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  • Funds needed for scholarships

    chamber logochamber logo

    Special to the News-Times

    COLDSPRING — The Coldspring Chamber of Commerce will again host its annual Best of Coldspring scholarship banquet, and some help is needed.

    In 2020, the chamber gave $2,800 in scholarships to the graduating seniors of Coldspring through donations alone.

    This year, the chamber again will host a silent auction, as well as seek donations from area businesses and chamber members.

    Office Manager Mindy Blankemeyer said the chamber needs donations of auction items.

    “We are now accepting donations from our members to auction off to help give more to our graduates than ever before,” she said. “We do have seven items that were donated last year and we were unable to auction those, so they will be added to this year's.”

    Blankemeyer also said that since many residents are still leery about gathering in groups, the silent auction will be held online at coldspringtexas.org. She or Board Member Christina Mallet, chairperson for the banquet, are available to pick up donations.

    She also said that those interested in giving a monetary donation can fill out a form and drop it by the chamber. Three levels are available: Gold ($1,000), Silver ($500) or Bronze ($250).

    Deadline for donations is March 5.

    The banquet is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

    For information, contact the chamber at (936) 653-2184.

  • Getting out

    021121 car show 1TONY FARKAS | SJNT Ashley Carter, along with sidekick tykes Presley Greenwood and Jason Greenwood, share a love of cars and getting out and about on the weekend during the Cars, Coffee and Donuts event on Saturday in Coldspring.

    Monthly event brings Coldspring residents to the Square

    By Tony Farkas

    COLDSPRING — The air was cold, but the coffee was hot, and the cars were much hotter.

    At the Cars, Coffee and Donuts event on Saturday, residents were treated to breakfast and sweet, sweet cars.

    Brandi Bourland, vice president of the Coldspring Area Business Merchants Association, said the first Saturday of the month is set aside in Coldspring to get more people into the town to enjoy what it has to offer.

    Also, it allows car enthusiasts to gather and compare notes.

    While the event current focuses on cars, Bourland said there may be room for Jeeps and motorcycles in the future, to help the event grow.

    “I think this is a good thing,” she said. “I think it’s a mood-booster. I think people like to get out and get involved.”

    Find out more about CABMA on Facebook or at cabma.org.

    021121 car show 3TONY FARKAS | SJNT Area residents marvel over the vehicles displayed during the Cars, Coffee and Donuts event on Saturday in Coldspring.

  • GISD trustees honor students and retirees

    Swearing InALTON PORTER | HCC Four Grapeland ISD trustees, from left to right, Josh Goolsby, Brad Spisak, Ryan Richie and Allen Cheatham, were administered the oath of office to begin new terms by Business Manager Julie Martin at a meeting Monday.

    By Alton Porter

    GRAPELAND –  Honoring several Grapeland High School (GHS) students for their outstanding scholastic and athletic accomplishments this semester and two retiring teachers for their years of service as educators were the highlights of the Grapeland Independent School District (GISD) Board of Trustees special meeting held Monday, May 17.

    In recognition of GISD excellence, the trustees, high school administrators and staff members introduced and commended GHS’ 2021 graduating class valedictorian and two salutatorians, members of the boys basketball team, and the girls golf and softball teams for their outstanding performances. In addition, the two retirees were recognized.

    The GHS Class of 2021 valedictorian is Cierra Espinoza, and the salutatorians are Mary Jane Watson and Stacy Perez-Maldonado, who were introduced by Katie Doughty, associate principal of instruction and guidance, as were three Pilot Program participants who made the President’s List and Dean’s List.

    The Sandies basketball team won the championship runner-up trophy in the UIL Class 2A Boys State Basketball competition. Several of the team members who were present were introduced by Head Basketball Coach Blake Doughty.

    Members of the Sandiettes golf team, introduced by Coach Tyler Terry, advanced all the way to the UIL Conference 2A state playoff tournament.

    The Sandiettes softball team advanced to the area round (Region 4) in playoffs. Head Softball Coach Trina Pierce introduced the majority of the team members who attended the meeting.

    The two longtime educators, described as “very special retirees” by GISD Superintendent Don Jackson and introduced by Doughty, are science teacher Karen Cole and history, government and economics teacher Arthur Betz.

    “I would like to consider them legends here at Grapeland High School,” Principal Doughty said. “When I think of these two, the word that comes to mind is truly solid. They are reliable (and have) great relationships with kids.”

    GISD Board President and Position 2 Trustee James Martin, who presented plaques and Christian devotional booklets from district officials to the two retirees, said, “You all are both so special. They taught all three of my older kids. We love you guys, and you all are going to be truly missed. We’re so thankful for you all.”

    A video presentation featuring comments made by school staff members honoring, thanking, congratulating and showing appreciation to Cole and Betz, and wishing them joy and happiness in their retirement was played after they were introduced.

    In addition, during the recognition part of the meeting, newly hired Athletic Director Jordan Wood, as well as two new faculty members—Heather Wood and Kelli Fletcher—were introduced.

    In other business, four members of the GISD board—Josh Goolsby, Brad Spisak, Allen Cheatham and Ryan Richie—who were unopposed in their bids to continue serving on the board, as their previous terms expired this year, were declared reelected and were administered the board’s oath of office and presented a statement of public office by Business Manager Julie Martin.

    In reorganizing the board for the next 12 months, Martin was reelected to continue serving as president, Position 1 Trustee Brad Spisak was newly elected to the position of vice president and Position 3 Trustee Kendra Huff was reelected as secretary.

