For many, perhaps everyone, 2020 will go down as a year they’d rather forget. However, the huge news that came in 2020 is unforgettable.

By March, the coronavirus had swept into the world, the nation and Central Texas, drastically changing the way people work, shop, eat and live. It ushered in changes to the Copperas Cove area that will likely leave lasting impacts to the local landscape. It impacted everyone.

A few months later, on Sept. 1, the Copperas Cove City Council approved the new fee schedule, which effectively eliminated the senior discount for utility rates and also raised the utility rates for all customers. Prior to the vote, the issue caused a lot of conversation from residents expressing their opinion on the matter.

While COVID-19 and the utility rate discussion dominated many of the headlines in Copperas Cove this year, there was a lot of other big news — from homicides to leadership changes.

Here is a look at the top stories the Herald covered in Copperas Cove in 2020:

Coronavirus

The coronavirus reached Central Texas in March, and the first confirmed case of the Bell-Coryell-Lampasas County region was a Bell County man who worked in Gatesville.

Officially, the first confirmed case of the virus in Coryell County was reported on March 24.

Prior to the virus being confirmed in Coryell County, however, the local school districts and county government officials were already taking notice and making preparations.

On March 13, Coryell County Judge Roger Miller issued a disaster declaration.

In the declaration, all public events in Coryell County were canceled, any private facility events were urged to cancel and nursing homes and senior living centers were advised to limit visitation.

Later in the evening of March 13, the Copperas Cove Independent School District announced that it would extend its Spring Break by a week.

The district began its virtual learning shortly afterward and remained online through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Many of the surrounding counties, such as Bell County, issued a “shelter at home” order for residents. Coryell County never did.

Instead, on March 27, Miller urged county residents not to travel to any county with a shelter order or any county along the Interstate 35 corridor.

Meanwhile, Copperas Cove Mayor Bradi Diaz issued the city’s first disaster declaration on March 20.

On March 26, the city council voted 5-2 against a stay at home order for the city.

As the coronavirus pandemic began in March, it also had a profound impact on shopping. Everyday items such as toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning products became harder to find.

Area residents began to stock up in preparation for staying home.

Area retailers such as H-E-B, Walmart and Sam’s Club began imposing purchasing restrictions in an effort to keep shelves stocked longer.

Utility Bills

Copperas Cove residents may have noticed an increase in their utility bills since Oct. 1, but the hardest hit were senior citizens who had previously been receiving the discount.

Prior to the council’s Sept. 1 approval to do away with the senior citizen discount, seniors aged 65 and over who applied for, and were approved for assistance, received a 20% discount off of the base rates and volumetric rates up to 5,000 gallons.

The council had been planning to incrementally decrease the discount, but the law firm that represents the city advised city leaders that continuing to offer a discount to senior citizens only is considered discriminatory.

On Sept. 2, the law office of Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal & Zech, P.C., issued a statement.

Texas Government Code 1502.057(b) states that utility rates “must be equal and uniform.”

In a 1952 case (City of Texarkana v. Wiggins), the law firm said the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that the common-law rule that municipalities “‘may not discriminate in charges or service as between persons similarly situated is of such long standing and is so well recognized that it needs no citation of authority to support it.’”

The law firm said state law does not authorize a discounted rate to senior citizens as a class of customers.

Also on Sept. 1, the Copperas Cove City Council approved a new fee schedule that increased the utility rates, due to an increase in the cost of water to the city.

The current base rate for water and sewer is $20 each, while the base rate for solid waste is $19.83. The volumetric rates for residential water is $4, and $3.50 for those with a sprinkler system. Current volumetric rates for sewer are $4.85. The drainage fee is $7.

With the new rates, and without the senior discount, a residential customer who uses 1,000 gallons will have seen his/her bill increase by $12.75, while a senior resident who was previously receiving the discout and uses the same amount of water will have seen his/her bill go up by $24.06.

A residential customer who uses 5,000 gallons of water will have seen his/her bill increase by $5.65, while a senior resident, who had previously received the discount, using the same amount of water will have seen his/her bill go up by $25.86.

For more information, go to http://bit.ly/CCH2020Rates.

Homicides

The Copperas Cove Police Department responded to at least five criminal homicides during 2020. The first criminal homicide, which resulted in the arrest of a Killeen man, was the first homicide reported in the city since Nov. 9, 2017, when a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot in the 300 block of Bonnie Lane.

On June 15, around 7:05 p.m., 35-year-old Eric Wayne Rodgers was fatally shot in the 400 block of North Seventh Street. Rodgers was pronounced dead at AdventHealth-Central Texas in Killeen.

