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  • Big Sandy ISD swears in trustees and reorganizes board

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Standing from left, Big Sandy ISD trustees Quentin Matthews, Mark Duff and Kabe Murphy take their oaths into four-year terms from Kelly Hardy during last Monday’s meeting.

    By Jason Chlapek

    DALLARDSVILLE – Four trustees took oaths for four-year terms during Big Sandy ISD’s monthly meeting last Monday.

    Mark Duff and Quentin Matthews were re-elected, while Darrell Murphy and Kabe Murphy were elected to new four-year terms. Duff, Matthews and Darrell Murphy all ran unopposed in the Nov. 3 election, while Kabe Murphy defeated William Handy for his seat.

    The officers on the school board were chosen as well. Darrell Murphy will serve as board president, while Sheila Neal will be the board vice-president, and Matthews is the secretary.

    During the meeting, Big Sandy ISD Superintendent Eric Carpenter gave a financial report during his report. He also talked about Title I funds that the district receives.

    “Covid has been our biggest expense to the tune of $200-250,000,” Carpenter said. “Getting ready for class, cleaning buses, cleaning supplies, etc. It’s just part of it. The amount of Title I funds a school receives is based on the number of kids you have on free or reduced lunch. That’s about 50% of our students.”

    Last month, Big Sandy ISD decided to go back to onsite learning for all students with the exception of those students who have preexisting medical conditions or have immediate family members with preexisting medical conditions. Carpenter believes onsite learning is more beneficial.

    “One of the biggest reasons why we went back to onsite learning was we had a high percentage of distance learners who were failing,” he said. “It’s easier for students to get the one-to-one help they need when they’re in school. If they’re not checking in, you can’t help them at all.”

    Carpenter also commended Senator Robert Nichols for everything he’s done for his district and other rural districts in East Texas. He’s not only a fan of Nichols, but also House Bill 3.

    “With House Bill 3, Sen. Nichols helped rural schools get the funding they needed,” Carpenter said.

    Big Sandy ISD meets again at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14.

  • Big Sandy receives ‘good, clean’ audit

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE From left, Big Sandy ISD board members Maynard Williams and Lyndon Alec review an agenda item during last Monday’s monthly school board meeting.

    By Jason Chlapek

    DALLARDSVILLE – Big Sandy ISD went over its audit during last Monday’s monthly school board meeting.

    According to Superintendent Eric Carpenter, the district received a “good, clean audit.” He gave credit where he believed credit was due.

    “The board has been good stewards of their money,” Carpenter said. “Our staff as a whole also has been good stewards of their money.”

    Axley & Rode of Livingston performed Big Sandy’s audit. Carpenter said his district has worked with the firm for four years now.

    Big Sandy ISD nurse Amanda Foster also gave an update on Covid-19. Carpenter is pleased with the way his district has combated the virus.

    “Our saving grace is wearing masks,” he said. “Our staff and students have done a great job of wearing masks.”

    During the first semester, Big Sandy ISD did not have to shut down because of Covid. Carpenter credits that to staff and students “doing what they have to do to stay safe.”

    The board also approved for Carpenter to submit a waiver to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to waive the student growth requirement in the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) and the student growth requirement in Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS). On Dec. 10, the Commissioner of Education announced that TEA would waive the A-F Accountability system for this year.

    Big Sandy ISD meets again on 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.

  • Board discusses PD’s outreach efforts

    040121 COCISD PDCOURTESY PHOTO BY CASSIE GREGORY COCISD Police Chief Roosevelt Joseph and his team gave a year-in-review presentation at the COCISD school board meeting on Monday, March 22.

    By Cassie Gregory
    Special to the News-Times

    COLDSPRING — The highlight of the March 22 COCISD Board of Trustees meeting was the yearly report given by COCISD Police Chief Roosevelt Joseph and his team of officers.

    They reported on the year's events and outreach programs that have been implemented to build relationships with students, families and the community.

    "A lot of what we've been doing is to foster the relationship between the public and police officers," Joseph said. "This has been a tough year with all of the things going on around the country. We are community based — that's what we are all about."

    Some of the programs include Cops Who Care at the beginning of the school year, where officers give away free backpacks filled with school supplies, and Shop with a Cop at Christmas, which helps to provide gifts for students in need at Christmas.

    "We don't want any child to wake up on Christmas morning without a gift under the tree," Joseph said.

    The department also works with organizations and other police departments to acquire equipment, technology and software at no cost to the district. Recently, hey were awarded a grant for a sophisticated report-writing system that has cut down on the time it takes to record reports and has greatly increased the security of confidential information. Another grant provided equipment designed to teach students about the danger of vaping, and they also received new radios as a donation, saving the district $12,000.

    "We work very hard every day to make this a safe environment, and we are going to continue," Joseph said.

    Also at the meeting, Coldspring-Oakhurst High School advanced culinary arts students served a delicious meal to board members and staff under the direction of Chef Joel Casiday. The selection included chicken and dumplings, mixed greens salad and a fresh, multi-berry crisp topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.

    The meeting began with the pledges of allegiance led by Coldspring Intermediate students.

    Interim Superintendent Walter Key introduced and thanked the culinary arts students, followed by a presentation given by Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Vikki Curry and campus principals on benchmark scores.

    In other business, trustees approved:

    • •The adoption of pre-kindergarten instructional materials to be implemented in the 2021-22 school year.
    • •The TASB Localized Policy Manual Update 116.
    • •Recommended revisions to board policies.
    • •A digital learning agreement with Apex Learning.
    • •The purchase and installation of a paint booth for Coldspring-Oakhurst High School.
    • •The purchase of interactive televisions.
    • •Participation in the Region 7 purchasing cooperative.
    • •Construction of a tennis court.
    • •Proposals for facility projects.
    • •To temporarily delegate hiring authority for contract personnel to the superintendent.