    In another matter addressed by the trustees, they heard a report on district facility improvement initiatives from Jackson and a presentation by Zane Oliver, of Lucas Roofing of Crockett.

    After discussion, the trustees voted to accept—pending confirmation that the roofing materials are the ones they expect—the lowest of two bids submitted by Typhoon Roofing of Sugarland to make repairs to the roof of the junior high school building, one of the district’s oldest structures, which has water leaks.

    In addition, Jackson suggested that district officials hold a strategic planning meeting and draft a two- or five-year plan for the district’s facilities “to see where we want to go and what we want to do.”

    In another action, the trustees approved a retainer for the district’s attorneys.

    The trustees approved a change to the district’s Policy DC(LOCAL) regarding the hiring of teachers.

    “I believe that’s the policy where we’re asking that our administration office has the power to hire teachers in the next month,” Jackson said.

    Julie Martin added that “it gives people notice that we can hire them on without having us call a special, called meeting to get that approved. It would bring them to you (trustees) at the next meeting. I think we have a few positions open. And so, it would give the authority before the cutoff date in July because there’s a certain day that people have to have resignations turned in.”

    In his monthly report to the trustees, Jackson said, in reference to repairs and upgrades that are being made to the district’s Lorena Shultz Auditorium, “We’re moving really good. I think we’re ahead of schedule.”

  • Going out on top

    cole 91COURTESY PHOTO 17 year old Groveton Senior, Cole Sullivan, took the honors BACK TO BACK of winning Overall Reserve Supreme Continental Heifer at both Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. 

    Livestock master ends career on a high note 

    Special to the News-Standard 

    TRINITY — Cole Sullivan is no stranger to success both in and out of the livestock show ring.  

    At the age of 8, he purchased his first show heifer named Sadie. Since that time Sadie has produced multiple Trinity County Fair and Youth Livestock Show Grand Champion steers as well as prize-winning show heifers.  

    Cole has continued his journey in agriculture with high-quality livestock, but has found his niche in the Limousin breed, gaining prominence by winning local, state and international shows. Cole competes with the largest breeders from all over the United States and, of course, locally in Texas. Cole’s vision for success is a big and bright as Texas. 

    Setting goals  

    As a family, the Sullivans traveled all over the United States during the year in order for Cole and his brother, Jack Cutter, to compete.  

    Livestock showing isn’t for the faint at heart — it’s early mornings and late nights, physical labor with no vacations; Cole will tell you, though, his vacations are in the showring with his show family and friends.  

    Even though this year was difficult — a national pandemic, livestock shows cancelling or rescheduling repeatedly— still, Cole racked up an impressive record. When cattle were purchased, raised and bred for specific time frames and shows cancel, Cole and his breeder had to regroup.  

    “God always has a plan so trust him,” Cole said. “I let Mother Nature work her course, and in the end, I couldn’t be prouder of myself and decisions that I made back in the fall.”  

    Cole decided to show Skittles and Barbara for his last run. Skittles, so named “because she literally was crazy and I have tasted every color of the crazy rainbow with her,” proved a challenge, and Cole said he didn’t think the purebred Limousin would ever get halter broke or show ready.  

    cole 2COURTESY PHOTO When hand shakes were taken over by fist bumps on Champion selections!

    One day, though, it just clicked, and Skittles ended up being phenomenal, winning Grand Champion Limousin at both Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. She also went on to win Overall Reserve Supreme Continental Heifer at both shows.  

    Cole also won Showmanship at Houston with her, the one he didn’t know if he would ever step into a ring with. 

    Consistency, hard work, dedication, collaboration and compassion are a few words that seem to come up around Cole in regard to success in the agriculture and livestock industries. He is most proud to have been able to travel so many miles with family and friends over the years and will continue to raise high quality show cattle for future exhibitors.  

    “We are the voice of agriculture,” Cole said. “It can’t be lost or forgotten. Value your worth and work ethic. Don’t let the negativity drive the positivity away. If you want something, don’t settle for less.” 

  • GOP chair receives award

    041521 wrightCOURTESY PHOTO The first-ever Greg Abbott Leadership Award was presented to Dwayne Wright, chairman of the Republican Party of San Jacinto County.

    Special to the News-Times

    AUSTIN — Dwayne Wright, chairman of the Republican Party of San Jacinto County, was recently recognized by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his contributions to conservative principles in the state.

    This is the first leadership award given by the governor, which from now on will be annually awarded.

    Wright promotes strong core values in the state, and contributes his time and effort across the area to champion conservatism and strong Texas principles.

    Wright is not only head of the Republican Party of San Jacinto county, but also is executive director of the Texas Republican County Chair Association. He has worked on various campaigns to help spread conservative values throughout the state.

  • Groveton celebrates athletes

    052721 banquet 2TONY FARKAS | TCNS Powerlifting Coach Mitchell Wheat displays a plaque to be placed with other school sports honors for the lifters who qualified for state.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — State qualifiers in cross country and powerlifting. District placing in numerous sports, such as track and volleyball. Grit, determination, heart.

    These and more were celebrated at the Groveton ISD athletic banquet, held May 17 at the school.

    Athletic Director Richard Steubing said the banquet was the first one in the five years he has been with the district, and the participants — coaches and players included — would be recognized.

    The coaches all provided accolades to the students, saying that regardless of the wild ride the year was because of weather and COVID cancellations and quarantines, every player showed a competitive spirit worthy of the Groveton Indians.

    Girls Basketball Coach Rogelyn Andrews said the first thing she thinks of when she thinks of her players is determination, since the team went “from the worst team in the district to the best team that Groveton has seen in years.”

    Andrews told the students that grit and determination will follow them throughout their lives.

