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Nearly 12,000 letters urge Senate to save East Texas jobs

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NKGCO 038 Logo Update MECH 300x tbFILE PHOTO - NKGCO 038 Logo

LIVINGSTON — Texas’ U.S. senators have been sent nearly 12,000 letters over the past six weeks asking them to save the 700 jobs connected to the Naskila Gaming electronic bingo facility. The letters provide a grassroots complement to more than 70 civic and business groups who have also urged the Senate to ask and keep this major East Texas employer open.

The 11,700 letters urge Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to help pass H.R. 759, a bill that would effectively stop the state of Texas’ efforts to close Naskila down. The U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 759, authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, more than a year ago. The Senate has not moved forward with the bill — putting Polk County’s second-largest employer at risk.

Naskila, which is operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, continues to have overwhelming support in East Texas. More than 70 groups — including county commissioner courts, local Republican parties and chambers of commerce — have approved resolutions or other statements of support for keeping Naskila open.

Included on the list of groups supporting Naskila are the Polk County Commissioners Court, Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Polk County Republican Party and Polk County Higher Education and Technology Foundation.

“Texans are speaking with a loud, clear voice in support of Naskila Gaming,” said Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecilia Flores. “We are grateful for the support we’ve received from our visitors and from respected civic and business leaders throughout this region. We hope the Senate will listen to Texans who want to protect these jobs.”

Naskila is responsible for 700 direct and indirect jobs in East Texas and a recent study estimated that Naskila generates $170 million in annual economic activity for the region. More than 1 million people visit the facility per year. Even when closed for several months during the pandemic, Naskila continued to provide pay and benefits for its employees. Naskila reopened Sept. 10 with new safety precautions in place.

Another 1,000 jobs are tied to the electronic bingo facility operated by Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. The state is also trying to shut that facility down. However, it is not trying to shut down electronic bingo on the Kickapoo tribal land in Eagle Pass, near the Texas-Mexico border.

H.R. 759 would ensure that the facilities in Livingston and El Paso are governed by the same federal law as the Kickapoo facility.

“We want to offer electronic bingo without state interference, just like the Kickapoo Tribe,” Flores said. “It’s very concerning to Naskila employees and their families that the Senate has not acted. We have broad, diverse support in East Texas. The Senate needs to approve this bill and save these jobs by the end of the year.”

In August, 19 members of the U.S. House who represent Texas — ten Republicans and nine Democrats — sent Cornyn a letter urging him to support H.R. 759.

“Rather than spend untold sums on legal fees and litigation, costing the State of Texas millions of dollars, we believe we could better enact our time and resources by enacting H.R. 759, which would create an economic boost to two hard hit areas of the state with no cost to the taxpayer,” the congressional letter said.

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Historical Commission hosts tree dedication for fallen member

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IMG 0132COURTESY PHOTO Patricia Snook speaks to attendees at a tree dedication Oct. 24 to honor Dicki Lou Alston. Representative Polk County Historical Commission would like to thank family members, First United Methodist Church, Daughters of the American Revolution members, Polk County Historical members and Alston’s 1965 Livingston High School classmates.

By Jason Chlapek

The Polk County Historical Commission conducted a tree dedication ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Polk County Memorial Museum.

The ceremony was conducted in memory of former Historical Commission member Dicki Lou Alston, who passed away in December 2018.

“(Dicki Lou) was a member of our commission, she was in the Livingston Class of 1965 and she passed away suddenly (two years ago),” Historical Commission co-chair Patricia Snook said. “We have this tree that we planted at the museum and we gave her family a plaque.”

In addition to her tenure with the Historical Commission, Alston also was a volunteer at the Polk County Memorial Museum and the Moscow Cemetery. She earned her bachelors degree from Texas Tech, masters from Sam Houston, and spent 35-plus years in education, more notably as the curriculum director for Beaumont and Lufkin ISDs.

Snook said the Historical Commission lost two trees, but have already replanted one and are replanting another one. She also gave a little insight into what the Historical Commission does.

“We do historical markers and we have a marker chairman,” Snook said. “They have to be approved. We were lucky enough to have a family leave their home to us for the museum. The museum has been several places, but the county maintains the grounds of the museum. We’re more of the project people. We preserve history. We also help out with the old city cemetery. We put up Texas flags. May is preservation month and we put up signs on homes that need to be restored.”