    The next regular meeting of the COCISD Board of Trustees is set for 6:30 p.m. April 26 at the Jones Educational Complex Auditorium.

  • Centerville schools address safety

    Centerville ISD logoFILE PHOTO Centerville ISD logo

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY COUNTY — A recent safety audit of the Centerville school system shows the students are learning in a safe environment.At its regular meeting on Oct. 15, the district’s School Board members discussed the audit, which also contained some deficiencies.The deficiencies were discussed only in closed session and not made public. However, Superintendent Mark Brown said that of those, most could be taken care of easily.

    The district was commended for numerous items, which include:

    • having 30 fire extinguishers on campus;
    • having 10 staff members trained in the use of an automated external defibrillatorand CPR;
    • well-kept grounds;•student monitoring;•morale;•adequate use of security cameras;
    • secure classroom doors and metal exterior doors;•robustphone/intercom system; and
    • a healthy school climate.

    In other business, the board:

    • held a second hearing on changes to the school’s policy manual; and
    • approved school finances for the month.
  • Chamber hosts Christmas party for final 2020 function

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE The Polk County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Christmas party last Friday for its final quarterly meeting of 2020.

    By Jason Chlapek

    The Polk County Chamber of Commerce conducted one more quarterly get together last week.

    The Chamber hosted a Christmas party complete with hot cocoa, cookies and coffee. It was the final quarterly meeting of 2020.

    “We normally have quarterly membership luncheons and (Friday) was the Christmas party,” Chamber director Janet Wiggins said. “We had cookies, hot chocolate and coffee. This was a time to relax and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. This is the second year that I’ve put this on.”

    Wiggins has been the Chamber director since September 2018. She enjoys hosting quarterly meetings for her members.

    “It’s great to see your members and share with them what’s going to happen for the upcoming year,” Wiggins said. “It’s fun to visit and your members are important.”

    Wiggins said the quarterly meetings in 2021 will take place in March, June, September and December. She’ll release the dates in the near future.

  • City receives good audit, conducts public hearings

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Ricardo Perez (left) answers a question by Livingston alderman Dr. Ray Luna (right) regarding Perez’s property during last Tuesday’s city council meeting.

    By Jason Chlapek

    A Livingston home owner will be given time to formulate a plan to save his home.

    Ricardo Perez, whose family has owned a home on South Washington in Livingston for nearly 40 years, has until March 9 to come up with a plan to salvage the unsafe or dilapidated property. There are certain criteria Perez must follow to convince Livingston city council aldermen that his home is worth saving.

    “Mr. Perez will be given until our next council meeting to find a contractor to repair the home and provide us with a plan on how much the repairs will cost and when they will be complete,” Livingston city manager Bill Wiggins said. “We don’t want to tear down other people’s property. We want to give them the opportunity to salvage it.”

    Perez was present at last Tuesday’s monthly city council meeting and presented his case as to why he believes he can save his home, which has been vacant since 2006. The public hearing, which was nearly an hour long, was one of two on the evening.

    The first public hearing involved the abandoned motel that once served as the Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, Knights Inn or Royal Inn. The building, which has been vacant since December 2011, was ordered for demolition by the city back in October.

    The owner of the property, Indira Patel, has taken action by hiring a firm to proceed with the building’s demolition. The demolition process is to begin this week, weather permitting.

    The city also received a positive audit for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Kevin Bienvenu and Steve Palmerton of Harper and Pearson Company presented the audit.

    “I thank the Good Lord for the good audit,” Wiggins said. “We were one of a few cities who actually had a sales tax increase in spite of Covid-19.”

    The city also approved the final payment to Maguire Iron, Inc., who constructed two elevated water storage tanks. The payment is in the amount of $129,108.

    The city also approved a public hearing for next month’s meeting on an unsafe or dilapidated property located on West Church Street, and Wiggins gave the city manager’s report. Wiggins said that ground work has begun for Chick-Fil-A, construction has started on Starbucks, and permits have been issued for Blue Wave Car Wash, Panda Express and T-Mobile.

    The next city council meeting takes place Tuesday, March 9, at 5 p.m. at Livingston city hall.

  • COCISD Supt steps down

    COCISD Superintendent Dr. Leland R. MooreCOURTESY PHOTO COCISD Superintendent Dr. Leland Moore will resign from his post effective Dec. 31, 2020.

    Special to the News-Times

    Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD will be looking for a new leader.

    After serving as COCISD superintendent for nearly five years, Dr. Leland Moore has tendered his resignation, effective Dec. 31. Moore’s resignation was accepted by the board at the December meeting, which took place during the COCISD Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, at the Jones Auditorium.

    “As I begin a new season in my life, I am ready to pursue new opportunities. I have given five years of service to the COCISD and every day of that time has been rewarding for me. My heart tells me it’s time for a change,” wrote Moore in a message to staff. “I have been privileged to serve with a great team of educators and staff who are loyal and dedicated to the children of the COCISD. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with trustees who are on a vibrant and exciting mission.”

    The Board of Trustees held its regular December meeting a week earlier than usual due to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

    After formally accepting Moore’s resignation, the board approved the appointment of education consultant and former San Augustine superintendent Walter Key to serve as interim superintendent. Also approved was the engagement of Haglund Law Firm, P.C. to perform the superintendent search.

    In other business, the meeting opened with a public hearing to present the 2019-20 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Vikki Curry gave the presentation, explaining that due to the TEA response to COVID-19, the report was essentially the same as the previous year. There were no public comments. The TAPR may be viewed on the district website at cocisd.org > District > Accountability.

