Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
The morning was warm and sunny. A cool breeze rustled through the trees at East Hill Park in Lewisville where the archery portion of the 2012 Texas Firefighter Summer Games was being held. Around the pavilion one could hear scattered conversations about fire fighting and tomahawk throwing.
The event was run by Danny Kinney, a 23 year veteran of the games (formerly known as the Firefighter Olympics), now in his twelfth year as a coordinator. Although shooting started about an hour late, Kinney made the delay as frictionless as possible.
“My goal with the event is to keep it as fun as possible for the guys. They can compete, smack talk each other, you know, stuff like that,” he said.
Besides drawing firefighters from all parts of the state, the competition travels to various cities around Texas from year to year including Round Rock and San Angelo, but it always has a warm welcome in North Texas.
“This location is usually my biggest turn out. We’ve got a lot of local firefighters who come and shoot,” Kinney said. “Lewisville is a good city to work with because if its involvement. I had to build this range; this is not a normal archery range, and over the last several months I’ve been working with the parks crew. Not all the cities we go to are this way.”
Brian Austin, a member of the Irving Fire Department, has been coming to the Games eleven out of the last thirteen years, and besides becoming a familiar face at the competition, he consistently sweeps the event, winning both gold medals every time he has competed.
“It’s just fun,” Austin said, downplaying his impressive record. “You get to see all the guys from different departments. It’s just like any other hobby I guess. You get addicted to it. These 3D targets are a new game for us to keep shooting when it’s not hunting season.”
But the games go beyond just giving hardworking civil servants a chance to unwind and compete with each other. The games are also an opportunity to build fraternity among far-flung departments.
“Firefighters are brothers and sisters, and we’re into families, too. I enjoy having the families out at these events,” Kinney said. “You see some of the kids out there shooting, and sometimes we have some wives and girlfriends who come out and shoot. I’ll allow them to come out. They’re not competing for medals, they’re coming out and shooting for fun.”
The basketball tournament took place in nearby Flower Mound Marcus High School’s gym. Different teams sported their colors ranging from similarly colored t-shirts with numbers created on the back in tape to Mesquite’s matching shorts and jerseys. Perched midway up the bleachers eyeing the Flower Mound – Round Rock game going on in front of him was Artie Leyhe a retired Duncanville firefighter and now both a competitor and a coordinator for the Games.
“I just enjoy doing it,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie, getting together with other firefighters. Meeting year to year, getting friendships going.”
Scott is a player on San Antonio Fire Department’s basketball team and has been coming to the Games for five years.
“I love playing basketball,” he said. “We have a good group of guys who like doing things together, teamwork things. I think it’s fun, us coming out here representing San Antonio and playing with other departments and just having a good time with your buddies.”
Sarah Strange, the wife a Round Rock player, was there with her children. This is the second year that she has attended the Games.
“We come out here to support the city, to support the team, the guys, cheer them on,” she said. “I really like watching my husband play. We don’t get a chance to see everybody very often, and so it’s kind of nice to get everyone together.”
There are more changes in the air for this 30-year tradition besides its recent name change from Summer Olympics to Summer Games. The organization is going nonprofit. Kinney was quick to explain that the Games need to adapt in order to better serve its community.
“We’re going non-profit because the times have changed. It will benefit some sort of charitable organization whether it’s fallen firefighters or something like that,” he said.
At first glance, the Games may come across as just another competition, but it is really a lot more than that. It is a chance for the close-knit parts of a widespread community to come together and become stronger as one, statewide community. All those involved, from the participants to the fans, love not only being able to relax with some summer competition but also the opportunity to forge new friendships and strengthen the ones already made. The Metroplex is firmly dedicated to fostering this event in any way possible.
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2012 21:43
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Irving Councilman Dennis Webb served as tour guide for a charter bus full of Irving citizens as they took a cross-state tour of the City’s water supply system earlier this month. Also on board were former City Councilman Rick Stopfer and the City’s water consultant, David Dean.
“The citizens got a look at a possible water source, Lake Hugo in Oklahoma,” said Webb. “Then we stopped off at Lake Cooper where Irving gets 85 percent of its water. We went to the Everett Reservoir, a holding reservoir where they bleed the air out of the lines. Then a gravity line brings the water to the pump station Irving has at Princeton, and from there it’s pumped to Lake Lewisville.
“About 25 – 28 people got to see Irving’s investment in its own water delivery system.”
Webb said Irving has a contract with the city of Hugo, OK for some of its water – 25,000 acre feet per year – if the details can be worked out with the state of Oklahoma and with the Choctaw tribe to build a pipeline for its delivery into Texas.
“All of the parties involved are trying to work out an agreement to free up the right for Irving to get this water,” said Webb.
“Based on our city’s population, we are providing enough water for now, but with the projected growth here, we’ve got to have additional supplies.
“Our need is going to increase, and we have to meet those demands.”
