From economic development to efforts to improve phone and internet technology, 2017 was a busy year in Lampasas. Following is a summary of the year’s news from the Lampasas Dispatch Record.
Heston and Stevie McBride of Burnet bought AgroTech from Benton and Linda Floerke in the spring. The Floerkes remain on staff in the family feed and fertilizer business.
Putters & Gutters Fun Center opened in May. The business – on U.S. Highway 281 South across from the Palapa Springs commercial center – offers bowling, miniature golf, food and entertainment.
Benny Boyd Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram completed work on a 2,800-square-foot show room and office space. Built by M.W. Hail Construction, the addition was started in 2016 and completed by June 2017.
After 40-plus years in the profession, Ken Cattles sold Cattles Pharmacy in July to J.D. Fain and Kevin George.
CenTex Cryotherapy, owned by Randy and Sonja Morris, opened in the summer. Located on East Third Street, Centex Cryotherapy uses extreme cold temperatures in a controlled environment to treat chronic pain.
Oil States Industries broke ground in September on a 42,200-square-foot warehouse facility just south of its existing building on Central Texas Expressway.
The historic Gillen House at 606 S. Key Ave. left the family that bears its name. For nearly a century, the Gillens owned the home, which was built in 1907. In total, five generations of the family lived in the house at one time or another.
The two-story Victorian home was sold to attorney Eddie Shell in November. Shell intends to make it into an office for his firm.
Estates of Lampasas, a 78-unit apartment complex for residents 55 and older, opened in October at 807 N. Ridge St. Residents had moved in by November, and in the final week of December, touch-up work continued on a few units.
Kansas-based Wheatland Investments purchased the 15-acre site and began construction in 2016.
City of Lampasas Building Official Bryan Ellis reported that 36 permits were issued for new construction from Jan. 1-Dec. 29, 2017. Of those, 32 were residential and four commercial.
In response to multiple phone and internet service outages this year, the Lampasas Economic Development Corp. selected Foresite Group Inc. to assess the city’s telecommunications infrastructure and develop a plan for improvements.
Several outages, mostly from late spring to early fall, disrupted telecommunications in Lampasas, including 911 calls, which were rerouted.
Multiple outages were blamed on cuts in a fiber optic line.
Lampasas' internet service provider, AT&T, has said it is designing an alternate fiber route to Lampasas so the city will continue to have service if the fiber line to the south is cut again.
Although Lampasas had a quiet year in weather news, local residents assisted in several disaster-stricken parts of Texas.
In May, local police officers assisted in Canton after a tornado.
A variety of emergency personnel and private citizens from the Lampasas area responded to Hurricane Harvey. Among the thousands of rescues in flood-ravaged Houston, Lampasas residents David Guthrie and Kenneth Riddle were credited with rescuing a man from his residence using two jon boats. The Houston man called the Lampasas Police Department to express appreciation for the rescuers, who later were identified on Facebook.
Mandy Walsh returned to her hometown to work as Lampasas' director of economic development, a position she assumed in February.
Kempner Mayor Carolyn Crane was re-elected and sworn in for her second term in May.
Misti Talbert began her term as Lampasas mayor after an uncontested May election.
Dan Hause returned to the position of chief for the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department. Hause, a KVFD firefighter for more than 20 years total, was named chief on June 1.
Lampasas County native Molly Lesley was named executive director of the Lampasas County Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Lesley officially began her new role in June.
In August, Kempner celebrated 20 years as an incorporated city.
In September, the Lometa City Council appointed council member Sara Salinas to the office of mayor to complete the unexpired term of Cynthia Kirby. Ms. Kirby, who served almost nine years as mayor, announced she was resigning because she was moving outside the city limits.
The Kempner police force grew from two full-time employees to four full-time employees and a reserve officer.
Litigation continues between Kempner Water Supply Corp. and the city of Lampasas over a long-term water contract between the two entities.
KWSC has claimed the contract imposes an unfair financial burden on the corporation -- an assertion the city of Lampasas disputes. As a result, the KWSC Board of Directors voted in November to gather information about possible sale of the corporation.
If the board decides to pursue the option of selling the corporation, KWSC members will have to approve the sale by majority vote at the annual membership meeting March 22.
Lampasas Independent School District became a District of Innovation in January 2017. District of Innovation status gives LISD a much more flexible schedule – with the 2017-2018 school year starting earlier in August than in previous years. LISD also has flexibility in other matters, including the ability to hire teachers with professional credentials but who are not certified teachers.
LISD's Career and Technical Education program expanded immensely under CTE Director Randy Brady, who was hired in January.
The high school offers 74 sections of CTE classes this school year, compared to 43 previously. Some of the new courses include programming, culinary arts and forensics.
In February, then Assistant Superintendent Nancy Yeary announced she would retire at the end of the school year in June.
