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  • Spurger students obtain workforce certifications (VIDEO)

    Screenshot 2021 02 18 page0001 pdfCOURTESY OF AMANDA HATTON Spurger FFA welders passed their state test and now hold a certificate to weld. Five received multiple levels of certifications.

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    SPURGER – The Spurger ISD board of trustees met last Thursday on February 11, 2021 to discuss regular agenda items and recognize students for getting certified in welding and floral knowledge.

    The meeting began at 7:02 PM with Ag teacher of 43 years, Ken Cauthen, and Ag/Floral design teacher Amber Conner boasting of the students’ success.

    “These rascals work, and I like ‘em,” said Cauthen, “We need some people that are workers in this world.”

    Cauthen’s inspiring speech explained further his ideals of how education is sometimes gained through work rather than books. “You cannot learn out of a book… We can look at all the pictures in the world, but you got to put your hands on something.”

    Eleanor Holderman presented the Tyler county historical commission (TCHC). She spoke of many of the legendary Tyler County historical figures, specifically Dr. Josiah Wheat one of the first pioneers to settle on the Neches River, Fannie Jenkins, the last operator of Sheffield’s Ferry, and Henry Gainer, the first black pastor in Texas.

    The group donated a flag to the school campaigning their #wearetylercounty promotion for the 175th anniversary of Tyler County April 4th, 2021.

    Spurger ISD Superintendent, Morgan Write spoke to the board about the school’s goals and how they have been utilizing the Deep East Texas College & Career Academy (DETCCA).

    Write explained the students, “can get an Associates when they leave High school,” and they are encouraged to take those courses.

    Any student is eligible starting their Freshman year, but to continue, they must take the TSI exam.

    Welding, Automotive technology, Criminal Justice, and Cyber Security are the degrees listed on the Career & Technology (CT) Education program. However, there are more certifications and schools to come. “There’s a fire school coming in the fall,” said Write.

    The school also has ties with the Texas Workforce Commission that have certifications in Paramedic and Nationally Registered EMT.

    Write also mentioned the Drop-Out Program that DETCCA offers, saying there were now night classes being offered for High school drop-outs up to the age of 24. Welding and CDL certifications are offered through the program.

    Elementary Principal’s Report

    “Enrollment is pretty steady,” said Elementary principal Jason Drake. Drake mentioned he went to five students’ homes that had attendance issues, with a majority of them not answering the door.

    Drake also reported that the Elementary placed second in UIL, but noted it wasn’t easy to get to that position.

    “This a rough year,” said Drake, “I went through seven observations this week. Our teachers are rocking it. I’ve been impressed.”

    High school Principal’s Report

    High school principal Amanda Hatton spoke before the board on several topics. Chic-fil-a becoming the popular fundraising activity, where all proceeds go back to students. On a non-health food day, Hatton brings Chic-fil-a sandwiches to the school and sells them for $6 per sandwich. She encouraged board members to join them and purchase some for lunch.

    Hatton also spoke on a less than orthodox way of finding enrolled students who have been absent and with 36 remote learners, the probability of students not attending class can be higher.

    “These kids have just disappeared on us,” said Hatton, “Usually we shut off their access to their computers to get the students to get in contact with us.”

    Students have all been given Chromebook computers and internet hotspots in the event of necessary distance learning.

    She also briefed the board about College, College and Military Readiness (CCMR) saying they had, “Seven students Due to take a Microsoft test.”

    The school also now has instructional partners, which is a company that works with rural schools.

    The instructional partners are being used to help with learning gaps.

    “They help us where we need so teachers can continue to grow,” explained Hatton, “We developed a plan to address the gaps that we’ve been seeing.”

    Other Business

    • The review board needs a new member, with one stepping down. They get paid and miles paid for.
    • Spurger received an ExxonMobil grant of $500 donated to each campus for math and science. “It can be used accordingly, but for math and science specifically,” said Write.
    • After two year of waiting for a $25,000 security grant, the school will receive updated security devices. “We will have cameras on the perimeter.” Said Write. The bathrooms will also have smoke detectors installed that can detect E-cigarette vapors.
    • The TEA will have a presentation over the 20-21 accountability on February 24 2021.
    • Boys and girls are finishing up basketball. There will not be any scrimmages or practices the following week due to quarantine issues. If there are two more wins, Spurger could be in the playoffs in Huntington.
    • Spurger will not have a baseball team this year due to low participation. However, the students that do want to participate will be covering fundamentals throughout the year.
  • Trinity City Council taking it to the streets

    trinity txFILE PHOTO Trinity, TX

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity City Council will be looking into some financing to resurface a few roads.

