The Commerce Journal

January 5, 2013

2012 in review

Taking a look back at the ups and downs in the local news

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — The past year was, as most years are, full of both achievements of success and disappointments for the Commerce community. Here, we will highight the important news of the last 12 months. The stories are listed in chronological order. Do you have an opinion on what we included or what we left out? Email us at editor@commercejournal.com with your 2012 highlights.



CCC, KILTED MONKEY, A SPACE, MONSTER SPORTS ACADEMY

Several new establishments opened in Commerce. The College Corner Cafe was open for six months and received rave reviews for their food and ambiance, but the restaurant shut down after a major investor pulled out of the project. The Kilted Monkey, a pub-style restaurant, opened up on Live Oak Street in the location formerly occupied by Izzy’s Cakes. Ashley and Paul Bryan added some color to downtown after opening A Space Art Gallery on Alamo Street. Their summer camp, sponsored by the A&M-Commerce Art Department, was very popular. Monster Sports Academy opened batting cages behind the Taco Bell on Live Oak and began creating select teams from the Commerce area.



ROAD CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

A $4.8 million construction project began in 2012 with work on Harlow Road. The project, which includes approximately $1 million from A&M-Commerce and the Texas Water Development Board, will repair six Commerce streets and will take three years to complete. In 2012, the Texas Department of Transportation also completed a resurfacing of Culver Street.



LAND SALE FALLS THROUGH

The sale of 7.31 acres by A&M-Commerce to a private developer fell through after the university was unable to come to an agreement with owners of mineral rights on the land. The sale, which was approved by the Texas A&M Board of Regents, was for $1 million and included property along State Highway 24/50 in front of the Whitley Residence Hall.

In their concept to A&M-Commerce, Armstrong Development Properties, Inc proposed a fast-food restaurant, retail shop and sit-down restaurant. The cornerstone of their development would most likely have been a CVS Pharmacy, a company that Armstrong is a developer for.



NEW MAYOR

Dr. John Ballotti, a senior lecturer for the Mass Media, Communication & Theatre Department at A&M-Commerce, defeated A&M-Commerce student Coby Marcum in the 2012 mayoral race after receiving 294 of the 417 votes cast.

“Certainly now the work begins,” he said shortly after being elected. “It wasn’t just me, it was we, all the people that supported me, and the friends and neighbors. They said ‘we don’t have any representative from this side of town’ and suggested I run. There was a lot of hard work getting to where we are, and now the real hard work begins, which is coming up with an agenda that will move the city forward.”

Ballotti replaced Quay Throgmorton.



RATHER VISITS A&M-COMMERCE

Renowned journalist and television news anchor Dan Rather spoke before university students, faculty and staff in April.

His talk, which took place in the Ferguson Social Sciences Auditorium, focused on the topic of “Hard Times, Then and Now.” Rather discussed the problems the United States endured during the Great Depression and World War II and compared them to today’s economic recession. He touched on his childhood, college career at Sam Houston State and answered questions submitted beforehand by attendees. Rather accepted blame on the part of the press for the way they handle investigative journalism.



HOSPITAL SHUTDOWN

Twice Hunt Regional Community Hospital at Commerce was shutdown in 2012– the first time on Oct. 4 after an individual with a gun was spotted outside the building. The hospital and several school district campuses were placed on lockdown for several hours while the police department searched the suspect. On Oct. 10, Lisa Fowler was arrested and charged with deadly conduct in relation to the event. No motive for the incident was ever released.

The hospital was again shutdown in late October, this time for a week as an exterminator removed rats that had infested the hospital’s ceiling. Hospital officials blamed the source of the rodents on a nearby abandoned facility, although results from an independent investigation have not been reported to Commerce City Manager Marc Clayton.



COMMERCE MAN DIES IN ALTERCATION

Myeisha Simone Garcia, 20, of Commerce was arrested on Nov. 29 for the murder of 20-year-old Jamal Stanton. At 12:32 a.m. on Nov. 28, the police department responded to a call from Hunt Regional Community Hospital advising of a stabbing victim that had been brought into the emergency room. According to a police press release, officers arrived and found Stanton with a single stab wound in his upper chest. Hospital personnel performed life saving measures, but were unable to revive Stanton. According to the police report, Stanton and Garcia were involved in an altercation at the Tarter Apartments in Commerce.

Justice of the Peace Jennifer Reeves pronounced the victim dead a short time later. On Dec. 7, Garcia was denied a bond reduction.



WATER SUPPLY TESTS HIGH FOR NITRITES

In early December, high nitrite levels from a Commerce pump station resulted in the pump being shut down for further testing and a warning from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the city of Commerce on the dangers the water presents to young infants. The results were part of routine testing mandated by the state but paid for by local cities, and, initially, Commerce Utilities Director Bryan Creed feared losing the pump. But subsequent testing could not replicate the result, which led to the pump station reopening.

“According to the original testing, there was too much nitrogen in the water,” Creed said. “How it got there is a mystery.”