2016 News Archive
Triad of speakers kick off 2016
WMNA’s January meeting featured three speakers: Regina Smith, Meadowbrook Middle School educator, Alida Labbe, Fort Worth Arts Council, and Lieutenant Joseph Sparrow, Fort Worth Police Department East Division. Following the cornbread and beans dinner, Tonya Ferguson, 2016 president, greeted members and guests and introduced the series of presentations on key issues.
Smith began the meeting by explaining a fundraising campaign underway at Meadowbrook Middle School for the eighth grade class. Smith said that the eighth grade class has shown tremendous improvement since entering middle school as sixth graders and had most recently posted the highest scores of any eighth grade class on achievement tests. MMS administration decided to reward the class of 100 with a three-day trip to the San Antonio area, including a visit to Texas A&M University to encourage interest in college. Of the 100 students, only 50 can afford the $250.33 travel costs. MMS is conducting various fundraising activities on campus, but Smith recently asked for help from area neighborhood associations. WMNA agreed to underwrite the cost of one student with a board vote, but offered members the opportunity to contribute funds for one additional student. During the evening, members donated $117 of the $250.33 needed. Smith said she would continue to accept contributions into February. For information on how to help with the trip costs, please contact email@example.com.
Labbe followed Smith with a presentation on an arts project called “Wildflowers” planned for the Eastern Regional Library grounds. The winning proposal is an abstract installation mimicking a field of wildflowers with randomly planted, vertical steel pylons featuring inspirational quotes to be suggested by the neighborhood. She explained that the proposal has been undergoing a community review and the final opportunity to suggest changes will be Jan.27 at the library. She encouraged residents to make their thoughts known before the project is finalized. Many questions followed about the cost of the project ($80,000 provided by Arts Council from the public art fund), colors of the pylons (shown as pink), and the maintenance plan (the city will ensure the project is kept clean and well-maintained. Labbe said the project as planned encourages interaction with the community by inviting visitors to wander through the pylons and stimulates visual interest from the nearby Interstate 820/Interstate 30 intersection with its random, colorful pattern.
Finally, Lieutenant Sparrow updated members and guests on an uptick in crime on the east side. He said robberies and car burglaries were on the rise. In one instance, an Uber driver and rider were robbed near a bar during the early morning hours. He advised everyone to be aware of their surroundings and not travel alone late at night. Sparrow also said residents should be sure to lock car doors if a vehicle is outside and remove all valuable items. “My advice is to clean out the garage and put your car inside,” he said. “These are crimes of opportunity. Reduce the chance of being robbed.”
Sparrow also answered questions about the new open carry law which allows concealed carry license holders to openly carry weapons. He said the open carry law is not something he supports, but it is the law. “Personally, I don’t openly carry because it’s too easy for someone to take a gun from you. It’s not a situation I would like to be in,” he said. Concealed carry license holders may opt to open carry in certain locations and must comply if businesses or organizations post signs forbidding weapons being openly displayed. “We encourage citizens to ask questions and learn the rules regarding open carry,” he said. “It’s the law and we all will have to learn to live with it.” More information on open carry is available in the Meadowlark newsletter and the City of Fort Worth web site.
District 8, Code Compliance Review Progress in 2015, Plans for 2016
District 8 City Council Representative Kelley Allen Gray said that after saying for years that improvements are coming, “they’re now happening,” she said. “My charge to you is to create a new wish list of things you want to accomplish.”
New stop lights and streetlights are being installed on Lancaster Avenue. Traffic signal boxes will be wrapped with art submitted to a special committee for review. Deadline for submissions is Feb. 25; 15 finalists will be selected.
“Drive down Lancaster Avenue at night to see just how much better the lighting is,” she suggested
In addition, the Fort Worth Police Department Tactical Operations Building (the old Channel 5) will be undergoing renovations starting this month.
“Oakland Lake Park’s multi-package site project is also approved and construction is about to begin,” she said. Base bid improvements include demolition and spot removal of existing concrete curb, gutter and site clearing, new ball field lighting, new asphalt overlay on parking lot, wheel stops, spot replacement of curb and gutter and new striping, a new shelter, additional walk access, three picnic tables, two park benches and trash receptacles. A small skate park will be included as an alternated bid item. It is anticipated that construction will begin in February and be completed in July 2016.
Security near homeless shelters is much improved, Gray said. “The Union Gospel Mission has joined with other homeless centers to pay for a regular security patrol on the Near East Side. Also, a police storefront is now open with expanded hours in the area. The situation is much better and the homeless population has decreased.”
