‘Loaded’ Empower Texans question sparks controversy at candidates’ forum

A question about the candidates’ opinion of Empower Texans led to a controversial exchange between candidates for mayor at Tuesday’s municipal candidates’ forum hosted by the Pecan Valley Republican Women.

The question, posed by moderator and KXYL personality Leland Acker, was, “What is your opinion of Empower Texans?”

The question stemmed from answers given during a previous candidates forum in which candidate Mike Tittle addressed the involvement of Empower Texans and their employees in his campaign. Critics of the question labeled it as “loaded.”

Mike Tittle, former 3M plant manager who is challenging Mayor Haynes in his bid for re-election said that Empower Texans is an organization that supports God, faith and family. He then solicited the support of Empower Texans by publicly giving his cell phone number.

Mayor Stephen Haynes responded by saying that Empower Texans is a non-profit group funded by two billionaires who do not want to pay property taxes. While saying that he understood their opposition to property taxes, Haynes said that property taxes fund local government, and not state government, adding that if property taxes were used to fund state government, then Empower Texans would target the Texas Legislature.

Tittle then returned to the mic, asking why the mayor did not support “God, faith and family,” while accusing the mayor of being tied to the rich and the powerful. Mayor Haynes then rebutted, saying that he would not respond to the first comment, but added that he will not apologize for having friends in the business community.

A full video of the candidates’ forum can be viewed on the Pecan Valley Republican Women’s Facebook page.

Ranger tax annexation debated during mayoral candidate forum

The first question posed to Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes involved his support of legislation enabling the Ranger College tax annexation election, where more than 90 percent of voters rejected a proposal that would have annexed Brown County into Ranger’s taxing district, thus creating another layer of property taxes on local residents.

That election, which took place last November, was made possible by legislation supported by Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes.

In defending his support of the legislation, while opposing the annexation, Mayor Haynes said there were a lot of promises made when that legislation passed that never came to fruition.

“At the time that I testified in support of that legislation, the rate that was being proposed was 5 cents, not 11 cents, and not 42 cents,” Haynes said. “Ranger was telling me that we would have control of the board, and by virtue of having control of the board, we’d have control of the tax rate. They said they were moving their headquarters down here, which would mean jobs. It meant big infrastructure and lots of students.

“Fast forward four years, there was no discussion about control of the board, there was no plans for a campus, and there were no promises of jobs and no promises of students. So, I did not support that position.”

Mike Tittle, former 3M plant manager who is challenging Haynes in his bid for re-election, told a crowd of approximately 100 people that he was opposed to all annexation.

“Annexation is always wrong,” Tittle said. “Any type of county wide annexation will hurt our factories, which will hurt our jobs and hurt our citizens. So, I will always be opposed to Ranger annexation.”

Haynes and Tittle are campaigning for Mayor of Brownwood, a post Haynes has held since first being elected in 2010. During the forum, hosted at the Brownwood Country Club Friday by the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, the two debated Brownwood’s debt, and spending levels.

Haynes told the crowd that spending has increased this year less than 1.6 percent, which is less than state and federal spending increases. Tittle pointed out that Brownwood’s city expenditures have increased $5 million over the past six years.

Tittle told the crowd that Brownwood has record-high debt. Haynes countered by saying that Brownwood’s debt service was less than 10 percent of the budget.

Election day for the Brownwood mayoral election will be Saturday, May 5.

Burn Ban Lifted

The Brown County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to lift the burn ban in Brown County. A burn ban had been in place due to high winds and tinder dry vegetation, but recent rains abated the wildfire risk. The Commissioners Court will revisit the burn ban every Monday during their regular meetings, however, for the time being, there is no burn ban in Brown County.

Empty Bowls slated for Thursday

The Good Samaritan Ministries’ “Empty Bowls Project” will be held from 11-2 and 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the Brownwood Coliseum. The event raises hunger awareness by allowing participants to select a hand-painted ceramic bowl, then enjoying a meal of soup and crackers. Participants can then take the bowl home as a reminder of those in the Brown County area who suffer from hunger.

Cost to participate is $10, with tickets available at the door. Tickets are also available at the Good Samaritan office and online at GoodSamBWD.org.

Spring Sing this weekend at HPU

Howard Payne University students will perform in the annual Spring Sing event this Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, at 7:30 p.m. each evening. The event will be held in Mims Auditorium. Tickets are $5 each and may be purchased online (www.hputx.edu) or at the door.

Spring Sing is a popular event on the HPU campus, drawing audiences of students, personnel, alumni and members of the community.

This year’s theme is “TV Shows: Then & Now” and each of the three participating groups will perform an original musical/theatrical sketch that blends elements of classic television with current TV. Student organizations participating in this year’s event include Delta Chi Rho, Chi Alpha Omega and Pi Theta Chi.

“The goal of Spring Sing is to honor God, represent HPU in a positive manner and present a fun and entertaining production that showcases the talents, skills and creativity of HPU students,” said Joshua Snow, director of student activities. “We hope the community will make plans to join us.”

