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  • Addressing critical in today’s world

    020421 addressingFile photo

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The people of Trinity County live in a time where health care is of special importance, especially since there is no full hospital in the area.

    Imagine, then, if in a health crisis, the ambulance ends up at an address on the wrong side of the county, or across the street, or down the block.

    Proper addressing will help first responders, utility installation, mail delivery and even the tax office, and 911 Addressing Coordinator Jolynn Wars can help make sure things are right.

    “I give incoming residents addresses if there is not one already, verify existing addresses if there is one, and if I get a state error report on an address, I correct it, and notify the resident, landowner or business owner,” she said.

    FCC regulations stipulate that 911 is the universal number for emergencies, in order to increase public safety. Enhanced 911 provides addresses to emergency personnel when a call is made, or a location if the call is made from a cell phone.

    To make the system work its best, addresses throughout the county were inspected and changed, if necessary, Wars said. However, the work is not done, and not without some resistance.

    “There’s a lot of the county not done, mainly in (the City of) Trinity,” Wars said. “When (addressing) first started, it wasn’t addressed properly. The odd and even (address numbers) are swapped on almost every street. Westwood Shores is the same. There also are problems with numbers being in the wrong range of the road.”

    The problem becomes worse, since residents and business owners continue to use old address numbers, even after the new address has been posted. Also, many addresses are not posted with the correct numbers, if at all.

    “For people moving into the county, their first phone call should be to me,” Wars said. “Utilities can’t be set up, or mobile homes can’t be moved onto properties, without a proper address.”

    Posting the address numbers, especially on roadways, is very important as well, she said, as well as changing letterheads and business cards for businesses.

    For more information, or to verify addresses, contact Wars at (936) 642-3904 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Born to Be Wild (GALLERY)

    IMG 9321PHOTOS BY PHILLIP SCHMITTENRocky Raccoon here is waiting to grow up and be released back into the wild.

    By Philip Schmitten
    TCNS Correspondent

    GROVETON — Ever wonder what happens to the animals in the wild who are sick, crippled or abandoned? They end up at Circle B Farm & Wildlife Rehab in Groveton.

    This single-family crusade to care for orphaned, abandoned and injured animals from the wild is totally paid for by the Bergman Family, who takes care of the daily routine of providing and care of the 76 animals in their care now.

    They have had more than 100 wild animals to take care of in the past. Donations are always welcome from the public and much needed.

    Shasta, Rodney, Hanna and Mattie Bergman are responsible for the daily care of these animals. With Shasta working full time as the Trinity County Clerk, Hanna and Mattie pull a lot of the day to day duties.

    All wildlife belongs to the State of Texas, so if you spot an animal who seems to be lost or in trouble, call the local Game Warden and they, most likely, will contact Circle B for the rescue.

    “We are licensed by the State of Texas to care and house these wild animals, with the goal of returning them to the wild when they are ready,” Shasta said.

    They care for just about all wild animals; they have had foxes, skunks, possums, rabbits, squirrels, deer and raccoons. The care and feeding of these animals takes some effort, but the Bergmans love what they do. Their goals are to have a sanctuary where the public can visit to see and learn about animals in the wild.

    They rescue animals from all over the area, going as far as Texarkana. At the present time there are a lot of animals going hungry due to overpopulation —the deer, rabbits and squirrels are fighting for food and starving from lack of nourishment.

    Shasta Bergman summed to up when she said, “Circle B Farm & Wildlife Rehab is dedicated to caring for orphaned and injured wildlife, with the sole intent of being able to release each animal back into the wild, where they belong.”

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  • Brookshire Brothers pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccine

    BrookshiresFILE PHOTO Brookshire Brothers logo

    Special to the News-Standard

    LUFKIN — As distribution of the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine begins at a rapid pace, Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy is proud to be one of the first retailers in the nation to offer the vaccine, as it becomes available.

    To maximize access to COVID-19 vaccines for all Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a governmental partnership with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies and regional chains — including those in retail and grocery chains — to further increase access to the vaccine across the country — particularly in traditionally underserved areas.

    Brookshire Brothers is honored to partner with HHS and the states of Texas and Louisiana in offering COVID-19 vaccine.

    The vaccine will be available in a phased approach, with the first doses being offered to healthcare workers and residents of long-term health care facilities, followed by essential workers and other high-risk individuals. It is expected to be available to the general public by spring or early summer of 2021 and will be administered at no cost to patients.

    At the Tuesday, Dec. 22, Trinity County Commissioners’ Court meeting, Emergency Management Coordinator Richard Steptoe said that the Brookshire’s in Trinity has secured 40 vaccinations, and the Brookshire’s in Groveton has secured 10.

    “Ensuring access and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans is a top priority for the Trump Administration,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs. The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

    Many pharmacists, such as the ones who work at Brookshire Brothers, are trained to provide immunizations and are already important immunizers in their communities. Pharmacists have been heralded for playing a vital role in the public health response to COVID-19 by counseling patients and expanding access to childhood vaccinations during the pandemic. By working with these partners, the federal government will rapidly expand access to COVID-19 vaccines.

    “This is consistent with our commitment to being a trusted resource for our communities. Pharmacists and their staff are some of the most accessible healthcare professionals in the nation, and we stand ready to help increase access and convenience for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once it is approved and available to us,” said Laura Edmundson, Director of Clinical Pharmacy Programs at Brookshire Brothers.

