Category Archives: local news

What must Herring Hotel owner be thinking?

I haven’t talked to the owner of the long-vacant Herring Hotel in downtown Amarillo, Texas, for a good while. I know Bob Goodrich quite well. He’s a nice man, a conscientious property owner — and a fellow with big dreams for the building that once served as the go-to spot for Amarillo’s social elite.

That all stipulated, Goodrich must be steamed as he reads about other abandoned downtown buildings finding new life. The latest such structure is the Rule Building, which developer Todd Harmon wants to turn into a boutique hotel. Then there’s the Barfield Building, which is going to open soon as boutique lodging.

Other structures are finding life, or are being repurposed into something other than their original use.

Then there’s the Herring Hotel building. It sits there. Vacant and rotting. Goodrich pays the taxes on it every year. He seeks developers and investors. He once called me to say he had a potential investor lined up; then the deal fell through.

Someone who at the time had intimate knowledge of downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment efforts told me years ago he was certain there would be a happy ending to the Herring Hotel saga. This individual is no longer part of the downtown in-crowd and, of course, I have retired from daily journalism and have relocated to another community. It’s quite possible this person didn’t know what he was talking about, but … well, that’s grist for another story — maybe. 

I do have a parting thought. Perhaps there ought to be a statement from the downtown redevelopment gurus addressing the reasons why the Herring Hotel continues to sit quietly with no apparent action on the horizon. Center City? The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board? City Hall? The Amarillo Matters PAC? The Convention and Visitors Council? Amarillo EDC?

Might there be some way to reveal to the nosey segments of the public what they think they need to know about the Herring Hotel? Is there a future for the building … or not?

Another ’boutique hotel’ sprouting in downtown Amarillo? Wow!

Now it’s the Rule Building, another long-vacant office structure, that’s getting new life as what they call a “boutique hotel.”

Who in the world knew?

According to www.newschannel10.com: “It was a natural progression for us to look at another opportunity. Especially with the growth and revitalization of Downtown Amarillo, we’re really hitting full stride right now, and it was an easy decision for us,” said Todd Harmon, vice president of development for DJ Investment Realty.

OK, before we pop the champagne corks and start a whole round of back-slapping, I want to offer a word of caution.

Even though I do not know Todd Harmon, I am aware of some hiccups that have occurred on projects he has sought to bring to fruition in downtown Amarillo. The Barfield Building is the most prominent of them. Harmon sought investors for the Barfield, but couldn’t make it happen. The building eventually was sold to another party and — voila! — it, too, is being turned into a boutique hotel slated to open in the spring.

I wish Harmon well. I hope he can turn the Rule Building into something beautiful. I want nothing but the very best for the downtown district in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived for more than 20 years before we relocated to the D/FW Metroplex.

As KFDA reports: As of right now, the structure plan consists of eight floors, 110 rooms, a 10,000 square foot banquet space, and a couple of restaurant and dining areas.

Don’t misunderstand me. I hope Harmon pulls this together. I want the project to succeed. I am hopeful that Amarillo’s future is still hurtling toward renewed prosperity. The city’s downtown district has made huge strides in the past half-dozen years.

I am going to offer cautious optimism that the Rule Building is part of that shiny new future.

The perfect antidote to all the craziness

I have discovered the perfect antidote — the remedy, if you will — to take one’s mind off the bizarre antics of those in power in Washington, D.C.

It is to take your granddaughter to a Christmas tree lighting in the community where you live — and then to watch your little pride and joy get asked to throw some fairy dust on the tree when Santa Claus arrives from the North Pole.

That’s what we did tonight. Emma had a blast. Grandma had more fun than she can stand, too. So … did I.

We drove the short distance to Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Princeton, Texas, a bit early. The activities began at 4 p.m.; we got there around 5. They wouldn’t light the three until 7:15. We had plenty of time to, um, waste.

We did. We walked around, visited with parents and grandparents of little ones enjoying the spirit of the season. Emma got to strap on some ice skates and “skate” her way around a rink that comprised a sort of plastic material that was interlocked like a puzzle. She only fell once, but got up and was just fine.

The sun set beautifully. Then a young woman who said she works for the city approached Emma and asked her if she wanted to throw some fairy dust on the tree when it the time arrived for the lighting. Emma, quite naturally, agreed. We called her Mommy and Daddy and she told them what she was about to do.