Joyce Johnson, also a Historical Commission co-chair, talked about other projects her group does.

“The historical markers are from the state and we have to submit an application to the state to get markers,” Johnson said. “Last year we started an oral history gathering. We have about eight WWII Veterans still with us. During February, we focus on Black History. We worked on this for a long time.”

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Woodville native finds ‘home’ in Polk County

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                               JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Polk County game warden David Johnson speaks at Livingston Lions Club Oct. 14.

By Jason Chlapek

Twelve years ago today, David Johnson began his career as a game warden in Polk County.

And he doesn’t plan on leaving either. Johnson believes he has found his stomping grounds, which he talked about when he was a guest speaker at the Livingston Lions Club on Oct. 14.

“I started (as a game warden on) Nov. 1, 2008,” Johnson said. “I worked as a laborer in Pollok prior to becoming a game warden. Polk County was my first duty station and will probably be my last. Polk County feels like home. It feels a lot where I come from. There’s a lot of good people here. Livingston is just big enough where it’s not too big.”

Johnson grew up in Woodville. He also described why he enjoys living in Polk County.

“I live just north of Corrigan and I came from a small town like Corrigan (Woodville) where you know everybody and everybody knows you,” Johnson said. “There’s a small town persona where folks can lean on one another and go to one another when they need help. I like the closeness of it.”

During his 12-year tenure, Johnson spoke about the quantity and quality of hunting resources in Polk County. Deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 7.

“In the last 12 years, the resources have gotten better,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a great increase in our deer population as well as the maturity and health of our animals. I think it’s a contribution to the people of our county respecting the law, doing what is asked of them and practicing good stewardship of the resources.”

Johnson also talked about his duties as a warden. He said that although most citizens obey the laws of hunting, fishing and boating, there are a few who need a reminder or two.

“We’ve got a broad range of activity that goes on over here,” Johnson said. “You’ll have anything from criminal trespass or possession of narcotics to boating while intoxicated. Starting around March until September, we put in quite a few hours on the water. We have an extremely large lake one here and several rivers. On average, we spend 200-300 hours a year on the water. We have a little bit of everything around here. Some of the people I’ve encountered have found interesting ways to try and hide or dispose of what they did. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to stumble across those things, and sometimes we have a little help and it’s just blind luck. Sometimes the grown adult almost acts like the elementary school kid who gets caught playing in the bathroom. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The biggest majority of the people we deal with are good people who are out recreating and having a good time. They’re involved in sports that we regulate and they’re very respectful people. All of the bad things you hear about consist of 1 percent of the people. We have a lot of good people here and that’s why I want to be here.”

When it comes to hunting or water activities such as boating or fishing, Johnson said there’s balanced participation and interest among them. He also thinks this season will have a little more participation with hunting because of Covid-19.

“We have a good mixture of popularity among hunting and water seasons,” Johnson said. “Any given year, it can teeter one way or the other. On the years that they have droughts, we may get more water contacts, but that’s because of something going on. This was a benign water season. We had a few accidents, tragedies and BWIs, but we had a healthy amount of boat traffic. I expect to see more hunters because it’s an isolation sport. Boating and being around the lake is people being more in crowds.”

And he hopes to patrol the land and waters of Polk County for another 12 years — or more.

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Voters decide city, school board races

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PolkCountyElectionElection Day at the Polk County Judicial Center. (Brian Besch Photo)

 

From Staff Reports

Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden and Onalaska Independent School Districts and the city of Onalaska all had contested races that were decided Tuesday night.

There were two contested races in the city of Onalaska, one contested in Big Sandy and Onalaska ISDs each, and a trio of contested races for C-CISD. All eight Polk County positions that were on the ballot featured uncontested Republican candidates.

Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate remains in his seat as he won a challenge from Tommy Haddon. James W. Arnett defeated Paul Laverty for a position on the Onalaska City Council as well.

C-CISD had three positions on its school board up for grabs. Peter D. Burks defeated Lync Cavanaugh and Angela Rice for the Position 1 spot; Thomas Roberts defeated Carmen Vera for Position 2; and Lawrence Lee Jolly, Jr. defeated Matthew Cole, and Robert Poage for Position 3.