According to Webb, the bus passengers were “blown away” by the trip.
“They didn’t realize that Irving is one of only two cities, along with Dallas, to have its own water delivery system. We buy about 15 percent of our water from Dallas, and Dallas does treat all of our water, but because Irving had the vision many years ago to enter into this agreement with the North Texas Municipal Water District to build Lake Cooper, now we have cut our costs significantly. We have one of the lowest water rates among major North Texas cities – even lower than the city of Dallas.
“I want the citizens to understand this, to see it for themselves, and to hold onto this investment. We incurred a debt to do this, but it’s a good debt, and it will pay dividends in the future,” he said.
Webb plans an additional daylong “water tour” for citizens on Aug. 10.
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2012 20:57
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
The first thing you notice when you enter Office Products Warehouse at 135 S. Main in downtown Irving is that they have some unusual helpers on hand – or on paw, should I say.
Cookie and Candi are the two bright-eyed golden retrievers that keep co-owner Sherry Aubey safe.
Nearly twenty years ago, Sherry survived a traumatic brain injury after falling down stairs. She fractured her skull and has been left with a seizure disorder. Grand mal seizures are rare, but petit mal seizures afflict her several times every day.
“I have to come up here and sit with Vic every day because I can’t stay alone now,” said Sherry. “The dogs stay with me and tend to me. If I have seizures, Cookie will lick my face and try to rouse me out of the seizures, and it always works. He carries bags for me and helps me find my way home, because I have a lot of memory problems now. Also, I have no sense of smell anymore, and he can alert me to a gas leak or a fire.”
“She also has equilibrium problems, and she can lean on him,” added Vic Aubey. “He’ll stiffen up when she leans on his head.
“It’s really given her some of her freedom back. She can follow Cookie through the mall, so now she can go by herself.”
Cookie finds the right door to exit the mall, and he also amazes his owners with his ability to find the car in the parking lot. On one occasion, Vic had to move the car while Sherry and Cookie were inside – and Cookie still led the way directly to their vehicle.
Golden retrievers are gregarious and bright, but it takes a lot more than a gentle nature and intelligence to be awarded the ADA Service Animal vest.
“I trained him myself,” said Vic. “I grew up on a farm in Beaumont, TX with lots of animals, and my grandfather was a horse whisperer. I’ve been training animals all my life.
“Well, after Sherry got hurt, one of her doctors recommended that we get a dog just as a companion because she needed something to give her purpose. She was not doing well.
“Our first dog was Biscuit, and I think he was part mutt and part rabbit by the way he hopped. We found out that he could find his way back home. So that meant Sherry could walk down the street and then come back again. Before that, she’d get lost. She didn’t remember our house…she didn’t even remember me.”
After that accidental discovery, Vic concentrated on teaching Biscuit more responsibilities. Biscuit was followed by Muffin, a collie that was Sherry’s companion for over ten years. Then came Cookie, now four years old, and Candi, who at 12 months is just beginning her apprenticeship.
Having the distinctive red Service Animal vest, Cookie can now accompany Sherry almost anywhere.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act is responsible for the designation,” Vic explained. “As long as the dog meets minimal training standards and can do at least one thing to help the person live a normal life. Cookie got his designation as a Seizure Response Dog.
“I wouldn’t recommend that most people try to train a dog yourself. There’s a lot of serious work these dogs have to do, and you have to prove they’re focused when they’re wearing the vest. Not being distracted by people, or by the smell of food – that’s hard to teach. When Cookie wears that vest, he knows the difference. He’s just a good little soldier.
“Candi is nowhere near to being able to get her own vest.”
Dog training is still just an avocation for Vic Aubey, though – he’s a businessman by day.
“I’ve been in the office supply business for 35 years and I’ve owned this company for 12 years,” he said. “We moved here two-and-a-half year ago because we thought the location was cute, and we needed to downsize anyway with the recession.
“Then one day we saw some folks from the City were outside, and I was curious. I went out and started talking to them. One of them, Teresa Adrian, asked if I’d like to have a post office location in here.
“We’d been seriously praying about some way to bring more business in here. It was a true answer to our prayer.”
Vic is the bass player in the praise band at First Baptist in the Heritage District, and not one to overlook a sign. From a start that saw maybe a handful of patrons in a month, the postal business has grown – “Some days we see several hundred people come in,” Vic said.
And they all know Cookie.
“I’d love to take him to visit the patients at Children’s Hospital,” Vic said, “but you have to put the dog through a training program first, and I don’t really have time right now.
“Maybe I’ll just run him for mayor.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2012 20:55
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
People across Irving are dealing with the effects of hail that pelted the city on April 3. But at Irving ISD, the focus is still on the last big storm.
“We’re still dealing with the storm that occurred on May 24, 2011,” said Scott Layne, Assistant Superintendent/School Support Services. “We were the hardest hit school district in the Metroplex. The District suffered significant damage, estimated right now at $18 million.”
