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Houston County News 2

How historical markers came to be in Texas

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The marker at Jim English Cemetery is one of the 255 historic site markers in Houston County issued by the Texas Historical Commission. (COURIER FILE PHOTO)The marker at Jim English Cemetery is one of the 255 historic site markers in Houston County issued by the Texas Historical Commission. (COURIER FILE PHOTO)By Jan White
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Houston County is rich with historical markers. You can spot their distinctive shape without even knowing what they commemorate. But where did they originate? What qualifies a person or place for this distinction? A little background information helps us understand how these markers came into being.

As much as we'd like to think that historic preservation was an American idea, the practice actually started in England. In 1863 a member of Parliament, William Ewart, presented the idea to the House of Commons. It wasn't until 1889 that the United States government took a step in this direction by reserving a tract of land in Arizona containing the prehistoric Casa Grande Ruin. But there was no actual legislation concerning preserving natural, cultural, or scientific features, although there were efforts toward preservation in the 19th century. On a steamboat ride past Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, Louisa Cunningham noted its deterioration and began a money-raising project to buy and preserve the property. Inspired by her mother's concern, Ann Pamela Cunningham initiated her own campaign. In 1853 Ann founded The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, recognized as the oldest private preservation organization in the United States. Through funds raised, the Association was able to purchase the home. 

No official preservation steps were taken until 1906, when Congress, concerned over private collectors removing artifacts from federal lands, like Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, created The Antiquities Act. The Act gave the President of the United States authority to create national monuments from federal lands to protect historic and prehistoric sites and prohibit excavation and destruction of antiquities. 

 A decade later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service, whose primary purpose was preservation, regulation, and management of the parks, historic buildings, sites, and monuments. 

 By 1935, Congress passed the Historic Sites Act. Its policy permitted the Secretary of Interior to create programs for preservation efforts. This Act allowed for the organization of national parks under the National Park Service, which in turn founded the National Register of Historic Places. This register is the official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects worthy of preservation. 

 In addition to the National Register, there are plaques designated by states, city and local markers, University historical marker programs, and historic districts. Texas alone recognizes more than 3,678 historical landmarks. 

In 1953, the Texas State Legislature established The Texas Historic Commission, although the Legislature established the agency in 1953 as the Texas State Historical Survey Committee with the task to identify important historic sites across the state. The Texas Legislature changed the agency's name to the Texas Historical Commission in 1973. Along with the name change came more protective powers, an expanded leadership role, and broader educational responsibilities.

National Park Service plaques are unique in that they only mark locations, and don't commemorate people or events.

The Texas State Legislature first created the Texas Historical Commission in 1953. Initially, it was called the Texas State Historical Survey Committee and was formed to identify important historic sites across the state/ When the Legislature changed the organizations name in 1973, they expanded its leadership role, broadened educational responsibilities, and endowed more protective powers. Their focus was on preserving the real stories of Texas history by discovering and documenting places and stories of the state's rich cultural heritage and the establishment of communities.

From attracting tourists to generating jobs and income, historic preservation is important to towns, not only from a historic aspect, but according to an economic impact study in 2015, preservation activities in Texas contribute over $4.6 billion annually to the state. 

 

 

 

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County ready to implement technology action plan

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cyberspace g40282fb6f 1920By Chris Edwards
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HOUSTON COUNTY – The push to get broadband access into rural areas, such as Houston County, has been on the lips of many for the past several years, including several legislators and governing bodies. 

Legislative efforts in the last regular session of the Texas Legislature resulted in bills being passed into law, which were spearheaded by local state representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and state senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). Their legislation, which was deemed a priority issue by Gov. Greg Abbott, resulted in the adoption of a statewide broadband office. Last week, Connected Nation Texas announced it is getting ready to implement the Technology Action Plan in Houston County.

The plan was developed after a survey was conducted between the period of January and May of this year. Through the survey, responses were collected from 391 households.

The purpose of the survey, according to a Connected Nation news release, was to determine the availability of internet infrastructure and how residents are adopting and using broadband internet services, as well as what steps would have the greatest impact toward improving access to high-speed internet, locally.

