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  • VFDs fight Indian Springs fire (GALLERY)

                                   COURTESY PHOTO

    From Staff Reports

    Five volunteer fire departments responded to a residential fire in the Indian Springs subdivision Monday afternoon.The VFDs from Alabama-Coushatta, Indian Springs, Livingston, Onalaska and Woodville fought the blaze for 3-4 hours. Polk County Fire Marshal Jacob Chapman also was on hand.The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. The fire is still under investigation.

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  • Virus concerns lead to declining attendance for Rotary Club

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

    By Jason Chlapek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Waitlist for Phase 1B of Covid vaccine

    Polk County OEM PSA COVID 19 Vaccine Temporary WaitlistFILE PHOTO Polk County OEM

    From the Polk County Office of Emergency Management

    On Tuesday, Polk County launched a temporary waitlist for the COVID-19 vaccine for Phase 1B.

    Phase 1B includes persons who are 65 and older, or persons 16 years and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus. See the Texas Department of State Health Service’s definition of Phase 1B for more details.

    Persons who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination may sign up on Polk County’s temporary waitlist by clicking the following link: https://arcg.is/11ePGb. Persons without internet access who do not have someone able to help them sign-up online may contact Emergency Management at (936) 327-6826.

    This temporary waitlist will be used by county staff and our partner vaccine providers to distribute the vaccine to the public for a limited time. Please note, this is a waitlist only and not a registration list.

    The Angelina County & Cities Health District (ACCHD) is preparing a more sophisticated self-registration and appointment program that we hope will be launched soon. When ACCHD launches their new program, it will be linked to our Facebook page and website so you can sign up.

    The temporary waitlist will then be discontinued.

    Please stay tuned to the Emergency Management Facebook page and website for the announcement of the ACCHD COVID-19 vaccine registration and appointment program. The OEM will also share this information with other local media outlets such as the Polk County Enterprise, PolkCountyToday.com, Piney Woods Express online newspaper, and local radio stations.

    Vaccine supplies are limited and wait times will be dependent upon vaccine availability and distribution phase. As the vaccine becomes more available, eligibility will expand.

    Again, for further updates from Emergency Management, visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PolkCountyEmergencyManagement) or our website at www.PolkCountyOEM.com.

  • 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%.

  • Wildcats play for district lead Friday (VIDEO)

    IMG 3417BRIAN BESCH | PCE Michael Hamilton led all scores with 14 Tuesday night.

    By Brian Besch

    A stifling defense made for easy offense as Big Sandy breezed past Spurger 83-13 Tuesday. Turnovers gave the game the look of a layup drill at times, as the Wildcats led by 17 after the first quarter and 33 at the half.

    Nearly at full strength, the Wildcats were too much for Spurger. The Pirates’ best quarter was in the first, scoring five points. Meanwhile the Big Sandy attack never amassed fewer than 19 points in a period.

    “We’ve got nearly everybody back,” Wildcat coach Kevin Foster said with a bit of relief. “We went on a stretch from Thanksgiving until Dec. 28 where we constantly had two or three guys out. We've played a lot of bigger schools, so it has been tough on us. I kept telling the kids that it will prepare us for the long run, even though we are taking our lumps now.”

    The ‘Cats spread the wealth, with each of the eight players scoring at least four points. Michael Hamilton was tops amongst them with 14. Elias Bullock scored 13, Kaden Foster and Josi Celestine both had a dozen, and Adrian Thompson had 10.

    “The last few games we have really worked on getting the ball up and we go through stretches where we struggle to score,” Foster said. “We need to get into our offense quicker and really transition and fast-breaking. We have done a better job of that as of late. I feel like the one thing that we've done well for the past couple of games is defend. We’ve also rebounded well all year long.”

    Much the same as the girls, Foster believes Friday's game at West Sabine will be in an important one for his Wildcats. The two schools were projected by many to finish first and second in the district.

    “It is going to be a challenging and difficult game, but that's what makes it fun,” the coach said. “I told the kids that we will be focused these next two days in practice to get ready to play. They probably have the best individual player in the district. He has started for them since he was a freshman and is a junior now. They have some good athletes and we are looking forward to it.”

  • Wildcats win 7th straight district title

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Onalaska athlete Kierra Anstee finishes third in the District 23-3A cross country meet last week in Anderson. Anstee will participate in the Region III-3A Meet Monday in Huntsville.

    By Jason Chlapek

    ANDERSON — For the seventh year in a row, the Onalaska boys cross country team is a district champion.

    The Wildcats accomplished this feat last Thursday at the District 23-3A Meet in Anderson. Onalaska finished with 47 points, while runner-up New Waverly had 56.