    052721 banquet 3TONY FARKAS | TCNS The girls softball team giggle as they are introduced to the crowd by Coach Jim Dillard.

    Girls Softball Coach Jim Dillard said that his team was the hallmark of overcoming adversity; Head Powerlifting Coach Jim Wheat said that while the pandemic and the weather made the season a challenge, the lifters were dominating, with all seniors qualifying for regional and four of them making the state meet.

    Cross Country Coach Mary Lankford said that this year was a wild ride, but ended with eight girls participating in the state meet.

    Lankford summed up the season for all sports by saying everyone made the most of the season.

    052721 banquet 4TONY FARKAS | TCNS The boys baseball team introduce themselves at the Groveton ISD athletic banquet, held on May 17.

  • Groveton continues mask policy

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO Groveton ISD logo

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — the Groveton ISD School Board intends to leave well enough alone by keeping masking requirements in place through the end of the school year.

    At the board’s regular meeting on March 22, the board took no action regarding Gov. Greg Abbott’s order removing any restrictions connected with the coronavirus pandemic.

    Superintendent Don Hamilton said the state gave schools an option regarding masks only, making it a school board decision.

    “(A handout from the state) shows that as boards consider their mask policies, one thing to be aware of is the risk for litigation and grievances for COVID-19-related claims,” Hamilton said. “This is a hot topic — half the people want to do away with it, half the people want to keep it.”

    Hamilton said he spoke with School Nurse Virginia Redden, who pointed out the district was nine weeks away from school being out, and that the students and teachers have done too well to change.

    Board President Mark Folds said he could go either way, but since the district has been doing so well, he did not see a reason to change, and the board could take up the matter at a later date.

    In other business, the board:

    • •approved the purchase of a new school bus from Longhorn Bus Sales;
    • •approved changes to school policy based on recommendations from the Texas Association of School Boards;
    • •approved the school calendar for the 2021-22 school year;
    • •approved keeping the District of Innovation description, and appointed a planning committee; and
    • •discussed contracts for teachers.
  • Groveton ISD a safe place to be

    Groveton ISD logoGroveton ISD file photo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — Students in Groveton Independent School District are in pretty safe hands

    At its Oct. 26 meeting, the Groveton School Board approved a safety audit which Superintendent Don Hamilton said was overall very good.

    “We have a few things we know we need to deal with, but overall it’s good,” he said.

    Hamilton said the layout of the building is of a concern, because its age means it does not meet current safety and fire codes, but for the most part, the kids are going to school in a safe environment.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved the ESL program;

    •approved changes of names from the signature card on the school’s account;

    •changed meeting dates for next two meetings because of upcoming holidays. The November meeting will be held Nov. 16, and the December meeting will be held Dec. 17;

    •discussed new goals for the future;

    •approved purchase of 20 interactive boards to replace older models at a cost of $40,000; and

    •approved an annual pay stipend, to be paid to non-professional employees only.

  • Groveton looks to beautify downtown and spur economic development

    grovetonmanPhoto by Tony Farkas | TCNS Groveton Mayor Byron Richards points out some of the plans for renovating the sidewalks in the downtown Square. The city has received a $980,000 grant and will begin work Nov. 30.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — An almost $1 million grant will help city officials tidy up the Square, with metal railings, new sidewalks and some new lighting.

    Mayor Byron Richards said the city has been working on the Groveton Downtown Revitalization Project for nine years.

    “We submitted grant applications over a period of six years and didn’t really land one, seeing them go to bigger cities. We didn’t think we had a chance at it,” he said. “After the sixth year, we got word that the city will receive funds from the Transportation Alternatives Set-aside Program.”

    Richards said the city signed a contract for $980,000, but was $67,000 short to complete the project; that money will come from our Economic Development Corporation. Construction will be done by Ti-Zack Concrete Inc., and the project is slated to start Nov. 30. It’s projected to take six to seven months.

    The project will feature new sidewalks around the Square, which also will provide handicapped access. There will be lighting throughout the project, as well as safety railings.

    “These sidewalks and curbs are a trap, and can cause falls,” he said. “This allows anyone disabled or not to have access to downtown businesses. The whole purpose of the project, as I envisioned it nine years ago, is to update the area and give the city a new look.”

    Groveton has been stagnant for years, the population has declined, and big businesses that wanted to come in were turned away, Richards said.

    “We’re trying to look to the future,” he said. “With the population that’s moving to this area, East Texas finally is being recognized as a good place to live, to raise a family. We’re trying to move the city forward as best we can.”

    This project is one of many projects that have been undertaken in recent years, which includes renovations to the city’s sewers and water system, courthouse work, highway and sidewalk construction, numerous upgrades and even work on the courthouse and annex. All told, it’s more than $23 million spent on beautifying the city, Richards said.

    Along those lines, there will be a commemorative brick paver section right on the corner, and laser-engraved brick pavers will be sold for $25. Contact Richards at City Hall for information.

    “We need new economic activity in this area,” he said. “There is a new Family Dollar coming; a manufacturing company taking over the old sewing machine plant. We need new sources of sales tax and real estate taxes coming into the city, and hopefully draw more retailers in.

    “We’re takin’ an old girl and dressin’ her up, and we have hope for the future that Groveton will grow,” Richards said.

    CalebWebAd

  • Groveton native competes in cowboy competition series

    020421 hunterCOURTESY PHOTO

    TCNS staff

    A Groveton native is set to compete in the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, a reality competition broadcast on the INSP Network.

    Hunter Arnold, a rodeo cowboy and horse trainer, will be one of 14 people on the program, which is scheduled to air Feb. 24.