The Parker Browne Building, a historic structure on Lancaster Avenue, has been refurbished and is now occupied by Gotcha Covered, a uniform company. The first two floors are GC employees and management, the third floor is occupied by Cheyenne Construction. Gotcha Covered has expanded into two nearby buildings, as well. “Gotcha Covered is a growing business that has roots on Lancaster,” Gray said. Fort Worth Can Academy, also operating on the near East side, has begun an expansion after one year in a former music business building. Top Golf, an indoor golf park, is also planning to open its doors soon in a building on I35.
On Feb.29, the Advisory Committee on Homelessness will meet for the first time to discuss how to coordinate efforts to assist the homeless population.
Gray also reminded members to vote in the March 1 primary and to prepare to vote on May 7 for 11 new charter amendments. She said: “Many of the amendments are technical, but a few are in important changes, such as the increase in pay for City Council members and the Mayor and an increase in the number of City Council members.”
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 14, District 8 will kick-off its Blue Zones project with food demonstrations, exercise routines, mobile food cards filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, at the Hillside Community Center. After the kickoff, events will be held every month in different locations throughout District 8.
Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett updated the membership on the gaming ordinance legal challenge that is progressing through the courts. Many gaming locations affected by the ordinance filed a temporary injunction against the ordinance, considered the most stringent in the state, to stay enforcement. Bennett said the ordinance cannot be enforced until a court determines the legitimacy of the law.
“We can’t close down game rooms on zoning, but we can close them on other criminal issues,” he said. “Code works closely with the PD to find cause to close these illegal operations.”
Bennett said there are five broad categories of argument against the ordinance that must be resolved through court hearings. “Once we have a court’s decision, we are ready to move on enforcement,” he said. He expects to have a resolution by this summer.
Litter and trash were also of concern to the members. “The city has invested in suck trucks and trailers, as well as two street sweepers, to clean up trash along three exits leaving town along both I35 and I30,” Bennett said. “We’re also working with Presbyterian Night Shelter to hire homeless people to operate the vehicles. If they do well, the city will hire them to continue working for the city.” Bennett also said herbicide dispensers will be mounted on the street sweepers to keep weeds down.
llegal dumping, another problem common in the neighborhood, is a crime. “The district attorney has gone all the way on some of the dumping cases we have filed,” Bennett said. “Please report any illegal dumping to the police department. It’s a crime in progress and will be prosecuted.”
Code compliance, in cooperation with the water department, has purchased one million litter bags to distribute to residents for use in cars. “Neighborhood policing does fall in part on the residents to monitor,” he said. Bennett encouraged residents to participate in annual clean-ups along the Trinity River and across the city.
Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County ready to help those in need; Breakfast Optimist Club of Fort Worth raises money for children
West Meadowbrook residents learned about options to help neighbors confined to their homes and programs to support children who need assistance at the March meeting. More than 60 members and friends attended the meeting at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church in East Fort Worth.
Terry Buckner, Meals on Wheels development representative and a former teacher, noted for her audience that Tarrant County’s MOW organization serves more than one million meals per year for $6 per service at no charge to its clients. “For $60 per year, you can feed one person,” she noted.
Buckner asked members to think about referring elderly neighbors who are having trouble keeping up with home maintenance to MOW. “Many times the reason a house or lawn is neglected is because the owner is not able to do the work any longer,” she said. “Homebound elderly residents are often not eating at all or eating poorly.”
Buckner noted the program does not base its services on income. All meals are free to anyone who is homebound and cannot prepare food. Meals are delivered to clients’ doors five times a week and anyone can refer a neighbor, relative or friend who needs service and that person will begin receiving meals within 48 hours.
“We rely on donations (more than 51 percent of the budget) and a steady stream of volunteers to deliver food,” Buckner said. MOW just moved into a new 60,000 square foot facility with a 15,000 square foot kitchen. “I say that if you deliver meals to the homebound, you are going to heaven,” she said. “We are now positioned to serve a growing older population in Tarrant County.” Buckner noted that the county has an inverted age pyramid, meaning there are more older people than young people in the county.
Dietitians and nutritionists supervise meal preparation and volunteers deliver to 8 to 10 homes per day. “Many elderly people in emergency rooms are malnourished because they are not able to cook any longer,” she said. “We’re also an extra set of eyes on older relatives, which helps caregivers.”
The second speaker of the night was Jim McCombs, Breakfast Optimist Club of East Fort Worth, introduced his organization as a service club that focuses on helping young people in the area. The Optimist Club meets weekly for breakfast at a local restaurant on the
Among the projects the club supports are:
Providing assistance for children and families at Cook Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House by making blankets, collecting bears and supporting research to find a cure for cancer,
Sponsoring an oratorical and essay contest each year designed to help children develop writing and critical-thinking skills. Winners receive a $2,500 scholarship.
