car inspection costs would have tripled, industries likely would have opted not to locate here and gas station operators and dry cleaners would have been forced to take costly measures.

County Judge Darrell Cockerham credited the “Herculean” efforts of local officials for convincing the EPA that it was basing the non-attainment label on faulty information.

changes in county
government

The May 29 primary brought new faces to county government due to lost bids for re-election, one longtime official’s retirement and newly created positions because of a growing population.

Two county commissioners were unseated in their bids to serve a third term. In what started as a four-person race, James Deaver ultimately won the Precinct 1 seat held by Mike Sympson. And Jeff Tout wrested the Precinct 3 seat from Leonard Heathington. There were no Democrats on the ballot for those races in the November General Election.

Mike Lang won a three-man Republican race that unseated Precinct 3 Constable Randy Branum. There were no Democratic challengers for that spot on the November ballot.

New faces that will be sworn in on New Year’s Day include Lori Kaspar, who will replace the retiring Kelton Conner as county attorney, and Roger “Cotton” Howell, who will fill the newly created Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace chair.

tragic consequences

In June, the community mourned the loss of former Granbury High School varsity football player Luke Thomas Urbanovsky, who was killed in a car crash in Pecan Plantation. The 2011 GHS graduate was in his freshman year as a chemical engineering major at Texas A&M University, where he participated in a number of charitable endeavors.

The tragedy was the result of a chain reaction that began with what law enforcement officials said was an underage drinking party hosted by 19-year-old Shelbi Hardin. She was charged with four Class A misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors.

Marcus Click, also 19 and a 2011 GHS graduate, was charged with a felony count of intoxication manslaughter. Click was the driver of the 2009 Hyundai in which Urbanovsky died after it struck a pine tree on Ravenswood Road.

The tragedy occurred at the tail end of prom and graduation season. Just weeks earlier, two Granbury High School students endured verbal abuse and threats after they spoke out about the prevalence and dangers of underage drinking at a Town Hall meeting.

facebook felony

Two students at Acton Middle School, ages 12 and 13, were arrested in July on third-degree felony charges after they allegedly created a fake Facebook page under another girl’s name and posted threats toward other students.

Upon their arrest, the girls were transported to a local juvenile detention center.

The victim was 11 at the time the Facebook page was created. Her mother said that the postings not only affected her reputation, but nearly resulted in a physical altercation at school.

DANA MANIA

Former Hood County resident Dana Vollmer made us proud over and over and over again last summer as she won three gold medals and set two world records and an Olympic record at the Olympics in London. The swimming champion added the three gold medals to the gold medal she won in 2004 at the Olympics in Athens. Vollmer received a hero’s welcome when she returned to Hood County with her husband, Stanford All-American swimmer Andy Grant, at her side.

farewell to a hero

In October, hundreds of Hood County residents stood respectfully along Highway 377 – many solemnly holding flags, with their hands over their hearts – as the funeral procession of Army Sgt. 1st Class Riley Stephens of Tolar filed past. Stephens was killed in a gunfight in Afghanistan on Sept. 28, just a few months shy of his 20th year serving in the Army.

Funeral services for the hometown hero were held at Tolar Baptist Church. A Green Beret in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Stephens was laid to rest in a Dallas cemetery.

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