    According to a release from the network, Season 2 of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown boasts a diverse group of 14 cowboys (men and women) from all across the country compete for a life-changing prize.

    Arnold said he was approached at the Professional Bull Riders Finals in Las Vegas by some of the show’s producers.

    “They asked if I would like to try out for the show, and I told them that I definitely would be interested,” he said.

    Arnold said wasn’t really sure what to expect, but wasn’t surprised that we had challenges involving ranch work, day work and roping cows.

    “I had put myself in the mindset to be ready for anything,” he said. “When I headed into this competition, I just tried as hard as I could, and gave it my all.”

    Screen Shot 2021 02 01 at 9.16.36 PM

    Arnold has garnered 100 buckles and 20 saddles in roping and rodeo competitions, and has trained more than 100 horses, many of which have gone on to qualify for the World Series of Team Roping.

    “I’ve lived in Groveton for 24 years; I went to elementary, middle and high school in Groveton, and graduated in 2014,” he said. “My Agriculture teacher, Mr. Fortenberry, helped to teach me how to rope. We’re still neighbors today.”

    •In the second season of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, viewers will watch 14 contestants undergo a series of physical and mental challenges that will test them individually and as teams. The last cowboy standing will walk away with a prize package that includes a herd they can take to market, a Rawhide Portable Corral, an Arrowquip Q-Catch 87 Series Cattle Chute, the coveted Ultimate Cowboy Showdown belt buckle, and a lifetime of bragging rights.

    Ultimate Cowboy Showdown shows at 8 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 24 on INSP.

  • Groveton project making good progress (VIDEO)

    121720 sidewalk updateTONY FARKAS | TCNS Groveton Mayor Byron Richards shows one of the areas designated for personalized pavers, part of the city’s downtown revitalization project.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The project to renovate and replace downtown sidewalks is proceeding rapidly.

    Mayor Byron Richards said that the project should be completed around the end of March.

    “The’ve got quite a bit done, and should have not problem finishing on time,” he said.

    Crews started on the east side of the Square, replacing sidewalks and adding handicapped access and railings; Richards said because of the season, and because there were retail outlets on the west side, work there would begin after the end of the year.

    The west side of the street will be a two-tier setup when completed, and there will be 18 old-style lights placed around the area. Colored contoured cement will be added around the sidewalks for some style and contrast.

    “We’re trying to keep the old town charm, while showing that we’re progressive,” Richards said.

    A new feature to be added will be personalized pavers, and room on both sides of the Square have been added. Richards said that orders have been sparse; however, the deadline is Feb. 28, 2021, and there are 450 spaces available.

    In order to secure a spot, there are order forms available on the city’s website — cityofgroveton.com — or by calling the city at (936) 642-1122.

    With the renovations, “maybe we can get some more businesses to move to the Square,” Richards said. “After TxDOT redid the street, we get a lot of traffic, and we want to make the city impressive.”

  • Groveton rocked by mayor’s death

    mayorCOURTESY PHOTO Mayor Richards of Groveton

     
    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Mayor Byron Richards of Groveton passed away on Monday from complications due to COVID-19.

    Funeral services are pending.

    Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Bennett said that Richards died last night, but he was not aware of it until he received a call at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday from a fellow City Council member.

    “This is a shocking development,” Bennett said. “It’s hard for me to believe that he’s gone. We were aware he had possibly contracted the virus, and he had taken himself and his wife to CHI St. Luke’s Hospital in Lufkin.”

    Bennett also said that Richards contacted him Monday afternoon.

    “He told me over the phone that he wasn’t going to make it,” Bennett said. “It was a hard phone call to get. I’m still shook by it.

    “He thanked the secretaries for the job they’ve done for the city, and thanked the Council for backing him 100 percent,” Bennett said. “He said that I would do a good job for the city.”

    County Judge Doug Page, who also serves as the county’s Emergency Management director, called the news shocking.

    He said that Richards found out he had contracted the virus on New Year’s Eve.

    “As long as we’ve been dealing with the coronavirus, it’s the quickest I’ve heard of it taking someone down,” Page said. “It’s hitting close to home, and we will react appropriately at the county level.”

    Bennett said Richards’ wife, Sandi, also had contracted the disease, but has improved and been taken home.

    Bennett described Richards as a very humble man who was extremely passionate about Groveton.

    “The projects with the downtown renovations and changes with the water well, Richards was adamant about getting that done for the betterment of the community,” Bennett said.

    Bennett said the city plans to carry out all current projects.

    “We shouldn’t lose any continuity in those. I have a good idea of what to do,” he said. “It was always a dream for the council to bring about change the city, and the mayor was the perfect face for that.”

    Bennett said he will assume mayoral duties.

    Page said the county will continue to follow all state edicts regarding COVID-19.

    He also said there will be a free coronavirus testing from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Thursday at the Volunteer Fire Department in Trinity.

  • Groveton school board OKs improvement plan

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO - Groveton ISD logo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — The Board of Trustees for Groveton ISD again approved an improvement plan for the elementary school.

    The need for the approval was because the submission form had changed; the state requires a three-year plan be in place.

    One part of the plan includes using test scores to drive instruction. Also, items were adjusted because of the affect of COVID-19.

    In a separate matter, the council denied a request for appeal from a resident of the district over a decision made regarding a student.

    No details about the incident, including the student’s name, were revealed because of privacy laws.

    The appeal was rejected because it was not filed in a timely manner, according to Board President Mark Folds.

    The decision was first appealed to the High School principal, who upheld the decision; then to Superintendent Don Hamilton, who also denied it.

