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Police funding discussed by council

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072122 police funding

By Jan White
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CROCKETT — On Monday, July 18, police department staffing shortages and wage deficiencies commandeered most of the discussion during the Crockett City Council budget meeting for the 2023 Fiscal Year.

Prior to the budget portion of the meeting, the Council voted to approve authorization of the Mayor and city administrator to act as the city’s agent on a grant that will fund the purchase of a new fire truck. Also approved was the appointment of the Mayor to serve on the board of directors for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments [DETCOG]. Paula Hackett and Jessica James were appointed to the Library Advisory Board to replace Pip Gillette and Roberta Mason, who have served their three-year terms.

The Council approved a request from Mimsy’s Craft Barbecue for permission to add pedestrian crossing signs and a painted crosswalk at 1979 S. 5 Street but stipulated that the restaurant, not the city, would pay for the installations.

The remainder of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting consisted of discussions over the 2023 budget. City Administrator John Angerstein began by reminding the group that the city will only receive approximately $49k in tax revenue, even though property tax rates have increased significantly. Because of State restrictions, there is a cap of no more than 3.5 percent of the taxes that can go to the city in additional revenue. Angerstein was guardedly optimistic, however, that the city would see an increase in sales tax due to changes in Point of Delivery for online sales.

From a budget increase standpoint, Angerstein pointed out that fuel requirements across city departments have already increased to $68k and that even after an increase in the deductible for health insurance for city employees, the cost of health insurance increased by $40k. Added to that were requests from Piney Woods Sanitation and the Houston County Water District to also increase their rates.

 

The board heard from Mike Wilson, a representative from Piney Woods, regarding their request for a rate increase. Built into the original contract was the ability for the company to increase rates up to 3% each year. Last year, the company didn’t request their allowed 3%, but due to current rising costs of fuel and inflation, Piney Woods has asked for the 3% allowance from last year and another 3% for this year, amounting to a 6% increase, even though the CPI (Consumer Price Index) is at 9%. Councilman Jones expressed concern for those already struggling with strained utility bills and their ability to pay increased charges. “Nobody likes an increase,” said Ernest Jackson, “but Piney Woods is asking for that which is already in their contract. And I think it behooves us, as a city, to grant that.” The motion passed to allow the 6% increase, with four members voting for the motion and one against.

The Houston County Water District also came to the city requesting a rate increase of 2%. After discussing the issue at length, council members agreed that if the Water District wants to raise rates, they need to send a representative, like the sanitation department did, to present their justification for the increase. Angerstein stated that a 2% increase for an average family using around 4k gallons of water would see about a $3.41 increase in their monthly bill.

Regarding capital requests, Angerstein reported that they were able to put in the budget those mandated items required by TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] regarding city water plants, such as conveyers and a crane. “But you know, if Council says, ‘You know what, we are not going to pass this 2% increase to the citizens,’ then I’ll go back and make the necessary cuts. Whether it be employees, salaries, some of the things that need to be replaced – maybe cut back on a couple of those and just hope we don’t need them.”

The topic then turned to employee salaries, specifically those of the Police Department. Chief Clayton Smith spoke to the Council about his concerns about the staffing of the police department. “Currently, we are four officers short,” Smith said. “What does that mean for the future? I can tell that if we lose three more officers, it will play a crucial role in the safety of the city and its citizens.”

Smith told the group that a minimum police staff will put a strain on those officers left to bear the brunt of the shortage. “I ran our call sheets this morning,” Smith said, “and from January 1 to our current date, we’ve already responded to 5,140 calls. All of last year, total, we responded to 7,080 calls. We expect to double our call volume this year.”

“The grim reality,” Smith emphasized, “is that if we continue to lose officers and we’re not replacing them with officers or applicants, the city is not going to have a police department.”

Smith said that officers have come to him with financial concerns. “Five officers have come to me letting me know they are looking for other jobs.” The officers told Smith that they couldn’t support their families on $17.81 an hour. Smith then presented the council with a possible plan to hire and maintain police officers. He explained that he realized the initial investment looked like a lot, but in the long run, he felt it would keep officers from leaving after a few years.

Councilman Jackson addressed the council. “We are gonna have to look seriously at what we can do to provide the necessary services for our city. I’m speaking about the Fire Department and the Police Department. I understand that the other employees are as important to the citizens here, but if I have a fire, I’d like to see our fire department show up. If I have a prowler in the middle of the night, I’d like to have a police department that can answer the call. So what I’m saying is this – we can’t kick this down the road. I know that we’re in a time of budget restraints, but also, at the same time, I feel strongly that our citizens need to be made aware of this problem. We don’t have a lot of industry. We don’t have a heavy tax base. But they [citizens] need to be aware of the state that we’re at. I know they want more from their government and not bear the cost. But I do believe that Crockett is going to have to step up and see the critical position we are facing. These two departments [fire and police] are paramount to the function of our city. So we’re gonna have to do something.”

