Tag Archives: Collin County

We love our city, but …

I need to stipulate right up front something that needs saying, which is that my wife and I love the city we now call home. Princeton, Texas, is “where it’s at” for us and it’s where we intend to stay, oh, for the duration, if you get my drift.

That all said, the city lacks one important feature that I want to examine in this brief blog post. It lacks any sort of central business-and-entertainment district.

Two things need to be stated. One is that I have discussed this issue with City Manager Derek Borg and he informs me that the city has set forth some long-range concepts for how it wants to enhance what passes for its downtown district, which is the area along Fourth Avenue just north of the Veterans Memorial Park. I haven’t taken the time to examine what those plans entail, but Borg assured me that the city has plans — that so far are still in the far-off stages of execution — for its downtown area.

The second topic is to consider what just occurred in this burgeoning Collin County community. It just opened its new municipal complex, which is about two miles east of the area I have been discussing so far. The new city hall complex sits east of Princeton High School on the north side of U.S. 380. It is, to be clear, a gorgeous collection of offices.

The city at this moment is putting the finishing touches on the landscaping around the complex and has begun work developing the green space and wetlands on the property. It is building walkways through the wetlands. There will be walking paths built in the area. Borg informed me some time ago the city is looking for commercial development to be included on the site, which the city obtained through a donation from a local family.

My first instinct is to wonder out loud how the city is going to develop a vibrant downtown area when it has invested so much of its effort and, yes, money on building a city complex so far away.

I have said more times than I care to remember that every successful city I ever have seen shares one thing in common: They all have busy, attractive and thriving downtown districts. I need not tick them off for you. We do have communities nearby that can make the claim to restoring their downtown districts to the betterment of the community at large. I think of McKinney to the west and Farmersville to the east. City size, by the way, is no factor, as McKinney — the Collin County seat — is home to more than 200,000 residents while Farmersville is home to a little more than 5,000 people.

Princeton — with its population of 17,000 residents — at this moment lacks any sort of central district that can attract anyone. I hope it gets there. I hope the city can find a formula that works. I hope Princeton can craft a community identity that goes along with the enormous and rapid growth that is occurring in this place where we intend to live forever.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘Real heroes’ at work

Michael Sullivan is the chief of police in a city I cover for the Farmersville Times, a weekly newspaper in Collin County.

He is the top cop and emergency services coordinator in Farmersville and this week he repeated something he told me this past week about the men who comprise the city’s utility department. They are the “real heroes” who stood tall against Mother Nature’s winter wrath. I want to applaud the chief for recognizing these individuals and I also want to echo his thoughts about the heroic duty they performed under intensely miserable circumstances.

They aren’t alone, for sure. Utility crews in every North Texas community were hard at work during the nasty freezing rainfall that blanketed communities throughout the region.

Sullivan delivered an after-action report this week to the Farmersville City Council. He spoke of the heroic actions of the utility crew led by Jeramy Young, who supervises three men: Chase Conger, Danny Ruff and Cody Atchley. They fought to restore power that failed virtually throughout the city this past week. Roughly 1,700 electric meters went silent as power failed; frozen tree limbs collapsed and pulled power lines away from their source. Homes and businesses went dark in the dead of night.

It was cold, wet and downright miserable. Yet the men climbed into their “buckets” at the end of extension arms that hoisted them high above the ground where they worked to restore electricity.

That’s pretty darn heroic, if you want my humble opinion.

For his part, Sullivan this past weekend made sure the residents living in the smattering of homes that still lacked electricity were OK, that they were aware of the warming shelter set up at a local church, and that they were able to get a shower or a hot meal. That, friends, is the act of a Good Samaritan.

Again, this story played out in communities all across the region. I want to single out the work of Police Chief Michael Sullivan, Farmersville Fire Chief Kevin Lisman and his volunteers, city staffers and the heroes who work for the city utility department. They and all the others exemplify the best of us.

Well done … and thank you!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Peel off those labels

Driving this morning along U.S. 380 to McKinney, Texas, I noticed the highway is festooned with campaign signs in advance of the March primary election.

One sign caught my attention, not because I support the fellow whose name is on it. The sign said “Cris Trevino … Republican” for constable in Collin County.

I don’t know Cris Trevino from the Man in the Moon, but what caught my interest was the term “Republican” on a sign pitching a candidacy for constable.

My first thought was: Why should I care whether this guy is a Republican or a Democrat?

My second thought was: What is the difference in the way a Republican or Democrat serves court papers to individuals, which is what constables generally are assigned to do? 

I’ll stipulate up front that I detest the constable’s office in the first place. We don’t need constables, but we have ’em because the Texas Constitution says we should have ’em.

