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Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate has died after a battle with cancer

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Onalaska Mayor Chip ChoateOnalaska Mayor Chip Choate

The Enterprise has learned that Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate has died
after a battle with cancer.

The City of Onalaska received word of Choate’s passing Tuesday
afternoon. The mayor had announced to the council previously that he
was in treatment for cancer of the salivary glands. He had been in the
hospital for around a month.

The city announced the news in a Facebook message around noon on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of our Mayor, Chip
Choate. Mayor Choate was officially sworn in as Mayor of Onalaska in
2018 and was elected to a second term in 2020. Councilwoman, Shirley
Gilmore who as Mayor Pro Tem, will assume the duties of Mayor to
complete Mayor Choate’s existing term through 2022. Memorial Service
details will be announced when available.”

Choate was said to have been in treatment for around eight weeks. He
had been placed in rehabilitation, then later transferred to a hospice
facility.

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Bringing home the bacon

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Halle IMG 4468 2 main 1000

By Brian Besch

Many children raising livestock in Texas dream of winning an award in Dallas at the state fair. Livingston High School’s Halle Hawkins enjoyed the experience just a few weeks ago — with three different animals. 

Vontae Mack, a Hampshire was reserve champion at the Youth Market Barrow Show that held over 1,000 competitors. Kodak, a crossbred gilt, was reserve champion. The big winner was Halle’s duroc, Missy, that was awarded supreme champion of the Youth Breeding Gilt Show. 

Halle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age. She spends an average of 27 hours per week with the pigs, making sure each are washed, exercised and stalls are cleaned. Each pig — she currently has seven — is walked a half-mile every day.

Missy, Kodak and Vontae Mack, were purchased in May, approximately six weeks after they were born and weighing around 20-25 pounds. 

She and her father, Livingston Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins, have traveled thousands of miles to find just the right animals. There are some who purchase pigs for up to $50,000, but Halle and her father instead travel across several states to find the one right for them at a cheaper rate.

“Some of these pigs, we have to work extra hard for them, because we don’t spend the money some people spend,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Some of the ones that she beat in the breed were $20,000.”

Just taking care of a pig can get pricey, as they eat a $40 bag of feed about once a week. Some pigs at shows have more extravagant ways of reaching the fairs than others, arriving in $100,000 trailers.

Halle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age.  Courtesy photosHalle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age. Courtesy photosHowever, the Hawkins clan paid a relative bargain price at $500 for the supreme champion, while the other two came at costs of $500 and $1,700. Dr. Hawkins said Halle is attempting to raise champions, not buy them. 

There are many features to finding the right pig that include the animal being structurally sound with feet and legs hitting the ground correctly when they walk, good skin and hair with long necks, big legs and a wide, flat back.

“We start taming them down in the pen, getting them used to us,” Halle said of the work once she has the next potential winner. “At 75-100 pounds, I start working with them. There are some that take a little more work than usual.”

Halle competes against hundreds and sometimes thousands of contestants in shows. She is also judged on how well the animal is presented.

She had a good feeling about the three recent champions and their chances.

“I wouldn’t say special, but they were on up there. I had a special bond with Vontae and Missy. Vontae and Kodak come from Dalhart, Texas, and Missy came from Oklahoma City.”

Kodak and Missy were both leased and have been returned to their owners to breed. Vontae was purchased and later sold after winning.

Scholarship money is the big reward for her accolades at the state fair. Though she is not sure how much it will be, hard work over the years has allowed the sophomore to accumulate around $10,000 in school funds already.

It is believed that no one has ever won three such awards that Halle did at the state fair. She is also thought to be the first winner of a Texas livestock major in the district.

The next show in a few weeks will be in Louisville, Kentucky, where Halle and a new group of four-legged friends will compete at the national level.

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Agency hired to staff, train substitutes

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Livingston ISD LogoThe Livingston school board entered into a contract with a staffing company for substitute teachers, heard an update on a junior high afterschool program and approved a plan for funds in the monthly gathering for October.

Fred Bentsen with management and staffing company Education Support Services ESS presented a plan to take over substitute teacher operations for the district. The company provides solutions to education staffing and currently offers the service to Denton, East Central, and Lufkin ISDs among their 23 in Texas. They currently serve over 800 districts in 30 states, which support over 4 million students daily.  

As part of the service, they pay their employees weekly and give more support to substitutes by offering affordable health insurance and handle the recruiting process, background checks, training, liability, and payroll services for districts.  The Livingston board approved a contract with ESS, scheduled through June 2022.F. Sunnie Frazier, junior high campus coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club afterschool program, gave a progress report to the board. The afterschool program serves primarily 35 sixth-grade students at Livingston Junior High from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

The program has a capacity of 150 students, and they are beginning to reach out to parents of seventh graders about joining. The program targets “bubble” students who are one standard deviation above or below the STAAR test passing rate. They began with sixth graders, so that they may benefit from attending the program all three years while enrolled at the junior high. 

The afterschool program helps students focus on fine-tuning academic skills. Recently, they have worked on dictionary skills and journaling to improve creative writing. Sixth grade world history teachers are collaborating with the afterschool program and a “traveling around the world” activity, where students have their own “passports” and receive stamps when successfully completing tasks. The goal is to visit Asian countries in the fall term and European countries in the spring, coinciding with the sixth-grade world history curriculum. 

