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Posts published in August 2007

Harris County plans $880 million bond vote

By BOBBY HORN JR.
The Harris County Commissioners Court, last week, approved a motion calling a county bond election for $880 million in roads, parks, facilities and port improvements.
County Judge Ed Emmett said that, if passed, the bond proposals would not trigger a property tax increase and would appear as three propositions on the Nov. 6, 2007, ballot.
Although court members may still alter the final amounts, Emmett said the court is considering the following bond amounts: Roads- $190 million; Parks- $95 mil lion; Adult Detention- $195 million; Forensic Center – $80 million; Family Law Center- $70 million for a County total of $630 million.
Additionally there will be a Port of Houston referendum for $250 million, bring the total election to $880 million.
Because Harris County’s economy is continuing its vigorous growth, Emmett said, county officials are confident these projects can be accomplished without increasing property tax rates.
“Voters right now are in no mood for a tax increase, and I have to agree with them on that,” Emmett said. “County policy has always been and continues to be to maintain the current tax rate.”

“One of the prime reasons Harris County’s economy continues to grow so strongly is because residents here realize the importance of investing in our economy,” Emmett said. “We need to keep up with our transportation and economic needs if we want to continue enjoying the benefits of a strong economy.”
Joe Stinebaker, communications director for Emmett, said that increases in property values will allow the county to generate the funds they need for the bonds without raising the individual property owners tax rate.
Stinebaker noted that the infrastructure improvements in each precinct would also encourage new business investment in Harris County. This, he said, would increase the county’s taxbase. With a larger tax base to draw upon, he added, more tax revenues would naturally follow.
Mark Seegers, spokesman for Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said that if approved the bonds would be used to address needs outline in the county’s master plan which looks at growth and development needs over the next seven years and beyond.

Public hearings set for HS rezoning

BAYTOWN— Goose Creek CISD will hold two public forums on junior school and high school rezoning during the month of September.
The first will be held on Sept. 20, in the auditorium of Robert E. Lee High School, 1809 Market St.
The second will be held on Sept. 25, in the auditorium of Ross S. Sterling, 300 W. Baker Rd. Both public forums will begin at 6:30 p.m.
In early September, GCCISD parents will receive information about the upcoming public forums as well as maps and descriptions of the attendance zone options proposed by the GCCISD Board of Trustees. Details of the options will be reviewed during the public forums, and community members will have the chance to comment on the options.
Information on the options also is available on the GCCISD web site at www.gccisd.net, where a link allows interested citizens to provide input.
In addition, parents may provide input on the rezoning options by e-mailing rezoning @gccisd.net, calling 281-420-4808 or 281-420-4861, or faxing their comments to 281-420-4310.
Comments also may be sent by mail to Dr. Toby York, Deputy Superintendent for Personnel and Student Services, P.O. Box 30, Baytown, TX 77522.
Following the public forums, the Board will make the final decision regarding rezoning. Parents will then be notified if changes in attendance zones affect their child.
The district’s rezoning process was made necessary by the construction of a new Highlands Junior School, which will include room for additional students, as well as a new third high school, which is being constructed at North Main St. and Wallisville Rd.
Students and staff will move into the new Highlands Junior School during the winter break of the 2007-08 school year, and additional students will be zoned to Highlands Junior for the 2008-09 school year. The new high school will open as a ninth-grade through 11th-grade campus for the 2008-09 school year.

Recalling good places to eat…

Had to conduct some bizness the other day in Liberty, Texas. That’s across the Trinity River and up some from Day Lake if you know where that is. Anyway, found myself on the courthouse square at a little buffet style restaurant called SHARON’S KITCHEN.
One of my banker friends recommended this place and said they also cater to the Lions Club and Rotary Club of Liberty, adding the food is very good and priced right as well.
The food was good and plenty of it, so go hungry; they are open seven days a week.
Do enjoy checking out new places to break bread because it is a change from the same ole same ole.
Back when I was on the road working for Liggett & Myers and for Purex, you can bet I checked out new places and enjoyed it immensely. Mind you now this was on the eastern seaboard between Kinston, North Carolina and Georgetown, South Carolina.
Ate dozens of Hardee burgers enough to last a lifetime and it has.

