Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

  • San Jacinto County to receive grant funding

    9a115719052b863acadd43acbc60e24fFILE PHOTO Shepherd logo

    Funds to improve drainage and sewer infrastructure for the city of Shepherd

    Special to the News-Times

    AUSTIN — Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Texas Sen. Robert Nichols and County Judge Fritz Faulkner announced the Texas General Land Office approved funds for flood mitigation projects in San Jacinto County and the City of Shepherd.

    These infrastructure projects will directly benefit residents in a majority low-to-moderate income area that faced repetitive storm damage in 2015, 2016, 2017 with Hurricane Harvey, and 2019.

    The City of Shepherd received $4,200,000 for its Citywide Sewer Infiltration and Inflow Mitigation Project, which will assist with ongoing drainage issues throughout the city by replacing sewer lines, replacing or reconstructing sewer manholes and raising and hardening a lift station.

    Shepherd Mayor Charles Minton said the city is excited about the grant, which will go a long way to improve its sewer plant and lines.

    “I believe this is one of the largest grants the city has received, and will greatly benefit our residents and greatly improve our infrastructure for water and wastewater,” he said.

    The city developed a scope of work in order to qualify for the money, which is part of the Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund.

    “With the severe weather we have, our sewer system was reaching an age where it suffered from infiltration and overflow at the sewer plant,” Minton said. “Heavy rains overload the plant, causing function issues, and could back up into homes.”

    The project will encompass approximately 46,872 linear feet of sanitary sewer line replacement, trench safety, connect new main (or new manhole) to existing manhole (or existing main), main line cleanout, connect service to new main, remove existing manhole with standard manhole replacement, driveway repairs, highway and railroad bore, replace one sewer lift station, elevate and rehabilitate 18 manholes, and associated appurtenances.

    Click here to view the locations: 052721_grant.pdf

    “The city of Shepherd has experienced ongoing drainage issues for years, running the risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship for our residents,” Faulkner said. “This $4.2 million will help us improve our citywide sewer system, including the replacement of almost nine miles of sewer lines, to reduce the impact of future disasters.”

    In May 2020, Commissioner George P. Bush announced the kick-off of the application process for the first round of more than $2.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect Texas communities hit by Hurricane Harvey and severe flooding in 2015 and 2016. During the first round, the GLO conducted three competitive application programs from the CDBG-MIT Action Plan. Those programs include:

    • 2015 Floods State Mitigation Competition – GLO awarded $31,426,781 to four grantees.
    • 2016 Floods State Mitigation Competition – GLO awarded 21 grantees with $135,462,438.
    • Hurricane Harvey State Mitigation Competition Round 1 ($1 billion of $2,144,776,720 total)

    “Texas leads the nation in disaster designations for repetitive flooding,” Bush said. “We must work together to help communities across Texas be more resilient against devasting storms in the future. This first round of funding represents an historic investment in protecting lives, homes, and public facilities, as well as minimizing environmental impacts of severe storms, in many of our state’s lower-income communities. The GLO is proud to play a part in addressing this tremendous need.”

    Nichols offered his support from the Texas Capitol saying, "It's impossible to overstate how important these flood mitigation funds are to East and Southeast Texas. Senate District 3 saw severe flooding during the 2015 floods, the 2016 floods, and again during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. These flooding events showed just how vulnerable this area of the state is and how necessary mitigation efforts are. Senate District 3 won over $105 million in the competitive flood mitigation fund award process because the projects in our region are vital to protecting Texans from future flood events. I appreciate the professionalism of the GLO throughout this process and our local officials who worked so hard to make these projects a reality."

    Applications closed for the first round of funding Oct. 28, 2020, and the GLO evaluated all 290 submitted applications in accordance with the HUD approved scoring criteria. Eligible applications with the highest scores were awarded funds. The second round of the competition will award the remaining $1,144,776,720 in mitigation funding to Hurricane Harvey eligible entities.

    HUD defines mitigation as activities that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters. HUD requires that at least 50 percent of total funds must be used for activities benefiting low- to moderate-income persons.

    The State of Texas CDBG Mitigation Action Plan: Building Stronger for a Resilient Future outlines the use of funds, programs, eligible applicants, and eligibility criteria as required by HUD. The plan was sent to HUD on Feb. 3, 2020, after an extraordinary public outreach effort including a 50-day public comment period and eight regional public hearings, far-surpassing HUD requirements. HUD approved the plan March 31, 2020.

