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Local plant expert shares how to prepare for the next 'Snowpocalypse'

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One of the most immediate and obvious signs of the damage done by Winter Storm Uri was seen on all the palm trees planted around East Texas. None of their palm branches survived. One of the most immediate and obvious signs of the damage done by Winter Storm Uri was seen on all the palm trees planted around East Texas. None of their palm branches survived. by Adam Conway

Winter Storm Uri was an unusual and devastating weather phenomenon that not only damaged the lives of people in East Texas, but also the plant life that inhabits the state. “Severe freeze damage and even death to immature large trees or shrubs was caused to Fan-Tex ash trees, small live oaks and Wax Myrtles, Italian Cypress, some species of palms and immature Slash and Loblolly pines,” said Brenda Swagerty, General Manager of Plants of Texas. “To help insulate our crops for the impending storm, our company spent three days prior to the storm irrigating all crops up to two times a day in order to insulate the roots, stems and foliage of all plants and trees by filling them with water.” 

Swagerty explained that East Texans can prevent damage to their plants and trees by watering early and often when a winter storm is approaching. “Be mindful when covering plants by using lightweight materials such as frost cloth,” she said.  “It is important to ensure that plants are secured to the ground and no airgaps are present between the cloth and the ground, so heat does not escape, and cold air does not enter. If heavy snow or ice builds up on the covering, knock it off as soon as possible to reduce limb breakage.”

Many people think Winter Storm Uri was a somewhat random storm, with the last similarly low temperatures occurring decades ago. However, several climatologists believe that storms like Uri will happen more often and more severely due to gradual increases in global temperatures affecting the jet stream and the way hot and cold air moves throughout the Earth. Either way, there will be more damaging winter weather in the future. Although many plants can survive harsh winter conditions, such as Black-eyed Susan, Japanese Maple and most species of Holly, it is important to take the proper precautions for cold-sensitive plant life to prepare for the next “Snowpocalypse.”


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LHS principal speaks to Rotary Club

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LHS Principal Speaks 350LHS Principal Dr. Paul DrakeBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Dr. Paul Drake, principal of Livingston High School, spoke to the Livingston Rotary Club Thursday, providing an update on things going on at the high school. A 2001 graduate of LHS, Drake returned five years ago to become the high school principal.

He touched on the variety of programs offered for students entering the work force instead of secondary education.

“We have several new programs. One is cosmetology. We have eight or nine in there and they will graduate with a certificate. It’s been successful,” he said.

“We have an HVAC program through Angelina College. Three students will get HVAC certification right after graduation or shortly thereafter,” he said, adding, “We have a welding program at Angelina where the students can earn certificates and we also offer welding at LHS with Mr. Sitton.

“Last year was the first year of our LVN program. Seven participated and can get licensed in August following graduation in May. On campus we offer welding, ag tech and culinary arts, where they’re able to get their Serve Safe certification. The goal of these programs is to make them employable and successful,” he said.

Drake moved on to provide updates on various other programs at the high school.

“Volleyball has turned a corner and is very successful with our new head coach, Macy Box, or as you may know her, Macy Murphy. She is doing a tremendous job investing in our students,” he said.

“Our tennis team went to state last year with Coach Scotty McFarlain. As for football, we’re trying to defend our district championship. The band has a new director and is growing,” Drake said.

“We have a robotics program. Mr. Carr started that. The kids worked tremendously hard and went to state last year. We also have a computer maintenance course. Mr. Carr has done a good job of growing his program,” he said. “What used to be JROTC is now NDCC with Mr. Tinker. He has nearly 100 kids in that program now and it probably started with 50.
“Homecoming is next week. We play Madisonville here at 7 p.m. Next Thursday there will be a community pep rally at the Corky Cochran Complex. We’re not doing indoor pep rallies for obvious reasons,” he said.

Drake addressed the fact that this is the third school year in which the schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year school started and we had a lot of rules to follow. We still had to take the state assessment though and we did well. This year began a little differently. Regarding COVID, I think as a district we’ve done a great job. This year we had to shut down for a week because of so much of our staff being out with it. We were having about 89-90% attendance but since we’ve been back it’s been about 95-96%,” he said.

“We’ve tried to implement a lot of mitigation strategies. We have the students sit a chair apart at lunch. We stagger class dismissal times so there are fewer people in the halls. Our custodial staff has done great and the classes that have sinks, we encourage everyone to wash their hands. We’re really hoping to stay healthy during this long push to Thanksgiving,” he said.

Drake touched on the dual credit courses offered to the students whereby upon completion of the course the student receives both high school and college credits.

“We do a lot of dual credit classes and a few AP classes. We fund it and there is no cost to the student. You can now start as a freshman and take dual credit classes and can graduate with 60 hours,” Drake said. “We had around 100-110 taking them when I first started. We have 190 now. We’re near 200 students, or 15%, taking dual credit.

“Some of the Angelina programs we have are off campus. The students make a lot of sacrifices. The more hours you take, the more likely you are to graduate,” he said.

Drake touched on generational poverty and how it can permeate a community.

“We have a focus on inspiring kids’ lives. We have some people in our community who don’t value work and we’re trying to combat that.

