A year of change

January 2, 2018

10. Big news this year were changes at the local cemeteries. State guidelines, as well as local rules that had long been in the books began to be enforced.

Local cemeteries had begun to be a maintenance nightmare for caretakers of the cemetery due to the amount of decorations placed on the graves and left there. Another problem was unpermitted curbing and other cement work.

The complaints from concerned citizens mostly had to do with wondering why they were not made aware of these guidelines when making their purchase of a burial plot. Also of concern was the worry that not everyone was going to be treated the same.

These changes caused flared tempers and many comments on social media, but in the end the cemeteries were cleaned up and, for the most part, back up to code.

The local cemeteries receive no local funding from either the county or the city and rely solely on donations and money brought in from the sale of burial plots.

9. Shortfall budgets were the story of the day for all local taxing entities as land property values dropped and the oil base went down.

Terry County Commissioners, Brownfield ISD, Brownfield Regional Medical Center and the City of Brownfield all felt the sting of declining income and were forced to come up with cuts in the budgets.

Nevertheless, even with the cuts, some entities were forced to operate under a deficit budget.

The 2016 tax evaluations were down right at 17% over 2015. In 2017, evaluations did go up 10% but that is still not enough to get it back where it was.

8. Texting while driving became illegal in Texas on September 1, thanks in no small part to the continual efforts of a Terry County family.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the ban into law in June, ending a decade-long effort by safety advocates to reduce potentially deadly driver distractions on the road.

With Gov. Abbot’s signature, House Bill 62, also known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, became the law of the land on September 1.

On November 10, 2009, 17-year-old Alex was killed when she crashed her truck on a rural road while she was on her way to school.

She was carrying on text messaging to four different friends at the time of the crash, traveling at 70 mph and was not wearing a seat belt.

Alex was thrown through the passenger side window and her truck rolled over, crushing her.

Her friends reported that she was running late for school since she had been on Facebook that morning.

Her death caught the attention of several communities and all of West Texas as her name became a rallying cry for teenagers to stop texting while driving.

Alex’s mom, Jeanne, told the Brownfield News when the bill was signed that a weight was lifted from her shoulders with the Governor’s signature.

“It was hard to believe and I didn’t at first,” she said. “A friend congratulated me and I thought she was wrong. I had to go look and saw that he had signed it.”

Brown also received a call from Governor Abbot that week to thank her for helping get the bill passed.

Texas was one of the last states to adopt some kind of texting while driving ban when the law took effect.

7. After six seasons leading the Brownfield Cubs as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach, Bryan Welps announced late in March that he had accepted the same position at Amarillo River Road, the program he left to come to Brownfield in 2011.

Welps concluded his tenure with BISD April 14, following the district track meet in Cub Stadium.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but after many hours of thought and prayer, I believe it is the right one for my family,” he said at the time, from his office overlooking the manicured grass of Cub Stadium. “I’m going to miss that view and I’m going to miss everyone in Brownfield. This community has become a big part of me and I am grateful for all of the support I have had over the last six years.”

River Road officials announced Welps as their new (and former) AD/HC at a press conference shortly after his local announcement.

Welps finished his stay in Brownfield with a 28-36-1 record and led the Cubs to the playoffs from 2012 to 2015.

The coach told the News that his decision to leave Brownfield was made with no negative factors in mind.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to wear the Cubs logo for six years,” he said. “No matter where I go or where I end up, I’ll always be a Cub.”

Cubs basketball coach Steve Rhodes assumed the athletic director position on an interim basis through the end of the year while a search kicked off for Welps’ replacement.

That replacement came just three weeks later with the hiring of Jeff Smith, who moved to Brownfield from Stinnett to take over the Cubs athletics program.

The 44-year-old Smith has two decades of experience as a coach, most recently as Offensive Coordinator at West Texas High School. Previous coaching stints include stops in Bushland, Merkel, Anson, Dimmitt, and Shamrock. Brownfield is his first AD position, but it is something he has long aspired to.