I dislike the partisan election of so many of our down-ballot offices. Constables need not identify with one party or the other. The only qualification they need to demonstrate is whether they are fit to serve as a law enforcement officer. I mean, why must we turn cops into politicians?

I have in the past made the argument that we can turn a whole array of down-ballot races into non-partisan choices. County clerk? County treasurer? Tax assessor-collector? District clerk? District attorney? County attorney?

What the … ?

Why must we identify these individuals by the political party to which they belong? I already have spoken on this blog about the partisan election of judges. No need to repeat myself on that one.

If we cannot get rid of the constable’s office — which owes its existence to a powerful lobby at work in Austin — then we ought at least force the individuals running for this office to do so on their qualifications and not on the party to which they belong.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Moving day at City Hall

Princeton City Hall is about to pack up and move to a new location down the road a bit.

It figures to be a proverbial cakewalk, according to City Manager Derek Borg, who once told me he has been through this already and, thus, he expects a relatively smooth transition from the cramped quarters that City Hall occupies into a vastly more spacious and modern complex east along U.S. Highway 380.

Moving day actually will occur over the span of two days, Jan. 27 and 28, city officials announced recently. There will be a grand opening set for March 11. Mayor Brianna Chacon wants to have it during students’ spring break to ensure that residents can be available to attend and relish what the city will unveil to the public.

It’s a huge deal.

The city spent $20 million to build the municipal complex on donated land on the north side of the highway. It’s a fabulous array of office space, comprising about eight times the space the city now uses. Borg told me the new complex will bring virtually all municipal government departments under one roof.

The complex will feature plenty of glass, lots of windows as a symbolic statement of the “transparency” the city hopes to convey to the public. Future plans call for plenty of green space, retail space and an entertainment venue for residents to enjoy, according to the city manager.

But … first things first.

I don’t think Derek Borg is predicting a hiccup-free move. However, he will take on whatever challenges arise with joyful determination that once everyone settles in, they will be able to provide top-flight municipal service to the residents who are footing the bill.

Good luck to you all.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Retirement journey takes us to hot spot

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I have been on the most remarkable journey a married couple can take.

We entered the world of full-fledged retirement not many years ago. We had lived for more than two decades in Amarillo, Texas. Then we packed up our belongings, sold our house and settled eventually in what once was a sleepy little burg just northeast of Dallas.

Princeton sits in Collin County. We moved to a city with a declared population of 6,807 residents, according to the 2010 census.

Well, I’ve got a flash for you. That sleepy little burg isn’t so sleepy these days. The 2020 census became known this week and Princeton saw its resident total triple in the past decade.

The population now stands at 18,338 residents. Near as I can tell, even that figure is likely out of date. You see, my wife and I reside in a residential development that continues to grow every single day.

New houses are sprouting up all around us. Cement trucks are pouring slabs to our west and south. Houses are being framed right on top of the newly dried cement. I have no clue what the population of Princeton is at this very moment; I only can conjecture that the census figure is a bit low.

I don’t recall ever in my life moving into what could be considered something of a residential hot spot. I keep hearing stories from Realtors and others in the business about how people selling houses end up being caught in the middle of bidding wars as people seek to move into Collin County, or to Denton County, or to Dallas County, or to Tarrant County.

It’s crazy, man!

It took very little time for us to settle into our new digs. We’re delighted to have gotten here when we did, as the price of homes springing up around are selling for prices that would have scared us away when we were preparing to purchase a home.

The Princeton city manager told me not long after we moved here that the city’s long-range growth plan projects a population of about 115,000 residents in the next three decades. I don’t know if we’ll be around to watch that happen.

What I am watching now, though, is sufficient to make my head spin.

Happy Trails, Part 193: We timed it well

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

When we moved into our “retirement home” in February 2019, we were struck at first glance by all the construction that was occurring on our street, not to mention in the Collin County, Texas, community we now call home.

Two-plus years later our timing seems even more profound than it did when we signed the papers on our home in Princeton.

They haven’t yet released the 2020 census figures for Princeton, but our trick knees are telling us that the 2010 figure of 6,807 residents is going to grow by several thousand.

City Manager Derek Borg has said he believes we have nearly 20,000 residents living in our city. He ought to know, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Our subdivision remains a work in progress. They’re continuing to pour slabs and are erecting house frames to our west. The elementary school that opened in 2019 already has exceeded its capacity for students; I am wondering how Princeton Independent School District is going to deal with the steady in-flow of new students.

I’ll be candid about one point, which is that Princeton remains quite underserved in many areas despite the intense and rapid growth. We have no hotel space inside our city limits. Grocery shopping remains limited to one massive supermarket. Fine dining does not exist in the city, at least not yet. We do have an abundance of Mexican food joints, but given my continuing squeamishness about the pandemic, we aren’t eating out much these days.

