Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
The rumblings were felt on Twitter and Facebook, if not in your home. Irving experienced three minor earthquakes in the past week.
Two were reported on the evening of Sep. 29 (with magnitudes measured at 3.4 and 3.1), and one, measuring 2.1, on Sep. 30.
Irving City Councilman Gerald Faris lives near the Hospital District where he felt the tremors.
“I was listening to music in the living room, and for once, I was wearing headphones,” said Faris. “Then I heard this rumbling that just about knocked me out of the couch. I could feel the wall shaking behind me.
“I immediately headed out the front door with my wife because we wanted to survey the skies and see if some type of fire or explosion had occurred. And all of our neighbors were outside, and we all exchanged ideas about it.
“The immediate thing that came to mind was an earthquake. When we turned on the TV, they verified that’s what it was. The next day, there was a story about all the calls to 9-1-1.
“We’d never experienced an earthquake before.”
They’re certainly not a common occurrence according to the insurance company that provides coverage for approximately 1.3 million policyholders in Texas; one in every five homes.
“The area has not experienced any seismic activity in any recent times,” said State Farm spokesman Gary Stephenson “There are no major faults in the area, so it’s unusual.
“I haven’t received any claims with damage reported from this activity yet.”
Those in the insurance field remain alert to any perceived threats. So what about the concern that these earthquakes may be manmade in origin…possibly the result of drilling activities?
“There are always studies and discussions going on,” Stephenson said. “The science on that is a work in progress. I’m not aware of any conclusions that have been drawn.
“Of course, drilling has gone on in Texas for a long time. Still, it’s a matter under review, but we have seen no correlations at this time.”
Meanwhile, there’s been a small uptick in questions from policyholders who are considering the addition of earthquake coverage, according to Stephenson.
“It’s not a standard part of homeowners policies,” he said, “but it can be added fairly inexpensively. Pennies on the square foot.
“But an earthquake… doesn’t appear to be an imminent threat, although we don’t have a good way of predicting it.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:16
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
The drizzle and threatening rain did not scare away gardeners at Coppell Community Gardens or those who came out to take the Texas Smart Scape Tour hosted by the group Sep. 29.
Nine local residents allowed visitors to roam their yards and learn about plants and methods of growing them to promote techniques to beautify landscapes through the use of native and adaptive drought tolerant plants, which provide ecological and environmental benefits. A Smart Scape uses less water, fertilizers and pesticides while attracting birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Native plants require minimal irrigation and care which saves time, money, and water.
Featured homes included a hummingbird garden with a zen-like feel, an English cottage style garden, a river rock bed garden, a turf-free garden, and a bottle loofa tree garden. Homeowners and garden experts were available to speak to visitors and answer questions. Tour goers learned about managing composts and worm bins, benefits of solar panels, organic fertilizer, mulching and use of rain barrels.
Helping Hands Garden
The tour started at Helping Hands Garden next to Town Center. The garden swarmed with volunteers who harvested, planted, weeded and watered plants. As they worked, Metrocrest Social Services’ Food Pantry in Farmers Branch came by and picked up the 106 pounds of food harvested that morning. The pickings included cucumbers, 35 pounds of eggplants, 40 pounds of okra, 25 pounds of peppers and 3 pounds of squash.
“It is transition time between summer and winter, so a lot of the things have stopped growing,” said long-time gardener, Bob Jones, who has volunteered at the gardens 11 years. “We can grow all kinds of food during the winter: spinach, chard, collards, broccoli and cabbage. We have some row cover we can cover it if it’s really going to get cold, but most of it will take a light freeze without a problem.”
Jones said that just recently he harvested 80 pounds of sweet potatoes he grew in a plot that looked to be about four feet by six feet in size.
“They were all big, round nice ones,” Jones said.
He said conditions had been perfect for growing sweet potatoes.
“We had some good spring rains, and we got rain in the summer, which is pretty unusual. They use a lot of water, so they did well. The temperature didn’t get too awfully hot either.”
The kindergarten class at Lake Side Elementary next door to the garden had a plot of sweet potatoes waiting to be harvested that promised at least another 80 pounds of food for the Metrocrest Food Pantry.
Diane Lowe, a garden volunteer for 12 years, is president of the Coppell Community Garden Board, which oversees the Helping Hands Garden and another one next to the post office called Ground Delivery Garden. The group also oversees the Farmers Market open from 8 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays at 793 S. Coppell Road in Old Town Coppell.
