Wolfabilene Updates

Council meeting reveals more details of proposed new animal shelter


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – After February’s final city council meeting, we’ve learned more about the new animal shelter that’s being planned for Abilene. The Council took a closer look at the plans, and although there weren’t any votes or final decisions made, there does seem to be a path forward.


“This is a dream come true”, said animal activist Robert Sudbury. “This is a facility, it’s more than a dream, it’s something that’s been needed for the last 20 years.”


The dream may not be a reality yet, but a virtual walkthrough of the building makes it feel just a bit more real. As reality sets in, however, real life concerns are raised.


Councilman Kyle McAlister had one concern about the high-end building: “That facility looks nicer than some office buildings that I have seen. So my only concern is that we try to do our best to make it palatable to the taxpayers.”


Much of the nearly $9 million estimated cost comes from the specialized use of this building, designed as a safe, secure, and long-lasting structure.


“If we’re going to build a structure that is durable and aesthetically pleasing, you’re not going to shave a million dollars off this project”, explained City Manager Robert Hanna. “You just won’t, because of the type of construction you have to do to create the durability of the structure.”


The shelter is being called an adoption center, and is likened to a retail space instead of an old-fashioned pound.


Architect Tim Rice McClarty said, “It runs the dollars up because you have more people space, and the people space needs to look good, but it does allow our citizens to get into all those places.”


The new building is some ways off, but if public opinion indicates the future of the building, then animals should have a new temporary home soon.



By: Nathan Greve

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

Taylor County Expo Center and Taylor Telecom seal naming agreement for multi-purpose arena


The Expo Center of Taylor County and Taylor Telecom announced a 10-year agreement Monday to name the Expo's multi-purpose arena the "Taylor Telecom Arena."


The Taylor Telecom Arena will be the future home to the Western Heritage Classic Ranch Rodeo, West Texas Fair PRCA Rodeo, Texas State High School Rodeo Finals, Youth Bull Rider World Finals, and various other regional and national events.


Part of a recent $55 million bond election, work being done at the facility includes a new multi-purpose arena, midway, and livestock barn, in addition to renovations to the Taylor County Coliseum and covered outdoor arena.


The Taylor Telecom Arena is among projects in the second of three phases of construction, with a slated completion date of April 2020.


The Taylor County Expo Center's Rochelle Johnson and Taylor Telecom's Steve Singletary sign Monday a 10-year agreement for sponsorship rights to the Expo Center's multi-purpose arena.

The Taylor County Expo Center's Rochelle Johnson and Taylor Telecom's Steve Singletary sign Monday a 10-year agreement for sponsorship rights to the Expo Center's multi-purpose arena. (Photo: Taylor County Expo Center)


The Western Heritage Classic will be the first event in the new arena. Taylor Telecom is a major sponsor for that event.


Steve Singletary, general manager/chief executive officer of Taylor Telecom, said that the company believes its mission and that of the Expo Center are similar.


Both entities were "started out of a need to provide necessary services that were lacking in the rural communities in and around Taylor County," Singletary said.


Taylor Telecom was formed in 1952 to provide telephone services in rural areas.


"We have been avid supporters of the Expo and its events for a long time, and we feel passionate about continuing to support the growth and future of the Expo grounds," Singletary said.


Expo Center General Manager Rochelle Johnson said that there was "much potential for growth for both our organizations through this partnership."


A rendering of the new multi-purpose arena at the Taylor County Expo Center, which will bear the name of Taylor Telecom.

A rendering of the new multi-purpose arena at the Taylor County Expo Center, which will bear the name of Taylor Telecom. (Photo: Taylor County Expo Center)


The Taylor Telecom Arena will feature signage on its east and west sides, meeting room signage, VIP parking spaces, box office naming, venue space, a Legends of the Expo plaque, its name on ticketed events pertaining to the arena, and a website listing.


Naming partners for the Expo Center's livestock barn and covered outdoor arena will be revealed soon, according to a news release. 



By: Brian Bethel

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved








Helicopter on display at Abilene farm show was flown into place inside Coliseum


Unable to demonstrate their helicopter outside due to FAA restrictions, the crew from Cedar Ridge Aviation this week was able to fly inside the Taylor County Coliseum.


During the two-day Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo, it was hard to miss the helicopter sitting atop a tanker truck in the Coliseum. It overlooked the tractors, feral hog trappers and ranch land agents in the trade show.


Passersby look at the helicopter sitting atop a trailer owned by Cedar Ridge Aviation during Tuesday's Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. The helicopter was brought into the building, then flown into position.

Passersby look at the helicopter sitting atop a trailer owned by Cedar Ridge Aviation during Tuesday's Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. The helicopter was brought into the building, then flown into position. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


The top of the truck stands at least 10 feet from the floor. The helicopter stood about six to seven feet above that.


But no crane or team of men lifted it into place. According to Abilene Chamber of Commerce President Doug Peters, the helicopter was flown into position from a trailer after the airship was brought inside the building.


“They were insured, and it was it was approached a lot like the monster trucks being inside the Expo Center, (it was) handled kind of the same way,” Peters said. “Everybody was clear, they lifted it off of a trailer and just sat it on top of that thing. It didn't move more than probably 15 feet.”


Peters said the short flight was Saturday, before any other vendors had set up. Rochelle Johnson, Taylor County Expo Center’s general manager, confirmed the helicopter was flown inside the building.


“They provided me with a certificate of liability insurance in regard of doing that. I don't know if it's legal or not,” she said. “They provided me with a certificate of liability insurance from their insurance company, so that if in any way, shape or form the Coliseum was damaged, they were liable.”


Justin Tiemann, fire marshal for the Abilene Fire Department, said the AFD was asked to sign off on the vendor area but it's the Federal Aviation Administration that OKs helicopter requests.


Permission was granted, he said. 


"The FAA gave their full permission. It was legal on their end," Tiemann said. The Reporter-News was unable to reach the FAA for more information on the process.


Johnson said the distance from the floor to the ceiling inside the Coliseum is 40 feet. Given the combined height of the truck and the helicopter, that left just over an 24 feet from the top of the aircraft to the overhead ceiling tiles once it had landed on the truck.


A Cedar Ridge Aviation helicopter rests atop a tanker truck as visitors stroll past it and tractors Tuesday a the  Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. It has been reported that a pilot flew the helicopter onto the truck while inside the building.

A Cedar Ridge Aviation helicopter rests atop a tanker truck as visitors stroll past it and tractors Tuesday a the Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. It has been reported that a pilot flew the helicopter onto the truck while inside the building. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


“I was not alarmed by it; the helicopter obviously was going into the Coliseum,” she continued. “They had been here before and had looked at various places to actually have the helicopter, whether it be in the building or staged outside on the grounds somewhere.”


The FAA Code of Regulations 91.119, Subpart B--Flight Rules allows that helicopters can be flown closer than 500 feet to any structure “if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface.”


“They are precision flyers, I can tell you that,” Peters said. “But we made sure that they were insured in case there was some damage to the building, and there wasn't.”


During Thursday’s Agriculture Scholarship Luncheon, emcee Lynn Lawhon alluded to a video circulating of the flight. Peters said he had not seen the video, nor had he witnessed the flight itself.


“I think it was probably the fastest dusting of that building in the last 50 years, it (probably) looked like a sandstorm,” Peters said.


The Coliseum is due upgrading with funds approved by Taylor County voters. The $55 million project was organized into three phases, with the Coliseum improvements coming last.



By: Ronald W. Erdrich

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved








Abilene Christian University looking to help high school students set sail for England


Want a trip to London? What about an opportunity to study at Oxford?


