The Fort Worth Fire Department must be doing something right: On September 25, the department welcomed its newest class of recruits at Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex to start their Fire Training Academy journey, a 36-week course.

With 60 recruits, the class is twice the size as the usual Academy class — making it the largest recruit class in the history of the department.

The class of 60 includes two sub-groups:

  • The first group, Class 93, consists of 10 "fast-tracked" students who already hold their Fire and EMS certifications. They'll graduate on November 17.
  • The second group, Class 94, consists of 50 brand new recruits who hold no certifications. They'll graduate on May 17, 2024.

This largest class in the history of the Fort Worth Fire Department comes after the Mayor, City Council and City Management’s vote to approve staffing levels where they need to be for a Department serving a city this size.

In August, a fire ad-hoc committee recommended increasing the fire department's staffing with 76 new positions, from 979 to 1,049 positions - particularly to cut back on overtime costs, racked up due to an increase in the number of special events they are called on to cover.

The recommendation called for the department to take on two 50-person recruitment classes, one in September and one in February, with approximately 25 percent predicted to fall out due to attrition, for a total of 76.

In addition to the increased number of recruits attending the Academy, staffing studies and negotiations with City leadership and stakeholders has made room for an additional 15 people to be added to the training team. These new training instructors, as well as the use of adjunct instructors from within the Department, will provide even more skill-based learning opportunities with experienced and tenured firefighters.

In a statement, Chief JIm Davis said, "I want to thank the Mayor, City Council and City Management for their diligence in seeing us through our staffing study and helping make the necessary adjustments to our staffing levels. I’m excited that the Department is growing alongside the City of Fort Worth and look forward to watching the new recruits go through one of the best training academy’s in the country."

Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

Tarrant County court adopts trendy new property tax scheme to lower taxes

Property Tax News

Tarrant County residents got cut a break: The Tarrant County Commissioners Court adopted new tax rates for 2024 that fall "Below No-New-Revenue Rate" — a jargon-y way of saying there won't be an increase in taxes.

The No New Revenue Tax Rate is a tax rate that generates no additional revenue for the county.

The county tax rate on all property was lowered by 13.17 percent to 19.45 cents per $100 valuation.

The court has also instituted local homestead exemptions of 10 percent.

The two actions combined are predicted to provide property tax relief.

No new revenue rate
Adopting property tax rates at or below the no-new-revenue rate ultimately results in lower property tax bills.

The no-new-revenue tax rate is a sufficiently complicated concept that there are multiple websites that try to offer an explainer. Good luck with that.

The release from Tarrant County says that the new rate is below the “No-New-Revenue” Rate — the rate where local government revenues would remain neutral year-over-year after factoring in appraisal growth.

This explanation is better: It's "a calculated rate that would provide the taxing unit with about the same amount of revenue it received in the year before."

Cities in northeast Tarrant County such as Keller, Colleyville, and Southlake have subscribed to the no-new-revenue rate. It's a hot trend.

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court also recently approved an $896.6 million budget for the County, which is $8.1 million less than the previous budget.

Despite the decrease, the 2024 budget goes large on law enforcement, including a pay increase for patrol officers and investigators, as well as a pay increase and retention pay for detention officers.


Texas finally bans crime-inducing temporary paper license plate tags

Driving News

A new law passed in Texas on June 12 will finally put an end to a criminal plague: The state has enacted a ban on temporary paper license plates.

The law will go into effect on July 1, 2025, and will replace all paper tags with temporary metal plates.

Introduced by Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, House Bill 718 will let car dealerships keep temporary metal plates on hand for new car buyers, thereby eliminating the need for temporary paper plates.

Paper tags are supposed to be used on a temporary basis, while car buyers wait to receive their permanent plates. But scammers were obtaining car dealer licenses, then printing up hundreds of thousands of temporary paper tags and selling them to people hoping to avoid paying for insurance and car registration.

Texas' temporary paper plates gave the state a black eye because they became a crime problem not just in Texas but nationally, turning up on cars involved in crimes in Texas, New York, and beyond. In a 2021 investigation, the FBI found more than a half-million fraudulent paper tags, sold by just three people to buyers across the country.

