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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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Hero's Welcome Home

Traffic downtown came to a halt early Wednesday as nearly 200 units from law enforcement, area fire departments and Sam Houston Electric Cooperative showed their respect for a hometown hero as the body of Yancy Williams, 54, of Livingston, was escorted home from a Houston hospital. Yancy died Tuesday after a lengthy battle with COVID-19. A graduate of Livingston High School, Yancy proudly served his country in the U.S. Marine Corp and in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served his community as a line technician with Sam Houston Electric Cooperative and as a firefighter with the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten | PCE

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Parents mourn loss of son

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Cole OverstreetCole OverstreetBy Brian Besch
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It’s been two weeks since the fatal vehicle collision that took the life of Livingston High School senior Cole Overstreet. The accident was a head-on collision with Roy Grant Wagner, 40, of The Woodlands, who fled the scene after crossing over the road’s centerline. 

Wagner was charged with failure to stop and render aid resulting in death, along with unlawful carrying of a weapon and possession of marijuana. 

His criminal history reflects multiple arrests for DWI, and alcohol has been suspected to play a role in his most recent troubles. According to documents received by the Enterprise, his first DWI was in August of 2001, when he would have been 20 years of age. He received six months of probation from Harris County.

His second DWI charge was 10 years later by the Pasadena Police Department, where he received a year of probation. In March of 2018, Wagner was charged with DWI and was convicted on a lesser charge, receiving two years and three days probation. Just 10 months ago on Dec. 12, he collected a DWI charge for the fourth time. He served eight days in jail. 

Wagner quickly made the $251,500 bail in Polk County and is free once more. Cole’s parents, Tad and April Overstreet, have a fear that their worst experience could be shared by others. 

“I don’t want anyone to forget our son. I don’t think they would, but he didn’t deserve this,” April said. “For this man to be out there, it can happen to somebody else and we don’t want that to happen because it is the most painful thing we’ve ever been through in our lives.”

Without Wagner present at the scene of the crash, he could not be tested for alcohol.

“This guy ran after four priors and it benefits him to run from the scene,” Tad said. “Instead of getting harsher punishment for fleeing like it should be, it is the other way around. It is harder to punish him and harder to make anything stick. It should be the complete opposite. There needs to be something in place where if someone has a history — I mean, four? That is a long history of doing the same thing again and again and again. Whenever they flee, there needs to be some sort of automatic maximum punishment of whatever charges. The way our system is set up now, it is geared toward him having an easier time by doing the wrong thing and it benefits you.”

The Overstreets said they have heard reports that Wagner has received lenient sentences in the past because he is a veteran and the incidents have been blamed on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What the parents do not understand is why Wagner is allowed to drive if his mental issues are so troubling.

“I don’t think they have the proof they need because he knows how to work the system,” April said.

Earlier reports that Wagner turned himself in two days later may not be the case. The Overstreets have heard information suggesting law enforcement knew of Wagner’s location and gave him the option to surrender.

Tad said he has tremendous respect for those who have served in the military, but that it should not exempt anyone from committing crimes.

“I say ‘thank you’ whenever I see someone with a veteran hat on, but where is the honor and where is the integrity in killing someone — an innocent person — and running away? There is no honor in that,” Tad said. “I am thankful for his service a long time ago, but he needs to pay for his crimes. He hasn’t served much jail time so far and that is the problem. He hasn’t learned any lessons.”

The parents have asked officials if Wagner still has the right to drive. They have yet to be told he cannot. Instead, it was relayed that there was a breathalyzer in Wagner’s truck at the time of the accident. However, it had been disabled, as he was no longer required to submit a test. Tad and April were told law enforcement wasn’t sure there was enough evidence to convict Wagner’s fourth incident in Montgomery County, but felt Harris County would revoke his license because he was still on probation there from his third incident. In Montgomery County, law enforcement was said to have found him passed out on the side of the road in the early morning hours with the engine cool.

“This guy is not somebody who has made a little mistake and turned himself in,” Tad said. “It doesn’t seem like there had been any results because all he was looking out for was himself. Our son is gone and there’s nothing that can be done about that. Something we really talked about is how we can make a difference, and No. 1 is we can protect other people and their families from this guy doing the same thing to them.”

On Wednesday, Tad and April were presented Cole’s induction certificate for the National Honor Society. Cole had plans to attend college at Sam Houston State University to study engineering.

“He was a follower of Jesus,” April said. “He always walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk. He loved everybody. It didn’t matter if you were a football player or a band kid or everybody in between.”

Tad said many of Cole’s classmates have told them he would always be the one to turn situations around by remaining positive when something negative occurred. 

“He was a really good, respectful young man,” Tad said. “He had his whole life ahead of him. He was a better man than me. I learned from him through watching the way he acted. It was just amazing to me how he was mature beyond his years.”

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Taylor Red to perform locally

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Taylor Red

For its second show this season, Livingston Community Concerts will present Taylor Red at 7:30 p.m. October 16 at the Polk County Commerce Center.

Taylor Red is composed of identical triplet sisters hailing from Nashville. Nika, Natalie and Nicole Taylor make up the girl band whose sound is best described as fresh, fun and country. They are singers, songwriters, composers and multi-instrumentalists who play guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. They were a Dove Award Nominee for Country Album of the Year in 2014.

“Their program is influenced by country artists such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash as well as pop music artists like the Eagles and Tom Petty.”

