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County commits funds to regional communications infrastructure

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                               JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Polk County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Byron Lyons addresses commissioners about an agenda item that he wants tabled during Tuesday morning’s Commissioners Court. The item was tabled.

By Jason Chlapek

LIVINGSTON — Polk County commissioners approved a measure that will help not just their own county, but other counties as well during Commissioners Court Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

The measure is a resolution authorizing the commitment of county funds and participation in a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project by the Deep East Texas Council Of Governments (DETCOG) for regional interoperable radio communications. Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy believes this is a good move.

“A few years ago, one of our Sheriff’s deputies was shot at and he was unable to get out and his radio wasn’t working so he couldn’t get help,” Murphy said. “What we’re trying to do is get interoperable communications with the entire 12-county DETCOG region and build a network across those counties that will allow us to have interoperability for emergency management, law enforcement, first responders or anybody that needs to be in communication in a crisis situation or circumstances. If we can get this done, then they’re asking for a commitment of 1 percent from the cog, which is huge. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these counties to be able to get good interoperability.”

The DETCOG region consists of 12 counties that include Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties. The project calls for some communication structure.

“It’s going to be upgraded technology where towers will be placed strategically,” Murphy said. “For example, let’s say Polk County ends up with a tower. That tower will be powerful enough to cover part of Liberty County, part of Trinity County or part of Tyler County depending on where the tower is located. The idea is to put ‘umbrellas’ over the entire DETCOG region to where everybody is covered regardless of where the location of the tower is. It’s a regional plan.”

Commissioners also approved a measure to submit a CDBG grant application for flood and drainage improvement in a subdivision in Precinct 1. The Precinct 1 Road & Bridge Department will match the funds.

“What happens when you receive these grants, there’s a matching portion,” Murphy said. “They don’t just give you the money. You have to have ‘skin in the game.’ It’s a matching grant. Some of the HUD requirements that those people be low to moderate income. To be LMI, it’s based on the average income for that county. The average income for Polk County is lower than the average income for Montgomery County based on the businesses and what people make. The cost of living is also higher in Montgomery County. The LMI is what qualifies certain areas. Let’s say you live by the lake and you have a home with a low monetary value, but it’s right next to a mansion. The mansion skews it and does not allow the person living in the smaller home to receive as much funding or assistance because the value for that area is so high. HUD has set up requirements for LMI and that gives you points for when you apply for those grants. The lower the income, the more assistance you will be providing and the more points you get when you make application. The LMI is what qualifies that subdivision based on the conditions and the amount of money the people living in that area make.”

Also approved was a measure for county transportation infrastructure. The Texas Department of Transportation is partnering with the county.

“Our agreement with TxDOT is to help replace some bridges and culverts or things like that,” Murphy said. “Our agreement is to allow them to proceed and each commissioner will communicate with TxDOT engineers to get what those precincts need. We’re trying to streamline the operation as much as possible and allow it to be simplified.”

The next Commissioners Court takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

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Big Sandy bids farewell to board members

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                               JASON CHLAPEK | PCE Trustees Glen Goodwin (second from left) and Lee Ann Cain (second from right) receive a round of applause for their service with the Big Sandy ISD school board.Both Cain and Goodwin served their final meetings as trustees for the district. Neither one sought reelection for their terms, which expire Nov. 3.

By Jason Chlapek

POLK COUNTY — Monday night’s Big Sandy ISD school board meeting was the finalone as trustees for Lee Ann Cain and Glen Goodwin.

Both trustees’ terms expire on Nov. 3, and neither one sought reelection. Goodwin was with the school board for 15 years, while Cain served four.

“They really helped the district grow,” Big Sandy ISD Superintendent Eric Carpenter said. “They had good insight, good knowledge and worked well together. It’s a good board.”

Four trustee positions are up for elections with newcomer Darrell Murphy and current trustees Mark Duff and Quentin Matthews running unopposed for Positions 2, 5 and 6, respectively. William Handy Jr. and Kabe Murphy are running for Position 4. Carpenter announced to the board that the Texas Education Agency approved the district’s Asynchronous Learning Plan. The TEA approved it on the first try.

“It’s a compliment to our principals,” Carpenter said. “The Asynchronous Plan is how you’re going to utilize a learning management system, which for us is Google Classroom and how you’re going to instruct students virtually. The TEA had a template to work from and we received some good guidance from Region VI in Huntsville, who helped the administration develop it and even proofed it and gave it back to us and we made some adjustments before we submitted it.”

The school board also approved Native American Policies and Procedures for the 2020-21 school year. The Big Sandy ISD student body is approximately 25% Native American.

“We receive federal funds and have policies in place,” he said. “After meeting with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, particularly their Education Department, we developed those policies and procedures. We usually do this in October.”

The board also approved retrofit lighting to be installed in the gymnasium and a study on property values from 2012. Carpenter likes to perform retroactive property value studies.“You can do property value studies from past years to try to recoup money,” he said. “We use our tax attorneys to go and look at the data from our property values to try and garner additional funding.”

Big Sandy ISD meets again at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.