    For more information, visit BrookshireBrothers.com/pharmacy.

  • City sets fireworks date

    trinity txFILE PHOTO Trinity Texas

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — July 3, a Saturday, will be the day for Trinity’s Fourth of July celebration.

    The Trinity City Council approved the Saturday date at its regular meeting on Thursday.

    Based on Mayor Wayne Huffman’s recommendation, the council agreed that should weather cancel the show, it will be done the following Saturday, July 10.

    The council also approved expenditures recommended by the Trinity Economic and Industrial Development Corp., part of which will benefit the holiday display.

    TEIDC President Neal Smith said the board approved the payment of $9,300 for the fireworks display.

    Additionally, TEIDC will pay the city’s match portion of $75,000 for a grant that will allow the city to install sidewalks on city streets.

    Smith also told council members that the industrial park it purchased last year has billboards, which should be paying some sort of lease to the city. However, he is not aware of any such payments made as of yet.

    In other business, the city:

    •turned in signed contracts with the Trinity River Authority, to ensure the city’s water supply for about 30 years. In addition, Glendale and Trinity Rural municipalities have expressed interest in buying water from Trinity, and contracts will be available at the next meeting; and

    •Set May 1 as the date for the city election.

  • Colmesneil council accepts Davis resignation

    Colmesneil City HallPHOTO BY WENDY BENDY Colmesneil City Hall

    By Mollie LaSalle

    TYLER COUNTY – The Colmesneil City Council met for its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, with Mayor Don Baird announcing the resignation of council member Kenneth Davis.

    Davis’s resignation was effective on Sept. 10, when he notified Baird through a letter. Davis was arrested in August and charged with a felony sexual abuse charge following an investigation out of Trinity County. His resignation was accepted unanimously.

    Councilmembers held a round table discussion about a possible replacement for Davis. While many names were suggested, as of press time, no one person being considered has met the criteria for the open seat.

    All councilmembers agreed that further discussion is warranted, with members stressing the need for “some younger folks” at city hall.

    Councilmembers discussed the basketball goal on the corner of Hickory and Sutton streets once again. Baird said people have been called City Hall with complaints about it.

    The resident who owns the goal was asked on more than one occasion to remove it from its current location, which is deemed dangerous, as children are playing in or near the street at all hours.

    When the basketball goal was first installed about two to three months ago, the city contacted Texas Municipal League Attorneys about the question of liability in the event someone gets hurt. TML has stated from the beginning that the city will not be held liable for any injuries. Furthermore, the city cannot move it, and Duane Crews added that “there ought to be some way to legally move it”.

    This had been on ongoing discussion/problem for at least the last two months, with council coming up with no real solution. Continuing discussion/monitoring of the problem is the only recourse at the present time.

    Fall festival planned

    City Secretary Wendy Bendy reminded council members about the Fall Festival on October 28 at First Baptist Church. The Community Center will be opened to serve chili cheese nachos for attendees. Hayrides and other activities are planned for the event.

    Bendy also announced that as of Sept. 14, City Hall is once again open to the public, and the check-free bill pay service is operational also.

    She advised that the CD’s at Citizens Bank have all matured, except for one. Bendy also reported during the water and sewer report that there were seven leaks, one sewer tap, two meter taps, three meters turned on and three meters turned off. She also reported that water lines on Steel Grove Road are being continuously broken by logging trucks. This issue is at a stalemate for now.

    The first reading of the fiscal year 2021 city budget was tabled, pending further discussion/review, as was the matter of the basketball goal.

  • Congressman Kevin Brady looks to the next step in Washington

    Kevin BradyKevin Brady file photo - official portrait

    By Tony Farkas

    CONROEKevin Brady’s win in the election on Nov. 3 is like an energy drink — re-energizing the congressman to face the challenges ahead.

    “I’m really thrilled to be re-elected to Congressional District 8 of the Republic of Texas,” he said. “It’s an honor, always has been. However, despite the historic economic recovery after COVID, and a vaccine deployment arriving at a record pace, there’s still more work to be done.”

    Brady said his goal as Republican leader of the House Ways and Means Committee is to help defeat the coronavirus, create 10 million new jobs and create an economy even stronger than the one prior to the crash caused by the virus.

    “I’ve introduced legislation that would lock in the tax relief to benefit workers and businesses; to make America medically independent from China, and we hope to leapfrog America into the No. 1 innovation nation in the world and using our tax code to do that,” he said. “That will create millions of new tax-paying jobs, and spur manufacturing and research in America.”

    He also said he helped introduce new retirement legislation that will help more families, and more low-income workers, save for the future.

    On a separate matter, Brady said he was proud to report that the Democratic “blue wave” crashed and burned in Texas, despite record voter turnout during a COVID crisis.

    “I was proud that President Donald Trump won 230 of 254 counties in the state,” he said.
    “The Texas Republican delegation faced long odds this year, with six retirements and a total of 10 races targeted by national Democrats.”

    Brady said that despite Democrats predicting they would get the majority of the seats up for election, they got nothing, and it was especially embarrassing in the 23rd Congressional district, where a Texas Democrat promised a flip but did not deliver.

    Brady said he felt the Democrats failed to gain any ground in Texas is because conservative legislators reflect Texas values, and that there was no way to fund the crazy ideas that Democrats put for, such as defunding police.

