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Sealcoat season beginning in Lufkin District

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071521 roadwork 1000px

Special to the News-Times

LUFKIN – Sealcoating began in the Lufkin District Wednesday.

Signage indicating the scheduled work is in place. Work is expected to continue over several weeks at locations throughout the nine-county district. Work will be dependent upon weather conditions.

“We would normally begin our annual sealcoat season in late spring, but excessive rainfall made it necessary to postpone in hopes of dryer, warmer weather,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer. “We will begin the work in Polk County and move throughout the district. We urge motorists to obey all signage and traffic control through these work zones.”

Locations approved for sealcoating in the 2021 district sealcoat schedule are:

  • San Jacinto County

—US 59 Southbound: From 2.6 miles of FM 1127 to the concrete pavement north of FM 223

—FM 3460: From SL 424 to FM 2914

—FM 2666: From SH 150 to FM 2025

—FM 224: From SH 156 North to SH 156 South

—FM 223: From SL 424 to the Liberty County line

  • Trinity County

—SH 19: From the Houston County line to 0.1 miles south of FM 1617; from 0.1 miles south of FM 1617 to the Trinity River Bridge.

—FM 1280: From SH 19 to FM 2781

—FM 2262: From US 287 to FM 357

  • Houston County

—US 287: From BU 287 to 2.1 miles north of FM 2663 to SL 304

—SH 7: From SL 304 to 3.6 miles East of SL 304; from 0.2 miles East of FM 232 to Kennard.

—SH 21: From FM 1733 to FM 227 North

—SL 304: From SH 21 to SH 7; from SH 7 East to SH 19 South.

—FM 2663: From US 287 to FM 2022

  • Angelina County

—SH 63: From US 69 to the Jasper County line

—FM 1818: From US 59 to FM 58

—FM 843: From US 69 to US 59

  • Polk County

—US 190: From 3.2 miles west of FM 1276 to 0.6 miles southwest of FM 1276; from 0.1 miles west of FM 1276 to the Tyler County line.

—US 59: From BU 59 to US 190; from US 190 to 1.6 miles south of US 190.

—SL 393: From the US 59 North intersection to the US 59 South intersection.

—FM 3278: From FM 1988 to the Trinity River Bridge

—FM 3152: From US 190 to FM 350

—FM 357: From the Trinity County line to US 59

—FM 1988: From US 59 to 0.4 miles south of FM 3278

Clark Construction of Texas Inc. of San Antonio will serve as contractor for the $10.4 million project. Work is expected to be completed in late August, weather permitting.

Sealcoating extends the life of a roadway and enhances safety. As this work begins, motorists should prepare for delays through these work zones, reduce speed and stay alert for moving equipment and workers. Fines double when workers are present.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (936) 633-4395.

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Hurricane season in effect

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GRAPHIC 2021 Hurricane Outlook piechart 052021 5333x3317 1000pxThis summary infographic shows hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.

By Chris Edwards

Hurricane season is official upon us, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms until Nov. 30.

The season usually ramps up in August and hits a peak in mid-September. Last year, Hurricane Laura barely missed the Deep East Texas region before turning eastward to Louisiana. As with any hurricane season, state officials and emergency management personnel are already warning residents to be prepared.

Hurricane season officially begins on the first day of June every year, and during that month, Tropical Storm Ana swept through the region. 

NOAA is predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of it being near-normal and a 10% chance of it being below-normal. The experts, however, do not predict the same historic level of storm activity that last year brought. 

United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in an NOAA news release that now is the time for both coastal as well as inland communities to get prepared for “the dangers that hurricanes can bring.”

The early warnings will also help minimize the economic impacts of potential storms, Raimondo said.

Based on NOAA modeling, an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes.

According to NOAA, the conditions caused by the El Nino Southern Oscillation are in the neutral phase, but there is a possibility of the return of La Nina later during the hurricane season. 

With frequent, near-historic levels of rainfall in the area throughout May, the Deep East Texas region has witnessed an already-wet period leading into the hurricane season and summer, but ultimately, “it’s all about preparedness,” according to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

In an interview on the cusp of the start of hurricane season, Bush said that his office reaches out to constituents each June 1 and reminds them to have a plan. “Everybody in Texas needs to have a plan, whether it’s for evacuation or taking care of your most-trusted documents and belongings,” he said.

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James White announces bid for agriculture commissioner

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James WhiteJames White

Via email and social media

State Rep. James White announced Wednesday that he will run for agriculture commissioner. 