For more information, contact the Office of Student Life at 325-649-8017.

Early Police foil store burglary

From Police Chief David Mercer:


On March 21 at approximately 11:30pm Officer Kelly Marsh responded to an Alarm call at 420 Early Blvd, the Leon River Mercantile Western store. Officer Marsh arrived and located a suspicious vehicle parked in the rear of the building that had clothing items in the vehicle that appeared to be from inside the store. Officer Marsh along with BCSO Deputy Mason Fabbiani who arrived as a backup unit, entered the store through rear door that had been forced open. Once inside officers located and male later identified as Clayton Earl Lorah who tried to hide behind a shipping box in the rear of the store. Lorah had several other items that he was carrying to the car. Lorah was taken into custody without incident and taken to the Brown County Jail. Lorah was charged with Burglary of a Building, a state jail felony.

Lane closures and detours scheduled for U.S. 84/183 between Early and Zephyr

As progress continues on the construction of a new Fort Worth & Western Railroad bridge crossing over US 84/183 between Early and Zephyr, motorists can expect delays and detours on March 27-28, 2018. Since major construction of the new bridge is now complete and open to railroad operation, crews will be dismantling the temporary bridge that was constructed last year.

On Tuesday, March 27, the highway will be closed for up to 15 minutes at a time between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Motorists can expect delays as these intermittent closures will allow crews to demolish the outside spans of the temporary bridge.

On Wednesday, March 28, for the 4-hour period between approximately 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., all traffic will be detoured between the communities of Zephyr and Blanket as crews demolish the rest of the temporary bridge.

Travelers heading out of Brownwood/Early towards Zephyr/Goldthwaite will be detoured to US 67/377 to Blanket, then south on FM 1467 to Zephyr.

Travelers heading towards Brownwood/Early from Zephyr/Goldthwaite will be detoured to FM 1467 to Blanket, then into Early on US 67/377.

As the length of the detour is approximately 20 miles, travelers should allow substantially more time to reach their destinations.

The new railroad bridge will allow US 84/183 to be widened from two to four, 12-foot lanes with the addition of a center left turn lane, removing the bottleneck by matching the existing four-lane roadway on either side of the bridge. Construction of the $12.4 million project is expected to be completed this summer.

Local Political Parties to hold County Conventions

The Brown County Republican and Democratic Parties will hold their precinct and county conventions this Saturday.

The Republicans will meet Saturday Morning at 9 am at the Senior Center across the street from the Coliseum. The Democrats will meet at 8 am at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E Industrial Drive.

Both parties will elect delegates to their respective state conventions, and propose resolutions for their party’s platform.

Suspicious package at Early High School draws police response

In a press release to Wendlee Broadcasting, Early Police Chief David Mercer said that a suspicious package found at Early High School turned out to be strings of LED lights:


On Monday 03/19/2018 at approximately 4pm the Early Police Department responded to the Early High School for a report of a suspicious package. Officials at the Early High School stated they received a package by UPS and when they opened the outer shipping package it contained 7 individually wrapped packages approximately 4x4x7 inches in size. The School stated they have never received anything that looked like these packages and were not expecting anything that should be packaged like these. Officers checked the return address label which indicated an electronics store in California but no business name was on the return label. The school did not show any record of an order from this location.

School had released for the day but all after school activities on campus had to be canceled in order to evacuate the building. The Abilene Police Department Bomb unit responded to the High School and examined the package. An x-ray of the package was taken and examined which revealed rolls of wiring. It was determined that the package was not a threat at which time the package was opened and revealed strings of LED lights in the package.

Although it was an inconvenience for the after-school activities, the evacuation was necessary to insure the safety of the students and faculty due to the recent events and the unexplained circumstances proved that this was the only option.

United Supermarkets donates $5,000 to HPU

BROWNWOOD – March 2, 2018 – United Supermarkets recently presented $5,000 to Howard Payne University to be used as scholarship funds that will be awarded to local and area HPU juniors and seniors who also receive the university’s Heart of Texas Scholarship. The grocery store chain plans to make this a yearly scholarship donation to HPU.

The purpose of the United Supermarkets Scholarship Fund is to help deserving students attend HPU. The donation will specifically benefit HPU students who meet the criteria mentioned above and who are majoring in business management or marketing. Another benefit of the scholarship is that its recipients will be considered for internships with United Supermarkets or for part-time jobs while attending HPU.

Dr. Bill Ellis, HPU president, expressed his appreciation to United Supermarkets.

“HPU is blessed to have United Supermarkets and our other community partners who recognize the great value of higher education to our community and state,” he said. “United’s financial support of HPU through this scholarship demonstrates this corporation’s commitment to our area students.”

Applications are being accepted for the fall 2018 semester at Howard Payne University. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options, including scholarships for students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact the Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at enroll@hputx.edu.