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City of Onalaska repeals old ordinances with new one

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Onalaska logoFrom Enterprise Staff

The Onalaska City Council approved Ordinance No. 415 during its regular meeting Tuesday. Adoption of the new ordinance repealed Ordinance No. 395, the manufactured and modular home ordinance, Ordinance No. 396, building regulations, and Ordinance No. 409, building regulations.

Onalaska Police Chief Jessica Stanton reported that the police department drove 2,822 miles during the month of September, conducting 216 subdivision checks and 63 business checks and responding to 329 calls. Two misdemeanor arrests and four felony arrests were made. Fifty warnings and 50 citations were issued. The department assisted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office 10 times and the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department nine times. Thirty-five cases were worked and 11 warrants were issued.

Onalaska Fire Chief Jay Stutts reported that the fire department responded to 29 calls during the month of September, 13 calls in the city and 19 in the county. The department responded to 28 calls during the month, 15 of which were medical calls, two structure fires, four grass fires, one motor vehicle accident, one hazardous materials call, three lake rescues and two calls to assist.

Fire Marshal/Building Inspector Lee Parrish reported that there was a total of 183 permits and/or licenses issued for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2020 and ended Sept. 30, 2021. The total added value to the city was $8,196,396 and the total permit fees collected for the fiscal year were $81,671.70. Parrish reported there were 134 citations/warnings/warrants issued for ordinance violations during the fiscal year and four cases for environmental violations such as illegal dumping.

There was a total of 11 fire investigations for the year and of the 11, five were determined to be unfounded, two were determined to be intentionally set and the remaining four were ruled accidental, Parrish said. Additionally, 17 cases were worked that were not ordinance violations or fire investigations.

Reporting on behalf of the Onalaska Public Library, Sherry Brecheen informed Council that the library currently has 1,698 patrons and a total of 9,735 holdings. The library was open 21 days during the month of September with a circulation of 393, a circulation per day of 19, 299 patrons and 79 instances of computer usage. A total of 51.3 volunteer hours were logged during the month.

City Administrator Angela Stutts reported that she met with Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent to review the most recent road complaints, adding that several pot holes have developed or worsened following recent heavy rains. She said Vincent was able to evaluate and make repairs to most, while others will remain on the list until he can get to them.

Regarding bigger street issues, Stutts reported that the Oakridge grant is currently taking bids from contractors and that construction could possibly start as soon as late November, although December is more realistic. In addition to the ongoing Oakridge project, she said there are three other major problem areas – Onalaska East, Holmes Road and Chelsea Lane. Onalaska East needs approximately 700 feet of chip and seal from the first curve to the right just past the church, at a cost of $17,000. She said both are in need of road base, looking at adding 1,300 linear feet of rock at an estimated cost of $14,000 for Holmes Road and adding 1,152 linear feet of rock at an estimated cost of $13,000 for Chelsea Lane. She said future projects include rock on Pine Grove and blade work on Smith Drive.

Other business included approval of the minutes, payment of vouchers and financial reports.

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City honors baseball team, awards bid

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The Livingston 10U team finished the season as runners up in the Dixie League World Series in Laurel, Miss. in August and was recognized by the Livingston City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday. Photo by Emily Banks WootenThe Livingston 10U team finished the season as runners up in the Dixie League World Series in Laurel, Miss. in August and was recognized by the Livingston City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Livingston 10U team that finished the season as runners up in the Dixie League World Series in Laurel, Miss. in August was recognized by the Livingston City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday.

With the city having received a proclamation from State Representative James White recognizing the team’s achievement, Mayor Judy Cochran took the opportunity to invite the team and their parents so that she could congratulate them and present the proclamation on White’s behalf.

Having won state three years in a row, the team defeated Louisiana 15-5 and dropped the final game 6-5 to Alabama. However, it is worth noting that the boys were awarded the sportsmanship award at the conclusion of the World Series.

In conjunction with the South Washington Feeder Rehab Phase I Project, Council approved accepting the $232,015.47 bid from Bright Star Solutions Inc. and also approved authorizing City Manager Bill S. Wiggins to sign the paperwork.

“Basically, we’re trying to plan for the future. We know it’s coming so we’re trying to prepare for it,” Wiggins said. “We’ll increase the lines starting at Abbey Street and going down South Washington.”

Council approved the re-appointment of Cochran and Alderman Clarke Evans to the Board of Directors of the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency (SRMPA) for the 2021-2023 term. SRMPA supplies electrical power to the city, along with the cities of Liberty and Jasper. The board comprises two directors from each of the three member cities.

