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Polk County News - Breakout

Court to eye any changes to county budget

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Polk County LogoAny changes to the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget will be discussed by the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Approval to advertise for the fiscal year 2024 annual bids will also be considered.

The Court will discuss and consider any necessary action relating to adoption of Fire Code-NFPA 1 Fire Code 2021 Edition.

Several requests from Sheriff Byron Lyons will be considered for approval. One is to pay all FLSA comp and holiday time accrued as of July 5, 2023 by telecommunication operators and jail staff in fiscal year 2023 using funds remaining in the jail salaries line item. The other is to pay all but 20 hours of equivalent comp time accrued as of July 5, 2023 by telecommunication operators and jail staff in fiscal year 2023 utilizing funds remaining in the jail salaries line item. An additional request is to transfer $30,000 from the jail salaries line item to the sheriff vehicle maintenance line item.

An executive session is on the agenda authorizing certain deliberations about officers and employees regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or to hear a complaint or a charge against an officer or employee. Any action, however, will be taken upon return to open session.

In personnel matters, the Court will review and consider approval of personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting and review any authorized emergency hirings.

Additionally, the Court will consider action on the fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.

Items on the consent agenda include:

•Approve minutes of the July 25 regular meeting;

•Approve schedules of bills;

•Receive and record personnel action form requests submitted by elected officials since the last meeting;

•Approve memorandum of understanding with Polk Central Appraisal District to provide support during a time of natural or manmade disaster to include mapping services;

•Approve request from District Attorney Shelly Bush Sitton for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $435 for training expenses;

•Approve re-appointment of Rachel Drake to Burke Center Board of Trustees for a two-year term beginning Sept. 1, 2023;

•Terminate memorandum of understanding between Polk County and Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes approved on March 24, 2020 to provide constable reserve deputy patrol in Precinct 1;

Terminate memorandum of understanding between Polk County and Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes approved on March 8, 2022 regarding the monthly salary of Beau Price; and

Receive and record the 258th and 411th district judges’ orders setting the fiscal year compensation for the county auditor, assistant auditors, court reporters, court coordinators, bailiffs and labor pool staff pursuant to Local Government Code.

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Court extends burn ban for 30 days

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BurnBan STOCK

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Based on a review of the drought index as well as the recommendations of the Texas Forest Service, the Polk County Fire Marshal and the Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved extending the burn ban for an additional 30 days during its regular meeting July 25.

Additionally, the Court approved making an exception for those who have permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), who are following TCEQ guidelines with regard to the type of equipment they are using to burn.

The Court approved reinstating the county’s life safety code NFPA 101 (National Fire Protection Association).

Action regarding Glover Road was considered and approved, specifically, approval to purchase the right of way for the Glover Road extension and authorization of a request for proposals for construction of the road. Union Pacific has agreed to fund the purchase of the property but for the sake of expediting payment to the owners, the Court approved purchasing the property, to be reimbursed by Union Pacific at a later date. Additionally, Union Pacific has agreed to collaborate with the Texas Department of Transportation on the closures for Glover Road and Frank Road at a total cost of $560,625.

Requests for proposals for disaster debris monitoring and consulting were discussed, with the Court approving KDF Enterprises as the primary and DRC Emergency Services as the secondary. County Judge Sydney Murphy noted that the total cost for Hurricane Ike in 2008 was $3,197,890 and the total cost for the tornado in 2020 was $19,801,649.

With the recent acquisition of the building at 321 North Beatty Ave. in Livingston, the Court needed to have agreements in place for the continued lease of the building to Anco Insurance and Habitat for Humanity. Following some discussion, the Court approved maintaining the existing lease agreements for a three-year term with exit clauses for either side.

Requests for variance from the Polk County Subdivision Regulation Design Standards Phases 1-6 of Magnolia Creek Ranch, located in Precinct 2, were approved as follows: Section 7.17, plat requirements, requiring that plats for developments of this size be prepared at a scale no smaller than one inch equals 200 feet; Section 12.8, road construction specifications, requiring all road intersections that are not at a 90-degree angle to have a rounded curve with no less than 25-foot radius; and Appendix S, minimum 175-foot centerline radius requirement.

The Court approved advertising for a request for bids for maintainer repair for Precinct 4 Road and Bridge.

Although the Court was slated to enter into an executive session to deliberate personnel, the item was tabled until the next meeting due to the absence of Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis.