    At its regular meeting on Thursday, the council authorized seeking $500,000 to chip seal roads.

    Council Member Bubba Smith said that he had a problem with getting money without having a clear purpose; however, Mayor Wayne Huffman said the loan would not be signed until the city determined what roads were in most need of repair.

    Huffman said there will be a work session at a later date to decide the order, and all council members will have input.

    The Economic Development Board initially planned to loan the city the funds at 1.5 percent interest, but it was later determined that might not be legal. Huffman said then they will seek the funds from the bank, but will need to negotiate a lower interest rate than 4 percent.

    During the public forum, Smith said he has been receiving complaints about certain properties that are cluttered with junk and have become eyesores, particularly a property near the intersection of Church and Elm streets.

    Smith said the mess was bad enough that if anyone were to park in the roadway across the street, all traffic would be blocked.

    Council Member Clegg DeWalt expressed frustration, saying he has tried for years to get something done.

    However, Jones, who also serves as police chief, said that in the past when he went to enforce the city’s nuisance ordinances, he was stopped by the city council. He also said the resident of the house in question has been approached many times and nothing has come of it.

    Jones also said that he would begin enforcing the ordinances, but it will need to be done across the board.

    In other business, the council:

    • approved an order certifying that all city candidates were unopposed in the May 1 election;
    • approved an order cancelling the May 1 city election;
    • approved the annual Racial Profiling Report for the Police Department;
    • approved a request from the city’s Economic Development Board to loan $20,000 to the city for a July 4 celebration; and
    • approved an application for a $500,000 grant through the Texas Community Development Block Grant program for water system improvements.
  • Trinity County approves contract with Groveton EMS

    trinityFILE PHOTO - Trinity County courthouse

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners Court now has a new contract with Groveton EMS for ambulance services, but not without some discussion as to the nature of the $1,500 monthly payment.

    While both the county and Groveton EMS agree that ambulance service is needed, the county on Nov. 10 approved a $1,500 monthly stipend, while the EMS service sought a contract that was based on a fee for services.

    Grover Worsham, who owned the service and sold it to current owner David Robison, said he understood Robison’s position, but the real issue was getting the ambulances to run.

    Robison initially asked for the contract to read fee for services as it would benefit the organization in the long run; his argument was that the language made the difference between a vendor relationship and a dependent relationship. However, County Judge Doug Page said the contract will read subsidy based on advice from County Attorney Joe Warner Bell.

    In the end, both sides agreed that it would be best to end the negotiations and approve the contract. The previous contract expired in December 2019. This contract will last seven years with a 90-day right of termination.

    In other business, the county:

    • canvassed the county votes from the Nov. 3 General Election;
    • approved $332,106 from the October check register;
    • approved a budget amendment moving $7,952 into the general fund;
    • approved issuing a county credit card to Sheriff Woody Wallace;
    • approved disbursing Family Protection Fee funds to three county agencies;
    • approved the sale of surplus equipment;
    • approved bids for the sale of tax resale properties from the County Appraisal District; and
    • approved a resolution authorizing $35,000 in county funds as part of a Community Development Block Grant, a project sponsored by the Deep East Texas Council of Government, for the improvement of regional radio communications infrastructure.
  • Trinity County Officials take county to task on pay scales

    CountysealFILE PHOTO Trinity County Seal

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on March 23 heard threats of lawsuits regarding decisions on pay raises.

    County Clerk Shasta Bergman told the court that there is a pay disparity between the employees of female elected officials and that of male elected officials, and she, by submitting several requests for raises, was addressing the problem.

    Of the four requests that were submitted, three were for Bergman’s employees; one for an additional $2.78 on a salary of $10.92 per hour, one for an additional $3.22 on the chief deputy’s salary of $11.20 per hour, and the last for an additional $1 on a salary of $10.50 per hour.

    Bergman told the funds for the raises would be taken from her department’s Records Management account, and not from the general fund, which would not affect county income or tax dollars because the funds came from fees charged for record-keeping.