Abilene Christian University is looking to send a few lucky high school students overseas in a new program.


It's the brainchild of ACU's vice president for enrollment, Tamara Long, who will help lead the crew the program recruits on a week-long sojourn across the pond.


Who's eligible? Simple. Sophomores and juniors in high school, not just from Abilene or Texas, but from across the country, can apply. They don't even need to be considering ACU for higher education, Long said, but that wouldn't hurt.


"Ultimately, we'd like them to choose ACU, but it's not required," Long said. "We're interested in engaging with these students, but doing it in an appropriate way. We've found those students aren't really ready to talk about college yet. They're focused on their high school life."


Long said the program's first year will accept between 12 and 16 students. 


They'll be in England from July 12-18 and take a college-level class on issues in global communication, a single credit hour course led by Long and ACU Vice Provost Susan Lewis — who also serves as associate professor of journalism and mass communications.


Abilene Christian University's satellite office in Oxford, England.

Abilene Christian University's satellite office in Oxford, England. (Photo: Contributed photo)


Oh, and they'll also be on-hand for ACU's big ceremony opening a satellite campus in Oxford on July 14.


It's $500, covering all travel expenses, plus the cost of passports, books and souvenirs. And snacks, though major meals are part of the listed cost.


"There are other study abroad options out there," Long said, "but they're more expensive.


"We know when students study abroad, when they experience the culture and everything that goes along with it, that's when growth happens in and out of the classroom. We know this; we see this."


Education Reporter Timothy Chipp

Education Reporter Timothy Chipp (Photo: Reporter-News file photo)


Trip highlights (outside of the classroom) include visiting Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Blenheim Palace, London's West End for a theater production, the British Museum and Oxford's medieval center.


While this first opportunity takes the students only to England, Long said her ultimate goal once the program is established would bring students both to England and to ACU's satellite campus in Leipzig, Germany.


She said students would spend a week at each for even more experiences.


Lone star of Brownwood


Loralei Briley, of Brownwood, was named one of four winners of the Texas Association of School Boards' Student Voice scholarship.



Briley (Photo: .)


Briley, a senior at Brownwood High, will study chemistry at Angelo State University in the fall with an ambition of becoming, eventually, a brain surgeon.


The scholarship's dollar amount was not immediately available.


She serves as parliamentarian for Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and does public relations for the National Honor Society, Brownwood ISD said in a news release announcing Briley's scholarship.


Some of the teachers at who went above and beyond encouraging her, she said, were English teacher Krista Bronniman, AP Calculus and OnRamps teacher Telise Murray and Health Science teacher and HOSA advisor Bonita Deen.


Aside from collecting the scholarship, Briley will participate in TASB's upcoming conference Feb. 28 in Galveston. Participating school board members will hear from high school students among other topics.


Singing their hearts out


With love in the air Friday, it was only fitting there was a little serenading going on at Abilene High School.


Principal Michael Garcia, joined his musical better halves — Assistant Principals Lee Hatch and Roy Sharp — to serenade some of the students for about an hour on Valentine's Day.


The three made their way through a number of classrooms armed with nothing but their voices. Sharp let loose with "My Girl," by The Temptations. Hatch hit the students with "Brown-Eyed Girl," by Van Morrison.


Garcia? He sang "Saw Her Standing There," by the Beatles. Well, he said, he tried to sing it. He joked that the other two carried him throughout the performances.


"Mr. Hatch is the ringleader," Garcia said. "They're both musically inclined. They coach me up to where I can carry something. With some support."


Previously, the three sang Christmas carols in December. It's becoming a trend at the school. So much, they might need a name for their grouping.


Any suggestions?



By: Timothy Chipp

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved


Abilene woman spreads love by giving flowers to Key City residents


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Right now Alyssa Hartley’s house looks a bit like a flower shop, with dozens of roses on the table and scissors in her hand.


This year however, these flowers won’t be going to her valentine, but instead to those whose mailboxes might be a little empty.


“Any chance I can give to others, I want to be able to help out with,” said Hartley. “We’ve delivered to Wisteria Place on Saturday and Sunday, and then Mesa Springs.”


KTAB/KRBC tagged along with Hartley on her next stop, Adaptive Recreation Services, where we met John Lewis.


“I loved it, I thought it was very nice,” Lewis said after receiving a rose. “The rose is my favorite flower.”


Whether or not it was a favorite of others, the gesture definitely put smiles on faces and showed those at the center that people care.


“If someone were to reach out to me when I wasn’t feeling very loved, or I felt like an outcast, or just no one seemed to care and if someone just did something so subtle like giving a flower, that would mean the world,” said Hartley. “If I can for somebody else, just to make their day, just to have them genuinely smile just for a split second, that would make me happy.”


It’s not just the happiness it brings to others, but to herself that keeps these flowers in bloom.


“I question if it’s a bigger blessing to me than it is for the people that I give it to,” said Hartley.


Hartley will be delivering nearly 500 flowers to different community members throughout the week and says she hopes next year will be bigger and better.



By: Jessica Ranck

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

8 B-1s could be retired at Dyess AFB; Minimal effect on base personnel


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Under the President’s proposed budget, 17 B-1 bombers could be retired, eight of which are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base.


U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, who represents Abilene, said Dyess is projected to lose eight B-1 bombers and Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will lose nine.


As for the projected loss of personnel at Dyess, Arrington said the initial amount would be 25-30 airmen.


The proposal to retire the 17 bombers came after a review of them following last year’s safety stand down, Arrington said.


“The Air Force has been conducting a conditions review and analysis,” Arrington said. “Based on those analysis, they came up with the number 17. They said it would compromise our mission and compromise the safety of our airmen.”


Dyess Airmen complete BACE exercise
Photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


Dyess Airmen complete BACE exercise
Photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka


Team Dyess competes in Global Strike Challenge
Photo by Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


Dyess Airmen complete BACE exercise
Photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


Arrington said he will continue to work with military and government officials to determine a final number of B-1s to be retired.


Arrington told KTAB/KRBC the bombers had been overflown. He said 80 percent of the fleet was beyond its life cycle.


“The B-1 is a critical component of our arsenal,” Arrington said.


Arrington stressed that airmen’s safety was a major factor in the proposal, along with national security.


Dyess received its first B-1 in June 1985, and has since played a crucial role in global strike and national defense.


The B-1 fleet thinning proposal absolutely does not threaten the future of Dyess’ mission, Arrington stressed. The decision for the B-21 to be based at Dyess secured the future of Dyess.


Statement from General Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Commander:
Dyess and the Abilene community continue to be amazing supporters of our Airmen, our Air Force and our national defense mission. Over the last 35 years, the B-1B Lancer community has continuously reinvented itself as a premiere long-range precision strike platform, and I know that first-hand from when I commanded there. 


However, continuous bomber support operations over the last 20 years have taken a toll on the B-1 airframe’s structure due to overuse in a manner not commensurate with its planned design. 


Currently a small portion of the B-1Bs, from Dyess and Ellsworth in SD, are in a state that will require tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to a status quo fleet in the short term until the B-21 Raider comes online. Because of this, we’re moving to retire 17 structurally deficient B-1Bs in 2021 so that maintenance dollars and manpower can be focused on the healthiest aircraft in the fleet. 


Additionally, in coordination with our contractors, the Program Office, Combatant Command planners and our most advanced weapons’ school Airmen, we have changed various flight employment tactics of the remaining B-1Bs to preserve the longevity of the aircraft. These changes will significantly extend the life of the remaining B-1B fleet and reduce costs associated with potential structural repairs during the transition to the B-21.


