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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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County approves recycling partnership agreement

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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A public/private partnership agreement between Polk County and Polk County Recycling and Beautification for operation of the recycling center was approved by the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting Friday.

Tuesday’s regular session of the court was moved to Friday due to the court’s attendance at the County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference in Round Rock this week.

“On December 8, 2020, the Court received a presentation from Dick Burr and Shawn Loring regarding their commitment to recycling efforts in Polk County. The collection station has been built and we did a grant application to DETCOG for equipment to make it successful. Shawn and Dick have managed volunteers to staff the facility and today we have a verbal agreement and so the proposed agreement was amended for your review to make it official,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

“The terms of the proposed agreement are that Polk County agrees to provide and maintain the facility and sufficient equipment to run the operation and the volunteer group takes responsibility for staffing and operations of the facility. At this time it is fully equipped and it’s actually ready for operation,” Murphy said.

Commissioners discussed proposed revisions to the Polk County Subdivision Regulations and scheduled a public hearing on the proposed revisions for 10 a.m. November 9. The significant changes include:

Maintenance bond is reduced from 100% to 10% of estimated construction costs but is still a two-year bond;

Appendix I “Subdivision and/or Road Name Add/Change Request Form” has been added to the application requirements—a completed and approved form must be submitted with the application;

“Proposed Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Homeowner’s Association or other entity responsible for road maintenance…” has been added to the documents required to be submitted with the application;

Subdivision Construction Agreement Form has been added to the documents required to be submitted with the application;

Section 13: “Roadways” has been amended as follows:

Publicly dedicated and to be maintained by Polk County, after Commissioners Court acceptance for maintenance, with construction in accordance with the specifications outlined in these regulations. If the proposed road is to be tied into at least one public road with an impervious surface, the minimum pavement surface of the proposed road shall be two-course surface treatment of asphalt and aggregate.

Private and to be maintained by a Homeowner’s Association or property owners in perpetuity (or until constructed to the then applicable county standards for acceptance of maintenance, and accepted for maintenance by the Commissioners Court) and constructed in accordance with the specifications outlined in these regulations. Impervious surface is not required.

Appendix R has been revised to reflect the new standards included in Section 13; and

Appendix 2A from the Model Subdivision Rules has been tailored for Polk County in line with the modifications listed above and inserted as “Appendix V”, which must be submitted as part of the subdivision application.

The proposed regulations with these modifications will be posted to the county website and available in the county judge’s office for review.

“Over the last few years we’ve been trying to address the disparities. We want to see what other counties do and see if we can come up with a more equitable system,” Murphy said, regarding the appointment of a committee to review and provide recommendations to revise the merit pool policy. Following some discussion, Commissioners approved the formation of a committee comprising Murphy, Precinct 1 Commissioner Guylene Robertson, the human resources department and either the sheriff or a designee of the sheriff.

The constable warrant service program quarterly report for the period ending September 30 was received.

County sick leave pool committee members were selected by random drawing. Those randomly selected included Adam McDowell, Glenn Edwards, Carla Simons, Tatum White and Karen Needham.

The county holiday schedule for 2022 was approved. Holidays will be observed by the county as follows: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17; President’s Day, February 21; Good Friday, April 15; Memorial Day, May 30; Juneteenth, June 20; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, September 5; Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 10; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving, November 24-25; Christmas, December 23-26; and New Year’s, December 30.

The following requests for capital purchases to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2022 reimbursement resolution for year-end issuance of legally authorized debt were approved: a request from Precinct 3 constable for MDIS software and support, not to exceed $3,155; a request from fire marshal for ballistic vest, Canon camera and drone, not to exceed $6,847.92; a request from environmental enforcement for ballistic vest and Canon camera, not to exceed $2,261.93; and a request from human resources for Neogov onboard install and training fees, not to exceed $1,500.

Personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting were approved, as were fiscal year 2022 budget revisions, as presented by the county auditor’s office.

Commissioners approved the following items on the consent agenda:

Minutes of the September 28 regular meeting;

Schedule of bills;

Orders designating regular terms for county court at law and justice courts for fiscal year 2022;

The amended fiscal year 2022 contract extension between Deep East Texas Council of Governments and Polk County Aging for congregate and home-delivered meals;

A resolution in support of fiscal year 2022 indigent defense formula grant application;

Ratification of an agreement with Neogov for human resources onboard services included in the fiscal year 2022 budget;

Record listing of current members of the Polk County Safety Committee;

A Homeland Security grant program property transfer record agreement with San Jacinto County for two flat screen televisions and Hitachi starboard with projector;

An amendment to county school land surface lease with Cooper Ranches as of October 1;

Acceptance of a donation of office furnishings from Catholic Charities; and

Acceptance of monetary donations provided to the Polk County Fire Marshal for fire prevention education.

Sean Ferry, pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church, opened the meeting with prayer.

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