    For more information, visit recovery.texas.gov/mitigation.

  • San Jacinto County turns out the vote

    SanJacelectionCOURTESY PHOTO Most of San Jacinto County voted “Red” or Republican in the 2020 election.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    SAN JACINTO COUNTY - San Jacinto County saw a little more than 65% of registered voters turn out for a mix of Election Day and absentee voting with an overwhelming majority participating in early voting at one of the 10 polling places within the county. 

    Overall, residents casted roughly 80% of votes for the current president Donald Trump with just under 20% for former vice-president, Joe Biden. Other elections followed similar voting trends, including the closely-watched race for senator between republican incumbent John Cornyn and democratic hopeful MJ Hegar, as well as State Representatives, Railroad Commissioner, judges positions and most other races that ran both democratic and republican candidates.

    For the City of Shepherd, Mayor Charles D. Minton will serve his second term along Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who will act as a City Alderman. Yvonne Ryba Cones also earned a spot on the Shepherd City Council.

    Coldspring also voted to re-elect Pat Eversole as mayor, with 58% of the vote being cast in her favor.

    For a full list of election results for the county, please visit http://www.co.san-jacinto.tx.us/page/sanjacinto.Elections. Please note that as of press time, results are unofficial and are subject to change as provisional ballots are counted.

  • Save our Stages, yes; trash brisket, NO

    John Cornyn brisket screen grabSen. John Cornyn’s tweet that’ll live in Texan infamy.

    By Chris Edwards

    I was going to open this with some variation of the old adage about a broken clock, but, nah, it’s a new year and new beginnings and whatnot.

    Reelected Senator John Cornyn’s piece of legislation from last year, the Save Our Stages Act, is already helping many live music and entertainment venues across the country.It’s especially noteworthy in Texas where live music is a giant part of our history, lifestyle and economy and many historic venues and the artists/bands who play them were hit especially hard from the pandemic.

    It’s definitely worthy of a big kudos to Cornyn, who co-wrote the bill with fellow senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) The bill gathered an armada of co-sponsors before its passage and is a good example of bipartisan collaboration in this ridiculously divided time.

    But there is another recent development with Cornyn that must be addressed and is certainly not representative of this great state. You see, folks, the senator posted a photograph to social media on Christmas Eve that might just rank among the most un-Texan of things that many people will ever see.
    It was heinous and it was disgusting. The photo featured a Pyrex casserole dish full of what looked like either raw pork ribs covered in ketchup, or maybe meatloaf under a blanket of something red.

    The accompanying text proclaimed it to be a “brisket family tradition.” The next day, he tweeted that the brisket was the best that he’d ever had and cited his wife for the recipe, which, get this: has a cook time of three hours in the OVEN.

    Now before you jump to conclusions and start in with assumptions like “that mean old Chris Edwards is just a barbecue snob,” one thing Cornyn did not do is use the sacred and holy name of Barbecue in vain.

    I know, also, that there are more ways to cook a brisket than bathing it for hours and hours in post oak smoke in an offset smoker, but here’s the rub: John Cornyn is a representative of Texas, which is not just the greatest state in the union but has the greatest barbecue in the world and smoking long and slow with woodsmoke is the only way to cook brisket around here.

    The art of barbecue was perfected in the Lone Star State. Credit it to the influx of German, Czechs and Hispanics, all of whom contributed to the greatest culinary artform the world has ever seen and will ever know. Texans do barbecue the right way (like everything else we set out to do) and Texas barbecue will set anyone’s life on the correct path. The crème de la crème of this artform is smoked brisket.

    No less an authority than the great Guy Clark, who was a true representative of this great state, made mention of barbecue first in his classic song “Texas Cookin’,” which celebrates all of the great delicacies one can find between the Red and Rio Grande.

    Nevertheless, Cornyn was just elected to a fourth term to represent Texas in Congress’s upper chamber, and his Lone Star bona-fides are such: he was born in Houston and grew up in San Antonio. The emphasis, with regard to brisket knowledge, should be placed on that latter aspect. As part of the central Texas region, San Antone is home to some of the world’s greatest brisket, and unless he grew up under a rock, there’s no way he couldn’t have tasted great brisket.

