Armed Sonic robber gets 35 years; One of county’s most wanted arrested in Suffolk County, N.Y.

Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis announced Friday that Joseph Manuel Meisenbach of McKinney has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for armed robberies of two Sonic Drive-Ins in Plano and Allen.

The sentencing followed an open plea (plea of guilty but without a plea bargain agreement) on Friday, March 30.

On Sept. 24, 2011, Meisenbach pulled into a Sonic Drive-In in Allen, Texas to order a drink.  When the Sonic employee came to deliver the drink, Meisenbach pointed a gun at him and demanded all of his cash. The server complied. Meisenbach then sped away and drove through the nearby Kroger parking lot. The server was able to give a description of the suspect, the car, and a partial license plate.

The next day on September 25, 2011, Meisenbach pulled into a Sonic Drive-In in Plano and again placed an order for drinks. Again, when the Sonic employee came to deliver the drinks, Meisenbach pointed a gun at her and demanded all of her cash. The Plano server also complied. Meisenbach again sped away and the employee was able to give a description of the suspect and the car.

Through the joint efforts of Detective Scott Epperson of Plano Police Department and Det. Brandon White of the Allen Police Department, Meisenbach was identified as the primary suspect. Police received anonymous tips through the North Texas Crime Stoppers website and witnesses were able to identity Meisenbach in a photo line-up.

On March 30, Meisenbach pled guilty to two counts of Robbery, second degree felonies. Prosecutors enhanced the range of punishment to a first degree felony based on Meisenbach’s 2006 El Paso aggravated robbery conviction. Meisenbach therefore faced a possibility of 5 to 99 years or life in prison. Prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry presented testimony of the two Sonic employees who were robbed at gunpoint, the detectives who worked on the case, and the prior convictions of the defendant.

After hearing all of the evidence, State District Judge Mark Rusch found Meisenbach guilty of Robbery, the enhancement allegations true, and sentenced Meisenbach to 35 years in prison on each case. The two sentences will run concurrent. Assisting on the case were District Attorney investigators Mike Bennett and Robin Laughon.

One of Ten Most Wanted arrested in New York

Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis announced Friday that Brian Charles Sweeney was arrested on March 28, 2012, by the Suffolk County Police Department, N.Y. Sweeney is one of Collin County’s 10 most wanted since 1998.

Sweeney was arrested in April 1997 in Allen, Texas, for the offense of Sexual Assault of a Child and was subsequently indicted by a Collin County Grand Jury in August 1997. A warrant was issued in September 1997 after Sweeney failed to appear in court. Sweeney has eluded law enforcement since, having been on Collin County’s Ten Most Wanted listing since 1998.

Sweeney is now detained in Suffolk County, N.Y, on charges of Assault with Intent to Cause Physical Injury to Officer, Resisting Arrest, Obstruct Government Administration, and False Personation, and will be returned to Collin County following the disposition of charges in New York.

Arts hall, park changing operating plan

The Arts Center of North Texas Board of Directors unanimously approved the direction of the organization that would preserve the long-term vision of the regional performing arts hall and art park project and the significant assets designated for that purpose.

The Board, comprised of representatives appointed by the Owner Cities of Allen, Frisco and Plano and at-large members, decided to recommend to the Owner Cities to “spin off” the organization as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit.

The Arts Center of North Texas Board of Directors stated that utilizing this strategy, the arts project would operate as a traditional non-profit versus a quasi-governmental/non-profit entity, bringing more efficiency to the organization.  This recommendation is subject to the unanimous approval of the three “Owner Cities.”

Bob Baggett, president of the ACNT board of directors, said, “We are grateful to the board of directors for their thoughtful deliberation in reaching this decision.  The multi-city board is in unanimous consensus to preserve the long-term vision of the regional performing arts center project.  Today’s vote to spin off as an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit demonstrates the support and commitment that exists for this project which is expected to generate an economic impact of $25 million annually to the region.
Baggett said, “The performing arts hall and park is still an important contribution to the cultural and economic development of the area.  With $30 million of assets donated and committed from the private sector, and $8 million invested by the ‘Owner Cities’ in capital expenditures, pre-construction architecture and design, we believe that as the economy improves this is a significant opportunity to approach with a long-term view.
Baggett said, “Our current site is an unprecedented and ideal backdrop for a significant regional gathering place to serve the population center of Collin County. Hundreds of donors, businesses and volunteers who are advocates for the arts will be able to continue their work towards making this project a reality. In the meantime, we will operate on a bare-bones budget.”
The Arts Center of North Texas began its fiscal year October 1, 2011 with a six month business plan to determine the feasibility of replacing the City of Frisco’s capital investment and O&M commitments.  It is operating without financial support from the “Owner Cities.”   After careful review by the Board of Directors of the efforts by staff and supporters over the last five months, it was determined the organization could not replace the City of Frisco’s commitment nor function without it as well as overcome the challenges facing fund-raising.

In order to preserve the capital assets of the project, the Board evaluated three options that were presented as outlined in the 2012 Business Plan that was adopted by the Board of Directors in June 2011.  The three options were:  spin off to a private non-profit, on hiatus with all activity but maintain the organization structure or dissolution.

After an extensive executive session, it was decided to adopt a resolution to the reorganization and “spin off” as an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit organization for the purpose of constructing and operating a performing arts center.  The motion to adopt the resolution for the re-organization and spin off was made by Plano representative, Betty Muns and seconded by at-large member, Bill Shaddock. 

