Community Betterment judges listen as Jay Gentry, director of the TCMH Foundation, discusses the organization. At left is TCMH CEO Wes Murray.

Two judges with the Missouri Community Betterment program toured Houston on Monday to get a first-hand look at several projects completed during the last year. A perennial winner in the contest, the town earlier submitted a project book that detailed efforts to improve the community.

Civic leaders gathered at the centerpiece of the last year’s work – the Houston Storm Shelter. The hour-long visit brought details about Houston’s new fire truck, which Don Rust, fire chief, noted could bring a better fire protection rating that would translate into insurance savings for property owners. Houston voters passed an eighth-cent sales tax to pay for the truck, which was on display for the two judges.

Brenda Bates, library director, outlined the Texas County Library system’s plans to construct a new 7,200 square foot building for its Houston branch. The storm shelter was designed to accommodate an addition level on top of the roof. The building would house a community meeting room, as well as library resources and wireless communications would be available in the event of an emergency. A foundation has been formed to raise the funds for the $800,000 project.

Bill Bates, Houston city administrator, outlined plans for the Village Trail, a walking and bicycling trail that will eventually circle the community. Wes Murray, TCMH CEO, highlighted construction of a new clinic on the hospital campus, as well as the introduction of MRI equipment and electronic records to the institution. Toni McKinney, leader of the local youth arm of community betterment, and several of her students also met with the judges.

The state panel and community leaders took a bus tour of the community, which included a stop at the hospital. Downtown improvements, the county’s new justice center and improvements along Brushy Creek also were reviewed. Elaine Campbell, development director for the city and Downtown Houston Inc., coordinated the tour.

Winners in the contest will be announced Oct. 21-22 at the 44th annual Missouri Community Betterment conference in Jefferson City.

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