Editor’s note: The national year in review article which appeared in the Dec. 29 issue of the Van Alstyne Leader failed to elaborate on the wider scope of President Donald Trump’s 2017 accomplishments. Other notable events that took place in the White House in the past year include the issuance of the executive order to overturn the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides deportation relief for eligible immigrant youth; the Dec. 22 signing of the Tax Cuts and Job Acts that reduces corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent beginning in 2018; Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change agreement, which more than 190 countries in the world signed; the U.S. withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multinational trade agreement; President Trump’s decision to recertify the Iran nuclear deal; escalated pressure on North Korea with more sanctions; and the Dakota Access Pipeline, which began commercial service on June 1.
2017 was the year that was for Van Alstyne — and it was the year that will keep the city moving forward in 2018.
The year started out with Van Alstyne ISD Superintendent John Spies announcing his pending retirement. As it got nearer time to move on, Spies recommended Assistant Superintendent David Brown to replace him, because, he said at the time, Brown’s vision for the district’s future mirrored his own. The Board of Trustees made the selection and Spies turned the reins over to Brown in March.
It was their combined vision, along with the Trustees, that got the ball rolling for the May passage of a bond election and the resulting construction of a new (second) elementary school, named the Sanford Elementary School. Brown’s hope is to have the 82,000 square foot building ready for use by the beginning of the 2018/19 school year.
The city’s Economic Development and Community Development corporations both hired new directors. Jodi Carr is now working for the EDC, while Rodney Williams leads the CDC. Both corporations are working diligently to bring business and industry into the town and to enhance the current quality of life for all its residents and visitors — such as the CDC helping Keep Van Alstyne Beautiful with park seasonal decorations.
The Van Alstyne Senior Center received some much-needed outside and inside renovations, including an exterior facade that is still traditional and friendly in nature, but updated to compliment those other buildings around it. The Senior Center is continually used for meals, games, music and fellowship.
The Van Alstyne Public Library also got a facelift, or rather a ‘facade-lift,’ through donations and fundraising, much of which was done thanks to the Friends of the Library breakfasts and other projects. The eastern exterior of the library was refinished and eliminated windows and no-longer-used doors with the new treatment. The project cost $17,500, with $10,000 coming from the Friends of the Library, $5,000 from the CDC and the remainder from Texas Star Bank. The library regularly hosts children’s story telling hours and other special events designed to help teach the younger generation the joys of reading. The library also received a grant from the Walmart corporation which will be used to continue the reading program at a Grayson County shelter for children and their parents. A third major project for the library just kicked off a few weeks ago, which aids to provide for school children who do not, for whatever reasons, have WiFi in their homes. In these times, so much of a student’s homework is accomplished through the Internet and these children have been innovative and tenacious in finding other ways to complete their work, but now will have a hot-spot with unlimited use in their homes for one semester. Called “Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers,” this program has been completely funded through donations.
The Van Alstyne Area Chamber of Commerce has also been busy all year. Their first project was “Meet The Candidates” in March, letting the public talk with and hear from the candidates running for three empty seats on the Van Alstyne City Council. The Chamber held a fundraising golf tournament, conducted a series of free music concerts as “Music in The Park,” organized and held Fall der All and held the city’s yearly Christmas parade. There were also monthly networking breakfasts and some lunches with informative speakers held, while the Chamber also conducted many new business ribbon cuttings.
2017 was the year for the first Habitat for Humanity house to be built in Van Alstyne for nearly a decade. This house is now a completed home, occupied by Brandi Mack and her family.
The Van Alstyne Fire Department has been active all year, as well. A major turnover happened with the resignation of City Manager Frank Baker, who also served as volunteer fire chief. The Council selected Lt. Ryan Dockery as its interim chief. Firefighters participated in National Night Out, coordinated each year by the Van Alstyne Police Department, conducted the fireworks display on July 4 — which is a city-sponsored project — and have been active and busy with other community events, including educating young school children visiting the fire station.
In addition to crime-solving and crime-prevention duties at the Van Alstyne Police Department, in 2017 the officers have been instrumental in making sure parade paths were clearly marked, keeping National Night Out — a national crime-prevention program held the first Tuesday in October — light and fun, yet vital and informational, along with games for the children.
The City Council has had some challenging decisions to make, especially after the May election that seated three newcomers. After several discussions, most in executive sessions, leading to the resignation of City Manager Frank Baker. Since that time, council members have begun the task of finding an interim city manager, and ultimately a full-time person to fill that critical job. They are beginning the process of building a new Public Works facility on Spain Road. They are taking bids now for a company to conduct a forensic financial audit going back into the past several years. The city contracted with Grayson County public works to repair several city streets and Texas Department of Transportation has resurfaced the U.S. Hwy. 75 services roads and FM 121 through downtown. The Council had received bids scheduled construction for the Shared Use Path along and near Waco Street, but the public at council meetings requested they not move forward at this time with any more phases of this 80/20 TxDOT/City financed initiative.
Mayor Larry Cooper said that the Public Works Department has completed work on replacement of the water line which crosses Dallas Street south of Kelly Lane. This was a much-needed infrastructure repair job, replacing the ages-old water pipes in that area.
Van Alstyne also saw several new businesses open in 2017. These include but are not limited to: LaCore Labs in the Industrial Park; Forced Performance on Oil Mill Road; JoJo’s Sweet Treats, Jafar’s Mediterranean Café, and the Emerald House, downtown; Cooley Bay Winery on the west side of town; and Eva’s Glass. The Whistlestop Café changed hands and is now the third in the Arroyo’s Mexican Food store chain. Opening soon will be MiTaco and TexaKona Coffee Lodge, both in the business complex at U.S. 75 and Van Alstyne Parkway, where Texoma Critical Care clinic also opened its new facility. McDonald’s and Nietling Optical both made major improvements in size and operation capabilities in their facilities. Bluebonnet Floral & Gifts, Lux Beauty and The Duchess House are new to town, all on Waco Street. In the downtown area, there are at least four renovated storefronts ready for new businesses.
The Palladium Senior living center, a long time in the making, on the north side of town, is now open and renting to residents.
Cooper provided information that shows new single-family home building permits up 775% percent this year, with 96 SF home building permits issued by City Hall. The bulk of those, 54 total, were issued in June.
There’s no Nostradamus or Jeane Dixon around now, but it doesn’t take much to predict that 2018 will see continued growth and advances throughout the city and the school district in Van Alstyne.