Three places stand out in the recesses of my long term memory although their names have already faded away.
A boarding house in Tabor City, North Carolina had a daily buffet dinner (lunch to you city folks) which was as good as any I’ve ever had to this day. The one thing that sticks out particularly about that boarding house was the desserts. When in season, a huge strawberry shortcake was put before you and delicious it was. Another time would be a fresh peach shortcake….words cannot describe the tastiness of those desserts.
Two other places are pool halls, one in Tabor City, NC and the other in Wilmington, NC.
Tabor City would fry their hotdogs in oil over a piece of steel with the fry bowl battered down from it. They served Cocola’s (Coca-Cola) in the small bottles if you remember those.
The pool hall in Wilmington was another place that was most unique in its own way. It had the usual burgers and hot dogs and they also had “Bean of the day”. Simply one of the many beans and a few peas at times served in a bowl with a scoop of onion and two slices of bread. It took a large Coke to wash those down at times and they sure were good.
A buddy of mine said Alabama is so dry:
The Baptist have started sprinkling.
The Methodists are using a wet wash cloth.
The Presbyterians are giving rain checks and
The Catholics are trying to turn wine back into water.

Lump sum vs. Annuity: The choice is yours

Does your employer offer a pension? If so, you’ll want to be familiar with your payout options before it’s time to start taking money out – because your choice can have a big impact on your retirement income.
If you participate in a pension (also known as a “defined benefit” plan), you’ll receive, upon retirement, a specific amount of money based on your salary history and years of service. But how you take that money is up to you.
You have two basic options: You can accept the pension as a series of annuity payments, spread out over your lifetime or a certain number of years, or you can take the money as a lump sum. (Not all pension plans offer the lump-sum option, however.)
Which option is better? There’s no one “right” answer for everyone. But at some point before you retire, you should go over some possible arguments for both choices. Here are a few to consider:
Choosing a lump sum
*Can help you avoid effects of inflation – In many cases, annuity payments are not indexed to inflation. Consequently, you’re getting paid with dollars that are essentially worth less and less each year, while some costs – such as health care – may be rising at a rate faster than the Consumer Price Index, a common “yardstick” used to measure inflation. But if you take your pension as a lump sum, you’re getting all the money in today’s dollars.

*Can help you leave more to loved ones – Once you and your spouse die, annuity payments from a pension may stop. However, if you take a lump sum and then reinvest the proceeds into other securities, you may have more assets available to leave to family members.
*Can help you control when you pay taxes – Your annuity payments will be taxable. Of course, so will your lump sum, but if you roll it over into an IRA, you’ll have more control over when you take funds and pay income taxes provided you are over the age of 59 1/2.
Choosing an annuity
*Can give you greater flexibility in managing retirement income – If you choose to accept your defined benefit payments as an annuity, you may be able to structure your payments to match your needs and goals. Your options may include a “straight-life” annuity that provides a monthly payment for your lifetime or a “joint and survivor” annuity that covers your life and that of your spouse. Or, you may be able to choose a “level income” option, which provides you with larger payments before you start receiving Social Security and smaller payments after. Another option may be a “period certain” payout; under this arrangement, you would receive a reduced annuity over your lifetime, but if you were to die during a specified period, such as ten years, monthly payments would be made to your beneficiary for the remainder of the ten-year period.
*May give you more money over the course of your lifetime – If you end up living a few decades past your retirement date, you might end up with more money, in total, if you accepted an annuity instead of a lump sum.
As you near retirement, consult with your financial advisor and tax professional to determine which option – lump sum or annuity – is right for you. You worked hard for your pension – so make sure it works hard for you.

Jamboree plans progress

HIGHLANDS– Rotarians heard from Mike Nebgen this week at their luncheon, on plans for the October 6th Jamboree.
Nebgen outlined sponsorship opportunities, and mentioned that the Jamboree was the main fund raiser for the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, and deserved the support of the business community. He said that companies could support the Jamboree at any level they wished, but suggested either $100, $250, $500, or $1000.
Sponsors will get their names on tee-shirts, programs, and publicity throughout the event. Interested organizations can call the Chamber at 281-426-7227 or Jamboree Chairperson Margie Elliott at 281-843-2947.
Also speaking at Rotary was Highlands Horizon’s president Delene Cotten, who noted that the Miss Highlands pageants, a traditional part of the Jamboree sponsored by the Horizon’s club, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and expects to have all 50 Miss Highlands present for the festivities, and to ride in the parade on Jamboree Saturday. She noted that the Jr. Miss Highlands pageant will take place at 2 p.m. in the Highlands Junior School auditorium, and the Miss Highlands pageant will be held at 7 p.m. in the same auditorium.
Nebgen said that the events in the Jamboree will follow tradition, with a Fun Run and Bike Ride early on Saturday, the parade on Main Street starting at 10 a.m., and other events following at the Highlands Elementary. These will include a Live and Silent Auction, a Raffle, and live entertainment from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Further details will follow in the Star-Courier.