My goal is that our bases will be bomber bases, not B-1, B-52 or B-21 bases, but bomber bases. Dyess remains an important component to our national defense.


Statement from Congressman Jodey Arrington:
“Over the past four years, the Trump Administration and House Republicans have worked together to rebuild our nation’s military with an unprecedented investment in our armed services of over $2 trillion. As the voice for the Big Country, I am proud to have fully funded Dyess Air Force Base and it’s priorities, including the design, development, and acquisition of the B-21 bomber. Together we have helped provide our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to be safe and successful in carrying out our nation’s most important mission. As a result, our citizens are as safe and our country is as strong as ever before,” 


“Now more than ever, our military needs additional combat power to meet the threats identified in the National Defense Strategy and, as a result, both the Air Force and Congress understand the need to accelerate the deployment of the new B-21 Raider as a fundamental part of that mission. Ultimately, Congress is responsible for establishing the budget; therefore, I will be closely reviewing the administration’s recommendation and analyses and working with them to arrive at the right resources and plan for transitioning from the B-1 to the B-21 bomber in a way that ensures the most cost-effective strategy for defending our nation, the highest safety for our airmen, and the least disruption to base operations.”


B-21 artist rendering


In 2019, Dyess Air Force Base was selected to house both the new B-21 bomber aircraft and the weapons school for it.


Congressman Jodey Arrington made the announcement in March 2019 saying, “this decision not only secures the future of Dyess as a bomber base in the 21st Century, but it will also bring hundreds of new jobs and families to the Key City. Most importantly, it ensures the U.S. Air Force maintains air dominance into the future.”


The B-21 will replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft. Dyess AFB will house both the operational test squadron and the weapons training school for the B-21.


According to the Military Affairs Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, 1,400 jobs are expected with the arrival of the B-21.


The B-21s was described as being “a long-range, highly survivable bomber aircraft capable of carrying a variety of mixed conventional munitions or nuclear ordinance. The B-21 will join the nuclear triad as a visible and flexible nuclear deterrent; assuring our allies and partners while also supporting national security objectives.”


The B-21 is expected to arrive in the late 2020s.



By: Travis Ruiz

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved






Cross country walk brings veterans to Abilene just in time for snow


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As snow and ice melt away, life returns to the Big Country. For two men, the weather hasn’t made a difference as they’ve pushed their way across the country.


John Ring and Jimmy Mathews are walking from sea to shining sea, or more accurately, pier to pier. They’re headed to Santa Monica Pier in California, after starting at Tybee Island Pier in Georgia.


John Ring explained his reasons for the walk: “To raise awareness for veterans’ issues such as PTSD, TBI, MST, which is Military Sexual Trauma, addiction, homelessness, and basically everything that’s leading veterans to commit suicide at a horrific rate.”


Ring set off from Georgia, but Jimmy Mathews didn’t. In fact, they didn’t know each other until after the walk had started.


“As he was coming through Mississippi I reached out and told him I wanted to join him, and here I am”, said Mathews.


They’re around halfway between the start and end point of the walk, and they really picked a great time to stop in Abilene.


“We were planning on leaving today, so the snow came at the right time”, laughed Ring. “This is the first snow of our trip, and hopefully the last.”


When the walk first started, Ring says he had to sleep outside many nights. Luckily, the duo now rarely doesn’t have a warm bed. For their stop in Abilene, the Whitten Inn provided three complimentary days of lodging.


With each stop, and each step, the pair raises a little more awareness about the issues facing veterans.


“We’re not the first ones to do this”, said Ring. “We definitely won’t be the last. We definitely want to leave our footprint for future people to make this adventure, you know, this journey across the country.”


To keep an eye on John and Jimmy’s progress, and to learn more about their cause, you can visit their website at buddywatchwalk.com.



By: Nathan Greve

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved



Winter Storm Watch/Warnings for our region


ABILENE, Texas — A Winter Storm Warning has been issued forTaylor, Jones, Callahan, Nolan, Haskell, Throckmorton, Fisher, and Shackelford counties from 6pm Tuesday until 6pm Wednesday.


The warning was already in place for Kent, King, Knox, Mitchell, Scurry, and Stonewall Counties.


A strong cold front brought colder air and breezy north winds into our area on Tuesday morning.


Rain Tuesday evening is forecast to switch over to sleet, then snow as temperatures fall below freezing Tuesday night into Wednesday.

There is a Winter Storm Watch that will be in effect from 6 pm Tuesday until 6 pm Wednesday for Eastland and Stephens Counties.


The National Weather Service also extended the Winter Storm Watch for our southern areas.


This Watch goes into effect at midnight until 6 pm Wednesday for Brown, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Runnels, Sterling, and Tom Green Counties.


Winter Storm Watches and Warnings


We are still thinking that areas north of I-20 will see heaviest snowfall accumulation. These areas could see anywhere from 5 to 8 inches.


Along and just south of I-20, snowfall accumulations could be around 3-6 inches of snow.


In our southern areas, we may see a wintry mix develop overnight. This means that we could see sleet and light snow accumulate by Wednesday morning.


Into the Concho Valley, there may be sleet accumulation on surfaces that is then topped by 1 to 3 inches of snow.


The Heartland area looks to be where we are going to see the lightest accumulation. If you live in these areas, you could see sleet or snowfall accumulation up to about an inch.


Temperatures south of I-20 will be a little more marginal. This is where there will be a possibility of a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow.


(National Weather Service)


The biggest concern is that an area of sleet develops and lasts long enough to stick to the ground, followed by a little bit of snow.


This combination would quickly make a mess of roadways even if ice or snow totals themselves are not particularly high.


Any accumulation of sleet or snow can make traveling hazardous. If you don't have to be on the roads tomorrow, it is best to stay indoors.


You can check latest road conditions for Wednesday at drivetexas.org.



By KTXS Staff

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved




Live music continues to take over Downtown Abilene


ABILENE, Texas (KRBC/KTAB) – There was a time where live music was sparse in Abilene. Only if you were lucky could you find a live band playing downtown.  But local musician Kirk House says in the last couple of years, Abilene has turned into a friendlier music community.   


“Just about any night of the week now, you can go somewhere around town and there’s going to be some live music,” he said. “Whether that’s an open mic, or whether it’s one of the new bars that opened or something like that, someone is going to have something live going on now, which wasn’t the case.”  


Tiffany Nichols with the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau said now that Abilene has been officially designated a “music friendly community” by the governor’s office – it’s becoming more intentional. 


They’ve been attempting to spread the word on all the available local live music events. 


“We put a Monday music post out that lets you know for the week where you can find the live music,” Nichols said.  


They also have their art walk coming up, where they plan to have live music every month, with a special guest at their first one.    


“So, it’s always the second Thursday of the month. So, this month we will be featuring Kirk House,” she said.  


Another way live music is being pushed is through the Open Road Series created by cofounders Sam Vinson and Taylor Surgis to bring people to downtown Abilene on a consistent basis.   


“We were able to secure a venue, the rooftop of the Grace and bring 150 to 200 people, four nights a year to the rooftop of the Grace to enjoy a concert looking at the skyline of Abilene.”  


Thrilled at the growing music scene in Abilene, House said music is that extra ingredient that makes everything better.   


“Music provides the atmosphere of something going on,” he said. “Of course, you have your bar scenes, you have your coffee shops and everything like that. But when you add music to it, you add another element of the arts to it.” 


The live music events can be found on Abilene Center Stage and the Abilene Convention and Visitors’ Bureau Facebook and Instagram pages.