“On the general funds’ side,” Angerstein stated, “the only thing we have control over is the tax rate, and that only up to a certain percent. We have to do our due diligence and show them [Crockett citizens] what we have, and ultimately let them decide whether we want to have a police department or not.”

Because of the increase needed just for the police department wage increases, Angerstein told the council that [in his opinion] the city would have to increase its tax rate. Councilman Jones made a motion to have an analysis done by a three-person committee with help from a local CPA to examine the current budget and funding and develop wage increase projections to present to the public since a tax increase will call for an election. The motion unanimously passed.

After the City Council receives sufficient information on necessary budget amendments and funding options, they will determine if a possible tax rate increase is the solution. If that’s the case, public hearings will be held so that residents can hear the arguments and discuss the reasons for the tax rate increases. A special vote would be held on the matter.

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Crockett’s first newspaper

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071422 Crockett first paper

By Jan White
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Houston County is steeped in history, which is one of the things that draw visitors to the area. And many books have been written about that history. One of those books is The History of Houston County Texas, written by Armistead

Albert Aldrich and published in 1943.

In it, Aldrich has documented a variety of topics about Crockett’s beginnings and its founding families. One of the chapters is titled “Houston County Newspapers.”

According to Aldrich, the first newspaper published in Houston County was The Crockett Printer. The paper was owned and published by Oscar Dalton, who began the publications shortly after coming to Crockett. The newspaper’s first issue was dated December 6, 1853, and was released every Wednesday at the cost of $2 per annum, “inevitably in advance,” as noted by the proprietor. Dalton noted in his first issue the problems he faced in getting the newspaper up and running. “First,” he states, “we failed in getting our materials up before the yellow fever broke out in Houston, after which it was impossible to get a wagon at any price.” Fortunately, with the aid of a couple of local patrons, they were finally able to move the press. But their problems didn’t end there because “some Blaggard on the road near Houston stole our keg of ink and placed us under the necessity of borrowing from our neighbors of the Trinity Advocate.” Dalton gave the Advocate this blessing for their assistance, “May their sheet never be pale for the want of ink.”

In that first edition, a contributor, calling himself “The Oldest Inhabitant,” gave a brief description that provides readers with a bit of insight into Crockett’s early history.

“Unlike most historians, who depend upon preceding writers for their materials, the Oldest Inhabitant himself, contemporary with Crockett, is enabled to note its rise and progress, free from the melancholy task of recording its decline and fall.

Crockett was located at the county site of Houston County in the winter of 1837, owing to its position to its being the only point within a reasonable distance of the San Antonio Road and the center of the county, where running water could be found.

It was emphatically a frontier village, but a three-hour ride from the buffalo range. For several years Indian outrages were committed in its vicinity. The Coushatta hunted on the South, the Cherokees joined the county on the East, while North and West, the wild or Prairie Indians penetrated the sparse settlements almost unperceived and generally unpunished.

Distance from market (Trinity not being then navigated), danger from Indians, and the usual inconvenience of a frontier country, long retarded the settlement of the county and the growth of the village.

Although a log courthouse and jail were erected and the legislature had granted a charter providing for the election of a mayor, eight aldermen, a town clerk, etc., for some months, the solitary citizen, who kept a store in a 16-foot long cabin, was daily asked, ‘How far to Crockett?’ “You are right in the public square of Crockett, Stranger,” was the answer.

In 1839 there were two resident families, and the danger from Indians was so urgent that the neighbors fortified the courthouse lot with pickets and took shelter with their families until immediate danger had passed.

For two years, the sittings of the district court were suspended, during which time cases of assault and battery were so multiplied that succeeding grand juries declined to notice them.

Card playing and quarter racing were the favorite amusements on public days. The eastern and western mails arrived on an average of twice a month. The northern mail for Fort Houston was sent whenever there was a chance, and then generally in the crown of a hat. The Galveston mail was once suspended for five months and, at last, arrived in coffee sacks on an ox wagon.

Sassafrass tea, rye, coffee, milk and whiskey were the only beverages that could be depended on, as coffee frequently could not be had at any price. In the way of diet, steel mill bread and jerked beef were the great staples.