State suspends Crosby doctor’s medical license

By BOBBY HORN JR.
CROSBY— The Texas Medical Board has suspended a Crosby doctor’s license following “allegations of sexual misconduct with female patients.”
On Aug. 15 the Disciplinary Panel of the Texas Medical Board suspended David Mark McClellan’s license. Documents obtained by the Star-Courier indicate that while the suspension is temporary the board has ordered that the license remain suspended until lifted by an Order of the Board.
The board, in making their decision, noted that McClellan violated no less than three sections of the Medical Practice Act specifically “engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior or comments towards a patient.”
The board also concluded that McClellan’s “continuation in the practice of medicine would constitute a continuing threat to the public welfare.”
The panel found that on or about May 14, 2007 McClellan saw a patient (referred to by initials in board documents). They reported that not only did McClellan fail to have a chaperone present during the examination but that he exposed himself to her and made sexual advances toward the patient.

McClellan says that he is innocent of the charges and that once he is heard he expects to be cleared of the allegations.
“This is a terrible thing that has happened to me and the community,” he said. He added that he believes the allegation come from those in the community wishing to do him harm.
On Aug. 29 McClellan will appear before the board to present his case. He said he expects the board to reverse their decision. If not, he added, there are avenues of appeal available.
McClellan said it is not uncommon for the board to suspend a doctor’s license before they hear all the facts of a case. “They spend about 2% of their time granting licenses and about 98% taking them away.” Each month, he said, the board suspends between 40 and 60 licenses.
This is not the first time that McClellan has been in trouble for alleged misconduct, according to the board.
History of allegations
The medical board said that in 2004 McClellan was accused of raping a patient. The board noted that “a police report was filed, but the patient later refused to cooperate with authorities.” He was also accused of fondling another patient in 2004.
Also in 2004, McClellan was the subject of a formal complaint filed by the Texas Medical Board “that included eight patients with allegations of various types of sexual misconduct.” This complaint led to McClellan being placed on probation. One of the terms of the probation was that he have a chaperone present during examinations of female patients.

‘Back to school’ means back to fundraising

School has started or about to, standby for the kids to start hitting you up to buy this that and the other for their schools fund raising activities.
Had one kid come to the house one year and when I opened the door, the child said, “You don’t want to buy any of this do you?” Seems to me the kids do not want to be out selling that stuff, cain’t be any harder than selling Grit.
It’s the parents that end up selling most of the school fund raiser products; some of the chocolates good stuff too.
Just hope the kids catch me and not come knocking when the Mrs. is home. That woman has a soft heart and is of the opinion money grows on trees when it comes to kids selling stuff door to door. No ain’t in her vocabulary…at that time.
One would think as much money as we pay in school taxes that sending the kids out to peddle wares would not be necessary.

Schools have too many chiefs now. Believe they call them administrators, but no matter, they are too top heavy.
Instead of administrating, they should spend more time educating the kids and teaching them some couth and manners. While they are at it, bring back the paddle.
Folks who don’t want their kids spanked, should be responsible for what their kid does.
I remember well the principal (administrator) of my school used to tear my rear end up on more than one occasion
Had one of the twins with me yesterday while driving by the mall; he made a comment about this side of Houston being just out of the hustle and bustle of things and looked over at the San Jacinto Mall. He said, “Just think, one day all this will belong to Goose Creek School District.” He was trying to be funny and the funny thing about it is he is probably right. Funny but true?
Picked peppers this morning, got enough to make a hot relish ending up with four pints. Ate some on a cracker, all I could taste was hot.

110 years and still kickin’

This writer had a pleasant surprise this past Saturday. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with a rather witty lady who will be celebrating her 110 birthday on September 2. Yes, that age is correct, 110. That is by far the eldest person with whom I have ever talked. Prior to that was a man 102.
I am writing a full column on her for another newspaper and after several minutes of conversation I told her I was going to take her photo, and, because I am not that hot at taking photos for publication, I would be taking several snaps. She looked at me with a half-smile and remarked, “Young man this had better be good as I’m looking for another man!” Everyone in the room, of which there were several, broke out in laughter. She merely smiled and went on with her conversation.
Last week I read a story in one of the local dailies that said it is believed the oldest person in the world is one Edna Parker, Shelbyville, Ind. She is 114, only four years senior to my column subject.