    She also said those funds can only be used in her office, and mostly for salaries.

    However, Commissioner Mike Loftin said during the budget season last year that the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal, despite being told by Bergman that the raises will not affect the county budget.

    Commissioner Neal Smith said that the county attempted to look at all departments equally, and had the pay scales within pennies of each other.

    “You can’t starve people out of a job,” Bergman said. “You are setting yourself up for trouble.”

    Sheriff Woody Wallace said the county needed to be mindful of the legal ramifications of its decisions, saying also that he was “sick and tired” of his deputies having to work second jobs to feed their children.

    “We need to look at this before we find ourselves in a class action lawsuit,” he said.

    Loftin insisted that he understands the plight of the employees, but said the idea was to wait until this year’s budget season to determine what money was available; Bergman again said that the funds came from a different source than tax dollars.

    Commissioner Steven Truss said that if the court approved the raises, then all departments will be seeking raises.

    Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve the raises, which had to be seconded by County Judge Doug Page. The end result, though, was that Smith, Loftin and Truss voted against the raises.

    Bergman told commissioners then that she will present the raises in the same manner until they are approved, or they are handled through legal means.

    In other business, the county:

    • approved the appointment of Stacye Tullos as Trinity County Extension Agent-Ag and Natural Resources;
    • proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month;
    • discussed billing from Groveton EMS regarding visits to inmates; and
    • recognized the county’s constables for taking training regarding the state Open Meetings and Public Information acts.
  • Trinity County reverses stand

    042221 countyTONY FARKAS | TCNS County Judge Doug Page is surrounded by SAAFE House members Rana Wingo, Tracy Szymczak and Renee Murphy as the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month on April 23.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — With the exception of one commissioner, the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court approved personnel changes — including pay raises — at its Tuesday meeting.

    After a raucous meeting on March 23, the commission denied approval of any personnel action forms because they contained pay raises.

    Commissioner Mike Loftin said at the time that during the budget season last year, the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal.

    At the April 13 meeting, Loftin questioned the source of the raises, noting that none will increase the bottom line of department budgets.

    “As long as the budget’s not changing, it is OK,” Loftin said. “We face something we’ve never faced because of COVID — people lost their jobs — and that was the concern that I had. We didn’t know how much tax revenue we would be gaining, and we didn’t need to be eating up our savings.”

    He also said he found out that tax collections are very close to last year’s levels.

    Commissioner Neal Smith said that now is not the time to be giving raises.

    “Since I’ve been on the court, we’ve given raises ever year except last year,” he said. “Now, we’re jumping around and giving this one a little, and that one a little, and that’s not fair, and every month they’re coming in for more and more.”

    Smith said the requests will start coming in from all departments requesting raises, and while he is not against paying employees more, he is against approving raises at this time.

    Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Loftin. Smith was the only commissioner voting against the measure.

    Commissioner Steven Truss said that regardless of the outcome of the vote, there needed to be some organization regarding pay raises across the board, suggesting there be a scale instituted, much like there is at the state level.

    Smith agreed, saying that he is aware that some starting employees are hired making more that people who have been with the county for 30 years or more, and that pay needs to be fair.

    “I’m not against people making more money, but we need to be equal about this,” he said.

    The court agreed, and approved the payment of $5,000 for an outside firm to conduct an employee compensation study, which will also provide suggestions for a scale as well as determine how employees’ salaries stack up to state averages.

    In other business, the county:

    • proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Trinity County;
    • proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month;
    • approved a budget amendment moving funds into vehicle maintenance after the city received insurance money to fix the wrecked Sheriff’s Department vehicle;
    • approved a measure allowing the county to hire for a cleanup of phone and IT cables and the addition of three wifi access points in the County Annex;
    • approved closing a bank account the county no longer used;
    • approved hiring a part-time clerk to hand filing and processing of notices for nuisance abatements;
    • approved the purchase of several used vehicles from the Texas Forest Service;
    • approved a road use agreement for Precinct 1; and
    • approved a replat of lots on Merrywood Drive
  • Trinity ISD OKs distance learning plans

    110520 trinity isdCOURTESY PHOTO - Misty Coleman was named professional employee of the month, Keri Dobbs the paraprofessional employee of the month and Ben Stubbs the support employee of the month at the Oct. 26 Trinity ISD School Board meeting.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity Independent School District board approved a distance learning plan, while at the same time approving a plan to get students back into the classroom.