    Under New Business, the board discussed and approved the following:

    Renewal of a legal services agreement with Walsh, Gallegos, Trevino, Russo & Kyle P.C. 

    Extension of additional COVID-related leave to COCISD employees. 

    Adoption of a formal board resolution urging TEA to cancel the STAAR tests for the 2020-21 school year.

    A Verizon operation connectivity contract.

    The next regular meeting of the COCISD Board of Trustees will be held at the Jones Auditorium on Monday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Commissioners receive judge’s disaster declaration

    IMG 7549ALTON PORTER | HCC Houston County Judge Jim Lovell issued a Declaration of Local Disaster for the county in response to the recent severe winter storms that wreaked havoc on the county and the county’s commissioners voted to receive the declaration as information at a meeting held in person and via the Zoom video communications app Thursday morning.

    By Alton Porter

    Houston County was declared a disaster area by the county judge as a result of the major winter storms that wreaked havoc throughout the county a couple of weeks ago and the declaration was received by county commissioners.

    Saturday, Feb. 20, Judge Jim Lovell issued a seven-day Declaration of Local Disaster for the county. And five days later, at a meeting of the commissioners court, following explanations by Lovell and county Emergency Management Coordinator Heath Murff, the commissioners voted to pass a motion to receive as information the declaration.

    The declaration stated that “the County of Houston, on the 14 day of February, AD 2021 suffered widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life, with massive amounts of debris creating a public health threat (or there is imminent threat of same), resulting from the arrival of a major winter storm that has impacted Houston County and caused freezing temperatures, snow and ice accumulations.”

    It continued, the storm “essentially prevented access and safe passage on many roadways and caused long term electrical power and utility outages and major infrastructure and property damage thus creating a public safety hazard.”

    Because the county judge determined that extraordinary measures must be taken to alleviate the suffering of people and to protect or rehabilitate property, he declared the state of disaster.

    The declaration noted that the county’s emergency management plan was implemented, and “Whereas Section 418.108 of the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, as amended, Vernon’s Texas Codes Annotated, Government Code Chapter 418, provides that the state of disaster shall continue for a period of not more than seven days of the date hereof, unless the same is continued by consent of the Commissioner’s Court of the County of Houston, Texas.”

    In other business, the commissioners scheduled a public hearing for April 13, “regarding the Tax Abatement Agreement with Houston County and Lincoln Lumber Crockett, LLC, to modify or terminate the agreement and to consider entering a Tax Abatement Agreement with the City of Crockett and Lincoln Lumber Crockett, LLC.”

    The commissioners and Crockett city councilmembers approved a tax abatement agreement with Lincoln Lumber several weeks ago, and the Crockett officials later approved a related agreement that had been amended. County officials are now considering whether to terminate their original agreement and approve the amended one that was adopted by the city.

    “What happened is Houston County and Lincoln Lumber have a tax abatement agreement…,” said County Attorney Daphne Session. “That was approved in November of 2020 based on the application for a tax abatement.

    “The city entered or approved a tax abatement agreement in November of 2020 also with Lincoln Lumber. Then, Lincoln Lumber made some acquisitions and made some new purchases of land in the area.”

    The city did a new tax abatement agreement—modified the old one based on the acquisitions and new purchases—and approved it in January, Session said. “And the city would like the county to be included in their tax abatement because their tax abatement they approved is for the city of Crockett, for Houston County and Lincoln Lumber, which was not done here. We have our own agreement with Lincoln Lumber. They would like for the county to join their tax abatement agreement and have just one tax abatement agreement for all three.”

    The public hearing had to be set to modify or terminate the county’s current tax abatement agreement with Lincoln Lumber, Session said, adding, the city’s agreement and county’s agreement are very similar, with the exception of the addition of the acquisition of the new land by Lincoln Lumber on the city’s agreement.

    Lincoln Lumber is building a high-tech sawmill in the 200 block of West Austin Street and on two adjoining properties.

    In another action, the commissioners approved a new contract with Piney Woods Sanitation for solid waste collection service in unincorporated areas of the county.

    They voted to approve motions appointing commissioners Jimmy Henderson, Gene Stokes and Willie Kitchen to negotiate for right of way and construction/temporary easements in their precincts as necessary for the Texas Department of Transportation bridge improvement project.

    Henderson is to negotiate for easements on County Roads (CR) 1060 and 1050 for the Hickory Creek tributary, Stokes for easements on CR 3585 for the Wright Creek tributary and Kitchen for easements plus relocation of utilities on CR 2215, CR 2230 and CR 2120 for Little Elkhart Creek and Big Elkhart Creek tributaries.

    The commissioners received as information racial profiling reports from county law enforcement agencies and an audit report for the fiscal year ending 2020 for county Emergency Services District No. 2.

    They approved an order declaring an exemption from bidding necessary to preserve and protect the public health and safety of county residents as authorized under Local Government Code 262.024(a)(2).

    The commissioners voted to approve acceptance of a $2,000 donation from the city of Kennard for Precinct 4 and to authorize the making of necessary budget amendments.

    And the commissioners heard annual summary interpretation presentations of 2020 AgriLife Extension Service education programs given by Jo Smith and Tasha Brent, extension agents of the county’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Corey J. Hicks, of the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program.

    During her presentation, Smith noted that the Houston County Fair and Youth Livestock Show is still one for late March and early April.

  • Commissioners seek upgrades across county

    Commish 1EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA I SJNT Representatives from the ThyssenKrupp Elevator, an elevator modernization company, along with county maintenance, discuss the costs of upgrading electrical and fire alarm components in the courthouse elevator.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    The San Jacinto County commissioners court met to discuss upgrades in the county regarding the use of census data, contract upgrades within the jail, and even modern touches to the courthouse elevator. 

