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  • San Jacinto County Chamber celebrates new businesses

    032521 chamber rhjTONY FARKAS | SJNT Relson Gracie JiuJitsu celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Saturday.

    By Tony Farkas

    SHEPHERD — Three businesses new to the community were honored by the Greater Shepherd Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, two with ribbon cuttings and one named Business of the Month.

    Fierce Nutrition, a store that specializes in nutritious smoothies, shakes and herbal teas, was named Business of the Month for March and April.

    032521 chamber fierceTONY FARKAS | SJNT Fierce Nutrition was named Business of the Month for March by the Greater Shepherd Chamber of Commerce.

    Texas Glam Girlz celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting, although owner Misty Slawson says they’ve been open since October.

    Slawson, who’s been a Shepherd resident most of her life, offers several different services: there’s a boutique that offers women’s and girls clothes, shoes and accessories; a tanning salon, which has tanning beds or spray tans available; and a dry cleaning business.

    032521 chamnber tggTONY FARKAS | SJNT Texas Glam Girlz celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Saturday.

    The grand opening was delayed, Slawson said, because of damage done to the building during the severe winter weather, requiring remodeling.

    Hours are from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturdays.

    At Relson Gracie JiuJitsu, owner Bruce McKinzie said he’s been open eight months, but has been teaching for 10 years.

    He has been practicing the discipline for 16 years, but has been into martial arts for 38 years and holds multiple black belts. Currently, he has top belts in kenpo karate, taekwon do, jeet kune do, and kali, a Filipino martial art, to which he holds a rank of full instructor, the highest available.

    He also holds full instructor ranking for jeet kune do, a discipline started by Bruce Lee, having trained with Bruce Lee’s friend Ted Wong.

    McKinzie said he teaches jiujitsu because of his age and his retirement from competitive matches, and the art is less violent, but will teach other disciplines on a one-on-one basis.

    “What I teach kids is to be bully-proof,” he said. “I teach students not to fight if they don’t have to, but to control the situation and holler for a teacher.”

    Instruction is offered Monday through Thursday; kickboxing is from 6:15 - 7:15 p.m., children’s jiujitsu from 7:15 - 8 p.m.; and from 8 - 9 p.m. for adults.

    Fierce Nutrition is at 11104 TX 150 Suite 300, and can be reached at (832) 946-4615.

    Texas Glam Girlz is at 1281 S. Byrd Ave., and can be reached at (334) 429-0545.

    Relson Gracie JiuJitsu, next door to Fierce Nutrition, can be reached at (281) 387-8782.

  • San Jacinto County law enforcement think fast in July stop

    San Jac SheriffsCOURTESY PHOTO San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers (center) presented Life Saving Awards to Pct. 3 constable Sam Houston (far left), deputies Stephen Countz (second from left) and Jonathan Cortez (second from right), and Pct. 2 constable Ray Atchley for their bravery in a fiery rescue on July 23.

    From Staff Reports

    A quartet of San Jacinto County law enforcement officers were recently honored for their heroism and bravery during a traffic stop in July.

    San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers gave Life Saving awards to a pair of his deputies and two of the county’s constables for their fast action in saving the life of a suspect who was on the run from several law enforcement agencies. San Jac Sheriff’s deputies Jonathan Cortez and Stephen Countz, Pct. 2 constable Ray Atchley and Pct. 3 constable Sam Houston all received the life-awards.

    The suspect, who’s name was not released, had a known gang affiliation and was in pursuit of several agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Walker County Sheriff’s Office before he came into San Jacinto County while driving east on State Highway 150. The suspect was driving a stolen pickup truck and was suspected of human trafficking.

    The pursuit started in Montgomery County on IH-45 before traveling east on SH 150 through New Waverly and crossing into San Jacinto County. Once the pursuit reached San Jacinto County, the chase went on for 4-5 miles before the suspect lost control of the vehicle, which overturned and hit a tree before bursting into flames.

    Atchley and Cortez were first on the scene before Countz and Houston arrived, and the four officers devised a plan to get the suspect out of harm’s way and put the fire out of the vehicle. Countz held the suspect at gunpoint as he had a loaded weapon and Atchley, Cortez and Houston tried to open a door to the truck.

    As flames grew while waiting on nearby volunteer fire departments to arrive, Atchley jumped in his truck and turned it around Houston and Cortez, with great risk to their own personal safety, began to tie a tow strap to the door of the suspect’s truck as Atchley jerked the window section of the door away from the post so they could remove the suspect from the interior of the flaming inferno while Countz held cover for officer safety. All of this was performed in a matter of a few seconds as the fire then engulfed the interior of the truck.

