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Polk County Commissioners Court approves building expenses

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polk county logoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Proposed expenditures from maintenance capital outlay buildings—which are budgeted funds—for the installation of a secure transaction window for the Precinct 3 justice of the peace and an HVAC unit for the Polk County Sub-Courthouse in Onalaska were approved by the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Based on the recommendations of Polk County Maintenance Superintendent Jay Burks, Commissioners approved a quote of $5,100 from Covenant Security Equipment for the window and a bid for $3,490 from Delta T Heating & Cooling for the replacement of the HVAC unit that recently caused damage in the office of Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent.

“I’d also like to say that Jay and his department did an excellent job in getting that and got it back together in a timely manner,” Vincent said.

“The maintenance department has done a tremendous job,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

Commissioners approved a $66,177.50 expenditure from the general fund balance for the installation of air scrubbers—specifically Reme Halos with LED bulbs (an in-duct air purifier)—in county buildings to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. According to Burks, both the sheriff’s offices and the jail have already been completed with air scrubbers. The hope is that this will not only help reduce the spread of COVID-19 but will also help with flu season.

The Court approved to advertise a request for qualifications (RFQ) for architecture services relating to renovations at the Polk County Sub-Courthouse in Corrigan. According to Murphy, there’s a lot of wasted space with the present configuration. In related activity, Commissioners appointed Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis, the county maintenance department and Jessica Hutchins from grants and contracts to serve on a committee to review and make recommendations regarding the RFQ.

Commissioners approved rescheduling the regular commissioners court session set for Tuesday, November 23 to Monday, November 22 due to the court’s attendance at the Deep East Texas Council of Governments meeting hosted by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe on the 23rd.

The Court received a nuisance abatement hearing determination for Cause No. A00440. Following a hearing in Polk County Justice Court it was determined that the public nuisance referred to be immediately abated and removed by the Polk County environmental enforcement officer and/or the Polk County commissioner and the nuisance be disposed of by state law. Located in Precinct 2, the nuisance referred to is a dwelling at the end of East Hickory in the Yaupon Cove subdivision which was basically abandoned following the April 2020 tornado. An order to abate the nuisance was approved.

Commissioners reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and were made aware of five authorized emergency hirings – two in the sheriff’s office, one in Precinct 2 road and bridge and two in Precinct 3 road and bridge. In other personnel matters, Commissioners approved the reappointment of Jacob Chapman as county fire marshal for the two-year term beginning October 1 and also approved an update to the personnel management system.

Fiscal Year 2021 budget revisions #2021-18 and amendments #2021-18(A) were approved as presented by County Auditor Louis Ploth.

Offers to purchase the following tax foreclosure properties in Precinct 2 were approved: Lot 43-A of Section 1 and Lots 34 and 48-B of Section 2 of Yaupon Cove.

Although Commissioners were expected to review the drought index in Polk County and consider any necessary action relating to a countywide burn ban, the item was deleted from the agenda in light of the recent rainfall received.

During informational reports, a presentation on Section 3 as required by the Texas Department of Agriculture for CDBG Contract #7220361 was made by Murphy. The grant, in the amount of $275,000 and strictly for water improvements, is being funded through HUD and the Department of Agriculture.

Commissioners approved the following items on the consent agenda:

Minutes of the August 24 meeting;

Schedules of bills;

An order designating surplus property;

The appointment of Joshua McDonald to reserve deputy fire marshal;

Ratification of the appointment of reserve deputies for the sheriff;

Contract renewal with Appriss Inc. to provide a statewide automated victim notification service;

An agreement with the City of Livingston for firefighting services;

An order of special election to be held November 2;

An interlocal agreement between the county and Memorial Point Utility District for the county’s provision of election equipment and services for the November 2 election, as recommended by County Clerk Schelana Hock;

Acceptance of a grant award and authorization of County Judge Sydney Murphy to execute Contract No. 2215176 with the Office of the Attorney General for the district attorney victim coordinator and sheriff’s victim coordinator and liaison grant program for 2022-2023;

Ratification of approval of a memorandum of understanding with Iteron Systems for COVID-19 screenings and vaccinations for the public;

A request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $1,474.68 for towing/storage; $700.02 for travel; and $7,000 for purchase of law enforcement equipment; and

A request from District Attorney Lee Hon for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $150 for serving legal documents and $5,018.64 for investigative services.

Sonny Hathaway, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church of Livingston, opened the meeting with prayer.

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Governor Abbott, TDEM Launch COVID-19 Antibody Infusion Center In Livingston

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AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with local officials, will launch a new COVID-19 therapeutic infusion center in Livingston. The infusion center will begin accepting patients tomorrow and has been provided with monoclonal antibodies to treat outpatient cases of COVID-19 who have a referral from a doctor. This treatment is available at no cost to the patient. Local partners include Polk County, CHI St. Luke’s Memorial - Livingston, and Polk County Office of Emergency Management.

“The State of Texas is continuing to expand access to COVID-19 antibody therapeutics in communities across the Lone Star State," said Governor Abbott. "This new facility in Livingston will ensure East Texans who test positive for COVID-19 have access to this free and effective treatment."