    So, here’s an offer to Sen. Cornyn: I will gladly give you a demonstration on how to prepare and cook a brisket the proper and true Texas way if you will offer your much-needed support to another important cause: Rep. Brian Babin’s H.R. 759, which would help our neighbors, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and, ultimately, the regional economy here in East Texas.

    If Dr. Babin’s bill gets through the Senate (it already gathered a huge swell of bipartisan support in the other chamber and passed) it would put the AC tribe on equal footing with other tribes across this great land.

    Save our Stages is a great thing to help out entertainment venues all over the country, so why not help out with a big entertainment option here in Texas? I get that gambling isn’t everyone’s bag, but everything is a gamble when it comes down to it, right?

  • 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.

  • Trinity County Officials take county to task on pay scales

    CountysealFILE PHOTO Trinity County Seal

    By Tony Farkas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In other business, the county:

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

    011421 colton hayTONY FARKAS | TCNS Colton Hay took the reins of the Trinity County Attorney’s office on January 4, 2021, hitting the ground running.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Colton Hay walked into the office at 8 a.m. on the first day to a ringing telephone and only him to answer it.

    The newly minted County Attorney, elected in November to replace Joe Warner Bell, was being asked about creating a protective order. Hay said he had to call around that morning to find out what the protocol and procedures were.

    “I started calling around, and Rana Wingo of the SAAFE House was able to help me out, and what I found reaching out to people is that no one really knew exactly what to do, where a protective order was supposed to start,” he said.

    Hay went immediately to work, setting up meetings with Wingo, the Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s office, as well as other entities involved, and together created a step-by-step process — that was on the second day.

    “That’s what I’m looking to do — update things, trying new things, something you can only do when you’re new and don’t really know exactly what to do,” Hay said. “(The new procedure) will be great for the victims, for everyone, and I don’t want to stop there, with protective orders and criminal cases, I want to keep going and bring that new insight to the office.”

    The word update sums up Hay’s entire campaign.

    “We’re looking to get new computers, and we, with the DA and the Sheriff, are looking into software that will connect all of us, to expedite things,” he said. “I want to get everyone communicating.”

    Hay said he hopes to bring some youthful energy to the position. Having just got married, he said he wants to put down roots, and saw the election as a good opportunity to do that.

    Hay graduated law school in 2017, and worked for an insurance defense firm for the nephew of Joe Ned Dean, who gave him some sage advice.

    Hay also is a former clerk for the Trinity County District Attorney Bennie Schiro, and has worked in Anderson County for two years doing the essentially the same work as he is doing now. He said he brings experience and a fresh perspective to the position.

  • Two seek mayor’s post

    bennetandwaltonFILE PHOTO Ralph Bennett and Tommy Walton

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Two current members of the Groveton City Council are looking to become mayor.

    The position is up for election, as the incumbent Byron Richards passed away from COVID unexpectedly.

    Early voting ended Tuesday, and the regular election will be from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. Polling will be done at the Groveton High School Auditorium

    Ralph Bennett

    Currently the mayor pro tem, Ralph Bennett said he wants to continue to bring about improvement in the community.

    “I want to complete the projects we had started, such the downtown renovation and the water well, something me and Byron Richards had started on,” he said.

    Bennett has served 14 years on the council, and currently is the Trinity County minority rep on the DETCOG board. He worked for 35 years at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, having retired from security in the Windham School District.

    Additionally, he is treasurer and secretary of the Parker Ridge Cemetery Board in Groveton, and has more than 100 hours of continuing education from the Texas Municipal League.

    “I’m experienced, and that is key for someone being mayor,” he said.

    Aside from infrastructure, Bennett said the city needs to bring in new businesses, and especially needs to improve our road systems. He also intends to work with the state to make sure there is adequate broadband coverage in the area.

    “My top priority right now is securing a water well to have a reliable water source for the city,” he said. “This will become a fight down the road, but it is important to the growth of our community.”

    Tommy Walton

    Grant funds are the key to moving the city forward, and Council Member Tommy Walton said his main focus will be the continuation of numerous projects that are in process.

    A few of those include water meter replacement, wastewater retention pond renovation, purchase of a water well, downtown renovation and water line replacement — in all about $7.1 million.