    “I think individual commitment from each runner and making sure we were playing it safe, wearing our masks and maintaining social distancing helped us maintain our streak,” Onalaska coach Terri Boyce said. “We’ve also been very dedicated and we were determined to win come heck or high water. I’m very proud of them.”

    The top two teams and top 10 individuals qualified for the Region III-3A Meet on Monday at Kate Barr Ross Park in Huntsville. At the region meet, the top three teams and top 10 individual finishers not attached to a qualifying team will earn berths in the 3A state meet Nov. 23 in Round Rock.

    Leading the charge for the Wildcats last Thursday was three-time district champion William Boyce — the coach’s son. Running in chilly, windy conditions on a hilly course, Boyce finished the race with a time of 17 minutes, 37 seconds — nearly a minute faster than runner-up Hutton Edney of New Waverly (18:30).

    “This was my first goal (to win district),” Boyce said. “I ran on my own and made sure I was faster on my times. I made sure I ran faster and longer in practice. I also conditioned myself on hills because there’s a bunch of hills on this course. Over the summer, I hit the hills really hard. We have a lot of hills in Onalaska that I ran on. This is the coldest I’ve run in a district meet. I’ve run in mud and slush for district, but never something this cold. I feel like that helped with breathing.”

    Boyce also is the defending region champion and finished third in state last year. A runner-up finish in district his freshman year gave Boyce all the motivation he needed to make sure he never took home a silver medal in a district meet again.

    “In junior high, I won both years — seventh and eighth grade — so I thought I was going into it pretty good my freshman year.,” Boyce said. “That’s what it’s been since then (first place).”

    Now that the first goal is complete, Boyce is aiming for the second one — a repeat region championship. With this being his senior season, Boyce also hopes to complete the triple crown by winning gold at the state meet, and that his team will qualify as well.

    “I’ve been to state every year,” he said. “I hope we can get there again. I won region last year and finished third in state. I hope to take him gold in both regionals and state this year. I need to put my head down and put the work in. There’s a bunch of guys real close and I hope to use them to push myself to run my best.”

    Rounding out the boys scoring was Brady Neuman (fourth), Cy Turner (12th), Jason Arnold (14th) and Canyon Holley (16th). Derek Winkle (21st) and Jaykob Lowrie (25th) also participated for Onalaska.

    On the girls side, the Lady Cats were 13 points shy of returning to the region meet. New Waverly and Anderson-Shiro finished 1-2, respectively, in the team standings.

    This ended Onalaska’s streak of four consecutive district championships. However, Kierra Anstee and Emily Kirkley qualified for the region meet as they finished third and 10th, respectively.

    “We’re very young and had three freshmen running,” Terri Boyce said. “We have a really good eighth grader coming up who’s going to run next year and help us out quite a bit. She’ll bring some speed to our team. We have one senior girl — Kierra.”

    While Boyce will just have to replace one spot on the girls side, she’ll have three holes to fill on the boys side. Among those are Boyce and Neuman.

    “We have three senior boys, including my top two finishers,” Boyce said. “We’re going to be struggling a little bit next year, but I’ve got two eighth-graders who can come in next year who could easily fill those shoes.”

    Which could lead to an eighth straight title.

  • Winter Storm Warning in Polk County

    Polk County OEM PSA COVID 19 Vaccine Temporary WaitlistPolk County OEM

    From the Polk County Office of Emergency Management

    The National Weather Service in Houston/Galveston (NWS) issued a Winter Storm Warning, which is in effect from 9 p.m. Saturday through 6 p.m. Monday for Polk County.

    Periods of freezing rain or drizzle are expected, especially tonight and Sunday, creating icy conditions. A period of moderate snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected Sunday night and Monday followed by bitterly cold conditions Monday night and Tuesday.

    Snow, ice and cold will likely pose a threat to life and property with hazardous road conditions, burst pipes and water mains, damage to infrastructure, and power outages. Temperatures are expected to drop to 26 degrees Sunday morning, 19 degrees Monday morning, and 8 degrees Tuesday morning.

    NWS is forecasting 1-2 inches of snowfall for most of Polk County, with .10 to .25 inches of ice accumulation through Tuesday morning. A decision on closing County offices will be made late Monday afternoon.

    Check your school district's websites and social media pages for school closure and virtual learning updates. Now is the time to insulate pipes, and make plans to shelter in place Sunday night through Tuesday if possible.

    Remember to protect, pets, plants, and pipes. There is a risk of hypothermia for anyone outside who is not dressed properly.

    Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Insulate pipes to keep them from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.

    Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.

    Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights and keep electronic devices charged.

    Create an emergency supply kit that includes a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable food and snacks. Avoid travel if you can. To check highway conditions, log onto www.DriveTexas.org.

    TXDOT began pre-treating highways yesterday and will continue to monitor and treat TXDOT roads as needed throughout the winter weather event.