    In other business, the board:

    • approved a missed school days waiver, as the district missed more days than were allowed for on the previous calendar; and
    • approved the Dec. 17 board meeting to be the date for the superintendent’s evaluation.
  • Ham radio: hobbyists offer valuable service

    German amateur radio contest station 2017German amateur radio contest station 2017 Ptolusque, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    By Chris Edwards

    HOUSTON COUNTY – Sometimes a hobby is more than just a way to pass the time (and spend money.) In the case of amateur radio operators (ham radio) the hobby is one that is more of a valuable service that can be a lifeline in times of need.

    Houston County has its own group of “ham” operators, the Houston County Amateur Radio Club. The club is affiliated with the Amateur Radio Relay League, which was founded in 1914. Through that affiliation, the club can help anyone who is interested in becoming a member get licensed to operate ham radios, and even work on them. There are currently three levels of certification for ham operators: technician, general and extra.

    The first level is the entry point into ham radio, and as to how long it takes a person to acquire the certifications, well, it just depends, according to Van L. Sims. Sims, who has been involved with ham radio since the 1970s, and serves as the club’s treasurer, said the main purpose of the certification tests is to learn the ins and outs of the different bands, or the frequency allocations.

    A ham radio station can be set up anywhere, such as in field or in one’s home. Club vice president Larry Small said “When all else goes down, if we’ve got a 12-vote battery, and some wire, we can talk anywhere.”

    Amateur radio operators have a basic, working knowledge of radio technology and pass examinations to operate on radio frequencies known as the “amateur bands,” which are allocated by the Federal Communications Commission for use by ham operators.

    Ham operators have been essential in times of disaster and are often unsung heroes. Sims noted that 5,000 hams provided all of the communication in the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. Hams also provided essential services after Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana in 2005.

    The Houston County club derives its operating expenses from fundraisers, and they have five each year, although their 2020 fundraising activities were curtailed by COVID. The club’s current big project is to convert one of its four repeaters to solar power. Sims said of the project that in a time of emergency, if there is a massive power outage, the ham operators will still be able to get essential communications across with solar power.

    Sims is quick to point out how grateful the club is to the late David Lamb. Lamb, who served as the county’s emergency management coordinator, was able to obtain a great deal of equipment for the club, including its bus.

    The club is also planning on installing a ham station in the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Randy Hargrove is a ham operator and serves as the club’s president.

    The club, whose call sign is WA5EC, meets at 7 p.m. on every second Tuesday of each month at the old National Guard Armory (EOC Building) which is located at the corner of Edministon Drive and Christy Lane near the Davy Crockett Park in Crockett. Anyone who has an interest can join the club, and dues are $15 per member, annually. It has a field day planned for Saturday, June 26, beginning around noon, at the Davy Crockett Park.

  • Hanging it up (VIDEO)

    122420 bell 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Joe Warner Bell talks about his tenure as County Attorney for Trinity County. His last day in office is Dec. 31.

    Trinity County attorney retiring after 43 years

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — When Joe Warner Bell first took office as Trinity County Attorney, cases were entered on typewriters, and the only places to buy liquor in the area was Houston, Huntsville and even Groveton.

    The “mostly” Trinity County native has been County attorney 43 years, 3 months 16 days and 2 hours, give or take. He got into the position because he was appointed; Bell was in private practice in Trinity for six years prior to taking the county job.

    “I was in general practice, which means I did anything that came my way, which is pretty much what I do now,” he said.

    When the 258th Judicial District was created, they needed to fill three positions — district attorney, district judge and county attorney, and Bell got the nod.

    He kept with it, though, for the simplest of reasons — it was a steady paycheck.

    “It didn’t have a lot of benefits at the time, but I felt I could do more here than I could (in private practice),” he said.

    Was appointed to the position first, then had been running for reelection since then.

    In addition to the changes in liquor sales and technology, the courthouse has changed, including his office location, which was moved six or seven times over the course of his career.

    Bell said the population of the county has doubled, and the jail, which has room for seven people and was almost never full, is full now almost all the time, with up to 40 inmates at a time.

    The most contentious commissioners’ court Bell said he has advised was the first one he served with, since it had two commissioners who were related and on opposite sides of the political spectrum, another development that is mirrored in politics today.

    Video interview with Joe Bell

    “There was one commissioner that I had prosecuted three times for DWI,” Bell said. “In fact, on the filing day for election, he was sitting in jail.”

    The things his office has had to deal with over the years has been varied, but one set of cases in particular stands out, and echoes some of the issues of today: election fraud.

    “We had some guys that … liked to play the edge,” Bell said. “At that time you had to have an excuse to vote absentee — either you were elderly or were going to be out of town. (Apparently) there were many people who had never left Trinity County in their lives were going to be out of town on election day.”

    Bell said there were ballots with forged signatures on them, and even a few of them were marked for people who were in nursing homes. Several elderly women voted twice; they had voted early, but were hauled to the polls on election day and were made to vote again.

    “I didn’t grasp the depth of the problem until I got into office,” he said. “People have said that there’s nothing wrong with mail-in voting; I voted mail-in one time and it got lost. My mother, who was over 65, voted, and her vote was tossed out because they said she was a crazy old woman. What it was, the person she voted for, they didn’t want that vote counted.”

    The more heartbreaking cases Bell said he has dealt with involves child abuse, especially when, as it happened in one case, involves the parents and stepparents. However, he said that the most rewarding part of the job was finding homes for neglected and abused children, and getting women away from abusive partners.

