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Polk County gives firm green light for road repair bids

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                               Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy (right) signs an approval for an agenda itemduring commissioners court Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse as Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Willis looks on.

By Jason Chlapek

POLK COUNTY — Polk County commissioners approved the services of Bryan architecture firm Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong to advertise for construction bids on a Precinct 1 road during Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Court meeting at the Polk County Courthouse.The road in need of repair is Taylor Lake Road, which has been washed away once by high water from the nearby Trinity River. The road is located in Ace off of Farm-to-Market Road 2610, and is part of the Hurricane Harvey Recovery Project.

“Taylor Lake Road was going to fall into the river again,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “They already lost the road before so we’re on our second one. They fixed the culverts and guardrail.”

Commissioners also approved the holiday schedule for 2021 fiscal year. The paid holidays are New Year’s Day (Friday, Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 18) Presidents’ Day (Monday, Feb. 15), Good Friday (Friday, April 2), Memorial Day (Monday, May 23), Independence Day (Friday, July 2 or Monday, July 5), Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 5), Columbus Day (Monday, Oct. 10, 2021), Veterans Day (Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021), Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26, 2021), and Christmas (Thursday, Dec. 23 and Friday, Dec. 24, 2021).

“We try to stay with federal holidays and we also try to make sure that everybody gets Fourth of July off,” Murphy said. “If the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then they get the Friday before or the Monday after the holiday off. This makes sure thatwe’re staying within the 13 days.

”A grant for $71,000 was approved as well. The grant is for Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding.“Those are grants that come through,” Murphy said. “We try to stay compliant with whatever the requirements are with whoever issued the grants. We have staff whose time was stretched. We want to make sure they’re paid, especially for employees who work too much. This happens a lot with emergency management, maintenance or IT departments. We work on comp time.”

Commissioners also drew names for the sick leave pool. The names selected were Paula Baker (District Clerk), Matthew Brown (Jail), John Cabiness (Sheriff’s Office), Cassie Kosina (Tax Assessor Collector) and Judge Tolar (Road & Bridge Pct. 4).

All four commissioners — Bob Willis (Pct. 1), Ronnie Vincent (Pct. 2), Milt Purvis (Pct. 3) and Tommy Overstreet (Pct. 4) — had items for which they wanted to accept bids or have rebids in regard to base material.

“(The commissioners) don’t want to spend too much time and money traveling to get materials,” Murphy said. “They want to make sure where they’re traveling to get materials is close to them and they’re prudent with their tax dollars.”The next commissioners court will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

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Leggett neighborhood awaiting water results

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Leggett Water Supply issued a boil water notice for the Pratt subdivision last Thursday after a water line that services the neighborhood experienced a leak. (Photo by Jason  Chlapek)  Leggett Water Supply issued a boil water notice for the Pratt subdivision last Thursday after a water line that services the neighborhood experienced a leak. (Photo by Jason Chlapek)

By Jason Chlapek
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LEGGETT — A Leggett subdivision has been under a boil water notice since last Thursday.

The water line that services the Pratt subdivision off of Marston Road in Leggett experienced a leak, which prompted a repair and a sample of water to be taken to Eastex Environmental Lab Inc. for testing. The Leggett Water Supply Company expected the results of the test to be returned on Wednesday.

“We send it to Eastex Environmental Lab Inc. more as a precaution,” LWS Secretary Andrea Schmidt said. “It normally takes 2-3 business days after (Eastex) receives the sample to get the results back.”

During the process of repairing the leak, the water pressure was high, which prompted the maintenance crew to turn the water off for approximately 10 minutes while they repaired the leak. Even if the boil notice is rescinded, Schmidt said the boil water notice signs must stay posted for at least 10 calendar days.

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Polk County students returning to campus

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James WhiteJames White

By Brian Besch
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A large portion of Polk County students returned to school Tuesday, as Livingston ISD welcomed back over 500 who were receiving instruction online.

Among several reasons for a return, Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins cited an increased workload on staff and an “astonishing” failure rate from those taking courses over the Internet.

Big Sandy ISD made the same decision to return all students to campus a few weeks ago, one of the earliest in Texas to do so. Leggett ISD plans to have all back Oct. 27.

Former educator and current State Rep. James White (R-Woodville) said he can appreciate why school districts are making the decision to return to an in-class structure.

“School boards and superintendents are making decisions based on the data in their community,” White said. “They are discussing that with the communities, in consultation with the local health departments.”

White said has seen other school districts across the state attempting to bring students back to the classroom. He said data points like infection rates, hospitalization rates and if students are turning in work while learning from home have been determining factors. In many parts of Texas, students taking classes online have not turned in assignments.

“You measure if students have the academic exposure and socialization that they need in order to compete, and one day help us defeat another virus outbreak,” White said. “I think that is what we are doing.

“On this side of my district, going over toward Evadale and Jasper, we did have some Covid-related fatalities. It was folks that happened to have worked in the school. I’m not saying they got it at the school. I think you have to put it all together and I like the idea of it being decided from family to family, household to household and community to community.”

A former teacher at Houston ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Livingston ISD and Woodville ISD, White said he also worries that students are not keeping up with academic responsibilities. There are reports that many may not be making the progress necessary to advance.