An investigation by NBC5 found that it was easy for someone to create a fake auto dealer entity and print the fake tags, due to poor screening by the DMV, which was allowing even people using stolen identities to get a Texas car dealer license.

The Texas DMV tried to crack down, including suspending car dealers suspected of selling fraudulent tags on the black market. So then counterfeiters began making and selling totally fake tags.

HB718 was the rare bill that wormed its way through the legislature in one session; Goldman said he was "shocked' it made its way through the process so quickly, as Texas elected officials generally prefer to stretch these things out for years.

But there's still going to be a delay: Even though the law has been passed, it will not go into effect until July 2025, ostensibly to give the DMV, county tax offices, and auto dealers time to create a new system.

It was initially designed to go into effect in September 2023, then March 2025, but the final bill bumped the deadline back to July 1, 2025. That's thanks to The Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association, who were "concerned" about having an adequate supply of metal plates in such a short time frame. "TIADA worked with other stakeholders to express this concern and in response, the sponsor of the bill moved the effective date of the proposed law to make it effective 2 years from now," their statement says. Change is harrrd.

DFW Airport

Dallas-Fort Worth lands on new list of best places for long layovers

Cool your jets

Given the Christmas-week travel nightmare for anyone flying, or working for, Southwest Airlines, it's natural for travelers to be thinking some version of, "What if that happens to me? Please don't let that happen to me."

Lawn Love has been thinking about that, too. Well, perhaps not specifically about that week. But, the timing of the company's latest survey is coincidental. Lawn Love ranked the best and worst cities for long layovers, and Texas cities do well overall. Dallas-Fort Worth came in seventh, while Houston ranked fourth.

DFW's top-10 placement was due in part to its number of airline lounges. The city places fifth in that ranking. DFW's got 19 of them, including four American Airlines Admirals Clubs and the airline's Flagship Lounge. Also represented are Delta, Emirates, Lufthansa, Qatar, and United airlines. All provide travelers with space and quiet to chill while waiting on that flight.

In other categories, Dallas-Fort Worth ranked No. 4 for delays, No. 13 for cancellations, No. 16 for "getting around," No. 25 for "things to do," No. 11 for "staying and eating," No. 57 for affordability, and No. 75 for safety.

Houston has travelers covered if a long layover means the need for a hotel stay. That city ranked third in number of accommodations.

Houston ranked 15th in terms of attractions, and 35th in terms of its share of cancelled departures, which means folks heading out of the city's two airports are likely to make their destinations without a lot of disruptions.

San Antonio and Austin round out the top 20 in Lawn Love's rankings, with the Alamo City placing 17th overall, and Austin taking 20th. Both cities fare well in terms of delays. They place 48th and 44th respectively, which means travelers are more likely to leave on time and get to where they're going. The two cities also fall into the top 20 when it comes to accommodations and dining options, finishing 15th and 19th respectively.

So, who fared among the worst? Hawaii. The Aloha State might be paradise on the ground and home to some stunning patches of sand, but the it's got four cities in the top 10 for worst places for a long layover. On the other hand, three of those four (Hilo, Kailua Kona, Honolulu and Lihue) get top marks for having the shortest departure delays.

All something to ponder as travelers pack their suitcases and plan to hit the road for 2023.

Thriving Fort Worth neighbor declared America's 9th biggest boomtown for 2022

Population goes boom

Last year, Lewisville is one of the most booming cities in America. The Denton County city neighbor ranked No. 9 among the top 100 U.S. cities for economic and population growth in a new study from personal finance website SmartAsset.

To rank the top “boomtowns” in America, SmartAsset analyzed data for 500 of the largest U.S. cities. The site evaluated topics such as five-year population change, average yearly growth in economic output (GDP), five-year growth in number of businesses, five-year change in number of housing units, one-year change in unemployment rate, and five-year change in household income.

Ninth-ranked Lewisville is the only Dallas-Fort Worth city that made it to the top 10 of the ranking - but not the only city in Texas to do so. The Hill country town of New Braunfels came in at No. 4, and the Houston suburb of Conroe landed at No. 6.

What made Lewisville reach the top 10?

A nearly 16 percent increase in the number of available housing units, to start. Lewisville's population grew almost 8 percent from 2016 to 2021; according to the city's website, Lewisville has a population of 127,008. The average household income in Lewisville rose 30 percent during the same time frame.