    Also, when Bell took office, there was a civil suit against the county over county districts, which were said to have disenfranchised African American voters; Bell got the suit delayed until new district lines could be drawn, which led to the suit being dropped.

    Bell said his position is to act as the attorney for the county, but there’s a difference between his office and district attorneys: the DA prosecutes felonies, and everything else falls under the purview of the county, except child support which goes to the attorney general.

    122420 bell 2COURTESY PHOTO Trinity County Attorney Joe Warner Bell is presented with a plaque of appreciation by representatives of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments on Thursday. Bell has been a member of the DETCOG board for 42 ½ years, since July 1, 1978, which DETCOG Executive Director Lonnie Hunt described as “some kind of record.

    “Also, we’re in charge of eminent domain, when the government comes to you and tells you they’re going to take your land,” he said. “We’ve only done that a couple of times; most landowners don’t mind giving up a little strip of land to make roads better or fix the bridges.”

    Bell said his office represents the state in child protective services cases, as well as adult protective services cases.

    “We’ve had a lot of fun,” Bell said. “I’m going to rest a bit, but I still have some work to do for the county. They’ve contracted me to do any redistricting (because of the 2020 Census).”

    Bell said that the bulk of his job has been answering questions, then, after a long chuckle, Bell said of his successor, Colton Hay: “Be ready for it, it’s coming.”

  • HCHD directors settle debt with county

    IMG 0169ALTON PORTER | HCC Operations Supervisor Cassandra “Cassie” Gallaway, above, of Houston County Emergency Medical Services, presented a report on the ambulance services providers services to patients in the county last month to Houston County Hospital District board members at a meeting Tuesday, May 18.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – Members of the Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors approved a board’s Negotiations Committee proposal to make a partial reimbursement payment of $150,000 to county government to settle a debt the hospital district owed the county. The HCHD directors took the action at a meeting Tuesday, May 18.

    In approving an agreement to make the partial reimbursement, negotiated with county officials to settle the debt, the directors passed a motion, made by Place 6 Director Rhonda Brown and seconded by Board Vice President and Place 4 Director Dr. John Stovall.

    The motion was offered to approve the “negotiated settlement with Houston County for ten months ambulance cost (a few years ago) upon preparation (of) appropriate legal documents by the board attorney, Board President and Place 1 Director Barbara Crowson said.

    The negotiated reimbursement/settlement agreement between county government and hospital district officials was approved by members of the Houston County Commissioners Court at a meeting Tuesday, May 11, after members of the HCHD board’s Negotiation Committee had met with County Judge Jim Lovell and County Auditor Melissa Jeter and arrived at the proposed partial reimbursement agreement.

    The HCHD directors were to make the payment to county government officials immediately after the directors approved the agreement at their meeting.

    The directors passed the motion following a board Negotiations Committee report, made by Crowson and discussion by board members.

    Place 8 Director Dina, a Negotiations Committee member, noted, “They (county officials) said we owed them one hundred and seventy-four thousand and something (dollars). And our attorney said it was an error that someone did not file an interlocal agreement in the correct timing. And so, he though we only owed them $128,000.

    “But we managed to work in between, and we settled for $150,000. And so, we’ve (HCHD board members) agreed … and they (county officials) approved it last Tuesday (May 11) in their meeting to accept $150,000 as final payment over and done with the ambulance. And we’re even with them and they’re even with us, and we’re all happy about it right now.”

    Crowson added “And our attorney has provided the settlement documentation so that we will be delivering … a $150,000 check to them (county officials) ASAP. And based upon their signing, (they will) release us from any obligation for that. If you look at it from a monetary standpoint, we saved something over $24,000 for the hospital district.

    “And they (county officials) were gracious to do that for us. The county judge was amenable, and he was able to get the county commissioners to vote for that. So, that was very grateful, and it’s another thing that’s kind of off our plate, which we feel real good about, which allows us to look at what we owe in other places. So, that worked out well.

    “The interlocal agreement was signed in the summer of 2017 and it’s been dragging on all this time, and we finally have been able to get that done.”

    In other business, the board’s oath of office was administered by Stovall to five board members who were unopposed in their efforts to be reseated and seated in positions on the board.

    Those board members are Crowson, Place 7 Director Harvey Bruner and Place 9 Director Carol Dawson, who are continuing after serving previous terms on the board, and newly seated Place 3 Director Debbie Kelly and Place 5 Director Roy Langford.

    Since all five of the directors were unopposed in seeking positions on the board, the hospital district’s previously scheduled May 1 trustees election was cancelled at a March 23 meeting.

    In a reorganization of the board, two existing officeholders—President Crowson and Vice President Stovall—were reelected, and Pipes was elected for the first time to serve as secretary. The officers, who were nominated by the board’s Nomination Committee, will lead the board the next 12 months as officers elections are held annually.

    IMG 0166ALTON PORTER | HCC Five continuing and new members of the Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors were administered the oath of office by board member Dr. John Stovall, right. Receiving the oath, from left to right, were Harvey Bruner, Roy Langford, Barbara Crowson, Carol Dawson and Debbie Kelly.

    The board members heard a report, presented by Cassandra “Cassie” Gallaway, operations supervisor for Houston County Emergency Medical Services, on ambulance services provided to county patients by the ambulance services provider in April.

    Gallaway reported that Houston County EMS received 294 requests for ambulance services last month and transported 185 patients. “Of those, we life flighted four patients” by helicopter, Gallaway said. “Eighty-four percent of the patients that we transported (to 911 transport destinations), we brought here to Crockett Medical Center.”

