Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 14, 2013

Rodeo Association thanks Raissi and Angle for preserving grounds during Lon Morris proceedings

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Two long-standing members of the Jacksonville Rodeo Association thanked City Manager Mo Raissi and City Attorney Joe Angle Tuesday for their successful efforts in keeping the city's rodeo grounds from being chopped, parceled and sold off to the highest bidder during the recent Lon Morris College bankruptcy proceedings.

Without the help of Raissi and Angle, the rodeo association – and history in general – would have been dealt a great blow, long-time Rodeo Association member Charles Dickerson emphasized during Tuesday's city council meeting.

“There are people other than the Rodeo Association who wanted that land,” Dickerson said. “They thought they deserved it. But they didn't put over 50 years of sweat and blood into it.”

Dickerson recalled the first rodeo in the early 1960s – when the city first allowed the rodeo association to use the old baseball field behind Lon Morris College. City officials drew up a contract and officially leased it to them.

The first Jacksonville rodeo on July 10, 1963, was a smash. It even attracted a major celebrity, Michael Landon, who at that point was famous for his role as Little Joe Cartwright in the 1959 to 1973 TV show “Bonanza” as well as the occasional appearance on U.S. game shows such as “Stump the Stars.”

The city, meanwhile, deeded the rodeo grounds to the college with specific considerations in April 2009. One requirement was that the college invest $250,000 in improvements to the grounds, including painting, roof patching, and regular maintenance. That work was never finished. As part of the arrangement, LMC was required to permit the arena's use by the rodeo association for the annual PRCA Tops in Texas Rodeo event.

After the Lon Morris College bankruptcy, keeping the land through the chaotic proceedings at times seemed like an uphill battle for Raissi and Angle. Despite being asked early and often not to, officials with auctioneer company Ameribid accidentally sold the rodeo grounds and related city property to a high bidder during a January auction, then passed the problem on to Federal Bankruptcy Judge Bill Parker rather than correct the mistake themselves.

(Angle's famous comment: "When he asks if we wanted the land to be sold we are not just going to tell him 'no,' we are going to tell him 'HECK no!")

Parker ultimately intervened and returned the property to the city.

Dickerson and Byron Underwood, president of the Jacksonville Rodeo, said they are ready to sign a new lease and get going with the next major rodeo.

“Thank you for what you did,” Underwood said. “Thank you for helping us keep the rodeo in Jacksonville.”

In other business Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously to declare incumbent District 1 Council-man Hubert Robinson unopposed during the upcoming May 11 election. This declaration makes use of a Texas law that allows municipalities to formally declare unopposed candidates as victors without having to go through the expense of an election.

In another matter, the council briefly considered an ordinance prohibiting parking of non-recreational vehicles, trailers or any combination of the two in exceeds of 25 feet of length on private property. However, District 3 Councilman Bill McDon-ald objected to a council vote, saying only one complaint on the matter had been received and he would like the matter looked in to further before it is put up for a vote. So it was tabled.

Additionally, the council voted to approve a budget amendment transferring funds from the general fund administrative contingency account to refurbish the city's rec center.

During the meeting, Mayor Kenneth Melvin observed that his two opponents in the upcoming mayoral election, Rob Gowin and William Ig-bokwe, were present during the meeting. The mayor observed how their presence there helped remind residents what a historic occasion a three-way Jacksonville mayoral race is.

“I thank you for being here tonight, gentlemen,” Melvin said.