The Lewisville, Texas Economic Development Corporation describes the city as a “thriving economic hub” with numerous advantages, including superior access, great infrastructure, a low tax environment and quality workforce. The corporation also points out that the city is located just minutes from DFW International Airport and straddles two major highways, making it “perfectly positioned for easy access to the rest of North Texas and the world.”

The SmartAsset study notes that Denton County, which Lewisville is located in, is also doing well. The county ranks as 10th best for business growth and 21st for its annualized GDP growth rate.

It's no wonder Lewisville has attracted some exciting new restaurants and entertainment concepts, including Mountain Mike's Pizza, BoomerJack's Bar & Grill, several new spots at the buzzy Castle Hills complex, and most notably of all, a sprawling new mega restaurant-bar from hot rodder Richard Rawlings.

Five other North Texas cities cracked the top 100: Denton (No. 19), McKinney (No. 33), Frisco (No. 42), Flower Mound (No. 50), and Allen (No. 69). In 2021, Denton ranked No. 36, while McKinney sat at No. 39.

Elsewhere in Texas
Texas’ top boomtown and No. 4 nationally, New Braunfels, has the second-highest population and housing growth of all the cities studied by SmartAsset. The city increased by 36.10 percent in population and grew 40.86 percent in housing availability. Additionally, the report notes, Comal County, where New Braunfels is located, has the eighth-highest business growth rate between 2015 and 2020 (23.94 percent) and average annual GDP growth has exceeded 4 percent.

The Houston area's Conroe (No. 6 nationally) ranks highest in five-year housing growth and secured the No. 22 spot for that specific metric. It has also seen a considerable five-year population growth of 14.71 percent. Conroe, the report notes, is in Montgomery County, which ranks in the top 30 for both its annual GDP and business growth rates.

Other Texas cities to make the top-100 list include: Cedar Park, an Austin suburb (No. 26); Sugar Land, a Houston suburb (No. 46); Round Rock, outside of Austin (No. 48); Austin (No. 67); and College Station (No. 73).

Notably, Austin was the only major metropolitan city in Texas to make the list.

The No. 1 U.S. boomtown overall is Nampa, Idaho’s third most populous city.

“Moving to a boomtown at its earliest stages can be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors, as there's still plenty of room for growth. And for those who are looking for a job, there are usually plenty of opportunities available in rapidly growing cities,” Edith Reads, senior editor at TradingPlatforms, tells SmartAsset. “However, if a city has already reached its peak, it may be too late to get in on the action. In this case, it may be wiser to wait until the city's growth slows down before making the move. This way, you can avoid getting caught in the midst of a housing or job crunch.”

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Fort Worth's animal shelter holds event to get dogs out of the cold

Animal News

Fort Worth is seeking help to solve a crisis at its animal shelters, which are brimming with pets.

Fort Worth Animal Care and Control (FWACC) is facing a record-high population, and is inviting the public to come in and adopt or foster an animal.

According to Fort Worth Code Compliance Superintendent Nia Odgers, FWACC currently has more than 500 animals at their Chuck & Brenda Silcox location -- a facility that is only designed to house 334 animals long term.

The need is especially acute since some animals at the shelter are being kept outdoors, in areas that are designed to be recreational or temporary holds -- unsustainable with a cold front forecast for the next week.

Their goal is to get 150 medium and large animals adopted or fostered on December 16-17.

This program is being hosted at their Chuck & Brenda Silcox location located at 4900 Martin St. Fort Worth.

Beyond this weekend initiative, Odgers says there's an ongoing need for fosters and adopters in Fort Worth, where the current euthanasia rate is at an all-time high.

According to the City of Fort Worth’s Code Compliance Department in November 2022, the live release rate for dogs -- the number of animals getting out of the shelter alive -- is the lowest it’s been in five years.

Fort Worth's initiative echoes one that Dallas Animal Services, the city of Dallas' animal shelter, held from December 9-11, which saw more than 150 dogs get adopted or fostered.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

Beloved Arlington developer earns nod for revitalizating old buildings

Vintage News

Developers tend to view the world as a place to tear down and build anew. But Arlington resident and longtime financial visionary Alan Petsche often has different ideas in mind.