    The suspect was taken to Conroe Regional Hospital for treatment before Homeland Security took him into custody.

  • San Jacinto County man injured in shooting

    San Jacinto County Sheriff's Department logo

    SJNT staff

    OAKHURST — A dispute between family members left an Oakhurst man injured, and his uncle arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

    Detective Sgt. Gary Sharpen of the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting occurred after Charles Tubbs shot his nephew, Elem Wynne III, had an argument.

    Tubbs allegedly discharged a 12-gauge shotgun at Wynne, hitting him in the neck.

    According to reports, at 1:30 p.m. Monday, San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office and Walker County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a shooting victim located at Bubba’s gas station located off US 190 in Walker County.

    Authorities found Wynne in the parking lot of Bubba’s convenience store in Dodge with an apparent gunshot wound to his neck. Walker County emergency personnel and a DPS trooper were dispatched, and the trooper provided medical aide while he questioned the victim, who said he was shot by his uncle who lives off Harrison Road in Oakhurst.

    Reports indicate Wynne drove away from his uncle’s house after the argument, and ended up at Bubba’s. After treatment at the scene, Wynne was LifeFlighted to Houston for treatment.

    In the meantime, San Jacinto County deputies arrived at Tubbs’ residence, where it was determined that Tubbs was standing outside when an unfamiliar pickup truck pulled into his driveway. Tubbs told police he was not familiar with the vehicle and could not see the driver or passenger.

    The driver’s window came down, and Tubbs and Wynne continued an ongoing family dispute, reports state. It was then Tubbs reportedly discharged his 12-gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot in the direction of the vehicle.

    Wynne was struck in the neck and face, and then drove away, reports state.

    Sharpen said Wynne’s condition was unknown, but emergency personnel at the scene were confident the injuries were not life-threatening.

    Tubbs was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony. He currently is being held on an undisclosed bond.

    This case is still under investigation and will be forwarded to the San Jacinto County District Attorney’s Office for further review.

  • San Jacinto County talks trash

    CountySealSJFILE PHOTO San Jacinto County Seal

    By Tony Farkas

    COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners Court talked a little trash at its regular meeting on May 19.

    County Judge Fritz Faulkner said that about 20 people from the Trails End subdivision in the southwest part of the county came to express their concerns about a proposal for an area landfill planned in that part of the county.

    Faulkner said Peach Creek Environmental has put in an application with Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for a proposed landfill.

    Area residents that showed up told the court they don’t want it in their back yards; however, Faulkner said that the county is not part of any of the process. Peach Creek has 2,000 acres of land purchased, and 600 acres will be part of the initial phase.

    “When you put one of these things in, there’s a valid concern about water quality,” Faulkner said. “There is a membrane put down to protect water table, but it could rupture. You’re also talking about 500 trucks a day coming in through the roads, and there are concerns about property values. Also, part of the area may be in the flood plain, which carries additional concerns.”

    Faulkner said it was a very informative discussion; however, the plan is only in the permitting process and there a lot of work left to do. He also said the county will look into the matter, but took no action.

    “It’s people just bringing concerns to the court,” he said.

    In other business, the county:

    • discussed new storage for the county’s records, which currently are stored in elections building and the basement of the courthouse. Maintenance personnel were asked to price metal buildings or seagoing containers;
    • approved purchase of track loader for $86,200; and
    • approved bonds for all employees of the Sheriff’s Office.
  • San Jacinto teen pens socially relevant novel

    IrisJones3Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula | SJNT Local Author Iris Jones reads her first book, “Growing Up Iris,” at the Shepherd Library to a small crowd. At the reading, Iris did a Q&A with the audience, as well as a book signing. Her book is available on both Amazon and Audible.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
    SJNT staff writer

    SAN JACINTO COUNTY — Ushered in by April showers, local author Iris Jones has been touring the county, visiting the Coldspring and Shepherd libraries to read a preview of her new book, “Growing Up Iris.”

    Originally from Cypress and moving out to Point Blank a few years prior, Iris found less pressure to be the best and more room to be laid-back, giving appreciation for the rural atmosphere by noting “It’s good for your character development to be able to be yourself out here,”

    With plenty of pandemic free time, 15-year-old Iris set out to write about her experiences, not only as a city kid moving out to the county, but also as a biracial girl finding comparative experiences between Houston and East Texas.

    Now 16, Iris has been touring the county and beyond reading excerpts from her book, dabbling in the different roles she finds herself in when around different groups.

