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Houston County News 2

Ham radio: hobbyists offer valuable service

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

By Chris Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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City receives highest audit opinion

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Crockett City council 042721ALTON PORTER | HCC Molly Abele, of Axley & Rode, announced that Crockett city officials were issued an unmodified audit opinion and presented highlights of the city’s 2020 audit report to city councilmembers at a meeting Monday.

By Alton Porter

CROCKETT – Crockett city officials have again received the highest audit opinion an accounting and auditing firm can issue to them.

The city officials were recently issued an unmodified opinion by the Axley & Rode, LLP, certified public accounting firm for their financial performance during fiscal year 2020, as has been so the past several years.

They were informed of the opinion by Molly Abele, an Axley & Rode certified public accountant and audit partner, who presented the city’s previous year audit report to members of the city council Monday evening.

“Management is responsible for the presentation and of these financial statements,” said Abele. “And our responsibility is to issue an opinion on them. We are issuing an unmodified opinion, which is the highest opinion we can give. It states that everything here is presented fairly in all material respects.”

Presenting some of the report highlights to the councilmembers, Abele first referred to a part of the report that focused on “governmental activities, which is your general fund, service fund and grant fund; and your business type activities is your water and sewer,” she said.

“As far as your total assets for the current year compared to last year, they are up just approximately over $3 million. The majority of that, between both your general activities and the business type activities, is your construction you have going on. And most of that is around $4 million as well.”

Total liabilities citywide was up approximately $2.4 million, Abele said, adding, “You’re drawing down on that USDA loan and you’re down to about $2.5 million. So, that was the majority of the increase of the total liabilities there.

“Overall, your total net position, including those assets and that debt that you acquired is just over that $10 million. You can see that the majority of that is in your capital assets for the city. So, over 60% of that $10 million is your capital assets.”

Referring to activity for the general fund, total revenue in 2020 was pretty comparable to that in the previous year—nothing unusual there, Abele said. “Your expenditures increased approximately $200,000. The majority of that was the increase in payroll as well as an increase in general administration and police. Most of those were payroll.

“Your overall expenditures for the general fund were $5.3 million…, and your net increase in the general fund was just over $76,000.”

Concerning the city’s general fund budget, which is how officials operate the city, Abele said, “You were under budget on your revenues just slightly, but you were (also) under on your expenses about $186,000 for the year.

“So, you did a very good job of staying within your budget for the year. With the increase in your sale of assets, which is not necessarily a budgeted item, you had an overall change from where you expected to be which was a net loss of $75,000 to a net increase of $76,000. So, you had a good year for what 2020 was.”

Referring to a slight change in the 2020 audit report, Abele said, stemming from federal money and grants, the city received over $750,000 in federal revenue for the year. “We had to come in and do what’s called a compliance audit,” she said.

“So, we picked some of those programs. We go in-depth in some of that detail and we audit that particular program. The largest one that we reviewed this year, of course, was the USDA loan. “We have no issues or compliance findings with that to report to you, so everything was working well with that grant.”

In other business, the councilmembers voted to adopt a resolution denying a distribution cost recovery factor rate request recently made by Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC, and that addresses other related matters.

“Oncor is submitting a request to recover a little over $97 million in their distribution cost for this past winter storm,” said City Administrator John Angerstein, noting that had the councilmembers not approved the resolution or responded to Oncor’s request, city officials would automatically have had to participate in the company’s distribution cost increases for the city of Crockett.

“By doing this (adopting the resolution), we push it (Oncor’s request) back. (Now) they (Oncor executives have to go through the Public Utility Commission proceedings and justify the cost and their expenses and also retain a special counsel that they will have to pay for that represents the city to help negotiate those policies to spread it out over a longer period of time and/or argue some of those costs, whether they were necessarily winter-related damages,” Angerstein said. “So, it makes them go through a little more checks and balances before they increase the electricity rates in our city.”

During the public comments part of the meeting, Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher noted that early voting began Monday and continues through next Tuesday for the city’s May 1 election. Precincts 1 and 2 council member seats are up for election.

