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Baldwin promoted to Naval Lt.

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Lt. D’Mitri Baldwin receives pin  Photo courtesy of Nell ShepherdLt. D’Mitri Baldwin receives pin Photo courtesy of Nell Shepherd

If only “Mother-Dear” could see her “Lil Butterball” now. That’s the nickname Betty Shepherd gave her great-granddaughter, D’Mitri Baldwin - the LSU Naval Graduate recently promoted to Lieutenant. Baldwin has been assigned as Naval Engineer Navigator on the USS New Orleans, also known as the “Big Easy,” stationed in Japan.  New Orleans, part of the America Amphibious Ready Group, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, operates in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and serves as a ready-response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Baldwin is the daughter of Kimberly Shepherd-Denman and Donald Denman of Ratcliff. Baldwin spent much of her childhood in Crockett with her great-grandparents, joining in many family events and attending church at  “The Mountain.” She is a graduate of Spring High School and graduated from LSU in December 2017 before entering the Navy. 

Baldwin makes up part of the 19% of Black female officers serving in the United States Navy.  She follows in the footsteps of at least fourteen other family members who are proud military veterans.

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Council approves rezoning

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Crockett City HallBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – The regularly scheduled meeting of the Crockett City Council on Monday, April 4 concluded in record time as there were only two agenda items to be discussed. 

During the meeting, which took fewer than 20 minutes, the first item was the approval of a request from Charles Spellman of Spellman Properties, LLC for a zone change from an R3, multiple-family residential district to an M, (manufacturing, warehousing and wholesaling district) for property located at 120 Northwest Loop 304. 

The second agenda item approved was the agreement for professional engineering services with KSA Engineers, Inc. for water main replacement on East Houston Avenue and East Goliad Avenue in conjunction with the Texas Water Development Board’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

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Latexo HS offers Tiger Tech training

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The Tiger Tech crew of Latexo High School. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS CRAVENS The Tiger Tech crew of Latexo High School. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS CRAVENS

By Chris Cravens

LATEXO – Latexo High School has teamed up with Dell Technologies to implement a Dell Computer Repair Certification program. Latexo students interested in the inner workings of computers and technology took a 6-week course through Dell Technologies and are now Certified Dell Repair Technicians. 

After completing their certification, the students joined the Latexo Tiger Tech Service Technicians team. The Repair Certification Program allows the students to work with the technology department to troubleshoot, repair, and maintain the district’s student computers. Latexo is a one-to-one district, which means each student (Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade) has their own computer or device. This means there are over 500 devices to maintain. Latexo ISD has a fully equipped computer repair lab where students can drop off their computers for repair and service by the Tiger Tech repair technicians. These students stay busy with jobs that range from replacing broken screens, bad batteries, and burned-out motherboards, to overhauling, repairing, or changing out damaged or worn-out parts. 

The Latexo Certified Dell Technicians are Emily Bird, Student Supervisor, and technicians Andrew Clinkscales, Cavanaugh Mullins, Olivia Smith, and Shelby Waldrep. Tessa Easley and Lena Kelsey are the supervising teachers. Latexo High School will expand the program to add more students during the next school year. If you have any questions about the program or would like your student to be considered for placement in the program, contact Technology Director Lena Kelsey at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CTE Director Chris Cravens at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or you can contact the school’s main number (936) 544-5664, and they will direct your call to the appropriate staff. 

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Good news/bad news for council

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Boy Scout John Tuggle speaks to the Crockett City Council about his Eagle Scout project. JAN WHITE | HCC Boy Scout John Tuggle speaks to the Crockett City Council about his Eagle Scout project. JAN WHITE | HCC

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – During the March 21 meeting of the Crockett City Council, members covered a packed agenda that began on a positive note but quickly digressed to concern over a portion of its annual audit report.