    Her chapters range from chapters like “Black,” which addresses subjects like fear of police brutality to struggles of accepting her own skin, to titles like “Siblings” that discuss the dynamic of being the youngest girl out of six brothers.

    The book includes both personal stories of growing up with a White mom and Black dad, (an experience she views as average, while others around her were sometimes taken aback), as well as historical references to Black America.

    During the Q&A portion of the reading, Jones replied to how society has shaped how she sees herself as a Black and White woman. Identifying more as a Black woman, Iris said, “I grew up with Disney princesses mostly being white with blonde haired with blue eyes, and I remember how important it was seeing ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ seeing a new example that I could be proud of.”

    She reflected on learning more about Black History in America, from medical malpractice to systematic oppressions, to present day where laws are still being passed that allow Black people to exist in their own skin (and hair) without repercussion. Alongside oppression, Iris cites inspirations including seeing more people in power and media that she feels she can better connect with.

    Iris hopes her book is able to accomplish similar goals, whether giving those going through similar experiences a page to turn to or providing a new perspective to those interested in reading about personal experiences beyond their own.

    In taking the time to learn more about Black history in America, Iris currently is in the TAMS program that allows her to take university courses through UNT remotely, and she is on track to have her associate’s degree in biology by the time she graduates from high school.

    With plans of becoming a surgeon one day, she cites inspiration found in an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks, whose cancerous cells led to the discovery of the almost immortal HeLa cell line, which under the right conditions, can reproduce indefinitely. Though the discovery was great, malpractice around it is part of what drew Jones into the profession, hoping to provide a voice of accountability for those who look like her.

    On top of her other endeavors, Iris also started the Racial Literacy Project, which aims to give local libraries books that include stories and characters from racial and cultural backgrounds that are historically underrepresented.

    Her donations include books to both the Shepherd and Coldspring Libraries that were used as inspiration while writing her own book, ranging from serious to light-hearted. Iris plans to eventually follow her first memoir with an update, but not before first exploring the possibilities of a children’s book which would deal with similar subject matters.

    “Growing Up Iris” by Iris F. Jones is available on Amazon and Audibleor at any of her book signings.

  • Save Our Seniors initiative starts in San Jacinto County

    031121 SOS 2EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA | SJNT Sergeant Rachelle Thomas and her team of medics and administrators teamed up with the San Jacinto County’s Office of Emergency Management to keep the clinic running smoothly, with 105 doses administered in the first day.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
    SJNT Staff Writer

    COLDSPRING — Last week, San Jacinto County was the first of 26 counties in Texas to implement the Save Our Seniors vaccination program, meant to get the first round of the vaccine into the arms of the county’s older citizens.

    Volunteers, who have already been working to assist with distribution at the Brookshire Brothers, along with Army medics, worked side by side to administer the allotted 200 vaccines, with 105 doses of the Moderna vaccine being used in the first day at the Coldspring Emergency Shelter.

    Medics also drove around the county to give the first dose to those who are homebound, with officials in the Operations and Emergency Management office calling residents in the county to make sure they were aware of the free program.

    The initiative was originally intended for those 75 and older with an appointment, but volunteers moved to contact those 65 and older on the second day as to not waste any of the vaccines, which must be kept refrigerated.

    Among those assisting the San Jacinto County OEM office in distribution was Sgt. Rashelle Thomas and her team of certified medics and administrators, who are based out of Lufkin and will continue moving around East Texas to assist in distribution, including in Shelby and Panola county.

    “The volunteers and the town are awesome, and we just enjoy all the people we’ve gotten to work with,” she said.

    The county, which has been holding vaccination clinics through several outlets prior to last week’s event, claims luck had a small part to do with why the county was chosen as the first to pilot the program, which was put together in less than a week.

    “The first day was a little hectic, but we’ve had a steady flow of participants and it’s gone smooth,” SJ County Judge Fritz Faulkner, equipped with a mask, said. “This has really been a blessing.”

    Other factors, as stated on the governor’s website, include vaccination rates among seniors and total vaccine allocations over the past three months.

    Participants will need to return approximately three weeks after the first shot, as indicated on their form. Those who have received the vaccine are encouraged to continue wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing, as indicated on the CDC website.

    While the vaccine has been proven effective in reducing symptoms, specifically those that lead to hospitalization, it’s ability to reduce spread is still being monitored.

  • Saving Children

    041521 child abuse 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS County officials, area residents and representatives of child agencies release balloons on Thursday to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

    Area agencies show support during Child Abuse Prevention Month
     
    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Children are the country’s most valuable resource, and deserve all the support and protection they can get.