By: Kevin Clack

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved



Abilene 'smart' water meter project on-pace, over 7,000 already replaced


ABILENE, Texas — The City of Abilene's water meter replacement project is "on-pace," according to Water Utilities Public Information Officer Amanda Pope.


Back in 2016, Abilene residents complained to KTXS about inaccurate and expensive water bills. Back then, City Manager Robert Hanna called the "smart" water meter replacement project an "intelligent expense."


The $18 million project began in September and is being funded through a loan from the Texas Water Development Board.


Pedal Valves Inc. was awarded the replacement contract. They have replaced about 7,200 meters so far.


During the 18-24 month long project, the City of Abilene said 43,000 meters will be replaced with "smart" meters.



When Abilene residents see a white flyer with the City of Abilene logo hanging from their door, PVI expects to replace a meter within one weeks time.


"If the meter does have to be changed, the water could be shut off for 15 to 30 minutes," Pope said. "So that's just an indicator if we need to schedule something specifically, we can do that."


The meter in Elysha Trego's front lawn was replaced on Monday afternoon.


"I hope it works," Trego said. "I hope it helps our bill."


The new meters will eventually allow residents to track their water usage on a day-to-day basis. However, that online tool is still being tested for accuracy.


"Once we get that up and running, they'll be able to go in and see their water usage in real time," Pope said.


There is no timetable as to when the online water-usage-tracker will be live.



By AJ Gersh

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved






Abilene pianist Halle Puckett: The key to performance is to 'create this moment'


If there is a theme to Halle Puckett's piano performances, it's being in the moment.


In a recent interview with the Reporter-News, the 2016 Abilene High School graduate who will perform for the second time with Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra emphasized the importance and the joy of bringing a classic work to life before an audience.


Practice is for making sure all the notes are learned.


Performance is when those notes across the 88 keys at her fingertips live and breathe.


"Above everything, it's about communicating your feelings," she said. Her job is to create an atmosphere for enjoyment of a classic work, and to convey the emotion sought by the composer.


Puckett will play Beethoven's "Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major" for the Philharmonic's first concert of the new decade at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The title of the program is "Emperor Concerto," the name popularly given this piece.


She is excited "to get to come back and perform again," she said.

A young talent


Puckett is a senior majoring in piano performance at Texas Christian University. As the daughter of two noted pianists who teach at Hardin-Simmons University, Mark and Lauren Puckett, it would be surprising if she didn't have a soloist's skill set.


"I grew up in a very musical household," she said, laughing.


At 13, she won the Philharmonic's 2012 Nelda Hodges Young Artists Competition. Two years earlier, she was recorded at First Baptist Church for the NPR's program "From the Top."


These opened the doors to concert halls and performing as guest artist.


"I first met Halle during the 2012 Nelda Hodges Young Artist Competition, and was extremely impressed by her mastery of the piano at such a young age," said David Itkin, the Philharmonic's conductor and music director. "Since then, I have invited her to play at several workshops and festivals that I have hosted over the past couple of years and we are all very excited to have her back performing with the Abilene Philharmonic."


In January 2014, she made her concert hall debut, performing Mozart's "Concerto No. 23 in A major with the local symphony. She has performed at a musical festival in McCall, Idaho, and at workshops at the University of North Texas, both under Itkin. Itkin is a professor of music and directs orchestral studies at UNT.


Additionally, Puckett fondly remembers a following concert with her parents at the Paramount Theatre. That performance, Pucketts at the Piano, included all three playing at once on one piano at one point. Their skill allowed that venture to project a musical freeway rather than a traffic jam and colliding fingers.


"That was very exciting," she said, "and very different."


Her parents also performed together in April 2017 with Abilene Civic Orchestra.


Asked if during her preparation for a major performance she test drives the work for her parents, she said she does and appreciates their input.


"My parents are exceptionally talented pianists. I trust their opinions," she said. "They give me another pair of ears, and I appreciate any advice."


What it takes


Understand this, young pianists: To be excellent takes work.


"The obvious answer is lots of practice," Puckett said.


Puckett said she practices up to seven hours a day even as a student. Her instructor is John Ownings, who is chairman of the piano department at the Fort Worth university.


"He is an amazing teacher," she said. A critical ear is an ally, not an enemy.


It's in the small, windlowless practice room in a music building basement — with no cellphone service, she adds, laughing — by herself that she masters the music. There are many notes to memorizes, and tempo and tone to sort out.


You'd think her fingers would wear out first after playing thousands of notes, and then again, but it's time to stop when she is mentally spent. 


"It takes a tremendous amount of mental focus," she said of making every note and nuance count.


She adheres to the dynamics marked on the music, and makes sure that "my third finger goes here," she said. It's from the basics that her performance arises.


It may sound as if it's all work and no play for this college student. But she insists that she is not a dull girl.


An honor graduate at Abilene High and a Reporter-News Star Student, she said, "Fort Worth has lots to do downtown. We have an incredible orchestra and there are art museums."


She also enjoys writing and reading.


"I hang out with my friends," she said. "And I watch movies."


On to the concert hall


Her preparation accomplished, Puckett is ready to join dozens of other musicians on stage. It's then, she said, she can "communicate my feelings" and connect the audience to the piece she is playing.


"It also takes experience," she said of being a concert soloist. That can't be acquired playing alone in a practice room.


"Keep calm and ... breathe," Puckett said of performing a piece that may go 40 minutes or longer. The reward is not missing a note but seeing how much the audience has appreciated the music as she interpreted it.


When she is on stage, her role is to "create this moment" that blends timeless music and her performance.


Earlier this concert season, cellist Amid Peled told the Reporter-News that he never plays the same piece the same way twice.


Puckett understands that. While the performance must remain true to the composer's vision, there are opportunities to incorporate herself into the work, she said.


"I definitely think that in a performance, there tends to be elements of opportunity," she said. 


The Abilene Philharmonic audience in September 2018 enjoyed the body language of young pianist Daniel Hsu, who performed Chopin's "Concerto No. 1 in E Minor."


"The audience definitely likes that kind of performance," she said of watching a pianist at work. Expression matters.


And so Saturday, the audience likely will see her hair waving as her fingers fly across the keys and her body sway at the end of runs, then witness her delicate playing.


Her enjoyment "will show through," she said.


About this piece


Puckett is thrilled to take on the "Emperor Concerto," a piece that dates to 1810. In three movements, it's right out of the game with piano playing that sets a majestic mood for the piece.


"Beethoven's 'Emperor Concerto' is a big undertaking for a young pianist, and I think audiences will be very impressed," Itkin said.


This is not a piece that eventually brings in the pianist. She will begin with flourish immediately, her hands dashing up and down the keyboard.


'It is extremely challenging," she said of the virtuosic introduction. Eventually, the orchestra takes the lead and the soloist waits patiently until her or his turn to take charge.


The second movement, she said, is "the most beautiful (music) I've ever heard."


The movement leads into the final movement Puckett describes as a "dance. Fun and joyful."


In total, the Beethoven concerto is "regal and triumphant. It's one of the greatest pieces of literature, all repertoires.


"It is so much fun."


If You Go


What: "The Emperor Concerto," featuring guest pianist Halle Puckett performing Beethoven's "Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major," and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D major"


When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday


Where: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.


Tickets: Range to $40, with $5 student tickets available. Go to abilenephilharmonic.org/tickets. 


Note: Those with tickets to the performance but also wanting to attend the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature event honoring Gary McCaleb are invited to Friday's rehearsal of "Emperor Concerto." It begins at 7 p.m. at the Convention Center.