"A love for, and a respect of history," he calls it.

Petsche is the man responsible for thoughtful projects such as the restoration and reopening of Arlington's famous Candlelite Inn, the 1957 restaurant said to have served the first pizza in town; and Joe's Radiator Service, a 1963 structure at 200 N. East St. in Arlington that's now home to pizzeria Cane Rosso.

For those efforts, Petsche was named the 2023 Dream Builder by the Downtown Arlington Management Corp., who presented the award at the Arlington association’s annual meeting and luncheon on September 20.

“A restored building has memories in its walls. You hear and feel them,” Petsche said as he recounted a Candelight memory. “You know what kids? Your grandma and grandad had their first date here. Same booth we’re in now!”

The award honors individuals who've contributed to revitalizing downtown Arlington; previous recipients include developer Ryan Dodson, whose Dodson Commercial Real Estate did the Urban Union development in Arlington, and former Arlington mayor Jeff Williams.

Alan PetscheFrom left: John Arnot from DAMC, Alan Petsche, Maggie Campbell DAMC President/CEO, and Jim Minge, Texas Trust Credit UnionDAMC

A long-time resident of Arlington and graduate of Lamar High School and UTA, Petsche has a legacy of building successful businesses and helping others in the community. He was only nine when he began working for his father, who started the A.E. Petsche Company in the family garage. Petsche eventually became the COO of the family business, which served the aerospace industry for more than 40 years before it was sold in 2009.

A release calls him a "serial entrepreneur" who has owned and operated an eclectic variety of businesses ranging from a comic book store he started in high school to a computer company, commercial real estate organizations, and restaurants. He is highly regarded in Arlington and beyond for his generosity, business acumen, integrity, musical talent, and service to the community.

At the Candlelite Inn, his team serves lunch to 150 volunteers of Mission Arlington weekly. The Court at the College Park Center Special Events Arena is named in his honor as a major donor to the University of Texas at Arlington.

He was also the biggest investor in the Urban Union development, helping drive major re-investment and bringing dozens of new businesses into downtown Arlington. Urban Union currently has 24 storefronts within eight buildings.

In a prior life, he was in a '70s power-pop band called The Pengwins, which toured and sold records throughout the U.S. and in Europe. He keeps the music flame alive with a record label called Spyder Pop Records (initially created under the name Aaron Avenue Records) which has been called "a textbook model of how to do musical community right," as well as "rightly renowned for their spectacular presentation of vinyl and CD releases."

Maggie Campbell, President and CEO of the Downtown Management Arlington Corporation said, "Alan’s love for his hometown of Arlington is evident in the investments he has made, such as restoring the Candlelite Inn, and his passion for making downtown Arlington a prime destination for living, work, and entertainment that appeals to residents and visitors."

Fort Worth can now rent pickleball and tennis courts in people's backyards


Dallas-Fort Worth pickleball and tennis lovers can now play on courts that were previously inaccessible: in people's backyards.

The service is from Swimply, the online provider that has previously let homeowners rent out their private pools by the hour. They've now expanded their services to include courts.

Swimply says in a release that other backyard spaces for rent were the "logical next step" -- especially given the popularity of pickleball.

"Pickleball is a phenomenon and there aren't enough courts to meet demand," the release says."Tennis, likewise, has historically been an exclusive leisure activity where people pay upwards of $100 an hour at private clubs for court time."

In addition to tennis and pickleball, basketball courts will also be listed for rent on the site, beginning at $25 an hour. There are currently nine pickleball courts for rent in the DFW area and one tennis court, spanning from Allen to Aubrey to Mansfield to McKinney. (The DFW service has just started and will surely amass more options.)

These join 200 spaces in Austin, and 300-plus available across markets in Houston, New York, and Los Angeles.

Swimply founder and CEO Bunim Laskin says this new launch is a "game changer" for communities whose members want greater accessibility to recreational spaces.

"We're excited to offer this new opportunity for families and friends to have fun, exercise, and connect with each other in a safe, affordable, and convenient way," Laskin says. "Our mission has always been about democratizing access to exclusive spaces and creating positive social impact, and we believe that court rentals are a natural extension of that vision."

It won't stop there: Swimply is looking into expanding their recreational offerings to include backyards for events, music studios, and more.