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Houston County News - Breakout

Commissioners approve hirings, donations

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – The Houston County Commissioners Court met at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8 to vote on a wide variety of agenda items. Besides the general ‘housekeeping’ matters such as budget approvals and county department reports, the commissioners approved the following:

•The hiring of Neatis Montgomery, Theresa Hayes, and Brooke Steubing to fill jailer and dispatcher positions, respectively

•Payment for vacation and comp time for a county employee

•Accept donations from Patsy Harrington for improvements to CR 2126 and Charles Cunningham for improvements to Navarro Crossing Road.

•Addition of Private Road 5222 to the ArcGIS 9-1-1 Database and County Maps

•Accepting office furniture from Sam Houston State University Surplus

•Accepting the donation of two bullet-proof vests to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office by Houston County Law Enforcement Association

•Purchase of an airport hangar from Mark Whitfill for $42,500 for the purpose of storage

•Appointment of Ken Lair, former finance manager for Shell Oil, as Commissioner to Emergency Service District No. 2

•Renewal with Angelina County for the housing of inmates in the Houston County Jail

The court adjourned to executive session to consult with the county attorney regarding entering into or rejecting a settlement offer agreement in Civil Action Cause No. 9:18-CV-0182 styled Kyle Ray v. Houston County, Texas. 

After reconvening, the court recommended that no action be taken at this time.

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Council creates Community Advisory Committee

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Crockett City HallBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – At the Monday, Feb. 7 regular meeting of the Crockett City Council, members held a lengthy discussion about the creation of a community advisory committee for each city council precinct. 

A statement produced by the council outlined possible duties the advisory Committee would perform. The Committee would be comprised of interested citizens who would assist the City Council and staff with maintenance, revitalization, and beautification programs designed to maintain property values throughout the City. The committee would also work as a liaison between residents and their respective Council members. Additional information will be provided when more details are known.

The council voted to approve a motion to allow the city administrator, John Angerstein, to assign the position of fire marshal to report directly to the fire chief. The City Charter currently states that the Fire Marshal is a separate entity and reports directly to the city council. The city administrator now can amend the Ordinance to allow for the change.

The council also approved a motion to allow the city administrator to draw up a lease for property owned by the city to be used by  Piney Woods Sanitation as a mechanics shop.

Other items that passed were:

•Approvals for amendments and new policies in the City of Crockett Personnel Manual

Awards to Brother’s Concrete and Crockett Construction for city construction projects

Approval of a resolution for the regular election of Council members in Precincts 3, 4, and 5

Approval of the Joint Election Agreement between the City and Crockett Independent School District 

Approval of the appointment of Wade Thomas and Lawyer Jolley as Ex-Officio Directors to the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation

The addition of the Ex-Officio Directors for the CEIDC is meant to add a level of experience to the Board. Thomas is a former member of the CEIDC Board and is a local business owner, and Jolley is a retired manager for Chevron Phillips and is also a local business owner.

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New life coming to downtown Crockett

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Zoning Proposal Map

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – At the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Lunch and Learn” event, held at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 2, attendees learned about proposals for revitalizing historic Downtown Crockett.

The first speaker was Kerriann Grounds, a member of the Downtown Crockett Association (DCA). She explained that while the group initially was engaged in minor beautification efforts for the downtown area, their role has expanded to work with Houston County and the City of Crockett to further improvements and upgrades to the area. The DCA was instrumental in obtaining funding for the Christmas lights installed on the Crockett Square buildings and creating city banners that highlight areas of interest in Crockett. 

Planning and Zoning member Wade Thomas began his presentation by displaying a couple of the city banners. One features a portrayal of Davy Crockett, and the other says “Welcome to Historic Downtown Crockett” and is accented with pine trees. Plans are in the works to create more banners that represent different points of interest in the community, like Camp Street and Crockett’s historic homes. Thomas indicated that these banners will be available for purchase by individuals and businesses based on location and ability to display. More information about the banners will be shared as it becomes available.

Thomas then spoke about the proposal, initiated by local business owners, to make changes to the zoning of downtown Crockett to help revitalize the local economy. As it stands, the downtown area is not zoned for single-family residences. Due to interest by current business and property owners, the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Committee was asked to revisit the zoning law. 

 The idea is that unoccupied buildings would be more attractive to new business owners, especially those from out of town, if they could use the extra space as their residence. One caveat regarding utilizing a portion of the building as a residence would be that the owner maintain a business frontage. 

The P&Z Committee met with Planning Concepts, a planning, design, and land-use solutions firm out of Tyler. The company specializes in developing creative solutions to help towns make the most of their buildings and real estate. Thomas provided a map created by Planning Concepts that presents some of the proposed changes.

The map shows a grid of occupied and unoccupied buildings, as well as potential residences and parking. Besides rezoning the area for residential use, other ideas include purchasing additional property for parking. At this time, if all the downtown buildings were occupied, Planning Concepts estimates the area would be 300 parking spaces short. Consequently, much interest has been placed on downtown parking issues.

Pedestrian traffic and the number of heavy equipment trucks and 18-wheelers that use the streets around Crockett Square are another major concern. One possible solution would be to designate main thoroughfares that converge on the square as Business 287, Business 19, Business 21, and Business 7 in an effort to redirect heavy-duty vehicles. Also explored was the idea of making Goliad and Houston Avenue one-way streets. 

