Kilgore College board trustees voted unanimously Monday evening to keep tuition rates unchanged in the 2022-2023 academic year, as many students are still struggling with the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Also included in the vote were increases to several college and student fees, though the increases are slight and KC remains competitive in overall costs compared to community colleges in the East Texas area, officials said.
“As we were developing the recommended fees, one of the things that we wanted to make sure that we were cognizant of was that we are still in the pandemic,” said Terry Hanson, KC’s CFO and Vice President of Administrative Services.
“We know that times are tough for everyone. We definitely took that into consideration for tuition and fees. The great news is that we are recommending no changes to our tuition. So, tuition will remain the same as it has been and that’s for all areas: dual-credit, in-district, out-of-district and non-residents.”
Hanson also said the recommendation to the board included no changes to KC’s general education fee.
“However, we are recommending a campus security fee. That will be $15 per semester. This will generate approximately $120,000. This will not be charged to dual-credit students. For a student that attends both fall and spring semesters, the total impact will be $30 per year.”
The funds generated by this fee will go towards administrative and capital costs related to campus security, Hanson said.
Several other fees will see slight increases.
KC’s distance learning fee was $30 per course for the last academic year, and Monday’s recommendation included language to change the fee to $15 per semester hour. Roughly, this translates to about a $5 increase per course for students using distance learning for a total increase of $0-20 per semester, depending on students’ course load.
The e-services fee assessed by KC was previously $5 per course and will be increased to $7 per credit hour, an average increase of $64 per semester.
“We’re looking at increasing the revenue to $560,000 from those two changes,” Hanson said.
“This will cover the technology costs for Blackboard (an online system for submitting assignments and other classroom functions) and we’re also looking at improving our help desk. This will be something that the students will see is an improved help desk.”
As part of the improvements, KC’s help desk will be staffed by KC employees from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be staffed by remote service contractors on evenings, weekends and holidays.
The remainder of the funds generated by the fee increases will be used for classroom and lab technology improvements.
“Students could see a $64 to $85 increase per semester but the technology upgrades that they will receive will be substantially improved from what they have access to now,” Hanson said.
Dozens of Kilgoreites gathered at the Texan Theater on Thursday evening to celebrate Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce’s STAR Gala, in which individuals and local businesses are celebrated for the contributions to the community.
Outgoing Chamber Chair Mark Henderson, of AEP/SWEPCO, welcomed attendees to the Mardi Gras-themed event and recounted the chamber’s achievements over the past two years.
“In 2021, we launched our 90th year in business and continued to provide support to members of the community on COVID-19 issues and ways to survive that,” Robinson said.
“We survived ‘Snowmageddon.’ an event that we will not soon forget, in February. We maintained ‘Shop Local, Shop Small’ all year long on social media and Kilgore Area Take-Out, a Facebook group, continued to be a favorite. We held a federal Capitol Connect on Zoom with our three federally elected officials, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Gohmert.”
Henderson also described how the chamber led the “I’m Here” campaign to support local businesses, unveiled a new chamber logo and held their E4 Leadership Conference at Camp Gilmont.
Current chamber chair Bobbie Hurley O’Dell, CEO of Arpco Valves & Controls, revealed the new chamber slogan for 2022 will be “Come Grow With Us” before announcing the STAR Award winners.
People’s Choice Award
O’Dell said 130 community members cast their votes in the People’ Choice Award category, and the three businesses with the most votes were Downtown D’Lites, Josey Wales Antiques & More and Everything That Blings.
Josey Wales Antiques & More secured the win for the People’s Choice Award.
Kim Pollard, owners of the business, accepted the award from O’Dell.
“In 2020, when we had some extra time, the board of directors went over the awards we were handing out. One of the ones that we started doing last year was the IPR Award. It’s a really awesome award to have because it’s for someone who has innovated, persevered through some difficult circumstances and they’ve shown resiliency,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell announced the 2022 winner of the IPR Award is Everything That Blings, a vintage clothing store which specializes in women’s and men’s clothing, jewelry and accessories, pin-up photo shoots and much more.
Owner Jacque Henley and General Manager Ben Marmolejo-Najera accepted the award.
“Less than 20 percent of businesses in the United States are owned by minorities or women,” O’Dell said.
“These awards are very special to me because it’s very hard to get financing from banks as a woman or minority and, to work as hard as these people do, it’s a great award.”
The award was presented to Expert Lawn Care LLC and was accepted by owner Otoniel Macedo.
Earning an award for the second time in one evening, Everything That Blings was named Woman Owned Business of the Year for 2022. Henley accepted the award.
“I hope the fact that you earned both of these awards lets you know just how special you are to the people of Kilgore,” O’Dell told Henley.
“Thank you. I appreciate every one of you guys and everybody I’ve gotten to know,” Henley said.
of the Year
Kilgore saw multiple new businesses open locally over the past year. For 2022, the award was presented to Chick-fil-A, which opened its first Kilgore location last year.
