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Polk County News - Breakout

City approves meter project

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061922 water meter project

And implementation of automatic metering infrastructure

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Livingston City Manager Bill S. Wiggins told the Livingston City Council during its June 14 regular meeting that he set three goals when he took the city manager position four years ago – get the water tanks completed; improve the water, sewer and electric infrastructure of the city for future growth; and work on the city streets. He said the city was still hand-writing employee paychecks twice a month and he converted it to direct deposit. He also said the city has made technology strides over the last four years with online bill pay and that now he is looking into online meter reading.

Council approved a water and electric meter replacement project and the implementation of automatic metering infrastructure following a presentation by Chad L. Nobles with Ameresco – a green, clean, sustainable independent energy services company.

“It’s been a pleasure working with your staff. It’s nice to work with a staff that’s cohesive. They’ve done a good job with the tools and resources you’ve provided them,” Nobles said, adding, “We started this process October or November of last year.

“This project will touch every single resident, but with little disruption,” Nobles said. “We’ve developed a product, done field studies and put a package together, but we’re required to have a third-party review. This will achieve savings and projections and will guarantee accuracy, 98.5%, of these water meters for the life of the system.”

Nobles said a fulltime project manager will be onsite to conduct random sample tests. He reviewed some of the common field challenges, such as meter access, tight conditions, mismatched equipment, meter boxes aboveground and lids in driveways. He added that there are various kinds of electric meters and that it’s very time-consuming reading them.

“This will be a huge benefit to your citizens and your staff,” Nobles said. The meters will be read online each month and city staff will have the ability to conduct remote disconnects.

Additionally, local citizens will have the ability to set up a password-protected portal that will provide transparent access to consumption information, leak detection, high usage alerts, historical patterns and bill predictions on their computers or mobile devices, Nobles said.

The turnkey project will cost approximately $5 million and will be a 10-12-month implementation process. Commercial accounts will get scheduled individually but residential accounts will be done via pre-announced routes. The project comes with a 17-year guarantee, but Nobles said the company returns in the third year to test everything.

Council ratified participation in the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Regional Mitigation Program to acknowledge and accept potential funding allocated by the Texas General Land Office in the amount of $2,541,000. Although the funding does not require a local match, the city is required to use 35% of it for low-income families, Wiggins said, adding that the meter replacement project qualifies, thus saving the city half the cost.

Council approved the re-appointment of Alderman Elgin Davis to the Board of Directors of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments for the 2022-2023 term.

He also reported that Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency has been put on alert for load-sharing but that the city managers of the three sister cities – Livingston, Liberty and Jasper – have developed a system in the event that load-sharing should occur.

Wiggins also informed Council that the Livingston Police Department is working “hand in hand” with Livingston ISD regarding security and that LISD officials plan to have a police officer on every single campus in the district and will fund the salaries of these officers.

During his monthly report regarding events and development projects, Wiggins apprised Council that the Livingston Farmers & Artisan Market is from 7-10 a.m. every Saturday at Anniversary Park next to Melbo’s. The 3rd annual Smoke in the Pines Barbecue Cookoff is slated for June 24-25 at Pedigo Park. The July 4th Picnic in the Park will be held July 4 at Anniversary Park. The 61st annual Polk County Youth Rodeo is slated for July 6-9 at Barney Wiggins Memorial Fairgrounds & Arena. Friends of the Library will host a book fair on July 15 at the Livingston Municipal Library.

Wiggins reported that the June sales tax report from the state comptroller for the month of April reflects $399,212.94, an increase of 6.38% over April 2021.

Regarding current development projects, Wiggins reported that the permit has been issued and site work is ongoing for the Highway 190 Apartments at 909 E. Church St. and the permit is ready to be issued for On the Run Truckstop located next door at 911 E. Church St. Work is ongoing on the Livingston ISD concession stand at 400 FM 350 South and at the Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments at 1101 Dogwood.

Owner Frank Vinci is adding an addition to Pit Row Pit Stop at 412 First St. Permits have been issued for the new Pizza Hut at 1205 W. Church St. and the Polk County Courthouse restoration project at 101 W. Church St. Work is ongoing at Taco Bueno located at 2001 U.S. Hwy. 190 West and at Wendy’s located at 1819 U.S. Hwy. 190 West.

Wiggins reported that the former Jarrell’s Service Station at 522 W. Church St. has been demolished and the underground tanks have been removed. He also reported that AIRLIFE II Medical Transport Helicopter is now stationed in Livingston at the new helipad located at 210 E. 4th St. next to the Americare Ambulance office. He added that the company will be putting in a weather station at the local airport in order to monitor flight conditions.