    Jail Update

    Captain Rosa Bass stood before the court asking for a three-year addendum to a current contract with NCIC Inmate Phone Communication services, which currently ends in 2022. The three-year extension comes with the company implementing the service of sorting through inmate mail in-lieu of jail staff. This will help alleviate man-hours spent inspecting mail, as well as relieves potential tensions between staff and inmates regarding mail-related complaints.

    The services will come at no additional cost to the county aside from a contract extension. The company has already installed kiosks in the cells that allow inmates to place grievances and commissary requests, and will allow them to view mail. Inmates also have limited video communication services, which have been offered and heavily utilized since Covid has stopped visitations. According to jail staff, since implementing the video services earlier this year, inmates have been calmer and less disciplinary action has been taken.

    Family and friends can contact the jail directly to set up video visitation and messages, which are still monitored by staff. With the main change being to mail services, anyone seeking to send mail to inmates will send all correspondences to a central sorting location instead of the jail- all mail sent to the jail will be returned to sender. The exceptions include attorney mail and bonafide press-releases.

    On Dec. 9 of this year, the jail was set to be fully staffed and in compliance with The Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

    After months of review and pending the final contract, the board entered into an agreement to purchase seven plain work trucks with no after-market specs, but with full-maintenance through Enterprises’ Fleet Lease Program. The trucks will be leased for around $38,000. Under the contract, the trucks will run in the county for 12 month or until they reach 15,000 miles, at which point the county will decide to purchase, replace, or retain the equity from the vehicle.

    Enterprise will also remove several currently existing vehicles that are older models or have higher millage to help offset the cost of the new fleet, as well as provide the county with a six-month update on their vehicle usage and equity.

    Other business

    The San Jacinto County Courthouse is currently working to plan and receive bids to modernize the elevator. Some features on the elevator will be grandfathered in per Texas Historic Commission guidelines, but other features like the fire system will be renovated.

    The county is also in the process of hiring a firm to assist with using 2020 Census data to potentially redistrict areas and determine what economic and social needs residents could benefit from.

    To help streamline legal paperwork filed in the county, the court voted to transfer all registrar duties from the Justice of the Peace for all precincts to the county clerk. In the past there has been confusion between the county and state regarding precincts handling paperwork outside of their jurisdiction, which creates backlogs in certifying things like birth and death certificates. While all able parties will be certified countywide to handle all paperwork, ideally the County Clerk will act as the main authority.

    Commissioner’s court meets every first and third Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. in the Emergency Shelter in Coldspring, across from the courthouse. Public comment can be made at the beginning of the meetings.

  • Commissioners vote to oppose bills

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Polk County Office of Emergency Management coordinator Courtney Comstock updates commissioners on the county’s efforts to get back to normal following Winter Storm Uri, which affected most of the state of Texas, including Polk County, last week.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution that opposes Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 749 Tuesday morning during commissioners court at the Polk County Courthouse.

    These bills would prohibit political subdivisions from using public money to lobby. Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy is a staunch opponent of those bills.

    “Those bills hurt the little man,” she said. “They silence public officials such as commissioners, judges and sheriffs. People who don’t live in East Texas would be making decisions that affect East Texas.”

    Commissioners also discussed a future public hearing that they will have with Corrigan-Camden ISD officials on March 23. The hearing regards reinvestment zone property within the C-CISD catchment area that’s south and west of the Corrigan city limits.

    “Anytime you do a tax abatement, you have to do a reinvestment zone first,” Murphy said. “Then the board can consider whatever tax abatement agreement you agree on with that organization. C-CISD has to be engaged in the discussion because they are one of the taxing entities. The only taxing entities involved are the county and the school district.”

    A measure to close a portion of Roy Bean Road in Precinct 2 also was approved.

    “What happened was someone continued Roy Bean Road through someone’s private property,” Murphy said. “The property sold and the new owner is saying that the road doesn’t belong on his/her property. It’s been corrected.”

    Polk County Office of Emergency Management coordinator Courtney Comstock also gave an update on the county following last week’s encounter with Winter Storm Uri. Most of the county received snowfall and accumulation as well as ice, which caused school districts and several businesses to close and boil water notices in Livingston and Onalaska.

    The next commissioners court will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 9.

  • Corrigan approves $375,000 grant

                                   CASEY SIZEMORE Corrigan City Council Member Irene Thomson (right) presents City Secretary Paloma Carbajal (center) and Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson with a donation check from Alvin Freeman to be applied toward the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    By Casey Sizemore

    CORRIGAN – During its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Corrigan City Council approved beginning the procurement procedures to accept the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development block grant for 2021-22.

    City Manager Darrian Hudman said the $375,000 grant, which is more than previous years, could be applied toward water and sewer projects. The council did not discuss what projects the grant would be applied to.

    Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson said the city is in talks with Corrigan OSB “to see if they can help” with some of the water or sewer projects.

    The council also approved three appointments to a committee to seek who is most qualified to complete some of the jobs. Mayor Gibson described the committee as a “formality.”

    The council also approved a declination toward “Entergy’s backup generation product.” Hudman said Entergy intends to install a generator for the city to use during power outages. He said Energy requested the council decline the initial submission so they could resubmit under a multi-city or municipality project.

    The board also approved the general city election for May 1, 2021.

    After a lengthy discussion, the council tabled a motion to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street until the council members have an opportunity to hear pros and cons from the citizens.

    Chief Gerald Gibson requested the council take up the matter out of concern for children playing in the area.

    “My only concern is the children, that’s all I care about,” he said.

    Chief Gibson said children walk along the street, play basketball in and near the street and play in the park, so he is concerned an accident is going to occur.