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CISD trustees accept $3.2m bid for juvenile center

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CISDALTON PORTER | HCC Crockett High School junior students Katlyn Marshall, left, and Keaton Crabtree addressed CISD trustees at Monday night’s meeting asking that the wearing of facemasks not be mandatory for students as they attend this year’s prom at the school.

By Alton Porter

CROCKETT – Crockett ISD trustees have accepted a bid to sell the district’s Juvenile Justice Center property for a substantially higher price than they paid to purchase the facility a little over three years ago.

The Crockett Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to accept a $3.2 million bid, submitted by Merkabah, Inc., headquartered in the Houston area, to purchase the former Crockett State School property at a meeting Monday evening.

The school district’s officials paid $650K in cash and turned over the district’s $61,000 bus barn/transportation facility to the city of Crockett to pay for the property, located across Loop 304 from the district’s administrative office building in January 2018.

“We did invest some money in that property,” School Board President and District 5 Trustee Dr. John Garner said.

Merkabah’s owner has indicated that he plans to have the property developed into a residential facility, but not for the same level of students that some of the past organizations that owned the property served, CISD Superintendent John Emerich said.

Although the campus will be a juvenile facility, plans are for it to be a place for foster care youth, the CISD superintendent said, adding, so it won’t be for kids that have been sent there because they’re in trouble.

“It will be much different,” Emerich said. “They (Merkabah employees) take care of the education of their students, so it won’t be something where we’re constantly (having) kids coming to our school. That will not be the case. It will not be a burden on the school, which has been something that has happened here in the past.”

Garner said the Merkabah company and its owner were vetted quite extensively, and it was determined that they will be good owners and developers of the property.

The motion that passed, approving and accepting Merkabah’s bid, after the trustees reconvened the open, public part of the meeting following an executive session, was made by Board Secretary and District 4 Trustee Karen Norman and seconded by District 1 Trustee Ansel Bradshaw.

“I’d like each one of us to consider the transition that will have to take place and how that will affect our students’ positivity by selling this property,” said District 2 Trustee Stephen Tuggle. “It is an asset, but we have an investment that we are, I guess, cashing in, for lack of a better word. And we also have an opportunity to use those funds for the betterment of our students here in Crockett High School.”

“I think it is worthy to note that this bid and the proposed action that will take place there is something that will benefit not just the school district but the entire community with jobs coming to the area,” Emerich said. “And I think this is a win-win all the way around.”

“I feel that all the board members understand the history and the heritage that property has brought in this community,” said Garner. “We take this action very seriously. It’s been considered extensively. We feel that, as the bid process is ongoing, it’s an opportunity, as Mr. Tuggle said, not only for the district but for the Crockett community, the company of value, and very worthy of our consideration.

“Any action that’s taken regarding the property is done after due diligence and our effort to make the best use of this entrusted property for the district as well as the whole community. We feel like that’s what will occur if this purchase proceeds.”

Emerich said, “There are some things in the agreement that we’re going to get some time to continue using … after the sale goes through to give us time to build new facilities.”

He noted that he visited some of the other facilities that belong to the Merkabah owner and he feels “very comfortable about this gentleman and his operation (and) what they were doing.

“This company has some big plans to do a lot of additional building. When everything is up and going, it’s going to bring a lot of jobs to the Crockett community.”

“It will help infuse additional revenue and business activity,” Garner added. “That’s one of our main goals.”

Mask resolution adopted

CISD trustees voted to adopt a resolution regarding the wearing of face coverings by students and employees at the district’s schools.

In offering the motion to adopt the resolution, Bradshaw read a statement, saying, “Masks are recommended for all staff and students. Temperature checks will be continued to be done on all campuses for staff and students. And any visitor visiting Crockett Independent School District during instructional time are required to wear facemasks while on district property.”

During public comments, Crockett High School junior’s Katlyn Marshall and Keaton Crabtree, daughter of District 6 Trustee Josh Crabtree, addressed the trustees and asked that it not be mandatory for students to wear facemasks at this year’s prom. They requested that wearing facemasks to the event be optional.

