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Houston County News - Breakout

Nicols receives award

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Pictured at the presentation honoring Wanda Nicols are: Houston County Judge Jim Lovell, members of the local Child Welfare Board, CPS representatives, Kalin’s Center Staff, Wanda’s two daughters, Marleen Lovell and Sharon Nicols Hutcherson. Courtesy photoPictured at the presentation honoring Wanda Nicols are: Houston County Judge Jim Lovell, members of the local Child Welfare Board, CPS representatives, Kalin’s Center Staff, Wanda’s two daughters, Marleen Lovell and Sharon Nicols Hutcherson. Courtesy photo

From Staff Reports

CROCKETT – On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Wanda Nicols, longtime volunteer and past president of the Houston County Child Welfare Board, was honored with the “Champion for Children” Award.

The award came as a surprise to Nicols, who has served the children of Houston County for more than 40 years. The presentation was given during the Houston County Child Welfare Board meeting by Tim Allen, president of the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards. Nicols is one of only six individuals who have received this prestigious award.

Texas has over a hundred and ninety-five active welfare boards throughout the state. The Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards (TCCWB) aims to educate communities and raise awareness about the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Members work at a grassroots level to develop programs that meet a community’s needs.

Child welfare boards serve the community in a variety of ways.

Independently or in collaboration with “rainbow room,” local groups work to meet the tangible needs of children receiving CPS services. They host holiday celebrations and other special events for caseworkers and foster children and provide support for family group decision-making, foster parent training, and foster youth conferences. The boards also sponsor public awareness events to promote child abuse prevention and recruit foster and adoptive homes and can coordinate with courts and judges in pioneering solutions that support children and families and work to eliminate abuse and neglect.

The Houston County Child Welfare Board meets monthly under the open meetings act.



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HCHD board votes to pay off loan

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Houston County Hospital District LogoBy Jan White
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CROCKETTDuring the Houston County Hospital District board meeting on Dec. 13, the Finance Committee voted to pay off the loan to Prosperity Bank. The board has worked diligently for several years, making large payments in order to retire the debt as quickly as possible.

Board member Rhonda Brown stated, “Until Dina and I got up here, there was never $500k paid on that note. That is why we got on this board. We began to say, hey, we gotta pay this thing off. We’ve got the money, and we need to do it.”

After the vote to pay off the debt passed, members of both the board and the audience applauded. The balance of $500k plus interest will be paid off immediately.

Anthony Cumbie gave the hospital report, stating that in the month of November, there were 804 ER visits, and of those, 63 were transferred out. There were 32 admissions and 46 surgical cases; the rural health clinic had 164 visits and the specialty clinic had 165 patient visits.

When questioned about admissions, Cumbie reported that most of them were elderly patients with respiratory or congestive heart failure issues.

The ambulance report was given by Cassie Galloway, where she stated that for the month of November, they received 277 requests for services, of which 167 were transported, with 31 canceled calls and seventy-nine “no transfers.” The ambulance service requested air rescue for standby 32 times, and out of those, they only transported six patients. Galloway also stated that for the past few months, they received the highest volume of trauma cases, compared to this time last year, when they mainly saw cardiac and respiratory issues.


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Little White Church celebrating Christmas

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LittleWhiteChurchGRAPELAND – Monday, Dec. 19 at The Little White Church in downtown Grapeland will be a time to experience celebrating Christmas in small-town East Texas. As a part of remembering Christ’s birth, good food and music usually has a part in the memorable festivities that go along with this time of year. The friends of The Little White Church invite you to come by and see what all will be happening to celebrate a community Christmas.

The Grapeland Noons Lions Club will be offering up complimentary chili and fixings, starting at 5:30 p.m. and will serve until its gone.  They will be located in the fellowship hall at the rear of the building. You are invited to enjoy your chili in the fellowship hall or take it with you.

Santa Clause will be ready to visit with the boys and girls starting at 5:30 and ending at 7. Santa will be set up inside The Little White Church.  The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce is donating a gift to each child visiting Santa. The kiddo’s parents can enjoy live Christmas music while they wait on Santa and join in on a few songs.  Local musicians, Stuart and Tammy Anderson will play acoustic seasonal tunes during this time.  The couple will bring to Grapeland their collection of traditional music they have performed for the Jefferson Tour of Homes and other similar regional Christmas events.