    Hudman recommended the council consider an ordinance stating all residential streets in the city limits be reduced to 20 mph. He also recommended the city mail out information to citizens and make callouts.

    During the council forum portion of the meeting, the council members discussed a recent article in the Enterprise concerning Georgia Pacific donating funds toward constructing a new fire department building for the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    “The Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department could use donations for that building,” Mayor Gibson said.

    Chief Gibson said CFVD is also in need of volunteer firefighters.

    Council member Irene Thomson presented the city with a donation check toward the fire department on behalf of Alvin Freeman.

  • Corrigan-Camden ISD swears in new board members

    C CISD Pic 1 CASEY SIZEMORE Newly elected school board members took the oath of office during the Corrigan-Camden ISD board meeting Monday. Pictured above are board members Thomas Robert; left, Lawrence Jolly Jr.; center, and Peter Burks; right.

    By Casey Sizemore

    CORRIGAN – Newly elected school board members took the oath of office during the Corrigan-Camden ISD regular scheduled board meeting Monday.

    The new board members include Lawrence Jolly Jr. for Position 3, Thomas Robert for Position 2 and Peter Burks for Position 1. The outgoing incumbents include former vice president Lync Cavanaugh for Position 1, former President Sean Burks and a vacated seat.

    Sean Burks and Cavanaugh were presented with “tokens of appreciation” for 13 and seven years, respectively, of service made by the C-CISD Ag. Science and Mechanics classes.

    “I’m the outgoing president and I would like to thank everyone out here in this crowd for everything y’all have done for this school,” Sean Burks said. “Each one of y’all have been a pivotal point in how we’ve led the school in the direction we have went. That being said, I want to challenge each of you young men, as y’all assume y’all’s duties here as part of the school board, to lead with your hearts. Do what’s best for the kids. No personal agendas are really needed. You have a team of eight: we have operated with a team of seven — we’ve had a board member that has decided not to be here for quite some time… Just keep every kid in mind.”

    The board also voted Michael Woodard as vice president, Anthony Carroll as board president and Angela Conaroe as secretary.

    In other business, the board accepted a donation of more than $25,000 from Roy O’ Martin for the installment of new playground equipment for Pre-k and Kindergarten students. Hughes Trucking is donating the mulch required to finish the project, according to Roy O Martin representative Sherry Hughes, who gave a brief presentation to the board.

    The board accepted a $15,000 NOGA grant to be applied toward after school programs and approved Harrell and Woodard for authority to sign bank checks.

    Superintendent Richard Cooper’s district reports indicate there are currently 780 students enrolled in the district with an average attendance rate of 96.92%.

  • County offices relocating during courthouse construction

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Matt March of Texas AgriLife discusses surface lease agreements with Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County employees who have offices in the courthouse will have to relocate for two years soon.

    That’s because the courthouse will undergo a renovation project after the county received a $3 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission earlier this month. During the projected two-year project, courthouse offices will be relocated to the vacant building of the former Regional Health Center and to the Polk County Annex building.

    “We’re scheduled to complete in mid-2023,” Polk County grants and contracts administrator Jessica Hutchins said. “But with construction, that could always change. The project is expected to begin within six months of our contract. We don’t receive contract until March, so we should be going out for bids within six months of that agreement. It’s roughly a two-year project.”

    The relocation measure was approved during commissioners court Tuesday morning. During the two-year period, commissioners court will take place in the former Regional Health Center building.

    “When we originally applied for the grant, we didn’t qualify,” Hutchins said. “But when THC had an additional $3 million left over, they awarded that to us. We’re not receiving the official award until THC meets on Feb. 3. Then we’ll know more and have an accurate date on contracts and construction.”

    Speaking of grants, the county is working on finding a project for the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant. Once an administrator and engineer have been selected, the project selection can begin.

    “TDA every year opens up grants for their CDBG program,” Hutchins said. “It’s basically to improve water districts, sewage and basic necessities for the community. Last year we received $250,000 for Dallardsville-Segno Water Corporation. Now we’re opening up a new grant period. We’re getting an administrator and an engineer to select a project in the county.”

    A similar process will take place for the Hurricane Harvey Regional Mitigation Program. Hutchins elaborated on that as well.

    “For Hurricane Harvey, there’s a mitigation program and that’s set where any flooding for Harvey was done we want to mitigate that for the future so those same areas are not flooded,” she said. “There are certain zip codes within the county that flooded so they are eligible to apply for the program. There’s two rounds of mitigation. The first round is competitive. We already applied and submitted that application. There’s allocated mitigation funding that’s given to each of the counties that DETCOG is receiving in allocated amounts that are set for us and they help the general land office come up with a way to disburse it among our community. The general land office will be allocating set funds to each of the counties that DETCOG services. Each county that was impacted by Harvey will be receiving funds that are not competitive that we are set to receive.”

    Matt March of Texas AgriLife discussed surface lease agreements. The lease agreements, which are set to expire June 30, are for land in Baylor and Throckmorton counties that Polk County has designated for its six school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska.

    “A long time ago, the legislature set up some land in West Texas and designated it as property for the school districts in our county to be managed by the court,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “The lease money gets split up with the schools in the county and the county benefits as well. The majority of counties sold their land a long time ago. Polk County is one of the few that did not. We are responsible for managing it and maintaining the quality of the property, and making sure the money is going where it’s supposed to go.”

    The next commissioners court takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • County sets speed limit near Apple Springs

    110520 countyGoogle Maps

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on Oct. 27 put its foot down on drivers putting the accelerator down.

    Commissioners approved setting a 25-mph speed limit on Graham Road between FM 357 and State Highway 94, which was done without debate. It was approved unanimously.