    He also said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to stall any legislation designed to assist families dealing with the COVID crisis was a factor.

    “I’m proud that Republicans held the Texas House of representatives with no losses,” he said.

  • Election time

    groveton elec 4MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Dwayne Alsbrook and Autumn Dial attend the drawing ceremony for ballot placement on Monday at Groveton City Hall. The two have filed for candidacy for the two council positions up for election on Groveton City Council. The election will be held May 1, 2021.

    Trinity County cities and schools to hold elections 

    By Tony Farkas

    As the county creeps out from under a blanket of snow, business resumes, and that includes the business of the respective governments in the area.

    For this year, that means city and school board elections, all scheduled for May 1.

    In Groveton, Superintendent Don Hamilton said that three people have filed for election to the Groveton School Board: incumbent members Benny Abshier and Board President Mark Folds, and newcomer Sam Shanafelt.

    Early voting will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. April 19-23 and April 26-27 at the School Administration Building, 207 N. Main St., in Groveton.

    At the City of Groveton, two incumbents — Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett and Council Member Tommy Walton — have filed for the mayor position, which came open due to the passing of Mayor Byron Richards.

    For the two remaining council positions up for election, six residents have filed: Chris McFarland, Philip Schmitten, Autumn Dial, Dwayne Alsbrook, Mark Taylor and incumbent Council Member Robert Smith.

    Early voting will take place from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 19-27, with April 20-21 set aside for voting from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Ballots can be cast at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St.

    groveton elec 2MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Council Member Tommy Walton (right) and Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett will face off in a spring election for the position of Mayor of Groveton. Early voting for the May 1 election is scheduled for April 19 at City Hall.

    In the City of Trinity, both the city and school district will not have to hold elections, as only incumbent members of their respective boards have filed for candidacy.

    For the city, Mayor Pro Tem Billy Goodin and Council Member Phillip Morrison are unopposed, and will resume their positions for the next term.

    For the Trinity ISD School Board, incumbent members Judy Bishop and Elizabeth King also are unchallenged and will retain their posts.

    School districts in Apple Springs and Centerville do not have elections scheduled.

  • Groveton native competes in cowboy competition series

    020421 hunterCOURTESY PHOTO

    TCNS staff

    A Groveton native is set to compete in the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, a reality competition broadcast on the INSP Network.

    Hunter Arnold, a rodeo cowboy and horse trainer, will be one of 14 people on the program, which is scheduled to air Feb. 24.

    According to a release from the network, Season 2 of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown boasts a diverse group of 14 cowboys (men and women) from all across the country compete for a life-changing prize.

    Arnold said he was approached at the Professional Bull Riders Finals in Las Vegas by some of the show’s producers.

    “They asked if I would like to try out for the show, and I told them that I definitely would be interested,” he said.

    Arnold said wasn’t really sure what to expect, but wasn’t surprised that we had challenges involving ranch work, day work and roping cows.

    “I had put myself in the mindset to be ready for anything,” he said. “When I headed into this competition, I just tried as hard as I could, and gave it my all.”

    Screen Shot 2021 02 01 at 9.16.36 PM

    Arnold has garnered 100 buckles and 20 saddles in roping and rodeo competitions, and has trained more than 100 horses, many of which have gone on to qualify for the World Series of Team Roping.

    “I’ve lived in Groveton for 24 years; I went to elementary, middle and high school in Groveton, and graduated in 2014,” he said. “My Agriculture teacher, Mr. Fortenberry, helped to teach me how to rope. We’re still neighbors today.”

    •In the second season of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, viewers will watch 14 contestants undergo a series of physical and mental challenges that will test them individually and as teams. The last cowboy standing will walk away with a prize package that includes a herd they can take to market, a Rawhide Portable Corral, an Arrowquip Q-Catch 87 Series Cattle Chute, the coveted Ultimate Cowboy Showdown belt buckle, and a lifetime of bragging rights.

    Ultimate Cowboy Showdown shows at 8 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 24 on INSP.

  • Groveton project making good progress (VIDEO)

    121720 sidewalk updateTONY FARKAS | TCNS Groveton Mayor Byron Richards shows one of the areas designated for personalized pavers, part of the city’s downtown revitalization project.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The project to renovate and replace downtown sidewalks is proceeding rapidly.

    Mayor Byron Richards said that the project should be completed around the end of March.

    “The’ve got quite a bit done, and should have not problem finishing on time,” he said.

    Crews started on the east side of the Square, replacing sidewalks and adding handicapped access and railings; Richards said because of the season, and because there were retail outlets on the west side, work there would begin after the end of the year.

    The west side of the street will be a two-tier setup when completed, and there will be 18 old-style lights placed around the area. Colored contoured cement will be added around the sidewalks for some style and contrast.

    “We’re trying to keep the old town charm, while showing that we’re progressive,” Richards said.

    A new feature to be added will be personalized pavers, and room on both sides of the Square have been added. Richards said that orders have been sparse; however, the deadline is Feb. 28, 2021, and there are 450 spaces available.

    In order to secure a spot, there are order forms available on the city’s website — cityofgroveton.com — or by calling the city at (936) 642-1122.

    With the renovations, “maybe we can get some more businesses to move to the Square,” Richards said. “After TxDOT redid the street, we get a lot of traffic, and we want to make the city impressive.”