Then came the time. Santa arrived aboard a Princeton Fire Department truck, accompanied by an elf. Mayor John-Mark Caldwell wished us all a Merry Christmas and counted down. When he got to zero, Emma and four little acquaintances who also got recruited tossed the fairy dust on the tree. It lit up spectacularly. We all cheered.

Emma could not have been happier. Neither could her grandparents.

It was a moment of unfettered joy. It took my mind off the more serious matters about which I have been commenting on in this blog. I’ll get back to that in due course.

Tonight, though, I am filled with a child’s joy at welcoming Santa Claus to our community.

I will sleep well tonight.

Sod Poodles rack up another high honor

Let’s try this one on for size.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, Texas League champs in their first year of existence, have been named the Minor League Team of the Year throughout the entire United States of America.

Let’s see. I believe that is a high honor that needs to be saluted.

An article on www.baseballamerica.com speaks to many aspects of the Sod Poodles’ spectacular initial season that warrant a Team of the Year designation.

The Sod Poodles have provided their parent club, the National League’s San Diego Padres, with plenty of talent. The AA Sod Poodles sold out a brand new downtown Amarillo ballpark, Hodgetown, for virtually every home game they played; manager Philip Wellman is no stranger to winning league championships, so he brought a winning attitude to Amarillo while leading the Sod Poodles to the Texas League title, defeating the defending champs in the process.

I have been cheering the Sod Poodles on since before they took the field in April of this year. I have endorsed the principle of bringing a minor league team to Amarillo that has a direct affiliation with a Major League team. The Padres have pledged to take good care of the Sod Poodles and, to my way of thinking, the first year of Sod Poodles hardball in Amarillo has provided plenty of proof that the Padres are true to their word.

Read the www.baseballamerica.com story here.

This is quite cool.

City, FEMA haggle over disaster aid

(AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Parrish Velasco) 

Dallas got clobbered on Oct. 20 by a tornado that tore through the city, causing considerable damage totaling something well north of $35 million.

The city is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal help as the city seeks to rebuild from Mother Nature’s wrath.

FEMA is balking. The feds are insisting that the damage level doesn’t rise to the level of a presidential disaster declaration. Local officials argue that, au contraire, it certainly does reach that level.

The feds say the city must suffer at least $38.5 million in damage for FEMA to seek a disaster declaration. According to the Dallas Morning News, Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer, said the disaster totals have surpassed $45 million.

Good grief, FEMA. The city needs help. Schools have been forced to close because the tornado destroyed their structures; children have been uprooted and sent to other schools far from their neighborhoods; their families have been traumatized.

Isn’t the federal government supposed to respond to communities such as Dallas that have been ravaged by forces well beyond human control?

One issue appears to be the city’s street signal system, which reportedly is outdated. The storm knocked many of the signals out. FEMA doesn’t want to help the city cover the deductible costs it would incur by trying to restore service to the signals as well as begin work on repair all the damage that the storm inflicted.

In my view, FEMA is quibbling with a stricken major American city’s public officials.

As the DMN reported: “It seems as if this should be declared a disaster,” said Reich. “It clearly has been for the community, and it will take a long time to recover. We need all the help from our federal partners we can get.”

Well, FEMA, are you there for the city … or not?

God answered this pastor’s prayer

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Do not ever tell the Rev. Chet Haney that God doesn’t answer prayers.

On June 19 of this year, Haney – senior pastor of Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville – got word of a terrible storm brewing and moving rapidly toward the church he runs. Rev. Haney had to make a decision … in a major hurry!

It was a Wednesday night and the church was preparing for its usual Wednesday night worship service. Haney had to decide whether to cancel the service. He made the call: There would be no Wednesday night worship at Highland Terrace.

“I then put out the word for two prayers,” Rev. Haney said. “One was to pray that everyone stayed home. Do not go out into this weather,” he said.

The second prayer, he said, was to “have God take authority over this storm.” So, just how did The Almighty “take authority”? Haney said the storm hit 15 minutes later and that on its way to pummeling the church, the destructive funnel cloud lifted off the ground twice and missed hitting the Hunt Regional Medical Center hospital as well as a crowded apartment building.

