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Local church celebrating 175 years in Livingston - Part 5

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Construction underway in 1948Construction underway in 1948

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a multi-part series compiled by local historian Gary Davis detailing the history of First Methodist Church of Livingston, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a celebration on Oct. 22 that will include a combined worship service at 10:30 a.m., a luncheon at noon and a concert that evening.)

By Gary Davis

The Livingston churches combined again in August 1912 for a 17-day protracted revival in the district courtroom of the courthouse. Dubbed “Everybody’s Revival,” there was an 8:30 a.m. service each day and all businesses in town closed so that everyone could attend. The Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians put their “shoulder to the wheel” and worked side by side in the salvation of souls. The first 10 days of the revival started out slow but toward the end, the meeting “broke loose” and there were 51 conversions to the local churches. The Livingston Baptists received 41, the Presbyterians three and the Methodists five. In addition, there were fully this many more who were already members who expressed a desire to come into the active work of their church.

The following year, in September 1913, the churches organized another two-week revival at the courthouse. This time there were 18 additions to the Methodists, nine to the Presbyterians and one to the Baptists.

On Sunday night, Nov. 9, 1913, the church was filled to utmost capacity when Reverend Kennedy presented the church to the PE, Reverend J.W. Mills, for dedication. Reverend Mills, as usual, was at his best and one of the most powerful gospel sermons ever preached in the city was delivered by him. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers and ferns and every detail was ideal.

The Enterprise of Dec. 4, 1913, reported that Kennedy had been reassigned and that the new Livingston preacher would be the Reverend J.F. Kidd, from the Marshall District. As reported in the Dec. 11, 1913, Enterprise, “Kidd was a man of striking appearance and had an attractive personality. While he is comparatively young in his work, he is a hard student and is regarded by PE Mills as one of the coming preachers of this district.”

By March 16, 1916, Rev J.O. Coppege had arrived from Centerville to assume the pulpit. Coppege had a short stay, however, as the Timpson Times of Nov. 30, 1916, reported that the Reverend B.C. Anderson was taking up his work in Livingston.

On Nov. 6, 1921, the Houston Post reported that the Methodist quarterly conference was held at the Livingston church and the Reverend J.E. Buttrill was asked to return for another year. The Reverend E.L. Ingram, PE of the Timpson District, complimented the locals by stating that the Livingston church had shown greater progress and better reports than any other church in the district.

On Sept. 15, 1921, it was announced in the Enterprise that six Sunday School rooms had been added to the church. They had been needed for some time as the Sunday School had grown to such an extent that the building would not accommodate the classes in a satisfactory manner. The construction was done primarily by Reverend Butrill.

The 1922 conference sent to Livingston from the Nacogdoches District, Reverend J.C. Huddleston and in 1923, the Reverend W.J. Richards. Reverend Frank Platt arrived in 1924, and in 1925, I.T. Andrews was the PC for the next four years. While the Andrews occupied the parsonage, Mrs. I.T. (Lillian) Andrews’ sister, Ormie Coon, came to Livingston to live with them and to teach. Her first students included Ernest Reuter Jr., J.C. Hooks and Jerome Thomason. Miss Coon became Mrs. H.B. Davis Jr. in 1929.

In another joint assembly of the four local churches, on Friday, April 15, 1924, the Houston Post reported that the annual Sunday School picnic was held on Long Kane [sic] Creek. All businesses in town closed for the day and the schools declared a holiday.  Free transportation to the picnic grounds was arranged and committees were formed to perfect the plans.

The Nov. 10, 1929, issue of the Beaumont Enterprise reported that Reverend I.T. Andrews was being sent to Conroe and was replaced by the Reverend J.T. Moore, who came from Jacksonville.

The Reverend C.E. Peeples, who came to Livingston in November 1933 was honored by his selection to the presidency of Lon Morris College in June 1935. The Enterprise of June 20, 1935, reported that Reverend Peeples and family would be leaving immediately for Jacksonville, Texas for him to assume his new charge.

