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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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Groveton ISD a safe place to be

    Groveton ISD logoGroveton ISD file photo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — Students in Groveton Independent School District are in pretty safe hands

    At its Oct. 26 meeting, the Groveton School Board approved a safety audit which Superintendent Don Hamilton said was overall very good.

    “We have a few things we know we need to deal with, but overall it’s good,” he said.

    Hamilton said the layout of the building is of a concern, because its age means it does not meet current safety and fire codes, but for the most part, the kids are going to school in a safe environment.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved the ESL program;

    •approved changes of names from the signature card on the school’s account;

    •changed meeting dates for next two meetings because of upcoming holidays. The November meeting will be held Nov. 16, and the December meeting will be held Dec. 17;

    •discussed new goals for the future;

    •approved purchase of 20 interactive boards to replace older models at a cost of $40,000; and

    •approved an annual pay stipend, to be paid to non-professional employees only.

  • Groveton school board OKs improvement plan

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO - Groveton ISD logo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — The Board of Trustees for Groveton ISD again approved an improvement plan for the elementary school.

    The need for the approval was because the submission form had changed; the state requires a three-year plan be in place.

    One part of the plan includes using test scores to drive instruction. Also, items were adjusted because of the affect of COVID-19.

    In a separate matter, the council denied a request for appeal from a resident of the district over a decision made regarding a student.

    No details about the incident, including the student’s name, were revealed because of privacy laws.

    The appeal was rejected because it was not filed in a timely manner, according to Board President Mark Folds.

    The decision was first appealed to the High School principal, who upheld the decision; then to Superintendent Don Hamilton, who also denied it.

    In other business, the board:

    • approved a missed school days waiver, as the district missed more days than were allowed for on the previous calendar; and
    • approved the Dec. 17 board meeting to be the date for the superintendent’s evaluation.
  • Livingston recognizes promoted officers and approves holiday schedule

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Livingston Police officers Marty Drake (left) and Kaleb Barker were recently promoted to new positions within the department. Drake was promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Barker was promoted from patrol to detective.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish recognized a pair of longtime officers in his department Tuesday evening at the City of Livingston’s monthly council meeting at Livingston City Hall.

    Marty Drake was recently promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Kaleb Barker was promoted from patrol to detective. Drake has been with the LPD for 20 years, while Barker has been with the department for 16.

    “We’re fortunate enough to have most of our department with master peace officers,” Drake said. “We make sure the cases are followed up in a timely manner. The detectives do a great job and it makes my job a lot easier. We have sergeants and patrol officers who are fair and make good decisions.”

    Drake joined LPD in August 2001. He started out as a reserve deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 before joining the Onalaska Police Department as a patrol officer and school officer, then moved on to Livingston.

    “Livingston earned a Cops in Schools grant in 2001 and that’s when I went to Livingston,” Drake said.

    Drake spent the first 12 years with the LPD as an officer at Livingston Junior High. In 2013, he became a detective before earning his promotion to lieutenant three weeks ago.

    “It’s different policing in school and policing on the street,” Drake said. “The detective is on the investigative side of things where a patrol officer on the street works the case as far up as it will go. They go case after case after case. The detective does follow-up interviews and picks up evidence. The detectives file complaints, deal with the DA’s office, go to the judges to get the warrants and continue the investigation all the way through. As a lieutenant, we oversee patrol and detectives.”

    Barker joined the LPD in September 2005. He spent the first six years in dispatch before becoming a patrol officer in 2011, where he served until earning his promotion to detective two weeks ago.

    “It’s a totally different world (detective and patrol),” Barker said. “I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the patrol guys. When you’re a detective, you typically go by yourself. You don’t have a partner coming with you, but you’re not in too many dangerous situations. A lot of times, it’s me going to a business to look at the camera system and request copies of a surveillance video. I’ll be doing more investigation.”

    In other items of business, the city approved the holiday compensation for employees and council aldermen, the holiday observances for 2021, and a resolution for a public hearing at the Dec. 8 meeting and dues for Brazos Transit. Also approved was a payment of $56,430 to Maguire Iron for the elevated water tanks project.

    “The employees get turkeys or hams for Thanksgiving, employees who has been with the city at least a year gets a week’s salary, employees who have been with us less than a year get $50, and the council members get turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” City Manager Bill Wiggins said. “The holidays are going to be New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr., two days for Thanksgiving, two days for Christmas, Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Good Friday and Labor Day. The Bauers have the tract of land just east of Peters Tractor & Equipment. We’ll have the hearing on annexing that tract on Dec. 8. Aideney Reeves will be the Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board member. The city’s portion is $4,200 and it’s an annual contribution. We help the county with their portion.”