Governor Abbott, TDEM, and the Texas Department of State Health Services have established and expanded antibody infusion centers in communities across the state over the past several months. COVID-19 antibody infusion treatment can prevent a patient's condition from worsening and requiring hospital care. These facilities also help increase bed capacity in hospitals so that resources are available for the most ill patients. The State deployed similar measures beginning in November 2020 to communities across Texas.

These state-sponsored infusion centers are in addition to the infusion treatment centers provided by more than 200 private health providers across the state.

Antibody infusion centers are currently operating in the following communities, with more coming online in the coming days:

  • Austin (DSHS)
  • Beaumont (TDEM)
  • Corpus Christi (DSHS)
  • Edinburg (TDEM)
  • Fort Worth (DSHS)
  • Harlingen (TDEM)
  • Houston (DSHS)
  • Laredo (DSHS)
  • Livingston (TDEM)
  • Lubbock (TDEM)
  • McKinney (TDEM)
  • Nacogdoches (TDEM)
  • Odessa (TDEM)
  • San Antonio (DSHS)
  • Tyler (TDEM)
  • The Woodlands (DSHS)

The treatment is free and available to Texans who test positive for COVID-19 and have a doctor's referral. Texans can visit meds.tdem.texas.gov to find a therapeutic provider near them.

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Planting new roots - Petalz relocates to downtown Livingston

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Petalz will hold its grand opening Wednesday. This sign from Glover’s was found on top of the Blue Duck. (Photos by Brian Besch | PCE)Petalz will hold its grand opening Wednesday. This sign from Glover’s was found on top of the Blue Duck. (Photos by Brian Besch | PCE)

By Brian Besch
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Many of the buildings in Livingston’s old downtown on North Washington Avenue have sat vacant for years. In the last few months, however, those dark windows are beginning to fill with light, as businesses have moved in to help revive the area.

One couple, Jeremy and Andrea Buie, have plans for Petalz by Annie, Fain Theater, and The Plumber in Livingston. Petalz has moved locations and found a home at the corner of Polk and Washington. 

“Glover’s Hardware was the original building,” Jeremy said of the boutique’s new site. “Before that, the original slab of the building was built to be the Fain Theater. Someone across town built another theater and it was bigger than this. So, Fain said, ‘I’m going to go over here and build one bigger.’ He built one bigger and put the guy out of business and this was bought by the Glovers and they made the hardware store. Then, it turned to Hawkins Hardware and then it was 100 different things.”

Everything has been restored to as it was originally except for a garage door. A truck that sits in the store will hold flowers and will eventually be repaired so it can run in parades. Customers will be able to pick fresh flowers off the truck and make their own arrangements.

The Plumber is also expanding, moving into the structure that was Petalz on Abbey Street.

Petalz will have coffee, tea and a few treats available for customers.Petalz will have coffee, tea and a few treats available for customers.“We love being in downtown and we like being in the heart of the community,” Jeremy said. “In Huntsville, we have The Plumber office the same way — in downtown Huntsville. (Andrea) liked the corner being close to the Fain, because we own the Fain too. We like history, so anything that has some cool history, we want to be a part of it.”

The Fain will be the couple’s next project and Jeremy says it will return to the days of functioning as a theater. There will be a restoration, complete with a stage and what he calls “tons of work.” There have been holes in the roof for years, but movies, stage shows and events would all be possible once complete.

“We would like for it to be a community kind of thing. We would really like to have food there as well, so we’re trying to figure out how to get that all in there. It holds 540 chairs. That’s extremely huge for that auditorium, because it’s never more than 10% full.” 

Plans may include the removal of some seating and a VIP section in the balcony with full service.

Those shopping for flowers and arrangements at Petalz can also enjoy a coffee bar, various teas named after areas and people in Livingston, as well as a few different snacks. 

The Polk County Judge recovered a large sign that decorates the wall, giving notice to Glover’s Hardware.

“Sydney Murphy found the sign on top of the Blue Duck. How in the world it got there? We don’t know. She contacted the Glover family and he told us that we could have it. He is the grandson of Mr. Glover and it was the first time he had ever been in the building. We tried to keep everything as original as it could be. When we got here, it was all boarded up and there was just a small window, so we went back to the original windows.” 

A lot of work has gone into making the inside a Polk County destination, including all new plumbing and electrical. Small touches like artifacts from the old stores add plenty of charm. They have also made use of items left behind like swinging doors, a safe and a bicycle that was sold in Glover’s Hardware with flowers painted on and inscribed, appropriately enough, “Petals.” In order to make windows in the office upstairs, it took four guys seven days to bust through what Jeremy called the hardest wall he’s seen.

Yet, Jeremy and Andrea have intentions to bust through a few more walls. There is a passion to help revitalize the old downtown area and the couple is doing their part to bring it back, starting with the Wednesday opening of Petalz.

“We really want to bring more life to downtown. I think that this will give some people some vision or hope that it can still look good downtown. We really hope that it catches on. There is a lot of potential down here and I hope people take advantage of it.”