    “Most of these projects are not something that the residents see every day, but are necessary to the running of an efficient city,” he said. “This is the result of lots of planning and lots of searching for grants. My goal is to qualify and obtain as many grants as we possibly can. It will make our projects move slower than what I would like, but we have to live within our means and I think the voters of Groveton will expect no less.”

    Walton said Groveton is a small town with a limited tax base, and if the city tried to do these projects with raising property taxes, taxes would be so high that no one could afford to live here.

    Other areas of focus include making City Hall and the Mayor more accessible, and involving residents in special projects, making use of any professionals in the area for their advice and knowledge. Additionally, the beautification of the city of Groveton is also high on Walton’s list of priorities, and all of it needs to be dealt with in a five-year plan.

    “Running the City is not a one man show; it involves the Mayor, the City Council, the office staff, the road and bridge staff, the Police Department, animal control, etc.,” he said. “The Mayor is there to help guide the direction and plan for the future. I will always be focused on our future.”

  • West: GOP needs to engage

    051321 west 1TONY FARKAS | SJNT Lt. Col. Allen West, leader of the Texas GOP, tells the crowd at the San Jacinto Republican Party meeting how to keep non-conservative values from taking over the state of Texas.

    By Tony Farkas

    COLDSPRING — The state’s GOP party leader said the state is facing a Marxism that is based on racial divisiveness, and Republicans have to go on offense and speak out.

    “The only way we win is to make sure that Texas remains the strong, constitutionally driven state that it is,” Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret.), said. “We are in an ideological civil war, and we need to put on the full armor of God and the full armor of understanding — who we are and what we believe.”

    West spoke to a gathering of the San Jacinto GOP Party on May 5. He was elected to the position in 2019.

    “We live in a constitutional republic; we’re supposed to be governed, not ruled by orders, edicts, mandates and creeds,” he said. “You are blessed to be in this country, in this state, but in the blink of an eye you can lose it. Now is the time to destroy progressive socialism — a cancer that is trying to destroy the greatest state that God’s ever known.”

    West said that by explaining the party’s constitutional conservative principles, its Judeo-Christian faith, its belief in strong families and individual responsibility, accountability and freedom, things can eventually change, and in Texas, that was evident in the last election.

    “By presenting the facts about police defunding and other issues such as open borders, we found that many people in the Rio Grande Valley agreed, and for the first time in a long time, the valley was flipped to red,” he said. “Zapata County for the first time in 100 years is now a Republican County, and just a few weeks ago, we swore in a young, Hispanic woman by the name of Jennifer Longoria-Thatcher as GOP chair.”

    Warriors understand that battles aren’t won on defense, but on offense, and the time has come for conservatives to stop allowing the “progressive, socialist left” to dictate the narrative, to own the message in a place like Texas, West said.

    The results in Zapata County can be replicated, he said.

    051321 west 2TONY FARKAS | SJNT Lt. Col. Allen West cuts up with San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers at a meeting of the San Jacinto County Republican Party.

    “One of the things I plan to focus on is something we haven’t done as Republicans, and that is local elections,” West said. “They have the least amount of voter participation; if you can convince five of your friends to come out and vote, you’ll raise those percentages. (In the local elections) this past Saturday, more than 70 percent of these woke, critical-race-theory school board members got sent home.”

    West said that other successes include Lubbock, which became the largest sanctuary city in the nation for the unborn, and in Austin, voters got rid of tent cities.

    “In Kerrville, an incredible thing happened; a young man by the name of Roman Garcia is now a member of the Kerrville City Council and he won with 57 percent,” he said. “He is 19 years of age. We can connect with the younger generation.”

    West also exhorted the area pastors to get out and fight the racism and Democratic ways of thinking, to not put faith on the back burner in favor of a government agenda.

    “Change the minds of young people,” he said. “Get people to understand that your skin color does not define you.”

    West pointed out that Texas is gaining two congressional seats in the House, and states with liberal governors pursuing liberal agendas have lost them, such as Michigan and California.

    Because of that, he noted that people from those states who move to Texas need to be engaged.

    “Let them know how special Texas is,” West said. “Let them know that no other state in the nation fought for its independence all by itself. Let them know that when they come to Texas, they need to be part of Texas, not make it like where they came from.”

  • White takes proposed bills to task

    Jas White 110719CHRIS EDWARDS | PCPC State Rep. James White (R-Hillister) is shown speaking before the Woodville Rotary Club in November 2019.