    Livingston city council will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8.

  • New businesses breaking ground in Livingston

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE From left, Livingston city aldermen Clarke Evans, Elgin Davis and Raymond Luna listen to city manager Bill Wiggins’ report Tuesday evening.

    By Jason Chlapek

    The future is bright for the city of Livingston.

    City manager Bill Wiggins announced at Tuesday’s monthly city council meeting during his report that several new businesses, including some popular chain restaurants, are breaking ground in Livingston. Among these are Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Starbucks.

    “The new year is very exciting as far as new projects getting started,” Wiggins said. “Chick-fil-A broke ground just west of town last week, an 80-unit apartment complex broke ground, and Starbucks started Monday. We’re very excited with some of the new projects that have been going on.”

    Regas Contractors is building Chick-fil-A, which city officials hope will be open by May. A permit has been given and dirt work has begun on the restaurant, which will have an address of 1821 US Highway 190 West.

    Panda Express and Starbucks will both be located in the Walmart parking lot. The building permit for Starbucks was given on Friday and ground broke on the project Monday.

    Panda Express has not set a construction date yet. Other projects in Livingston include Blue Wave Car Wash, Country Place Senior Living, Health Center of East Texas, House of Mary, Livingston Memorial United Methodist Church, Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments and T-Mobile.

    “We’re very optimistic that we can somehow get a hold on Covid,” Wiggins said. “We need to.”

    Council aldermen also approved a pair of public hearings that will take place at next month’s meeting on Feb. 9. One is for the demolition process of a former hotel located on 1200 N. Washington and the other for a dilapidated residence located on 1958 S. Washington.

    “They’ve (the former hotel owners) got the asbestos work done and the next step will be getting a contractor to do the demolition,” Wiggins said. “They should be starting on the demolition by Feb. 9. If not, they have to come to the hearing and let us know what the hold-up is. The demolition process needs to be started by Feb. 9.”

    Next month’s city council meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • Onalaska City recognizes local election results

    SwearinChoateEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA I PCE David Johnson swears in newly re-elected Mayor Chip Choate before being sworn in himself as Municipal judge.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    ONALASKA - Re-elected Mayor Chip Choate opened the monthly Onalaska city meeting with news of an agreement made with TXDOT to allow the city to place flags on the Kickapoo Creek bridge, outside of the guardrails. Traditionally, the city has put flags along Highway 190 on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, but has been unable to along the bridge due to TXDOT regulations.

    During his announcements, the mayor also encouraged meeting-goers to reach out to their representatives, James White and Robert Nichols, citing their inaction on legislation to assist the Alabama-Coushatta reservation in retaining their gaming activities. With hundreds of bills already filed for the 87th legislation, which will start at noon on Jan. 21, 2021, there is still time to reach out to representatives to better help the tribe, which helps bring millions of dollars to East Texas and Polk County.

    For a list of representatives by zip code, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.

    The city approved several hires and appointments, including Onalaska-raised Simon Prince, who will serve as a full-time officer with a standard probationary period. Chief Jessica Stanton said his prior experience includes working in Cleveland and in San Jacinto County before deciding to move back.

    Other positions include the re-appointment of David Johnson for Municipal Judge, Associate Judge Greg Magee, city council member Paul Laverty, and newly appointed Attorney and Prosecutor for Onalaska, Chris Thompson. Thompson will replace David Mormon, who earlier resigned after 17 years with the city to take on a judgeship for Walker County.

    Shirley Gilmore was also continue serving as Mayor Pro-tem.

    City Events

    On Nov. 21, the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department will hold a blood drive from 2:30-7 p.m. Those wishing to participate must sign up online prior to giving blood.

    Sign-up forms can be found at tinyurl.com/y56z8mkp.All. Successful donations will include a free Covid-19 anti-body test.

    The Second Annual Onalaska Reindeer Dash will be on the afternoon of Dec. 5, which the Christmas Parade immediately following. Parade participants will toss candy and parade-goers are encouraged to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

    For more information on the race or parade, contact Tammy Seader at 936-646-5000 or visit the city’s Facebook Page. Parade forms are also available online at cityofonalaska.us.

    The City of Onalaska meets every second Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Public comments can be made at beginning of the meeting.

