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Posts published in May 2007

Adventures in the garden

Did some sod busting this morning by digging up potatoes. Scratched around and below the plants for a few with my hand to see if I could find some. Bout the time a couple of nice ones were dug up something sharp went into and under the fingernail, right middle finger.
It was enough to make one want to say NO MAS but there is too much sweat labor invested in the potato patch to give it up. I decided then and there I was going high tech and used the shovel.
Managed to dig up about half bushel of red potatoes out of that little space. Took them in the kitchen and the Mrs. asked what I was going to do with all those potatoes.
Have been told not to wash the potato until you are ready to cook it.
One thing for sure, next year’s potato patch will not be planted as deep.

The briar patch is narrowing down with the blackberries. The birds have sure seemed to enjoy them. After the next picking, the patch will be trimmed and manicured for next year’s growth. By doing so, this will allow next year’s crop to produce more berries, up a bit higher rather than near the ground. Of course the upper briar branches are tied to a wire to grow up rather than over.
Thinking of planting purple hull peas next, when a bit more room becomes available in the little garden. As has been said before in Two Cents Worth, it’s amazing what you can do with dirt.
A little caveat to you pea/bean eaters – legume (big word that means opens along the seam, i.e., split in two) has been proven on yours truly that they will kick in the gout with its high purine content no doubt!
Grew up on peas and cornbread, guess one evidently needs to limit the serving of the other good stuff, eh?
Can ask the twins this day if they know what a bowl of special is, and they will tell you.
Tis peas, cornbread, diced tomato, diced onion and a glass of tea.
Taught the boys to eat hot peppers with that dish. Take itty bitty bites of pepper, not too much cause it’ll burn. Always eat a pinch of pepper with food in your mouth, other wise it’s too hot.
They have since discovered the day after hot too.

Investing for kids? Keep these dates in mind

If you have young children or grandchildren, you may want to start investing for them – and you should. As you invest, however, you’ll need to keep a couple of key dates in mind – because they can make a difference in your family’s tax situation and your control of your child’s or grandchild’s assets.
One important date to remember is the day your child or grandchild turns 17 – because that’s the last year he or she will be affected by the “Kiddie Tax.” The Kiddie Tax applies to unearned income – typically from investments held in the child’s name – above an annual threshold, which, in 2007, is $1,700. Of that $1,700, the first $850 of earnings is tax free, but the next $850 will be taxed at the child’s rate, which is typically 10 percent. Any income above that $1,700 will be taxed at the parents’ rate, which could be as high as 35 percent.
However, while your child’s or grandchild’s tax rate may be 10 percent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every investment that generates $850 in earnings will be taxed at that same rate. For example, a child will only have to pay a 5 percent tax rate on income from most types of stock dividends. (At least, that’s the case for now; Congress is considering legislation that would subject the $850 – or whatever the future amount may be – to the 10 percent rate, no matter what the source of the income.)

On the other hand, if a child invests in growth stocks – those that generally don’t pay dividends – he or she won’t generate significant unearned income until after the shares are sold. So, if you and your child or grandchild follow a “buy and hold” strategy with these stocks until the child is at least 18, he or she would only have to pay the capital gains tax, which is currently just 5 percent for people in the 10 percent tax bracket. (This rate drops to 0 percent for the years 2008 through 2010, but the proposed legislative changes would deny the 0 percent rate to children.)
Once your child or grandchild turns 18, he or she will no longer be affected by the Kiddie Tax. The age of 18 is also important if you’ve been investing for your children or grandchildren through either the Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) or the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA). Essentially, UGMA/UTMA allows you to fund an account for a child, but limit the child’s access to the account until he or she reaches the age of majority – either 18 or 21 in most states. The child owns the account, but you are named as custodian, and you control the account until the child is no longer a minor. At that point, the custodial relationship ends and the child assumes control over the account.
In other words, once the child is 18 (or 21), there’s no guarantee that he or she will use the money for college, as you may have intended. So, if you really want to put all your child’s investment money into a college fund, you might want to consider a 529 College Savings Plan, which gives you significant control over the funds, along with tax advantages. Contributions are tax-deductible in certain states for residents who participate in their own state’s plan. You should note that a 529 College Savings Plan could reduce a beneficiary’s ability to qualify for financial aid.
In any case, if you’ve got investments earmarked for your children or grandchildren, be aware of the changes that will occur once they turn 17 and 18. Those years can be challenging enough without any financial “surprises.”