“It has been a pleasure working with Connected Nation Texas on our broadband survey and developing an actionable plan to strategically move our city and county forward in providing digital access to all of our current and future residents,” Crockett City Administrator John Angerstein said. 

Angerstein added that he is looking forward to working with Connected Nation on future projects in order to realize goals regarding broadband access.

Pamela Waggoner, who works as broadband solutions manager for the firm, said that the county brought together many leaders in order to work toward bringing high-speed internet to all sectors. “By implementing the actions CN Texas has provided and by using incoming grants and services wisely, Houston County is set up to be successful. I look forward to continuing to work with leadership,” Waggoner said.

The survey found several aspects about the county and its internet access. Chief among its findings was that 83% of Houston County residents have internet access, although many of them do not subscribe and speeds are often a major obstacle.

The average download and pay rates were also noted by the CN survey. The download speed of 18.8 mps is the average speed county residents have access to in order to download files, which, according to CN, is “considerably slower” than other communities. 

On average, also, county residents pay $82.74 monthly for internet service, while other communities average $71.05 each month.

CN’s plan of action suggests solutions the county can implement, including the establishment of a broadband office to oversee broadband infrastructure and adoption, countywide. 

The plan also looks to educate the community about low-cost options available, either via the federal government or by way of local providers, according to the news release.

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Houston County Authorities asking help in finding fugitive Low

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LOW mugshotRex Low, Jr.HCC Staff Reports

CROCKETT – The Houston County Sheriff’s Office put out a bulletin last week regarding a wanted man. 

According to Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove, Rex Duncan Low, Jr., currently has three outstanding warrants for his arrest. The active warrants include: theft (elderly individual); engaged in organized criminal activity and aggravated assault.

Hargrove said that if Low is spotted, anyone who sees him should not attempt to contact him but should instead contact local law enforcement and provide the location and any other information available to dispatch, so that an officer can act upon the information. HCSO can be contacted at 936-544-2862 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A basic public records search showed that Low’s last known address was in Crockett and he has used the alias Low Radley. He is 32 years old and is heavily tattooed.

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Paid leave extended for Latexo coronavirus-infected employees

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Angal Biano, above, the mother of a Latexo ISD student, addressed the district’s trustees and superintendent about vaping, an issue that she said is affecting district students, including her son, at a Sept. 9 meeting of the district officials.  (ALTON PORTER | HCC)Angal Biano, above, the mother of a Latexo ISD student, addressed the district’s trustees and superintendent about vaping, an issue that she said is affecting district students, including her son, at a Sept. 9 meeting of the district officials. (ALTON PORTER | HCC)By Alton Porter
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LATEXO – Members of the Latexo ISD board have approved extension of paid leave that may be taken by district employees who need to quarantine due to coronavirus virus infection.

At a regular meeting of the Latexo Independent School District’s Board of Trustees, held on Thursday, Sept. 9, the trustees voted to pass a motion to adopt a “Resolution of the Board Regarding Extension of Leave for Employee Quarantine.”

“This has come out across the state, of course, because we’re still fighting Covid,” Superintendent Michael Woodard said to the trustees. “And so, everybody’s putting their resolutions at different districts to benefit all employees. Some are putting in 10 days to 20 days.

“I don’t want to put a number on it; so, I won’t put a number on this one. I just think we have enough built in our budget to cover sub pay for when teachers get sick, or all staff get sick. That way we’ll just cover it, and we won’t take their days from them. I think it’s the right thing to do here in this time.”

Woodard added, “We’ve still got some that are sick and we’re getting better. But this will be proactive back to the first day of school. That way it just won’t cost them their … days for getting sick and having to quarantine. Like I said, I just hate to put a number date on that because it affects different people different ways, different times.”

In answer to a question from Board Vice President and Position 3 Trustee Bobbie Jo Frizzell, Woodward said the resolution’s extension of paid leave is just for Covid-19-related sickness. “They’ve got to bring us a doctor’s note that they tested positive,” he said. “That is for all employees.”

According to the resolution, the Board is authorized by Texas Education Code Section 45.105 to expend district funds for purposes necessary in the conduct of its schools as determined by the trustees.