  • Groveton rocked by mayor’s death

    mayorCOURTESY PHOTO Mayor Richards of Groveton

     
    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — Mayor Byron Richards of Groveton passed away on Monday from complications due to COVID-19.

    Funeral services are pending.

    Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Bennett said that Richards died last night, but he was not aware of it until he received a call at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday from a fellow City Council member.

    “This is a shocking development,” Bennett said. “It’s hard for me to believe that he’s gone. We were aware he had possibly contracted the virus, and he had taken himself and his wife to CHI St. Luke’s Hospital in Lufkin.”

    Bennett also said that Richards contacted him Monday afternoon.

    “He told me over the phone that he wasn’t going to make it,” Bennett said. “It was a hard phone call to get. I’m still shook by it.

    “He thanked the secretaries for the job they’ve done for the city, and thanked the Council for backing him 100 percent,” Bennett said. “He said that I would do a good job for the city.”

    County Judge Doug Page, who also serves as the county’s Emergency Management director, called the news shocking.

    He said that Richards found out he had contracted the virus on New Year’s Eve.

    “As long as we’ve been dealing with the coronavirus, it’s the quickest I’ve heard of it taking someone down,” Page said. “It’s hitting close to home, and we will react appropriately at the county level.”

    Bennett said Richards’ wife, Sandi, also had contracted the disease, but has improved and been taken home.

    Bennett described Richards as a very humble man who was extremely passionate about Groveton.

    “The projects with the downtown renovations and changes with the water well, Richards was adamant about getting that done for the betterment of the community,” Bennett said.

    Bennett said the city plans to carry out all current projects.

    “We shouldn’t lose any continuity in those. I have a good idea of what to do,” he said. “It was always a dream for the council to bring about change the city, and the mayor was the perfect face for that.”

    Bennett said he will assume mayoral duties.

    Page said the county will continue to follow all state edicts regarding COVID-19.

    He also said there will be a free coronavirus testing from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Thursday at the Volunteer Fire Department in Trinity.

  • 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.
  • Groveton selects top superintendent candidate

    021821 hamiltonTCNS FILE PHOTO Groveton ISD Superintendent Don Hamilton (right) will be retiring effective Aug. 31, and Board President Mark Folds (left) and fellow board members selected Assistant Superintendent Jim Dillard as his replacement at a special meeting on Feb. 8.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The Groveton ISD School Board settled on a finalist for the upcoming superintendent vacancy at a special meeting on Feb. 8.

    Jim Dillard, who currently serves as the district’s assistant superintendent, will assume the top spot in September, after the retirement of current Superintendent Don Hamilton.

    Board President Mark Folds said Hamilton had some challenges and tough calls, but he had the backbone to make them.

    Folds cited the improvements to the baseball fields, the cafeteria and other items as proof of Hamilton’s dedication and service.

    “We are pleased with his work,” Folds said.

    Don Hamilton is retiring Aug. 31 after eight years as superintendent and 34 years as an educator, 31 of which were in the Groveton district.

    “I told them 2 years ago (when my contract was renewed) that this would be my last year,” he said.

    Hamilton said he was looking for a little time off, mostly to spend working on his ranch and spending time with grandsons.

    “We have done a lot of construction on the facilities, and we were named one of the top schools in America by U.S. News and World Report,” Hamilton said of his accomplishments. “We’ve had FCCLA students who have advanced to nationals, and won, we’ve had ag students excel at Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show, and Beta Club has advanced to nationals several times.

    “I hope I left the place better than when I got here,” he said.

    Folds said that aside from Dillard being the lone finalist, he also was the lone applicant, but has the board’s full support.

    Dillard has been in education since 2014, and started in the Groveton district as assistant principal for the junior/senior high school.

  • Hanging it up (VIDEO)

    122420 bell 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Joe Warner Bell talks about his tenure as County Attorney for Trinity County. His last day in office is Dec. 31.

    Trinity County attorney retiring after 43 years

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — When Joe Warner Bell first took office as Trinity County Attorney, cases were entered on typewriters, and the only places to buy liquor in the area was Houston, Huntsville and even Groveton.

    The “mostly” Trinity County native has been County attorney 43 years, 3 months 16 days and 2 hours, give or take. He got into the position because he was appointed; Bell was in private practice in Trinity for six years prior to taking the county job.

    “I was in general practice, which means I did anything that came my way, which is pretty much what I do now,” he said.

    When the 258th Judicial District was created, they needed to fill three positions — district attorney, district judge and county attorney, and Bell got the nod.

    He kept with it, though, for the simplest of reasons — it was a steady paycheck.

    “It didn’t have a lot of benefits at the time, but I felt I could do more here than I could (in private practice),” he said.

    Was appointed to the position first, then had been running for reelection since then.

    In addition to the changes in liquor sales and technology, the courthouse has changed, including his office location, which was moved six or seven times over the course of his career.

    Bell said the population of the county has doubled, and the jail, which has room for seven people and was almost never full, is full now almost all the time, with up to 40 inmates at a time.

    The most contentious commissioners’ court Bell said he has advised was the first one he served with, since it had two commissioners who were related and on opposite sides of the political spectrum, another development that is mirrored in politics today.

    Video interview with Joe Bell

    “There was one commissioner that I had prosecuted three times for DWI,” Bell said. “In fact, on the filing day for election, he was sitting in jail.”

    The things his office has had to deal with over the years has been varied, but one set of cases in particular stands out, and echoes some of the issues of today: election fraud.