Dad on stage, too


On Feb. 3, a string chamber music recital at Hardin-Simmons University will feature Mark Puckett, Halle Puckett's father, as soloist. There also will be two guest artists from the Dallas Opera Orchestra: Sondra Brudnak on violin and Vilma Peguero on cello. The program offers works by Igor Stravinsky, Clara Schumann and Astor Piazzolla


It will be at 7:30 p.m. at Woodward-Dellis Recital Hall. There is no admission cost.



By Greg Jaklewicz

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved





Why they march the bridge in Abilene: Community, unity and the children


After crossing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge on East Highway 80 on sunny and pleasant winter day, Michael T. Royals gathered the youngest participants and had them face the adults.


He had them recite a pledge aimed at honoring and respecting their parents, grandparents and the adults in their lives.


Then he explained why:


"They are bricks," he told the youths. "So, if you want to stay out of trouble, walk on the bricks. Walk on the bricks. Do you see all of these bricks right here? These are bricks. You all are not bricks yet. Anything y'all go through, these bricks, they've gone through. They've done it."


Kaden Ferguson, 6, plays with his miniature American flag while sitting atop the shoulders of his father, Sam. The pair were waiting for the start of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. march across the MLK bridge in east Abilene.

Kaden Ferguson, 6, plays with his miniature American flag while sitting atop the shoulders of his father, Sam. The pair were waiting for the start of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. march across the MLK bridge in east Abilene. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


While Royals — who again helped organize the annual march with the help of his family, carrying on the tradition started by his father, Claudie C. Royal — addressed the children in the crowd, Kelvin Kelley used his time with the microphone to speak with and to the adults.


The bricks in the crowd.


Kelley laid out his reasons for coming every Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for the celebration, choosing to honor the slain civil rights leader through marching rather than through partying at banquets.


Community, unity and the children, he said. Those are his reasons. Honoring all three will lead to a better life, a better city, a better country and a better world.


"I think this is more than a march," said Kelley, a professor at Hardin-Simmons University. "It is a walk for community. You see, community is the only thing that's going to build this nation. You can't build through politics. You can't build through ideology. You can't build through the things we try to hold fast to.


Participants make the loop around the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge as they participate in Monday's march honoring the slain civil rights leader near his birthdate of Jan. 15, 1929.

Participants make the loop around the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge as they participate in Monday's march honoring the slain civil rights leader near his birthdate of Jan. 15, 1929. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


"Community is the gift. And because it is a gift, you have to honor it."


Unity, he said, requires folks coming together, no matter what they look like. And children are who everyone fights to make things better for, he said, including leaders such as King who paved the way for today's Americans to try their best.


About 1,000 folks crossed the bridge Monday afternoon, coming from all walks of life. A mix of race, creed, religion, socio-economic standing and more were seen in a show of unity that demonstrated Kelley's points better than his words ever could.


Michelle Royals on Monday walks ahead of the Hardin-Simmons University basketball team, which carried the banner for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. bridge march in east Abilene. The afternoon event began in the parking lot at Woodson Center for Excellence, proceeded south on Cockerell Drive, then marched west over the MLK bridge and returned to Cockerell and Woodson.

Michelle Royals on Monday walks ahead of the Hardin-Simmons University basketball team, which carried the banner for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. bridge march in east Abilene. The afternoon event began in the parking lot at Woodson Center for Excellence, proceeded south on Cockerell Drive, then marched west over the MLK bridge and returned to Cockerell and Woodson. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)



By Timothy Chipp

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

Eyes were wide at first peek inside new youth sports complex at Nelson Park




The small group of first-time visitors to the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park was awed late Wednesday afternoon. Mainly by the size of the cavernous new home to the Abilene Youth Sports Authority on the east side of the park.


But also by the amenities, which will make the roughly 55,000-square-foot facility the go-to site in West Texas and perhaps in the state as a whole.


The facility is not yet completed, and visitors traversed a plywood path over dirt to the entrance. But it's close. Close enough to open late next month in time to bring the West Texas Sports and Fitness Expo there.


A panoramic picture of the interior of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center, now in the final stages of construction, Wednesday.

A panoramic picture of the interior of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center, now in the final stages of construction, Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


The annual early February event has been pushed back to Feb. 29 to provide time for the completion of construction (and perhaps take advantage of a leap year date). The event now will be known as the 2020 West Texas All Youth Expo.


The gym area, which resembles an enormous hangar that perhaps could house a couple of B-1B bombers or C-130 transport planes, is brightly lighted, features multiple basketball and volleyball and provides balcony seating for spectators. Guests were shown dressing areas, offices, the concession area near the entrance. The state-of-the-art air circulation system was explained.


Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center Executive Director Brandon Osborne answers questions about the new athletic complex during a tour Wednesday.

Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center Executive Director Brandon Osborne answers questions about the new athletic complex during a tour Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


Brandon Osborne, the executive director of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park, gestures as he leads a tour of the nearly-complete athletic facility Wednesday.

Brandon Osborne, the executive director of the Dodge Jones Youth Sports Center at Nelson Park, gestures as he leads a tour of the nearly-complete athletic facility Wednesday. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


The floor is a wood product that has give, lessening the impact on the knees of those jumping for spikes or rebounds, director Brandon Osborne said.


For those wanting to own a piece of history, spectator seats can be purchased for a one-time donation of $100. The seat will bear the name of the donor, though, Osborne joked, that doesn't mean the donor gets that specific seat at an event.


"Even with their name on it," he said, smiling. 


The project is funded by a final gift from the now-sunsetted Dodge Jones Foundation. Though Dodge Jones funds have gone to other construction projects over its decades of operation, this is the first time a structure bears its name.


Information on AYSA, the new facility and donor opportunities can be found at info@abileneaysa.org 



By Greg Jaklewicz

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved




Neal McCoy, Lindsay Ell headlining 50th West Texas Rehab Telethon and Auction


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Neal McCoy and Lindsay Ell will be headlining the 50th edition of the West Texas Rehab Telethon and Auction.


The event will take place at the Abilene Convention Center on January 18 beginning at 7:00 p.m.


In addition to live entertainment, there will be an auction featuring 400 items of merchandise and services available for bidding.


Bidding for the auction is already taking place online at westtexasrehab.org.


The auction will run through midnight on January 19 and all items will be on display at the Convention Center beginning at 6:00 p.m. on January 18.


Entertainers joining Neal McCoy and Lindsay Ell include Charlie Chase, Red Steagall, The Boys in the Bunkhouse, Rion Paige, Jennifer Douglas Smith, Braid Blanks, Brad Maule, and Tyla Foreman.


The entire event will be live-streamed online at westtexasrehab.org and broadcast on KTAB TV from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.



By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved



Wylie Bulldogs head coach and athletic director announces retirement




WYLIE ISD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hugh and Brenda Sandifer have announced their retirement effective at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Hugh, who has been the Wylie Bulldogs head football coach and athletic director since 1985, led the football team to 3 playoff appearance before 24 straight playoff appearances starting in 1994 and ending in 2017. The 2004 team won the state championship against Cuero 17-14 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco featuring Case Keenum at quarterback engineering a fourth quarter rally for the title. In addition, he had teams that were state finalists in 2000, 2009, and 2016. State semi-final teams included 1994, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2015. Sandifer’s teams compiled a record of 285-127-4.


Brenda originally worked at Abilene High as an English and French teacher and sponsored the cheerleaders and Bold Gold pep squad. Brenda has been a counselor in the district since 1985 and the district’s director of counseling since 1988. Hugh and Brenda graduated from ACU.


Hugh and Brenda said they would know in their hearts when it is time to retire. “It is very important to us to leave when there are good people in place, and they are definitely here. The future is bright for Wylie.” They emphasized that they want the focus of everything to be on the kids, not on them. Coach Sandifer has always preached “being part of something bigger than yourself.” Brenda and Hugh are carrying this sentiment with them into retirement.