Her name is Lona Snodgrass and she has had a rather surprising life from a medical standpoint. She has had almost no serious illnesses down through the years, according to her son, until the past couple of years. She has developed some serious skin cancers which doctors did surgery this past Monday.
Snodgrass had five children: one died as an infant, two died of spinal meningitis as ages 5 and 6 and the other two are still living just a door or two away from her. She has a daughter 85, currently in rehab with a broken hip and a son, 77, who is in good health. This fantastic lady made it with me when she called me “young” for I too will shortly be 77.
The term “old age” has really changed in my lifetime. I can well remember when someone in the sixties was “old.” Back 50 years ago the average life span was in the lower 60s as I recall.
My family, on both sides, has a tendency to be long lifers. I had two aunts who died at about ages 45 and 60 with cancer and an uncle who died at 67 with a heart attack. Others have lived well into their 70s, 80s or 90s and I currently have an uncle and aunt living at 102 and 100. Another aunt is 94. The 102-year-old uncle is quite active and lives alone. A lady stays with him only during the days. We are stretching it out throughout the United States.
Yet, worldwide, we are still only about eighth or ninth in the world in life expectancy. Within the past month or two I read the most recent statistics but don’t remember what countries are ahead of us.
As we go through our lives today there aren’t many of us that do not know at least one person that has topped the century mark. For the past number of years the US President has been sending cards to those hitting the century mark He is sending out more cards each year. My subject, has one that is ten years old and just received one for her 110th from her congresswoman.
I hope to meet the century mark in good health. Don’t we all?
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!.
Don Springer can be reached at touchlife@worldnet.att.net.

Save early, often – and wisely – for college

It’s that time of year when college students across the country reach for their backpacks and head back to campus – while their parents reach for their checkbooks and head for the Tylenol. If your children are still quite young, though, you can take steps now to reduce the headaches that may come from those big college bills.
Just how expensive is it to send a child through college these days? It’s pretty expensive. In fact, it costs more than $16,000 for one year at a four-year public college or university, according to the College Board. And college costs have been rising considerably faster than the general rate of inflation, so the high costs of higher education are, in all likelihood, only going to get higher.
Of course, you may not have to foot your child’s college bills all by yourself. Scholarships and loans are available, and many students work part-time jobs, both during school and on summer vacations. And yet, you may need, or want, to help pay for a sizable percentage of college expenses. To meet this obligation, you need to save early, save often – and use the right savings vehicles.

Fortunately, you’ve got some attractive options. Here are some of the most popular ones:
*Coverdell Education Savings Account – Depending on your income level, you can contribute up to $2,000 annually to a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). Your Coverdell earnings and withdrawals will be tax-free, provided you use the money for qualified education expenses. (Any non-education withdrawals from a Coverdell ESA may be subject to a 10 percent penalty.) You can place your contributions to a Coverdell ESA into virtually any investment you choose – stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, etc.
*Section 529 savings plan – In a Section 529 savings plan, you put money in specific investments, managed by an investment professional. Contribution limits are quite high – more than $200,000 per beneficiary in many state plans, although special gifting provisions may apply. And all withdrawals will be free from federal income taxes, as long as the money is used for a qualified college or graduate school expense of your child or grandchild. This tax benefit was scheduled to expire in 2010, but it was made permanent by one of the provisions in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Withdrawals for expenses other than qualified education expenditures may be subject to federal, state and penalty taxes. (Also, Section 529 distributions will appear as income on the child’s tax return, which could affect financial aid calculations.) Contributions are tax deductible in certain states for residents who participate in their own state’s plan.
*Permanent insurance – If you own some type of “permanent” insurance policy, such as whole life or universal life, you’ll have a chance to build cash value. Your earnings have the potential to grow on a tax-deferred basis, and you can take policy loans for virtually any reason you choose – including paying for college. Keep in mind, though, that if you don’t fully repay the loan, your policy may lapse, and if you pass away before repaying the loan, the total amount owed, including interest, will be subtracted from the death benefit.
Before making any of these moves, please consult with your tax and financial advisors. But don’t wait too long – your children may be young now, but time flies.