It has been a big year in Runnels County with changes throughout the county, improvements to services, restoration projects, accomplishments with local agriculture and the procurement the procurement of a water supply for Ballinger for years to come.

Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Runnels County 2017 Year in Review. The first installment, which included events from January to June 2017, was published Dec. 28, 2017.

It has been a big year in Runnels County with changes throughout the county, improvements to services, restoration projects, accomplishments with local agriculture and the procurement the procurement of a water supply for Ballinger for years to come.

It continued to be a busy from July through December beginning with the Town of Rowena honored with a historical marker, new plans and initiatives with Ballinger and Winters School districts, renovation unveiled at Ballinger Memorial Hospital, distinguished alumni honored by Winters ISD and a historic water deal for Ballinger.

July 2017 was a busy month

The Texas Historical Commission (THC) recognized the Town of Rowena on July 1 as a significant part of Texas history by awarding and dedicating an official Historical Marker. The designation honors the town as an important and educational part of local Runnels County history.

Runnels County Commissioners discussed 12-Mile Bridge and approved a group to study the demolition or preservation of the old historic bridge.

Ballinger Memorial Hospital took delivery on two new ambulances, which officials said would drastically improve emergency services throughout the county.

Meanwhile artist Tom Orsak, an artist with the Mid-West Texa Artist Guild, continued painting the two murals along with other members of the group.

The southbound Elm Creek and the South Orient Railroad bridges were both open to traffic in July. Lanes on both sides were open.

Also in July Ballinger Noon Lions President Drew Springer presented Lion Sandra Van Zant with the Lion of the Year plaque. Van Zant received the award for her willingness to volunteer and work during events.

An individual dubbed the “tire bandit,” was arrested in July by the Ballinger Police Department, in connection with a series of alleged tire thefts at Toliver Brothers and Bagwell Fuels. Lance Allen Lister, 39, of San Angelo, was arrested and charged with burglary of a building, theft of property $2,500 to $30,000, both state jail felonies.

Also in July, Joshua Horton, 27, was arrested in connection with the stabbing incident that occurred at a residence in the 700 block of Broad Street. The incident involved his brother, Zach Horton, 25.

August 2017 events

Randall Conner, a long time member of the Runnels County Historical Commission, of Winters was presented with the Distinguished Service Award during the second annual awards dinner held Saturday, July 29 at the Rock Hotel.

Also in August, Kari Calcote, Winters Elementary principal, explained all of the new initiatives she was rolling out in the coming school year.

Meanwhile, crews at Ballinger ISD were rushing to complete renovations at all three Ballinger ISD campuses before the first day of school on Aug. 23.

As the new school year unfolded at Ballinger ISD, so did a new policy called the Guardian Plan, which arms school staff and will provides additional protection should an armed shooter incident occur at any of the BISD campuses. Superintendent Jeff Butts said that an undisclosed number of staff members were armed on the BISD campuses. All of the staffers have been trained by Michael Reyes, a retired agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a 1981 graduate of Ballinger High School.

On Aug. 20, a San Antonio couple was injured in a one vehicle rollover. The Runnels County Sheriff's Department responded to the accident that occurred at about 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, on Highway 83 north of Ballinger near County Road 342, officials reported. Runnels County Deputy Tito Mata protected the woman who was seriously injured from a vehicle fire.

September 2017 rallies

Groups, individuals and residents of Runnels County rallied around the victims of Hurricane Harvey that slammed the Gulf Coast in the last week of August. Rowena resident Russell Byler led a team from Runnels County and beyond who took water and supplies along with three boats to help in rescue efforts down to the Houston area. Byler gathered with volunteers from Runnels County and folks from around the area like San Angelo, Lampasas, Ballinger, Austin and Fort Worth. Byler’s crew made about 41 rescues while there.

Meanwhile cotton producers in and around Runnels County were hopeful for a record year but it all depends on just the right mixture of moisture, sunshine and well, luck.

Congressman Mike Conaway discussed the effects of Hurricane Harvey and touched on upcoming issues in Congress including tax reform, the repeal and replace of Obamacare and the upcoming revisions on the Farm Bill during a town hall meeting held Sept. 1.

Crowds came out for the revamped and updated Winters Dove Fest held Saturday Sept. 2. The event coincided with the beginning of dove season.

Also in September, the Ballinger City Council adopted a $5.4 million budget which included a raise for City Manager Bryan Grimes. Grimes, received a $10,000 raise, which brought his salary to $92,000 annually.

Ballinger Memorial Hospital opened its doors to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 12 to show off the newly remodeled facility to the community. During the event visitors were able to tour areas that had been under renovation since November of 2016. The hospital underwent a major overhaul due to severe water damage following heavy rains in November of 2016.

Dr. Bradly Bundrant, chief of staff at Ballinger Memorial Hospital, announced the creation of the Health and Wellness Coalition of Runnels County the effort along with Bobby Broyles, director of marketing at Ballinger Home Health and Hospice and Michelle Aguilera, administrator at Ballinger Home Health and Hospice.

North Runnels Hospital District welcomed Richard Mathis as the new CEO of the hospital.

Five candidates filed to run for four seats on the Ballinger Memorial Hospital District Board. Incumbent and Board President Mike Dankworth and incumbent Bill Hunter will be running along with Dr. Bradly Bundrant, Brenda Joyce Waterfill and Bryan Jennings.

