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Dangerous railroad crossings to be closed, removed

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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Action regarding the agreement between Polk County and Union Pacific Railroad Company for the closure and removal of public crossings on McCarty Road (Frank Drive) and Glover Road, located in Precinct 3, was approved by the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“The agreement that we have states that the county desires to permanently close and remove the public crossings on McCarty Road (Frank Drive) and Glover Road. Per this agreement, Union Pacific will pay Polk County $360,625 once the two crossings have been closed,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “The proposed agreement was received prior to receiving bids and the lowest bid that we received was in the amount of $642,717 which does not include the additional fees for GLS for engineering services in the amount of $28,720 so the total cost for the project is $671,437. $200,000 of that will come from TxDOT, $100,000 for each railroad crossing. Commissioner Purvis (Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis) has agreed to continue negotiating with Union Pacific to increase their commitment because the original agreement was that they would reimburse the county.”

The Court approved a request for a capital purchase to be paid from the general fund

balance and included on the fiscal year 2024 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt, specifically, an STS360 upgrade of the video surveillance and access control at the judicial center, not to exceed $229,800.

A request from Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis for agreement and conditions of employment for new employees of the Polk County Road and Bridge offices to enroll in a commercial driver training course, to be funded by the road and bridge travel/training budget, was approved.

The Court approved an interlocal agreement with Trinity River Authority for law enforcement services.

Prepositioned contracts for emergency disaster debris removal, reduction, disposal and other debris-related services were approved pending legal review. “On July 25, the Court selected KDF Enterprises to be the primary contractor and DRC Emergency Services to be secondary. Courtney (Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock) has asked that we go ahead and move forward with approving them,” Murphy said.

The Court approved advertising a request for qualifications for demolition services for the General Land Office Hurricane Harvey buyout/acquisition program.

A resolution in support of Operation Green Light for veterans was approved. The purpose of Operation Green Light is to raise awareness and express gratitude by changing one light bulb to green, inside or out, at homes and businesses.

The Court approved accepting all regarding the re-bid for #2024-02.01 - 02.09, Precinct 2 annual bids.

A request to cancel a portion of Falcone Forest Subdivision Section 1, Lot 9 (removing lot), located in Precinct 4, and re-plat the same as Falcone Forest, Section 1, Lots 9A and 9B, was approved.

Offers to purchase the following tax foreclosed properties were approved: Lots 35 thru 38, Block 2, Thunder Mountain, Cause #T21-0223 in Precinct 1 and JNO Dickerson Survey, Abstract 211, .139 acre, Cause #T10-163 in Precinct 3.

In personnel matters, the Court approved a personnel management system update, reviewed personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed six authorized emergency hirings – three at the jail, one at the sheriff’s office and two in maintenance. Additionally, the county sick leave pool committee was selected by random drawing. Those selected include Dana Murphy, Gary Wright, Ethan Placker, Lisa Alexander and Robert Ferguson. Backups were also selected. The backups will be Tracy Yeager, Kenneth Powell, Nathan Davis, Madison Cain and Kathy Watson.

The Court entered into an executive session to deliberate personnel and upon return to open session, approved giving department heads a raise.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office were approved.

In old business, the Court will consider nominations, by resolution, for the Polk Central Appraisal District board members for the 2024-2025 term, naming Steven Hullihen to replace Leslie Burk.

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of the minutes of the previous meeting;

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Receipt of the county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to local government code

Sec. 114.025;

Approval of an order designating the regular terms of commissioners court for fiscal year 2024;

Approval of an order setting terms of the constitutional county court;

Adoption of a resolution expressing intent to reimburse certain fiscal year 2024 expenditures (capital purchases) to be incurred by Polk County, Texas (reimbursement resolution);

Approval of a resolution in support of fiscal year 2024 indigent defense formula grant


Receipt of the county treasurer’s monthly report for August 2023; and

Approval of an agreement with certified payments for credit card processing in the county treasurer’s office.

Lynn Huff of the Onalaska Church of Christ opened the meeting with prayer.


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Jailer arrested for sex with inmate

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From Enterprise Staff

The Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers arrested a jailer at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Thursday. Charity Desirae Prince, 25, was charged with improper sexual activity with a person in custody, a second-degree felony.

The investigation by the Texas Rangers is ongoing and was begun at the request of Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons. No additional information is available at this time.