Other ongoing projects are a partnership with the East Fort Worth 4H program, Adoption of Lowery Road Elementary School, Jean McClung Middle School, junior Optimist Clubs at East Handley Elementary and Oakridge schools, as well as other projects.
McCombs thanked members and guests who attended a recent Optimist Club Spaghetti Dinner, an annual fundraiser for the organization, and encouraged others to participate in an upcoming golf tournament or subscribe to a Flag Program that places an American flag at more than 400 homes in East Fort Worth on five designated days. All funds raised through these projects returns to the community.
Standing in for Fort Worth Police Department Chief Joel Fitzgerald, Assistant Chief Ken Dean told members at the April meeting that the police department is reorganizing patrol divisions around beats, “a time-honored policing technique”, to try to attack the roots of persistent crime.
“Chief Fitzgerald believes in solving the problem that is causing crime. Beat patrol officers will be tasked with getting acquainted with their neighborhood, meeting business owners, and learning about resident, to better serve their needs, “ Dean said. “The transition to beats from zones will be made over time. However, you will be seeing more patrol officers in your area. Beat patrol officers will be available to you 24/7.”
He said the teams will be assigned to one neighborhood each and will be visible and accessible.
Summer preparations are also underway, Dean said, which will require a reallocation of resources. “Summer traditionally results in an uptick in crime, and we are preparing for it,” he said.
Dean added that the FWPD’s West Division headquarters was heavily damaged in recent storms and will be rebuilt over the summer. The renovation of the former Channel 5 building, now the HQ for the Tactical Operations Division, will also begin this summer.
East Division Captain Michael Shedd responded to questions about crime statistics by referring members to the online source, Crime Mapping, available as an app or website, to check for criminal activity. He said all statistics are forwarded directly there for immediate consumption.
“We have a Burglary Action Team, a four-officer unit, that has successfully broken up four rings with some innovative approaches,” Shedd said “The team staged an apartment with property from our prop room, positioned cameras throughout the apartment, and tagged the property with trackers. The apartment was burglarized. The team tracked the stolen property to the perpetrators’ address, arrested the individuals involved and recovered stolen property from five different robberies.”
Shedd said he reports on what his division has done to combat crime every 28 days. “I meet with my boss and explain my actions for the last month,” he explained. “We share ideas on how to solve problems and eliminate nagging issues. Please let us know if you have a problem so that we can help you solve it.”
WMNA President Tonya Ferguson opened the meeting with an overview of recent actions to curb vagrancy and littering at a site formerly occupied by a restaurant on View Street. Out-of-state property owners gave the city full approval to post no trespassing signs, clean-up and barricade the area, and remove brush that obstructed views. WMNA, District 8 Rep. Kelly Allen Gray, John Tandy and the FWPD collaborated to resolve the situation feeding a recurring crime problem.
WMNA’s next meeting will be the annual picnic on Monday, May 16, at Oakland Lake Park pavilion beginning at 6:30 p.m. Live music, food and fun will be on the agenda. No program will be scheduled.
FWPD Assistant Chief Forecasts Changes in Patrol Style, Resource Reallocation for Summer
Annual picnic timely gathering for neighbors
West Meadowbrook members and guests gathered for the 2016 annual picnic on May 16, a time for fellowship, food and sharing news about upcoming events in the area. Visitors from neighboring associations attended to discuss strategies for preventing a rezoning case from going forward. Food was provided by Destiny's Chicken and generous donors.
From Pollinators to Homelessness,
Speakers Educate and Inform
WMNA’s June meeting featured two speakers, Ricky Linix, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Sonia Singleton, acting director of Directions Home, who talked about growing gardens and understanding.
Linix began the program emphasizing the importance of pollinators, particularly bees. “Although monarchs are the stars of the pollinators, bees are the most important to our survival,” he said. If every bee disappeared from the earth, humans would follow in four years, he said.
Pollinators are essential to the growth of $3 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and other plant species. Bees, in particular, have been losing ground because of pesticide use. Homeowners should cultivate a diverse group of species as possible to provide fuel to migrating butterflies and bees.
“Monarchs migrate from Central Mexico to Texas every year. They need flowering plants to help them make the trip from Mexico to Texas, then on to Arkansas and other areas,” he said. Some species that tolerate Texas heat are Rock Daisy, Snow on the Mountain, Cowpen Daisy, Maximillian Sunflower, Frostweed, and Gayfeather. Linix circulated a list of flowering plants that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators.