Armored car guard killed in accident

By BOBBY HORN JR.
DAYTON—An armored car guard was killed Tuesday when the vehicle in which she was riding overturned on Highway 146, south of Dayton.
According to Dayton Police, a vehicle from AT Systems was travelling northbound around 1 p.m. As the vehicle approached FM 1413 a southbound vehicle began top passed close to the armored car. Investigators say that the AT Systems driver, Jose Alaniz, move the vehicle closer to the right side of the road. When a rear wheel hit the soft shoulder Alaniz attempted to correct the vehicle, however he overcompensated sending the vehicle across the centerline.
The armored car struck the other shoulder and went into the ditch, rolling over onto its top.
When medics arrived they found Alaniz, shaken but not injured. A guard in the back of the vehicle was not so lucky.
Katinal Brown suffered critical injuries in the accident.
Memorial-Hermann Hospital’s Life Flight Air Ambulance was called to the scene. Originally a landing zone was set up near the accident scene, however medics decided that due to her condition she needed to be transported to Liberty-Dayton Community Hospital. Ground transport took to a grassy area behind Brookshire Brothers grocery in Dayton, where she was transferred to Life Flight.
A spokesperson for Memorial-Hermann said that Brown later died from injuries sustained.
Throughout the investigation, police from Dayton created a perimeter around the armored car to protect money and weapons inside until a second vehicle from AT Systems could arrive.
Police say they don’t believe the actions of the other car was an intentional attack on the vehicle.

Graduation held for area high schools

This weekend, students across the area will make that final walk as they graduate from high school.
Barbers Hill will hold commencement on May 26 at Eagle Stadium, beginning at 8 p.m.
This year’s valedictorian is Brian Bender. Salutatorian is John Oranger.
Also making the top 10 were Ashley Rodriguez, 3; Cameron Campbell, 4; Jill Robertson, 5; Leslie Browder, 6; Michak Moore, 7; Ben Farmer, 8; Chase berrera, 9 and Sarah Marshall, 10.
Dayton Bronco fans will travel to Beaumont for commencement on May 26. The ceremony will be held at Montagne Center on the Lamar University campus at 3 p.m.
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The top 10 of 2007 are Amy Clanton, valedictorian; Matthew Broyles salutatorian; Brenna Spence, 3; Jonathan Levi Tatum, 4; Jason Heilig, 5; Randi Kay Riley, 6; Jacob Barnes, 7; Jennifer Taylor, 8; Lena Meadows, 91 and Leslie Sutton, 10.
The Sterling High Class of 2007 will graduate on May 26 at Stallworth Stadium at 8 a.m.
The class’s top 10 are Eugene Martir, valedictorian; Alyssa Linares, saluatorian; Joshua Jagnanan, 3; Kari Whatley, 4; Thakur Jaini, 5; Azka Ashraf, 6; Lisa Cercaldo, 7; Paula Dancel, 8; Auusten Oliver, 9 and Lauren Adams, 10.
Commencement for Ross S. Sterling High School will be on May 26, beginning at 6 p.m.
To ensure the safety of graduates and audience members and maintain the dignity of the occasion, GCCISD has compiled a list of items that will not be permitted at Stallworth Stadium during the upcoming Lee and Sterling graduations.
Among the items that will be prohibited inside the stadium are balloons, weapons or firearms, air horns/whistles or other noisemakers, coolers or containers, fireworks or explosives, illegal substances, Frisbees and beach balls, laser pens, or knives of any size, including Leatherman’s and multi-purpose tools.