In 1939 the ME Church, South merged with the Methodist Protestant Church to become the Methodist Church. The use of the term PE was eliminated, and District Superintendent or DS began to be used.

On Jan. 25, 1939, in a deed recorded in volume 115, page 57, C.L. Cochran deeded to James E. Hill, Jr., H.D. Alston, A.B. Garvey, L.N. Haynes and W.B. Cayton, trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South at Livingston, Texas, a tract that was located to the north and east of the church property. This gave the church a lot that was 214-feet deep by 96-feet wide and extended from Church Street (known as State Hwy. 45 at this time) to Polk Street. (In 1965, the church acquired an additional 6-foot strip along the west boundary from A.W. and Adelle Peebles).

For a revival in 1943, from August 22-29, services were held twice daily, at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Reverend Ray Loden from the First Methodist of Liberty conducted the services. The pastor of the church at this time was Nolan Vance.

In 1948 the wooden church building was razed and a new, brick building with seating for 300 was put up in its place. At the beginning of the project the PC was Ben Anderson and when completed in 1949, the pastor was L.R. Condrey.

The building committee was comprised of Otto Hawkins, as chairman, B.A. Glover, S. Frank Fain, James M. Windham, Wyman Windham, Sr., V.H. Pritchard and Dr. T.L. Gardner. The church trustees were H.D. Alston, Leo H. Davis, L.N. Haynes, Fred Smith and James M. Windham.

On April 16, 1949, the same group of trustees executed a document to incorporate as “The Methodist Church of Livingston, Texas.”

On July 10, 1949, the opening service was held to much excitement from the congregation. Reverend Peebles returned from Lon Morris to deliver the message. The beautifully printed bulletin acknowledged many individuals and specifically thanked the ladies who served alongside the Lions and Rotary Clubs in their efforts to assist with the building fund.

The Houston Post ran a nice photo of the new, beautiful $60,000 brick Methodist Church and announced its formal opening and a revival that was to be held daily during the following week.

The church dedication ceremony was held on Dec. 9, 1951, during the pastorage of E.J. Berkelbach. The Act of Dedication was performed by Otto Hawkins Sr. Bishop A. Frank Smith asked Hawkins, “By what name shall this church henceforth be known?” Hawkins responded, “It will be called the First Methodist Church.”

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Goodrich tax rate accepted

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City of GoodrichBy Brian Besch
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The Goodrich City Council accepted a new tax rate and holiday festivities were set at the September regular meeting Thursday evening. 

The family of Alderman Richard Booth will hold a celebration of life 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 at the Lake Livingston State Park Activity Center. Booth died recently under hospice care in Arkansas after a stroke a few months ago.

A new tax rate was proposed in August and accepted Thursday. The new rate will raise more 
taxes for maintenance and operations by 27.17% over last year’s tax rate. A home valued at $100,000 can expect to pay appro
ximately $14.90 more than the year prior. 

The 2023-24 budget was unavailable for the September meeting, however, City Secretary Felicia Garrett said she expects it to be prepared for October.

“Without the accountant keeping up with our monthly like we had, I’m having to go all the way back to the 2022 fiscal year and do everything by hand,” Garrett said.

The item was tabled until October’s regular meeting.

Festivities for Halloween will be Oct. 28, 5-7 p.m. in front of city hall. It will be a trunk-or-treat styled giveaway, where those attending will remain in their vehicles and drive through. City businesses, just as the year before, are invited to participate along with the city council.

Vehicles will not be allowed entrance from Loop 393, in order to keep a traffic flow and all safe. Instead, they will enter the city hall parking lot from Bond Street.

Lighting of the town Christmas tree will occur Monday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. Flags will be placed outside the weekend before Thanksgiving. The marching band from Houston that has become a Goodrich tradition will again kick off the parade down Loop 393 during the Christmas celebration.