A flurry of hiring and promotions started, after then-Lampasas High School Principal Mark Kehoe was pegged for the assistant superintendent job. LISD announced Kehoe's high school slot would be filled by Dr. Kevin Bott, who had been Hanna Springs Elementary School principal.
Kehoe resigned from LISD in May, however, as he accepted a position at Azle Independent School District. The resignation set off another round of hirings.
Bott was named assistant superintendent after Kehoe’s departure, and Robert White was selected for the LHS principal position. White previously was principal at McGregor High School.
Leslie Talamantes was hired to fill the role of principal at Hanna Springs Elementary. She had been an assistant principal in Dripping Springs ISD.
Lampasas High School had its first National Merit Scholar in decades with 2017 valedictorian Rachel Porter.
Miss Porter was one of 7,500 students across the nation to earn the honor.
The petition for detachment of a swath of land in LISD and its annexation into the Copperas Cove ISD did not see much movement in 2017.
In June, the LISD Board of Trustees dismissed a grievance by Bellpas Inc. because it was not filed within the deadline specified by board policy.
Throughout the year, trustees held executive sessions to discuss the annexation measure, but no vote was taken. The petition was launched in 2016 by developer Wes Atkinson.
The LHS cheer squad won the National Cheerleaders Association championship in January, and a November performance in the Universal Cheerleaders Association earned the girls a bid to the 2018 nationals.
The death of various longtime Lampasas County residents and business owners was noted during 2017. Among those were:
• His Kids founder Richard Williams, who died Jan. 18 at the age of 82.
Williams was a retired highway patrolman who served with the Texas Department of Public Safety for 40 years.
Known by many as “Big R,” Williams initiated the youth program His Kids in 1977 and oversaw the ministry until his death.
• Former chamber of commerce executive director Carl E. Miller, who died Feb. 20 at the age of 84.
Miller graduated from Lampasas High School in 1951 before attending Tarleton State University and serving two years in the U.S. Army.
After living in Austin for many years, he and his wife returned to Lampasas in 1986.
Miller served as executive director of the Lampasas County Chamber of Commerce from 1990-1998.
• Hospital benefactor Tracy Guthrie died Feb. 21. She was 83.
Ms. Guthrie was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and earned her nursing degree from Skidmore College. After 25 years as a nurse, she moved to Lometa in 1985 to operate her parents’ cattle ranch.
Ms. Guthrie became involved in helping save Rollins Brook Community Hospital in the early 1990s when it reopened under the auspices of Metroplex Hospital and the Adventist Health System.
In 2007, a fundraiser hosted at the Guthrie Ranch raised more than $30,000 to purchase a digital endoscope system for the Rollins Brook surgical services department. And in 2013 a helipad was added to the local hospital, funded in part by a generous donation from Ms. Guthrie.
• Lampasas business owner Willie V “Bill” Bierschwale died March 16 at the age of 85.
He ran a successful building materials business in the Dallas area before relocating to Lampasas County in 1977. In 1978, Bierschwale and his wife opened a Montgomery Ward store in downtown Lampasas, which they operated until 1982.
Bierschwale began a new business venture when he opened Diversified Shop Services where, among other things, he fabricated parts for Oil States Industries.
• Longtime insurance agent Waymon Davis died April 26. He was 85.
He moved to Burnet County in 1961 to take over operations of the Lillie Belle Ranch. He also became an agent for GPM Life Insurance Co., from which he retired after 30 years.
• Former county judge Norris Monroe died May 28 at the age of 85. He was a lifetime resident of the county.
During World War II, at the age of 11, Monroe began work as a typesetter in the office of the Lometa Reporter, where he earned the nickname “Little Gizmo” for his mechanical abilities.
He continued working for the Lometa Reporter when the business expanded to include the Lampasas Dispatch Record. Monroe was editor from 1972 to 1982.
In 1982, Monroe became editor and publisher of the Copperas Cove Leader Press and opened his own printing business.
He later served as county judge for 10 years. In addition, Monroe was chairman of the Lampasas County Democratic Party for 26 years.
• James “Jim” Hargrove, 72, died Aug. 17.
The former NFL player was with the Minnesota Vikings from 1967-1970, including Super Bowl IV, until he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where he played from 1970-1972.
Hargrove was a business owner in various fields, including furniture retail, insurance and real estate.
• Longtime real estate appraiser Ray Allen died Oct. 24 at the age of 90.
Allen became vice president of Lampasas Federal Savings and Loan Association, with which he had been associated since 1958, and ended his career with that firm in 1982.
He also was an FHA and VA real estate appraiser.
• Lifelong Lometa resident and longtime businessman Leonard F. Williams died Nov. 28. He was 74.
He owned and operated Lometa Hardware for many years.