Other business included approval of the minutes of the May 10 regular meeting and the May 17 special called meeting and the accounts over $500.

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Cornhole tournament added

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061922 cornhole tournament

To Smoke in the Pines barbecue cookoff event

From Enterprise Staff

A cornhole tournament is the newest addition to the 3rd annual Smoke in the Pines Barbecue Cookoff slated for Friday and Saturday at Pedigo Park and hosted by the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce. The tournament will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The winner will receive a custom-made set of cornhole boards.

A purse of $5,500 is guaranteed for the barbecue cookoff, regardless of team count. However, the purse will increase to $7,500 if the team count reaches 75 teams. Registration is available on the chamber’s website at www.polkchamber.com and will continue to be available up until the day of the event.

“We’ll continue to register people up until the day of, but those 50-amp breakers go fast, and we only have a limited amount,” Chairman John Clifton said, adding that team spots are first come, first serve. “We’ll try to get teams in their same spot as last year, but the sooner you register the better.”

The barbecue cookoff is held in accordance with the International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA) judging rules and guidelines. The entry fee is $200 and includes the IBCA events, which are overall, brisket, pork spareribs and chicken. Ancillaries (cook’s choice and beans) are $20 for each event. Cook spaces are 30-feet by 35-feet and include water and 30-amp power. A limited number of 50-amp breakers are available so get them while they last. If extra room is required, an additional 30-feet by 35-feet space may be purchased for $75. Fifty-amp breakers cost on additional $35.

“We are anticipating a large turnout and can accommodate at least 100 teams with water, power and additional overflow space is needed,” Clifton said.

In addition to the barbecue cookoff are the companion events, the Smokin’ Hot Auto & Bike Show which features an array of classic cars and motorcycles, and the Kids ‘Cue event which is open to children between the ages of 5 and 17. The entry fee is $25 for each participant and will include a barbecue grill, an apron, charcoal and pork chops.

We are expecting a great turnout of some of East Texas’ finest classics, street rods and custom bikes,” Clifton said, adding that a variety of food and merchandise vendors will also be present.

For additional information, contact the chamber staff at 936-327-4929 or Clifton at 936-328-9864.

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SAAFE House looking for volunteers

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061622 saafe house

From Enterprise Staff

In order to better serve its mission which is the clients, the board and staff of SAAFE (Sexual Assault & Abuse-Free Environment) House have several upcoming projects and fundraisers in the works.

According to Kimberly Dyan Moore, president of the Board of Directors of SAAFE House, the organization is strategically planning for the future, which includes improved client services, trauma-informed care, and putting clients first while working to educate the community.

“Our priorities are our clients – victims of sexual assault and domestic violence — in our four-county coverage area, which includes Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity and Walker counties,” Moore said.

Toward that end, the organization, through the help of its donors, will complete the renovation of the Huntsville client residence very soon. Upon completion, the new shelter will provide an improved atmosphere for the clients to begin the healing process, Moore said.

She also said that to better serve the clients, and with a new fiscal year approaching, the board is restructuring the management team to improve the quality of service and to strengthen the SAAFE House mission and the advocacy provided to the communities it serves.

There are several fundraising events planned for the future in all counties in the SAAFE House area.

With positions on the board coming open for the new fiscal year, SAAFE House is looking for area residents who are passionate about its mission to help the organization continue to grow and would particularly like to see people from Polk, Trinity and San Jacinto counties come forward.

“We are also looking for volunteers from the communities we serve, as we’re always in need of them. We are committed to raising ours and our clients’ voices,” Moore said.

For additional information contact SAAFE House Community Relations Director Tammy Farkas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to the website at www.saafehouse.org.

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MannaFest continues to serve

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061622 mannfest summer program

Providing summer food boxes to families with school-age children

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Four hundred eleven families, or 1,164 individuals, were served during the month of May by volunteers at the MannaFest Food Pantry located at 803 W. Feagin in Livingston. The average number of families served per day was 46.

Families with school-age children are eligible to receive summer food boxes, a program that will continue throughout the summer.

Executive Director Marilyn Wise and Volunteer Beth Roberts attended the Southeast Texas Annual Agency Conference on May 6 in Beaumont.
“The bulk of our morning was taken up with a poverty simulation. Beth was a seven-year-old autistic child in a poverty-stricken family, and I was an 11-year-old boy living with his dad and his sister and her baby. We had to live through four weeks of navigating the ins and outs of jobs, food stamps, social service agencies, childcare and emergencies. Even though our weeks were less than 20 minutes each, we got the idea,” Wise said.

