2004 – A year in review
By LPR Staff
The past 12 months have brought a number of changes to our community – some welcome, some unwelcome and some surprising. From the spring”s political furor regarding liquor-by-the-drink to November”s election and flooding, Lockhart has seen its fair share of excitement, for the good and for the bad.
As the new year approa
ches, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the events of the last year.
The Lockhart Independent School District appointed Charles Uselton as interim superintendent, after the resignation of Tony Jones in December, 2003.
District Three city council member Jim Stephens submitted his resignation, citing personal reasons for his choice not to finish his current term.
An hour-long high-speed chase through Lockhart and the surrounding area ended outside of Luling when Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers deployed stinger spikes to bring the vehicle to a halt.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) increased fuel prices, causing an increase in electric charges for Lockhart residents.
Some Lockhart senior citizens introduced a request to the city to halt increases on ad valorem taxes for the elderly and disabled. The council rejected the proposition, which was later approved by Lockhart voters.
The Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector began validating signatures on the liquor-by-the-drink petition, which eventually gained more than enough support to be added to the May ballot.
Lockhart attorney Todd Blomerth was appointed as the judge for the newly-created 421st Judicial District Court.
Primary elections were held in early March. A problem with the vote-counting computer which caused a several-hour delay in final returns.
Wayne Bock was appointed interim president of the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce.
Several new jobs came to the area on the wings of a Maxwell plant and a shopping center in Mustang Ridge.
A Lockhart woman was robbed and stabbed at a car wash, leading to charges of attempted capital murder against two teenagers.
An employee of the Caldwell County Jail was arrested on theft charges after allegedly stealing money from certain accounts related to the commissary.
The LISD Board of Trustees considered and approved a partially closed high school campus during lunchtime for the 2004-2005 school year.
Employees of a Lockhart department store helped Lockhart police break up an ongoing forgery ring.
Lockhart voters offered resounding support to two propositions on the municipal ballot – one allowing liquor to be sold within the city limits of Lockhart and the other imposing a freeze on ad valorem taxes for the elderly and disabled. Richard “Dick” Weiland and Dr. Lew White took their places on the Lockhart City Council.
The community mourned long-time resident and business owner Buddy Michelson, who passed away suddenly.
Alvin Brown was convicted of murder and sentenced to serve 30 years in prison. Brown was charged in connection with the 2003 death of his common-law wife.
Dr. John Hall, a Lockhart native, was hired as the superintendent of the Lockhart Independent School District.
The Caldwell County Appraisal District placed Chief Appraiser Russell Sanders on administrative leave, choosing not to renew his contract. Sanders was involved with a number of allegations regarding possible illegal activity. His contract was terminated and a separation agreement was reached between Sanders and the district in late June.
Lockhart merchants, began preparing for the sale of wine and spirits. Liquor became available in Lockhart for the first time since the 1920s when Twin Liquors opened their doors in late July.
Rachel Bauer was appointed Caldwell County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources by the Commissioners” Court.
Lockhart celebrated National Night Out with more than 20 block parties throughout town.
City officials, working with representatives from downtown businesses, decided to designate several parking spaces on the Courthouse Square as “Customer Only” parking. The change was made in response to growing concerns about the availability of customer parking for downtown businesses.
Two new parks, Santos T. Arredondo Park and Navarro Park opened in connection with the City of Lockhart”s North Town Branch walkway project.
Caldwell County residents collected ample signatures to place a proposition on the November ballot asking for an ad valorem tax freeze for the homesteads of the elderly and disabled. The proposition passed by a wide margin on Election Day.
The LISD board of trustees approved a 3 percent pay raise for employees, which was to be funded by a nearly 12 percent tax hike.
Clarence Simon, Jr., a 43-year veteran at the Lockhart post office retired in early September.
Spc. Mario Luera, a Lockhart resident, was injured in Iraq when his vehicle overturned. Luera sustained a broken collarbone.
Javamotion served the first alcoholic mixed drink to be served in Lockhart since Prohibition. The “Mayantini,” a derivative of a chocolate martini, was served to approximately 30 people, who shared in a toast before ending prohibition in Lockhart.