A meal fit for a queen

Had our first tomato samiches of the year this weekend, ‘Twas good too.
Read with interest about Queen Elizabeth II visiting President Bush in Washington and having dinner. It was one of those hoity toity events where you would never find my presence.
Not high on the social scale and the menu was not one to my choosing should she come to the little house on Goose Creek. The menu included: Spring pea soup with fernleaf lavender. Bet she hasn’t been served pot liquor with cornbread.
Chive pizzelle with American caviar; yuck! I’d do some chicken livers with a sliver of jalapeno and wrapped in bacon with Kraft BBQ sauce. Some would say yuck to that.
A bottle of Chardonnay Unfiltered 2004; that’s wine for those of you who don’t take a snort.
Dover sole almodine. Wonder if she has ever had crappie filets (fried)?

Roasted artichokes, pequillo peppers and olives. That’s something I’d try just to see how tis.
Saddle of spring lamb Chanterelle sauce. Don’t like lamb or anything to do with it. Nasty stuff indeed.
Fricassee of baby vegetables which is a fancy name for cutting something in pieces and stewing it in gravy.
Peter Michael Les Pavots 2003, that’s a $200 bottle of wine which the President didn’t touch.
Argula, Savanna mustard & mint romaine. Had to Google that and it’s a lettuce type product that in Roman times was considered an aphrodisiac.
Champagne dressing, trio of farmhouse cheeses; wonder who cut the cheese?
Rose Blossoms; wonder if you are supposed to eat them or look at them?
Schrambert Trute Rose 2004; Ahh another snort before heading back to the house.
The dinner was a white tie event with guests seated at 13 tables.
I’m sure they all enjoyed the dinner and wondered what was for desert as none was mentioned on the menu; maybe it was that last sip of wine.
Somebody once told me, you take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of him.

When do you need a trust?

None of us can predict the future – so if you want to make sure your family and other heirs receive what you want them to have, it’s not too soon to do your estate planning. Trusts can be a key part of those plans. But under what circumstances might you need to establish a trust?
Before you choose a specific trust, you’ll need to know how trusts work. Usually, a trust is a legal arrangement in which you, as grantor, set up the rules and appoint a trustee, who manages the trust and its assets. You (and possibly others) then fund the trust with assets. The trustee collects these assets and invests the money according to the rules of the trust, which will also determine the trust’s beneficiary – the recipient of the trust’s proceeds.
Beyond these common traits, trusts can be very different in their intended purpose. Your individual situation will dictate the type of trust, or trusts, you choose. Here are a few of the most common scenarios:

*If you want to give something to charity…You may want to consider a charitable remainder trust (CRT). In a CRT, you donate an appreciated asset, such as shares of stock or a piece of real estate, to the trust. The trustee may then sell the asset and use the proceeds to purchase a portfolio of securities. From these investments, you can receive an income stream for life; upon your death, the charitable organization receives the remainder of the principal. By setting up such a trust, you defer capital gains taxes, and you can claim a limited deduction on your income taxes.
*If you want to reduce estate taxes … Explore an irrevocable life insurance trust. If you own an insurance policy, the proceeds are a part of your taxable estate. To help reduce the possibility of your heirs having to pay estate taxes, you may want to establish an irrevocable life insurance trust. As long as the trust owns the insurance policies, the proceeds won’t be included in your estate. You might also be able to use an irrevocable life insurance trust to provide your family with assets they might not otherwise have received, especially if you’ve given away a sizable amount to a charitable organization through a charitable remainder trust.
*If you have remarried… You may want to think about a QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Property) Trust if you’re married for a second time, but want to make sure your children from your first marriage are protected. A QTIP trust enables you, as grantor to provide for your surviving spouse and also maintain control of how the trust’s assets are distributed once he or she also dies.
*If you want to protect children/grandchildren from spending their inheritance too quickly – If you think your children or grandchildren might “burn through” the money you leave them, you might want to explore a discretionary trust, which gives an independent trustee full authority to make decisions on how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary.
One final word: Trusts are complex instruments, so you will need to work with an attorney and CPA to make sure your strategy can help you work towards the goals you want.

