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Houston County News - Breakout

Chili Hodges honored by Texas Historical Commission

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Houston County Judge Jim Lovell presents C.R. “Chili” Hodges with an award from the Texas Historical Commission. JAN WHITE | HCCHouston County Judge Jim Lovell presents C.R. “Chili” Hodges with an award from the Texas Historical Commission. JAN WHITE | HCC

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – In January of 1970, the Houston County Courier ran a story about a new business starting up in Crockett. “C.R. (Chili) Hodges, Crockett native who has had nine years of experience in surveying as an employee of two Crockett firms, is now in business for himself, he announces.” That was the beginning of an enterprise that has taken Hodges all over Houston County and surrounding counties and garnered him an award few businesses these days can claim.

In recognition of his achievements, the Texas Historical Commission honored Hodges with the “Texas Treasure Business Award.” The certificate given to Hodges reads, “C.R. Hodges Surveying, Inc., Family owned and operated in Texas since 1970. For exceptional contributions toward the economic growth and prosperity of Texas.”

On Wednesday, August 24, Houston County Judge Jim Lovell was at the surveyor’s office to present the Historical Commission award to Hodges for his years of serving Houston County and surrounding areas. 

Hodges gained his surveying experience while working for W.O. Kirkland and Bill Dabney. After obtaining his public surveyor license, he decided to embark on his own, setting up shop in a small building on East Houston Avenue in 1970. Later, Hodges inherited the property adjacent to his original building and converted it into the headquarters from which he now works. 

Patti Rains, Hodges’s secretary and “Girl Friday” for over forty years, calls the place “his museum.” And she would be right. His office is filled with trophies and treasures Hodges has collected over the years. A cabinet holds shelves packed with all types of shell casings and perfectly preserved arrowheads and spearheads. The walls display turkey beards and tailfeathers, mountings of his two best fish, a ring-tailed cat caught in the woods near his house, the bobcat that he found on his farm, the hornet’s nest he brought back from Colorado, and scores of pictures and portraits, each with its own story to tell. And you can’t miss the mound of deer antlers piled so high they’re taller than his desk. When asked how many antlers he thought were there, Hodges’s answer was short but sincere, “Too many to count.” 

In the hallway are pictures painted on turkey tails by a gentleman in Kennard and a painting made by Hodges’s daughter-in-law of the “Over the Hill Hunting Club,” where Patti says Hodges and his buddies used to go hunting in the hill country. And Hodges himself is no stranger to the arts. “He doodles,” said Patti. “And he can cut a straight line better than anybody you’ve ever seen.” Several of Hodges’s “doodles” are displayed underneath the glass of the office’s front desk.

Hodges’s grandson, James Bond, started working for the surveying company right out of high school. Bond says he learned everything about surveying from his grandfather. “He taught me how to do it all. I do parts work, fieldwork, office work,” said Bond. “I’ve been working with him for 18 years.” When asked what kind of surveying they do, Bond answered, “Anything to do with land surveying  – houses, big ranches, commercial. As much buying and selling as there is right now, we’ve got a pretty good backlog of work to do.” Hodges has served as the county surveyor of Houston County for more than 50 years. 

Bond is waiting to get his surveyor license as he carries on the family business, and what a business it has been.

“I’m honored to be able to present him this award,” said Lovell. “There’s not many businesses that stay in business for 50-plus years.” 

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Commissioners Court approves 2023 budget

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – On Monday, August 29, the Commissioners Court met to discuss and confirm the budget for the upcoming year.

The court was previously given three tax rates on which to base its budget: the “No New Revenue Rate” of 45.402%, the “Voter-Approval Tax Rate” of 47.474%, and the “De minimis Rate” of 47.549%. 

In 2022, at a tax rate of 53.000%, property taxes budgeted were $8,436,470. The Voter-Approval Tax Rate of 47.470%, which the Court voted to use for the 2023 fiscal year, decreases the tax rate by 5.530% but still allows enough of a revenue increase to meet necessary budget expenditures. Based on that tax rate, the projected budget amount will increase by $429,647, to total $8,866,118. 

Increases in the budget include items such as added health insurance fees, cost of living pay increases, adding employee positions, projected increases in utilities and insurance, improvements and renovations, and other various expenditures. 

During the workshop, the court approved an additional $20k to go to the Juvenile Probation Department for detention. It was explained to the court that the cost of daily confinement has gone up considerably, but funding from the state has not increased exponentially. 

Funding was also requested for a pepper gun system for the Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officials felt that the pepper gun would be a more effective 

deterrent than the taser guns currently used. The request was approved, pending the outcome of bids for the new equipment.

The last item agenda was the approval of the American Rescue Plan Essential Worker Premium Pay Order. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides direct relief to local governments through the United States Department of Treasury. 

As determined by the Houston County Commissioners Court, all employees who meet the eligibility requirements designated by ARPA will receive a payment in addition to their regular salary. The pay scale set by ARPA is $2,000 for qualified full-time employees and $1,000 for qualified part-time employees. The payments, in the form of a check, are to be available to employees on August 31. 

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Commissioners Court lifts burn ban

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082522 county lifts ban

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – Upon the recommendation of Houston County Fire Marshal Heath Murff, the Houston County Commissioners Court lifted the current Houston County burn ban.

Murff indicated that he felt the county’s residents needed a break and be allowed to burn, although he suggested they might revisit the topic in a few weeks if necessary. The board also accepted a donation from Morris Timber Holdings of $10,207 for road improvements.

Agenda items approved were the hotel occupancy request by PWFFA and The Loft for upcoming concerts, the Retiree Medical Insurance Policy, the contract with Election Systems & Software for the Express Vote machines, purchase of equipment, lease for copiers used by the county, and the current employer matching contribution rate of 140% for the Texas County and District Retirement System was approved.

After a brief discussion, the court approved the 2022-23 budget.

The court then moved on to discuss the proposed tax rate. Based on the adjusted tax valuation for 2022, it was recommended that the court set a rate of $0.47470, which is a decrease of six cents according to Houston County Judge Jim Lovell. A date of Sept. 13 was selected for the public hearing over the tax rate.

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CRCIL offers disability services

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081822 CRCIL disability services

Crockett Resource Center for Independent Living’s (CRCIL) Independent Living (IL) Services Program helps people with disabilities achieve greater independence in the home and community.

Eligibility criteria for this program requires that the applicant has a significant disability who has been diagnosed by a licensed practitioner and resides in Texas.

If you are a person with a disability and need services, assistive technology, or equipment to maintain your independent living, you could be eligible for the following:

• Hearing aids

• Residential modifications (temporary)

• Orientation and mobility training

• Durable medical equipment

• Visual aids

• Power wheelchairs

• Prosthetics

• Scooters

• Vehicle modifications

• Other adaptive equipment and assistive technology

If you are a person with a disability who is interested in the IL Services Program, contact CRCIL at 936-544-0522 for more information.

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Broussard graduates SFASU

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081822 broussard graduates SFA

NACOGDOCHES – Madison Broussard of Grapeland recently participated in Stephen F. Austin State University’s August 2022 graduation ceremonies, held in the Johnson Coliseum in Nacogdoches.

Broussard was among 353 students who received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Enrolling approximately 12,000 students, Stephen F. Austin State University offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 120 areas of study within six colleges - business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics.

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