    Most persons responded to by the provider were neurological patients, but cardiac, respiratory and other categories of patients were served, Gallaway said, adding, “We’ve seen a major decline in the amount of Covid-19 patients. So, that’s always really good news.

    A report on operations and activities at Crockett Medical Center (CMC) was presented by CMC Chief Executive Officer Tommy Johnson.

    “Mainly, the big thing I want to address tonight is to give you guys kind of an update on our numbers,” said Johnson. “We are almost back to pre-Covid now. We were still probably almost a hundred shy during ER (emergency room) month, which was April. “However, we invested in some new telemetry equipment on the floor. So, our admission rate has gone up.

    “We’re keeping more patients because we can now monitor them better. We’re probably … averaging around three and a half patient stay days a month now for each day. So, that means we’re at about three and a half average patients a day. That’s up from about 1.2 or less some months.”

    Johnson said a lot of painting, sprucing up and updating have been done to the medical-surgical floor so that it’s compliant with a survey coming up in August.

    In another action taken by the directors, they passed a motion authorizing chiller and tower replacements and repairs to be made at the hospital building.

    In his report, concerning the chiller repairs that need to be made to the hospital’s air conditioning system, Johnson said, “I guess, during the ice storm, we lost both chillers on top of the school over here.”

    He said new chillers have been ordered and are coming and he believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency is going to cover the cost of them because the lost occurred during the storm when Governor Greg Abbott declared this a disaster area.

    Johnson asked the HCHD board members to consider this matter and to work with CMC executives and managers on developing a solution on how to address it. The CMC executive said he has received a $186,000 bid to make the chillers and air conditioning towers replacements and repairs to the hospital building.

    Concerning the planned chiller repairs, Crowson said members of the board’s Facilities Committee met earlier that morning (Tuesday, May 18) and Johnson attended the meeting.

    “What Tommy told us was that their licensure is in the office,” Crowson said. “And so, whatever it’s going to be done about the chillers needs to be done, or at least a plan (needs to be) in place to get it done, as he said. And, of course, the hot season is upon us.

    “And so, he says it has to be done; there’s no question about it. He said, as you noted, those things were here when the whole thing was built (around 1969) and the towers. And we did go out and look at them.”

    Bruner added to Crowson’s comments about the Facilities Committee meeting, adding, some of the towers are “rusted away” and in “horrible condition” and CMC executives want the hospital district to cover part of the costs to make the replacements and repairs.

  • Hearing scheduled for Woodville motel

    Willis MotelCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Willis Motel in Woodville, Texas

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A motel that is said to be more than 75 years old is the subject of concerns by the city of Woodville.

    The Willis Motel, which was the location of a fire in late 2019, is the topic of a hearing set for Monday, April 26. The City Council will meet in the capacity as the city’s Building Standards Commission and give consideration to the condition of the facility and what action(s) should be taken.

    The city has compelled the owner to attend the upcoming hearing to “show cause why [the motel] should not be ordered vacated, secured, repaired or demolished.”

    The Willis Motel, known to many locals simply as “The Willis,” or “The W,” has long been in operation in Woodville. City Administrator Mandy Risinger said the motel’s owner said at a previous hearing that it was more than 75 years old. A file on the motel from the Better Business Bureau indicates that it has been in operation as the Willis Motel since at least Jan. 1, 1978.

    Risinger said that the fire marshal investigated the Willis after the fire and requested that the city’s building inspector come and assess things.

    The pandemic hampered the city’s ability to work on cases of dilapidated structures last year, and also, Risinger said, the fire marshal, Chuck Marshall, died last year and there was no documentation that the Willis’s owner had resolved any of the issues.

    Risinger said that at a recent hearing, held on March 29, the owner was under the impression that all of the issues had been resolved.

    The Jasper fire marshal, whom the city is contracting, re-inspected the property, Risinger said, and found issues to be addressed, which the owner began working on. Additionally, the fire marshal requested the city’s building inspector and health inspector look into the facility.

    Risinger said the city has also received a number of complaints from residents of the motel as well as charitable organizations who have used the facility to put people up. She said the owner is compiling a list of livable rooms to present to the Building Standards Commission and has to provide a plan for addressing all of the existing issues and a timeline.

    Public records show an LLC, Vaishvi, as owning the Willis Motel. The Secretary of State’s office lists a Dipesh Lad as the principal with Vaishvi.

    For the coming hearing, the council is sitting as the Building Standards Commission. Under the city’s by-laws, they can either appoint one or serve as the commission themselves. They will choose how to move forward with the owner and the facility, and can give the owner 30 days to address the issues. If they give him more than 90 days, Risinger said, a detailed timeline is required.

    Progress reports on the work will also be required. At present, Risinger said the owner is supposed to be getting estimates on how to bring the problem parts of the property up to code.

    Risinger said it stands to reason that the property would need continual maintenance and upgrades over time, and that typically in the motel industry, as well as with most commercial property, major overhauls usually take place.

  • Help available for small businesses

    1 SBDCCHRIS EDWARDS | ETN Woodville businesswoman Tammy Rucks, of Tammy’s Pizza and Party Palace, chats with Christina Cole, of the Angelina College Small Business Development Center, at an open house event in Woodville hosted by the SBDC and the Tyler County Chamber of Commerce.

    BY CHRIS EDWARDS

    WOODVILLE – On Thursday evening, the Angelina College Small Business Development Center, in conjunction with the Tyler County Chamber of Commerce, hosted an open house event, at the Nutrition Center in Woodville. The event was a networking opportunity to showcase the variety of services the SBDC has to offer for small businesses, as well as non-profit organizations.