Highlands Rotary awards record number of scholarships

HIGHLANDS– Each year the Highlands Rotary Club awards college scholarships ranging from $1000 up to worthy students in the local high schools.
This year, under the direction of Rotarian Dr. Larry Smith, a committee of ten Rotarians screened 36 applications, and made the difficult decision as to recipients.
These scholarships are one of the major benefits of money the club raises from its annual Chili Feast. Due to a strong community response, the club gave a record number of 16 scholarships, totaling $20,000 to the candidates.
The scholarships were presented last Monday night, at a dinner held at the San Jacinto Community Center in Highlands. The keynote speaker was the retiring superintendent of Crosby schools, who recounted in his talk about his days growing up in Highlands, and later Deer Park.
He thoroughly entertained the crowd, with his tales of local anticks in his childhood. But the message of his talk revolved around a paper he wrote years ago, entitled “A person who made a difference”. It recalls the little league coach Hendrix had, Hap Marshal, who chose his team with fairness over politics, and the impression this made on the young Hendrix. His message to the scholars, “Each of you is a potential Hap Marshal, and you can make a difference in someone’s life.”

After the presentations, and a short talk by each recipient, chairman White opened the floor for informal comments. He also told the history of the scholarship program, starting in the 70’s with only one scholarship that the club could afford, and growing to what it is today. He invited the community to join the club and it’s efforts to give back to the town.
Scholarship recipients were as follows, with their high school, college, and major noted:
Lauren Adams, Sterling, Baylor, Speech Pathology
Cassie Edwards, Sterling, Lee College, Pharmacy
Jenna Fontenot, Sterling, Rice Univ., English/Political Science
Ryan Gregory, Sterling, Baylor, Neuroscience
Stephen Guillory, Sterling, Air Force Academy, Civil Eng.
Jessica Ivy, Sterling, San Jacinto Central, Cosmetology, Marines
Kari Whatley, Sterling, Baylor, Biology, PreMed
Jessica Collins, Crosby, UT Austin, Political Science
Blair Foster, Crosby, Baylor, Architecture
Holly Kallies, Crosby, Texas A&M, Marketing
Jenna Petitt, Crosby, Baylor, Marketing
Whitney Bell, Sam Houston State Univ, Interior Design
Jonathon Rosenkranz, Culbreath Award, presented by Charlie Ward, Valedictorian Crosby, Texas A&M, Aerospace Engineering
Griselda Gallardo, JE Bird Award, presented by Marie Stasney, Chinquapin, St. Edwards Univ., Social Work
Daniel Grunden, Pat McPhee Award, presented by Barbara McPhee and Robert Woodall, Crosby, Baylor, Medical Research
Jake Brewer, Dr. Herndon Award, presented by his daughter Patricia Scott, Sterling, UT Austin, Geosciences.
Emcee for the evening was club president Johnny Gaeke, who also introduced the club’s exchange student from Germany, Goran Peterson.

Huffman voters OK $20.5M in bonds

By BOBBY HORN JR.
HUFFMAN—Riding a wave of heavy support during the early voting period, proponents of Huffman ISD $20.5M bond referendum coasted to an easy victory Saturday.
The bonds passed 708 to 260. During the early voting period there were 240 “yes” votes cast to 106 “no” votes. On Election Day the votes went 288 “for” and 154 “against.”
Like many school districts, Huffman used a strategy during the early voting period which has proved successful in other districts time and time again.
Polling locations were held at each campus. Voters were able to cast votes on April 30 at Copeland, May 1 at Bower, May 2,7, and 8 at Hargrave, May 3 at Huffman Middle and on May 4 at the May Community Center. The polling places were open during school assemblies such as band concerts, the high school athletic banquet or in the case of the May Center during Little League games. Political analysts say that parents who attend these types of events are more likely to vote for a bond package. This proved true in Huffman, where there were 251 “yes” votes cast at these events compared to 169 “yes” votes cast at the administration building during the entire time of the early voting period.
With voter approval secured, Huffman can now proceed with their largest bond package since 2002, when they build a new high school.