    Representatives from Kalin’s Center, the Groveton Police Department, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, CASA and numerous county officers marked the occasion on Thursday with information, a flag raising, and a balloon launch.

    Kalin’s Center Executive Director Angela Cross said that across Houston and Trinity counties, there are more than 260 children in foster care for reasons dealing with sexual and physical abuse and neglectful supervision.

    Cross said it takes a team to deal with child abuse.

    “It starts with law enforcement, which usually gets the calls and do the investigations; Child Protective Services investigates, places children and does follow-up care,” she said. “The school usually make the initial reports, so thank a teacher.”

    Team members also include Kalin’s Center, which works with all agencies to make sure no child falls through the cracks; therapists who work with the children to help them deal with the trauma; medical staff who take care of physical maladies; prosecutors and judges make decision and punish offenders; CASA sees children through the courts as their advocates; Child Welfare boards provide for the children in foster care; foster families who care for children; and the community for its support of all these agencies.

    “We need to pray for our children,” she said. “It’s important for them in this day and time.”

  • 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 seeks help and sponsors for program

    Centerville ISD logoFILE PHOTO Centerville ISD logo

    Special to the News-Standard

    CENTERVILLE — Centerville High School's Project Celebration Committee is seeking partnerships in the community for an after-graduation celebration.

    The goal of this event is to provide an exciting party that is free of alcohol and drugs, where students can celebrate their achievement in a truly safe environment.

    Further, this is an all-night event that keeps students off the roads on an evening that traditionally has a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents. The entire evening will be free to the graduating seniors and their dates.

    Students will enjoy many activities, music, dancing, games, food and prizes. This is the last big event for seniors before they graduate.

    The Project Celebration Committee works to raise the funds necessary and gain the donations needed to pull off this event. Although monetary help is requested from many individuals and organizations; this community-directed event to keep our children safe is well worth supporting.

    If you are interested in making a donation of any kind to the Centerville Project Celebration, please send or contact Centerville Project Celebration, attention Karen Mott, 10327 N. Highway 94, Groveton, TX 75845, or call (936) 642-1597. Any donation will help make this event a success.

    Project Celebration will be held after High School Graduation on Thursday, May 27. The students who benefit from this event and the Centerville project Celebration Committee thank you in advance for your consideration of a donation.

    The graduating seniors from Centerville are Amber Castle, Weston Dial, Eryn Forrest, James Lee, Alexis May, Gracie May, Kayla Mott, Colton Shank, Garrett Smith, Ethan Rutledge and Logan Villanueva.

  • 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 close Monday due to winter weather

    20210110 163421STEPHANIE PETERS Jadyn Phillips enjoys a snow day Sunday at the Onalaska Park. Snow accumulation in Polk County prompted school district superintendents in the county to cancel classes on Monday. The six districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – returned to class on Tuesday.

    By Jason Chlapek

    All six Polk County school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – were closed Monday because of winter weather.

    Much of the county received snow or sleet Sunday afternoon and evening, which prompted school district superintendents to make decisions to close on Monday. According to C-CISD superintendent Richard Cooper, it was better to be safe than sorry.

    “In situations like this, I like to err on the side of caution,” Cooper said. “It only takes one bridge with ice on it to cause problems for a bus. It’s not US 59, it’s our county roads and farm-to-market roads.”

    Each school district decided by Sunday evening to cancel school on Monday. One district, Leggett, was anticipating a late start, but decided against it once it was determined that road conditions were unsafe.

    “We decided at 6 p.m. Sunday to not have school,” Cooper said. “I reside on the south end of our district in Moscow and we were getting sleet and snow at that point. My transportation director drove the roads in our district and noted more snow and sleet on the north and west sides of our district.”

    Cooper, who is in his second year as superintendent of C-CISD, said this was the first time his district had to cancel school because of winter weather. In his previous stop at Garrison, he had to cancel for winter weather once.

    “I’ve been (at C-CISD) for two years, but the last time we had to cancel was before I got here,” Cooper said. “We had some sleet and ice when I first got to Garrison in January 2016.”

    All six districts returned to school on Tuesday. Cooper said his district started two hours late.

    “We started two hours later because roads were still wet,” he said. “It was 26 degrees Monday night so we wanted to see a little more traffic on the roads before we put buses on them. We had no incidents so it worked.”

    Cooper also said that although much of the snow was melted Sunday night, the roads were wet and perfect for ice formation with a freeze. He ultimately decided to play it safe.

    “It warmed up enough on Monday that melted it, but all bridges were wet by Sunday night and they were frozen by Monday morning,” Cooper said. “You have to put the safety of students, parents and staff first when making those decisions.”