The first item of business was a presentation by Boy Scout Joseph Tuggle. For his Eagle Scout project, Tuggle elected to build seating for the disc golf course located at Davy Crockett Park. Tuggle gave board members a start-to-finish slideshow presentation of his project. With some help from fellow scouts and his scoutmaster, Tuggle constructed six wood and metal benches which he then placed in various areas throughout the disc golf course. At the end of the presentation, Tuggle thanked the donors whose funds helped supply materials for the benches and City Administrator John Angerstein for his assistance with the project. 

Molly Abele from Axley and Rode, auditors for the city, presented the audit report for 2021. She stated that the firm was issuing an unmodified opinion which means that the financial report met the requirements demanded by regulations and they were prepared in accordance with accounting principles, criteria, and standards. Abele pointed out a few other changes in the audit, which were still comparable to prior years. The only significant changes were grant funds still in reserve, for instance, some funding for the new swimming pool and Covid Relief money. 

The city has a couple of years to spend those funds – but they can only be spent for those purposes. Most of the information provided by Abele was fundamental or explanative. 

Since the CEIDC is under the umbrella of the city, its financials are required to be reported. Abele noted that were changes in the balance sheet total revenues were comparable, but total expenditures increased by over $250k from the prior year, primarily due to incentive expenditures. She then addressed a few findings from the previous year’s audit, stating that one was with the city and three were with the Economic Development. The one with the city was corrected for the year. Two with the CEIDC were fully corrected, but the item with the pre-signed checks was only partially corrected. The CEIDC had added all board members to the signature card for check signing abilities over the concern that there was an availability problem for those allowed to sign checks. Although that portion was remediated, the auditor reported that there is still a problem with checks being signed before being filled out, which they consider to be an internal control issue. Abele stated that their position was that whoever is in charge of the oversight of those checks should have a policy of not signing any checks until they know what the checks are being written for.

Following her statement, a lengthy discussion took place between the board, Abele, and James Gentry, Executive Director of the CEIDC. Mayor Pro-tem Mike Marsh asked Gentry if they were still pre-signing checks. Gentry said no, but the auditor indicated that she was informed that pre-signed checks still existed. The auditors consider signing a check as authorizing a payment in which the entity is aware of what the check was written for and who it was written to.

Crockett mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher said “Signatures are going on blank checks and then being filled in. So we are still out of compliance.” 

Marsh added “This is the second year in a row that we’ve been penalized for this.” Since the CEIDC is under the umbrella of the city, the city is also affected by the report. “Now it’s put the funding that we’re getting from other state entities and put the city in the position that they’re not going to give us our money,” Fisher concluded.

When asked if the city had lost any funding so far from the first audit, City Administrator John Angerstein said that they were able to regain the reimbursement, but they froze all of our accounts until we submitted our corrective action plan.” Angerstein was then asked if he had any idea of what would happen when this goes through. Angerstein’s response was “Not yet.”

Fisher interjected, “What they have the power to do is not only freeze but to not deliver future funding grants.” Marsh then made the motion to accept the audit but have a special called meeting to address and correct this problem and that any of the pre-signed checks be placed on hold until the issue is resolved.    

The council also heard from Police Chief Clayton Smith, who spoke on the serious topic of local check fraud. He stated that several months ago, the mail drop boxes outside the post office had been vandalized. 

Their theory is that the suspects had taken the checks and utilized the names, addresses, and account numbers on the checks and duplicated them on fake checks, and attempt to cash them on mobile apps and taking them into other banks outside of Crockett. 

“This is a federal offense,” Smith added. “Some of the amounts were $30k  $25k, one case was $80k. They were pretty significant amounts. In most cases, the checks were stopped, but there were a few that were not.” 

Other business items on the agenda for the council included:

Ben Rosenberg, financial advisor with the U.S. Capital Advisor reported the sale summary for the Certificates of Obligation, Series 2022, for the Texas Water Development Board’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The City will receive $1.7M of principal forgiveness and a $1.7M loan at zero interest related to city water and sewer improvement. 