  • Polk County approves land for solar plant

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP law firm talks to Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County could be getting solar power in the next few years.

    Commissioners approved a measure to establish a reinvestment zone for the purpose of tax abatement to provide economic development within the county Tuesday morning. The reinvestment zone consists of a total of 5,939.349 acres in the eastern portion of the county.

    “Solar power will bring jobs and new industry.,” George Riggs of Long Road Energy said. “It builds the tax base and it’s more revenue for the landowners. The more projects you have like this, the more opportunities you have for storage of equipment, warehousing and repair facilities. It brings a whole new dynamic to the area. In addition to timber, you have a whole new industry.”

    The county has been in talks with solar companies for nearly four years. The project is expected to break ground during the first quarter of 2021 and completion is projected for the fourth quarter of 2022.

    “This process has taken about four years,” Riggs said. “Normally it takes about 3-4 years to get it approved. Once we break ground, it’ll take a year to a year and a half to complete. This is our first East Texas project. We chose Polk County because the close proximity to the transmission lines that service this area.”

    Riggs is a former commissioner in Pecos County. Most of his company’s work is done in West Texas.

    Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass and Magee, LLP represents the county through this agreement. He talked about the process to get these projects approved and ultimately finished.

    “(Long Road Energy) came to us with the proposal,” Bass said. “These projects are built in a reinvestment zone. There’s several layers of this process. First, the developer goes out and leases ground from the landowner so they have a place to build. Next they go to the taxing entities to tie down their tax burdens. Then they have to essentially find a buyer for the power and go to a lender to borrow the money to fund the project. This is basically the second step toward that. We hope it will develop and I expect that this project will go on through.”

    In other items, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office decided to stay with its current resident banking and commissary service, a community development block grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture in support of Dallardsville-Segno water improvements was approved, and a resolution adopting civil rights plans and procedures was approved. Commissioners court meets again at 9 a.m. Nov. 24.

  • Shepherd city meets for election results

    Shepherd CityEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Yvonne R. Cones gets sworn in as a city alderman following the Nov. 3 elections.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    SHEPHERD - Brenda Myers, Executive Director of the Impact Center in Shepherd, addressed the council regarding ordinance violation fees she had received while trying to build a free-standing restroom near the center.

    Myers, who is being fined for failing to obtain a building permit which would ensure the structure is up to ADA standards, (a water and electric permit had been obtained prior), claimed she was given bad information when she asked what permits she would need. Per city ordinance, buildings that have not obtained all proper permits prior to construction will be fined double the original cost. Myers, along with several members of the crowd, pleaded with the council to drop the violation fees.

    After several minutes of discourse, a vote to dismiss the fine was reached, with the possibility of having the Shepherd Economic Development Cooperation (EDC) determine if they are able to help with the permit fees, since the restroom may serve public use. The Impact Center, located in Shepherd, is a 501c3 non-profit that provides relief programs to several surrounding counties.

    Update to voting results

    At 4:30 p.m., shortly before the Tuesday monthly council meeting, election results for the City of Shepherd were certified, with Mayor Charles P. Minton serving his second term as Mayor, unopposed. Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who had won a majority of the votes and was set to take on an alderman position, was discovered to be ineligible to hold the position due to an old conviction on his record.

    Despite having served his term and taking care of all associated matters, according to Texas Election Code, a felony conviction leaves individuals unable to hold public office without a governor pardon, something the board and Wesley did not know until after the election. Since the offense occurred in Louisiana, he would need a pardon from that state’s governor to serve in Texas.

    The city’s attorney, Larry Foerster, spoke with the Secretary of State in Texas in an attempt to find a legal way that would allow Wesley to serve, citing overwhelming support from his community as a testament to his character, but was unable to find an initial solution. With two positions open for city alderman, Yvonne R. Cones will fill one, and if they are unable to find a course of action to instate Wesley, a special election will be held to fill the second.

    Both the legal entities for the city and Wesley encouraged the audience to reach out to representative Earnest Bailes and Robert Nichols to try and change the current law that makes felons ineligible to hold public office.

    Other Business

    With money left over from not holding a July fireworks ceremony, the Chamber of Commerce and Impact center are seeking to combine their holiday events for a Christmas fireworks show and parade on Dec. 5 with the parade starting at 6 p.m. Two job vacancies will be posted to the city’s website, one for a temporary front office position and the other for the public works department.

    The November Food Bank Drive will happen on Nov. 20 from 4-7 p.m.