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Point Blank bringing in revenue

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point blank doc

By Jason Chlapek

POINT BLANK — The City of Point Blank brought in nearly $10,000 more than expected during the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Point Blank Mayor Mark Wood reported to council aldermen during the monthly city council meeting on Oct. 12 that the total income for the previous fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 was $121,270. The projected total income for the fiscal year was $111,400.One of the things Wood believes helped the city was its sales tax revenue. It has gone up each of the last seven years from $40,964.50 in 2013-14 to $76,854.20 in 2019-20.

“One of the more interesting charts is the sales tax that the city’s received during the fiscal year,” Wood said. “In 2014, we were at $40,000, which averaged about $3,400 a month. Now we’re getting $76,000, which is averaging $6,400 a month. This substantial increase is due to getting all of the people on the tax rolls that needed to be. This has stayed constant.”

During the previous fiscal year, the lowest the city took in sales tax revenue was $4,177.51, which was during the statewide shutdown because of Covid-19. However, the city bounced back to collect more than $6,000 per month in each of the last five months of the fiscal year, including a seven-year high of $9,055.57 in August.

“This comes from people living up here as opposed to just using their summer or vacation homes,” Wood said. “Instead of going back to Houston, they’re either working up here or moving up here. If you look at Point Blank, you won’t see any houses for sale. This is unusual and I don’t know how long it’s going to last; if it’s purely Covid-related or if it’s an honest increase in population. This is Precinct 4 and this is where thepredominant development in San Jacinto County is. It’s a little hard to tell how much of this is actually from Covid and how much of it is real growth. We’re a retirement community and I don’t see anything dynamic. It’s pretty interesting.”

While there is some growth in Point Blank, Wood said that growth in commerce would be more beneficial as opposed to just residential growth. He also said there have been rumors going around that his city has been mentioned in the talks of being in or along the Interstate 14 corridor, which is expected to follow the US Highway 190 corridor.

"I don’t think a lot of people want growth,” Wood said. “It would be nice to have some jobs and industry here. There’s a lot of things going on.”

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Onalaska pines on Canyon Park

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Onalaska HorizontalPhoto by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula Mayor Chip Choate swears in newly hired Police Officer Heather Perry.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

POLK COUNTY — The city board met for a quick meeting this month to provide information on early voting and ongoing city events.Canyon Park Months after a tornado struck the area several structures in the Canyon Park subdivision are still in violation of city ordinances, but will continue without penalty, as plans to correct or condemn structures are finalized with Onalaska Fire Marshall Lee Parish. A request to allow the full-time residents of a motor home within city limits in Canyon Park was made and denied. While the Canyon Park POA approved the structure, Parish stated that in the past similar mobile home requests have been denied within city limits, which falls in line with the current city ordinance in place.

Other Business
The board accepted the resignation of Jeremy Williams in good standing, and welcomed Heather Perry onto the police force for a standard probationary period. She is a graduate of the Angelina Police Academy in Lufkin, and Onalaska Police Chief Jessica Stanton said references spoke highly of Perry and that she led by example in the academy and strived to motivate the other cadets around her. Announcements Early voting is underway in Polk County. A schedule of times, places, sample ballots, and accepted forms of identification can be found at https://www.co.polk.tx.us/page/polk.co.clerk.election. A precinct map is also available.

Twin Harbors will host a drive-thru Trunk-Or-Treat celebration on Saturday, Oct. 31 from12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Twin Harbors POA Pool Parking lot at 274 Valley view Drive in Onalaska. For any questions or if you wish to pass out candy, contact Barbara Dickens at 281-630-5120 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. fire department will hold their annual letter drive soon, their only fundraiser this year since the barbecue event was canceled due to the tornado. The City of Onalaska meets every second Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Public comments can be made at beginning of the meeting.

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Livingston orders demolition of former Holiday Inn building

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                               The building that once served as a Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, Knights Inn or Royal Inn has been ordered for demolition by the City of Livingston. The measure was approved unanimously by city council during Tuesday’s meeting.

By Jason Chlapek

POLK COUNTY — The City of Livingston approved a measure to demolish the building where the Holiday Inn previously operated Tuesday night at Livingston City Hall. After a public hearing that lasted approximately an hour-and-a-half, city council aldermen unanimously approved the demolition of the building located on 1200 North Washington. Livingston city code enforcer Josh Mohler and city engineer Kirk Bynum both spoke about the findings discovered that prompted advocation for the building’s demolition.“The council determined that the building was unsafe and dilapidated,” Livingston city manager Bill Wiggins said.The building suffered a fire on Dec. 11, 2011, and has been unusable ever since. The structure also was known as the Ramada Inn, Knights Inn or Royal Inn for a brief period of time.The building’s owner, Indira Patel, spoke on behalf of trying to salvage the structure. She has 90 days to have the structure demolished and the grounds cleaned.Livingston Mayor Judy Cochran was reappointed as a director for the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency board of directors. Cochran has been a director of the agency since 2017, and Livingston Alderman Clarke Evans is the vice-president of the SRMPA board.Also approved was a purchase for $66,747 for two elevated water tanks, and a payment of $21,251.75 for the completion of the SCADA Project on the sewer lift stations. The final payment also allowed council to issue a resolution to accept the project, which started a one-year warranty period.Livingston City Council meets again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

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