Big Sandy ISD had four positions on its school board up for election, but only one was contested. Position 4 featured a race between William Handy, Jr. and Kabe Murphy, which went to Murphy, while Darrell Murphy, Mark Duff and Quentin Matthews ran uncontested for Positions 2, 5 and 6, respectively.

OISD had two school board positions due for election with one being contested. Position 4 was contested between Johnny Byrd and Pobla Gallier with Byrd winning, while Candice Davies ran uncontested for Position 7.

The eight positions on the ballot for county offices were Sheriff (Byron Lyons), Tax Assessor-Collector (Leslie Jones Burks), Precinct 1 Commissioner (Guylene Rogers Robertson), Precinct 3 Commissioner (Milton Purvis), Precinct 1 Constable (Scott Hughes), Precinct 2 Constable (William R. “Bill” Cunningham), Precinct 3 Constable (Ray Myers) and Precinct 4 Constable (Darwon Evans). All eight candidates won their respective Republican primaries and did not face opposition from another political party.

A follow-up on these races as well as state and national races can be seen in the Nov. 8 edition of the Enterprise.

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FFA presents for Onalaska’s board

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FFAPHOTO BY EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Onalaska’s FFA team gave their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management to the board before they take it to contests.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula


ONALASKA — Onalaska’s board met earlier this month to go over their formal agenda, as well as receive a presentation from the ag issues team as they prepare to complete in upcoming contests.

Agricultural issues team
Onalaksa’s FFA team unveiled their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management. Two students on each side of the argument presented on the pros and cons of the regulation of these animals.
The presentation included the history of how the horses were introduced to the United States, how Native Americans used them, their contemporary existence in the western U.S., and laws introduced to protect them. Pros included seed distribution and historical significance, while cons included hard packing of soil and over-population.

Elementary report
Elementary principal David Murphy informed the board that elementary UIL started meeting last week in the afternoons, but with after-school tutorials also starting soon, they are working to find ways to meet with both groups on campus in a safe manor.

Sixth grade currently holds the highest attendance with 95%, earning them a pizza party later this month. On Nov. 3, the district will hold its first Title I meeting virtually.

The presentation will go over what Title I is, requirements the school needs to meet, and what parents need to know. Questions and comments can be added to a chat box during the meeting to be addressed.

Junior and high school report
Robyn Thornton gave the junior and senior high school report.

Administration will start teacher observations soon with plans to be finished before Thanksgiving. With the first nine-weeks over, Math and English Language Arts teachers will start determining which students need educational interventions, including after-school tutoring.

The NHS and NJHS classes of last spring were inducted earlier this month, unable to do so last year due to Covid. Since the program started in 2006, 206 members have been initiated.

Student council will hold a Trunks and Treats event on Oct. 31. This drive-thru event will take place at the junior and high school campus with a drive-in movie being shown afterwards.

A copy of the school’s events calendar can be found at https://www.onalaskaisd.net/ under the “Events Calendar” tag at the bottom of the page.

Superintendent Report
Superintendent Anthony Roberts gave the enrollment report, stating the district had gained 37 more students since last year. Attendance has remained stable despite Covid, but the district is still held harmless for average daily attendance.

A bid from Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong out of Lufkin to repair roofs on the junior and senior high campus, ag and transportation barns, weight room, softball pavilion and a modified roof for the administration building for just under $300,000 was approved.

Sam Houston Electric Co-Op will lease a radio tower behind the high school to the district to improve communications around the district with the help of a safety and security grant. A tower in Livingston is currently used, but the more local tower will cost around $140 a month, less than half of what they currently pay.

District to add cyber security clause
With Senate Bill 820 passed, the district is required to adopt a cybersecurity framework and designate a coordinator to report all incidences should a breach occur. Technical support has already done so and has begun to establish procedures.

The board voted to amend the emergency operations plan.

For a calendar of future Onalaska ISD board meetings, visit https://www.onalaskaisd.net/, click on the “Superintendent’s Office” tab at the top, scroll to the bottom and click “School Board Agendas.”

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