    In other business, the county:

    •approve the county’s investment policy, an annual undertaking, and reappointed County Treasurer B.L. Dockens as investment officer;

    • approved budget amendments of $1,500;

    • appointed Tom Hester as reserve deputy constable for Precinct 3;

    • approved the purchase of a 2012 HAMM 3410 cab roller for Road and Bridge Precinct 3; and

    • declined to discuss or act on a burn ban for the county.

  • County to receive $3 million restoration grant

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE From left, Polk County Commissioners Guylene Robertson and Tommy Overstreet listen to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy during the first commissioners court of the 2021 calendar year Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County will receive a $3 million restoration grant from the Texas Historical Commission soon.

    The grant was approved at the first commissioners court of the new year Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse. The approval was music to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy’s ears.

    “Thank goodness it was approved,” Murphy said. “It was a long time coming. It’s nice to receive $3 million.”

    The grant will be used to restore the court room located on the second floor of the courthouse. Murphy said county grants and contracts administrator Jessica Hutchins was instrumental in achieving this grant.

    “Jessica took the bull by the horns and submitted a beautiful grant request,” Murphy said. “She’s been in contact with the Texas Historical Commission throughout and it’s pretty exciting to be able to get the courthouse up to par.”

    Murphy does not have a timetable on when the project will begin. However, she said the news about receiving the grant was “pretty exciting.”

    “You have to go through planning and the THC has to approve everything before receiving the grant,” Murphy said. “One of the requirements is that the district courtroom has to be restored. We will have to remove some modifications that were made by the previous administration. It has to go back to its original look.”

    Commissioners also approved the purchase of nine foreclosed properties. Eight of the nine properties are located in Lake Livingston Village and the other is in Indian Springs Lake Estates.

    Tuesday’s commissioners court was the first for newly-elected Precinct 1 commissioner Guylene Robertson. More on her can be seen in Sunday’s Enterprise.

    The next commissioners court will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26.

  • Ellis back on board

    20201116 180424BRIAN BESCH I PCE Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins swears in Bea Ellis during the November meeting of the LISD Board of Trustees.

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - The Livingston ISD school board reshuffled some of its positions after accepting a “new” member Monday at Creekside Elementary.

    The November LISD Board meeting opened with the swearing-in of Bea Ellis. Ellis spent 26 years on the board, also serving as its president, and returns after just two years away.

    After, Ben Ogletree was named president for two more years, Scott Paske will serve as vice-president and Krissa Bass will be the board secretary.

    Livingston ISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) report during the public hearing portion of the meeting. 

    The state's school financial accountability rating system ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and that they improve those practices.

    The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. The FIRST report consists of 15 different indicators. The district scored the maximum allowed points of 100.  

    Board president Ben Ogletree noted during the review of the principal reports that the district is holding an attendance rate in the mid-90 percentile, which he attributed to the janitorial staff and the diligence of the teaching staff with efforts in fogging, cleaning, and handwashing.

    An action item approved by the board was the reconsideration of the board student outcome goals.

  • ESD2 members elect new, continuing leaders

    IMG 7735ALTON PORTER | HCC Above, members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2, which supports and provides assistance to fire departments throughout the county, attended a monthly meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25, at which they elected officers to lead the district and its board of commissioners and at which they addressed other matters.

    By Alton Porter

    Members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) have elected new and continuing leaders for the district’s board of commissioners following the reappointment and appointment last month of two ESD2 commissioners by members of the county’s commissioners court.

    The ESD2 members elected the board’s officers at a meeting Thursday, Feb. 25.

    Promoted to the position of ESD2 president is William Money, who had been serving as an ESD2 commissioner and who replaces former president George Crowson Jr., who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board by the commissioners court members last month.

    Elected to serve as ESD2 vice president is Steve Hawkins, who was appointed by the members of the commissioners court last month to replace Crowson as a commissioner on the ESD2 board. Hawkins was welcomed aboard ESD2 by the district’s members who were present. As vice president, he replaces former VP Bobby Hutcherson, who was reappointed by the members of the county commissioners court last month to continue serving on the ESD2 board but who stepped down from the VP position at the Feb. 25 meeting.

    Peggy Patrick, who had been serving as secretary-treasurer was reelected as treasurer only upon her request, and board member Roy Langford was elected to replace her as secretary.

    During public comments, Crowson, the ESD2 previous president, addressed the emergency services district members who were present.

    “In my recollection, as far as I can recall, this is my 224 meeting with the ESD of a 14-year period,” Crowson said. “To the fire departments, I want to tell you it’s been a pleasure, a privilege and an honor to serve on your behalf. What you guys do—not only what you do, but the passion with which you do it—it leaves me in awe. It truly, truly does.”

    Crowson noted that county Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes, of the commissioners court, was present at the meeting and that “out of those 224 meetings which we spoke of, this is only the second time that we’ve had a commissioner at one of our meetings in 14 years. And I think I can speak for the whole organization and say, ‘Thank you for being here’.”

    Stokes responded to Crowson saying, “We appreciate your service.”

    The former ESD2 president continued, “I’m assuming I’m not on the board. No one has shown me the courtesy to tell me that I was not, but I kind of picked it up on the airwaves there.

    “To the board, what I want to remind you of, and I hope you will think about this in every decision you make, is you are an independent political subdivision of the state of Texas. You cannot be beholden or subservient to any individual, any special interest group, any group of people of any kind, including the commissioners court. If you are, all taxing democracies will fail.”

    Crowson added, “The only people you are beholden to are the people that pay this ESD tax. It has served me well. If you will remind yourself of that in every decision that you make, I think you will continue to be successful.

    “This ESD is tremendously successful, at least in my opinion—not because of me, but because of the involvement of people and the (county’s fire) departments themselves. I know it is financially in good shape. And I know that through Mr. Stokes and all you other board members, it will continue to do that.