“As a member of Southeast Texas Food Bank, we are required to have a monitor visit once a year. This visit is to check to make sure we are following food safety measures and training requirements and that we are doing paperwork correctly, among other things. Most of my notes from our visit on May 25 involved application procedures, which we have corrected,” Wise said.

“Southeast Texas Food Bank is amazing, as they do not visit us to point out our faults, but to work with us to make sure we are doing the best we can for our customers. Also, this month they gave us a $1,000 grant to help with the purchase of five new stainless-steel tables, two of which have taken the place of tables that had surfaces not easily sanitized. The other three tables are rolling tables to help us with moving food around the pantry,” Wise said.

“On Saturday, May 28, 12 of our volunteers worked at EagleFest, an outdoor concert in Onalaska sponsored by the Eagle radio station. We collected almost 700 pounds of nonperishable food, plus $120 in cash. The radio station provides raffle tickets for those donating to us, and several lucky donors won prizes throughout the day,” Wise said. “This is the first time since 2019 that this event has been held and we were very glad to have it back.

“On June 6, 18 of us went to Margot Dorwin’s memorial service. We all wore our orange MannaFest shirts. Margot loved MannaFest, whether bagging beans or handling security for Tour of Homes. I think we showed not only how loved Margot was, but what a family we are,” Wise said.
“We received weekly donations from both Walmart and Dollar General, as well as 1,136 pounds from individuals. This month, we spent $1,388.53on hygiene items, as well as $3,249.09 on food, about half of which was for summer food boxes,” Wise said.

“We also had an extra expense this month. One of our trees needed to come down, and we had numerous tree branches on our roof which needed to be cut back. Elite Tree Services did all the work, including cleaning up and hauling away, for half of their bid price, for which we are very thankful,” Wise said.

The office will be closed Monday, July 4 for the Independence Day holiday but will be open Saturday, July 2. The quarterly board meeting is slated for 1 p.m. July 11 at the First United Methodist Church.

“Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. And, as always, thank you for your support,” Wise said.

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New assisted living facility should have residents by the end of the month

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061622 new assisted living facilityThe new 24-bed facility should receive its license by the end of the month.

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Heidi Barnes, residence manager of Country Place Senior Living of Livingston located at 1860 N. Washington Ave., presented a program on the new assisted living facility to the Rotary Club of Livingston recently.

Barnes informed the Rotarians that the state was there June 6-8 and that the new 24-bed facility should receive its license by the end of the month.

“I’m way, way ready to have my residents come in,” she said, adding that 17 are already signed up.

Explaining the difference between assisted living and skilled facility, Barnes said skilled facility residents have 24-hour care, IVs, feeding tubes and would care, whereas assisted living provides 24-hour care and meds for residents, but that every person has their own apartment, or suite, with bath, and a kitchenette with microwave and fridge.

“When our residents move in, this is their home. They can come and go as they please. Some still drive. The benefit to assisted living is that we give our residents all the independence that they want and need. This is a new experience for some,” Barnes said.

“Country Place is very homey, it’s inviting. One of the most important things is socialization. Our facility offers five or six activities per day.Country Place has a full-time activity director. We can take them to Walmart shopping and to doctor’s appointments locally. We have a lot of fun. We’re always looking for volunteers. We have a grand piano. We play bingo. It’s all about finding ways to connect with them,” she said.

“All of our Country Places are identical. We only go to rural communities,” Barnes said, adding that there are eight in Alabama and that Livingston is the fifth in Texas.

“There are government benefits for veterans. If you were active in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the Persian Gulf you get benefits or if your spouse was in any of those, you get benefits. Married veterans get money too,” Barnes said. “This will probably be their last home. We are allowed to have them age in place. It gives a lot of comfort to the adult children in the family.

“Typically, our rooms range from $3,155 to $4,195. It costs about half the price of a skilled facility. We’re private-paid. We do take long-termhealth care insurance. I can’t push the VA benefits enough,” Barnes said, adding that as of now, they don’t take Medicaid.

“Residents may bring their own furniture and hang things on the walls, wall treatments, window treatments. And we are pet-friendly,” she said.
Barnes said the company owns additional land adjacent to the facility and that moving forward, they’re going to open a memory care facility. “They think of everything. If their dementia gets too bad, they can just move next door,” she said.

Barnes said Country Place also offers respite care for a week at a time in the event a caregiver is going on vacation or is burned out and just needs a break.

“I have a very supportive team,” she said.

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