The annual firefighting agreement between the City of Livingston and Polk County for the fiscal year beginning October 1 and ending September 30 was approved. Through the agreement, the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department will receive $49,296.62 from the county, a 19% increase over last year’s agreement.

“I’d like to see a more equitable solution in the future,” Alderman Alan Cook said. “The value of the structures and property has gone up exponentially and the cost of firefighting has increased considerably while the method of formulating has remained stagnant. During some ensuing discussion, it was revealed that while the county contributes a pro-rata share to each fire department in the county, it is not listed as a line item in the county’s budget.

“It needs to be addressed. You need to be a line item,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins updated Council and those present that the October sales tax from the State Comptroller’s Office reflected $349,843.50 for the month of August, a 3.95% increase from the previous year.

Regarding current development projects, Wiggins said that work is ongoing on the following: Baskin Development Duplexes on the east side of Pan American Drive; Blue Wave Carwash at 1829 U.S. Hwy. 190 West; Country Place Senior Living at 1860 North Washington; Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments at 1101 Dogwood; Livingston Shopping Center at 1219 West Church; Panda Express at 1630 West Church; 7-11 at 1605 West Church; and Tractor Supply at 1820 U.S. Hwy. 190 West.

Regarding demolitions and restorations, Wiggins said that work on the Heritage Society’s log cabin is in progress with Patrick Swilley as contractor. A public hearing was held September 4 on the former Burmont Nursing Home at 154 Banks Drive. Council approved the order for demolition and cleanup of the property through an order of abatement within 45 days. That order expires October 26.

Other business included approval of the accounts over $500 and the minutes of the September 14 meeting.

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List of groups supporting Naskila tops 80

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Naskila Gaming Logo 250From Enterprise Staff

The number of civic and business groups stating formal support for Naskila Gaming recently surpassed 80 in a demonstration of building momentum for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ electronic bingo facility.

The growing support for Naskila Gaming is the latest positive development for supporters of the facility, which is responsible for 700 jobs in East Texas. A federal judge in Beaumont recently ruled that the tribe can legally continue to operate Naskila Gaming, despite the state’s efforts to close the facility. Also, the U.S. House passed legislation earlier this year that would effectively protect Naskila Gaming from the state’s push to shut it down.

“Our supporters in the community continue to actively advocate in support of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the hundreds of Texans who work at Naskila Gaming,” Nita Battise, Chairperson of the Tribal Council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said. “We are profoundly grateful to the organizations and elected bodies that have publicly stated their support for keeping Naskila Gaming open. They understand that Naskila Gaming is critically important to the future of our tribe and the economic health of East Texas.”

The community support is broad-based and bipartisan. The local Republican Party in seven Texas counties and the local Democratic Party in four Texas counties have passed resolutions in support of keeping Naskila open. Support also comes from the leadership of 21 counties, 12 cities and 9 chambers of commerce, as well as numerous businesses and other groups.

“Our supporters know how much Naskila Gaming means to the people and the economy of East Texas,” Battise said. “We appreciate their support and believe they have a major impact as we work to protect these jobs and secure a better future for our tribe.”

The growth of community support is one of several positive developments in recent months. In addition:

In August, Federal Magistrate Judge Giblin found that the Restoration Act of 1987 allows the Tribe to offer gaming that is not otherwise prohibited under Texas law and, further, the Restoration Act precludes Texas from exercising civil or criminal regulatory jurisdiction. Because bingo is regulated, not prohibited, in Texas, Judge Giblin ruled that the electric bingo at Naskila is legal under the Restoration Act and not subject to the laws of Texas. For years, the State of Texas has argued that the Tribe cannot legally offer electronic bingo. The state is likely to appeal Judge Giblin’s decision.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives gave overwhelming bipartisan passage to H.R. 2208, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Fair Opportunity Act. The legislation would effectively end the state’s efforts to close Naskila Gaming by ensuring that the tribe is allowed to offer electronic bingo under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The U.S. Senate has not yet acted on the legislation.

“We have had some significant victories this year, but much more work remains,” Battise said. “We thank our supporters for sticking with us and we encourage them to stay engaged on behalf of the hundreds of families depending on Naskila Gaming for their livelihood. Texans need to continue to reach elected officials and express support for Naskila Gaming.”

Naskila 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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Redistricting is underway for county

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Polk County LogoFrom Enterprise Staff

The Polk County Commissioners Court recently received the numbers from the 2020 Census, much later than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Texas Constitution requires all counties to look at redistricting after the census, Polk County is beginning this process now that the information has arrived.