    Superintendent Dr. John Kaufman said the state approved its learning plan on the first go-around, which was rare.

    However, Kaufman said that with the board’s approval, he hopes to have everyone back in class by the end of the semester. The plan is to start with one or two grades per campus, wait two weeks, and bring back two more.

    Currently, 65 students use distance learning throughout the district, which has about 1,200 students.

    “We’ve had a non-success rate of 64 percent of students doing remote learning,” he said. “That’s alarming, especially when there’s a 14 percent non-success rate for face-to-face.”

    Kaufman said students that have failed in the first six weeks could either come back for face-to-face learning, be homeschooled, move to a virtual learning environment, or transfer to another district for virtual learning. Students who maintained passing grades will remain in virtual learning until the third six weeks, and plans are to then start phasing them back for face-to-face instruction.

    “Face learning is more productive, and has a social aspect that kids need to have,” Kaufman said. “We need to get them back to the classroom. I understand about how parents feel about the safety of their children; but our mitigation efforts at the schools have been very good. We’re taking every precaution to keep our kids safe.”

    However, students can remain on virtual learning can remain there if there’s a verified medical condition that would require that separation, Kaufman said.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved moving the November meeting to Nov. 16, when election results will be canvassed;

    •approved resolutions for the Trinity County Appraisal District; and

    •discussed all board members meeting their continuing education credits.

  • Trinity to replace some sewer lines

    111920 trinity 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Justice of the Peace Hayne Huffman (right) swears in (from left) Clegg DeWalt, Wayne Huffman and Chris Dennis at the Nov. 12 Trinity City Council meeting. The three were re-elected to their posts on Nov. 3.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Christmas came early to the Trinity City Council in the form of a $275,000 no-match grant that will help replace some aging infrastructure.

    At its regular meeting on Nov. 12, the city discussed a grant that Police Chief Steven Jones said was initially denied.

    “Council Member Bubba Smith and I were in Lufkin to discuss it, and we were told that we did not get the grant,” Jones said. “… I got a call out of nowhere recently that said we did get the grant, and we have a confirmation email.”

    Engineers will now begin work on replacing a sewer line that runs between Trinity Memorial Hospital and Rockdale Street. He also said it has zero match.

    In other business, the city:

    • •approved the canvass of votes in the Nov. 3 election of city officials, and swore in returning council members Smith, Clegg DeWalt and Chris Dennis, Mayor Wayne Huffman, and Municipal Judge Lyle Stubbs.
    • •re-appointed Billy Goodin as Mayor Pro Tem;
    • •approved changes to persons allowed to handle the night depository bag;
    • •approved $1,500 in Hotel/Motel funds for the Christmas at the Crossroads event; and
    • •approved receipt of the city audit for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Auditor Dianne Sollock informed the council that the audit has an “unmodified opinion,” which is the best outcome, and also said that the city’s financial picture is improving year to year.
  • Virus concerns lead to declining attendance for Rotary Club

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Rotary Club of Livingston president Matt Anderson conducts business at last week’s Rotary Club meeting at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Matt Anderson remembers when Rotary Club of Livingston met on a weekly basis.

    He also remembers when there were 30-40 club members meeting on a weekly basis. But things have changed since Covid-19.

    The local Rotary Club has met every other Thursday since the pandemic and attendance at the meetings has declined. Many of the club members are in the 50-over age group, which is more susceptible to adverse effects from Covid.

    “The main reason for declining attendance is the health concerns related to Covid,” Anderson said. “People are a little leery to meet in large groups and to expose themselves is what the majority of our members have expressed. The majority of our members are mature and they’re the ones that are more susceptible to Covid.”

    Anderson is the president of Rotary Club of Livingston. He would like to see attendance return to the way it was prior to Covid, and an increase in membership.

    “In the past we’ve had committees and chairs that have taken care of and brainstormed different ideas for recruiting new members,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, the last 6-8 months have been kind of stopped and had a pause button placed on it. We’re more in maintaining mode right now than we are growth mode or anything else. It’s just really hard right now to get new members and do events. We want new members and welcome new members. Unfortunately, this past year we have not been able to do the events we normally do or help out with them.”