Approval of the designation of Selena Eleby and John Angerstein as Deputy Early Voting Clerks.

Approval of purchase of a sewer camera using funds from sanitary sewer overflow revenue.

Approval to elect the standard allowance available under the Revenue Loss Provision of the American Rescue Plan in the amount of $1,582,113 to be used for the General Provision of Government Services.

Approval to change the speed limits surrounding Davy Crockett Memorial Park to 25 MPH on roads surrounding the radius of the park and 10MPH within the park itself.

Approval of the job description of the Fire Marshal.

Editor’s Note: In response to Mayor Pro Tem Mike Marsh’s motion, the City Council held a special called meeting on March 28 at 6 p.m. to address and take action on the CEIDC audit findings for 2020 and 2021. Discussion on the topic lasted well over an hour as city council members; the CEIDC Executive Director James Gentry and the CEIDC board president presented information regarding the problem with compliance as determined by City auditors, Axley and Rode. During the 2021 audit, it was discovered that some checks were being pre-signed, with the body of the check to be filled in later as needed. The same issue was reported in 2020 and affected the City’s ability to receive certain grants until corrective actions were taken. Although Gentry presented the extenuating circumstances for the 2021 pre-signed checks, the action was determined by Axley and Rode to be a repeat of the previous year’s internal control issue. 

The dialogue became heated at times, but the council and Gentry eventually agreed that a procedural policy would be drafted explaining the specific order of steps to be taken when issuing a check. After submitting the policy to the council for approval, the corrective action will be sent to auditors Axley and Rode.

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HCEC restores power in record time

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An HCEC worker repairs a connection last week in the tornado’s aftermath. Photo courtesy of HCEC An HCEC worker repairs a connection last week in the tornado’s aftermath. Photo courtesy of HCEC

By Jan White
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In the aftermath of last week’s tornado, which left many Houston County residents without power, the crews from Houston County Electric Co-Op worked at a fevered pace to restore power.

Here is a timeline of the events:

Monday, March 21 - On Monday night, March 21, an F2 tornado swept a path from Austonio to west/northwest/north of Crockett, leaving a large number of HCEC members without power. It’s estimated that the tornado spent more than three-quarters of its time on the ground, primarily within HCEC’s service territory.

Tuesday, March 22 - Facebook subscribers awakened to the news that fourteen transmission structures had suffered damage, and at least 25 distribution poles had been affected by the storm, causing over 6,500 outages. Crews were dispersed throughout the county. HCEC secured seven additional crews to expedite restoration, which meant over a hundred extra lineman tripling their workforce. By 8:30 that evening, the outages had been reduced to 5,500. Due to fatigue and safety concerns, the crews were brought back for the evening. Work would resume at daylight the next day.

Wednesday, March 23 - Because of the extent of the damage, HCEC had concerns that it would be Friday,   

or perhaps even later, before the power for all members would be restored. But due to the tireless work of the crews, the Latexo substation, which supplies power to Houston County Lake, the Latexo and Belott area, and North Crockett, was back online in record time. By 4:30 pm, outages had been reduced to 4,200. 

The Weldon substation, which supplies power to Weldon, South Lovelady, Trinity County, Walker County, and the Eastham/Ferguson Farm area, required rebuilding five transmission structures before they could go back online. Incredibly, the linemen were able to fully restore the Weldon substation by midnight, decreasing the outage count to 1,394. 

Thursday, March 24 - An update released at 4:00 pm indicated only 663 outages remaining, mainly in the Crockett area, which sustained most of the damage. Lineman continued working to return power to areas southwest of Crockett. At 7:45 pm, HCEC reported that their system had been fully restored, and there were zero outages.

Pictures provided by HCEC and other community members cannot begin to show the extent of the damage done by the tornado. It is with extreme gratitude that we thank Houston County Electric Coop and the men and women who worked tirelessly - sacrificing time, energy, and family to provide electricity to those affected by the devastating storm. 

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