  • 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.

  • Second arrest made in Paul case

    1 MUGSHOT Edwards 031621MUGSHOT Clara Kimble Edwards

    By Chris Edwards

    CROCKETT – A second arrest was made in connection with the disappearance of Faye Lynn Paul on Monday.

    Crockett Police Chief Clayton Smith announced on Monday that Clara Kimble Edwards, age 31, was taken into custody by investigators on the charge of Tampering with a Human Corpse, a second-degree felony. Edwards was apprehended with the assistance of the US Marshals’ Service, at her family’s home in Houston County.

    According to Smith, the arrest came about through the ongoing investigation into Paul’s murder. Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar approved of a warrant being issued for Edwards’s arrest.

    Crockett Police began investigating Paul’s disappearance in February of last year, when the 79-year-old Crockett woman’s Chevrolet Impala and her nephew, David Wayne Denson, were also missing. A Silver Alert was out for Paul, and the Houston County Courier was notified that Denson was wanted for questioning about his aunt’s whereabouts.

    Denson and the vehicle were both located, and the 25-year-old man was brought back to Crockett from Alamosa, Colo., where he was discovered, for questioning and on felony charges for violating an existing probation.

    Although Paul was not located after Denson was questioned, Smith announced in March 2020 that his department was actively investigating Denson for capital murder. Earlier this month, the case was presented to a Grand Jury, which returned a True Bill for the case. A True Bill indicates that enough evidence was presented to proceed with a trial.

    Smith added in a news release on Monday that Paul’s remains have yet to be recovered. “Investigators hope to one day be able to locate her and provide the family with some closure,” he stated in the release.

    Edwards is currently being held in the Houston County Jail on a $100,000 bond. Crockett Police are encouraging anyone with information about the case to contact them at 936-544-2021.

  • Severe storm leaves lingering cold temperature and questions

    022521 weather 2PHOTOS COURTESY OF FRITZ FAULKNER San Jacinto County Commissioner Laddie McAnally, County Judge Fritz Faulkner, and Brandon McClendon and Mike Flynn unload pallets of drinking water to be distributed throughout the county to those affected by Winter Storm Uri.

    By Tony Farkas

    San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner can’t really remember a time that winter was this bad.

    “It’s the worst winter weather I’ve seen in my life,” he said.

    However, Faulkner said the communities in the county pulled together nicely to get through it.

    “We opened up a warming center, but we didn’t have a lot of response to it, got about 14 out of the cold,” he said. “Most people prefer to stay home. The roads were in terrible shape because the highway department was overwhelmed.”

    Faulkner said the power companies did an outstanding job getting power restored as well, and as of Friday, all the county now has power.

    “Everyone is now at the stage of putting their water pipes back together,” he said. “In anticipation of that, I ordered a couple of truckloads of water from the state to pass out, divided between the four commissioner precincts.”

    Faulker said that food pantries were delivering food Friday and Saturday to people that needed it.

    Cassie Gregory, public information officer for Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD, said the district was not impacted by the weather, as it was taking the winter break.

    However, Shepherd ISD did close for the week, for weather and because the city of Shepherd issued a boil water notice in response to the storm.

    In a news release, Entergy Texas expected all customers who can safely take power were able to turn the lights on by the end of the business day on Friday.

    At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott, after issuing an emergency declaration for all Texas counties on Feb. 14, on Saturday announced that President Joe Biden approved a partial emergency declaration for Texas.

    San Jacinto County is among the 77 counties that will be eligible to receive federal aid.

    Additionally, Abbott temporarily waived regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in the response to winter weather and power outages throughout the state.

    These waivers allowed commercial vehicles to travel in Texas as long as the vehicle is registered elsewhere and doing emergency response.

    These waivers are helping increase the delivery of water, food, and other supplies to Texas communities dealing with power and water outages.

    “As we continue to bring power and water back online throughout the state, it is essential that we deliver the food, water, and supplies that Texans need during these challenging times,” Abbott said. “These waivers will help us provide more of these vital resources to communities across the state and ensure that Texas families have the supplies they need to stay safe as we work to overcome this emergency.”

    Since the Legislature is in session this year, Abbott added a mandate for the winterization of Texas' power system to the list of emergency items the state must tackle. 

    Abbott also requested a Major Disaster Declaration — which includes Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program — from the White House. This declaration will allow eligible Texans to apply for assistance to help address broken pipes and related property damage.

    The state is also working to distribute food, water, generators, and additional supplies to Texas communities, and warming centers are established every day. For winter weather resources, including a map of warming centers and ways to help Texans in need, visit: https://open.texas.gov/winter

    Expressing concern about financial challenges Texans will face as a result of the winter storm, Abbott will address the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market.