    “We had some guys that … liked to play the edge,” Bell said. “At that time you had to have an excuse to vote absentee — either you were elderly or were going to be out of town. (Apparently) there were many people who had never left Trinity County in their lives were going to be out of town on election day.”

    Bell said there were ballots with forged signatures on them, and even a few of them were marked for people who were in nursing homes. Several elderly women voted twice; they had voted early, but were hauled to the polls on election day and were made to vote again.

    “I didn’t grasp the depth of the problem until I got into office,” he said. “People have said that there’s nothing wrong with mail-in voting; I voted mail-in one time and it got lost. My mother, who was over 65, voted, and her vote was tossed out because they said she was a crazy old woman. What it was, the person she voted for, they didn’t want that vote counted.”

    The more heartbreaking cases Bell said he has dealt with involves child abuse, especially when, as it happened in one case, involves the parents and stepparents. However, he said that the most rewarding part of the job was finding homes for neglected and abused children, and getting women away from abusive partners.

    Also, when Bell took office, there was a civil suit against the county over county districts, which were said to have disenfranchised African American voters; Bell got the suit delayed until new district lines could be drawn, which led to the suit being dropped.

    Bell said his position is to act as the attorney for the county, but there’s a difference between his office and district attorneys: the DA prosecutes felonies, and everything else falls under the purview of the county, except child support which goes to the attorney general.

    122420 bell 2COURTESY PHOTO Trinity County Attorney Joe Warner Bell is presented with a plaque of appreciation by representatives of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments on Thursday. Bell has been a member of the DETCOG board for 42 ½ years, since July 1, 1978, which DETCOG Executive Director Lonnie Hunt described as “some kind of record.

    “Also, we’re in charge of eminent domain, when the government comes to you and tells you they’re going to take your land,” he said. “We’ve only done that a couple of times; most landowners don’t mind giving up a little strip of land to make roads better or fix the bridges.”

    Bell said his office represents the state in child protective services cases, as well as adult protective services cases.

    “We’ve had a lot of fun,” Bell said. “I’m going to rest a bit, but I still have some work to do for the county. They’ve contracted me to do any redistricting (because of the 2020 Census).”

    Bell said that the bulk of his job has been answering questions, then, after a long chuckle, Bell said of his successor, Colton Hay: “Be ready for it, it’s coming.”

  • Inking fame

    021121 inked 2COURTESY PHOTO Trinity County resident, Destiny Sigford, competes to be cover girl for Inked Magazine.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — A Trinity County girl is hoping to grace the cover of a magazine that focuses on the art of tattoos.

    Destiny Sigford has made the Top 15 in her group, even claiming the top spot, and hopes by Thursday to make the Top 5 and enter the quarterfinals of the Inked Cover Girl competition.

    Sigford got her first tattoo at 17, saying it was a spur of the moment thing. She said they can make you feel more confident in the same way that makeup makes women feel more confident.

    “The only difference is you don't have to reapply (tattoos) every day,” she said.

    Sigford decided to enter the competition for several reasons, but most importantly because she said she has been her own worst enemy.

    “I have stood in my own way most of my life,” she said. “If I think there’s even the slightest chance I might fail at something or disappoint my kids or my family, I let those doubts keep me from trying. I am trying to approach opportunities like this with a different mindset. At the end of the day, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

    Sigford attended school in Trinity off and on growing up, and eventually her family purchased property near the county line a few years back.

    “I studied nursing at TVCC in Palestine and Angelina College in Lufkin,” she said. “Nursing was never my dream career though so when I was offered a job as a field clerk for an oil and gas company in South Texas a month after I turned 18, I decided to take it.”

    Still, the journey wasn’t easy, which led to some personal struggles.

    “I struggled with a reliable vehicle and was living in government housing,” Sigford said. “Fast forward 10 years later, and I have moved over from the contractor side of things to inspection. I still reside in Trinity technically, but I rarely get to go home. I love my job, but everything is so unpredictable in this field and I'm tired. My girls are tired of living out of an RV and switching schools constantly.”

    After struggling with depression and self-acceptance, Sigford started a fitness journey; that, combined with her love for tattoos, became a good way to celebrate her transformation.

    “I feel like if I won, it would send a powerful message to other women or struggling mothers like me to go after their dreams,” she said. “Don’t be a victim to your own doubts. It doesn't matter if you are the underdog or the deck is stacked against you; if it could change your life and you have nothing to lose by trying, go for it.”

    Aside from facing personal challenges, the competition itself will be tough for “just your everyday small-town gal from Texas.”

    “I’m going up against women who are popular influencers on Instagram or already modeling for other companies and have a huge following across multiple social media platforms,” she said.

    Sigford said that if she won the competition, the money would let her go back to college to be a civil rights attorney, or perhaps taking a course at Texas Laser Institute to get certified in micro-blading and shading and possibly opening up a small business.

    “I hope that I could make enough money doing that to get me through law school,” she said. “I'm going to need all the support I can get, and every vote is going to matter as the competition progresses.

    “I never expected the amount of support I have gotten since public voting started on Jan. 18,” Sigford said. “Even if I don't take anything else away from this, it will still have been worth it to me.”

    According to the Inked website, thousands of models registered for their chance to take home a $25,000 grand prize and be featured on the cover of the tattoo lifestyle magazine.