In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting, noting that the environmental enforcement officer rescinded his resignation. Additionally, the Court was apprised of one authorized emergency hiring in the maintenance department.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.

Items on the consent agenda included0:

Approval of the minutes of the July 11 regular meeting;

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Receipt of the county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to Local Government Code Sec. 114.025;

Receipt and recording of personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since last meeting;

Approval of an update to the master street address guide;

Approval of the renewal of the lease agreement between Polk County and Mitchell Funeral Home;

Approval to file a claim with state comptroller, pursuant to Government Code Sec. 61.0015(B), for reimbursement of a portion of the juror fees paid by Polk County during the period of April 1 through June 30, 2023;

Approval of “no change” in county road and bridge fee ($10) and child safety fee ($1.50) authorized by the Texas Transportation Code, Sec. 502.401-502.403;

Acceptance of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program;

Acceptance of the donation of a framed Houston Astros jersey from River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram for the sheriff’s office;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s monthly report for June 2023;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s fiscal year 2023 third quarter report; and

Approval of Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes’ request to appoint Chuck Cotton and Justin Amundsen to reserve deputy constable.

Tyler Epstein addressed the Court during the portion of the meeting earmarked for

public comments, voicing his concern regarding San Francisco Road in Precinct 1.

Pastor Joel McMahon of First Methodist Church of Livingston opened the meeting with

prayer.

  

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Public asked to steer county development, planning

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Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy takes questions from those in attendance at Camp Cho-Yeh Tuesday. Photo by Brian BeschPolk County Judge Sydney Murphy takes questions from those in attendance at Camp Cho-Yeh Tuesday. Photo by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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On Tuesday, the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce met at Camp Cho-Yeh for a luncheon, with the main topics concerning economic development and job creation for the area.

The county and chamber are looking to compile as much data as possible from Polk County residents, businesses and organizations on the direction of growth. County Judge and Tuesday’s guest speaker Sydney Murphy said further growth in the area is approaching, and a plan for it will benefit all.

“There are a couple of things that are crucial to Polk County in terms of economic development. If you look at economic development across the entire nation, it follows transportation,” Murphy said. “With us becoming I-69, following the footprint of (Highway) 59, that brings a lot of transportation through here, which is going to bring a lot of economic development with it as well.”

Murphy said not only will I-69 bring traffic through the area, but I-14 that is planned to develop down the Highway 190 footprint would as well. Murphy warned that the latter development would not likely follow that path if communities are opposed.

“They try to find an avenue with the least amount of opposition,” Murphy said. “Regardless, that puts Polk County as in the bull’s-eye. It is the intersection of I-69 and I-14, because those two corridors intersect in Polk County. Economic development comes with it, and we need to be prepared for that. What we would like to do — as much as possible — is have some planning in place.”

Murphy said freight mobility is anticipated to double in the state of Texas in 25 years, and that the largest volume of goods in the entire hemisphere comes through the state of Texas.

“We are smack dab in the middle of it,” Murphy said.

Looking to plan ahead, an economic development group has begun with strategies to relay what the community wants. The county judge said Polk County has participated in economic development plans in the past that were large on dollar amounts and short on returns.

“Those studies were conducted by groups that were not from the area and did not know the nuances of the community.”

In the last economic development, one of the requests the chamber made was to conduct two different travel studies. One request was for between October and December, when the escapes are in Polk County, and another between May and July, when tourism is at a high. Instead, the study was performed in September.

“It doesn’t do us any good to receive data that we can’t truly utilize. Could we utilize that data? Yeah, we could, but it didn’t give us the true picture that we needed as a community to make decisions.”

The county and chamber will move forward with its own survey made up of questions they formulate. They are asking for engagement from everyone — while they want information from schools and businesses, they are also looking for all individuals in the county to take part in a survey.

“We want to base our goals and our objectives on what the community as a whole sees as being a need. Where do we need to go? What do we want? What do we need? What is the long-range plan? Where do you want to be in five years, and 10, or in 20? We need every group and every entity involved, and especially, we need to know what our younger businesspeople want.

“Economic growth is good, but it needs to be planned. It can’t be haphazard, and we can’t have highways where you have to go north in order to get south. We need to have well-planned transportation and we need to have will planned economic development. In my mind, the way for that to happen is for the current residents of our communities to have a say, to provide input saying this is the direction to go. Then, we can compile that information and that will allow the economic development groups to make informed decisions about how to proceed. It will allow the chamber to make informed decisions, it will allow all of the cities to make informed decisions, and it will certainly allow the county to try to figure out which direction we need to go and how we can support those cities and development. It will make a difference if we can get input from as many people and organizations as possible.”