City council will also enter a float in the Livingston parade. 

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Citizens coalition formed to petition PUCT for rate review Of Livingston’s electrical rates

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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A growing group of citizens – both residents and business owners – have met several times and have formed a coalition called “Citizens of Livingston for Fair and Equitable Rates.” Spearheaded by Joshua Grant, the group is gathering signatures to petition the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a rate review of the City of Livingston’s electric service.

“We’re seeking a remedy for the ongoing lack of transparency from our city officials and the outrageous electric rates assessed on City of Livingston electric customers,
Grant said.

“Our aim is to see the city succeed by ensuring rates are beneficial for both the customers and the city. As citizens of the City of Livingston, we want to see our city be a success. A municipality’s utility should be able to make a profit and use those profits for the city’s operational needs,” Grant said. “What we will no longer tolerate is a city that knowingly overcharges its rate payers, hides behind its lack of transparency, and justifies its actions by referring to its lack of an ad valorem tax.”

Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency (SRMPA) is a municipal power agency formed under the Texas Utilities Code for the purpose of supplying the wholesale electrical energy needs of its member cities, Livingston, Jasper and Liberty. Bruce Mintz is the executive director of SRMPA and has served in that capacity since 2012.

SRMPA is governed by a board of directors that consists of six directors – two from each member city – who serve without compensation. The board sets the agency’s policies and administrative procedures which are administered by the executive director at the direction of the board.

“In 2011, SRMPA entered into a new purchase power agreement with Entergy, binding for 30 years, to serve the needs of its three member cities. The capacity charge in the power agreement is $9.75 per kilowatt-hour month but the market price for capacity is below $6 per kWh month,” he said.

Grant explained that there are three components to an energy bill – base rate, capacity charge and actual fuel cost which is supposed to be a pass-through.

“Base rate is what the city should be setting every year, based off of cost of services to customers – salaries, operations and maintenance, trucks, other depreciated assets, capital investment for utility. The city can say we need to make a rate of return on our investment.

“The fuel component, the fuel that Entergy burns, makes up about 70% of your bill. In October 2022, fuel prices were really, really high, However, in February, those prices dropped about 300%. SRMPA went from $80 per megawatt to $70 to $60 to $50 to $40. But the City of Livingston is still charging $80 per mW even though the price they’re paying is $40 per mW,” Grant said.

“The bill only shows usage and the amount you owe. That’s a problem with me because it’s a lack of transparency. It does fluctuate, but most utilities will attach a rider over a long period.

“At some point, SRMPA under-collected from its member cities. The actual price of fuel is $20 per mW right now. It should be a pass-through cost. Normally, commercial is cheaper than residential, but not here and not in Jasper,” Grant said.

The rate breakdown in October 2022 reflected that 29% of the electric bill was base rate, 17% was capacity and 54% was fuel. The rate breakdown in July 2023, according to SRMPA charges, reflects 29% is base rate, 15% is capacity, 27% is fuel and 29% is overcollection. The rate breakdown in Jule 2023, according to market fuel price, reflects 14% is capacity, 14% is fuel, 29% is base rate and 43% is overcollection.

“The overcollection is the highest portion of the bill at this time. We’re still being seriously overcharged for fuel. The other two member cities are adjusting this rate,” he said.

“City officials continue to point to the lack of an ad valorem tax as justification for its electrical rates. At least an ad valorem tax is capped, it’s regulated, it can be voted on. I’m not here to run the city down. I own a home here. I run a business. I work from home. Talk to people about this. Most people don’t know about this. The city council sets our rates but they’re doing it on what I think is a lack of knowledge,” Grant said.

For additional information or to volunteer, go to livingstonratereview.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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City of Livingston approves budget

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By Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Following a public hearing on the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2023 and ending Sept. 30, 2024, the Livingston City Council approved a proposed ordinance adopting the budget during its regular meeting Sept. 12. Council also approved budget adjustments for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2023.