    By Chris Edwards

    State Representative James White (R-Hillister) recently spoke out about some bill proposals up for consideration in the next legislation.

    The 87th Texas Legislature will not gavel in until January of 2021, but state lawmakers have had the opportunity to file bills since November. White recently took three of the proposed bills to task and called them “assaults on liberty.”

    The bills in question, House Bill 238, HB 185 and HB 196, all filed by Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) primarily deal with firearms-related issues, and White, in a news release, said the bills are “disrespectful, immoral and unconstitutional to freedom-loving and law-abiding Texans from the Sabine to the trans-Pecos; from the Texas Panhandle to the South Texas Plain.”

    HB 238, looks to repeal the state firearms pre-emption law and allow local governments to restrict guns as they please. HB 185, seeks to mandate firearms to be stored in locked gun cases, safes or cabinets, and would make failure to do so a criminal act.

    HB 196 was filed to modify the “castle doctrine,” which gives residents the right to use deadly force to protect their “land or tangible, movable property,” according to the Texas Penal Code. The bill looks to modify the requirement that homeowners not be able to safely retreat before deploying deadly force. It also seeks to remove robbery and aggravated robbery as crimes that can be legally stopped with deadly force.

    Meza’s bill to modify “castle doctrine” has already caused a stir. She claimed on Twitter that the bill has been misrepresented in news outlets. “While theft is obviously wrong, we have laws to address that. I don’t believe that stealing someone’s lawn ornament should be an offense punishable by death” she posted in a Nov. 19 tweet.

    Gov. Greg Abbott responded to Meza’s tweet by stating that “We won’t force Texas homeowners to retreat…homeowners need to protect themselves now more than ever.”

    White said that many of his constituents have expressed concern about firearms-related legislation. “None of these bills address any concerns with mass shootings,” White said. “The put more law-abiding citizens in danger, subject them to civil litigation and criminal prosecution.”

    Although thousands of bills typically get filed during a legislative year, only a fraction of them usually make it through the state House and Senate to find their way to Abbott in order to be signed into law.

    White, who serves as chair of the corrections committee in the state legislature, and also serves as part of the redistricting and judiciary and civil jurisprudence committees, has authored or sponsored several bills in advance of the coming session.

    One bill that has White’s authorship is a property tax reform bill, HB 529, which would cap year-to-year appraisal increases at 2.5%. Currently the limit on increases is 10%.

  • WISD lifts mask mandate

    Jarrott 052021CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott discusses information for the board members to look at about possible salary schedules for the next school year.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The Woodville ISD Board of Trustees had a host of achievements to recognize among the faculty, staff and student body at its regular Monday night meeting.

    Prior to moving the meeting to the board room in the WISD Administration Building for the regular agenda items, the meeting began in the community room in the cafeteria to accommodate the large audience of students, parents and well-wishers. The board recognized WISD athletes Kesean Paire and Linus Mannino for their achievements at the UIL State Track and Field Meet. Paire won the gold medal in the wheelchair shot-put event and Mannino took home a bronze medal in the high jump.

    Lady Eagle powerlifter Natalli VonEssen was recognized for her achievement of placing eighth in the state in her sport.

    Two WISD Speech and Debate competitors, Jaydee Borel and Izzy Narvaez were recognized for qualifying in the State-level Congressional Debate event.

    The trustees also recognized Michelle Merchant on being named “3A Girls Assistant Coach of the Year” by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

    On to its regular agenda, the WISD trustees approved an interlocal agreement between the district and the board of directors of the Allan Shivers Library and Museum.

    Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke about the matter. She and trustee Josh McClure have served on the library board and have worked with the other board members to come up with a new interlocal agreement to help with administrative matters concerning the library, particularly since the death of longtime director Rosemary Bunch last year. The last document was signed in 1985, Meysembourg said. The City of Woodville recently entered into an interlocal with the library, as did the county.

    Mask mandate lifted

    The board approved a recommendation by Meysembourg to change its district-wide COVID-19 safety protocol of mask wearing.

    Meysembourg said she feels “very confident” that it is time to lift the mandate, and make mask-wearing optional. There have been two active cases reported since spring break, and no active cases in the district for several weeks.

    “I feel the community and school district have taken all of the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID,” she said.