They have opened for Amy Grant, Charlie Daniels, Diamond Rio, Don Williams, High Valley, Josh Turner, Michael W. Smith, Neil McCoy, Ray Stevens and many others. They are also famous for their Sonic Drive-In commercials featured in 2020-2021. They have been featured in People Magazine not only for their music but also their success on social media. Thy have over 7 million followers on TikTok. They grew up in southern Mississippi and currently reside in Nashville.

The Polk County Commerce Center is located at 1017 U.S. Highway 59 Loop North, Livingston.

Memberships in the Livingston Community Concert Association may be purchased for as little as $50 per person and family rates are also available. Membership will allow one to attend all concerts per season.

For additional information go to www.livingstoncommunityconcert.org or contact Sally Frasier at 936-967-0219.

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County to begin process off redistricting

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Attorney Eric Magee discussed and reviewed the initial assessment of Polk County for the purposes of redistricting during the recent regular meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court. To ensure equal representation, Magee said the county’s total population, 46,409, divided by four, 11,602, should be the population of each precinct. Of the four precincts, he said Precinct 1 grew the most, with a population of 13,721, and Precinct 3 shrunk the most, with a population of 10,164. Commissioners approved adopting the findings of fact regarding the political boundaries of Polk County, Texas and an order redistricting of county political boundaries.

A public hearing on the creation of a reinvestment zone to be known as Polk County Reinvestment Zone-Lone Spur for purposes of tax abatement to provide economic development within the county was held.

“This is a reinvestment zone of approximately 6,600 acres east of Lake Livingston State Park and south of the City of Livingston. It’s a solar project,” Magee said.

“I think it would be beneficial in a lot of different ways,” Bart Goldsmith said.

“I’ve been approached by some property-owners on the list who said they weren’t contacted,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said. “Those people in the project zone were contacted,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

Following close of the public hearing, commissioners approved creation of the reinvestment zone and also approved adoption of a tax abatement agreement with Lone Spur Solar Energy LLC.

Several agreements for medical and mental health services at the Polk County Jail were approved. Dr. Raymond Luna will provide medical director services, Ann Luna Winston will provide after-hours inmate medical services and Serenity House Counseling PLLC will provide inmate mental health services.

A proposed agreement from Net Data for justice of the peace case management, real vision imaging, integrated credit card payment system, iticket DPS citation download and GHS collections management was approved.

Modifications to the Polk County subdivision regulations were approved and action regarding Rolling Pines Subdivision Section 1 located in Precinct 2 was approved.

Commissioners approved the nomination of Paul David Evans, by resolution, for the Polk Central Appraisal District Board for the 2021-2022 term.

The regular commissioners court session set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12 was rescheduled to 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 8 due to the court’s attendance at the County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference in Round Rock.

Commissioners approved authorizing Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong to advertise for construction bids on the Texas Department of Agriculture fiscal year 2020 Dallardsville/Segno WSC Plant improvements.

Action regarding the request for proposals #2021-20 for the school lands lease was approved.

Commissioners approved personnel actions form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed two authorized emergency hirings, one at the sheriff’s office and one at the jail.

Fiscal Year 2021 budget revisions #2021-19 and amendments #2021-19(A), as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.

Offers to purchase tax foreclosed properties, specifically Lots 36, 37 and 38 in Block 11 in Section 2 of Cedar Point in Precinct 2, were approved.

Following a public hearing to receive public comment on the county and district clerks’ preservation and restoration plans for fiscal year 2022 which yielded no comments, Commissioners approved the plans.

The Polk County Historical Commission was recognized and presented the Texas Historical Commission Distinguished Service Award.

Commissioners approved the following items that were on the consent agenda:

Minutes of the Sept. 14 regular meeting;

Schedules of bills;

Order designating surplus property;

County Auditor Louis Ploth’s monthly report, pursuant to Local Government Code Sec . 114.025;

Order setting juror reimbursement for fiscal year 2022;

Order designating regular terms of commissioners court for fiscal year 2022;

Order setting terms of the constitutional county court;

Adoption of resolution expressing intent to reimburse certain fiscal year 2022 expenditures (capital purchases) to be incurred by Polk County, Texas (reimbursement resolution);

District clerk preservation and restoration records plan for fiscal year 2022 and set district court records archive fee in the amount of $10, as reflected in the fiscal year 2022 adopted budget;

County clerk preservation and restoration records plan for fiscal year 2022 and set county court records archive fee in the amount of $10, as reflected in the fiscal year 2022 adopted budget;

Receive and record the district judges’ order of reappointment and oath of Louis Ploth as county auditor for Polk County effective September 18;

Approve request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $47,800 for purchase of law enforcement vehicle and $1,480.93 for travel/training;

Approve six-month renewal of memorandum of understanding with Precinct 1 constable regarding monthly salary of Beau Price to be funded solely from Precinct 1 constable asset seizures;

Approve request from District Attorney Lee Hon for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $1,676 for publication of legal documents;

Accept donations provided to the fire marshal for fire prevention education;

Approve use of $29,980 from maintenance capital outlay buildings (budgeted funds) to replace roof at Corrigan food pantry;

Approve use of $3,044.39 from justice court building security fund balance to install walk-through metal detector at Precinct 2 justice of the peace office;

Approve revision of order authorizing and assigning space in county-owned buildings; and

Approve revisions to animal control ordinance regarding legislated changes in fees.

Joshua Carney, pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church of Livingston, opened the meeting with prayer.

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