The resolution no. 65-2-12 states:
WHEREAS,  the Arts Center of North Texas is organized for the purpose of aiding, assisting, and acting on behalf of the cities of Allen, Frisco and Plano, Texas, by financing, constructing, owning, furnishing, managing and operating performing and visual cultural arts facilities; and,
WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Arts Center of North Texas to keep the regional vision of a performing arts facility in place, reorganize the entity to operate more effectively and to  build and operate a performing arts center; and,
WHEREAS, the Arts Center of North Texas desires to preserve the significant assets donated by the communities and honor the many dedicated donors, volunteers and supporters of the project by pursuing the vision of a state of the art regional performing arts center ; and,

WHEREAS,  it is the intent of the Arts Center of North Texas to accomplish this goal by reorganizing as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to position the organization to effectively promote a public/private partnership  for the purpose of constructing, owning and operating a performing arts center; and,
WHEREAS, the Arts Center of North Texas is currently a Texas local government corporation, jointly owned and governed by a multi- party Interlocal Agreement between the cities of Allen, Frisco and Plano, Texas.

SECTION 1.   The Arts Center of North Texas hereby recommends to the cities of Allen, Frisco and Plano, that the organization transition and reorganize as a separate independent 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.
SECTION 2.   The Arts Center of North Texas also recommends that the assets of the organization remain with the reorganized entity; including all donations, land, and intellectual material, including drawings and plans, to be used to implement the continuing vision of constructing, owning and operating a performing arts center.
SECTION 3.    This Resolution shall be effective immediately upon its passage. 
The Board of Directors has recommended to the Owner and Member Cities that each takes concurrent action to accomplish the recommended plan. In addition to the resolution, Mary Grube was named interim executive director.  Additional information regarding the resolution will be released after each Owner City has taken action.

About The Arts Center of North Texas
The Arts Center of North Texas (formerly the Arts of Collin County) is a nationally recognized, innovative, public-private partnership to develop a 100-plus acre arts park. 

Co-owned by the cities of Allen, Frisco and Plano, with operational support by member cities, Fairview and Melissa, the development of the arts park is supported with public bond monies, Collin County Open Space Enhancement funds, and additional financial support from private individuals, corporations and foundations.

Located half mile east of Custer Road on the Sam Rayburn Tollway (Hwy 121), the arts park will be completed in phases, with a 2,100-seat performing arts hall, performance meadow, and hike and bike trails included in Phase One. To learn more, visit the or call 214-495-5810.

Simpson pushing forward for private donations for Arts of Collin County

By Mike Simpson
Arts of Collin County

Thank you to everyone who supported the ACC and went out to vote. The Voters of Frisco have decided that the bonds should be revoked and we respect that vote. There are many decisions to be made, meetings with the cities and in my role, I will continue to seek private donations and try and move this project forward once we meet with all three cities.

Arts of Collin County disappointed

In the May 14 election, on Proposition 1, the City of Frisco voters decided on whether or not to revoke or recommit the authority of the City of Frisco to issue its remaining $16.4 million in bonds to build the Performing Arts Center and Arts Park owned in partnership between Allen, Frisco and Plano along with member cities Fairview and Melissa. Proposition 1 to revoke the bond authority passed by a margin of 52.64 % (5712 voters).

“While we are disappointed with the outcome of the vote in the City of Frisco to revoke the authority for issuing capital bonds in support of the Performing Arts Center and Arts park, we respect the process and are grateful that so many voters took the time to become informed on the issue and exercise their constitutional right to voice their intentions for tax dollar allocation,” stated Bob Baggett, President of the Board of Directors of the Arts of Collin County Commission.

We are grateful to all of the citizens who demonstrated their support for the project and advocate for the arts.

In spite of the vote, the City of Frisco remains an owner city in the project and a party to the Interlocal Agreement signed in 2004. Withdrawal from this partnership agreement would require further action by the Frisco City Council. I would expect that all three owner cities, Allen, Frisco and Plano along with member cities, Fairview and Melissa will meet soon to discuss the future direction of the project. In the meantime, the Arts of Collin County Commission will continue to seek private support for the Performing Arts Center and Arts Park, unless directed otherwise by the cities of Allen and Plano.

Simpson: Arts of Collin County a better project today

By E. Michael Simpson, Arts of Collin County
I get questions, e-mails and calls from people saying they are being told the Arts of Collin County is a different project than it was in 2002 when voters approved the bonds for the project. In fact, it is a much better project-see the information below:

What is the same
· Voters approved $19 million in bonds –hasn’t changed and each city has already spent $2.6 million for design and all the pre-construction work
· It is a multi-city project
· Operating and maintenance is divided by all cities involved
· The location is in one of the multiple cities involved
· Bonds must be sold by the cities to help fund the project
· Private funds must also be raised to build the project

What has Changed-and Improved since 2002
· Now have 100 plus acres of land that has been donated for the project-estimated value $22 million
· An Inter Local Agreement, Articles of Incorporation and By Laws approved and agreed to by Allen, Frisco and Plano-2004
· Now have five (5) cities involved and dividing operation and maintenance cost-Allen, Frisco and Plano plus Fairview and Melissa-more to come
· Over $10.4 million in private donations and pledges raised
· All roads around project are completed
· Construction cost reduced by $20 million due to economy-below prices of 5 years ago
· Allen, Frisco and Plano are owner cities and must approve annual budgets of the ACC
· All three owner cities must approve their bond sales before construction starts
· Over 400 individuals and companies have donated or pledged private funds to the ACC
· Bond rates are very good at this time for cities to sell bonds
· Populations of all the cities has greatly increased –effective cost per person per year is lower for the cities
What has changed-not improved since 2002
· Cities budgets may not warrant the sale of bonds at this time-Cities must decide

How is this not a better project than when approved in 2002?

E.Michael Simpson is Executive Director of the Arts of Collin County. Email the former mayor of Frisco at

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