“Then it hit the church,” he said. “We were very fortunate,” he said, given that no one was injured inside the structure when the EF-1 storm plowed into the building. He said there were about 20 people inside when the storm went through.

“Pieces were ripped off the building and they tore through the building like torpedoes,” he said of the fragments that hit the education wing at the height of the storm. “There could have been children in there,” had there been Wednesday night services. “The sanctuary had gaping holes in it,” he said.

By all means, Haney said, God answered their prayers. The city avoided injury or much worse, he said, thanks in part to the various social media platforms that put the word out as the storm approached the community.

“We were told first that it was a case of straight-line wind,” Haney said, “but then they changed it back to calling it a tornado.” Haney said he was initially a bit reluctant to cancel the services, saying that “I didn’t want to cry ‘wolf!’”

Repair work has begun on Highland Terrance Church, but it is a long way from being done, said Haney. The church has been conducting its Sunday service at Greenville High School, which has loaned its auditorium to the church. Highland Terrace’s Wednesday night service has been taking place at the Fletcher Warren Civic Center.

Soon, though, the church campus’s atrium will be completed, and the church will resume worshiping there, beginning Jan. 12. “That will be a big step forward for us,” Haney said.

The final cost of full restoration of the church campus has yet to be determined, Haney said, explaining that the church is waiting on the insurance company to determine how much money the church will receive.

Haney said he hopes to have the work completed no later than the next 18 months.

“Texas Baptist Men dropped off a pallet full of tarps,” Haney said of the help the church received in the immediate storm aftermath. “We got lots of bottled water, brooms, mops” and assorted other cleanup equipment, Haney said.

“The town was hit hard by the storm,” Haney said. “Downtown was hit hard and some in our church family lost power for several days,” he said, adding that he heard that “Lowe’s and Home Depot ran out of tarps.”

Haney does not appear openly dismayed by the destruction brought to the church building. Indeed, he counts – and cherishes – the blessings he and his church family have received as they continue their recovery from the wrath that befell them.

Haney said, “The church survived, even though the building received all that damage.”

Hey, just try to tell Rev. Chet Haney that God wasn’t watching over the community.

Still waiting to hear from my congressman

Gosh, it’s been about a month since I wrote my congressman a letter. I asked him directly for a response to a question that had been nagging at me. He hasn’t delivered his answer.

Van Taylor is a Plano Republican representing the Third Congressional District of Texas. He’s been in office only since this past January. Maybe he’s been too busy trying to find his way around the massive U.S. Capitol Building.

I asked him why he voted “no” on sending the impeachment inquiry into the public domain. He and other Republican lawmakers had yapped about so-called “secrecy” regarding the closed-door testimony the House Intelligence Committee was receiving from witnesses.

Taylor said “no” to taking it to the public. How come? I want to know.

OK, I’ve been a little busy the past couple of weeks. I still intend to phone his office. I have a couple of business cards from key staffers. I plan to call his Plano district office, the one closest to his constituents. I happen to one of them.

Van Taylor, who I have described as — and still believe him to be — an earnest young man. He’s a Marine Corps veteran who saw duty during the Iraq War. I certainly salute his veteran status.

I do not salute his recalcitrance over this issue of taking the Trump impeachment inquiry into the public. I need to know why he voted against bringing it into the open.

I’m his boss. He answers to me, not to Donald Trump.

Needing some answers about all this highway work

Photo by Michael O’Keefe/First Response Photography.

My wife and I moved to Collin County a year ago, then relocated within the county from Fairview to Princeton.

We’ve learned a good bit about Princeton since we planted our roots deeply into a subdivision under construction just south of U.S. 380. One of the things we learned is that the community is in a major growth mode.

How do we know? The highway is under reconstruction and I am getting the word from some of my snitches that it ain’t going to stop any time soon.

They built a median along the highway to curb the number of crashes that were occurring, or so I have been told. The raised concrete median aims to keep people in their own lane.

I am now in search of some answers about the highway makeover and what it means to residents who live here. I am hearing some grumbling about folks who are upset about all the construction; they are frustrated by the constant heavy east-west traffic along U.S. 380; I am hearing about residents griping about the inability to enter the highway from side streets … meaning they want more stop lights.