    Another winter storm is possible on Wednesday although it could bring more rain for southern areas, and an ice threat, especially in northern areas of Southeast Texas. There is uncertainty still with that storm.

  • Winter weather slams through Polk County

                                   PHOTOS BY JASON CHLAPEK AND PAM NOBLES I PCE Winter weather made driving conditions treacherous for a Toyota pickup truck and an 18-wheeler earlier this week.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Like the majority of the state of Texas, Polk County was not spared by Mother Nature this week.

    A winter storm came through most of the state Sunday night and Polk County was one of the storm’s destinations. The storm left snow on the ground, which prompted schools and some businesses to close its doors because of adverse travel conditions.

    Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy called a declaration of disaster from Sunday to Wednesday. The northern portion of the county received 4-6 inches of snow, while Livingston received 3-4 and the southern portion received 1-2.

    Temperatures did not go above freezing (37 degrees) and are not projected to until Friday when the high is supposed to be 43. Temperatures dropped to as low as 4 Tuesday morning.

    Truck 1

    As of press time, the Polk County Office of Emergency Management reported that approximately 2,600 homes were without water and 292 were without electricity. A second cold front was projected to sweep through the county Wednesday afternoon, which would make driving conditions treacherous again.

    All six county school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – either closed or performed virtual learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. C-CISD is closed for the remainder of the week, Goodrich is closed today and the other districts didn’t make a decision about today or Friday as of press time.

    The Polk County Office of Emergency Management can be reached at 936-327-6826, or visit the website at http://www.PolkCountyOEM.com/ . Other agencies that can be reached during winter storm emergencies are the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (936-327-6810), Department of Public Safety (936-327-6806), Livingston Police Department (936-327-3117), Onalaska Police Department (936-646-5676), Corrigan Police Department (936-398-2551) and the Alabama-Coushatta Police Department (936-563-1200).

  • Woodville native finds ‘home’ in Polk County

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Polk County game warden David Johnson speaks at Livingston Lions Club Oct. 14.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Twelve years ago today, David Johnson began his career as a game warden in Polk County.

    And he doesn’t plan on leaving either. Johnson believes he has found his stomping grounds, which he talked about when he was a guest speaker at the Livingston Lions Club on Oct. 14.

    “I started (as a game warden on) Nov. 1, 2008,” Johnson said. “I worked as a laborer in Pollok prior to becoming a game warden. Polk County was my first duty station and will probably be my last. Polk County feels like home. It feels a lot where I come from. There’s a lot of good people here. Livingston is just big enough where it’s not too big.”

    Johnson grew up in Woodville. He also described why he enjoys living in Polk County.

    “I live just north of Corrigan and I came from a small town like Corrigan (Woodville) where you know everybody and everybody knows you,” Johnson said. “There’s a small town persona where folks can lean on one another and go to one another when they need help. I like the closeness of it.”

    During his 12-year tenure, Johnson spoke about the quantity and quality of hunting resources in Polk County. Deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 7.

    “In the last 12 years, the resources have gotten better,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a great increase in our deer population as well as the maturity and health of our animals. I think it’s a contribution to the people of our county respecting the law, doing what is asked of them and practicing good stewardship of the resources.”

    Johnson also talked about his duties as a warden. He said that although most citizens obey the laws of hunting, fishing and boating, there are a few who need a reminder or two.

    “We’ve got a broad range of activity that goes on over here,” Johnson said. “You’ll have anything from criminal trespass or possession of narcotics to boating while intoxicated. Starting around March until September, we put in quite a few hours on the water. We have an extremely large lake one here and several rivers. On average, we spend 200-300 hours a year on the water. We have a little bit of everything around here. Some of the people I’ve encountered have found interesting ways to try and hide or dispose of what they did. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to stumble across those things, and sometimes we have a little help and it’s just blind luck. Sometimes the grown adult almost acts like the elementary school kid who gets caught playing in the bathroom. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The biggest majority of the people we deal with are good people who are out recreating and having a good time. They’re involved in sports that we regulate and they’re very respectful people. All of the bad things you hear about consist of 1 percent of the people. We have a lot of good people here and that’s why I want to be here.”

    When it comes to hunting or water activities such as boating or fishing, Johnson said there’s balanced participation and interest among them. He also thinks this season will have a little more participation with hunting because of Covid-19.

    “We have a good mixture of popularity among hunting and water seasons,” Johnson said. “Any given year, it can teeter one way or the other. On the years that they have droughts, we may get more water contacts, but that’s because of something going on. This was a benign water season. We had a few accidents, tragedies and BWIs, but we had a healthy amount of boat traffic. I expect to see more hunters because it’s an isolation sport. Boating and being around the lake is people being more in crowds.”

    And he hopes to patrol the land and waters of Polk County for another 12 years — or more.