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  • 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.

  • TxDOT hosting US 69 corridor hearing

    US 69 Corridor Overall Location MapUS 69 Corridor Overall Location Map

    By Caleb Fortenberry

    The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has issued a notice for the US 69 corridor project and study. The project, which is dubbed “Gateway to the Big Thicket,” is the subject of a virtual public hearing next week.

    The virtual hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19. A video with information about the project will be attached to the following website https://www.txdot.gov, by 4 p.m. next Thursday. The video will be posted near the bottom of the web page, according to a TxDOT news release.

    The corridor covers approximately 345 miles of highway from Port Aurthur to Denison. The part of the project projected to reach Tyler County would stretch to FM 1943 near Warren. Involvement with the public began in 2017 and is still an ongoing part of the process.

    The proposal for the project is to:

    • widen portions of the highway to four lanes,

    • add 12-foot travel lanes in both directions,

    • include 4-foot inside shoulders,

    • 10-foot outside shoulder on the southbound lane,

    • a 12-foot shoulder on the northbound lane that serves as hurricane lanes,

    • and extend 10-foottrails for biking and hiking.

    According to the notice of the hearing, the additional right-of-way width in the project proposal, which would increase the typical 100-120 feet width to 300 feet, would potentially displace five residences and two other non-residential structures.

    The in-person version of the hearing, available by appointment, will be on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at the TxDOT Beaumont District office, 8350 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, TX 77708. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Individuals must call to make an appointment at (512) 560-5108 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. To leave a recorded voicemail of concerns, call (409) 402-0151 between Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. and Friday Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m.

    Written comments can also be received at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., through the TxDOT website, or through mail addressed to TxDOT Project Manager, 8350 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, TX 77708 before 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 18.

  • White makes statement on light rail project

    JasWhite 102220BETH FAIRCLOTH | TCB State Representative James White (R-Hillister) speaksto the Tyler County Republican Women group last Thursday at the group’s monthly meeting. Terri Simpson (left) and Kathy Hodges-Spoon (middle) of TCRW listen to White.

    By Chris Edwards

    AUSTIN – Rep. James White (R-Hillister) is one of several Texas lawmakers who are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to ignore “misinformation” about a proposed high-speed rail project.

    The project, which would be under the oversight of the Federal Railroad Administration, if brought to fruition, is a proposed 240-mile high-speed railway system to travel between the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In a TxDOT news release, a private entity, Texas Central Railway (TCR) is funding and developing an environmental study for the project.

    White said that the project does not have any permits, at present, to begin construction, and also lacks public support.

    White and several other members of the Texas House of Representatives sent a letter to Abbott last week with their concerns about the project. The letter claims that information available about the project features “inaccurate talking points and promotion of ideas consistent with the liberal Green New Deal.”

    The Green New Deal, which White referenced, is a proposed package of federal legislation aiming to address climate change and economic inequality.

    Another concern White addressed, which constituents have shared with him, is that eminent domain might be used to strip them from their land and homes. “Judges have already blocked the use of eminent domain and county elected officials have publicly denounced the project,” White said.

    “We don’t need Japan building our infrastructure, or taxpayer-funded boondoggles such as the Green New Deal on Texas soil,” he said.

    Opponents of the proposed high-speed rail have also referenced a letter Abbott wrote to the Japanese Prime Minister praising the project and offering his full support as governor. “I am hopeful that final negotiations of this project with Japan can be concluded so that construction can begin,” Abbott wrote.

    A group calling itself Texans Against High-Speed Rail cited both Abbott’s letter to the Prime Minister of Japan and the legislators’ letter to Abbott in a Facebook post, and stated that the legislators who signed the letter “will be strong advocates” for transparency with regard to the project.

    White said the governor is reviewing the accuracy and legitimacy of the project. “I urge the governor to listen to my fellow legislators and hear our concerns about protecting Texans’ private property rights from foreign governments,” White said.

    According to TxDOT the project, as well as the Dallas-Fort Worth Core Express and Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study may provide alternative methods of transportation within corridors that are experiencing increased congestion due to continued population growth.