    According to Dianne Amerine, director of the center, funding from the CARES Act allowed the SBDC to hire three independent contractors to assist its regular staff and to help conduct events such as Thursday’s open house.

    Amerine said the SBDC and the Chamber both agreed the event would be a good method for local businesspeople to network and learn about the services that are available. “We decided this would be a good opportunity to get the word out,” she said.

    The consultation services available to businesses are free and confidential and range from creating comprehensive plans to assistance with debt restructuring, financial analysis, as well as marketing. According to a one-sheet provided to attendees of the event, the college’s SBDC, which is under the Texas Gulf Coast Network of Small Business Development Centers, the advisers working to help businesspeople through Angelina College’s center have more than 100 years of practical business experience to assist local entrepreneurs.

    “If a business was impacted by COVID, the SBDC can help them,” Amerine said.

    Anyone who is interested in seeing what the SBDC can do for them can contact the center by phone at 936-633-5400 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Helping Hands (GALLERY)

    042221 fundraiser 1TONY FARKAS | SJNT Volleyball players helped raise $480 that went toward senior scholarships at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.

    Shepherd Chamber raises funds for scholarships

    By Tony Farkas

    SHEPHERD — Townspeople, volleyball players, chess masters and singers were among the throngs of people who turned out Saturday to give toward a worthy cause — high school seniors.

    Chamber President Yvonne Cones said there were upwards of 25 vendors selling everything from food to toys, and entertainers Eddie B of Albuquerque, N.M., and the band Crosstown Renegades provided musical interludes.

    Chamber member and master of ceremonies Brenda Myers said 12 eight-member teams signed up for volleyball at $5 a head as part of the fundraiser; and 20 cornhole teams at $20 a pop lent close to a third of the $3,000 raised.

    Cones said she was pleased with the turnout, and offered her thanks to everyone.

    TONY FARKAS | SJNT 

Shepherd ISD cheerleaders outclass their male counterparts in tug of war at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
    042221 fundraiser 2
    TONY FARKAS | SJNT Shepherd ISD cheerleaders outclass their male counterparts in tug of war at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
    TONY FARKAS | SJNT 

The competition on the pad in chess was fierce at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
    042221 fundraiser 5
    TONY FARKAS | SJNT The competition on the pad in chess was fierce at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
    TONY FARKAS | SJNT 

Eddie B, a Christian singer from Albuquerque, N.M., entertains the crowd at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
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    TONY FARKAS | SJNT Eddie B, a Christian singer from Albuquerque, N.M., entertains the crowd at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser on Saturday.
    TONY FARKAS | SJNT 

Children and their parents participated in a Hula Hoop contest at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser. For every child that brought a parent to the event, a dollar was donated to the cause.
    042221 fundraiser top

    TONY FARKAS | SJNT

    Children and their parents participated in a Hula Hoop contest at the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fundraiser. For every child that brought a parent to the event, a…

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  • Heroes honored

    042921 baby save 2COURTESY PHOTO Coldspring VFD Chief Emmitt Eldridge presents Paramedic Kristin Loftice with a Lifesaver’s Award for his help with the delivery of a baby.

    Coldspring paramedics receive lifesaving awards

    By Tony Farkas

    COLDSPRING — Two paramedics with the Coldspring Volunteer Fire Department were honored with lifesaving awards recently.

    Kristin Loftice and Timothy King helped with the birth of a child, who was in danger because the umbilical cord had wrapped around its neck, on the side of FM 3081 near Willis on Nov. 26, 2020.

    The mother and child were not identified for privacy reasons; and King was out on a medical leave.

    “We got a call at around 4 a.m. for a lady in labor,” Loftice said. “By the time we got there, the Punkin-Evergreen VFD was there, and had her laying down on a pallet because she was going through contractions. I was trying to calm her down as she was pretty hysterical and hurting, and I tried to get her to not push so we could transport her to the hospital.”

    While prepping the woman for transport, she did a hard push and the baby’s head had crowned, so Loftice told her partner to get the OB kit because a baby was on the way — in the dark, in a driveway, and just flashlights for light.

    It wasn’t only the conditions that were a problem; the birth was a problem as well.

    “When the baby’s head came out, I noticed the baby was blue, and I felt around and found the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck,” she said. “I had gotten my fingers in and was able to spread out the cord, and at that time, the baby started to move its mouth.

    042921 baby save 1COURTESY PHOTO Coldspring VFD Chief Emmitt Eldridge presents Paramedic Timothy King with a Lifesaver’s Award for his help with the delivery of a baby.

    “I told mom to push and let’s get the baby the rest of the way out; I was able to guide the baby out (of the birth canal) so the umbilical cord didn’t wrap any tighter,” Loftice said. “King took care of the mother and prepared her for transport; I took the baby into the ambulance and began taking care of it. The baby then started crying, and he pinked up very good, and he started trying to feed on the way to the hospital.”

    In the end, they delivered a strong, healthy boy.

    “We got them to a hospital and everything turned out great,” she said. “Mom and baby checked out OK. My first baby delivery, and with it being one with an umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, it was scary, I’m not gonna lie. But I went with my gut and my training and toughened up. Still, it was intense.”

    There was a point that Loftice had questioned her career choice, having seen quite a lot of bad things as a paramedic. However, birthing a child has given her a new outlook.

    “That, as well as helping people, is why I got into paramedic work,” she said. “It warms my heart up. It’s why I’m here and do what I do. Bringing a life into the world, instead of trying to keep it from going out, was a breath of fresh air, a big change.”

    Loftice keeps tabs on the family, and said that all reports indicate mother and son are doing fine.