The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

January 2, 2014

2013 Stories of the Year: Economy, fire, murder trial make up year's top headlines

PALESTINE — 1 Sanderson Farms coming to Palestine — Following the company's annual stockholder meeting in Laurel, Miss., Sanderson Farms Inc. notified the City of Palestine and Anderson County on Feb. 14 of its intent to build a poultry complex in the region.

Sanderson Farms Inc. is engaged in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of fresh and frozen chicken and further processed and partially cooked chicken.

The new big bird deboning complex will consist of a feed mill, hatchery, poultry processing plant and waste water facility, all located in and near Palestine.

Sanderson Farms intends to build three facilities in the area, two of which will be located in Anderson County and one in Freestone County — investing approximately $92 million on the construction of the hatchery and processing plant that will be located in Anderson County.

The $17 million, 65,000 square foot hatchery facility will be located on 10 acres in the Willow Creek Business Park on the South Loop in Palestine.

A $75 million processing facility is planned on a 170 acre tract of land off U.S. Highway 79 South, near the waste water treatment plant. The plant is expected to bring more than 1,000 full-time jobs and an annual payroll of more than $21 million to Anderson County.

A $12 million wastewater facility also is part of Sanderson Farms’ plans for its Anderson County facility site.

Sanderson Farms plans to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2015. Once the hatchery and processing plant are open, the company expects to employ up to 1,000 people.

2 Downtown Fire — Two Anderson County residents were killed in an early morning fire that destroyed a 100-plus year-old three-story building at 119 E. Oak St. in downtown Palestine.

Just after midnight on Sept. 28, Palestine Police dispatch received a report of a structure fire at 119 E. Oak St. Palestine Fire Department responded with three engines and a command vehicle. Upon arrival at the scene, heavy fire conditions in the rear of the building and heavy smoke throughout the structure were encountered. Within minutes of being on scene, the structure suffered the first of multiple collapses making it impossible for firefighters to enter the building.

At the time of the fire, there were unconfirmed reports of the possibility of individuals being inside the building, which housed a thrift store on the bottom floor, with upper floors being renovated for use as apartments. Only the bottom floor was authorized to be used for the thrift store, as the upper floors were not ready to be occupied.

Once the fire was extinguished, a search mission immediately commenced, with Texas Department of Criminal Justice personnel assisting in the efforts by bringing in canine units to search the area, Remains of the deceased were found at about 4 p.m. that day.

The City of Palestine released the name of the first victim, Hope Leann Pyle, 32, of Palestine, on Oct. 20, while the second victim's name, 43-year-old Aaron Wayne Pence of Palestine, was released on Nov. 15 following the results from DNA testing.

Thanks to the defensive stance taken by the fire department, nearby buildings and surrounding structures sustained only minimal damage.

Over the years the building at 119 E. Oak St. had served as several businesses including a bakery and Goodwill, but most people in the community knew it as the “Pittman Graphics” building.

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