    IMG 7725ALTON PORTER | HCC Former President George Crowson Jr., of the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) Board of Commissioners, who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board earlier last month, addressed ESD2 members as he departed from the entity during a meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25.

    “It has been an honor and a privilege; I served at the pleasure of the commissioners court and it was no longer their pleasure. That’s perfectly fine; it is their option to do whichever they want to do.

    “I’ve enjoyed almost every moment of it. It’s been some moments that haven’t been so enjoyable, but that comes with the territory. But anyway, thank each of you for what you do.”

    After Crowson left the meeting, Money, the new ESD2 president, said, “He’s not here, but in my opinion from being on the other side of the table—he was on this side of the table—George has guided this board efficiently and diligently through a lot of stuff over the years, from helping get it started to getting it where it’s at.

    “And in my opinion, our directive change is none. We’re here to serve two priorities: the firefighters (of Houston County) and the taxpayers. And that is it. I may be the next one that goes after George, but that is how I look at it. … I will do my best to continue the direction of this board and keep it solid.”

    Among items requiring action, the ESD2 members voted to receive a $100 bid from Brijesh Patel, a member of the Kennard Independent School District Board of Trustees, to buy and remove, within 30 days, a building on the site on which they’re planning to have a fire station built in Ratcliff.

    The board members also had advertised via the Courier for bids for the laying of a six-inch-thick concrete slab for $16,000 for the planned fire station building, but none had been received. So, the ESD2 members decided to seek out a construction company to perform this project.

    In other business, they tabled action regarding a contract between ESD2 and the city of Crockett. “The city of Crockett wanted to redo their contract with the ESD…,” Patrick said.

    Money explained, “When we formed ESD2, Crockett opted out of the vote. Kennard voted to not be in the ESD because they didn’t want (to pay) the extra tax. So, we’ve got Crockett and Kennard that are not members of the ESD….

    “Crockett has basically the biggest fire department in the county—covers the most area, covers everybody else’s back. We call it the gray area. So, we contract with Crockett. We pay them $70,000 a year to cover that area. We provide some trucks for Crockett and provide them service and help.

    “So, Crockett covers the gray area and that works to try to keep the ISO, which is the insurance rate, in those areas down. So, we contract with Crockett to cover that area. Crockett FD’s budget is $500,000-plus a year and we add them an additional $70,000 plus trucks or whatever we can afford to help them with to cover that area. We upped the rate and renegotiated with them. And so, we’re getting a new contract set up with them.”

    Chief Jason Frizzell, of the Crockett Fire Department, said he had emailed the city’s attorney, who is reviewing and possibly making adjustments to the contract, and he was waiting to hear back from the lawyer.

  • FFA presents for Onalaska’s board

    FFAPHOTO BY EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Onalaska’s FFA team gave their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management to the board before they take it to contests.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula


    ONALASKA — Onalaska’s board met earlier this month to go over their formal agenda, as well as receive a presentation from the ag issues team as they prepare to complete in upcoming contests.

    Agricultural issues team
    Onalaksa’s FFA team unveiled their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management. Two students on each side of the argument presented on the pros and cons of the regulation of these animals.
    The presentation included the history of how the horses were introduced to the United States, how Native Americans used them, their contemporary existence in the western U.S., and laws introduced to protect them. Pros included seed distribution and historical significance, while cons included hard packing of soil and over-population.

    Elementary report
    Elementary principal David Murphy informed the board that elementary UIL started meeting last week in the afternoons, but with after-school tutorials also starting soon, they are working to find ways to meet with both groups on campus in a safe manor.

    Sixth grade currently holds the highest attendance with 95%, earning them a pizza party later this month. On Nov. 3, the district will hold its first Title I meeting virtually.

    The presentation will go over what Title I is, requirements the school needs to meet, and what parents need to know. Questions and comments can be added to a chat box during the meeting to be addressed.

    Junior and high school report
    Robyn Thornton gave the junior and senior high school report.

    Administration will start teacher observations soon with plans to be finished before Thanksgiving. With the first nine-weeks over, Math and English Language Arts teachers will start determining which students need educational interventions, including after-school tutoring.

    The NHS and NJHS classes of last spring were inducted earlier this month, unable to do so last year due to Covid. Since the program started in 2006, 206 members have been initiated.

    Student council will hold a Trunks and Treats event on Oct. 31. This drive-thru event will take place at the junior and high school campus with a drive-in movie being shown afterwards.

    A copy of the school’s events calendar can be found at https://www.onalaskaisd.net/ under the “Events Calendar” tag at the bottom of the page.

    Superintendent Report
    Superintendent Anthony Roberts gave the enrollment report, stating the district had gained 37 more students since last year. Attendance has remained stable despite Covid, but the district is still held harmless for average daily attendance.

    A bid from Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong out of Lufkin to repair roofs on the junior and senior high campus, ag and transportation barns, weight room, softball pavilion and a modified roof for the administration building for just under $300,000 was approved.

    Sam Houston Electric Co-Op will lease a radio tower behind the high school to the district to improve communications around the district with the help of a safety and security grant. A tower in Livingston is currently used, but the more local tower will cost around $140 a month, less than half of what they currently pay.

    District to add cyber security clause
    With Senate Bill 820 passed, the district is required to adopt a cybersecurity framework and designate a coordinator to report all incidences should a breach occur. Technical support has already done so and has begun to establish procedures.

    The board voted to amend the emergency operations plan.

    For a calendar of future Onalaska ISD board meetings, visit https://www.onalaskaisd.net/, click on the “Superintendent’s Office” tab at the top, scroll to the bottom and click “School Board Agendas.”