Hugh Sandifer was hired by Wylie icon, superintendent Stanley Whisenhunt, in 1979. It is Coach Sandifer’s staying power that may be the his most amazing attribute. When hired, Hugh told Brenda that he would work at Wylie for a year and then they would move to another town. He had many opportunities and offers to take other jobs. He chose to remain in the Wylie family.


Hugh has taught elementary P.E., health, Texas history, and U.S. history. He has coached JV boys basketball, varsity boys basketball, tennis, JV football, and varsity football.


Hugh worked for superintendents Stanley Whisenhunt, Roy Hartman, Bud Shelton, Cecil Davis, Don Harrison, and Joey Light. In that time frame, the high school principals have been Charles Perkins, Nick Pruitt, Larry Shackelford, Steve Post, Bart McMeans, Terry Hagler, Mitch Davis, Tommy Vaughn, and Tim Smith.


Joey Light, WISD superintendent said “Coach Sandifer has invested his life in every young person whom he has encountered in the last 41 years. He has been driven to make them better students, family members, teammates, adults, and contributing members of society. He leads with a passion and commitment that is contagious. His success has helped define not only his program, but the excellence of Wylie High School. I am so grateful for what he has meant to this school district and to me personally.”



Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Taylor County commissioners approve $315,000 bid to demolish old 1931 jail

Pigeon inside of the old Taylor County Jail (Joe Fry/KTXS)


ABILENE, Texas — Taylor County commissioners approved $315,000 bid to demolish the old 1931 jail.


Garrett Demolition, Inc bid $283,095 for asbestos abatement and demolition, plus another $31,930 to fill the excavated area with clean soil.


The highest bid was $738,029 which included $467,644 for the asbestos abatement and demolition and $270,385 for the dirt.


The jail has been vacant since 1984 and has several costly issues.


  • Asbestos
  • Old cells with lead based paint
  • Roof with holes in it
  • Vegetation growing on stairs


Commissioners voted last months to accept bids, despite opposition from Commissioner Randy Williams.


Williams believes the County should at least try to sell the property before spending tax payer dollars on demo.


He reiterated those concerns during Tuesday's meeting.



By Jamie Burch

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved


Everyday Hero: Dr, John Wray gives patients a personal touch


EDITOR'S NOTE: Through the beginning of 2020, the Reporter-News is publishing stories on Everyday Heroes, people who make a difference in their communities, often without receiving recognition.


Medical personnel are there to serve people in urgent need of health care. The good ones (which most of them are) frequently go above and beyond “just doing my job.”


Dr. John Wray of Abilene Family Medical Associates apparently is one of the many “good” ones.


Edith Revoir, a nurse practitioner at Affordacare Urgent Care Clinic, has seen him in action enough to nominate him as an Everyday Hero.


“He always takes extra time with patients,” she said, adding that he is always asking if he can do anything else for them. “He has a personal touch in their care.”


Dr. John Wray, physician and Everyday Hero.

Dr. John Wray, physician and Everyday Hero. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)


It’s not only the patients that benefit, Revoir said. Wray always has encouragement for the clinic staff, reminding them frequently, “I’m only a phone call away.”


“He is always, 'How are things going? Things will get better. What can we do to make things better?'” Revoir said. 


No matter the situation, which can sometimes be stressful, Wray is never in a bad mood, she said. Even when an employee was rude to a patient, he was encouraging instead of judgmental. “‘I think things can get better. We all have room for improvement,’ was his way of handling it,” Revoir said.



Carol Miller, who has been his office nurse for “13 or 14 years,” offered a similar opinion.


“He seems to genuinely care about his patients,” she said. “He doesn’t put on airs; he enjoys what he does.”


Wray frequently will ask her to call someone he has treated previously to see how they are doing.


Wray answers to “Dr. John.” His brother James, now retired, also was a physician, and they practiced together. Calling for “Dr. Wray” became confusing, so each would answer to his first name.


Miller and Revoir both mentioned Wray’s calm and cheerful manner. Wray says he couldn’t see himself being any other way, especially in his profession.


“Nobody likes a grouchy doctor,” he said. “Anybody can be grouchy. Every day is a good day.”


Wray has been a hero to more than just his patients. Several years ago, he became a foster parent to a young man (now an adult) at Ben Richey Boys Ranch. Wray also does physical exams for athletes and Scouts. Through his church, Highland Church of Christ, he participates in out-of-state mission trips, as well as occasional visits to Guatemala.


His reason for willingly doing all this? He has a concise answer.


“We’ve been very blessed.”



By Carl Kieke

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved




Chelsea Street Pub party vibe returns for New Year's Eve at new Heff's at Mall of Abilene


New Year's Eve at Heff's place.


Hmmm ...  


Remember, folks, that Heff's in Abilene and across the area has two Fs in the name, and it's a burger place.


Not a bunny place.


Recently, the Heff's on Ridgemont Drive moved across the street to the Mall of Abilene, into the former Chelsea Street Pub. In this bit of eatery leapfrog, the Flippin' Egg moved into the space vacated by Heff's, which once was a Moe's. And before that a Pizza Inn.


Shawn Sheppard, daytime bar manager at the Heff's Burgers location in the Mall of Abilene, promises a party atmosphere suitable for families for New Year's Eve.

Shawn Sheppard, daytime bar manager at the Heff's Burgers location in the Mall of Abilene, promises a party atmosphere suitable for families for New Year's Eve. (Photo: Greg Jaklewicz/Reporter-News)


For New Year's Eve, Heff's will be bringing back the party to the mall. They'll have a band, the popular local outfit 360, as well as spirits and brews. 


And, yes, they'll have burgers and fries.


Cover charge is $10. 


For years, those celebrating the end of one year and the arrival of a new one made the Pub a destination. There would be a good band, drink specials and a toast at midnight. 


Shawn Sheppard, the current daytime bar manager, said recently that it won't get that rowdy at Heff's that now operates across from the Premiere Lux movie theater on the west side of the mall. 


"We still want to put family first," he said. "We are family first, a bar second."


This Heff's location is equipped with a full bar. It seats a little less than 200, but there is a covered outdoor area that can hold another three dozen guests.


"We feel adding a full bar to our already best burger reputation will be exciting," Brenda Heffernan, franchise owner and founder, emailed the Reporter-News recently. " I’m a fan of music."


Across the room from the bar is the stage used by any number of traveling and local musicians through the years. 


Chelsea's opened not long after the mall, which earlier this year celebrated its 40th anniversary.


A 2005 Cooper High School graduate, Sheppard said he is a Chelsea's veteran, so he knows that folks had a big night out when they maybe caught a movie, then dropped in the nightspot for a nightcap.


"We're going to have a good time ... a great time," Sheppard promised.


He said he'd be there himself.


Since its recent opening, like all new places, the operation was being smoothed. Starting with a New Year's Eve party would be both a challenge and good publicity.


"It's still a work in progress, but I think that in 2020, we'll really start rolling," Sheppard said.


The rolling will start the last few hours of 2019. Sheppard is high on the band. And the menu.


"Might as well have a Heff's burger," he said of ending the year.


Or chicken strips, twister fries and sweet tea, if a cold beer or Jack Daniel's on the rocks doesn't wet your whistle.


This Heff's will continue to be a live music venue Friday and Saturday nights, with karaoke on Sundays.



By Greg Jaklewicz

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved








Auto racing may come to Abilene Regional Airport


The Abilene City Council approved an agreement that may allow Shift S3ctor, a company that organizes timed auto races on airport runways, to hold such an event at Abilene Regional Airport in November 2020.