It should be noted that all proposals must be approved by their respective overseers. The Planning & Zoning Committee, the Crockett City Council, and TxDOT would hold public hearings and meetings to discuss the proposed changes before acting on them. 

From a timeline aspect, Thomas said that some of the improvements will only take a few months. Other projects might take up to ten years to complete. 

Thomas also reported on the influx of new businesses to the downtown area. Small Town Treasures, an antique and gift boutique, occupies the old Thames Jewelry Shop building. 

An eating and entertainment venue, Bear Hall, has indicated a possible February opening. The Grind coffee shop is under new management and will open soon. Robinson’s Dry Cleaning property has been sold with plans to reopen as a custom T-shirt store. Filthy Gringos is a metal fabricator that builds choppers and motorcycle equipment. The Tchoupitoulas Restaurant building will be the new home for a men’s beard-care supply store, Maestros Classic.

In closing, Thomas reminded the group that since Crockett is in direct competition with Palestine, Lufkin and Nacogdoches, every facet of what we have needs to match up favorably with those towns if we hope to bring in new businesses.

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CISD celebrates School Board Appreciation Week

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CrockettISD logoBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – On Monday, Jan. 25, the members of Crockett ISD Board of Trustees were honored for their service in recognition of School Board Appreciation Week. Among the gifts received by the trustees were handmade cards, monogrammed blankets and hoodies, Yeti cups, a flip-board and student-made floral arrangements. 

The theme for Appreciation Week was “Rising Above.” CISD Superintendent John Emerich thanked the board members for their hard work. 

Then representatives from the Early Childhood Learning Center, Crockett Elementary, Crockett Junior High and Crockett High School spoke on behalf of their students and expressed gratitude for the board members. 

In other business, Emerich asked the board to determine a date for “Team of Eight” training and encouraged the members to consider goals for the upcoming school year.

The Board also voted to the Joint Agreement with the City of Crockett on the May 7, 2022 Board of Trustees Election. The representatives for District 1 and District 6, seats currently held by Ansel Bradshaw and Josh Crabtree, respectively, are up for re-election.

The board adjourned to executive session to discuss the appraisal and contract of the superintendent. When the Trustees returned to the Open Session, they voted to extend Emrich’s contract for another year. 

A request had been made for a Level Three Hearing to consider possible action on a student/parent FNG(LOCAL), Level Three Appeal. After reconvening to open session, the appeal was denied. 

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Lovefest – A 'Royal Celebration'

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Royal Court – Back row: Bryson Franklin, Charles Wiley, James Gatlin, Oscar Sutton, Seth Enos, and Conner Martinez. Second row: Zoe Burdett, D’Janyah Simpson, Libby Ray, Aaliyah Jones, Courteney Spoerle, and Magali Castillo. Front row: Hayes Davidson and Ariel Bird. JAN WHITE|HCC Royal Court – Back row: Bryson Franklin, Charles Wiley, James Gatlin, Oscar Sutton, Seth Enos, and Conner Martinez. Second row: Zoe Burdett, D’Janyah Simpson, Libby Ray, Aaliyah Jones, Courteney Spoerle, and Magali Castillo. Front row: Hayes Davidson and Ariel Bird. JAN WHITE|HCC

By Jan White
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LOVELADY – The City of Lovelady will commence its 40th annual Lovefest celebration by crowning the Lovefest Queen at a coronation ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m. 

The 2022 Royal Court includes princesses from the seventh and eighth grade, and young ladies from ninth through 12 grade competing for the title of Lovefest Queen. 

When asked if they were either nervous or excited about the event, one-hundred percent of the contestants said they were excited. The young ladies each admitted surprise when they found out they’d been chosen but were also humbled by the experience, saying they were honored to represent their class. 

Zoe Burdett was voted seventh grade princess, and her escort is Bryson Franklin. The eighth grade princess is D’Janyah Simpson, and her escort is Charles Wiley.

The Lovefest Queen will be chosen based on a written essay and an impromptu speech, the topic of which is not known in advance. Queen contestants include ninth grade Libby Ray, escorted by James Gatlin; tenth grader Aaliyah Jones escorted by Oscar Sutton; junior Courteney Spoerle escorted by Seth Enos and senior Magali Castillo accompanied by Conner Martinez. Ariel Bird and Hayes Davidson round out the Court as Pre-K representatives. The 2022 Lovefest Queen will be crowned by last year’s Queen, Kyra Rogers.

Tickets for the Coronation can be purchased on the night of the event. Adult tickets cost $4, and student tickets are $2. 

On Saturday, Feb. 12, the 40th Annual Lovefest will kick off its celebration with a parade that begins at 10 a.m., followed by a jam-packed day of activities. There will be arts and crafts exhibits, food vendors, beauty pageants for babies and toddlers, a Little Miss and Mister Pageant, the annual Chili Cookoff and a baking contest sponsored by the Weldon Civic Club. 

The celebration culminates with the Lovefest Dance on Saturday night at the Lovelady Old Gym, where the Loose Gravel Band will perform. Adult admission is $15 per person or $20 per couple, with a $10 cooler charge. Children accompanied by an adult will be charged $5.

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