In addition, the resolution states, “the Board acknowledges that during an epidemic (such as the Covid-19 pandemic), District employees may be instructed not to report for work after exposure in the immediate household for quarantine” and “the Board finds that a need exists to address additional leave for employees who are instructed not to report for work.”

“(T)he Board determines that employees who are instructed not to report to work may suffer a loss of pay if they do not report for (work)” and “the Board concludes that providing additional paid leave to regular employees—contractual and noncontractual, salaried and non-salaried—who are instructed not to report to work due to an epidemic, serves the public purposes of protecting students and staff, reducing turnover, and maintain morale,” according to the resolution.

Therefore, the trustees voted in favor of the resolution, authorizing the providing of “additional paid leave for all regular employees … who are instructed not to report to work during an epidemic.”

The resolution further states that authority granted by it “is to provide additional paid leave for all employees instructed not to report to work for the entire duration of COVID sickness with a doctor’s note.

“This extended leave expires at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. If the federal government mandates federal leave after the date of adoption, the leave provided in this resolution will expire.”

In other business, the Latexo ISD trustees adopted a resolution, approving an appraisal roll as certified and forwarded to them by Chief Appraiser Carey Minter, of the Houston County Appraisal District. The appraisal roll, which had been reviewed by the trustees, now becomes the tax roll, the resolution states.

In another action, the trustees voted to approve the appointment of six students’ parents who expressed interests in serving as members of the district’s School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) during the current school year.

Woodard said the SHAC wellness policy will be ready for approval at the next school board meeting, so consideration, discussion and approval of that agenda item was tabled.

Another agenda item—discussion and approval of the purchase of a truck for the district’s maintenance department—also was tabled.

Likewise, no action was taken on an agenda item regarding removal at this time of the district’s marquee sign that is in front of the site where the planned gymnasium and community events facility will be constructed, or whether to have another sign placed at a spot near the facility of which construction will begin soon.

District Business Manager Jo Lane presented an overview of the district’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) ranking to the trustees and superintendent. “This is the 19th year we’ve had this FIRST accountability system,” Lane said.

“Superior being the very first one; that is what we received—a Superior (Achievement) rating.” She said the district has received the top rating the last 10 years, adding, 845 (82.84%) of 1,020 Texas districts that were rated received a superior rating this year. “We’ve always done pretty good here because we keep a pretty good handle on our finances and our … fund balance,” Lane said.

And the trustees approved an adjunct faculty agreement the district has with the Houston County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, adopted a resolution requesting extracurricular status for the district’s students 4-H organization and approved the final reading of the Texas Association of School Boards Policy Update 117.

In his monthly report to the trustees, Woodard noted that preliminary construction has begun in preparation for the start of the building of facilities included in the plan for the district’s $5 million bond construction project.

A lot of people are excited that they’ve seen construction going on, the superintendent said. 

During the public comments part of the meeting, Angal Biano, the parent of a student enrolled at the district’s secondary school, addressed the district’s officials again about vaping, which she says is an issue among male and female athletes and other students in the district, including her son. Biano—who suggested that the trustees adopt stricter policies addressing the issue—and Jennie Eberts, another secondary school student’s parent, also spoke to the officials about the matter at an April 8 meeting last school year.

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Houston County adopts tax rate, budget

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Houston County Seal 250By Alton Porter
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CROCKETT – Houston County’s commissioners have adopted the county’s tax year 2021 property tax rate and its budget for the coming fiscal year.

The members of the county’s commissioners court took the actions after offering to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ad valorem tax rate at a meeting Tuesday morning.

The adopted tax rate is 53 cents per $100 of appraised property value. The commissioners had voted to pass a motion, proposing that the rate be set at that amount at a meeting held on Aug. 24. A public hearing on the rate and the budget was held at a Sept. 7 meeting.

The maintenance and operations (M&O) rate, also known as the General Fund rate, which is the largest part of the overall property tax rate is 45.991 cents per 100 of property valuation. The interest and sinking (I&S), or Debt Service Fund rate, the other part of the total property rate, is 7.009 cents for each $100 of property value.

“Our tax rate is going down from 53.2,” said County Judge Jim Lovell. “So, we were able to lower out tax rate.”