    While things are not as active as they were prior to Covid, Rotary Club is still going to perform two of its biggest service projects, albeit on a smaller scale. Anderson said manpower, not finances, are more of a reason behind this.

    “We’re still doing the Empty Stocking program to help our community, but we’re doing it on a smaller scale just for the sheer number of volunteers and community help that we have,” he said. “We need people to help us shop and to deliver. Unfortunately, right now we don’t have as many as we normally do. We have our Pancake Supper toward the end of February. We’re still planning on having that, but with a revised schedule of having a drive-thru meal option. We hope the community is still looking forward to having some Rotary Pancakes.”

    For the moment, Rotary Club meets every other Thursday at noon at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. Anderson said things could change once the new year starts.

    “We’re doing every-other-week meetings to help people social distance,” he said. “We can go back to meeting once a week if that helps our members if that’s what our membership wants. We’re trying to do what’s best for our membership, listen to what their needs are and what they want. With the holidays approaching, lots of our members travel and visit families so it’s a little harder right now. If we decide to resume weekly meetings, it would be in January before we did that.”

  • WISD discusses first step in long-range planning

    SHP Donation 042221CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Wheat Elementary students present a check to Brian and Deborah Smith of Sleep in Heavenly Peace. The students raised the money through a coin drive fundraiser.

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting, the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees discussed taking the first steps toward long-range planning involving its facilities.

    The district recently went out for request for proposals from architects and construction managers and received eight submitted proposals. Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg said that in reviewing the materials and conducting interviews, it will be a matter of finding out who will be able to suit the district best. “This is the initial part of seeing what firm best fits the district’s needs,” Meysembourg said.

    The board discussed the best method for reviewing the proposals and agreed to use a 10-day period for review, ranking and to schedule interviews on May 10.

    Meysembourg emphasized that in gathering the proposals and reviewing them that was the first step toward whatever the district might need in the future; that there’s been no discussion of any expenditures concerning the facilities or other infrastructure concerns, and that needs might change years down the road.

    Wheat Elementary students make presentations

    At Monday night’s meeting, the WISD board convened with a full boardroom full of Wheat Elementary students, faculty and parents. Several Wheat second graders and gifted and talented students made presentations. Wheat Vice Principal Allison Mosley and second-grade teacher Bridgette Stott introduced the students.

    The presentations by the second graders ranged from facts about flying squirrels to a discussion about what tigers eat. Stott said the students began their projects in March, with researching.

    The GT students presented a check to the Woodville chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, which builds beds for children who do not have beds to sleep in.

    The GT students, through a coin drive fundraiser, raised more than $1,200 to give to the charitable organization. SHP’s Brian and Deborah Smith were on hand to accept the donation. Stott said the fundraiser was helpful in teaching financial literacy to the students.

    On behalf of the WISD board, Vice President John Wilson said the students’ efforts made the board, faculty and parents of the district proud.

    Other Business

    At its meeting, the WISD board also approved the following items:

    • The board approved a resolution regarding affordable broadband access. The resolution is one going through school boards across the state, Meysembourg said. She said broadband access has “a critical impact upon the education of our students.” The resolution will be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott and the state legislature.
    • The Texas Education Agency’s annual verification for TEKS certification was approved.
    • A two-year extension for WISD’s depository contract with Citizens State Bank was approved.
    • The next regular meeting of the WISD Board of Trustees is scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, May 17.
  • Woodville ISD approves goals; terminates remote learning

    Lisa Meysembourg 072320File Photo - Woodville ISD superintendant Lisa Meysembourg

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The Woodville ISD Board of Trustees discussed and approved a pair of agenda items relating to district-wide goals and improvement plans respective to each WISD campus at its Monday night meeting.

    The first item up for discussion was the district’s revised goals, with respect to how they relate to the district’s own goals as well as meeting goals with regard to the sweeping House Bill 3 passed during the last legislative session. WISD Curriculum Director Ashley Weatherford spoke about this item, and where the district needs to be.

    “We’re at the point where we need to dig deeper,” she said, and explained that data is being looked at through the federally required metric of student achievement meeting the appropriate grade levels. She cited, as an example, data that showed WISD’s third grade as performing at 67% below the level for reading and 84% for math.

    Weatherford said one new goal set forth, district-wide, is the investment in technology infrastructure and professional development, and she added that in spite of the “COVID slide” throughout the second half of last school year and this year’s term, she has seen some “great wins” on each WISD campus.