Sonia Singleton, who assumed acting leadership of Directions Home eight months ago, described the 10-year plan to end homelessness in its eighth year as a work in progress. DH provides funding to organizations that help the homeless. “Our work is often thankless, but necessary to the community,” she said.
“In seven years, homelessness has decline from 15.7 to 9.7 per thousand in Fort Worth,” Singleton said. “We are currently interviewing everyone involved with the program, from the homeless to staff, in preparation for an Aug. 16 presentation to the City Council.”
Program Director Tara Perez said illegal camping is a growing problem because of the lack of affordable housing in Fort Worth. Three outreach teams dealing with social services, mental health services and health services, visit with small groups to try to assess needs.
According to the feedback from these surveys, 97 percent of homeless want housing. Directions Home subscribes to the housing first philosophy – get a homeless person in a home, then wrap services around them to solve ongoing substance abuse, health and mental health issues.
Program Coordinator LaTisha Turner said homelessness is a diverse and complex problem to solve. Currently the Directions Home team is surveying the program to assess its status. She encouraged anyone who knows of a landlord who is willing to take a chance on a homeless person to contact the Directions Home office.
Singleton expressed excitement about the opening of the 40,000 square-foot True Worth Place, which will house services, shower facilities, lockers for belongings, and has the potential to “rescue a lot of people from really desperate circumstances.”
As for panhandling, which has increased in the area, Singleton emphasized that panhandlers are not homeless, as a rule, and they are breaking the law. She encouraged anyone who is tempted to give panhandlers money to donate cash or supplies to an organization that serves the homeless for best results.
Trinity River Project Hits Full Stride with
Gateway Park Project Construction
Matt Oliver, Trinity River Project, says Gateway Park on the east side of Fort Worth is larger than Central Park in New York City and will play a key role in connecting the community with the river through bike and walking trails, special events and sports venues. Oliver spoke to the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association in August.
Explosive population growth in Fort Worth spurred the need for a more modern form of flood control. Levees built in the 1950s are outdated and will be replaced by series of gates to control water level in a bend of the river near downtown. Water from Eagle Mountain and Benbrook lakes will be channeled through the city to create a downtown island.
“We are 45 days away from first developer announcing construction of apartment units on the new Fort Worth town lake area,” Oliver said. “An 800-acre area, nearly doubling the size of downtown, will be created when the project is finished in 2023.” Three bridges now under construction will provide access, along with 1.5 miles of new bike and walking trails.
Oliver said Fort Worth residents want access to the river for recreational activities. The TRP will create 12 miles of waterfront to begin to push people toward the river, making it the focal point of Fort Worth.
“Currently enough dirt to fill 40 percent of old Dallas Cowboys stadium is being moved to make way for new projects,” Oliver said. “That Gateway area project's first phase should be finished in January. Our next phase begins immediately as we move closer to creating connectors and concession areas.”
Ultimately Fort Worth will have 72 miles of trails connecting 31 neighborhoods through three to four more projects, he said.
Following Oliver’s presentation, the Polytechnic High School Parrots cheer squad announced that they had been invited to attend the Macy’s Day Parade, the first high school in this area to ever be invited. In order to go, the squad must raise $37,000 to pay for transportation and lodging. The squad offered an energetic program encouraging members to support their efforts. To contribute, go to the school’s gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/2gca03w. To learn more about their achievement, read this story from Star-Telegram.
West Meadowbrook Schools Making Progress, Request Help with Reading, Tutoring, Moral Support
Three West Meadowbrook area school principals touted improvements in their test scores this year, new neighborhood involvement programs and expanding support groups to encourage students to achieve at the September meeting of the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association.
Terri McGuire, principal, Meadowbrook Elementary School, said her school had met eligibility standards for the third year. She encouraged residents to visit and volunteer to read to the students at least one hour per week. “I have worked with Tom Cook, social chair, on arranging tours for interested people,” she said. “Anyone who wants to can call the school and arrange to visit. We would be happy to see you.”
Meadowbrook Elementary has a computer lab that McGuire says is helping students improve their technology skills. Recently, the school formed a Junior Optimist Youth club and 70 young women have expressed interested in a Girl Scouts chapter. “The success of all schools depends on sending students well-prepared to the next level,” she said.
Meadowbrook Middle School will be the site of a Science Technology Engineering and Math Preparatory Academy starting in sixth grade. Ninety-five students have already expressed interest, said Samantha Brittenham, assistant principal. Students in the Academy will feed the I.M. Terrell STEM and Fine Arts School to open this year. MMS also has met its eligibility requirements.