The county’s 2020 adopted tax was 53.2 cents per $100 of appraised property value, with a M&O rate of 45.734 cents for each $100 of property value and an I&S rate of 7.466 cents per $100 of property value.

The county’s 2021 total adjusted tax property valuation is $1.624 billion, with certified values totaling $1.618 billion and the rolling stock value totaling $5.824 million.

Based on the calculation of the total adjusted value with the adopted tax rate, if 100% of property taxes are collected this year, the county’s total tax revenue would amount to $8.608 million.

However, $8.436 million (or 98%) of total amount is expected to be collected. A breakdown of that total indicates $6.027 million (or 71.4%) will be from the General Fund part of the tax rate, $1.293 million (or 15.3%) from collections by the road and bridge funds part of the rate and $1.115 million (or 13.2%) from the Debt Service Fund part.

Distribution of the projected tax revenue will include $7.320 million (or 86.7%) to M&O (or General Fund and road & bridge) and $1.115 (or 13.2%) to I&S (or debt service).

Projected income and anticipated expenses in the county’s adopted balanced budget both total $18,552 million.

As noted, “(t)he total amount of taxes levied for this budget, based on the above assessed valuation, is $8.608 million,” the Order Adopting the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022” states. “If this amount, it is estimated that 98%, or $8.436 million of the above tax will be collected within the current year.”

The budget of estimated revenues and expenditures, prepared by Judge Lovell, who was assisted by County Auditor Melissa Jeter, is for the period beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2022, the order states.

“This budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $264,906 or 3.74%, and of that amount $90,756.27 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year,” according to a statement on the front cover of the adopted budget document.

The commissioners passed a motion ratifying the 3.74% increase in property tax revenue. 

In other business, the commissioners approved the setting of salaries and wages for all county officers and employees for fiscal year 2022. “This includes the four percent raise and also includes the 27 pay period,” Jeter said. “So, this is going to go down next year, so don’t panic. Don’t look at it too much. It’s just the way it has to be presented.”

During a public hearing, a proposed FY 2021-2022 archival plan for the county clerk’s office for records management, preservation and restoration of the clerk’s records archives was discussed.

After County Clerk Terri Meadows’s presentation during the time set aside for the hearing, the commissioners voted to adopt the archival plan. According to a document laying out the plan, “Many of the documents identified are in danger of being lost or illegible if … preservation techniques are not completed.” The types of records drawing the greatest concern are county pre-1999 birth, death and marriage records, and deed of trust books.

The commissioners voted to approve a rental and use agreement with Crockett Civic Center representatives so that the county’s district court could conduct a jury selection session in the center earlier this week and so that such sessions may be held for the county court-at-law Oct. 12-14, Nov. 8-12 and Dec. 13-16.

A motion to receive as information an order setting the annual salary for the county court-at-law court reporter, carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.

The commissioners approved acceptance of a desk donated by Bob Reeves to be used by courthouse bailiffs and $1,000 donated by Gary Johnson to be used for improvements to County Road 4025 in Precinct 3.

A motion, approving Bare Metal Standard Service Vehicle cleaning service for Vent Hood at the county’s Senior Center for a one-time fee of $650 and inspection and cleaning semi-annually, was passed by the commissioners.

Another motion to reimburse Precinct 1 Constable Morris Luker for $354 he paid for fuel when using his personal vehicle to perform his job duties when his county assigned truck was inoperable carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.

The commissioners approved the issuance of a county event permit, requested by Pastor Joby C. Thomas, of St. Francis of the Tejas Catholic Church, asking that the church’s members and guests be allowed to peacefully assemble for an event and march around the county courthouse on Crockett’s downtown square on Sunday, Oct. 3, from 2-3:30 p.m. in observance of Respect Life month. 

And the commissioners approved an agreement for the acceptance of a grant by the county from the Texas Department of Transportation Routine Airport Maintenance Program (RAMP) for routine maintenance at the county airport during FY 2022.

The state’s financial assistance granted to the county is to be used solely and exclusively for airport maintenance and other incident items as approved by the state, according to a document that explains the grant and project.

The estimated project cost for general maintenance during the fiscal year is $10,000. The state is to cover 50% of the cost and the county is responsible for the other half. 

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