Students also participated in a cooking activity Friday as they completed their segment on Germany by making German Pfeffernüsse cookies. Sixth grade math teachers have applauded the recent achievements by students engaging in afterschool activities.  The afterschool staff incorporated math facts in all daily activities and found that students were making improvements in their classroom          performance.  Students engage in enrichment activities every day, which include soccer and basketball. The afterschool program is funded through a five-year grant from Texas Education Agency, but Frazier emphasized, “The program doesn’t have to end in five years.  If additional funding can be found, the program can continue. The Texas Education Agency measures factors of student improvement by evaluating ELA test scores and attendance.”  

The goal for the spring semester is to double the enrollment to 60 students taking advantage of the program. During the summer, the Boys and Girls Club will allow attendance of 150 students that continues for six weeks, from late June through July, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition to academic support, the summer program also includes field trips and sports clinics.

LISD Chief Academic Officer Janan Moore presented information on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds during the public hearing. The board approved the ESSER II budget, which includes a 4% retention stipend along with other salary costs. Money will be allocated to technology devices and software programs to increase student learning. ESSER II funds also include indirect costs associated with district operations. 

Also approved was the consent agenda, comprised of the financial statement, payment of bills, overnight trips, and the 2021-2022 district improvement plan. 

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Supreme Court agrees to hear tribal gaming case

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actribe logoEnterprise Staff

The United State Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear arguments in a case that could make clear that two federally recognized tribes in Texas—Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas—are allowed to operate electronic bingo facilities on their reservations.

The Court agreed to hear Ysleta del Sur Pueblo’s request to overturn a 1994 Fifth Circuit decision finding that the Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe are ineligible to offer gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Instead, the Fifth Circuit found that the ability of the two tribes to offer gaming is controlled by the 1987 act of Congress that restored federal recognition for both nations. Since that decision, the state of Texas has actively sought to block all attempts by either the Pueblo or the Alabama-Coushattas to offer gaming under IGRA, a 1988 federal statute enacted by Congress to regulate the conduct of gaming on federal Indian lands.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas currently operates Naskila Gaming, an electronic bingo facility, on its reservation in Deep East Texas.

“The Supreme Court said today that it wants to hear from our nations,” Nita Battise, Chairperson of the Tribal Council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said. “This is a positive and significant development because it means the highest court in the land is willing to weigh in on what we feel has been decades of disparate treatment that has unfairly impacted our tribe and the Pueblo. A positive ruling from the Supreme Court could provide the economic security we have long sought for our tribe, employees of Naskila Gaming and the East Texas community.”

In 2016, the Pueblo opened a bingo facility in El Paso, offering the same type of electronic bingo games that the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas located near Eagle Pass has offered on its lands since 1996. Thereafter, the state Texas filed suit against the Pueblo, arguing that under the 1994 Fifth Circuit decision the Pueblo, unlike the Kickapoo Tribe, were prohibited from offering bingo under IGRA. In an April 2020 ruling, a panel of the Fifth Circuit panel sided with the state; it is this same ruling that the Supreme Court agreed to review Monday.

In a separate case, this past August a federal judge in Beaumont agreed with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe that it could legally offer electronic bingo at its Naskila Gaming facility under the Tribe’s 1987 Restoration Act.

Despite the state’s longtime effort to close the facility, Naskila Gaming enjoys broad, bipartisan support among Texans. More than 80 civic, community and business groups have formally approved resolutions supporting Naskila Gaming. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation saying that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and Pueblo should be governed under IGRA—legislation that would effectively stop the state’s efforts to close the facilities. That legislation, H.R. 2208, has not yet been acted upon by the U.S. Senate.

“Recent legal decisions have been very encouraging, but we still need the U.S. Congress to complete its work on H.R. 2208 to provide fairness and certainty for our tribe,” Battise said. “We are grateful for all of the community supporters who have stood by us as we have battled against the state’s efforts to take away the jobs at Naskila Gaming.”

ÍNaskila Gaming is the second-largest employer in Polk County. Some 700 jobs are tied directly or indirectly to Naskila Gaming, as well as over $170 million in annual economic stimulus, making its long-term stability essential to the economic future of East Texas.

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Early voting underway

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Vote GraphicBy Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As of press time Tuesday, 87 ballots had been cast during early voting for the November 2 Constitutional Amendment Election. Of those 87, 55 were cast in Livingston, 26 were cast in Onalaska and six in Corrigan. Early voting by personal appearance began Monday and will continue through October 29.

Polling places for early voting are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Polk County Judicial Center at 101 W. Mill Street in Livingston, the Onalaska Subcourthouse at 14115 U.S. Hwy. 190 West in Onalaska and the Sechrest Webster Community Center at 100 West Front Street in Corrigan.

Applications for ballot by mail and federal postcard applications must be received by the Polk County Clerk’s Office no later than the close of business on Friday. Applications for ballot by mail shall be mailed to Polk County Clerk Schelana Hock at P.O. Drawer 2119, Livingston, Texas 77351 or emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or faxed to 936-327-6855.

However, if an application for ballot by mail is faxed or emailed or if a federal postcard application is faxed, the original application must be received within four business days.

The proposed additions to the Texas Constitution were passed as bills during this year’s legislative session and a majority of voters in the state must approve each amendment before it can be officially added to the Constitution. There are no state elected seats on the ballot this November.

The eight proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot are:

PROPOSITION 1: The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues.

PROPOSITION 2: The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.

PROPOSITION 3: The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.

PROPOSITION 4: The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.

PROPOSITION 5: The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.

PROPOSITION 6: The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.

PROPOSITION 7: The constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district ad valorem taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.

PROPOSITION 8: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.

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