According to Superintendent Dr. Doug Killian, the largest chunk of the bonds will go toward athletic improvements. The district has set aside $10M of the funds for these projects. The centerpiece of the project will be a new multi-use stadium. The new stadium, Killian said, will feature an eight-lane track, field house, weight room and artificial turf. The current stadium has a seven-lane track, which does not meet UIL specifications for hosting track meets. Killian said that it is likely the new stadium will be built on land the district owns adjacent to the high school.
The district also plans to build new tennis courts.
“We currently have only one, in disrepair. On the elementary side of the district, ” Killian said.
Academic upgrades
The bond referendum is not just about sports. Killian said that they have set money aside to improve technology district-wide.
“We are envisioning projectors in all the rooms, high speed connections to the classes for virtual field trips, smart boards that students can tough and move images on a screen, a parent portal where they can look at attendance and grades in real time and a fiber ring that connects the extra district, sharing resources and servers in a cost effective manner,” he added.
Killian said there is also a need for a new administration building. Currently administrative staff occupies four portable buildings adjacent to the administration building. Those are the lucky ones. The others, for lack of room, have offices at various campuses. Killian said that the district needs one central facility for administration. Since the district owns land around the current building, Killian said it just makes sense to build on the same site.
How much it will cost
Even with the new bond package, taxpayers will see their taxes go down, not up.
The current tax rate is $1.60 per $100 valuation. This is broken down into $1.37 for Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and $.23 for Interest & Sinking (I&S). The district uses the M&O budget for its daily operations while the I&S part can only be spent on debt service.
With the passage of House Bill 1 last year, the district will see its M&O go down to $1.04 next year. The I&S, if the bonds pass, is estimated at $.3439 for a total tax rate of $1.3839, almost 22 cents less than this year.
In 2008-2009, if there are no changes to state funding, the district said that the highest estimated tax rate would be $1.4851 per $100 valuation, although Killian said it would likely not be that high as the district retires old debt over couple of years.

Grand Parkway to relieve FM 2100, Hwy 90 congestion

By BOBBY HORN JR.
EAST HARRIS COUNTY—Officials with the Grand Parkway Association say that completion of SH 99 segments in Harris, Chambers and Liberty County is expected to relieve congestion on existing highways while promoting economic development in the area.
Last week The Grand Parkway Association (GPA) held a scoping meeting in Mont Belvieu to discuss and gather input from residents concerning Segments H and I-1. Attending the meeting were representatives from the GPA and Texas Department of Transportation as well as design consultants.
Segments H and I-1 are planned to be a 4-lane limited access toll facility with a 400’ right of way that will extend from IH 10 to SH 59 North, passing between FM 2100 and SH 146. The most popular design scenario has the road traveling about eight miles east of FM 2100 and passing through Eastgate before connecting near New Caney.

Purpose of SH 99
David Gornet, executive director of the GPA, said that there is a four-fold purpose to the highway project. The first is system linkage or improving mobility by linking major highways together at multiple points.
The second is to expand capacity. Gornet pointed to the evacuation prior to Hurricane Rita as a perfect example of the area’s need to provide additional routes away from the coast. H and I-1, specifically, will take some of the pressure off FM 2100 and SH 90. The expanded capacity, he said, works hand in hand with the third purpose: to improve safety. With a high crash rate on the other highways, relieving the congestion will make for safer roadways.
The final purpose is economic development. Gornet said that studies show that when a new highway is open businesses tend to flock to the area. He pointed to the Katy area, which saw increased development after the completion of Segment D.
Timeline
The purpose of last week’s meeting was to solicit input from residents so designers can begin drawing proposed routes. This is the second meeting in Mont Belvieu. In 2006, the GPA held a scoping meeting where they first introduced the project.
With the input from last week’s meeting, as well as a third scoping meeting in 2008, the GAP will begin writing a Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS). In 2009, the GPA will publish the FEIS, begin design work on the segments and preparation of the right of way.
Plans are to complete the right of way and award construction contracts for the roadway in 2011. With this schedule the roads will be open for use in November 2013.
To date, the GPA has completed only one section. Section H was began in 1983 and completed in August 1994. In 1991, the process began for Section I-2, which extends from SH 146 near the Fred Hartman Bridge to IH 10 in Chambers County. Completion of this segment is expected next month.