Then at 7 p.m., Community Christmas Caroling will commence, with Mrs. Frances Jordan on piano. Please come out and enjoy part or all of Grapeland’s Christmas celebration.  

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Court winds down year with packed agenda

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – Houston County Commissioners covered twenty-six agenda items during the meeting held on Tuesday, Dec. 13. After taking care of business, such as approval of salaries for new or transfer employees, paying of compensatory and vacation time, and comp time for County employees, the court approved accepting John McKnight as a volunteer road hand for Precinct 2, and voted to receive a donation from Masters Timber LLC for $1,500 for County Road 4020.

The court voted to designate the county’s insurance coordinator as the county representative and primary contact for matters pertaining county provided health benefits and handling data entry of enrollment and termination of employees with county-provided insurance and other supplemental insurance and retirement plans.

The court also voted to approve a list of equipment necessary for the Precinct 2 Constable’s patrol truck and the transfer of a 2019 truck from the Constable to the Community Service/Environmental Officer.

Other agenda items approved included the agreement with Vyve to provide telephone and fax services for the EMS offices, the list of assets as salvage and disposal approval, and expenses for educational conferences for newly elected officials.

The court approved the membership and participation in OMNIA Partners, a purchasing cooperative that offers discounts on materials and supplies.

The Grant Administrator and County Auditor were given the authorization to submit a request for payment on behalf of Houston County for the county’s allocation of the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF) funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide payments to eligible revenue-sharing counties.

The court authorized the purchase of a Diamond Boom Mower from George P. Bane Inc. under Buy Board contract #611-20, funded by the ARPA Grant.

The meeting concluded with the approval of the disposal of used vehicles from the Sheriff’s Office, approval of a non-exempt license plate for an unmarked patrol unit, repairs for outside lighting for the Justice Center, and approval of a payment of $6,980 to Lucas Roofing for repairs to the Courthouse roof.


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Program combats human trafficking

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HumanTrafficking Stock

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – Studies have shown that along with sporting events, theme parks, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions, human traffickers often take advantage of the privacy accessible through the hospitality industry.

The Family Crisis Center of East Texas spent an afternoon in November handing out human trafficking awareness posters and flyers to local commercial lodging establishments. The goal of the outreach program is not only to spread awareness but also to facilitate compliance with House Bill 390. The bill requires that hotels, motels, inns, and small lodging establishments of ten or more rooms complete annual employee awareness and prevention training. The training must be at least 20 minutes long and approved by the attorney general. Records must be maintained that prove employees have undergone the training.

The bill also allows the imposition of a fine on establishments that do not comply and prevents those businesses from discriminating against employees who make a good-faith attempt to report suspected human trafficking. Operators of lodging facilities are required to display a sign that provides notice of employee training, information about human trafficking, and provide contact information for reporting suspected trafficking.

Posters have been created to inform and educate hospitality employees and give tips on human trafficking warning signs. They include awareness of individuals who:

• Show signs of malnourishment, poor hygiene, fatigue, sleep deprivation, untreated illness, injuries and/or unusual behavior

Dress inappropriately for their age or have lower quality clothing compared to others in their party

Request additional housekeeping services but deny hotel/motel staff entry into the room

Have multiple computers, cell phones, pagers, credit card swipers, or other technology

Extend their stay with few or no personal possessions

Keep excessive amounts of sexual paraphernalia in their room

Rent their room by the hour, less than a day, or for a long-term stay that doesn’t appear normal

Back their car into the parking space, so the license plate is not outwardly visible

Sell items, ask or beg patrons or staff for food or money

Loitering or soliciting male patrons

Wait at a table or bar to be picked up by a male (could indicate trafficker or customer)

Take cash or receipts left on tables

Everyone has the power to help make a difference. Compliance with this bill is a call to action and a recognition of the vital role that the hospitality industry can play in combating all forms of human trafficking.


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