In his monthly report to the trustees, Emerich noted that they will have a special meeting Monday, May 10, beginning at 5:45 p.m., to canvass the results of the district’s trustee election. Emerich reported that 136 voters had cast ballots early—103 in person and 33 by mail—in the election as of Monday evening. Early voting ended Tuesday; election day is this coming Saturday, May 1.

Seeking election to the Super District 7 position are Johnny Taylor, who has been employed 30-plus years as a school administrator, teacher and coach, and Gerald Colter, a Crockett High School graduate, Texas Department of Transportation retiree and current part-time employee of the city of Crockett.

The trustees voted to approve personnel recommendations submitted by Emerich and his staff: the hiring, resignation and reassignment of district employees. Among those employed is Judy Leediker, who was rehired to fill the position of Crockett Junior High School principal.

In a district continuing education credit board training report, Rhonda Kendrick, CISD executive secretary and human resources director, noted that all of the trustees are in compliance with the Texas Association of School Boards training requirements.

Among items requiring action, the trustees approved changing a district’s previously scheduled half day of school from Sept. 24, the previously scheduled homecoming day, to Oct. 8, the rescheduled homecoming day, on the district’s 2021-22 school calendar.

In addition, the board members approved the district’s annual Allotment and TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) Certification for the 2021-2022 school year and approved continuation of a legal services agreement with Powell Law Group, LLP, the district’s legal counsel firm.

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Fatal Trinity County crash claims Groveton woman

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police lightsFILE PHOTO Police lights

By Chris Edwards

TRINITY COUNTY – A Groveton woman is dead following a multiple-vehicle crash that occurred near Groveton on the evening of Wednesday, March 31.

According to Sgt. David Hendry with the Texas Department of Public Safety, DPS troopers responded to a three-vehicle crash, which involved one of their own, about six miles west of the Groveton city limits on SH 94.

According to the preliminary investigation, a Mack truck towing a pole trailer was eastbound and a DPS Chevrolet patrol vehicle was westbound at approximately 6:45 p.m. The trooper in the patrol vehicle, Brady Germeroth, of Crockett, identified a movingviolation on another eastbound vehicle and made a U-turn.

As Germeroth was attempting to re-enter the eastbound lane of the highway, the driver of the Mack truck drove over into the westbound land and struck a Jeep Wrangler head-on. Both the truck and its accompanying trailer crossed back over into the eastbound lane, striking the back right side of the DPS vehicle, and continued off the roadway where it overturned onto its passenger side and caught fire.

The driver of the Mack truck, 35-year-old Chad Deford, of Livingston, was not injured in the crash, neither was Germeroth. The driver of the Jeep, 53-year-old Melanie Painter, of Groveton, was transported to Crockett Medical Center where she was pronounced deceased a short time later, according to Hendry. The crash remains under investigation.

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Pet Show kicks off 2021 Houston County Fair (GALLERY)

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2021 Houston Co Fair 3ALTON PORTER | HCCQueen Ayvery Sallee, left, and Princess Kallie Jo Stephens are this year’s royalty for the Houston County Fair & Youth Livestock Show and Home & Garden Fair. They were introduced to attendees at the annual event’s Pet Show Tuesday evening.

By Alton Porter

The 2021 Houston County Fair & Youth Livestock Show and Home & Garden Fair is being held this week at the usual places, the Porth Ag Arena in Crockett and Crockett Civic Center.

Participants assembled at the arena and set up the fairgrounds for the event Monday evening and it was kicked off with the check-in of many of the animals and home and garden items entered in the various shows and the holding of the Pet Show late Tuesday afternoon and evening.

The Pet Show, which features youngsters and their pets, is one of the most popular fair activities.

Pet Show class award winners were Lacey Currie and her dog Dixie, in the Mixed Breed Under 25 Pounds class; Kayleigh Hicks and her dog Lucy, in the Mixed Breed Over 25 Pounds class; Charlee Culpepper and her pet dog, in the Pure Breed Under 25 Pounds class; Isaac Mathison and his dog Piper, in the Pure Breed Over 25 Pounds class; and Kade Stephens and his lizard Mushi, in the Miscellaneous Animals class.