Princeton City Hall is going to move at the end of the year from its location at U.S. Highway 380 and Second Avenue to a new municipal complex just east of Princeton High School farther east on U.S. 380. That’s going to be a huge accomplishment for the city and I look forward to its opening.

All of this is my way of suggesting that my wife and I have exhibited our impeccable timing. Yep, we’re here for the duration.

Frantic moment turns out OK

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Our retired life had a moment of frantic activity this afternoon.

It involved a stolen vehicle and a seemingly endless line of police cruisers in hot pursuit. It played out, if only briefly, along our normally quiet street in Princeton, Texas.

It is good, therefore, to offer a word of thanks and gratitude that it didn’t end up tragically.

Someone had stolen an ambulance in Dallas and, thus, launched a lengthy high-speed chase through Dallas and Collin counties. The ambulance — with its motor vehicle thief at the wheel — drove north along U.S. 75, then turned west on U.S. 380. It bore down on Princeton.

We heard the sirens. And then the helicopter. I stuck my head out the door and noticed the ‘copter was hovering over us.

Then I looked east along our street and watched an ambulance make a high-speed turn and head west along our street. It zoomed past our front yard. Right behind it came the cops. Lights flashing and sirens blaring. They ripped along our street at a speed I could not calculate; I’ll just say they were exceeding the posted 30 mph speed limit … by a whole lot!

I am guessing about a dozen cruisers roared along our peaceful street.

Later, I learned they caught the dimwit in McKinney, near the airport.

As I have tried to process what we witnessed this afternoon, I find myself transfixed by a couple of realities. One is that our particular street in Princeton often is bustling with children. They play in their front yards; they ride their bikes; they toss balls around, often into the street. And ours wasn’t the only residential neighborhood to undergo this moment of fright.

The other is that our street runs adjacent to an elementary school, which at the time of the chase was still in session, meaning that the grounds might have been filled with youngsters.

Therefore, we avoided a serious tragedy. How in the world that happened is beyond me. I won’t spend another moment worrying about what might have been. I will give thanks that the incident ended without injury … or worse.

Wild ride through ‘hood

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s just chalk this up to something one doesn’t see very every day.

My wife was tracking a high speed chase from Dallas, north along U.S. 75 toward McKinney. An idiot had stolen an ambulance and the cops were in hot pursuit. Then the moron turned east at McKinney down U.S. 380.

Where do you suppose he went? The dipsh** turned the stolen vehicle down our street … at a very high rate of speed. The sirens were blaring behind him.

Then came the cops. I counted about a dozen police vehicles. From McKinney, Texas Department of Public Safety, from Princeton PD, from the Collin County Sheriff’s Department, a couple of unmarked cruisers.

They roared west behind the moron, who had turned the ambulance south through some new home construction.

At this moment, I do not know the status of the chase.

This is when the cops earn their keep. Man, I hope they nab that lunatic. Oh, and if the ambulance missed a call that resulted in the death of a patient who needed medical attention, they need to throw — at minimum — a manslaughter charge at the loon.

***

This just in: The police caught the nimrod in McKinney. May they find the biggest book they can lift and toss it at him. Film at 6 and at 10 … 

Biden declares 77 Texas counties to be in ‘major disaster’ mode

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 of Texas’s counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. It came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east — in Hunt County — are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

Jury duty will have to wait

JPhoto by Jason Doiy
By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

An automated phone call this afternoon dashed my hopes … yet again!

I had hoped to be called for jury duty next week when I reported to the Collin County administration building. Alas, it won’t happen. The call came to inform me that I was being dismissed, that my services are not required.

Maybe next time, yes? Perhaps? Do ya think?

This is a big deal for me. I have always wanted to serve on a trial jury. Not because I lust for the duty. It’s just that I always have wondered to myself what happens in a jury room when a group of men and women gather to ponder how a particular case — civil or criminal — should go. I guess it’s the reporter in me, the nosey, inquisitive side of my persona that drives this interest.

Then again, perhaps I can blame the career I pursued for nearly 37 years as one reason why I never have been called.

When we lived in Randall County, Texas, I would get a summons. I would call the day prior and the automated system would tell me not to bother.

I did serve on a grand jury in Randall County for a period of time. That was a fascinating call to duty. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the jury room pondering whether to indict someone on a criminal complaint. When we were sworn in by the presiding judge, though, I recall vividly something the district attorney at the time told us. James Farren said we likely never would be summoned for trial jury duty in Randall County because of our grand jury service. Why? Defense attorneys would strike us because they could argue we are prejudiced in favor of the prosecuting side. Oh, well.

We moved from Randall County to Collin County. I want to wipe the slate clean.

However, the call won’t come this time. Again!

I’ll have to wait for another summons. I hope to serve on a trial jury before I check out of this world.