“A business, to me, is kind of like a child,” O’Dell said.
“First they’re a baby and then they’re a toddler and then there’s the angry teen years! Last year, when we revamped the awards, we added ‘New Business of the Year’ because they face different challenges in the first couple of years that they are open.”
Business of the Year
The 2022 Business of the Year award was presented to Kilgore Mercantile & Music, owned by Fred and Vivian Gebhardt.
In a video recorded for the event, Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said Kilgore Mercantile & Music earned the award by their consistent efforts to promote other downtown businesses, keeping the downtown area looking great, by promoting the monthly Kilgore Cruise Night and hosting regular bluegrass jam sessions at their establishment.
“We sure are humbled. We thank you so much and thank you for letting us be a part of your community. We live in our building so folks come into our home every day and it’s just so beautiful to get to touch so many lives,” Fred said.
The STAR Award (Success, Tradition, Achievements and Relationships) is presented each year to a person or organization who exemplifies a relationship-building and community-building spirit through their attitude, hard work and dedication.
The 2022 STAR Award was presented to City Manager Josh Selleck.
“I don’t have words to express how incredibly proud I am tonight,” Selleck said.
“I have to say that it’s not just me. We have the best mayor, the best city council members, the best city staff and all of the things we have accomplished are possible because we accomplished them together.”
Citizen of the Year
One of the most anticipated awards of the STAR Gala is the Citizen of the Year award.
“This is about somebody who exemplifies what it is to be a citizen of Kilgore — somebody who lives here and loves this place,” O’Dell said.
The 2022 Citizen of the Year award was presented to Sue Brown. Brown was instrumental in supporting Texas Shakespeare Festival from its very beginning in 1986 and helping to create and grow the TSF Guild. She also led efforts to create and operate Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation, which works to beautify, repair and promote historical sites and landmarks in the city.
Two Longview women came closer to healing and closure this week when officials confirmed human remains found in December were those of their mother.
“It’s a light at the end of the tunnel now where we were just kind of lost in the dark before,” Lita Walker said Wednesday.
Gregg County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Josh Tubb on Tuesday confirmed that an autopsy report shows the remains found in a car in a wooded area off Mount Pisgah Road in the Kilgore area are those of Rosemary Rodriguez, 54, who had been missing since October 2019.
Walker and her sister, Frances Rodriguez, said officials told them a few days before the news was publicly announced. When officials found the car in December, they said it was Rodriguez’s bright green Chevrolet Sonic but were unable to confirm the remains inside were hers.
Walker and her sister said they were not surprised by the news but that it will let them focus on planning a memorial for their mother and to say a final goodbye.
“The justice system will do what they need to do, but the most important part is that we have her, and we know where she’s at and we can say goodbye,” Frances Rodriguez said.
Walker said plans for a memorial are in the early stages. The family does not yet know when Rosemary Rodriguez’s remains will be turned over to them, but they said the service will be open to allow anyone who would like to say goodbye.
Walker described the past two years surrounding her mother’s disappearance as overwhelming.
“There’s so much that’s involved in looking for a missing person, and this balance of still needing to live your life ... and feel like you’re doing enough to look and making sure that her story is in circulation on the internet, which was really our saving grace — that we kept her story out there,” Walker said.
Officials arrived on scene Dec. 30 after a vehicle was found in a wooded area off Mount Pisgah Road. The following day, employees with the sheriff’s office and other agencies worked to excavate the vehicle.
Walker said the person who found the vehicle recognized it from the sisters’ missing person fliers.
Frances Rodriguez said the family expected the outcome of the search. She said they have had two years to grieve and try to figure out where her mother was, but she knew her mother would contact the family if she could.
“Finding the car and her being actually in it has been a huge relief,” she said. “It’s like we’re able to get the closure and heal from this.”
Officials said Rosemary Rodriguez was reported missing Oct. 8, 2019, which was a day after leaving a home on Mount Pisgah Road. Frances Rodriguez in January said her mother’s car was found not far from where she was last seen.
Shortly after Rosemary Rodriguez was reported missing, officials said criminal activity could be involved. There have been no arrests, and officials have not released a cause of death.
Walker said it hurts to know her mother was left off a road in a car and that it “appears it was not an accident.” Still, she considers herself lucky.
She said as her mother’s name is taken off the missing person’s database, she can’t help but think of the families whose loved ones remain on it.
The sisters said they were unable to keep from thinking the worst at times during the past two years without answers in their mother’s disappearance.
“I don’t wish those feelings on anybody, and I feel for the other people who have to deal with that,” Walker said.
Anyone with information about Rodriguez’s case can contact investigators at (903) 236-8408, Gregg County Crime Stoppers at (903) 236-7867 or at greggcountycrimestoppers.com.
Tuesday, March 1 is Election Day in the Republican and Democratic primaries. This is the last day that registered voters will be able to vote in the primary elections, which cover a number of county, state and local races.
Gregg County voters can vote at any polling place. Election Day polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.