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Naskila CFO serves as panelist at Tulsa conference

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From Enterprise Staff

Naskila Casino Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Williams served as one of three panelists at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference held August 15-16 in Tulsa.

Topics the three panelists discussed were the events during COVID and how the pandemic affected their casinos and how the casinos strategized to recover and open their doors again after months of temporary closure.

“During the COVID period, we knew we were eventually going to temporarily close our doors, so we planned and set aside funding from our casino revenues to keep all our employees with paid salaries and benefits until we were able to reopen Naskila Casino,” Williams said.

Other topics discussed were the years of battling with the State of Texas to keep Naskila Casino open. A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last July, affirmed the tribe’s right to operate Class II electronic bingo.

Williams discussed the significant impact Naskila Casino has on the local economy through the creation of new jobs, assistance with tribal projects, programs and health services, as well as supporting the local communities with donations and sponsorships.

“The favorable decision by the U.S. Supreme Court for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe was a monumental event for us. This meant more jobs for our tribal members, more health care, more education funding for our tribal members and more economic opportunities for the tribe,” Williams said.

Naskila Casino is owned and operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas on State Park Road 56 off of U.S. Hwy. 190 East in Livingston. The casino has 825 Class II Gaming devices, Timbers Grille Restaurant and Cafe Itto si. The tribe also owns Lake Tombigbee Campgrounds, with a 26-acre lake complete with RV hookups, primitive campsites, swimming and fishing. The Alabama-Coushatta One Stop has a 17-bay fuel station including diesel fuel, convenience store, tobacco shop/gift shop and a food concession. For more information, call 936-563-2WIN or check out the website at www.naskila.com.

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Goodrich man receives 99-year sentence for 2017 murder of wife

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From Enterprise Staff

John Orbon Speights, 78 of Goodrich, was sentenced to 99 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the Aug. 26, 2017 murder of his wife, Carolyn Carroll, in the 411th District Court on Monday.

On Aug. 26, 2017, Carroll activated her Life Alert, stating that her husband, Speights, was drunk and she was afraid. Representatives of Life Alert contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office when they were unable to make contact with her after she activated the alert a second time. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call and found Carroll non-responsive. Speights was arrested that night for first degree murder.

Following the announcement of the sentence by 411th District Judge John E. Wells III, a member of the family gave a victim impact statement prior to Speights leaving the courtroom. Speights was represented by Bobby L. Phillips of Livingston.

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AG acquitted in impeachment trial

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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Senator Robert Nichols was one of only two Republican senators to vote for articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton. The other was Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills.

“I voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton because of the credible testimony I heard, and the many thousands of pages of evidence presented during trial,” Nichols said.

Paxton was acquitted by the state Senate of 16 charges in his recent impeachment trial, allowing him to keep his job as the top lawyer in the state. He was impeached earlier this year by the Texas House of Representatives based on allegations that he misused his office.

“The evidence included testimony from many of his top staff, including First Assistant AG Jeff Mateer, Deputy First Assistant AG Ryan Bangert, Deputy AG for Legal Counsel Ryan Vassar, Director of Law Enforcement Texas Ranger David Maxwell, Deputy AG for Criminal Justice Mark Penley, Deputy AG for Civil Litigation Darren McCarty and Deputy AG for Policy and Strategic Initiatives Blake Brickman. I believe these individuals displayed tremendous courage by reporting what they witnessed as violations of law,” Nichols said.

“Their testimony, combined with the totality of all the other evidence presented by the House Board of Managers, proved to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the Attorney General’s actions violated Texas law and his oath of office. The oath I swore, to render a true verdict based on the evidence presented, did not leave room for politics or second guessing. I have – and always will – vote for what I believe is right,” Nichols said.

The impeachment split the chambers of the state’s Republican-led legislature down the middle. Paxton was impeached in the House by a 121-23 margin, with 60 Republicans joining 61 Democrats in voting to impeach. Once the trial reached the Senate, however, the margins were flipped, with 16 Republican senators voting to acquit him and the two Republican senators joining 12 Democrats in voting to convict, falling short of the 21 total votes needed to remove him from office.

Copies of the evidence the court considered, as well as a complete audio-video record of the arguments are available online at www.senate.texas.gov/coi.

Nichols was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2006. He represents 18 counties including the greater part of East and Southeast Texas.

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