According to 2020 Census figures, Polk County gained 10.4% in its population since the last accounting in 2010, up from 45,413 to 50,123. The firm of Allison, Bass & Magee LLP was retained to assist in examining the data and developing a redistricting plan for Polk County.

Texas Law allows a deviation in commissioners’ precincts of up to 10% before boundaries are required to be redrawn and the county is over—in total—by 30.66%. Precinct 1 is 18.26% higher than the ideal population and Precinct 3 is 12.4% below the ideal, so a shifting of boundaries must occur.

Attorney Eric Magee gave a preliminary presentation of the numbers during the September 28th meeting of the commissioners court. A recording of that meeting—and all other commissioners court meetings—is available on the county website at www.co.polk.tx.us and the county’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

Allison, Bass & Magee will assist with lawfully redrawing boundaries, which will redistrict some Polk County citizens into a different commissioner/justice of the peace/constable precinct and/or voting precinct than they are currently in. However, the Court is following state law and is attempting to provide the best representation to the citizens it serves. 

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On track to a solution

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K’Twon Franklin died at three months after he stopped breathing during a nap.K’Twon Franklin died at three months after he stopped breathing during a nap.By Brian Besch
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The tragic events on Sept. 30 have those who live on Glover Road pleading once more for a second option to cross the railroad tracks. The dirt road in Leggett is a mile from the railroad crossing to a dead end. To compound the issue, trains commonly stop on the tracks, blocking the crossing for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and up to four hours. 

Last week, the Enterprise reported the story of Monica Franklin, whose 3-month-old baby, K’Twon, had stopped breathing during a nap. After an hour of CPR, paramedics arrived. 

A train was on the track for an hour and 10 minutes the day of Franklin’s emergency. It took the ambulance 30 minutes to receive K’Twon because they were stuck on the other side. The train started once Franklin and paramedics reached the tracks, delaying another five minutes to get across.

An autopsy is still pending to determine the cause of death, however, a heartbeat was not recovered until K’Twon’s body reached St. Luke’s Health – Memorial Hospital in Livingston. Franklin said he was then flown to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston for two days before tests determined he had been without oxygen for too long.

Residents on Glover Road, Franklin, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy, Leggett ISD Superintendent Jana Lowe and Polk County Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis all have the same story about their conversations — if they are fortunate enough to have one — with Union Pacific.

“They say they will do something,” Purvis said, “but they never do it. 

“I have talked with them, Sydney has talked with them, and Carolyn Glover Hockley mailed them letters. It has been an ongoing thing,” the commissioner continued. “All we have ever asked is just another crossing. I even mentioned to them if they would get me an easement to go down that side of the tracks, that I would build them a road from Glover to Frank Drive. That has been in phone conversations I’ve had with them over the years.”

A path to Frank Drive would give those on Glover Road another way to Highway 59. It also leads to McCarty Road, which intersects with FM 942 and a third Highway 59 outlet.

The county commissioner mentioned another crossing south of the only existing way over the tracks would be a second solution.

“We would have to just build a little short road from the county road (a few feet) up to the crossing. The railroad owns the right of way in between them, but it wouldn’t be a big trick to do it. That is what I have been trying for. We’ve had conversations, they just said they would get back with us.”

But after 30 years, it seems clear no one at Union Pacific is getting back to anyone in Polk County.

According to letters from Carolyn Glover Hockley (the road is named for her father, W.T. “Pete” Glover), Glover Road had a second and third crossing, yet both were destroyed during a remodel. 

Purvis is unsure if a law prevents trains from blocking a crossing for an extended amount of time. Franklin has been informed by attorneys that there is a state law requiring trains to move after 10 minutes. Federal law, if one pertaining to a time limit exists, would supersede any state or local requirements.

“Those guys work their own rules and don’t adhere to (anybody),” Purvis said. “TxDoT (Texas Department of Transportation) can’t even interfere with their rules.

“I would go either way. If they would put a crossing in, I will build the road up to it the minute they do it. If they get the right of way to go down the side (connecting to Frank Road) I will start on that immediately. This deal never should have happened. I am hoping now they will send us somebody that will come here and talk to us to go down there with us. I will go meet with anybody down there to work with them and get any kind of solution we can get.”

Purvis agreed that there is a lack of effort on Union Pacific’s end to come to a decision, but reminded that they are not required to follow local or even state law.

“They are the big dog, evidently, because they don’t have to listen to any of us,” Purvis said. “I don’t know how often (the train parks on the tracks), but it must happen a lot more than I realized. What gets me about it is that it takes something like this. Let’s fix the problem.”

The commissioner said he plans to reach out to Union Pacific again in hopes of finding a solution.

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