“I’ve enjoyed working here. This is my fifth year here. The high school has changed a lot in five years, kind of the choices of the board. At a 14% turnover rate, it’s been really good to see all the growth and changes over the last four to five years,” Drake said.

When asked to what he attributed the retention of teachers, he credited the decisions of the school board and superintendent.

“I think you can look at our school board and Dr. Hawkins, our salary instrument, the consistency, the fact that teachers know what to expect when they come to work, our pay scale and the board’s vision,” Drake said.

“You’re doing an excellent job and we appreciate what you do at the high school,” Rotarian Judson Pritchard, a former LHS principal, said.

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City of Livingston adopts budget, approves 5.1% pay raise

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City of Livingston LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Following a public hearing in which no one spoke, the Livingston City Council approved the proposed ordinance adopting its budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2021 and ends Sept. 30, 2022 during its regular meeting Tuesday. Also approved were adjustments to the budget for the fiscal year ending September 30.

Council approved the proposed salary schedule for the fiscal year beginning that begins October 1. The salary schedule reflects a 5.1% cost of living/salary increase.

A public hearing on the determination of unsafe and/or dilapidated buildings and cleanup of property located at 154 Banks Drive was held. City Attorney James W. “Jim” Wright showed photos and video taken by City Fire Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer Josh Mohler of the grounds and the structure itself, which showed rotten studs, mold, the ceiling caving in in multiple areas and deteriorated walls. Mohler said the city has received several complaints over the last few years regarding the property. In conclusion, Molher said there are a number of code violations, that the building is unsafe in its entirety, that it has partially collapsed and may completely collapse at some point. He added that there is even a possibility of asbestos contamination.

According to the official public records of Polk County, the property, formerly known as Burmont Nursing Center, was deeded to Robert Hill in 2015. He died in 2016 and his two of his five heirs, Siblings Carrie Hill and Lavoris Hill, only learned of his ownership of the property after his death.

When asked about their plans for the property, Carrie Hill said, “We’re not in a position to say. We have to do a feasibility study.”

When asked about her time frame, Hill said, “It would probably take a few months. You presented your view based on your objectives. We owe it to ourselves to go through all six wings ourselves with people we’ve selected.”

“Isn’t it obvious to y’all that that is a hazard? I’ve been on this council many, many years and I don’t ever remember seeing anything in this bad a shape,” Councilman Clarke Evans said.

“This is a matter that we take very seriously. I think from our standpoint we just need some time, at least 90 days or to the end of the year,” Hill said.

“It’s my opinion that the building needs to come down,” Councilman Alan Cook said.

“I agree with Alan. We have a responsibility to our people in the community,” Evans said.

Following a motion and a second, Council voted in favor of giving the Hills 45 days to have the building investigated for asbestos and if found, remediated, and then demolish the building.

Council received a status update regarding repairs to a building located at 1958 South Washington. Enough work has been done to the exterior of the structure that it is no longer considered dilapidated which means that demolition is off the table. However, the owner will be unable to get city services until every requirement on the list is fulfilled.

The city’s pro-rata share of the 2021 dues for Brazos Transit—$4,200—were approved. Council also approved a proposed resolution designating the Polk County Enterprise as the official newspaper for the city for the upcoming fiscal year.

During his monthly report, City Manager Bill S. Wiggins informed Council that the September sales tax from the state comptroller reflects $373,441.92 for the month of July 2021, a 0.98% increase over the same time last year.

Wiggins gave an update on the following current development projects:

Baskin Development Duplexes – They have cleared an additional 20 lots for additional housing units adjacent to this project. They have been visiting with city staff about building more housing units. They acquired the 60-acre tract located on the east side of Pan American Drive with the intention of constructing additional housing and perhaps a commercial project.

Blue Wave Carwash at 1829 US Hwy. 190 West – Apollo Construction is the on-site contractor. Work has begun.

Country Place Senior Living/Assisted Living at 1860 N. Washington – F&H are the contractors. Work is ongoing. They are hoping to be open in December.

Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments at 1101 Dogwood – Watermark Commercial is the contractor. Work is ongoing.

Livingston Shopping Center at 1219 W. Church (the old Jackson building) – it is built out for four separate spaces, one being a potential eatery.

Danny Moseley at 213/215 Jack Moseley Boulevard – A permit has been issued for construction of a new townhome. Dirt work has started.

Panda Express at 1630 W. Church St. (Walmart parking lot) – Regis Construction is the contractor. The permit has been issued and work has begun.

7-11 Store at 1605 W. Church St. (Old Raceway) – A permit has been issued for the remodel of the store.

Tractor Supply at 1820 US Highway 190 West – About to remodel.

Wiggins reported on the completion of the Livingston Senior Apartments at 1600 N. Houston, Long Branch Steakhouse on the bypass, Petalz at 500 N. Washington and Starbucks at 1626 W. Church St.

He also reported that Union Pacific Railroad will be working on the railroad crossing at the intersection of US Hwy. 190 and Jackson Street on Sunday and Monday, September 19-20. Additionally, he said Texas Department of Transportation will be mowing the highway medians on US Hwy. 190 (east and west) and on US Hwy. 59 beginning October 1.

Other business included approval of accounts over $500 as well as minutes of the August 10 meeting.

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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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