“My passions are football and kids and coaching,” he told the Brownfield News following his hiring. “I’m excited about coming to Brownfield and the opportunity to coach at the next level.”

6. December brought the widely expected, but still welcomed, news that the Brownfield Cubs will compete at the 3A level in all athletic and academic competitions for the next two years.

After struggling at the 4A level since the last biennial UIL realignment process, this year’s numbers made official what Brownfield students, coaches, and fans wanted to hear — the Cubs will be in the 3A ranks soon.

On the official UIL Snapshot submission day in November, Brownfield ISD turned in an enrollment total of 465 students, which is composed of the total campus enrollment of the Brownfield High School campus and a partial enrollment total of the Brownfield Education Center.

The UIL made it official December 6, with the release of its 2018-20 classification cutoff numbers.

Brownfield joins 105 other high schools across the state in the Class 3A, Division 1 rankings, with an enrollment between 335 and 504 students.

In the 2015 UIL Snapshot submission, Brownfield High School’s enrollment was more than 490, which landed the school district in the lower rungs of the Class 4A ranks and sent the Cubs into the Division II football classification.

Still to be determined is which direction the Cubs will travel for district games. The upcoming UIL realignment will be officially released on Feb. 1, 2018 for the 2018-2020 school years.

5. For BISD, this year has been interesting. From testing to leadership, the year was marked with change.

In June, early numbers showed all local districts as having “Met Standard” in state wide testing. In a school year that has certainly had its ups and downs, this was good news for BISD.

The district also received commendations in several subject areas. This was the fourth year out of five for the district to earn “Met Standard.”

Big growth areas for the district were in fifth and eighth grade math. Fifth grade science was also commended.

One BISD board meeting during the year had various speakers signed up to address the board with concerns or complaints about administration issues.

BISD incumbents lost elections as voters seemed to be looking for change. Wayne Taylor was defeated by Tim Swaringen and Jimmy Hammons was defeated by Will Hawkins.

4. Brownfield ISD Superintendent Dr. Tanya Monroe announced in November that she will be leaving the district mid-year for the same position with Comfort ISD in the Texas Hill Country.

Word spread quickly after a Comfort ISD administrator posted the news to his Twitter account at 5 a.m. November 16.

Dr. Monroe confirmed the information to the Brownfield News early that morning, then shared her announcement with BISD campus administrators and instructed them to inform their staffs.

She began her tenure with BISD in 2013 following the retirement of Jerry Jones.

Dr. Monroe will begin her duties in Comfort — a small 3A school district — soon after the holidays.

“I am excited for the opportunity and looking forward to a new adventure in Comfort,” she told the News. “I have enjoyed my time in Brownfield, working with some wonderful and dedicated educators. I can’t say enough about the students of Brownfield. A part of me will always be a Cub.”

Thus begins the search for a new Brownfield ISD Superintendent.

Board of Trustees President Tony Serbantez told the News following Monroe’s announcement that an interim superintendent would be appointed soon while a search committee is organized to find a suitable replacement for Dr. Monroe.

“We wish her the best and appreciate her hard work while in Brownfield,” he said. “I think she did what she was hired to do and helped us improve academically. Moving forward, I feel confident that we will be able to attract quality applicants for the job that will continue to lead Brownfield ISD into a bright future.”

Dr. Monroe signed her contract with Comfort ISD following the mandatory 21-day waiting period before an individual may be officially hired after being named the lone finalist for superintendent of a school district.

The Brownfield School Board will meet Jan 4 to discuss the Interim position.

3. A hailstorm moved through the area on a Sunday night in April, leaving in its wake hundreds of damaged roofs around town, as well as damage to grapevines near the city limits. Roads were flooded and motorists found themselves stranded in the rain which ranged from two to six inches within the area around the city.