This bicycle was originally sold in Glover’s Hardware, the original store on the site.This bicycle was originally sold in Glover’s Hardware, the original store on the site.

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PCSO arrests Livingston man for child pornography

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Jim McLainJim McLainFrom Enterprise Staff

Jim Olin McLain, 42, of Livingston, was arrested Wednesday on several counts of third-degree felony possession of child pornography.

Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office began looking into McLain on August 26, after numerous images and video were discovered on electronic equipment belonging to him, according to Captain David Sottosanti, an investigator with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The videos and images depicted young children displayed in numerous sexual acts.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for McLain’s residence as well as an arrest warrant for him. He was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail without incident.

According to Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons, his office works tirelessly to protect children by using the latest investigation technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil online predators. Lyons urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks children face on the Internet and take steps to help ensure their safety.

If you suspect that someone is possessing, producing or downloading child pornography, you may report it to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at 936-327-6810, or by contacting Polk County Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP (7867), where you may remain anonymous.

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Afterschool enrichment program to begin

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Enrichment Program 400Jose Vazquez is project director and F. Sunnie Frazier is site project director of a new afterschool enrichment program at Livingston Junior High School that is being funded by a grant in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas. Photo by Emily Banks WootenBy Emily Banks Wooten
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An afterschool enrichment program at Livingston Junior High School will soon be underway and is being funded by a grant through the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas. The opportunity has been awarded to Livingston, Crockett and Nacogdoches.

Worth $750,000, the grant will be distributed over five years and will fund a project director and core subject tutors.

The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century CLC is a program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Jose Vazquez, a 2010 graduate of Livingston High School, has been named project director. Vazquez is a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas with a bachelor of science in biology. He said all through college he wanted to be a pediatrician until he did some internships at hospitals and realized that was not the career for him.

“I began working summer camps for a non-profit and I absolutely loved it. I worked there for three years and then the grant was not renewed. I went to the YMCA of Greater Williamson County. In 2018, I moved to Houston and went to the YMCA of Greater Houston. I worked with 21st Century as site director for three years,” he said, adding, “I always knew I wanted to work with children.”

F. Sunnie Frazier, of Woodville, has been named the site project director. A third-generation educator, Frazier said she comes from a lineage of educators. “The Fraziers are farmers and educators.” Educated at Prairieview A&M University, Georgetown University and Columbia University, Frazier has been an educator, a Christian school principal and a consultant and has worked in New York, Maryland and Houston. “Math is my focus,” she said.

The afterschool enrichment program will be from 3:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays on the junior high campus. On Mondays through Thursdays, students will have strategy and academic support where they will work on homework and receive tutoring. The students will have a light dinner and will also participate in enrichment activities such as passport to manhood, character development, arts and garden club. On Fridays, the entire three hours will be spent on enrichment activities.

“This will be academically focused and intentional. We’re incorporating project-based learning. Everything we do is intentional, including the selection of students,” Vazquez said. He said the primary goals are to increase academics, specifically math and reading scores, then increase attendance and finally, increase parent involvement.

“We’re focusing on sixth-graders because we want three consecutive programs but we’re not eliminating seventh and eighth-graders,” Frazier said.

“That strategy was actually suggested by Ms. Frazier and Mr. Nettles (Junior High Principal Jared Nettles). That’s why they’re targeting that group,” Vazquez said.

Frazier and Vazquez have been busy working with teachers, specifically the ELA (English Language Arts) teachers, as they said Nettles’ big push is reading.

“We encourage siblings of our scholars, which is what we call our participants,” Frazier said, adding that that was Vazquez’ idea.

Frazier said a six-week program will be offered in the summer at which time students will go on field trips, as well as participate in STEM courses (science/technology/engineering/math), art and substantive topics.

“The bonus is that we provide a light dinner and transportation. Dr. Hawkins is giving us a lot of support,” Frazier said of the LISD superintendent.

“One of the rules though is no pull-outs. Attendance is key. We have to have them there consistently. We get graded just like the school gets graded. We get to stay as long as the students are improving,” Frazier said of the five-year grant. “We’re here to help the school, support the school district, Mr. Nettles and the students.”

“Our priority is academics, then ESL (English as a second language) students and new arrivals and lastly, behavior and social skills,” Vazquez said. 

Another important component of the program is providing outreach events for parents in the community.

“We will provide adult education for families that need it, ESL, fitness, nutrition, whatever the needs are. We’ve hired a family engagement specialist to serve the program,” Frazier said.

They also said there will be all types of activities to get parents on the campus.

“This is also an opportunity to reach out to those parents who can’t attend things in the mornings or during the work day,” Vazquez said. “We want this to be an extension of the school.”

“We’re wanting to partner with groups in the community,” Frazier said, adding that the first big project will be forming a garden club.

Frazier said there are still several spots open for employment for those who are innovative and like to work with kids. She added that they are committed to having bilingual youth development specialists.

The program is free and there is space available for 150 students. Two to four teachers are expected to be hired.

“I think we’re going to have space for everyone interested,” Frazier said. “My direct line is 936-328-2120 Ext. 6110. For any questions about the program, please call me.”

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