"Texas has never been more under assault," White wrote in the relrase. "From out-of-state liberals spending millions to turn Texas blue to a Biden Administration that is seeking to cripple our state financially and erase our rich culture, Texas needs leaders with the boldness of President Donald Trump to fight back and hold the line." 

Texas is the top state in the nation for agriculture, providing $115 billion in annual economic impact and directly or indirectly employing one out of every seven Texans. 

As a member of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee, White had direct oversight of the agency and plans to leverage the experience to ensure Texas remains the national leader. 

"I was proud to serve in the U.S. Army with the Berlin Brigade during the demise of the Soviet Union," White continued. "I saw first-hand the destructive power of socialism, and as a sixth generation Texan, I became determined to make sure it never took root in my state." 

Earlier in the month, White announced he would not seek reelection to the State House, where he has served for six terms. 

The release mentions is the defeat of a 14-year entrenched Democrat incumbent to obtain the  House seat originally. 

The incumbent this time will be a Republican, Sid Miller, who after considering a run for governor, will instead attempt to retain his seat. Miller began as agriculture commissioner in 2015.

White said he is proud of his conservative record that included securing the border, eliminating sanctuary cities, and stoping the flow of illegal immigration. 

White called agriculture is the foundation of the state's culture, saying it "defines who we are as Texans:  Free People who are tough, self-reliant, and know that their blessings originate from a merciful Almighty."

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DETCOG to appeal grant decision

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Speed Test from Pixabay

By Chris Edwards

NACOGDOCHES – The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) announced its plan to appeal a decision handed down federally concerning a grant.

The $100 million grant, to help provide broadband access to the 11-county region of DETCOG service, was denied by the federal government, DETCOG’s Executive Director Lonnie Hunt announced at the board of directors’ regular meeting in early June. The board’s decision to appeal the outcome was announced during a conference call last Tuesday with the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce.

The grant application was made through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. DETCOG’s application, though not funded, scored high in its ranking with marks of 75.48, which Hunt said was only two and a half points short of what was needed, which he said was unfortunate.

“We have appealed that scoring because we found a couple of things where we think they made an error and should have scored us higher,” he said. 

Hunt said the appeal is worth the odds, and that those couple of issues would have put DETCOG “in the money,” had they been caught.

He said if DETCOG is unsuccessful with its appeal, the organization will continue to work toward the project and obtain high-speed internet in the region. “It will take us longer to get it done, but we are committed to the task,” said Hunt.

One thing Hunt noted as a positive factor that will bode well for future grant requests is the statewide legislation passed concerning broadband. A bill, which was co-authored by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), was made an emergency item during the 87th Legislature, and works to increase access to high-speed internet throughout Texas.

Hunt said that bill will add points to future grant requests, which is one of the questions asked by the CDBG as criteria for funding broadband projects.

“One of the questions is, does your state have a state broadband plan. And if you check that box you pick up points,” he said.

DETCOG made broadband a priority three years ago, when it launched a feasibility study for the region. According to its findings, the Deep East Texas region is one of the most underserved regions in the nation for high-speed internet access, which it states is a necessity.

Hunt did speak during the call about one grant that was approved in March for broadband in the northern part of Newton County in the amount of $9 million. DETCOG is awaiting a contract from the state’s General Land Office (GLO) to begin that work. The contract, initially, was estimated to take 45 to 60 days to put into place.

As Hunt said in March when that grant award was announced, “broadband is coming, but it will take some time.”

Link to DETCOG’s Broadband Study: https://www.detcog.gov/broadband

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Anti-mask mandate mandated

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governorFILE PHOTO Gov. Greg Abbott

Special to the News-Times

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. 

Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

However, in San Jacinto County, the governor’s action will have no effect, as both the Coldspring-Oakhurst and Shepherd districts had already voted to remove masks.

Shepherd Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that in April, the board voted to remove masks after a survey of the staff and community showed masks should be removed.

Cassie Gregory, information officer for COCISD, said that board had made masks optional previously.

Beginning May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the executive order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

"The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."

Exempt from the order are state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.

Additionally, the governor said that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective June 26.

This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, a release states.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”

The current job openings are good paying jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.

Another reason why the action was necessary is the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed. TWC estimates that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totals more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.

Federal law requires the effective date of this change to be at least 30 days after notification is provided to the Secretary of Labor. As a result, the effective date will be June 26.

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