    To vote for a model, individuals with a valid Facebook account may use that account to vote once every 24 hours for free, as well as purchase additional votes for $1 each. A portion of the proceeds will go to the MusiCares Foundation, which helps musicians in health or financial crises.

    Voting for the Top 5 runs Feb. 4-11, followed by voting for group winners, which runs from Feb. 11-18. Group winners advance to the quarterfinals; that voting runs Feb. 19-25; semifinals run from Feb. 26-March 4; and finals voting starts March 5 and ends March 11.

    To vote for Destiny, or to find out about her standings, visit https://cover.inkedmag.com/2021/destiny-sigford.

  • Master gardener Sandra Cluck dies at 78

    cluckCOURTESY PHOTO Sandra Cluck

    Aug. 28, 1942-Dec. 5, 2020

    Sandra Lee Anderson Cluck of Vidalia, La., 78, passed away on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Natchez, Miss. Sandra is survived by her husband, Jack Cluck of Vidalia; one daughter, Cassy Muscalino and her husband, Joseph Muscalino, of Vicksburg, Miss.; one son, Jason Cluck and wife, Fran Cluck, of Shreveport, La.; and a brother, Thomas Anderson Jr. Sandra is also survived by one granddaughter, Courtney Davis, and husband, Mark Davi,s of Vidalia; and nine more grandchildren and 27 great-children. She is preceded in death by her son, Trace Cluck, and grandson Mason Cluck.

    Sandra was born in San Antonio on Aug. 28, 1942, to Teddy Jo Burnett and Thomas Anderson Sr. Sandra graduated from Pasadena High School with honors and attended Rice University. Sandra met and married Jack Cluck on June 30, 1961.

    Sandra was a devoted mother, grandmother and a master gardener in her garden club in Oklahoma and participated in numerous flower shows. Sandra enjoyed fishing, painting and caring for her family. Sandra, along with her husband and family, had the opportunity to live in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, back to Texas then finally to Louisiana to enjoy time with family.

    A private service will be held for the family.

  • Now it looks a lot like winter (GALLERY)

    jillian phillips steptoePHOTO COURTESY OF JILLIAN PHILLIPS STEPTOE A winter storm blew through Trinity County on Sunday, chilling noses and toes and creating pastoral scenes.

    Special to the News Standard

    A winter storm unloaded more snow in Texas than some areas have received in decades at the end of the weekend.

    The snow, stretched all the way from the northernmost parts of Colorado beginning Saturday, to eastern Texas by Sunday, according to Accuweather.

    The swath of heaviest snow, with 6-9 inches of accumulation in 24 hours, stretched from near Lubbock to Abilene and just west of Waco, which received 4.4 inches of snow on Sunday, making it the highest snowfall total the city has received since 1982 and the 10th highest 24-hour snowfall total on record, according to the National Weather Service.

    Snow-covered, slippery roadways were reported throughout the region, including along some of the major highways such as interstates 20 and 35.

    But for those who didn't need to travel, the snow was mostly fun and games.

    AccuWeather National News Reporter Bill Wadell interviewed some residents of Stephenville, Texas, who told him they haven't seen this much snow in years. Some residents were seen using the hood of a car as a sled for multiple people. Stephenville reported 8 inches of snow by Sunday evening.

    The worst of the storm stayed to the south of Dallas, where a rain and snow mix throughout Sunday led to only a trace of snow accumulating.

    Farther south, however, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted a video on Twitter showing snow covering the grounds of the Governor's Mansion in the capital city of Austin. The city officially reported 1.3 inches at the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, but just north of town, 3-5 inches of snow was reported.

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  • Nursing home makes event out of COVID vaccinations

    011421 vaccine 1COURTESY PHOTO Claudia Brown, a resident of Trinity Rehabilitation Center, helps “Tackle COVID” by receiving the first of two vaccines.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Mary Poppins did it with song and sugar; Trinity Rehabilitation Center did it with football and cupcakes.

    Folks at the senior citizen center on Thursday rolled out a COVID-19 immunization plan with the theme of Tackle COVID, according to center CEO and Owner Darcy Whatley.

    “We had our vaccines today for staff and patients,” she said. “CVS Pharmacy, through the federal Operation Warp Speed, and they administered the vaccine to the employees and all the residents.”

    011421 vaccine 3COURTESY PHOTO April Ross-Lester, activity director for Trinity Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, signs the field showing she has helped “Tackle COVID” by being immunized.

    The promotion was to get the employees behind receiving the vaccine, and those that did were able to sign a commemorative football field.

    The promotion was part of educating both the staff and the residents to the need for the vaccine, and listed all the benefits of being treated, so that they would volunteer. Whatley said that pretty much all residents signed up.

    Additionally, Dr. James Crawford, one of the facility’s medical directors, talked with the staff about the importance of the vaccine, which helped convince employees.

    In 21 days, the second required vaccine will be administered, possibly to a baseball theme, Whatley said.

  • On the rebound

    022521 weather 4PHOTO BY TONY FARKAS TxDOT employee Wayne Byers spreads a compound to help melt ice and snow.

    By Tony Farkas

    From rescheduling certain sporting events to clearing roads of dangerous conditions, workers at local, county and state levels as well as possible, given the nature of the weather event that shut the area down last week.

    Trinity City Manager Steven Jones called the weather last week unprecedented, and while water pressure was a problem at first, it was handled within a matter of hours.