“There is a thought that we could have at least 300,000 kids throughout the state that we don’t know where they are. (State Rep.) Dan Huberty had a Zoom virtual meeting and he talked about this. We don’t know where these kids are at; they are not signing on or logging on or doing any of that. One of my colleagues — and I think it is the Fort Worth area — there may be at least 30% of the kids that were unaccounted for.”

According to the White, there are some districts where instructors are walking blocks in neighborhoods and knocking on doors, just as a truancy officer would, to find students.

If students are nowhere to be found, forms such as free or reduced lunch are not turned in.

“It could be hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars lost.”

White has been an advocate for student attendance. Texas decriminalized truancy with legislation he authored. House Bill 2398 made truancy a civil offense, ending the practice of jailing students for skipping school.

Signing the legislation in 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said criminalizing unauthorized absences at school unnecessarily jeopardized the futures of students. 

The bill kept pupils in the classroom by maintaining the criminal offense for adults who contribute to truancy. It prioritized family involvement and school-based intervention over criminal punishment of the youth. The law requires schools to implement preventive measures as the first response to truancy.

In conversations with superintendents, White said one of the things that seems to be of concern is how thin staffs have been stretched.

“With my smaller districts, which is most of them, what I am getting from the school teachers and from the administrators is they don’t believe that they are going to be able to keep this tempo up, where they have that teacher in there practically doing two sets of lessons a day. There’s not enough hours in the day. They may get worn out and the idea is ‘Will we be able to keep these folks in the profession?’

“I think we are seeing a renewed value in the student-teacher relationship, whether that is inside or outside the schoolhouse. Internet accessibility has a role, it has a purpose, but I think we are coming to a conclusion that (online learning) is not something that people always dreamed about. There is more to school than just showing up. There is a community aspect.”

Distance learning has been successful in assisting some districts to close the technology gap. 

School districts in Polk County have been able to secure Chromebooks and hot spots for students to learn at home. The tools for Internet access have come at a significantly reduced price or often free through government programs. They will continue to benefit in the event of another outbreak or assist with homework for on-campus learners.

“I think a lot of people are discovering the value of the Internet in our lives. It is a utility; it is no longer a luxury. Applying for a job, paying bills — it is the market. Getting these devices in these households (is important), not only for the kids when they come home, but so families can start taking advantage of that utility.”

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Polk, Montgomery Sheriffs nab suspects

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Paul Wayne MillsPaul Wayne Mills

By Brian Besch
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A Conroe man wanted on multiple charges was apprehended in the Goodrich neighborhood of Holiday Lake Estates Saturday. 

After a lengthy investigation by the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, deputies learned the whereabouts of Paul Wayne Mills, 47, who is considered a violent offender and wanted felon. 

With assistance from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Pct. 4 Special Response Team (SRT) executed a high-risk felony warrant at 1342 River Road at approximately 1:30 p.m. to successfully apprehend Mills.

“The warrant service that we have, we’ve been looking for him for quite some time,” Jim Slack, Montgomery County Pct. 4 lieutenant and public information officer, said. “They got some information that he was down there, so our SRT team (Special Response Team) went down there and picked him up.”

Mills also faced multiple felony charges from the Splendora Police Department, which was reportedly added during his booking into the Montgomery County Jail. He acquired a felony evading charge after running from deputies during a traffic stop and had several open felony warrants from both Splendora and Montgomery County.

A deputy spotted Mills in the front yard while driving by in an unmarked vehicle. Upon identification, the SRT and Polk County Sheriff’s Office served the warrant at the residence.

“A lot of times, we will help neighboring agencies and they will help us,” Slack said. “It is just a great working relationship and any time we are in another county or jurisdiction outside our precinct, we are going to notify them. They normally send a deputy or two and if they find any offenses, they will take those.”

There were additional charges, as law enforcement discovered large quantities of narcotics and a pistol during the warrant execution Saturday. 

James Louis Riggs, 57, of Goodrich, was also arrested at the residence. He is charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance of more than four grams. Riggs was booked into the Polk County Jail.

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Boil water notice for West Livingston subdivisions

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Lakeland Hideaway was one of four subdivisions placed under a boil water notice Tuesday morning. (Jason Chlapek Photo) Lakeland Hideaway was one of four subdivisions placed under a boil water notice Tuesday morning. (Jason Chlapek Photo)

By Jason Chlapek
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Polk County-An equipment repair change led to the Lake Livingston Water Supply implementing a boil water notice Tuesday morning for four subdivisions located in West Livingston.

Residents in the Cherokee Forest, Green Acres, Lakeland Hideaway and Natasha Heights subdivisions were given the boil water notice after a chlorinator in the well that services those subdivisions needed to be repaired. LLWS General Manager Kim Click insisted that the boil water notice was merely a “precaution.”

“Low chlorine can cause bacteria to enter the water,” Click said. “This is a standard procedure that we do for line breaks or any type of repairs.”

A sample of the water was turned into the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a diagnosis. The diagnosis of the water is expected to be returned today.

“It takes 24 hours,” Click said of the test. “This is groundwater and amoebas are usually found in warm water. We’ll rescind the notice once everything is clear.”

Customers were encouraged to boil their water before consumption such as bathing, brushing teeth, washing face and drinking. Click said the boil water notice would be in affect for at least 48 hours. 

LLWS has 62 wells in a six-county radius that includes Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Hardin, Liberty and Walker counties. More on this story can be seen in the Sunday edition of the Enterprise.

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