“We have an environmental education committee that’s responsible for helping people in the community learn more about sustainable and eco-friendly gardening practices,” Lowe said.
She said they have about 100 to 120 volunteers on three committees.
“At the gardens, we have about 70 volunteers,” Lowe said. “Saturday mornings is our harvest time and when we are the busiest. That’s when we do our chores: turn compost piles, take care of weeding and harvest.
“It’s all an adopt-a-plot arrangement. Anyone who is interested in gardening may help. They understand that these are donation gardens. They sign an agreement to adopt a plot, to keep it productive, planted, watered, and harvested. We encourage them to taste it to make sure it’s good, but this is not for people who want to grow food for their own table. This is for putting food on the tables of those less fortunate. It’s a labor of love.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:15
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jason Alderman
Over the next few weeks, millions of Americans will receive their 2013 open enrollment materials. Although it's tempting to simply check "same as last year," that can be a costly mistake – especially if your employer is offering different benefit plans next year or your family or income situation has changed. Plus, an important feature of health care flexible spending accounts, which many people use to reduce their tax bite, is changing next year (more on that below).
Here's what to look for when reviewing your benefit options:
Many benefit plans – especially medical – change coverage details from year to year. If you're offered more than one plan, compare features side by side (including plans offered by your spouse's employer) to ensure you're choosing the best alternative. Common changes include:
Dropping or replacing unpopular or overly expensive plans.
Increased monthly premiums for employee and/or dependent coverage.
Increased deductible and/or copayment amounts for doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospitalization, dental or vision benefits, etc.
Revised drug formularies.
Doctors and hospitals sometimes withdraw from a plan's preferred provider network.
Raising maximum yearly out-of-pocket expense limits.
If offered by your employer, health care and dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can significantly offset the financial impact of medical and dependent care by letting you pay for eligible out-of-pocket expenses on a pre-tax basis; that is, before federal, state and Social Security taxes are deducted from your paycheck. This reduces your taxable income and therefore, your taxes.
You can use a health care FSA to pay for IRS-allowed medical expenses not covered by your medical, dental or vision plans. Check IRS Publication 502 at www.irs.gov for allowable expenses. Dependent care FSAs let you use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible expenses related to care for your child, spouse, parent or other dependent incapable of self-care.
Here's how FSAs work: Say you earn $42,000 a year. If you contribute $1,000 to a health care FSA and $3,000 for dependent care, your taxable income would be reduced to $38,000. Your resulting net income, after taxes, would be roughly $1,600 more than if you had paid for those expenses on an after-tax basis.
Keep in mind these FSA restrictions:
Important: Effective Jan. 1, 2013, employee contributions to health care FSAs are now limited to $2,500 a year; however, if your spouse has FSAs at work, you still may contribute up to $2,500 to each account.
The dependent care FSA limit remains unchanged at $5,000.
Health care and dependent care account contributions are not interchangeable.
Estimate planned expenses carefully because you must forfeit unused account balances. Some employers offer a grace period of up to 2 ½ months after the end of the plan year to incur expenses, but that's not mandatory, so review your enrollment materials.
Outside of open enrollment, you can only make mid-year FSA changes after a major life or family status change, such as marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or dependent, birth or adoption of a child, or a dependent passing the eligibility age. If one of those situations occurs mid-year, re-jigger your FSAs accordingly for maximum savings.
You must re-enroll in FSAs each year – amounts don't carry over from year to year.
Also remember that if you marry, divorce, or gain or lose dependents, it could impact the type – and cost – of your coverage options.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:15
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Raven Stevens
Some say auto racing is one of the true American sports, making the men who have won in all types of racing events American heroes.
One such hero, John “Johnny” Sherman Rutherford III, known to locals as “Lone Star JR,” calls DFW home. He has lived in Fort Worth since 1951. Nearly 200 fans, friends, and former competitors, traveled from nine different states to pay tribute to him on Sep. 22 at the Racers Reunion Banquet in Irving.
From Lone Star JR’s humble beginnings, first racing in 1959 at a Dallas rock quarry known as Devil’s Bowl Speedway, he entered into the big time in September, 1962, when he began racing the Championship Trail. Johnny and his buddy, Jim McElreath from Arlington, made the trek from Texas to the Midwest, chasing the United States Automobile Club (USAC) and International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) circuits in the early 1960s.