    The lifting of the mandate was deemed effective immediately after its passage by the board.

    Architectural firm chosen for long-range planning

    The trustees approved an architectural firm, Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong, for long-range planning. The district went out for proposals earlier in the year from architects and construction managers and combed through them to review and rank the submissions to find the best fit for the district.

    At the board’s April meeting, Meysembourg said that gathering the proposals and reviewing them was the first step toward whatever measures the district might need in the future, infrastructure/facilities-wise.

    Meysembourg was approved by the board as authorized to negotiate and execute a contract with the firm. The Lufkin-based firm was also selected as the construction manager for the district’s long-range planning concerns, and Meysembourg was given authorization to negotiate and execute a contract with the firm on that front, as well.

    Other Business

    WISD’s Board of Trustees also approved the following items, or received the following information items:

    • Belt, Harris, Pechacek was approved to conduct the annual fiscal year audit for WISD.
    • The board authorized a resolution regarding ESSER III policy.
    • Meysembourg reported a community-wide meeting scheduled for Monday, May 24 beginning with food at 6 p.m. The public is invited, and it is an open-house for information for the community’s benefit. The meeting will take place in the cafeteria on the elementary campus.
    • WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott reported in his regular report that the district is at 91.53% for its collection of property taxes. Jarrott also presented packets of information for the trustees pertaining to possible salary schedules for the coming 2021-22 school year.
  • Woodville recognizes Blind Veterans Day

    NEWS Woodville City Hall 03 10 21USED COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS The Woodville City Hall

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, the Woodville City Council began with a proclamation to honor blind military veterans in Woodville.

    Mayor Paula Jones read the proclamation aloud

    The date of March 28 is recognized nationwide as Blinded Veterans Day, recognition that is now in its 76th year, enacted by the 111th Congress to aid in rehabilitative efforts for our nation’s blinded veterans.

    Such efforts as improving the VA’s vision rehabilitation services, benefits, research and caregiver support for blinded veterans.

    Cleanup scheduled

    Under the “Items of Community Interest” standing agenda item, City Administrator Mandy Risinger apprised the council on a variety of ongoing projects and events within the city limits.

    One such topic is the city’s annual cleanup effort, which begun on Monday and will last through Friday, March 19.

    The city will accept heavy waste at its warehouse, located at 200 Wingate Street. Residents can take advantage of this opportunity for disposal of heavy, solid waste items during this time period from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    There will also be “Be Green – Stay Clean” events on Saturday and on March 20, and Risinger encouraged individuals, as well as organizations to take part in the effort.

    On a related topic during her report of community-related items, Risinger said the city will begin sending out letters to property owners of problematic and/or nuisance properties soon to compel them to clean-up said properties. There will also be hearings scheduled over these matters, also with substandard buildings. These issues have been put on hold due to COVID, she said.

    Risinger also spoke about the coming Dogwood Festival events, all of which are scheduled to take place as they traditionally do, with Festival of the Arts at Heritage Village; Western Weekend and Queen’s Weekend, scheduled for the third and fourth weekends in March and first weekend in April, respectively.

    She referred to the language of Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order, which ended the mask mandate and reopened occupancy for businesses to 100%, statewide. She said the order does not address public gatherings, and the previous order addressing them allows for localized approval for events of more than 10 people. The festival’s governing board has already approached the city for approval, which was granted, Risinger said.

    The city is not planning to issue any vendor permits until May 1, however, which will be after the festival has taken place. “By that time, vaccinations should be readily available, and the summer months will be on,” Risinger said, which are both factors that will further mitigate the spread of the virus, which is in decline locally and nationwide.

    Other Business

    • The city approved its fiscal year 2019-20 audit, which was conducted by Alexander, Lankford & Heirs. Richard Rudel reported on the audit results to the councilmembers and Jones and said there were no difficulties encountered in conducting the audit.

    • Citizens State Bank of Woodville was awarded as the city’s depository bank.

    • Risinger reported that the city looked at applying for the $350K CDBG grant cycle, with a match that is to be calculated based on variables such as population. “We are primarily looking at street improvement projects (if funded),” she said. A hearing was held to look at potential projects.

    • The city approved the procurement for administration services for CDBG program grant funding to David Waxman and Associates. Risinger said the firm has helped the city obtain millions and millions of dollars throughout the years.