    WISD campus principals each spoke to their respective campus improvement plans. Woodville Middle School principal Kevin Frauenberger said that his campus’s two main goals are to improve community relations through outreach and to improve student achievement.

    High school principal Rusty Minyard said his campus goals are focusing on two areas: reaching out and nurturing the student population in the low-income socioeconomic demographic for them to succeed and supporting his campus’s teachers.

    “I want them to feel good about coming to work every day,” Minyard said.

    Woodville Intermediate principal Bonnie Trammell said that her campus’s priority is to meet standards appropriate to grade levels and putting resources and energies into training teachers with flexible, data-driven plans.

    Along with the goals and improvement plans, the board also approved a one-time incentive payment for all WISD employees for their November paychecks. Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg said the incentive, which will be a bonus of about $300 per employee, is a way to recognize the hard work and dedication of the district’s faculty and staff during this school year with all of its changes due to COVID-19.

    In another measure related to the coronavirus, WISD voted to terminate remote learning. Board president Jimmy Tucker said that many of the districts in the region are dropping remote learning, and Meysembourg said “We just need our kids back in school.”

    Meysembourg gave an update from the Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath about remote instruction that gives school districts the latitude to either continue or terminate remote learning, but to give the option for those who must be quarantined due to compromised immune systems.

  • Woodville recognizes Blind Veterans Day

    NEWS Woodville City Hall 03 10 21USED COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS The Woodville City Hall

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, the Woodville City Council began with a proclamation to honor blind military veterans in Woodville.

    Mayor Paula Jones read the proclamation aloud

    The date of March 28 is recognized nationwide as Blinded Veterans Day, recognition that is now in its 76th year, enacted by the 111th Congress to aid in rehabilitative efforts for our nation’s blinded veterans.

    Such efforts as improving the VA’s vision rehabilitation services, benefits, research and caregiver support for blinded veterans.

    Cleanup scheduled

    Under the “Items of Community Interest” standing agenda item, City Administrator Mandy Risinger apprised the council on a variety of ongoing projects and events within the city limits.

    One such topic is the city’s annual cleanup effort, which begun on Monday and will last through Friday, March 19.

    The city will accept heavy waste at its warehouse, located at 200 Wingate Street. Residents can take advantage of this opportunity for disposal of heavy, solid waste items during this time period from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    There will also be “Be Green – Stay Clean” events on Saturday and on March 20, and Risinger encouraged individuals, as well as organizations to take part in the effort.

    On a related topic during her report of community-related items, Risinger said the city will begin sending out letters to property owners of problematic and/or nuisance properties soon to compel them to clean-up said properties. There will also be hearings scheduled over these matters, also with substandard buildings. These issues have been put on hold due to COVID, she said.

    Risinger also spoke about the coming Dogwood Festival events, all of which are scheduled to take place as they traditionally do, with Festival of the Arts at Heritage Village; Western Weekend and Queen’s Weekend, scheduled for the third and fourth weekends in March and first weekend in April, respectively.

    She referred to the language of Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order, which ended the mask mandate and reopened occupancy for businesses to 100%, statewide. She said the order does not address public gatherings, and the previous order addressing them allows for localized approval for events of more than 10 people. The festival’s governing board has already approached the city for approval, which was granted, Risinger said.

    The city is not planning to issue any vendor permits until May 1, however, which will be after the festival has taken place. “By that time, vaccinations should be readily available, and the summer months will be on,” Risinger said, which are both factors that will further mitigate the spread of the virus, which is in decline locally and nationwide.

    Other Business

    • The city approved its fiscal year 2019-20 audit, which was conducted by Alexander, Lankford & Heirs. Richard Rudel reported on the audit results to the councilmembers and Jones and said there were no difficulties encountered in conducting the audit.

    • Citizens State Bank of Woodville was awarded as the city’s depository bank.

    • Risinger reported that the city looked at applying for the $350K CDBG grant cycle, with a match that is to be calculated based on variables such as population. “We are primarily looking at street improvement projects (if funded),” she said. A hearing was held to look at potential projects.

    • The city approved the procurement for administration services for CDBG program grant funding to David Waxman and Associates. Risinger said the firm has helped the city obtain millions and millions of dollars throughout the years.