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Council hears bucket list of possible projects

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Crockett City HallBy Jan White
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– At the meeting held of the Crockett City Council on Monday, Dec. 5, members were presented with a list of possible projects for using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds awarded to the city.

During the meeting, City Administrator John Angerstein reported that ARPA monies were still available that hadn’t been used. He said that Crockett had received over $1.5M in funds. Items purchased so far include laptops and printers for police vehicles, the purchase of an animal shelter, and a motor grader for road repairs, “But we have funding left on the table,” said Angerstein. “We have until 2025 to spend the funds.”

After speaking with council members and city employees, Agnerstein came up with a ‘top ten’ list of suggested ways to spend the money: 

1. Repair to wastewater plant sludge. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ), this item is mandatory. Angerstein estimated that the project would cost anywhere from 100k to 200k, depending on the method they use.

2. New roof on City Hall. It was estimated that the building was constructed around 1988, with an upgrade a few years later. Angerstein estimated that the cost for replacement would be around $65k but hasn’t asked for actual bids yet.

3. Drum roller purchase. It was estimated that a new drum roller would be in the $30k range.

4. Parking lot beside Moosehead and behind Hearts Desire. The parking areas need upgrades, reworking the ground, stabilizing, and repairs.

5. Welcome to Crockett signs. Angerstein reported that there are six major highways that lead into Crockett and at this time five of them have metal signs that are rusted and dilapidated. He also said that designs were for a possible cinder-block style sign with raised metal lettering and backlighting that represented the city’s “Paradise in the Pines” logo.

6. Bathroom at Wheeler Park. Updates for the current restroom facility would include a new roof, paint, and new lighting, which would cost around $22k. It was also suggested to build a pavilion similar to the one in Davy Crockett park. Angerstein estimated the cost would be around $60k, but there have been no actual bids on the project.

7. Downtown Strategic Planning – Angerstein proposed hiring a strategic planning group to help with downtown planning and tourism. He said it would take commitment and work and that the city would have to commit to hiring a salaried employee, developing a budget, and other specific requirements. The program requires a three-year commitment of $25k per year and would include holding public meetings, sizing buildings, working with the downtown park and pavilion, and possibly creating a downtown visitor center.   

8. Gear and repairs for Fire Department – The fire department has requested four new sets of bunker gear, bay heaters for the Fire Station, and some repairs to the slab and footers.

9. Purchase of a vehicle for the Police Department. The police department has requested the replacement of its oldest Tahoe with a new one.

10. Refurbishing the pavilion in Davy Crockett Park. It was suggested that the pavilion in the park receive some needed repairs and paint to keep it updated.

After hearing the list and discussion among the council, Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher suggested that the agenda item be tabled until the next meeting when members have had a chance to go over the list and prioritize what they believe to be the most crucial ways to use the funds.

Other agenda items included the approval and authorization to execute a State Infrastructure Bank Loan agreement that will be used in conjunction with street improvement in the city, updates to the city’s Policy and Procedure Manual, and the sale or disposal of surplus items no longer serviceable for the city.

Council members also voted to increase the budget for the Crockett Economic Industrial and Development Corporation forensic audit based on the request from the auditors. Angerstein explained that the original proposal was based on a “sight unseen” situation. After the project began, the auditing firm realized that they would need additional funding to complete the project. It was projected that the auditors hope to finalize the report before Christmas. The proposal was to increase the budget up to $125k.

The final agenda item was to approve the bid from KSA Engineers along with an application for funding through the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for the Texas Community Block Program Grant Program for wastewater improvements.

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Special meeting results in new vehicles

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – During a special meeting held on Monday, December 5, the Houston County Commissioners Court approved the purchase of a 2022 half-ton crew cab pickup for the Precinct 2 Constable and the purchase of a 2022 half-ton crew cab pickup for Precinct 3 Road and Bridge.

The vehicles will be purchased from Cutshaw Chevrolet and will be funded through monies provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant.

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Unemployment up slightly for county

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Chris Edwards
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AUSTIN – According to figures released last week by the Texas Workforce Commission, the unemployment rate in Houston County is up, slightly, from October’s percentage of jobless residents at 3.4%.