    The meeting include committee leaders, including Sen. Robert Nichols, who represents San Jacinto County.

    The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees public utilities, prioritized natural gas deliveries for human needs with an emergency order on Feb. 12, and recently extended it through Tuesday.

    This action helps ensure the availability of gas supplies to gas-fired generation facilities in Texas during this critical period. The Commission took this action to help protect public health and safety during this extreme weather event.

  • Sides grateful to survive boating accident

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Jim Sides poses with the throw cushion and life vest that saved his life when his boat capsized on Feb. 3 while he was fishing on Lake Livingston.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Jim Sides loves to go fishing.

    On Feb. 3, Sides went fishing just as he did numerous times during his 78 years of life. But on this day, Sides’ fishing trip in Lake Livingston could’ve been his last.

    The boat that Sides was fishing in three weeks ago sank, which forced him to grab the throw cushion and the life vest that were in it. More than three hours later, someone came to Sides’ rescue.

    “I was in a horrible situation,” Sides said. “After having someone help me put the boat in the water, I went over to fish. I fished for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half then I noticed there was some water by my foot. I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed there was more water. Then I started to wonder what was going on. I looked back and I had about a pencil stream of water coming into the boat from right underneath the motor.”

    As it turns out, a bolt had been taken out of the boat and the hole wasn’t plugged. Sides purchased the boat a month earlier.

    “I just bought this boat and I couldn’t get the motor to run,” he said. “I finally got the motor to running (on Feb. 3). The previous owner guaranteed me that there were no leaks and I took him at his word. I fished all my life and I had water get in the boat. I start the boat, pull the plug out, water runs out and I take off.”

    But something different happened when Sides followed the start-boat protocol.

    “I started the boat up and I took off, but all of the water came to the back of the boat,” he said. “Then the boat came down. I attempted to put on a life preserver, but I couldn’t get it to fasten around me. I was able to get my left arm through it and get it around my neck. I grabbed my throw cushion and got out of the boat as it was going down. I did not want to go down with the boat. Whenever I would hang on to the sides of the boat, it would sink. I worked my way to the front of the boat, but there were no other boats in the lake.”

    Being 300 yards from either the Trinity County or Polk County shores of the lake, Sides was in the water for more than three hours. That’s when his Air Force training kicked in.

    “I trained in the Arctic Circle when I was in the Air Force and I learned there not to do too much so I wouldn’t cramp,” Sides said. “I started hollering and waving my throw cushion.”

    But there were no boats or people around. Sides started to prepare for the worst.

    “I was getting blown up the lake because of the wind current,” he said. “I looked at my watch and noticed that I was about to get dark. I thought I was going to die. I asked the Lord not to take me, but then I saw a boat coming.”

    Sides then picked up his throw cushion and waved it as the boat approached. As it turns out, the boat was coming for him.

    “The man in the boat, Derek Rosenthal, had been contacted by another man, Bill Sory, who heard me screaming when he took his dog outside to use the bathroom,” Sides said. “Bill called everybody he knew who had a boat.”

    Once the boat arrived, the obstacle was getting Sides in the boat. As exhaustion took over, the Air Force Veteran was unable to get into the boat by himself.

    “Rosenthal threw a rope around me and pulled me around his pontoon boat. The boat had a ladder and I was able to get my knees on the ladder and Rosenthal pulled me up until I could reach the handrails then he pulled me belly-first onto his boat. I couldn’t stand up because my legs gave out and I was exhausted. Rosenthal then tied a rope onto my boat and took it back around his boat.”

    Sides said if it had been another 30 minutes, he would’ve been dead. He’s very grateful for Rosenthal and Sory.

    “If Bill Sory hadn’t taken his dog out to use the bathroom, I wouldn’t be here because there was no way I could’ve stayed alive,” Sides said. “I almost froze to death. I don’t know how it didn’t kill me. That water was cold. I had hypothermia. I wasn’t going to drown, but hypothermia would’ve killed me.”

    Once Rosenthal and Sides reached the shore, there were two more people waiting for Sides with blankets. Despite pleas from the people who saved him, Sides refused to go to the hospital.

    “I was shaking horribly and they begged me to go to the hospital,” he said. “But I wanted to go home. My car was parked by the boat ramp and Bill helped me get in his truck. The seat had a warmer and it felt so good. I talked him into taking me to my car and he followed me home and helped me get in the house.”

    Once Sides returned home, he thought he was going to “scare the devil” out of his wife. While he didn’t say whether or not he actually did scare her, Sides was helped into the shower.