In addition, State Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) made a special stop in Ballinger to give a legislative update during a lunch event at the Carnegie Library on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Tragedy struck in Ballinger when Rickey Nombrano, 58, who was employed for the past 10 years with the city, was killed Sept. 20, while operating a piece of heavy equipment in the 300 block of 8th Street.

On the crime front, Miles Police and Runnels County Sheriff Office officials arrested Thomas Peiser and charged him with murder in connection with the death of Antonio Hernandez Romo, 57, of Miles. His bond has been set at $300,000. He died of a gunshot wound to the head.

October 2017 is eventful

Fall festivals were slated in October, including the annual fest at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Olfen. Each year a group of about 50, pack the kitchen next to the church in Olfen to work shoulder to shoulder to prepare approximately 7,500 pounds of sausage.

Ballinger native and resident Jessica Cason made history in October after being named as one of the top eight contenders to sing the National Anthem at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas.

Three Winters High School graduates were recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Alumni during WHS Homecoming festivities on Friday, October 20. The 2017 honorees are Bailey Mayo, WHS Class of 1954 from Levelland, Barbara Baldwin Pearce, WHS Class of 1964 from Georgetown and Terry Gerhart, WHS Class of 1979 from The Woodlands.

On Saturday Oct. 21, artists from all over the state, nation and the world converged on Ballinger to paint everything from landscapes to landmarks in what many called “a beautiful small town,” for the The EnPleinAirTEXAS Pre-Event Paint Out.

The City of Miles received the Community Achievement Award from the Texas Midwest Community Network on Oct. 25 during the annual luncheon.

On the crime front, a former Ballinger resident was arrested Thursday, Oct. 19 on a warrant issued from Runnels County, according to the Runnels County Sheriff ’s Office. Clint Brackett, 32, director of student ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lindale was arrested for sexual assault of a child, on a warrant issued in Runnels County by the Texas Rangers.

November 2017 marks milestones

The struggle to acquire a viable water supply for the City of Ballinger was officially over, after city officials landed and approved a historical agreement with the City of Abilene providing water for the next eight decades for the city. The Ballinger City Council approved approve a water supply agreement with the City of Abilene that provide a much needed water supplies for the next 80 years and allow for the city to move forward with project and to promote economic development. The agreement was brokered by City Manager Bryan Grimes, who would later announce that his resignation. Grimes accepted a position as the new city manager of Willow Park, near Weatherford.

Ballinger voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition A in a history making election November 7 allowing for the sale of alcohol and mixed drinks at establishments in the city.

Ballinger Mayor Sam Mallory was re-elected and In the race for two seats on the Ballinger City Council, Jason Gore was elected in Single Member District 1 and ultimately after a runoff in December Rick Morrish was elected for the SMD 2 seat.

The top vote recipients in the race for three at-large seats on the Ballinger Memorial Hospital Board were incumbent and Board President Mike Dankworth, Bryan Jennings and incumbent Bill Hunter.

In the race for the Single Member District 1 seat on the Ballinger Independent School District Board of Trustees, incumbent Manuel Galvan won. Brandi Jacob was the winner in the race for the at-large seat on the Winters Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Veterans were honored with a parade and events and a luncheon at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Wall That Heals, honoring Vietnam veterans, made a stop in Runnels County on Wednesday, Nov. 15 to its destination at Fort Concho in San Angelo for an exhibit through Nov. 19. The Ballinger Police and Runnels County Sheriff’s Office personnel escorted wall to the county line. The Patriot Guard escorted the wall to San Angelo.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, commissioners awarded the bid to repoint the courthouse to Frontier Waterproofing, Inc. of Denton for $169,000.

Christmas lights, holiday goodies, and a hometown shopping experience were on tap when Christmas in Olde Ballinger got underway complete with Santa Claus in Ballinger’s annual Christmas event which has become a holiday tradition for many.

Meanwhile four persons were transported to the hospital following a three vehicle accident in Miles Nov. 13.

Also in November, Thomas Gene Peiser, 42, was indicted for the Sept. 21 shooting death of Antonio Hernandez Romo, 57, also of Miles.

The trial of a former educator from Olfen Independent School District charged with indecency began Tuesday Nov. 28 119th District Court in Ballinger. Ramon Gose Cavazos, 51, was standing trial for two counts of indecency with a child. He was acquitted of the charges after the six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for three hours.

A Winters woman was killed in a two vehicle accident that occurred on Thursday Nov. 30. Doris Jean Morrison, 48, collided head on with a tractor trailer rig causing her vehicle to burst into flames.

December 2017 rings in events

Runnels County Deputy Tito Mata was recognized by the department and honored at the Runnels County Christmas Luncheon held Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Ballinger Senior Center.

Mata was presented an award from the American Police Hall of Fame for saving the woman from the burning vehicle Aug. 20.

The holidays were in the air as hundreds turned out for the Olde Time Christmas celebration in Winters on Saturday, Dec. 16. Events began with the Winters ISD Christmas Celebration which featured holiday booths, with activities such as face painting, ornament decorating, games and stories.

The Mid-West Texas Artist’s Guild’s Artist of the month was Louise Drennan of Ballinger. Her work is featured at the at The Cook Gallery at 804 Hutchings Ave. and viewing hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Drennan’s art will be featured at a “Meet the Artist” event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the Cook Gallery.

The Ballinger High School Class of 2018 raised $2,500 and that money is earmarked for Aransas County ISD, which was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in September.

The Winters High School National Honor Society made blankets for those in need via the Blankets for Blizzards project. The students raised money, bought fleece, and made 55 blankets that will be given to students today at Winters Elementary School.