On June 17, Killeen police and U.S. Marshals arrested 22-year-old Anthony Ramos in connection with the death.

He was charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Ramos was indicted by a Coryell County grand jury on Sept. 1.

On July 23, Devonn Dozell Mayhew, was fatally shot near the intersection of South Seventh Street and West Avenue E around 11:15 p.m.

Police found Mayhew in the roadway not displaying signs of life, and paramedics confirmed he was dead at the scene.

Copperas Cove police are still investigating the incident.

The initial investigation turned up surveillance footage of a person near the crime scene around when the shooting happened.

As of Dec. 30, no arrests had been announced in that case.

Around 9:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Copperas Cove police entered a residence in the 1300 block of Fairbanks Street after a call for a welfare check. Upon entry, they saw Cove resident Bryan Richardson near three deceased individuals — two of whom were children — that police identified as Richardson’s family, according to an arrest affidavit.

Upon entry into a room, they saw Richardson lying on a bed.

Under the comforter was a woman police identified as his wife, Kiera Michelle Ware. Police also found two juveniles they identified to be his children on the bed.

Police did not release the identities of the children.

For more information, go to http://bit.ly/KDH2020TripleMurder.

Leadership changes

During an election year that drew record numbers of early voters, three changes occurred in the Texas House of Representatives, the Copperas Cove Independent School District Board of Trustees and the Copperas Cove City Council.

During the July 14 runoff for Texas House District 59, Stephenville Republican Shelby Slawson defeated Gatesville Republican and incumbent Rep. J.D. Sheffield.

Slawson finished with 9,792 votes, or 61.5%, while Sheffield finished with 6,127 votes, or 38.5%, according to the election results on the Texas Secretary of State website.

In the three-way race in the March primary, Slawson had received more votes than Sheffield but fell short of getting the more than 50% required, forcing the runoff.

Sheffield was first elected to the seat on Nov. 7, 2012.

District 59 covers eight counties — Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba and Somervell.

For more information about her victory, go to http://bit.ly/CCH2020Slawson.

In the school district, newest trustee John Gallen proved that the third time is indeed a charm.

Gallen ran unopposed this year and was deemed elected Sept. 15 when the board of trustees canceled the election on account of no contested races.

He had previously ran in two unsuccessful campaigns to obtain a seat on the board.

Gallen was sworn in and took his place on the dais Nov. 10, succeeding longtime trustee Jim Copeland, whom Gallen lost to by six votes in 2017.

After 20 years as an officer in the Army, Gallen taught special education at Copperas Cove High School for 20 years.

Gallen has also served on the Copperas Cove City Council. Between his time as an officer in the Army, to his time on the city council and his time as an educator, Gallen said he thinks his experience holds him in good stead.

For more information and to see what he had to say, go to http://bit.ly/CCH2020Gallen.

On Dec. 15, Vonya Hart officially became the newest member of the Copperas Cove City Council.

She defeated Theresa “Terri” Deans in a runoff with 602 votes (57.6%) to Deans’ 444 (42.4%).

Since Aug. 17, when she filed her application, Hart has attended city council meetings in person to become familiar with the process, should she win.

After each council meeting, recordings are uploaded onto the city’s website and the city’s YouTube channel.

Part of her research has been going through videos and documents of past council meetings.

For more information and to see what she had to say about the win, go to http://bit.ly/CCH2020Hart.

 

Most read online stories

There were a number of topics among the Top 10 most read stories on the Copperas Cove Herald online.

Among the top read stories were four sports related stories, two business stories, one story about utilities, one story about the school district and two stand-alone stories.

Below is a list of the titles of the articles along with links to access them:

No. 1: Cove temporarily flooded with water and billing customers — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10Billing

No. 2: CCISD athletes sign letters of intent to play collegiate sports — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10Athletes

No. 3: Kempner resident bringing Las Vegas flair to Killeen tonight — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10BlackDiamond

No. 4: Full circle: Coach returns to hometown roots — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10Coach

No. 5: Cove soccer captain was ‘good, natural leader’ coach says — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10Soccer

No. 6: Copperas Cove Incredible Kids recognized — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10IncredibleKids

No. 7: Town hall on Texas Power Switch draws questions from interested Cove residents — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10PowerSwitch

No. 8: Dozens come out in Cove to support local food trucks — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10FoodTrucks

No. 9: Family-owned property investment business helps home owners in need — http://bit.ly/CCH2020Property

No. 10: Lady Dawgs volleyball team prepares for season — http://bit.ly/CCHTop10VBall

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