Johnny rose quickly in the racing world, and racked up wins at tracks across the United States in the USAC, NASCAR and IMCA divisions. When Johnny finally retired, he had three Indianapolis 500 wins, an Indy Car Championship, and a USAC Sprint Car Championship, to name a few.
Bob Baker, the Executive Director of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum located in Knoxville, IA, traveled to the Las Colinas area to show his respect to Rutherford, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
“Johnny is a true champion on and off the track,” said Baker. “He and Betty are constantly on the road or at community functions.”
In 1980, Johnny teamed with another Texan, Jim Hall of Midland, and had his most successful Indy Car season. They won five races that year, including the Indy 500, which lead them to the Indy Car Championship. Jim, along with his wife Sandy, came to the Racers Reunion to help honor one of his most successful drivers, as well as his close friend.
“Johnny is just a wonderful person. I’m glad I could be a part of this tonight,” Hall said.
One of Johnny’s favorite competitors traveled from New Mexico to pay tribute to him. Al Unser, winner of four Indy 500s, was delighted to share racing stories about Johnny, and reminded Johnny that he has had many more wrecks than Unser has. The crowd roared with laughter at his version of their on-track encounters.
Cindy Elks came all the way from San Diego, CA for the weekend to see old friends and to talk with folks she used to compete with in San Antonio.
“I was looking forward to seeing McBride, Bragg and some of the other guys I used to race against when we were kids racing the quarter midgets in the Los Palmas Shopping Center parking lot,” Elks said. “Plus, to be in the room with American heroes such as Rutherford, Hall and Unser was too good to be true. I had to be here!”
Those who attended the event were not the only ones celebrating Johnny’s career. Three congratulatory items were presented to Johnny: a Letter of Congratulations from Kay Bailey Hutchinson, U.S. Senator from Texas; a Letter of Congratulations from John Cornyn, U.S. Senator from Texas; and, a Proclamation of Congratulations from Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, on behalf of himself and First Lady Anita Perry.
Doug Schiller, an expert on quarter midget race cars, delivered a very informative and entertaining presentation. He pointed out how in the 1950s quarter midget race cars were being developed on the West Coast and East Coast simultaneously, but to different specifications. Schiller’s father manufactured over 300 Offyettes in a span of seven years.
In addition to tables of memorabilia, scrap books, photo albums and trophies, there was also a display of vintage race cars. Event organizer, Bart Stevens, brought a variety of cars together to be part of the event.
“Having a display of vintage race cars from the era we are featuring really adds to the vibe of the whole event. This year since one of our features was the quarter midgets, I rounded up a group of cars to show some of the different types that were being built across the United States in the 1950s. Between the quarter midgets and the full-size race cars, we had 25 cars tonight showing the great diversity in the styles that used to race weekly on local tracks across America.
“When I was younger I fell in love with the open wheel race cars,” he said. “The car builders of yesteryear were true craftsman. Some of them hand-formed the body panels, much like an artist would build a sculpture.”
This was the third Racers Reunion Banquet that Stevens has hosted. The event was held for years in San Antonio.
“It just made sense to move the event to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. When we did that back in 2010, we saw a much larger participation from people from Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 17:13
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Saws buzzed, drills whirred, hammers pounded and shovels scraped as community volunteers came together this week to rebuild Coppell Kid Country, a children’s playground in Andy Brown Park East. The Kid Country Committee coordinated the community effort and has raised $465,000 of the $500,000 needed for the project.
A sculptor from Tennessee arrived with a large hippopotamus and a giant squirrel that will be placed in the park when the construction is complete. Coppell High School art students drew pictures depicting nature such as birds, animals, flowers, and fish. A mosaic artist from Dallas came each day to oversee the many hands that arrived throughout the week to turn the drawings into mosaic creations.
The mosaics were added to the sculptors of the hippo and squirrel. Each corner of every tile had to be sanded to prevent edges scraping children’s arms and legs when they finally get to climb the sculptors.
Alerts went out during the week asking for more volunteers. The group plans to finish the project by Sun., Oct. 7. Volunteers and monies are still needed, so drop by Kid Country at 255 Parkway Boulevard if you have either to spare this weekend.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 October 2012 14:14
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