If successful, the race would become a yearly event.


Shift S3ctor contacted the city earlier this year about the possibility.


Shift S3ctor's Web Site

Shift S3ctor's Web Site (Photo: Bethel, Brian)


Don Green, director of transportation services, said airport staff has talked to other airports that have been hosts of this or similar events, both inside and outside the state, as well as tenants in the northwest portion of the airport that would be affected.


"No one was opposed to this," Green said. "We still have some operating issues to work out that the FAA would approve. That comes at a little bit later date. We just wanted to get council's agreement to the agreement itself this evening so that we can move forward with this so that Shift S3ctor can set a date to put in their 2020 schedule."


The airport has also met with the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau to see if it would be supportive, Green said.


"Of course, they are," he said.


All in the timing

The agreement requires a payment of $8,000 to the airport prior to the event. 


The event itself is a timed auto race that could use the airport's west parallel runway, about 7,200 feet in length.


The half mile race would have two vehicles racing on the runway, side by side, but it's not a drag race, Green said.


"They are racing against the clock," Green said. "This attracts semi-pro drivers, it attracts drivers at some of these other events from across the country, and even some who are international drivers."


 A similar event in Colorado Springs, Colorado, attracts roughly 8,000 spectators, Green said.


Should it happen, admission into the event area would be charged by Shift S3ctor.


Local nonprofits will be asked by Shift S3ctor to provide volunteers for various functions and will earn funds for doing so.


Shift S3ctor also will recruit food and beverage vendors, including beer and wine (by TABC-licensed vendors), to be sold in the event area.


The race event will occur over a Saturday and Sunday and the Airport Use Agreement will include the day before and day after the event for setup and cleanup.


Under this agreement, Shift S3ctor is responsible for obtaining coverage from police and fire departments, as well as emergency medical services providers. It will also provide required liability insurance coverage.


Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com



By Brian Bethel

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

Abilene ISD's 2020-21 calendar adds more days off, extends school year


Abilene Independent School District trustees recently approved the 2020-21 school year calendar, adding in an additional day of instruction for students while maintaining a few traditions.


As far as what students will experience, there will be more days off throughout the school year balanced against a later finish, with the last day of classes scheduled for May 27, 2021.


The last day of classes for the current school year is scheduled for May 22.


Where are the days off?


For students, they start with Labor Day. After classes are set to begin on a Thursday, Aug. 20, the national holiday is Sept. 7.


Students will  get an extra day off in October with a four-day weekend scheduled Oct. 9-12 for the Columbus Day holiday. Oct. 9 will serve as a teacher work day, though.


In November, the district's recent tradition of a full week at Thanksgiving continues, with the entire week of Nov. 23-27 listed as holiday.


Christmas Day next year falls on a Friday, so the schedule calls for the final day of classes Dec. 18, 2020. What's different is students also will receive Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, as a day off, though it will be a teacher work day.


Students will return to classes that Jan. 5.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be a day off for everyone Jan. 18, 2021, while the district set aside Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 (Presidents Day) as a student holiday and a teacher work day.



Spring break is set for the week of March 8, 2021. Good Friday, a holiday for both students and faculty/staff, is April 2, 2021.


All-in-all, the calendar calls for 174 instruction days, compared to 173 days in this current year.


This holiday season, help support the work of Timothy Chipp, education and general news reporter for the Reporter-News, and journalists like him with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com. Get access to stories before they appear in print and never have to worry about running out of article views again.




By Timothy Chipp

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

Goodwill's work to help people locally goes far beyond discount stores

Day in and day out, the Goodwill West Texas team concentrates on helping people — their highest commodity. That includes the ones they've served and employed, as well as those who've donated to or shopped at a Goodwill store.

Day in and day out, the Goodwill West Texas team concentrates on helping people — their highest commodity. That includes the ones they’ve served and employed, as well as those who’ve donated to or shopped at a Goodwill store. (Photo: Courtesy Goodwill – West Texas)



When most of us think of Goodwill-West Texas, “things” are what usually come to mind first. We think about donating our used household goods and clothing, or we think about thrifting for secondhand items at a Goodwill retail store. But at the heart of its mission, Goodwill is really about people, by providing “opportunities to persons with barriers to employment” through job training and business services.


Day in and day out, the Goodwill West Texas team concentrates on helping people — their highest commodity. That includes the ones they’ve served and employed, as well as those who’ve donated to or shopped at a Goodwill store. Above all, Goodwill “empowers people, helps them fulfill their potential, improves the lives of their families and contributes to the growth of their community.” Goodwill hires local people, helps local people and gets by with the support of local people. They are your friends, your neighbors and your loved ones.


In the spirit of the holiday season, here’s a deeper look at the services provided to the West Texas community by Goodwill — and the work they do:


Goodwill is about offering a hand up — never a hand out — so that all individuals can experience the dignity and self-sufficiency that comes with steady employment.

Goodwill is about offering a hand up — never a hand out — so that all individuals can experience the dignity and self-sufficiency that comes with steady employment. (Photo: Courtesy Goodwill – West Texas)


Most of their money goes right back to helping people here at home.


When you spend a dollar at any Goodwill retail store, 87 cents of it goes back into programs that support the mission of Goodwill-West Texas. (Of the remainder, 11 cents go to general and administrative costs, while 2 cents are used for fundraising.) Keep that in mind when you’re considering where to donate your gently used items — or where you shop to find deals for your family.


They help people with documented barriers secure employment.


Goodwill provides jobs and training to people in the community who have a strong desire to work but who face barriers that interfere with their ability to gain and maintain a job. Goodwill works with individuals to identify their obstacles then helps them deal with those challenges. Goodwill is about offering a hand up — never a hand out — so that all individuals can experience the dignity and self-sufficiency that comes with steady employment.


Their mission starts with their own team members.


Goodwill-West Texas employs over 300 people at 14 retail locations in 10 cities across 35 counties, and nearly 60% of their employees have a documented barrier. The Goodwill team works in collaboration with an extensive network of practical, thoughtful partners who provide assistance. Every year they continually strive to broaden their scope of job training and business services, in alignment with their core mission.


Goodwill-West Texas offers diverse career paths, with opportunities in administration, management, retail, groundskeeping and janitorial services. Working at Goodwill allows people to positively impact their community and see the Goodwill mission lived out on a daily basis.


They have three regional career centers. 


Goodwill is committed to not only helping people find jobs — but to helping them keep those jobs, too. The Goodwill Career Centers in Abilene, San Angelo and Odessa offer one-on-one services to help individuals reach their employment goals. The services are completely free to anyone.


They include assistance with getting an ID, one-on-one career counseling, job-readiness skills training, resume writing, interviewing skills, job search assistance, computer access and training, soft skills training for youth, job placement and job retention training. 


The Abilene Career Center is relatively new, having opened in 2017, and it helped over 300 people in the Big Country with their career goals during that first year alone.


Beyond the career centers, Goodwill offers on-the-job and work adjustment training, as well as digital skills courses for people with all levels of computer proficiency.


They help youth as well as adults.


Goodwill-West Texas offers a program called Youth Ahead that supports at-risk youth in the region. Working with local partners, Goodwill facilitates Youth Ahead classes and curriculum to provide employability and soft skills training. The goal of the program is to prepare youth to enter the workforce — serving them now so that they face fewer barriers in the future.


They have been around a long time.


Founded in 1983, Goodwill-West Texas is a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. It is affiliated with the national Goodwill Industries, which was founded in 1902 in Boston, by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and social innovator.