That figure is up by a tenth of a percentage point from 3.3% from the previous month, but a large reduction from the year-to-date figure of 4.2% from October 2021. Houston County experienced an average of 4.8% unemployment during 2021.

Of the county’s labor force of 10,764 workers, 365 are unemployed. The county’s record high of joblessness came in July 2009 with 10.5%, according to figures from TWC.

Neighboring Polk and Tyler counties are in the Top 50 of Texas counties with the highest unemployment rates, by a list compiled by the website Stacker.

The peak of unemployment during the pandemic came at an alarming 14.7%, nationwide, in April 2020, and economic experts predict a recession by next year. The last recession, which took place during 2008-2010, saw interest rates rise as much as up to 10% and it was not until the spring of 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the unemployment rate finally went down to where it is at present.

Currently, according to statistics released nationally, the unemployment rate is at 3.4%, which is lower than it was in September at 3.7%.

The statewide unemployment rate is at 3.8%. According to TWC, Texas has added jobs throughout the year 2022, with 556K jobs added to the state’s employment rolls, according to projections. That represents, according to TWC, a 4.3% increase this year, up from 2021.

Texas also has the largest growing metro areas for the least amount of jobless residents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is almost double the rate in the U.S., overall, for job growth.

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Ciera and Special Friends celebration

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Ciera Dennis with mom, Wendy - Photo courtesy of Leon Wallace

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – On Dec. 10, Standing with Crockett will host the third Annual Ciera and Special Friends Christmas Celebration. In previous years, the celebration took place in the parking lot of Good Shepherd Fellowship Church, but this year, the event will take place in the Good Shepherd gymnasium.

The event was inspired by Ciera Dennis, the daughter of Wendy Dennis. Good Shepherd’s pastor, Leon Wallace, first met Ciera and Wendy at the Standing with Crockett prayer table and was immediately drawn to what he refers to as “her killer smile.” Wallace created the Ciera and Friends celebration for those in the community with special needs.

For the past two years because of Covid restrictions, the event was more of a ‘parade’ where the special needs kids and adults could drive by ‘stations’ and receive gifts, candy, warm blankets, and other items handed out by volunteers dressed as Disney character or super-hero costumes.

This year, the celebration relocates to the Good Shepherd gym from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., where volunteers will have more interaction with the special needs guests. Tables will be set up, and the kids and adults will have the chance to visit each table and receive a Christmas gift.

Wallace and Standing with Crockett extend this invitation to anyone in the community who has special needs or challenges that they were born with or have developed over time. “It will be lots of fun with Christmas gifts, food, and fellowship with all the families.”  The group will also provide gift bags for the siblings of the special needs children.

Pastor Reginald Marshall and his wife, Evangelist Dorothy Marshall, of the InterCity Worship Center, will provide plates of food to the families who attend.

If someone you know has a child or young adult who was born with or has developed special needs, please contact Pastor Wallace with their name and age. Volunteers are always welcome. The event generally costs about $5k, so if you would like to help sponsor the event, contact Pastor Wallace at (432) 559-1939.

“If you want to be part of one of the most wonderful events in Houston County,” stated Wallace, “put on your jolliest Christmas outfit and join Ciera and her Special Friends and help bring joy to the special needs children in Houston County.”

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Church serves Thanksgiving meal to the homebound

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Feeding the community

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – On Monday, Nov. 21, the Bethel Baptist Church opened its doors to the community to offer a thanksgiving meal for the elderly and homebound.

One of the organizers of the event, KJ Johnson, reported that they feed around 113 people. Police Chief Clayton Smith and the Crockett Police Department were instrumental in delivering the meals.

A special thanks goes out to donors of the food and drinks, including Kathy Gay Murphy, Angie C. Brown, Greg Ritchie, Kathy Colter, DeGerrian Evans, Sha Rhonda Johnson, Kevonna Johnson, and Monica D. Davis. Also, organizers would like to thank Pastor D Moffitt Jr. and his wife Gretchen Moffitt and Bethel Baptist Church for the use of their facilities and kitchen crew and Genell Lamb, who prepared the dressing, pies, and cakes.

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