The surveys are scheduled to be available in September both online and in paper form. Websites where they can be found include visitlivingstontexas.com, www.co.polktx.us and polkcountyeconomicdevelopment.com, while a paper version be found in the Enterprise.

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Rotarians learn about local detention center

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Alexander Sanchez, facility administrator of the IAH Secure Adult Detention Center, and his administrative assistant, Dendra Butler, recently provided a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston. (l-r) Sanchez, Butler and Rotary President Brandon Wigent. Photo by Emily Banks WootenAlexander Sanchez, facility administrator of the IAH Secure Adult Detention Center, and his administrative assistant, Dendra Butler, recently provided a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston. (l-r) Sanchez, Butler and Rotary President Brandon Wigent. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Alexander Sanchez, facility administrator of the IAH Secure Adult Detention Center, and his administrative assistant, Dendra Butler, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Livingston about IAH, a private facility operated by MTC (Management and Training Corporation). IAH Secure Adult Detention Center is an immigration detention facility that is located at 3400 FM 350 South in Livingston.

According to Butler, MTC operates 22 job corps centers, 23 correctional facilities, 13 prisons, three community release centers, seven detention centers, 19 treatment programs, two outpatient behavioral health programs and one workforce development site.

Sanchez has been with MTC for 18 years and has been administrator of the local facility for nearly three years. He said the local facility holds up to 1,000 detainees, with security levels of low, medium and high. All of the detainees are adult males.

Sanchez said the two customers of IAH are the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service. He said the ICE detainees have not broken any laws but have come into the country illegally; whereas the detainees being held for the U.S. Marshals Service have committed crimes and are waiting for trial. He said the crimes the detainees have committed are predominantly drugs or firearms related. The facility is audited according to the National Detention Standards.

Sanchez said the population changes weekly and serves over 29 different nationalities. The week he addressed the Rotary Club, his three largest populations were 340 detainees from Honduras, 119 detainees from Columbia and 73 detainees from Ecuador. He said communication with the detainees is assisted through a translator hotline.

Sanchez took the opportunity to praise his medical staff, reporting that they recently had a detainee in custody who had a collapsed lung and did not know it and the medical staff saved his life.

He said the detainees are housed in dormitories and the facility has regular contests for cleanest dorms. Those that win are awarded special food items such as a meal from Chick-fil-A or Burger King or a pizza from Little Caesars. He said it helps the staff because the detainees keep their areas clean.

Sanchez said the average length of stay is eight days. He said he tells his detainees, “I get it. This isn’t home. What can I do to make it better?” He said the detainees participate in art contests, health fairs and are given popsicles to mitigate the heat. They work 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles and then glue them together and hang them on the walls of the facility in an attempt to add a little bit of color. He said the philosophy of the center is the acronym BIONIC which stands for “Believe it or not, I care.”

The facility is air conditioned and has a barber shop, game room and large recreation area with exercise machines, volleyball courts and soccer fields. He said they also have a quality of work program through which detainees may volunteer for work assignments and are paid $1 a day.

“I have great staff. They do a great job. The majority of them come from Livingston,” Sanchez said.

In other business, the club heard from a young woman whose life has been touched by meth.

“Don’t Meth with Me” is an initiative started by the club to educate children about what meth is and how it can affect them. Presentations are made to every fifth grader at every school in the county. The goal is to educate local children before the drug dealers get to them. The hope is that everyone will take on the challenge to stop the meth epidemic.

Chloe, a Big Sandy ISD student, addressed the club, talking about her separation from her siblings and her parents due to her mother’s meth addiction. “It has been one of the worst feelings because we love her and hate to see her like this. She’s been in and out of prison several times and is currently serving a four-year sentence. She’s lost her friends, her family and everything.”

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Council to prohibit outdoor burning

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Onalaska logoAn ordinance prohibiting outdoor burning is on the agenda for a special called meeting of the Onalaska City Council at noon on Monday.

In personnel matters, Council will review and consider approval of Angel Vela as a labor pool police officer with the standard probationary period. Council will also review and consider approval of Mandi Hodge as a part-time labor pool employee for the municipal court and city office.

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