While reviewing budget highlights, Wiggins addressed ongoing issues regarding the new solid waste provider the city has contracted with since Aug. 1. “I understand there’s been some problems. We knew there’d be some hiccups. I know people don’t like the once a week pickup but none of the proposals submitted were going to do twice weekly pickup. We’ve had issue after issue. We’re aware of the problems and we’re working on the problems,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins reported that the city pays $5 million in salaries for the city’s 93 full-time employees and six part-time employees. He reported that electric sales result in $12 million in revenues, which represents 40% of the city’s operating income. He mentioned the city’s water treatment plant, emphasizing the value of the guarantee of having water for the citizens for the next 48 years, something many areas of the state do not have.

“I’m proud to say the City of Livingston has no debt. The city is debt-free,” Wiggins said.

He also reminded everyone that the city does not levy an ad valorem property tax and has not for 36 years in a row. “1988 was the last year we had a property tax,” he said.

Wiggins reported that the city’s water meter conversion project has begun for all residential and commercial water utility customers. Through the project, outdated manual meters will be replaced with upgraded meters to modernize the city’s water billing infrastructure. He said it will take several months to replace all 3,500 water meters throughout the city’s water utility system.

Other projects on the horizon include the refurbishing of park restrooms, the contract of restrooms and a concession stand at the soccer fields, construction of pickleball courts and construction of a pilot’s lounge at the airport.

“Every year in getting ready to prepare the budget, I sit down with each department head and find out what we need and how to pay for it. Last August, we were informed our power costs would be going up quite a bit, so yes, we did increase electric rates over rates last year,” Wiggins said. “The good news in preparing for this year’s budget is that energy prices dropped, so I would like to propose a reduction in rate and ask Council to approve it retroactive to August 2023.”

Council approved the proposed ordinance – amending Article II of Chapter 40 – pertaining to electric service – of the City of Livingston Code of Ordinances. The new electric rates were approved as follows: industrial - from .1280 per kWh to .0960 per kWh; large light and power - from .1280 per kWh to .0980 per kWh; large school and government - from .1205 per kWh to .0905 per kWh; small school and government - from .1490 per kWh to .1190 per kWh; small commercial - from .1540 per kWh to .1240 per kWh; and residential to .1175 per kWh.

In related activity, two local citizens filed requests to address Council regarding the city’s electric service. Both were allotted three minutes.

First to address Council was Joshua Grant.

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My concern is about electricity rates and the lack of transparency,” Grant said. “Fuel prices have decreased since last fall. Other member cities have decreased their fuel prices, but the City of Livingston has not. Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency hasn’t filed audit reports since 2018. We know the City of Livingston is over-collecting on the fuel portion of the bill. You guys are not creating a feeling of trust. Livingston has less population (than the other member cities) but has higher base rates. If we don’t start getting answers to these very serious questions, we will be filing with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.”

Next to address Council was Corey Dickerson.

“I was born and raised here, graduated from the same high school as my mother, played Leopard football at Dunbar before playing in high school,” Dickerson said. “After living and working in the city, my wife and I moved back here to start our family and to support local business in my hometown. However, it’s very difficult to come back and support the community at these prices. My generation wants to come back and grow industry here, but this is something that’s become more and more of a problem.”

Council approved a proposed resolution authorizing the submission of the bullet resistant shield grant application to the Office of the Governor. “Our police department tries to save us as much money as they can,” Wiggins said. “Lieutenant (Marty) Drake is working on this, which is a $99,000 grant with no match.”

Additionally, Council approved a proposed resolution designating the Polk County Enterprise as the official newspaper of the City of Livingston for the upcoming fiscal year.

The annual firefighting agreement between the City of Livingston and Polk County for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2023 was approved. The city will receive $51,397.19 from the county.