The Best of Show trophy was won by Kennedy Craycraft and pet, the Best Team trophy by Nolan Jansky and pet, the Best Groomed trophy by Corey Hicks and his pet, the Showmanship trophy by Carley Tucker and pet and the Best Mannered trophy by Jase Turner and his pet.

Tobi Curless, left, leading a llama, and Chuck Curless, leading an alpaca, along with Kathy Curless, not pictured, presented a demonstration with the two animals to attendees at the Pet Show of the 2021 Houston County Fair & Youth Livestock Show and Home & Garden Fair Tuesday evening. ALTON PORTER | HCC

Tobi Curless, left, leading a llama, and Chuck Curless, leading an alpaca, along with Kathy Curless, not pictured, presented a demonstration with the two animals to attendees at the Pet Show of the…

2020 Houston County Fair Queen Jamie Welch, right, and Princess Laney Smith were introduced to fair attendees Tuesday. ALTON PORTER | HCC
2020 Houston County Fair Queen Jamie Welch, right, and Princess Laney Smith were introduced to fair attendees Tuesday. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Queen Ayvery Sallee, left, and Princess Kallie Jo Stephens are this year’s royalty for the Houston County Fair & Youth Livestock Show and Home & Garden Fair. They were introduced to attendees at the annual event’s Pet Show Tuesday evening. ALTON PORTER | HCC

Queen Ayvery Sallee, left, and Princess Kallie Jo Stephens are this year’s royalty for the Houston County Fair & Youth Livestock Show and Home & Garden Fair. They were introduced to attendees at…

acey Currie and her dog Dixie won the trophy in the Mixed Breed Under 25 Pounds class competition at the Houston County Fair Pet Show Tuesday. ALTON PORTER | HCC
acey Currie and her dog Dixie won the trophy in the Mixed Breed Under 25 Pounds class competition at the Houston County Fair Pet Show Tuesday. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Kayleigh Hicks and her dog Lucy were presented the trophy for winning the Mixed Breed Over 25 Pounds class competition by 2020 Fair Princess Laney Smith at the Houston County Fair Pet Show Tuesday. ALTON PORTER | HCC

Kayleigh Hicks and her dog Lucy were presented the trophy for winning the Mixed Breed Over 25 Pounds class competition by 2020 Fair Princess Laney Smith at the Houston County Fair Pet Show Tuesday.

Charlee Culpepper and her dog are the winners of the trophy in the Pure Breed Under 25 Pounds class competition of this year’s Houston County Fair Pet show. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Charlee Culpepper and her dog are the winners of the trophy in the Pure Breed Under 25 Pounds class competition of this year’s Houston County Fair Pet show. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Isaac Mathison and his dog Piper are winners of the trophy in the Pure Breed Over 25 Pounds class competition of the 2021 Houston County Fair Pet Show. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Isaac Mathison and his dog Piper are winners of the trophy in the Pure Breed Over 25 Pounds class competition of the 2021 Houston County Fair Pet Show. ALTON PORTER | HCC
Kade Stephens and his lizard Mushi won the trophy in the Miscellaneous Animals class competition at the Houston County Pet Show Tuesday. A ALTON PORTER | HCC
Kade Stephens and his lizard Mushi won the trophy in the Miscellaneous Animals class competition at the Houston County Pet Show Tuesday. A ALTON PORTER | HCC
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Before the Pet Show competitions were held, three Latexo-area residents—Kathy Curless, Chuck Curless and Tobi Curless—put on a demonstration with one of their llamas and one of their alpacas for the show attendees.

In addition, both last year’s fair and livestock show queen and princess and this year’s royalty were introduced to the event attendees.

The 2020 queen was Jamie Welch, a Latexo High School graduate who now attends Texas A&M University. Laney Smith, a fifth grader at Kennard Elementary School, was the 2020 princess.

This year’s queen is Ayvery Sallee, a Lovelady High School Senior, and the 2021 princess is Kallie Jo Stephens, of Latexo, a Grapeland Middle School student.

The fair and youth livestock show activities will continue through Saturday, when the participants will clean up the fairgrounds, and the climaxes of the event will be held Friday: the Buyers Appreciation Dinner, beginning at 4 p.m., and the Sale of Champions, beginning at 6 p.m.

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