About nineteen campuses were affected, Layne said, and many of the vehicles in the District’s maintenance fleet also sustained damage.
But the District is lucky in one regard: “We are insured through the Risk Management Fund of the Texas Association of School Boards, or TASB,” said Layne. “So the majority of costs for the repairs are covered by TASB.”
The District pays a $250,000 deductible for each occurrence, which Irving ISD includes in its budget each year. Although 19 campuses were impacted, the storm event only counted as one occurrence.
It’s a convoluted process to repair so many campuses, Layne explained, so the work was divided into four phases. The School Board has approved the first two phases, with two additional phases to go.
“The first phase involved seven projects for a total of about $7.8 million,” Layne said. “The second phase was three projects with a total of $1.5 million, and the third phase is four projects that total about $3.3 million.
“That’ll leave five more schools needing repairs.”
Here is another good piece of luck: None of the schools involved in the 2011 storm were targeted by this year’s hailstorm.
“It’s too early to determine for sure, but I believe there will be seven more buildings,” said Layne. “All different from the first group.
“We’re still in the process of analyzing those roofs.”
Stopgap measures are taken immediately after a storm to plug holes and forestall leaking. Layne added that the District uses a roofing consultant to make the safety assessments.
Roofing repairs have been underway for three months because there were so many demands, with the first phase containing the most severely damaged buildings.
“We had one building at Irving High School, the gymnasium in the gymnastics building, where the storm literally tore off the metal roof,” Layne explained. “It completely damaged the gym floor, so the wood flooring and the roof both had to be replaced.
“Most of the work is replacing roofs, with damage to air conditioning units, exhaust fans, things like that.”
It all mounts up. Authorities at TASB put the extent of the damage in perspective: “They told us that this is the largest single claim in their history,” Layne said. “I asked them if we were going to get a trophy for that, but they just laughed.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2012 21:48
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
An Irving ISD drum-line played as arts and crafts devotees waited in line to be the first ones to experience Michaels Stores, Inc’s newest store. The day’s grand opening activities included give a ways, prizes and craft wars.
“Today is a very special day for both the city of Irving and Michaels as it marks the grand opening of our flagship store here,” said Ted Bachmeier, Michaels’ Vice President of Operations. “This wonderful new store is the result of hard work by a number of very dedicated people.
“We have been looking at Irving for years to find the right location and time. It is our flagship store, because it is the closest store to our corporate offices. We can test things here and do a lot of fun things in this store to learn for the rest of the chain. So it is very critical to have a store here.
“The City has been great and welcomed us with open arms. They have helped us to find the right place.
“The layout, design, floors and shopability of departments within departments, so shoppers feel comfortable. It is easy to navigate through the store to find what you are looking for. Generally in craft stores, it is very difficult to find everything. There are over 40,000 different items in here, so it is nice to navigate through this store and find what you are looking for.”
Jo Pearson, Manager of Where Creativity Happens, beamed as she welcomed guests to the new store.
“We are so proud of this store and all the people who have really worked so hard to bring it here to Irving. It is nice for us too, because it is close to our office,” Pearson said.
“This is a flagship store with all kinds of new fixtures, and I just think it is a beautiful store. It has graphics that are not in any of the other stores and good, friendly customer service. We just want everyone to enjoy the store.”
State Representative Linda Harper-Brown helped officially welcomed the store to Irving.
“We finally have a Michaels opening in Irving,” Harper-Brown said. “For the 10 years I have been a State Representative, I have heard the question, ‘When are we going to get a Michaels?’ Well, now we have answered that question. People love this store, and I know that is going to translate into great success for the company with this flagship store.”
Mayor Beth Van Duyne was granted the honor of opening the store by cutting a ceremonial ribbon.
“This retail win is especially important to us,” she said. “Our residents have long expressed a desire for a Michaels, and now we can finally tell them we have one.
“For us to be here this morning having a ribbon cutting to open one of Michaels flagship stores, makes us really happy. We are working on economic development opportunities. We are responding to the requests, concerns and desires of our citizens. They wanted this, and we made sure they got it.”
Representatives of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber also celebrated the store’s grand opening.
“For the past six years, Irving citizens’ number one feedback to the Irving Economic Development Partnership has been that Irving needed an arts and crafts retail,” said Beth Bowman Chief Development Officer for the Chamber. “Working with Michaels corporate headquarters, which are located in Irving, we worked with John Menzer (Michaels’ former Chief Executive Officer) and Michael J. Veitenheimer (Michaels’ Senior Vice President) to make sure they understood that the Irving residents and business community wanted a Michaels store. They have listened to the Irving community and have brought a Michaels arts and crafts store here.”
Irving’s new Michaels store is located at 7635 N. MacArthur Boulevard.
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 July 2012 21:36