  • Fisher declared re-elected as mayor

    2 Mayor Fisher 031621ALTON PORTER | HCC Crockett’s re-elected mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher presides over Monday’s council meeting.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – Dr. Ianthia Fisher has been declared re-elected as Crockett’s mayor in a city council resolution. She was unopposed in her bid to continue serving as the city’s elected leader, a position to which she was initially elected in 2019.

    Fisher is one of two candidates who originally filed to run for mayor in the city’s Saturday, May 1, election. However, the other candidate, James Jellum, withdrew from the race before ballots were printed, according to City Secretary Mitzi Thompson. Therefore, members of the city council voted to approve a document of certification of Fisher as an unopposed candidate for mayor, an at-large position, at a meeting on Monday, March 15.

    After approving the city certification of unopposed candidate for mayor, the councilmembers, in a related action, voted to approve a resolution authorizing cancelling the election of mayor in the scheduled May 1 election.

    The resolution also states that only one eligible candidate, Fisher, had filed to run for mayor and had not withdrawn by the Feb. 12 deadline “and hereby declares the unopposed candidate (Fisher) elected to office and shall be issued Certificate of Election following the time the election will be canvassed.”

    In another election-related matter, the councilmembers voted to approve a resolution, appointing election officials for the regular general election, setting the rate of pay for the election officials and the maximum number of election clerks for the polling places, and designating the early voting ballot board.

    Also, in preparation for the municipal election, the councilmembers approved designation of two deputy early voting clerks, who are “authorized to perform any duties which are assigned by me in the performance of conducting early voting,” wrote Thompson, who also is the early voting clerk, in the designation document.

    Council seats up for election in the May 1 election are those for City Precincts 1 and 2. Candidates for the Precinct 1 position are incumbent Butch Calvert, Gene Caldwell and Samantha Wiley. Precinct 2 seat candidates are incumbent Darrell Jones, Charles Clawson and Vicki Cox.

    On election day, polls for the councilmember elections will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Election day polling places are: Precinct 1, All Saints Episcopal Church Annex, 1301 E. Houston Ave.; and Precinct 2, Crockett Fire Station, 201 N. 6th St.

    Early voting by in-person appearance will be conducted at Crockett City Hall, 200 N. 5th St., April 19-23, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and April 26-27, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

    Applications for ballots by mail should be mailed to Mitzi Thompson, City Secretary, 200 N. 5th St., Crockett, Texas, 75835, and must be received in the secretary’s office no later than by the close of business Tuesday, April 20.

    In other business, the councilmembers voted to approve an ordinance, temporarily reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph for motor vehicles being driven in either direction on State Loop 304 between State Highway 19 and SH 7, while much of that section of the loop is under construction.

    The councilmembers also discussed city facility operations and current COVID-19 measures. “Basically, what the city is doing is there are certain facilities that we do have control over,” said Fisher.

    “And as far as the city facilities, they’re going to remain pretty much stable, recognizing the CDC guidelines that they already have,” she added.

    There’s no limit on the size of gatherings “unless we run into a problem and they (users of city facilities) can’t ensure their safety,” Fisher said. “If it presents a problem where people were saying it was so congested, then we will have to readdress it and set a cap on it.

    “But right now, everyone that has basically used the facility—even for concerts—have been so mindful of being able to respect the safety of others. So, we haven’t had that problem; we don’t anticipate having that problem. But in case we do, we will be able to readdress it and be willing to put a cap (on gatherings at the facilities) if it has to be.”

    The mayor added, “But we are asking that you (users of the facilities) maintain the safety guidelines. Whatever your percentage should be, it should be in accordance with what you can do—staying within the guidelines.

    “And then the other part of it (the mayor and councilmembers approach) is that we did ask the city (staffers) to take into consideration the CDC guidelines. And even though the (former) mask mandate isn’t in effect anymore it is important that we still continue to protect ourselves to the best of our ability. And that’s a simple way with the basic guidelines: washing our hands, wearing masks, social distancing and those kinds of things.”

    Summer Fun Day planned

    During Police Chief Clayton Smith’s regular report, he said the police department is planning a Summer Fun Day event to be held Saturday, June 5, if allowed by COVID protocols and depending on what is going on at that time. “We haven’t been able to have a community event in a while because of Covid and everything going on,” said Smith.

    He noted, June 5 is during “the first weekend that the kids are out of school,” and added, plans are to have the event in Davy Crockett Memorial Park with waterslides, possibly around the splash pad, and event planners are “just trying to get all the kids out to have fun.”

  • Groveton continues mask policy

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO Groveton ISD logo

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — the Groveton ISD School Board intends to leave well enough alone by keeping masking requirements in place through the end of the school year.

    At the board’s regular meeting on March 22, the board took no action regarding Gov. Greg Abbott’s order removing any restrictions connected with the coronavirus pandemic.

    Superintendent Don Hamilton said the state gave schools an option regarding masks only, making it a school board decision.

    “(A handout from the state) shows that as boards consider their mask policies, one thing to be aware of is the risk for litigation and grievances for COVID-19-related claims,” Hamilton said. “This is a hot topic — half the people want to do away with it, half the people want to keep it.”

    Hamilton said he spoke with School Nurse Virginia Redden, who pointed out the district was nine weeks away from school being out, and that the students and teachers have done too well to change.

    Board President Mark Folds said he could go either way, but since the district has been doing so well, he did not see a reason to change, and the board could take up the matter at a later date.

    In other business, the board:

    • •approved the purchase of a new school bus from Longhorn Bus Sales;
    • •approved changes to school policy based on recommendations from the Texas Association of School Boards;
    • •approved the school calendar for the 2021-22 school year;
    • •approved keeping the District of Innovation description, and appointed a planning committee; and
    • •discussed contracts for teachers.