Council reviewed and approved proposed resolutions setting public hearings on the following items:

A public hearing for 5 p.m. Oct. 10 for the determination of an unsafe and/or dilapidated building at 1008 Dunbar Ave. owned by Dunbar Livingston 1008 LLC;

A public hearing for 5 p.m. Oct. 10 for the determination of an unsafe and/or dilapidated manufactured home located at 1931 S. Washington Ave. #51 owned by Jeff McCullar, Amy McCullar and Carlos Barron; and

A public hearing for 5 p.m. Nov. 14 to consider a petition for street closure submitted by First United Pentecostal Church of Livingston Inc. regarding a portion of East Mill Street.

Following an executive session in which Council consulted with the city attorney and reviewed the proposed salary schedule for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2023, they approved the proposed salary schedule with a 3% cost of living adjustment.

During his monthly update on projects and events, Wiggins reported that there was “a really good turnout” for the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony held Sept. 11 at the city hall. He publicly thanked local paramedic Ricky Taylor for being there because Taylor stepped in and put his skills to work when two people attending the ceremony passed out. Wiggins reported that both are fine, however.

He reminded everyone that Livingston Trade Days Fall Market is slated for Oct. 14-15 at Pedigo Park.

Wiggins apprised Council that work has begun on the King Ranch John Deere Dealership & Turf Business located at 510 U.S. Hwy. 59 Loop South. He reported that work is ongoing on the Polk County Courthouse restoration project, as well as the $3.5 million major remodel at Walmart. He reported that one residence is complete at The Retreat Living LLC and five are presently in progress.

He also reported that demolition is nearing completion of the former First National Bank building at 1700 W. Church St. He said that two people from Houston own the property and have no plans for it at this time other than completing the demolition of the old building.

Other business included approval of the accounts over $500 and the minutes of the Aug. 15 meeting.

 

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SPCA of Polk County offers array of upcoming events

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PupGabriel Pup Gabriel is one of many animals the SPCA of Polk County helped find a home for within the past month. Courtesy photo

By Dorene Philpot
Guest Writer

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Polk County (SPCA of Polk County) is living up to its name and mission to help cats and dogs in Polk County with several exciting events coming up.

Starting on Sept. 18, the SPCA of Polk County will be opening “The Clinic,” offering spay, neuter and wellness services with the official grand opening on Sept. 23. The Clinic has been in the making for several months, so what started as a dream is now a reality for Polk County – the only non-profit, affordable spay, neuter and wellness service in our community. The clinic is located at 802 S. Houston Ave. in Livingston. For more details, see www.spca.polk.org/the-clinic.

The SPCA of Polk County will host its annual “Wine & Whiskers” fundraising event at Tempe Creek Vineyard from noon to 5 p.m. on Oct. 7. Attendees can enjoy wine tasting, snacks, live music by Dr. B on the Keys, a silent auction and a kissing booth. Tickets may be purchased at www.spcapolk.org/event-details/wine-whiskers-1. Proceeds will benefit the SPCA’s efforts to help homeless dogs and cats.

SPCA of Polk County will host its annual “Paws in the Patch” event on Oct. 21 at First Methodist Church in Livingston located at 2801 U.S. Hwy. 190 West. The free event will feature adoptions, silent auction, blessing of the pets, pet parade and other fun events. Come join the fun at the church’s annual pumpkin patch.

Come visit the “Pups on the Patio” event that will feature cute fall decorations, “pup-accinos,” adoptions and fun giveaways on Nov. 17 from 5 to 5 p.m. Chik-Fil-A which is located at 1821 U.S. Hwy 190 in Livingston.

To make a donation to the SPCA of Polk County so that it can continue its mission to help dogs and cats find loving homes, please visit spcapolk.org/donate, call 936-755-3020 or mail in donations to SPCA of Polk County, PO Box 1403, Livingston, TX 77351, or visit us at 802 S. Houston Ave. Livingston, TX 77351.

The SPCA of Polk County is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit no kill animal welfare organization (EIN: 74-2119232).

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