I have developed a couple of sources at the Texas Department of Transportation, the state agency that is rebuilding the highway. The Princeton city manager has told me that as soon as the median is finished through the length of the city that TxDOT will commence work adding a lane on each side of the highway; they will turn it from a four-lane to a six-lane thoroughfare.

My wife and I figure we bought our house at just the right time. The city is small at the moment; it won’t stay that way for very long. We are reckoning that our real estate investment will pay off handsomely … whenever we no longer are living in the house.

However, the traffic does present some immediate concern. The snoopy part of my emotional makeup compels me to ask around.

I need to know what in the world is going to happen with this highway work. When will it end? And to what end is this work going to finish?

Awaiting holiday season in new surroundings

It’s one thing to move to a new community, a new home and becoming acquainted with new surroundings during most of the year.

It’s another thing altogether when you welcome the Christmas holiday amid all that newness. Why, even Toby the puppy — as you can see in the photo — is wearing some new Christmas threads.

So a new holiday awaits my wife and me — along with the Puppy — in our new digs in Collin County. We spent 23 or so Christmas seasons ensconced in our home in southwest Amarillo. We grew comfortable in that home, which we had built in the fall and early winter of 1996.

Indeed, our first Christmas in that home was one for the ages. We closed on the house on Dec. 22, 1996, took possession of the place, then had most of our worldly possessions hauled out of storage where it had laid dormant for nearly two years.

We spent Christmas opening up boxes and getting reacquainted with pictures, furniture, doo-dads, knickknacks and assorted gadgets and gizmos we had locked away.

Our Christmas tree that year was a potted Norfolk pine we brought with us from Beaumont. We strung a few lights around it, tossed a little tinsel on it and surrounded it with gift packages.

We moved from Randall County to Collin County in the spring of 2018. Then earlier this year we decided to look for a house to purchase. We found one in Princeton, closed the deal and moved in. That all took place in late February.

Now our first Christmas in our latest new home is coming up fast. It won’t have quite the same element of rediscovery as the holiday I described earlier. However, it will be memorable nonetheless. Of that I am certain.

My biggest challenge now rests with trying to decide how to string lights around our new house. Wish me luck.

Giving thanks on this special day … and always

I am not entirely comfortable writing blogs about Thanksgiving; I’ve done it once during my time as your friendly High Plains Blogger. I think I’ll do so today, for I have much for which to give thanks.

I am thankful that I hit it out of the park on the first pitch when I married my wonderful wife, Kathy Anne, more than 48 years ago. I tell young men all the time to avoid “looking for the girl of your dreams. She will simply appear — like a vision — when you least expect it.” That is precisely what happened to me in early 1971. The rest, as they say, is history.

I give thanks every day for the two men we brought into this world. Peter and Nathan arrived early in our marriage. They have grown into two of the finest men on Earth. What’s our formula? I don’t have the foggiest idea, other than we always sought to support them in whatever path they took on their life’s journey. They have found their way and they make us proud every single day.

I give thanks for our siblings, my own sisters and my wife’s brothers. They have produced their own children and grandchildren and great grandchildren over the years. Our sibs have remained close to us both and have been there for us whenever the needs have arisen.

I am thankful to be a grandpa to little Emma, the light of our life who we cherish beyond life itself. We are grateful to have her mother, Stephanie, in our life along with Emma’s two brothers, Dylan and Logan, who are all grown up and who we love unconditionally.

Beyond my personal family issues, I want to offer a word of thanks for our friends scattered literally around the world. They have welcomed us into their homes when we have traveled afar. They provide us with different world views on the issues of the day. We cherish the time we get to spend with them and to share our lives when the opportunities present themselves.

As you might expect, I give thanks that I was born in this great nation, that I have been provided the opportunity to pursue a career that enabled me to help provide shelter for my family, to feed them, to keep them safe.

I am grateful as well that this country continues to thrive, even with its warts, welts and blemishes … and that it allows me to criticize it without fear of retribution. Along those lines, I am thankful for the readers of this blog, even those who take me to task. I don’t say this enough, but they keep me humble when they tell where they believe I mess up … even if I believe I am right and they are wrong!

I give thanks for the life I have been granted and the myriad rewards that my journey has brought to my family and me. No one’s life is perfect. Mine surely isn’t.

However, on this day — and always — I give thanks for every single blessing that has been delivered to me.