    “The Trinity water system is up and running,” he said. “Other than people having personal problems, all is good with us. Our system was prepared for this; what happened was a mechanical function, a pump, which was repaired within a couple of hours, and a pipe burst which was fixed right away.”

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         PHOTO BY PHILIP SCHMITTEN Apple Springs resident and neighbor Dreux Land distributes some water to the folks in Groveton who are still without. Good neighbors and great citizenship are what help make this a wonderful place to live.

    The city wells did perform, and any lapse in service was because of problems with Trinity River Authority equipment.

    Throughout the county, TxDOT scraped roads and applied a compound to melt the ice.

    Groveton Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett was out as long as possible each day, helping where he could, and inspecting streets for signs of water breaks.

    There was a major line break and Fourth and Crow streets, and Bennett asked residents to call the city if they suspect there are more water leaks.

    All area of town should have water restored by Wednesday, he said.

    Area schools from Apple Springs to Trinity went to remote learning and were closed for the week, although in Groveton, the school was on its winter break and only had to cancel some sporting events.

    Apple Springs Superintendent Cody Moree said he decided Feb. 12 to switch to remote learning for two days in light of forecasts, and then extended it through Monday.

    “Our greatest concern was for our students and families who spent extended time without power, heat and water,” Moree said. “But we are looking forward to getting back to face to face learning ASAP.”

    Centerville Superintendent Mark Brown also closed the campus, and while the first two days featured remote learning, the district will file an inclement waiver with the state to excuse the remaining three days.

    Trinity ISD was closed through Tuesday, and was to resume classes Wednesday, according to Superintendent John Kaufman.

    022521 weather 3PHOTO BY TONY FARKAS TxDOT employee Keith Rogers uses a front-end loader to remove snow and ice near the intersection of Main and FM 355 in Groveton.

    Other than two small water line breaks, there was minimal damage to the facilities, he said.

    The biggest obstacle, though, was delays in the delivery of food and milk to the cafeteria, and drinkable water was in high demand and short supply. 

    “We could have opened the district on Monday, but we have many students and staff members who are still without water, and I wanted to give our community and staff a few more days to try and recover,” Kaufman said. “This was a very damaging storm to our community and effected everyone in our town. The school district is very aware of the needs of our families and want to be very sympathetic to their concerns. I would like to thank the community for being patient and working with us as we try and navigate through these difficult times.”

    In a news release, Entergy Texas expected all customers who can safely take power were able to turn the lights on by the end of the business day on Friday.

    At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott, after issuing an emergency declaration for all Texas counties on Feb. 14, on Saturday announced that President Joe Biden approved a partial emergency declaration for Texas.

    FEMA added 33 Texas counties to the list on Monday, but Trinity County was not included at that time.

    Additionally, Abbott temporarily waived regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in the response to winter weather and power outages throughout the state.

    These waivers allowed commercial vehicles to travel in Texas as long as the vehicle is registered elsewhere and doing emergency response.

    These waivers are helping increase the delivery of water, food, and other supplies to Texas communities dealing with power and water outages.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         PHOTO BY PHILIP SCHMITTEN Trinity County Judge Doug Page looks on as Apple Sprints resident helps some of the waterless victims of Groveton with a helping hand, distributing free water to those who are in need.

    “As we continue to bring power and water back online throughout the state, it is essential that we deliver the food, water, and supplies that Texans need during these challenging times,” Abbott said. “These waivers will help us provide more of these vital resources to communities across the state and ensure that Texas families have the supplies they need to stay safe as we work to overcome this emergency.”

    Since the Legislature is in session this year, Abbott added a mandate for the winterization of Texas' power system to the list of emergency items the state must tackle. 

    Abbott also requested a Major Disaster Declaration — which includes Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program — from the White House. This declaration will allow eligible Texans to apply for assistance to help address broken pipes and related property damage.

    The state is also working to distribute food, water, generators, and additional supplies to Texas communities, and warming centers are established every day. For winter weather resources, including a map of warming centers and ways to help Texans in need, visit: https://open.texas.gov/winter

    Expressing concern about financial challenges Texans will face as a result of the winter storm, Abbott will address the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market.

    The meeting include committee leaders, including Sen. Robert Nichols, who represents San Jacinto County.

    The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees public utilities, prioritized natural gas deliveries for human needs with an emergency order on Feb. 12, and recently extended it through Tuesday.

    This action helps ensure the availability of gas supplies to gas-fired generation facilities in Texas during this critical period. The Commission took this action to help protect public health and safety during this extreme weather event.

  • Opinion - It was the insanest of times, or something

    tony farkasTony Farkas file photo

    Having been through quite a lot of elections in my decades of newspaper work, I have to say that this year’s was without a doubt the strangest.

    Only one other time that I can recall has an election been held where a winner wasn’t immediately known was the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. You know, the one that ended a month later after a series of lawsuits.

    (If you don’t recall, look up “hanging chads” on the interweb.)

    So here we are 20 years later, and it was, as Aerosmith sez, “same old story, same old song and dance, my friend.”

    For purposes of this column, though, I’m not about the winner. I’m talking about the process, and what seems to be the new same old story.

    If you noticed anything about the election this year, you noticed that there was very little substance provided by the candidates — for every race. There was no discussion about plans, no debate about the future, not one idea or way of thinking was put forth to give us an indication of what the future would hold.

