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  • New online jury system in effect

    jury dutyCOURTESY PHOTO Over 100 people arrived for jury duty at the Polk County Commerce Center Monday. While this is the second jury selected since jury trials have resumed following the pandemic, this was the first jury selected using the district clerk’s office’s new online jury system.

    By Emily Banks Wooten

    The Polk County District Clerk’s Office has begun using an online jury system, having recently partnered with Tyler Technologies Inc.

    The jury selected Monday for a trial in the 411th Judicial District was the first one selected using the new online jury system.

    “It went as well as I expected it to, considering we’d never done it live before,” Polk County District Clerk Bobbye Christopher said. “Out of everybody that we polled, everybody thought it went well and thought it was easy.

    “The new jury summons has a different look and will arrive in an envelope from this office,” Christopher said.

    The new jury summons will have a link to the jury e-response portal. You may also access the portal by going to the district clerk’s webpage at https://www.co.polk.tx.us/page/polk.District.Clerk

    “We urge everyone to use the online system to answer the juror questionnaire, request an exemption or report a disqualification,” Christopher said. “Summoned jurors will be able to enroll their email or cell phone to receive messages concerning their service, such as court assignments, cancellations, etc.”

    For those without Internet service, an automated phone line is available for people to call and enroll over the phone. The number is 844-927-2687.

    The local district courts have gradually reopened following over a year without trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Monday’s was the second jury selection undertaken but the first with the new online jury system. It’s being held at the commerce center in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.

    Although Governor Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent, the courts are under an order imposed by the Texas Supreme Court.

    “The order expires June 1 so we’re waiting on direction from the OCA (Office of Court Administration),” Christopher said.

    “It was more difficult on my staff being offsite,” she said.

  • Trinity County approves contract with Groveton EMS

    trinityFILE PHOTO - Trinity County courthouse

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners Court now has a new contract with Groveton EMS for ambulance services, but not without some discussion as to the nature of the $1,500 monthly payment.

    While both the county and Groveton EMS agree that ambulance service is needed, the county on Nov. 10 approved a $1,500 monthly stipend, while the EMS service sought a contract that was based on a fee for services.

    Grover Worsham, who owned the service and sold it to current owner David Robison, said he understood Robison’s position, but the real issue was getting the ambulances to run.

    Robison initially asked for the contract to read fee for services as it would benefit the organization in the long run; his argument was that the language made the difference between a vendor relationship and a dependent relationship. However, County Judge Doug Page said the contract will read subsidy based on advice from County Attorney Joe Warner Bell.

    In the end, both sides agreed that it would be best to end the negotiations and approve the contract. The previous contract expired in December 2019. This contract will last seven years with a 90-day right of termination.

    In other business, the county:

    • canvassed the county votes from the Nov. 3 General Election;
    • approved $332,106 from the October check register;
    • approved a budget amendment moving $7,952 into the general fund;
    • approved issuing a county credit card to Sheriff Woody Wallace;
    • approved disbursing Family Protection Fee funds to three county agencies;
    • approved the sale of surplus equipment;
    • approved bids for the sale of tax resale properties from the County Appraisal District; and
    • approved a resolution authorizing $35,000 in county funds as part of a Community Development Block Grant, a project sponsored by the Deep East Texas Council of Government, for the improvement of regional radio communications infrastructure.