Two Caldwell County men were arrested in San Marcos on narcotics charges. Both were taken into custody and transported to the Hays County Jail, where they were charged with felony possession. Nearly three pounds of marijuana were seized during the arrest.
The Caldwell County Commissioners” Court agreed to enter cyberspace, approving the development of a county website. Further, they granted a 4 percent across-the-board pay increase to county employees, which they planned to finance with a 3 percent tax increase.
In late September, a local soldier, Chad Johnson, was injured while participating in a sewage plant opening in Baghdad, Iraq. Johnson, who lost a part of one of his legs and sustained multiple, critical injuries, was involved in three separate car bombings. He was transferred stateside to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
In a continued effort to solve the crisis surrounding the technology center, the mayor appointed an ad-hoc committee to evaluate the services offered by the center and the fees that should be attached to those services.
The city council selected eight homes for participation in a grant program that allowed for refurbishing or rebuilding of homes in disrepair. The homes were chosen on a variety of factors, including the income of the owner and the condition of the home.
A national shortage of flu vaccines caused troubles in Lockhart. Although vaccines were available through clinics, they were earmarked for those at the greatest risk.
Candidates for the Nov. 2, 2004 election submitted their financial reports prior to the election. Judicial candidate Todd Blomerth led the pack in both spending and fundraising.
The County implemented an Emergency Notification System (ENS). The system is capable making telephone calls to multiple numbers to notify residents of impending disasters such as floods, tornados and hazardous chemical spills.
A 20-year-old Austin woman and her two children, 3 and eight months, were killed in a collision north of Lockhart when their vehicle struck a Dodge Durango head-on.
Explosives were found in the rear of a pick-up truck in the Hunter”s Pointe subdivision. The owner of the vehicle allegedly tried for several days to dispose of the pesticide explosives before contacting the Caldwell County Sheriff”s Department and the Lockhart Fire Department to have the explosives removed. The neighborhood was evacuated for the safety of the residents.
A convenience store in Fentress was robbed at gunpoint on Halloween night. The suspect, who was apprehended several days later, was implicated in several other state-wide robberies.
Sen. John Kerry conceded the Presidential Election to incumbent President George W. Bush after a sometimes-contentious and always close electoral race. In the local elections, several incumbents, including District Judge Todd Blomerth and Sheriff Daniel Law held their seats, while two new county commissioners were voted into office.
Bruce Neil Butler, 39, was arrested by police in Palestine, Texas. In addition to a variety of other charges, Butler was wanted in connection with the robbery of a Fentress convenience store.
The commissioners signed into effect an order freezing ad valorem taxes on the homesteads of the elderly and disabled. Ad valorem taxes will not increase over the 2004 tax amount unless the property is significantly improved.
The LISD Board of Trustees began preparing for next fall”s opening of Bluebonnet Elementary School. Among the preparations, the board approved the creation of several administrative positions for the school and began discussing the organization and placement of elementary students within the district.
Throughout November, heavy rains and flooding whipped the area, causing damage to homes and property and doing thousands of dollars of damage to bridges and roads.
A DPS Trooper based in Caldwell County made an arrest on I-10 in Luling that yielded the seizure of more than six kilos of cocaine. The female driver was taken into custody and held at the Caldwell County jail.
The council approved plans for an overpass of the Union Pacific railroad crossing on Highway 183 – not a moment too soon. Within days of the plans being approved, a Union Pacific train blocked the intersection for several hours while struggling with mechanical problems and staffing difficulties.
Caldwell County deputies were involved in a nearly two-hour car chase, beginning in Martindale and weaving through Caldwell, Guadalupe, Hays and Travis Counties before the suspects abandoned the vehicle and were apprehended. Both were arrested for evading arrest with a vehicle and faced possible narcotics charges.
The county took responsibility for FM 1386 in exchange for relief from certain financial obligations dealing with the pending construction of State Highway 130 through Caldwell County. The exchange stands to save the citizens of Caldwell County upwards of $22 million, according to commissioners.
Lockhart lost a pillar of the business community with the Dec. 18 death of William “Peck” Westmoreland.