    My sister-in-law, who is liberal as the day is long, and myself, who really really is not, agree on this, which is rare as hens’ teeth.

    I see it like this: Politics nowadays is like NFL teams, with the presidential election being like the Super Bowl. However, it’s become about the teams deciding who should be the quarterback, talking about stats and the big game from years ago.

    What’s missing from this show is a game plan and, well, the actual gameplay. It’s just the two teams hollering at each other and their own teams, completely caught up in their own world.

    The other thing that’s missing from this equation is the fans. Or, in the world of politics, the people.

    These two bantamweights were arguing about who did what when, how they could have done it better, pointing out scandals and missed opportunities, and generally being disagreeable for months. There was nothing about things that need to matter — like actually playing and winning the game.

    I didn’t hear how either of the candidates would fix the nation’s problems that they’re actually supposed to care about. They’re supposed to do things about the pesky $20 trillion debt that’s handing over the heads of the taxpayers for centuries. They’re supposed to care about trillion-dollar deficits, about the borders, about, well, the people they’re pretending to represent.

    Us fans, or constituents, if you will, are mostly if not all to blame for this, because we let this happen. The difference here, though, is that if we were only NFL fans, we can leave the stadium and never come back, never buy another ticket or a piece of swag.

    With this country, though, it really doesn’t matter who is the winner; both teams will have their hands in our pockets and take more and more, all the while telling us it’s our patriotic duty to fund every scheme and plan that will just make our lives rosy and unicorns and puppies. It’s government that being done to us, not of, by or for us.

    See, we’ve become, in the manifest destiny of our country, the cardboard cutouts filling the stands, there only to give the players, our elected representatives, something to provide a sense of why they’re competing.

    We need to be more than that. We need to take back control, since that’s how this country was supposed to work. It’s gonna be tough, and will take a lot of time — it took decades to get to this point — but I truly believe that we need to be the ones in charge, not the elite few in Washington, D.C.

    We’re near a tipping point, and if we get a government that controls — not just regulates — all the aspects of our lives, it will mean the end of the American dream, in my view, since once a government gets power, it never gives it back, and since it has the power to give it to you, it has the power to take it away.

    I hope this election, if nothing else, opened a few eyes to the trap we’re about to step in.

    Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Powerlifting season kicks off

    020421 powerliftingCOURTESY PHOTO Austin Cummins prepares for the deadlift during the Jan. 30 Splendora Invitational Powerlifting meet. Cummins posted a fifth-place finish, and the team placed sixth.

    Special to the News-Standard

    SPLENDORA — The Tigers boys and girls powerlifting teams each placed sixth at the Splendora Invitational on Jan. 30.

    Trey Goodman placed first individually, while Austin Cummins placed second. Blake Dumas managed a fifth-place posting.

    For the girls, Deandra Mills and Gracie Robb each nabbed a second-place posting.

    Boys’ results

    Top 10 overall

    Fifth: Austin Cummins

    10th: Trey Goodman

    Individual results

    First: Trey Goodman with a total of 1,205 pounds

    Second: Austin Cummins with a total of 1,280 pounds

    Fifth: B. Dumas with a total of 865 pounds

    Girls’ results

    Third: Deandra Mills with 550 pounds, Gracie Robb with 560 pounds

    Fourth: Ailin Marquez with 450 pounds, Joshlyn Ainsworth with 540 pounds, Maria Mendoza with 615 pounds

    Seventh: Zoey Hawkins with 515 pounds

    Eighth: Izabella Love with 550 pounds

    2021 Tiger Strong Invitational

    Jan. 23

    Boy's Team standing

    Sixth

    Top 10 overall

    First: Trey Goodman

    Fourth: Austin Cummins

    Individual Results

    First: Trey Goodman with 1,240 pounds, Austin Cummins with 1,215 pounds

    Third: Remington Lassman with 880 pounds

    Fifth: Blake Dumas with 890 pounds

    Girls Team standing

    Third

    Top 10 overall

    First: Kailyn Fisher

    Individual results

    First: Kailyn Fisher with 1195 pounds

    Second: Maria Mendoza with 575 pounds, Deandra Mills with 555 pounds, Gracie Robb with 465 pounds, Ailin Martinez with 460 pounds

    Third: Jojo Ainsworth with 465 pounds

    Fourth: Alivia Wallace with 395 pounds, Izabella Love with 500 pounds

    Bulldog Nation Invitational

    Jan. 14

    Girls Results

    Team standing

    Second

    Top 10 overall

    First: Kailyn Fisher

    Fourth: Alyssa Hill

    10th: Myona Wilson

    Individual results

    First: Kailyn Fisher with 1165 pounds, Maria Mendoza with 565 pounds

    Second: Alyssa Hill with 695 pounds, Deandra Mills with 555 pounds

    Third: Myona Wilson with 570 pounds, Sierra Smith with 475 pounds, Ailin Martinez with 455 pounds

    Fifth: Izabella Love with 455 pounds

    Boys Results

    Team standing

    Sixth

    Top 10 overall

    Ninth: Austin Cummins

    10th: Trey Goodman

    Individual results

    First: Trey Goodman with 1180 pounds

    Third: Austin Cummins with 1185 pounds

    Fourth: Remington Lassman with 720 pounds

    Sixth: Blake Dumas with 855 pounds, Trey Smith with 565 pounds

    Eighth: Taylor Hayden with 775 pounds