    “When Bill helped me get in the house, I went straight to the shower and my wife turned the hot water on,” he said. “I sat there for a half-hour letting the hot water run on me. I found out later that there were two helicopters looking for me. You can’t imagine what it’s like being in that water. I knew I wasn’t going to drown and I’m a good swimmer, but hypothermia was kicking my butt. I was completely exhausted and I couldn’t get warm. I thank the Lord that he let me survive one more time. I’ve had a lot of missed calls in my life.”

    Sides also said it’s going to be a while until he goes back on the lake.

    “I’m not going back in the water until it gets warmer,” he said. “When I do go, I’ll make sure I have my life preserver on.”

    He’ll be ready to go fishing then.

  • Six file for two council seats

    N1411P33001CFILE PHOTO

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The candidates seeking a position on the Groveton City Council each feel there is much more that can be done to make the city a better place.

    On May 1, Groveton residents will go to the polls to pick a mayor and two council members; early voting began Monday.

    One candidate, however, Mark Taylor, is withdrawing from the race for family reasons, and if elected, will not be able to serve, saying he would not be able to devote the proper amount of time.

    For the remaining candidates, infrastructure is key.

    Autumn Dial

    Community involvement is a major component of Autumn Dial’s candidacy, that and a belief that the town has seen better days, and can once again.

    “My family was on City Council in the ‘90s, and I have a little buzz for politics and want to give something back to the community,” she said. “It’s time for the next generation to get involved.”

    Dial said she has worked for the Nacogdoches Housing Authority for six years, worked in low-income housing and as a police dispatcher, and her dealings with people in all walks of life makes it easier to relate.

    “I’d like to see new businesses come to town, and more people get involved cleaning up of the local areas,” she said. “I remember riding the back roads with my grandparents and all the properties were pretty. We don’t have that now. The homes have gone to pot, and I want to see that come back. I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”

    Dial said other areas of concern include better pay for city workers, especially those in law enforcement.

    Philip Schmitten

    The former Air Force recruit Phillip Schmitten said that although he is not a Groveton native, he got here as quick as I could.

    Schmitten has lived in town seven years, and finds it to be a wonderful retirement community.

    “I love the people that live here, and I think there are some things that need addressing to make better,” he said. “We need things for the kids to do, so I would like to focus on creating a city park. The roads need some serious attention, as well as our water system.”

    Schmitten said he spent 21 years in the Air Force as combat photojournalist, and ran squads of men in battle conditions, which gave him leadership experience. Additionally, he learned about caring for other people while working as a special education teacher, as well as serving as president of the Groveton Lions Club. He also served two years as vice president of the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce.

    Robert Smith

    As one of the few incumbents running for re-election, Robert Smith said he wants to focus on continued improvement on all standards — neatness, the city’s water system and its streets.

    “I’m running because I’m interested in the city, and I want to continue improving the city,” he said. “I’ve been on the council three years. I look to serve.”

    The 1967 Groveton High School graduate said he brings experience, integrity and honesty to the table. That, combined with 26 years of work at the Lufkin Abitibi paper mill, and 16 years at the Diboll correctional facility, gives him the knowledge to serve the city well.

    “I’ve learned so much, such as we work on a budget,” he said. “People want this and that, but we have to follow that budget.”

    Chris McFarland

    Chris McFarland said he has a lifetime of experience in Groveton, which gives him a leg up on what needs the city has.

    “I have 52 years of living experience in Groveton, and I know everything there is to know about the town,” he said. “I’m tired of the way things are — not happy with the status quo. The dirt streets are a problem, and I think no one is getting adequate representation for the tax money they pay.

    “It’s ridiculous we don’t have a better place to live,” he said. “We should have decent roads and adequate law enforcement. This is messed up. Our city has been run into the ground for the last 50 years.”

    McFarland said he worked for TxDOT for 12 years and know how roads should be built, so he said he wants to focus on streets, along with the water system, emergency preparedness and “get the employees situation straightened out so they can do their work without having their hands tied.”

    “I’ve been met with huge opposition because I want to build streets out of concrete; it would be easy to do, and we can make our own cement and use our own materials,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s too expensive, but it’s not.”

    Dwane Alsbrooks

    “We’ve got a lot of problems with city streets and our water, and possibly I can bring some knowledge to the table and help the situation out,” said candidate Dwane Alsbrooks.

    Alsbrooks said he wants to focus on streets and the water and sewer system — all city infrastructure.