The following Monday morning found roofing companies swarming the town, looking for business. Looking back after the grape harvest was complete, many of the vineyards fared much better than was feared initially.  In June, another hailstorm pounded the northern part of the county, wiping out cotton crops and doing major damage to roofs and windows. A lightning strike sparked a hay fire resulting in over $15,000 damage.

2. Brownfield officials and managers of the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility shuttered the city-owned building at the close of business on the last day of May, marking the end of a 25-year relationship with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Management Training Corporation, the private firm that contracted with the city to run the prison for the Texas Departent of Criminal Justice, assisted employees in the transition.

Almost 80 people drew paychecks from the ISF, according to the facility’s warden.

Most of the ISF inmates were transfered to the adjacent Rudd Unit. The ISF housed roughly 270 parole violators.

City Manager Eldon Jobe told the Brownfield News that he was sad to see the ISF close its doors, but he remains optimistic a solution will be found.

“The ISF was a great move by our city’s leaders in the early ‘90s and it has paid for itself many times in rent and utilities,” he said. “I feel like there are other opportunities for this facility and MTC has agreed to help us market the building. It won’t happen overnight, but it is still a good building in great shape and someone will see its potential.”

Maintenance now falls on City workers, including landscaping and upkeep of the facility.  In addition to the jobs affected, closure of the ISF is impacting City coffers as well.  MTC paid the city roughly a quarter million dollars annually for the contract. The ISF opened in 1994 and is debt free, paid for with a 10-year bond.

Another blow to the city was the loss of the facility as a utilities customer.

The ISF was one of the Top 10 consumers of electricity and water on the city’s infrastructure.

1. A look around Brownfield in 2017 leaves the impression of strong progress for the community as numerous highly visible construction projects were underway.

Work began in February on a much-needed facelift and expansion of the Allsup’s convenience store at the corner of Lubbock Hwy and Buckley.

Heavy machinery began the process of removing and replacing underground fuel tanks and the New Mexico-based convenience store company is in the midst of a complete make-over and expansion on the location, which saw the familiar convenience store remade, inside and out.

In December, the chain began a massive project at its other Brownfield location. The Allsup’s on Tahoka Hwy will soon be leveled along with half a dozen homes nearby to make room for an all new truck stop at the site.

Construction on the project will conclude in 2018.

Pizza Hut/Taco Bell

The busiest intersection in Brownfield was the site of another major construction project, with the demolition, then reconstruction of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

The local landmark had stood at the location since the 1970s but was replaced with a brand new building that included the addition of another popular fast food chain.

Bush’s Chicken

After almost a year of delay, the long-anticipated construction of a well known franchise restaurant began in the summer.

Crews began work on Bush’s Chicken with a brand new 3,000 square foot building similar to locations opened in recent years in Lamesa and Seminole.

Bush’s Chicken opened in the fall with 20 full time and 30 part time employees, and has proved to be a popular stop for hungry locals and travelers alike.

Stanley Dodge Chrysler Jeep

Brownfield opened its first new car dealership in more than a decade when Stanley Ford Lincoln completed renovations on an existing building and opened Stanley Dodge Chrysler Jeep.

Offices inside the former GMC sales building were refurbished and painters put final touches on the exterior.

Patel’s Flooring

A new building was erected on a long-vacant lot on the Lubbock Hwy.

Patel’s Flooring opened across the highway from Chisum Truck Stop.

The locally owned business was formerly located in the rear of Vision furniture, however that building has sold to CMS Properties of Lubbock.

No plans have been announced for that location at Broadway and Lubbock Hwy.

Brisendine Plaza

Another highly visible project revamped a long vacant eyesore in Brownfield’s downtown.

The Lynn Brisendine Community Plaza was completed in December and dedicated in the name of the longtime Brownfield News Publisher and community activist.

The project was financed by the TIRZ board, a temporary taxing entity dedicated to revitalizing the courthouse square.

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Category: Updates