Indian hardships and, it is to be hoped, dissipation have passed away forever from Crockett, and there is every indication that it course is onward and upward. The telegraph has entered our town; a substantial brick courthouse has just been completed, and the Masonic Hall, Temple of Honor, and free church are well attended. Six stores, two taverns, a boot and shoemaker, four smith shops, a wagon, three cabinet shops, a tanyard, and a saddler’s shop, accommodate the public. Professional gentlemen offer their services to clients and patients, our bricklayers are busy, and all the usual means and appliances of civilized life may be found in our village.

Of the future of Crockett, there can be but one opinion. With the increase in population of the county and the cultivation of its fine cotton lands, the wealth and the population of the village must increase.

The very institution of a newspaper indicates the progress of Crockett, and there can be no doubt that its future pages will record a state of things that will throw into the shade and render incredible these scanty remembrances of The Oldest Inhabitant.”

These days, printed newspapers are considered to be something of a dinosaur – on their way to extinction. But in the same way that The Oldest Inhabitant recorded his observations of a growing town almost one-hundred and 69 years ago, today’s newspapers serve as a tangible record of the community as it expands and evolves, which invokes the question - What will our local newspapers reveal to someone who reads about our history one-hundred and sixty-nine years from now?

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Leos assist at CRCIL

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071422 leos assist crcil

Piney Woods Leos were asked to help the Crockett Resource Center for Independent Living (CRCIL) process an extra-large order of food on July 11. The CRCIL provides food to many families throughout the month, and serve multiple counties. The CRCIL provides a needed service to many people. Leos Jonathon Castillo, Alexander Ledesma, and Angel Castillo bagging peaches, tomatoes, and zuchini at the CRCIL.

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Back to School event a rousing success

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071422 back to schoolPictured left-to-right: Catina Brice, Cordelia Horace, Elmarie Riley, and LaRhonda Loftis. Photo courtesy of Cantina Brice

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

CROCKETT – On Saturday, July 9, community members gathered at the Crockett Civic Center to support the First Annual East Texas Back to School Vendor Event. The event’s purpose was to collect school supplies and give them away to Houston County students to help ease their cost burden and provide an opportunity for local food and product vendors to showcase their services.

Sponsors for the event included Midway Entertainment, Mimsy’s Barbeque, and Consolidated Water, along with multiple community donations, such as two free back-to-school haircuts donated by Styles by Miles.

Seventy backpacks filled with markers, crayons, pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, notebook paper, rulers, scissors, erasers, and other necessary back-to-school items, were given out on a first-come/first-served basis. For those who didn’t receive backpacks, tables loaded with those same school supplies lined the walls of the community room. Crockett Elementary

School’s new Principal, Dr. Mecheal Abbs, was also there, handing out several boxes of free elementary reading material.
For those who arrived hungry, food trucks crowded the parking lot of the Civic Center, delivering a variety of culinary delights from Kool Kidz shaved ice to JB BBQ, and EZ Smoke BBQ, to Cynthia Lynn’s homemade burgers and chicken and waffles, or ‘food for the soul’ offered by Katie May’s Kitchen. And when attendees tired of the scorching heat, they could find solace inside the center, where vendors peddled candles, hair and beauty supplies, handcrafted keychains, hand-poured wax melts, car fresheners, and more.

An added bonus was the fundraiser for Cordelia Horace, an employee at Davy Crockett Drug, in honor of her fight against breast cancer, which raised $1,400.

Organizers Catina Brice and Jonitra McKnight praised all the vendors, donors, and sponsors, thanking them for the great turnout. “This is a community event that we’ve worked hard to plan over the past month,” said Catina Brice. “This event would not have been possible without God and our sponsors and community donors. We are forever grateful.”

Brice says that they hope to make this an annual event every second Saturday in July.

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White named ‘Lion of the Year’

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070722 white named lionLion of the Year Gary White and Lion President Miguel Benavides.

CROCKETT – Gary White was selected as the Lion of the Year for 2021-2022 for the Piney Woods Lions Club. In addition to doing an exceptional job as the club treasurer, White has been instrumental with the East Texas Food Bank (ETFB) Produce Distribution events.

He completed additional training to be a forklift operator and took on extra duties that were not required of him during the distributions. In addition, Gary applied to the Texas Lions Foundation for a grant to help those in Houston County that were affected by the tornado.

This resulted in $3,000 that was distributed through Standing with Crockett to those in need. He faithfully attends club meetings each month and participated in numerous club events.

White demonstrates Lionism every day and for this he is the club’s Lion of the Year.

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