    He said that his 30 years of road-building experience, and having been in business for 30-plus years, gives him the background to not waste the tax dollars the city has, and fix the maintenance that’s been done on the streets, which he said has been done wrong.

    •Early voting began Monday, April 19, at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St., and will end Tuesday, April 27. Polls on May 1 will open at 7 a.m.

  • SJC deputies nab suspect with 13 lbs of meth

    Drug BustCOURTESY PHOTO Six Ziploc bags containing a total of 13.40 pounds of methamphetamines was discovered by San Jacinto County Sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop conducted outside of Shepherd on Dec. 28. The discovery led to the arrest of Jorge Luis Baca Cuevas of Mexico.

    By Jason Chlapek

    SHEPHERD — A Mexican resident is behind bars after a routine traffic stop turned into a drug bust last week.

    Jorge Luis Baca Cuevas was stopped at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 28, after San Jacinto County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a routine traffic stop on U.S. Highway 59 just outside the Shepherd city limits. Baca Cuevas was stopped because the driver’s side tail lamp on his Honda Civic was not illuminated.

    During the stop, Baca Cuevas was identified through his Mexico-issued identification card. The deputy who conducted the stop had suspicion of criminal activity taking place.

    After receiving consent to search the vehicle, six Ziploc bags containing a crystal-like substance were discovered. The substance in the bags all tested positive for methamphetamine.

    “He picked up 13 pounds of meth in Pasadena and was on his way to Chicago, but we stopped him on a traffic violation in our county,” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said.

    The meth weighed a total of 13.40 pounds and was worth approximately $500,000. Baca Cuevas was charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance penalty group one, greater than four hundred grams.

    “I’m just glad that half a million dollars of narcotics have been taken off the streets,” Capers said. “This makes it safer for children.”

  • Smallwood updates Rotarians on SPCA

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE SPCA of Polk County communications lead Jessica Smallwood speaks at Rotary Club of Livingston last month.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Covid-19 slowed a lot of things down in 2020.

    SPCA continued to work as usual. The animal shelter took in 2,000 dogs and cats in 2020.

    SPCA of Polk County communications lead Jessica Smallwood gave members of the Rotary Club of Livingston a rundown on what her shelter has done and what it is doing during a Rotary Club meeting last month. She also gave Rotarians a glimpse into what’s different between her shelter and shelters in other counties.

    “We are a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter,” Smallwood said. “We primarily serve Polk County, but we are also one of the few shelters that takes animals from outside the county. We get a lot animals brought in from San Jacinto and Montgomery counties, and even some from Lufkin. That is one of the things that makes us unique. Most other animal shelters refuse animals from outside their own county.”

    In 2020 alone, SPCA of Polk County took in 1,579 dogs and 420 cats. Of those animals, approximately 69 percent of them were adopted – 1,159 dogs, 219 cats.

    The months with the highest number of intakes were April for dogs (183) and June for cats (79). The months with the highest number of adoptions were May for dogs (222) and February for cats (58).

    “We have a good number of transport rescues that we do work with,” Smallwood said. “Just this past year, we took in more than 1,300 animals from Polk County and surrounding counties. We were able to place or transport 80 percent of them.”

    Smallwood said that her shelter has a “revolving door” of animals. She also said that things can be unpredictable at times.

    “We might have a great day of adoptions and get seven animals into a new home, then just as we’re about to close for the day, we get a call that someone has picked up a litter of puppies in a trash can,” Smallwood said. “Things like that happen all the time. About a week after Christmas, we took in no less than seven full litters of puppies, which contained 8-13 per litter.”

    Smallwood pointed out that in December 2020, 79 out of 126 dogs brought in were strays (homeless, abandoned, etc.). She also said that although SPCA gets plenty of calls about stray animals being found, the shelter gets more calls from people looking to volunteer.

    One of the biggest programs that SPCA offers is the TNR (trap, neuter, release) or "Fix A Feral" program. This program works with local veterinarians and the public to help curb the feral cat population through spaying and neutering.

    Some of the participating veterinarians do vaccinate against rabies and feline leukemia as funding allows, but none for FIV/FIP (testing and vaccinating for that in particular is more expensive than the TNR program can currently afford). The average cost to spay/neuter these feral cats is $60 per cat.

    “It is breeding season here year-round,” Smallwood said. “We also offer low-income spay and neuter programs as well as a mobile clinic.”

    Both the SPCA and its TNR program operate entirely on donations, and neither receives any funding from local or federal government. Smallwood also pointed out that SPCA wants to be involved in the community.

    “We have a number of community event ideas such as a Holiday Pet Photo Day,” she said. “We want to expand outreach in the community.”

  • 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.