Helms was said to carry a burlap sack of used shoes, clothing and household items, to help people in need in his own neighborhood. He trained and hired people in need to mend and repair goods, then paid their wages from the profits made from selling the repaired goods at a weekly church bazaar. The Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.  


Today, Goodwill focuses on offering job training and vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities and disadvantages, so they can lead independent lives. They also collect donations from the communities they serve to provide employment in their production and retail areas. Every Goodwill shares a common philosophy of assisting people with disabilities or other critical needs in their efforts to work, but each Goodwill is autonomous, allowing the individual agencies to respond to the needs of their particular communities.


About Goodwill-West Texas


Goodwill-West Texas is a lot more than a place to donate used household goods and clothing. They are not “just a thrift store.” Goodwill is really about changing lives and fulfilling their mission. By donating your new or gently used items, shopping in their stores or donating to Goodwill directly, you are helping fulfill their mission!



By Stepfanie Romine

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

Give back to the place you call home this Christmas



As winter settles in, it is a great time to take pride in where you live and where you come from. Having a community that extends beyond your immediate family can give people a real sense of place and belonging.


In Texas, connecting on a local level in the town you call home is an important part of life. This is especially true during the Christmas season, when people come together in faith and family.


Doing all of your socializing online can make it easy to forget that real life occurs in person - it’s the lights, festivities and local shopping and dining that make for holiday memories which last.


In addition, businesses and individuals embrace the holidays as a time to increase their charitable giving. There are lots of ways to connect with each other during the holidays!


Here are just some of the ways you can:


Volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen


No one should go hungry during the holidays. Most towns and regions have community centers, food pantries, soup kitchens and faith-based ministries that provide hot meals for the needy or homeless.


It’s the season for rolling up your sleeves and opening your hearts to those in need. Exchanging smiles and conversations will surely brighten your day as well!


Donate to Toys for Tots


The Toys for Tots program was started by the marine corps 71 years ago as a community action program that soon spread to towns across the nation. Each season, this charitable mission provides new toys for children in need, with collection stations at local businesses.


For example, every First Bank Texas branch has a Toys for Tots box in the lobby, which is always overflowing with community participation. Even if you put just one toy in the box, you can be sure that a less fortunate child will smile on Christmas morning.


Sponsor one child’s Christmas from an Angel Tree


Many businesses participate in the Salvation Army Angel Trees program. Through holiday donations, each tree offers a pledge to provide clothing and toys for children in need.


A tree is decorated with numbered paper angel tags that correspond to an individual child on the list of recipients. The tag gives a description of what might benefit the child most based their story. Contributors then remove tags from the tree and buy presents for the children. 


Salvation Army also has another option which is to provide a portion of the Christmas meal for families in Abilene when you fill a Christmas box with selected food items that will be shared with families in need.


Support local businesses

Buying local keeps more money in the community where you live, especially if you choose small businesses. By patronizing local banks, stores, restaurants and services, you are keeping the dollars circulating close to home. This helps to keep your neighborhood and community vibrant and prosperous.


While towns across America share similar chain stores and restaurants, only your town has that local farm stand, diner, specialty retailer or community bank where everyone knows your name. Having store owners within reach definitely leads to better customer service and individualized attention; what could be better this Christmas?


Mingle in the community with family and friends


The holidays are a time to make memories. Stepping out with family, friends and acquaintances brings new experiences as well as traditions. Is your church doing anything special for the season? What about local clubs?


Most towns will have night-time light festivals, holiday markets, visits with Santa, Christmas tree lightings and musical performances. See what’s going on in your town and make sure your kids put down their cell phones for a few hours. In Abilene, consider driving downtown to see the Adamson-Storybook GardenEverman Park and the City Christmas Tree or walk through the United Way Winter Lightfest


Strengthening togetherness in your community should go hand in hand with the holidays. Looking up, giving back and staying local will be sure to add sparkle to the season.


First Bank Texas has been serving their neighbors since 1885. If you’d like to open an account, or make the switch to a trusted community bank, come on in and speak to someone personally. For further information call 325-674-1885 or visit First Bank Texas.



By Violet Bauske

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved



ACU celebrates coffee with a cop day and apple fritter day with its favorite K-9



ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A positive experience for ACU students today as they celebrated National Fritter day and National Coffee with a Cop day with their favorite dog, fritter.


Remember fritter? Acu’s honorary police K-9. Well, today is a special day for fritter as it’s national coffee with a cop day and National apple fritter day.


The university is celebrating with its beloved mascot to promote and honor campus police.


This morning, fritter shared 4 hundred apple fritters with students and police and served free coffee provided by Shipley’s Donuts.

“I think it’s great, I love a free fritter just as much as anybody and so just having the students here taking part and the fritters and the fellowship and the free coffee, it’s been a great day,” said Jimmy Ellison, Chief of Police of ACU Police Department.


Students also got the chance to talk to campus police about their services and enjoy some time with Fritter.



Copyright © 2019, Big Country News (KTAB/KRBC). All Rights Reserved

Unattended kitchens leading cause of holiday cooking fires




ABILENE, Texas — The Abilene Fire Department said cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays.


"The biggest thing is people leaving their cooking unattended," said Lt. Scott Slack, an arson investigator with AFD. "It's best to stay in the kitchen while you're cooking."


The peak-day for cooking fires is Thanksgiving Day.


The average claim in Texas was more than $45,000.


"When you are cooking in the kitchen, you do need to be aware of dish towels, cords, and stuff like that," said Slack. "Just because you turn your oven top off doesn't mean it's still not hot."


If a cooking fire starts, don't put water on it.


"The best thing you can do is cover it with a lid," said Slack. "We don’t want you throwing water or stuff on top of it. If you can’t cover it with a lid, then just get everyone out of the house and call 911 so we can do our job.”


You should also have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and working smoke detectors in the home.


If you plan to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving, keep it at least 10-15 feet away from any structure.


"You want to premeasure how much oil you want to put in your fryer," said Slack. "You need to make sure your turkey is thawed and your turkey is dry.”





Copyright © 2019, KTXS 12 ABC. All Rights Reserved

By Cortney Brown

Tips for donating during Love and Care Ministries' Mission: Thanksgiving at Arrow Ford



Organizers of Mission: Thanksgiving have made the donation system as efficient as possible for the 21st annual event Friday at Arrow Ford.


Here's what donors need to know to easily and quickly contribute to Love & Care Ministries' drive to collect goods for people experiencing homelessness or in need. 


Drivers headed eastbound on South First Street near the Ford dealership, 4001 S. First St., are advised to take precautions because of the added traffic during the donation hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.



Courtney Pruett, left, helps unload a car during Mission: Thanksgiving Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Arrow Ford.

Courtney Pruett, left, helps unload a car during Mission: Thanksgiving Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Arrow Ford.



Where do I donate? 


Traffic will be directed to flow one way through the Arrow Ford parking lot. Enter the far west entrance to the parking lot and follow directions to the area where volunteers will unload the donations from the vehicles.



What is needed?


Canned goods, clothing, sleeping bags, blankets and more. When possible, items should be bagged instead of boxed for easier loading into the semi-trailers. 



Can I donate money?


Volunteers can accept cash, checks and credit card donations. 


"We just started that (electronic donations) last year, and it worked out pretty good. We had several people who came through who did that," said Carolyn Hewitt, office manager for Love & Care Ministries.



I live outside Abilene. Are there other locations to donate?


Mission: Thanksgiving will be taking place at the same time at Love & Care Ministries' facilities in Clyde, 605 S. First St., and Merkel, 906 N. Third St. 






By Laura Gutschke

Copyright © 2019, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved