Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

  • Livingston recognizes promoted officers and approves holiday schedule

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Livingston Police officers Marty Drake (left) and Kaleb Barker were recently promoted to new positions within the department. Drake was promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Barker was promoted from patrol to detective.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish recognized a pair of longtime officers in his department Tuesday evening at the City of Livingston’s monthly council meeting at Livingston City Hall.

    Marty Drake was recently promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Kaleb Barker was promoted from patrol to detective. Drake has been with the LPD for 20 years, while Barker has been with the department for 16.

    “We’re fortunate enough to have most of our department with master peace officers,” Drake said. “We make sure the cases are followed up in a timely manner. The detectives do a great job and it makes my job a lot easier. We have sergeants and patrol officers who are fair and make good decisions.”

    Drake joined LPD in August 2001. He started out as a reserve deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 before joining the Onalaska Police Department as a patrol officer and school officer, then moved on to Livingston.

    “Livingston earned a Cops in Schools grant in 2001 and that’s when I went to Livingston,” Drake said.

    Drake spent the first 12 years with the LPD as an officer at Livingston Junior High. In 2013, he became a detective before earning his promotion to lieutenant three weeks ago.

    “It’s different policing in school and policing on the street,” Drake said. “The detective is on the investigative side of things where a patrol officer on the street works the case as far up as it will go. They go case after case after case. The detective does follow-up interviews and picks up evidence. The detectives file complaints, deal with the DA’s office, go to the judges to get the warrants and continue the investigation all the way through. As a lieutenant, we oversee patrol and detectives.”

    Barker joined the LPD in September 2005. He spent the first six years in dispatch before becoming a patrol officer in 2011, where he served until earning his promotion to detective two weeks ago.

    “It’s a totally different world (detective and patrol),” Barker said. “I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the patrol guys. When you’re a detective, you typically go by yourself. You don’t have a partner coming with you, but you’re not in too many dangerous situations. A lot of times, it’s me going to a business to look at the camera system and request copies of a surveillance video. I’ll be doing more investigation.”

    In other items of business, the city approved the holiday compensation for employees and council aldermen, the holiday observances for 2021, and a resolution for a public hearing at the Dec. 8 meeting and dues for Brazos Transit. Also approved was a payment of $56,430 to Maguire Iron for the elevated water tanks project.

    “The employees get turkeys or hams for Thanksgiving, employees who has been with the city at least a year gets a week’s salary, employees who have been with us less than a year get $50, and the council members get turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” City Manager Bill Wiggins said. “The holidays are going to be New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr., two days for Thanksgiving, two days for Christmas, Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Good Friday and Labor Day. The Bauers have the tract of land just east of Peters Tractor & Equipment. We’ll have the hearing on annexing that tract on Dec. 8. Aideney Reeves will be the Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board member. The city’s portion is $4,200 and it’s an annual contribution. We help the county with their portion.”

    Livingston city council will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8.

  • New businesses breaking ground in Livingston

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE From left, Livingston city aldermen Clarke Evans, Elgin Davis and Raymond Luna listen to city manager Bill Wiggins’ report Tuesday evening.

    By Jason Chlapek

    The future is bright for the city of Livingston.

    City manager Bill Wiggins announced at Tuesday’s monthly city council meeting during his report that several new businesses, including some popular chain restaurants, are breaking ground in Livingston. Among these are Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Starbucks.

    “The new year is very exciting as far as new projects getting started,” Wiggins said. “Chick-fil-A broke ground just west of town last week, an 80-unit apartment complex broke ground, and Starbucks started Monday. We’re very excited with some of the new projects that have been going on.”

    Regas Contractors is building Chick-fil-A, which city officials hope will be open by May. A permit has been given and dirt work has begun on the restaurant, which will have an address of 1821 US Highway 190 West.

    Panda Express and Starbucks will both be located in the Walmart parking lot. The building permit for Starbucks was given on Friday and ground broke on the project Monday.

    Panda Express has not set a construction date yet. Other projects in Livingston include Blue Wave Car Wash, Country Place Senior Living, Health Center of East Texas, House of Mary, Livingston Memorial United Methodist Church, Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments and T-Mobile.

    “We’re very optimistic that we can somehow get a hold on Covid,” Wiggins said. “We need to.”

    Council aldermen also approved a pair of public hearings that will take place at next month’s meeting on Feb. 9. One is for the demolition process of a former hotel located on 1200 N. Washington and the other for a dilapidated residence located on 1958 S. Washington.

    “They’ve (the former hotel owners) got the asbestos work done and the next step will be getting a contractor to do the demolition,” Wiggins said. “They should be starting on the demolition by Feb. 9. If not, they have to come to the hearing and let us know what the hold-up is. The demolition process needs to be started by Feb. 9.”

    Next month’s city council meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • Onalaska City recognizes local election results

    SwearinChoateEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA I PCE David Johnson swears in newly re-elected Mayor Chip Choate before being sworn in himself as Municipal judge.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    ONALASKA - Re-elected Mayor Chip Choate opened the monthly Onalaska city meeting with news of an agreement made with TXDOT to allow the city to place flags on the Kickapoo Creek bridge, outside of the guardrails. Traditionally, the city has put flags along Highway 190 on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, but has been unable to along the bridge due to TXDOT regulations.

    During his announcements, the mayor also encouraged meeting-goers to reach out to their representatives, James White and Robert Nichols, citing their inaction on legislation to assist the Alabama-Coushatta reservation in retaining their gaming activities. With hundreds of bills already filed for the 87th legislation, which will start at noon on Jan. 21, 2021, there is still time to reach out to representatives to better help the tribe, which helps bring millions of dollars to East Texas and Polk County.

    For a list of representatives by zip code, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.

    The city approved several hires and appointments, including Onalaska-raised Simon Prince, who will serve as a full-time officer with a standard probationary period. Chief Jessica Stanton said his prior experience includes working in Cleveland and in San Jacinto County before deciding to move back.

    Other positions include the re-appointment of David Johnson for Municipal Judge, Associate Judge Greg Magee, city council member Paul Laverty, and newly appointed Attorney and Prosecutor for Onalaska, Chris Thompson. Thompson will replace David Mormon, who earlier resigned after 17 years with the city to take on a judgeship for Walker County.

    Shirley Gilmore was also continue serving as Mayor Pro-tem.

    City Events

    On Nov. 21, the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department will hold a blood drive from 2:30-7 p.m. Those wishing to participate must sign up online prior to giving blood.

    Sign-up forms can be found at tinyurl.com/y56z8mkp.All. Successful donations will include a free Covid-19 anti-body test.

    The Second Annual Onalaska Reindeer Dash will be on the afternoon of Dec. 5, which the Christmas Parade immediately following. Parade participants will toss candy and parade-goers are encouraged to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

    For more information on the race or parade, contact Tammy Seader at 936-646-5000 or visit the city’s Facebook Page. Parade forms are also available online at cityofonalaska.us.

    The City of Onalaska meets every second Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Public comments can be made at beginning of the meeting.

  • Polk County approves land for solar plant

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP law firm talks to Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County could be getting solar power in the next few years.

    Commissioners approved a measure to establish a reinvestment zone for the purpose of tax abatement to provide economic development within the county Tuesday morning. The reinvestment zone consists of a total of 5,939.349 acres in the eastern portion of the county.

    “Solar power will bring jobs and new industry.,” George Riggs of Long Road Energy said. “It builds the tax base and it’s more revenue for the landowners. The more projects you have like this, the more opportunities you have for storage of equipment, warehousing and repair facilities. It brings a whole new dynamic to the area. In addition to timber, you have a whole new industry.”

    The county has been in talks with solar companies for nearly four years. The project is expected to break ground during the first quarter of 2021 and completion is projected for the fourth quarter of 2022.

    “This process has taken about four years,” Riggs said. “Normally it takes about 3-4 years to get it approved. Once we break ground, it’ll take a year to a year and a half to complete. This is our first East Texas project. We chose Polk County because the close proximity to the transmission lines that service this area.”

    Riggs is a former commissioner in Pecos County. Most of his company’s work is done in West Texas.

    Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass and Magee, LLP represents the county through this agreement. He talked about the process to get these projects approved and ultimately finished.

    “(Long Road Energy) came to us with the proposal,” Bass said. “These projects are built in a reinvestment zone. There’s several layers of this process. First, the developer goes out and leases ground from the landowner so they have a place to build. Next they go to the taxing entities to tie down their tax burdens. Then they have to essentially find a buyer for the power and go to a lender to borrow the money to fund the project. This is basically the second step toward that. We hope it will develop and I expect that this project will go on through.”

    In other items, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office decided to stay with its current resident banking and commissary service, a community development block grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture in support of Dallardsville-Segno water improvements was approved, and a resolution adopting civil rights plans and procedures was approved. Commissioners court meets again at 9 a.m. Nov. 24.

  • Resolutions, library funding discussed by Tyler County commissioners

    NEWS TyCoCourthouse graphicCOURTESY OF OFFICIAL COUNTY WEBSITE The Tyler County courthouse

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The Tyler County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in opposition to two pieces of legislation they say would, if passed, “silence county officials.”

    The officials adopted several resolutions and proclamations during its regular monthly meeting on Monday morning. The first resolution the officials approved was to voice opposition to Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 749, of which County Judge Jacques Blanchette said “is of a concern to all of us who hold public office.”

    The bill in the Senate (by Sen. Bob Hall) and the House bill (by Rep. Mayes Middleton) would prohibit the usage of county funds to support any non-profit organization engaging in legislative communication.

    Blanchette said information is going around about the bills, which are among the thousands of pieces of legislation up for examination in the current legislative session, and other counties across the state are voicing similar opposition.

    “It is just simply our way of enjoining ourselves to the other counties who are expressing themselves and their voices to the legislature in the opposition to any of our efforts to speak out to the legislature regarding laws they pass that place burdens upon us that are in turn passed on to the taxpayer,” Blanchette said.

    The second item under the heading “Resolutions/Proclamations” was to proclaim the month of April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Tyler County.

    CASA board member Donnie Wayne Gulley spoke to the issue before the officials on Monday morning. Gulley, who was a foster child himself, said he has striven to be an advocate for abused and/or neglected children who are in the foster care system.

    Gulley said that through the last year there were 188 confirmed victims of child abuse and/or neglect in the county last year, which he said was “188 confirmed victims too many,” along with 87 total children in the child welfare system.

    He outlined the process of the Court Appointed Special Advocates and what they do. “The difference that CASA makes for children who have experience abuse or neglect is definitely life-changing,” he said, and spoke of his own experience and memories of abuse at 18 months old when he was removed from his first home.

    “We can stop the cycle of abuse by being a much-needed voice of support,” Gulley said.

    Library funding discussed

    Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock brought an agenda item up for discussion concerning funds allocated to the Allan Shivers Library in Woodville. Sturrock said that he has researched commissioners court minutes from the 1950s or 60s and could not find anything that specified how county funds to the library were to be applied.

    Sturrock wanted to bring the item up so that the court could have, in writing, a way for the facility to use county funds in whatever ways its governing board sees fit.

    Blanchette and Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall are both on the library’s board, and former county employee Kay Timme was recently appointed. “The concept is certainly laudable and has a lot of merit,” Blanchette said of Sturrock’s agenda item. He recommended suspending any action until more information comes from the governing board for the library. He also described its funding structure, which comes from three different entities: Woodville ISD, the City of Woodville and Tyler County, and is supplemented further by grants, fundraisers and donations.

    Timme read the deed for the library, which states that if there is a failure to keep the facility going on the part of the three contributing entities, the funding would revert back to a foundation associated with the Shivers family.

    Other documents that Timme uncovered spelled out what particulars the county is responsible for funding, which include the staff along with books and professional supplies.

    Library board member Josh McClure also spoke on the topic, specifically to the inclusion of the word “may” within Sturrock’s agenda item, as in “Tyler County may support the Allan Shivers Library in the amount agreed upon by the Commissioners’ Court…,” which McClure said could be problematic in the future, with regard to whomever might be elected to serve in the future and their desire to fund or not to fund.

    “I do think that wording needs to be visited,” McClure said. “If the policy said ‘may,’ and then one day someone who doesn’t support the library is voted in…and says ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this,’…it would put more of a burden on the county.”

    Other Business

    During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners also approved the following items:

    • A proclamation recognizing March as Red Cross Awareness Month in Tyler County

    • A resolution for an indigent defense grant program

    • A proclamation to proclaim March 1 through April 3 as “It’s Dogwood Time in Tyler County”

    • Billie Read and Walter McAlpin were re-appointed to the Tyler County Hospital Board of Managers to begin serving new two-year terms.

    • The starting of procurement services for engineering and administrative services for the fiscal year 2021-22 TDA CDBG grant cycle, along with the appointment of a rating committee were both approved.

  • School Board to look at itself

    031121 trinity schools TONY FARKAS | TCNS Trinity ISD administration officials congratulate the Employees of the Month for February — Martha Farnsworth for professionals, Michelle Medlock for paraprofessionals and Craig Troutman for support.

    TCNS staff

    TRINITY — The Trinity ISD School Board will take a look in the mirror to help itself improve.

    At the regular meeting on March 1, which was moved from Feb. 22 because of winter weather, the board received evaluation forms to fill out over the coming weeks.

    Superintendent John Kaufman said that the board will fill out the forms to be turned in by March 23, which he will then compile and present at the next board meeting.

    The idea behind the evaluation is to use it as a training tool, Kaufman said.

    In other business, the board:

    • approved the filing for a waiver from the state for missed school days due to inclement weather;
    • approved a certification of unopposed candidates for the 2021 school board election, as well as an order cancelling the election;
    • approved moving the March School Board meeting to March 29; and
    • approved paying employees for the days the district was closed during the weather disaster.
  • School to change weekly attendance

    050621 apple springsFILE PHOTO Apple springs calendar

    By Tony Farkas

    APPLE SPRINGS — The Apple Springs school district is going to four-day week.

    Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, students will attend Tuesdays through Fridays, with Monday now being off. The measure was approved at the April 12 School Board meeting.

    Superintendent Cody Moree said the move was something he had proposed the year before COVID hit, but for various reasons, it didn’t gain momentum; however, since then, several districts — Latexo, Corrigan-Camden, Oakwood, Calvert — have made the move, with good results.

    Interest then picked back up, Moree said, and with other districts doing it and the rumors of more, Apple Springs began to move in that direction.

    “I guess the word got around that those districts that have done so are glad; I talked to a board member in Corrigan who said it’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” he said.

    Moree said the district first surveyed the parents electronically, through email and Facebook, which came back with 85 percent of respondents in favor of it. A paper survey came back at more than 90 percent in favor.

    “We felt like we had community support,” he said. “We’re going to try it and hopefully it will turn out good.”

    Moree said the immediate benefit will be teacher recruitment and retention, because small school districts can’t offer the same pay scale as larger ones.

    “We have to compete with that, but we hope by offering this it will help recruiting good people and keep the people we have,” he said.

    Additionally, Moree said there is an academic benefit with teachers and students spending longer, concentrated time on subjects, and students will be in the same room with a teacher.

    “In the long run, the 20 percent rule kicks in; there will be better attendance because appointments can be made on off-days, teachers can make appointments during the week; we’re running the buses 20 percent less so transportations costs should drop,” he said. “With all those things, we think we’ll improve what we’re doing.”

    With students being home an additional day, child care requirements and the effect on the district was discussed, and Moree said the change will be an adjustment for parents and families. However, one of the unintended consequences of the district dealing with the shutdown and changes because of COVID was parents making such arrangements, so the effect should be minimal, he said.

    “We appreciate the support,” Moree said. “We’re trying to be innovative and look for better ways to teach the kids.”

  • Schools discuss robbery arrests

    020421 trinity isd 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Trinity ISD Superintendent John Kaufman and other administration officials present December employee of the month plaques to Magaly Zamora, professional; Ibeth Caceres, paraprofessional; and Crista Caceres, support, at the monthly School Board meeting on Jan. 26.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity ISD School Board heard a presentation regarding two students who were arrested in November for allegedly breaking into the high school and destroying school property.

    Isaac Debose, pastor of Lone Star Missionary Baptist Church, said that while the events of December were tragic, he believes the two teens are being falsely accused.

    The two teens were arrested Dec. 3 and face charges of criminal mischief greater than $30,000 but less that $150,000 and burglary of a building, both felony charges.

    “The accusation doesn’t bother me, as I understand that someone needs to pay,” Debose said. “What really bothers me is the way this process is being handled.”

    Debose said the system has been unfair to certain types of people, but said that because of the open investigation, he declined to offer specifics.

    020421 trinity isd 2TONY FARKAS |TCNS Trinity ISD Superintendent John Kaufman and other administration officials present a January employee of the month plaque to Karen Shelton, professional, and the School Board meeting on Jan. 26. Other January honorees (not pictured) are Bridget Ladnier, paraprofessional, and Cassie Thompson, support.

    He said that the students have been publicly humiliated by this ordeal.

    “At what point does this go beyond hearsay or sub-par investigative work,” he said. “We need answers and we need results. The officers need to do their due diligence, and if there is no evidence, they need to be released.

    “These children need to … salvage what’s left of their senior year,” Debose said. “This is so wrong on so many levels. The people will not stand for it. We, as a people, will talk to whoever we need to talk to and take whatever measures we need to take to seek justice.”

    In other business, the board:

    •extended full pay for staff who are out with COVID through the end of the school year. The program ended Dec. 31;

    •approved 300 pages worth of changes to the school policy manual, based on recommendations by the Texas Association of School Boards. Local changes include additional cybersecurity training, adding a grievance process for terminated at-will employees, and setting parameters for the administration of non-prescription drugs;

    •discussed the system’s academic performance perform, which is done annually. However, since there was no testing done last year, and no testing will be done this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers that were provided were from 2018;

    •approved a change to the school calendar regarding COVID-related days;

    •approved the adoption of a food service procurement manual; and

    •called May 1 as an election day. Board positions held by Elizabeth King and Judy Bishop are up for election this year.

  • Schools to create grant plan

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO Groveton ISD logo

    TCNS staff

    GROVETON — The Groveton ISD Board will schedule a public hearing on how to best spend a $2.19 million grant, and will appoint a committee to brainstorm possibilities.

    Superintendent Don Hamilton said that the Texas Association of School Boards put out a resolution on the ESSER III grant, which requires publication of the districts use of funds; Groveton decided to do it as a board agenda item that will allow public comment.

    “We’re looking at $2.19 million, broken into two parts,” Hamilton said. “The first will be 2/3, or $1.43 million, and the second part will be 1/3, or $727,000. We’re working on how to spend that money.”

    Hamilton said that incoming superintendent Jim Dillard will assemble a committee to decide how to best utilize those funds, which will be presented at the public hearing.

    “We’re looking at the grant requirements, what is allowed, and what will be the best fit,” he said. “We have until late July to get application in.”

    In other business, the board:

    • accepted the resignation of James Price, who is retiring, and Hunter Hartman, who is moving to a different district’
    • approved the hiring of Rebecca Huff as assistant superintendent and Angela Richey and Britton Stovall as teachers;
    • approved an amendment to the budget to pay for property near the school that purchased earlier in the year. The land is to be used for future expansion; and
    • discussed the Health Advisory Committee Report.
  • Schools to have students help students

    050621 trinity isd copyCOURTESY PHOTO The Trinity ISD Board of Education recognized employees of the month at the regular board meeting on April 26. Pictured are (from left) Keavin Searcy, board president; Gillian Campbell, director; Matt Curtis, Support Employee of the Month; Marci Loesch, Professional of the Month; Melissa Allbright, Paraprofessional of the Month; and Kelli Robinson, principal of Lansberry Elementary.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Trinity ISD is looking at a new program to allow athletes to become mentors to other students.

    Susan Green, counselor for Lansberry Elementary, said that the main objective of the mentor program is to support and improve the well-being of our students by providing a role model that can help support them academically, socially, and emotionally.

    “Relationship building is a major theme of the program,” she said. “Students need to be able to make connections with people they can trust and feel comfortable talking to.”

    The high school mentors gain experiences with listening and learning, working together for a common goal, flexibility, and leading by example. This year was a piloting program year to make sure the program will be sustainable and that it will benefit students and the community.

    “I am looking forward to seeing the program grow and having a great impact on our students,” she said.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved the district’s BETA teams travel as they advance to national competition in Orlando, Fla. The district will pay for transportation and meals;

    •approved updated operating procedures for the board;

    •approved hiring Axley & Rode for the district’s annual audit;

    •updated policies for facility rental for other functions;

    •approved the 2021-22 allotment and TEKS Certification for textbooks and appointed a textbook committee;

    •approved the lease/purchase of interactive flat panels for the remainder of the classrooms, and all teachers now have one available;

    •approved the Trinity County Appraisal District budget; and

    •approved renewals of teacher and counselor contracts.

  • Shepherd city meets for election results

    Shepherd CityEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Yvonne R. Cones gets sworn in as a city alderman following the Nov. 3 elections.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    SHEPHERD - Brenda Myers, Executive Director of the Impact Center in Shepherd, addressed the council regarding ordinance violation fees she had received while trying to build a free-standing restroom near the center.

    Myers, who is being fined for failing to obtain a building permit which would ensure the structure is up to ADA standards, (a water and electric permit had been obtained prior), claimed she was given bad information when she asked what permits she would need. Per city ordinance, buildings that have not obtained all proper permits prior to construction will be fined double the original cost. Myers, along with several members of the crowd, pleaded with the council to drop the violation fees.

    After several minutes of discourse, a vote to dismiss the fine was reached, with the possibility of having the Shepherd Economic Development Cooperation (EDC) determine if they are able to help with the permit fees, since the restroom may serve public use. The Impact Center, located in Shepherd, is a 501c3 non-profit that provides relief programs to several surrounding counties.

    Update to voting results

    At 4:30 p.m., shortly before the Tuesday monthly council meeting, election results for the City of Shepherd were certified, with Mayor Charles P. Minton serving his second term as Mayor, unopposed. Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who had won a majority of the votes and was set to take on an alderman position, was discovered to be ineligible to hold the position due to an old conviction on his record.

    Despite having served his term and taking care of all associated matters, according to Texas Election Code, a felony conviction leaves individuals unable to hold public office without a governor pardon, something the board and Wesley did not know until after the election. Since the offense occurred in Louisiana, he would need a pardon from that state’s governor to serve in Texas.

    The city’s attorney, Larry Foerster, spoke with the Secretary of State in Texas in an attempt to find a legal way that would allow Wesley to serve, citing overwhelming support from his community as a testament to his character, but was unable to find an initial solution. With two positions open for city alderman, Yvonne R. Cones will fill one, and if they are unable to find a course of action to instate Wesley, a special election will be held to fill the second.

    Both the legal entities for the city and Wesley encouraged the audience to reach out to representative Earnest Bailes and Robert Nichols to try and change the current law that makes felons ineligible to hold public office.

    Other Business

    With money left over from not holding a July fireworks ceremony, the Chamber of Commerce and Impact center are seeking to combine their holiday events for a Christmas fireworks show and parade on Dec. 5 with the parade starting at 6 p.m. Two job vacancies will be posted to the city’s website, one for a temporary front office position and the other for the public works department.

    The November Food Bank Drive will happen on Nov. 20 from 4-7 p.m.

  • Spurger students obtain workforce certifications (VIDEO)

    Screenshot 2021 02 18 page0001 pdfCOURTESY OF AMANDA HATTON Spurger FFA welders passed their state test and now hold a certificate to weld. Five received multiple levels of certifications.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    SPURGER – The Spurger ISD board of trustees met last Thursday on February 11, 2021 to discuss regular agenda items and recognize students for getting certified in welding and floral knowledge.

    The meeting began at 7:02 PM with Ag teacher of 43 years, Ken Cauthen, and Ag/Floral design teacher Amber Conner boasting of the students’ success.

    “These rascals work, and I like ‘em,” said Cauthen, “We need some people that are workers in this world.”

    Cauthen’s inspiring speech explained further his ideals of how education is sometimes gained through work rather than books. “You cannot learn out of a book… We can look at all the pictures in the world, but you got to put your hands on something.”

    Eleanor Holderman presented the Tyler county historical commission (TCHC). She spoke of many of the legendary Tyler County historical figures, specifically Dr. Josiah Wheat one of the first pioneers to settle on the Neches River, Fannie Jenkins, the last operator of Sheffield’s Ferry, and Henry Gainer, the first black pastor in Texas.

    The group donated a flag to the school campaigning their #wearetylercounty promotion for the 175th anniversary of Tyler County April 4th, 2021.

    Spurger ISD Superintendent, Morgan Write spoke to the board about the school’s goals and how they have been utilizing the Deep East Texas College & Career Academy (DETCCA).

    Write explained the students, “can get an Associates when they leave High school,” and they are encouraged to take those courses.

    Any student is eligible starting their Freshman year, but to continue, they must take the TSI exam.

    Welding, Automotive technology, Criminal Justice, and Cyber Security are the degrees listed on the Career & Technology (CT) Education program. However, there are more certifications and schools to come. “There’s a fire school coming in the fall,” said Write.

    The school also has ties with the Texas Workforce Commission that have certifications in Paramedic and Nationally Registered EMT.

    Write also mentioned the Drop-Out Program that DETCCA offers, saying there were now night classes being offered for High school drop-outs up to the age of 24. Welding and CDL certifications are offered through the program.

    Elementary Principal’s Report

    “Enrollment is pretty steady,” said Elementary principal Jason Drake. Drake mentioned he went to five students’ homes that had attendance issues, with a majority of them not answering the door.

    Drake also reported that the Elementary placed second in UIL, but noted it wasn’t easy to get to that position.

    “This a rough year,” said Drake, “I went through seven observations this week. Our teachers are rocking it. I’ve been impressed.”

    High school Principal’s Report

    High school principal Amanda Hatton spoke before the board on several topics. Chic-fil-a becoming the popular fundraising activity, where all proceeds go back to students. On a non-health food day, Hatton brings Chic-fil-a sandwiches to the school and sells them for $6 per sandwich. She encouraged board members to join them and purchase some for lunch.

    Hatton also spoke on a less than orthodox way of finding enrolled students who have been absent and with 36 remote learners, the probability of students not attending class can be higher.

    “These kids have just disappeared on us,” said Hatton, “Usually we shut off their access to their computers to get the students to get in contact with us.”

    Students have all been given Chromebook computers and internet hotspots in the event of necessary distance learning.

    She also briefed the board about College, College and Military Readiness (CCMR) saying they had, “Seven students Due to take a Microsoft test.”

    The school also now has instructional partners, which is a company that works with rural schools.

    The instructional partners are being used to help with learning gaps.

    “They help us where we need so teachers can continue to grow,” explained Hatton, “We developed a plan to address the gaps that we’ve been seeing.”

    Other Business

    • The review board needs a new member, with one stepping down. They get paid and miles paid for.
    • Spurger received an ExxonMobil grant of $500 donated to each campus for math and science. “It can be used accordingly, but for math and science specifically,” said Write.
    • After two year of waiting for a $25,000 security grant, the school will receive updated security devices. “We will have cameras on the perimeter.” Said Write. The bathrooms will also have smoke detectors installed that can detect E-cigarette vapors.
    • The TEA will have a presentation over the 20-21 accountability on February 24 2021.
    • Boys and girls are finishing up basketball. There will not be any scrimmages or practices the following week due to quarantine issues. If there are two more wins, Spurger could be in the playoffs in Huntington.
    • Spurger will not have a baseball team this year due to low participation. However, the students that do want to participate will be covering fundamentals throughout the year.
  • Trinity City Council taking it to the streets

    trinity txFILE PHOTO Trinity, TX

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity City Council will be looking into some financing to resurface a few roads.

    At its regular meeting on Thursday, the council authorized seeking $500,000 to chip seal roads.

    Council Member Bubba Smith said that he had a problem with getting money without having a clear purpose; however, Mayor Wayne Huffman said the loan would not be signed until the city determined what roads were in most need of repair.

    Huffman said there will be a work session at a later date to decide the order, and all council members will have input.

    The Economic Development Board initially planned to loan the city the funds at 1.5 percent interest, but it was later determined that might not be legal. Huffman said then they will seek the funds from the bank, but will need to negotiate a lower interest rate than 4 percent.

    During the public forum, Smith said he has been receiving complaints about certain properties that are cluttered with junk and have become eyesores, particularly a property near the intersection of Church and Elm streets.

    Smith said the mess was bad enough that if anyone were to park in the roadway across the street, all traffic would be blocked.

    Council Member Clegg DeWalt expressed frustration, saying he has tried for years to get something done.

    However, Jones, who also serves as police chief, said that in the past when he went to enforce the city’s nuisance ordinances, he was stopped by the city council. He also said the resident of the house in question has been approached many times and nothing has come of it.

    Jones also said that he would begin enforcing the ordinances, but it will need to be done across the board.

    In other business, the council:

    • approved an order certifying that all city candidates were unopposed in the May 1 election;
    • approved an order cancelling the May 1 city election;
    • approved the annual Racial Profiling Report for the Police Department;
    • approved a request from the city’s Economic Development Board to loan $20,000 to the city for a July 4 celebration; and
    • approved an application for a $500,000 grant through the Texas Community Development Block Grant program for water system improvements.
  • 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.
  • Trinity County Officials take county to task on pay scales

    CountysealFILE PHOTO Trinity County Seal

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on March 23 heard threats of lawsuits regarding decisions on pay raises.

    County Clerk Shasta Bergman told the court that there is a pay disparity between the employees of female elected officials and that of male elected officials, and she, by submitting several requests for raises, was addressing the problem.

    Of the four requests that were submitted, three were for Bergman’s employees; one for an additional $2.78 on a salary of $10.92 per hour, one for an additional $3.22 on the chief deputy’s salary of $11.20 per hour, and the last for an additional $1 on a salary of $10.50 per hour.

    Bergman told the funds for the raises would be taken from her department’s Records Management account, and not from the general fund, which would not affect county income or tax dollars because the funds came from fees charged for record-keeping.

    She also said those funds can only be used in her office, and mostly for salaries.

    However, Commissioner Mike Loftin said during the budget season last year that the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal, despite being told by Bergman that the raises will not affect the county budget.

    Commissioner Neal Smith said that the county attempted to look at all departments equally, and had the pay scales within pennies of each other.

    “You can’t starve people out of a job,” Bergman said. “You are setting yourself up for trouble.”

    Sheriff Woody Wallace said the county needed to be mindful of the legal ramifications of its decisions, saying also that he was “sick and tired” of his deputies having to work second jobs to feed their children.

    “We need to look at this before we find ourselves in a class action lawsuit,” he said.

    Loftin insisted that he understands the plight of the employees, but said the idea was to wait until this year’s budget season to determine what money was available; Bergman again said that the funds came from a different source than tax dollars.

    Commissioner Steven Truss said that if the court approved the raises, then all departments will be seeking raises.

    Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve the raises, which had to be seconded by County Judge Doug Page. The end result, though, was that Smith, Loftin and Truss voted against the raises.

    Bergman told commissioners then that she will present the raises in the same manner until they are approved, or they are handled through legal means.

    In other business, the county:

    • approved the appointment of Stacye Tullos as Trinity County Extension Agent-Ag and Natural Resources;
    • proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month;
    • discussed billing from Groveton EMS regarding visits to inmates; and
    • recognized the county’s constables for taking training regarding the state Open Meetings and Public Information acts.
  • Trinity County reverses stand

    042221 countyTONY FARKAS | TCNS County Judge Doug Page is surrounded by SAAFE House members Rana Wingo, Tracy Szymczak and Renee Murphy as the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month on April 23.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — With the exception of one commissioner, the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court approved personnel changes — including pay raises — at its Tuesday meeting.

    After a raucous meeting on March 23, the commission denied approval of any personnel action forms because they contained pay raises.

    Commissioner Mike Loftin said at the time that during the budget season last year, the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal.

    At the April 13 meeting, Loftin questioned the source of the raises, noting that none will increase the bottom line of department budgets.

    “As long as the budget’s not changing, it is OK,” Loftin said. “We face something we’ve never faced because of COVID — people lost their jobs — and that was the concern that I had. We didn’t know how much tax revenue we would be gaining, and we didn’t need to be eating up our savings.”

    He also said he found out that tax collections are very close to last year’s levels.

    Commissioner Neal Smith said that now is not the time to be giving raises.

    “Since I’ve been on the court, we’ve given raises ever year except last year,” he said. “Now, we’re jumping around and giving this one a little, and that one a little, and that’s not fair, and every month they’re coming in for more and more.”

    Smith said the requests will start coming in from all departments requesting raises, and while he is not against paying employees more, he is against approving raises at this time.

    Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Loftin. Smith was the only commissioner voting against the measure.

    Commissioner Steven Truss said that regardless of the outcome of the vote, there needed to be some organization regarding pay raises across the board, suggesting there be a scale instituted, much like there is at the state level.

    Smith agreed, saying that he is aware that some starting employees are hired making more that people who have been with the county for 30 years or more, and that pay needs to be fair.

    “I’m not against people making more money, but we need to be equal about this,” he said.

    The court agreed, and approved the payment of $5,000 for an outside firm to conduct an employee compensation study, which will also provide suggestions for a scale as well as determine how employees’ salaries stack up to state averages.

    In other business, the county:

    • proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Trinity County;
    • proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month;
    • approved a budget amendment moving funds into vehicle maintenance after the city received insurance money to fix the wrecked Sheriff’s Department vehicle;
    • approved a measure allowing the county to hire for a cleanup of phone and IT cables and the addition of three wifi access points in the County Annex;
    • approved closing a bank account the county no longer used;
    • approved hiring a part-time clerk to hand filing and processing of notices for nuisance abatements;
    • approved the purchase of several used vehicles from the Texas Forest Service;
    • approved a road use agreement for Precinct 1; and
    • approved a replat of lots on Merrywood Drive
  • Trinity ISD OKs distance learning plans

    110520 trinity isdCOURTESY PHOTO - Misty Coleman was named professional employee of the month, Keri Dobbs the paraprofessional employee of the month and Ben Stubbs the support employee of the month at the Oct. 26 Trinity ISD School Board meeting.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity Independent School District board approved a distance learning plan, while at the same time approving a plan to get students back into the classroom.

    Superintendent Dr. John Kaufman said the state approved its learning plan on the first go-around, which was rare.

    However, Kaufman said that with the board’s approval, he hopes to have everyone back in class by the end of the semester. The plan is to start with one or two grades per campus, wait two weeks, and bring back two more.

    Currently, 65 students use distance learning throughout the district, which has about 1,200 students.

    “We’ve had a non-success rate of 64 percent of students doing remote learning,” he said. “That’s alarming, especially when there’s a 14 percent non-success rate for face-to-face.”

    Kaufman said students that have failed in the first six weeks could either come back for face-to-face learning, be homeschooled, move to a virtual learning environment, or transfer to another district for virtual learning. Students who maintained passing grades will remain in virtual learning until the third six weeks, and plans are to then start phasing them back for face-to-face instruction.

    “Face learning is more productive, and has a social aspect that kids need to have,” Kaufman said. “We need to get them back to the classroom. I understand about how parents feel about the safety of their children; but our mitigation efforts at the schools have been very good. We’re taking every precaution to keep our kids safe.”

    However, students can remain on virtual learning can remain there if there’s a verified medical condition that would require that separation, Kaufman said.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved moving the November meeting to Nov. 16, when election results will be canvassed;

    •approved resolutions for the Trinity County Appraisal District; and

    •discussed all board members meeting their continuing education credits.

  • Trinity takes off the mask (GALLERY)

    060321 trinity isd One Happy BoyCOURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Case Robinson was very happy to show off his trophy and ribbon, won in the Houston Rodeo art contest.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity ISD Board of Trustees is taking off the mask — optionally.

    At its regular meeting on May 24, the board approved making mask use optional, effective immediately, said Superintendent John Kaufman.

    “This was on agenda before the governor’s mandate,” he said. “We felt that with the availability of vaccinations, it was time to relieve some of the requirements.”

    Staff, students and visitors now have the option to wear masks.

    In a separate matter, Kaufman said he was given permission to begin researching the district use of school uniforms.

    Kaufman stressed that this is the beginning of a process, and any implementation of a policy is a long way off.

    “I will start by formulating a parent survey of five or six questions, and later send that out throughout the district,” he said. “We’re a long way off at looking at that; it may not get past the parent survey.”

    The rationale that was given for a uniform dress code was to help boost student self-esteem, school pride, the ability to have everyone on a level playing field, and increased attendance.

    “The premise for uniforms is pride; they put everyone on a similar playing field where kids aren’t being made fun of for their dress, or harassed because of economic status,” Kaufman said.

    In other business, the board:

    • granted permission to Kaufman to hire and offer contracts throughout the summer months to new teachers; and
    • approved a contract with SFE Food Service.
    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Melissa Garcia, Joni Madera and Jennifer Harlow were named Employees of the Month for May. Each one received a certificate and $100; on June 7, at the End of Year Awards Luncheon for TISD staff, each selected employee from the school year will be eligible for a drawing for $1,000. Pictured are (from left) Board Vice President Monty Huffman, Melissa Garcia, Gill Campbell, Joni Madera, Cullen Carroll, Jennifer Harlow and Kelli Robinson.

    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Melissa Garcia, Joni Madera and Jennifer Harlow were named Employees of the Month for May. Each one received a certificate and $100; on June 7, at the End of Year…

    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Lansberry Elementary Houston Rodeo Art Winners are (left) gold medalist Summer Daniels, Art Teacher Jenny Hurst and (right) Best of Show winner Case Robinson.
    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Lansberry Elementary Houston Rodeo Art Winners are (left) gold medalist Summer Daniels, Art Teacher Jenny Hurst and (right) Best of Show winner Case Robinson.
    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Trinity Middle School and High School Houston Rodeo art winners are (from left) Alyssa Loesh, Best of Show, TMS; Ashlyn Roman, Best of Show, THS; and Julia Lozano, Gold Medal, THS. Not pictured is Nicolette Fontaine, Gold Medal, TMS.

    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN Trinity Middle School and High School Houston Rodeo art winners are (from left) Alyssa Loesh, Best of Show, TMS; Ashlyn Roman, Best of Show, THS; and Julia Lozano, Gold…

    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN The Oath of Office was given by Debra Ogden to Judy Bishop and Elizabeth King following their re-election to the Board of Trustees for the next three years. Both ladies ran unopposed. Pictured are TISD Board Members (from left) Elizabeth King, Ricky Hortman, Judy Bishop, Monty Huffman, Dorothy Franklin, Kevin Searcy, Maggie Trevino and John Kaufman, Superintendent. Organization of the board remains the same, with Searcy as president, Huffman as Vice President and Franklin as secretary.

    COURTESY PHOTOS | DEBBIE OGDEN The Oath of Office was given by Debra Ogden to Judy Bishop and Elizabeth King following their re-election to the Board of Trustees for the next three years. Both ladies…

    Previous Next Play Pause
    1 2 3 4
  • Trinity to replace some sewer lines

    111920 trinity 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Justice of the Peace Hayne Huffman (right) swears in (from left) Clegg DeWalt, Wayne Huffman and Chris Dennis at the Nov. 12 Trinity City Council meeting. The three were re-elected to their posts on Nov. 3.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Christmas came early to the Trinity City Council in the form of a $275,000 no-match grant that will help replace some aging infrastructure.

    At its regular meeting on Nov. 12, the city discussed a grant that Police Chief Steven Jones said was initially denied.

    “Council Member Bubba Smith and I were in Lufkin to discuss it, and we were told that we did not get the grant,” Jones said. “… I got a call out of nowhere recently that said we did get the grant, and we have a confirmation email.”

    Engineers will now begin work on replacing a sewer line that runs between Trinity Memorial Hospital and Rockdale Street. He also said it has zero match.

    In other business, the city:

    • •approved the canvass of votes in the Nov. 3 election of city officials, and swore in returning council members Smith, Clegg DeWalt and Chris Dennis, Mayor Wayne Huffman, and Municipal Judge Lyle Stubbs.
    • •re-appointed Billy Goodin as Mayor Pro Tem;
    • •approved changes to persons allowed to handle the night depository bag;
    • •approved $1,500 in Hotel/Motel funds for the Christmas at the Crossroads event; and
    • •approved receipt of the city audit for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Auditor Dianne Sollock informed the council that the audit has an “unmodified opinion,” which is the best outcome, and also said that the city’s financial picture is improving year to year.
  • Virus concerns lead to declining attendance for Rotary Club

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Rotary Club of Livingston president Matt Anderson conducts business at last week’s Rotary Club meeting at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Matt Anderson remembers when Rotary Club of Livingston met on a weekly basis.

    He also remembers when there were 30-40 club members meeting on a weekly basis. But things have changed since Covid-19.

    The local Rotary Club has met every other Thursday since the pandemic and attendance at the meetings has declined. Many of the club members are in the 50-over age group, which is more susceptible to adverse effects from Covid.

    “The main reason for declining attendance is the health concerns related to Covid,” Anderson said. “People are a little leery to meet in large groups and to expose themselves is what the majority of our members have expressed. The majority of our members are mature and they’re the ones that are more susceptible to Covid.”

    Anderson is the president of Rotary Club of Livingston. He would like to see attendance return to the way it was prior to Covid, and an increase in membership.

    “In the past we’ve had committees and chairs that have taken care of and brainstormed different ideas for recruiting new members,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, the last 6-8 months have been kind of stopped and had a pause button placed on it. We’re more in maintaining mode right now than we are growth mode or anything else. It’s just really hard right now to get new members and do events. We want new members and welcome new members. Unfortunately, this past year we have not been able to do the events we normally do or help out with them.”

    While things are not as active as they were prior to Covid, Rotary Club is still going to perform two of its biggest service projects, albeit on a smaller scale. Anderson said manpower, not finances, are more of a reason behind this.

    “We’re still doing the Empty Stocking program to help our community, but we’re doing it on a smaller scale just for the sheer number of volunteers and community help that we have,” he said. “We need people to help us shop and to deliver. Unfortunately, right now we don’t have as many as we normally do. We have our Pancake Supper toward the end of February. We’re still planning on having that, but with a revised schedule of having a drive-thru meal option. We hope the community is still looking forward to having some Rotary Pancakes.”

    For the moment, Rotary Club meets every other Thursday at noon at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. Anderson said things could change once the new year starts.

    “We’re doing every-other-week meetings to help people social distance,” he said. “We can go back to meeting once a week if that helps our members if that’s what our membership wants. We’re trying to do what’s best for our membership, listen to what their needs are and what they want. With the holidays approaching, lots of our members travel and visit families so it’s a little harder right now. If we decide to resume weekly meetings, it would be in January before we did that.”