Chad Mccarty, principal of Eastern Hills High School, said his school missed passing its eligibility by one point. "Our population did not grow and mobility remains a problem," he said. An EHHS support group has helped the school pay for a new marquee in the entryway and provided other financial assistance. "Any way you can help us, whether it is with your time, your money or your ideas, we are listening," he said. McCarty, a graduate of EHHS and a resident of Eastern Hills, is the first principal in the history of the school to stay for four years. This year the first seniors will graduate with EMT certification. Other choice programs offered are legal services, fire and law enforcement.
Norma Whitt and Sharon Southard of The Body Shop Fitness Center at Woodhaven Country Club introduced the health club to area residents who might be interested in improving their health. Cost is $40 per month. A one month membership was donated as a door prize. East-side businesses visit the WMNA meeting each month to introduce themselves and raise visibility. Whitt runs the Body Shop for Woodhaven, but she is not affiliated with the club.
Updates from the law enforcement personnel in attendance included a positive outlook on crime in the area and acknowledgement of an uptick in car break ins. East Division police conducted a sting operation and arrested 13 people attempting to break-in to a decoy car.
Kelly Allen Gray, District 8 City Council member, announced that the Eastside Library approved in the 2016 bond issue is now ready for input from citizens. She invited the Fort Worth Library to visit the WMNA at the October meeting to solicit feedback from residents and make a presentation. Gray requested that Central Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association also participate to reduce the number of public meetings needed. October will be the only opportunity for input on the library design.
Polytechnic High School’s cheer squad visited the membership to update the association on its activities and progress toward its goal of raising money to attend the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day. Only eight members will go to New York City because of funding. Additional donations are needed for airfare.
One-half of the evening’s 50/50 pot was donated to the three area schools.
East Side Library Will Be First Child-Focused Library in Fort Worth
At a joint meeting of all East Fort Worth neighborhood associations in October, Fort Worth Library Director Gleniece Robinson and an array of her system staff members explained the vision for a new library to be constructed on East Lancaster Avenue by 2019.
Robinson explained that the new library supported and promoted by West Meadowbrook and community leaders Don Boren and Wanda Conlin, was able to secure an additional $2.2 million in funding by delaying construction until now. The library was originally budgeted at $3.2 million. Additional monies were made available through the gas lease program and general capital fund.
“I’m grateful to you for being patient so that we could ensure we have adequate funding for this special library,” she said. She lauded support from Boren and Conlin, who attended or sent representatives to 23 public meetings on the 2016 bond, and the community that ensured the library would be part of the bond package. Robinson also thanked Boren and Conlin for a $10,000 donation to the public art project for the library.
The director said the new library will be the first in the city exclusively focused on children. “We will have 8,000 square feet to serve the children in this area,” she said. Data collected by the library indicates potential library patrons live within a 9-minute driving time. Optimum driving time for most library users is 12 minutes.
“Fort Worth has the lowest literacy rate in the county, state and nation at three out of 10 students reading at grade level,” Robinson said. “We are already collaborating with the Meadowbrook Methodist Church and the Fort Worth ISD on programs we can offer that will help children read at grade level. Our goal is school readiness for all students.”
She said the library system is reaching out to area residents before beginning the design phase to try to fine tune the building’s programs and construction. “We have made the mistake of seeking input after designing a prototype. We’re trying a different approach with this library,” Robinson said.
Robinson sought input from the audience on what the library should be to the neighborhood. Many encouraged Robinson to serve more grade levels than pre-k through middle school. Books serving the target audience should be above the users’ grade level to encourage progress.
Research materials and other resources will be available online to children for school projects. Adults may have books delivered to the new library for pick-up, but only children and their parents or guardians will be allowed in the library routinely.
Many in the audience requested preliminary signage at the vacant lot on Lancaster to promote the library’s arrival. “Signs are in the works,” Robinson told the audience. Also, a public nomination process will be established to formally name the library and a maker space to be built in cooperation with a corporate sponsor.
Robinson added: “We will be directing all of our energies toward helping East Fort Worth children succeed.”
West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association President Tonya Ferguson announced that a District 8 Task Force meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, where the library and a future bond election will be discussed. She encouraged all residents to attend. A light supper will be served.
Ferguson also announced that a slate of officers for 2017 has been developed. A vote on the slate is scheduled for the November membership meeting.
Advisory council board position nominees for 2017 are:
Tonya Ferguson, president
Jo Vitek, vice president, programs
Tom Cook, social chair
Cliff Jensen, treasurer
Tom Cassady, secretary
Betty Briggs, membership
Carol Peters, communications
Mike Phipps, city affairs
Edie Hudson, neighborhood affairs
Tom Hamilton, neighborhood beautification
Lauryl Blossom, John Young, at large members