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Polk County News - Breakout

Rotarians hear from the SPCA

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4 24 rotary hornsbyBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Ron Hornsby, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Polk County, recently presented a program to the Livingston Rotary Club.

According to Hornsby, the SPCA of Polk County was established as a non-profit in 1978 and was in a small building, as a foster-based organization. The organization expanded and purchased its current location at 802 S. Houston eight years ago, where it holds 33 kennels and 12 cat condos.

Hornsby said the facility can house over 100 animals at any given time and has housed over 100 dogs on site in the past.

Reviewing the statistics from January 2020 to January 2022, Hornsby said there were 2,255 adoptions overall, of which 1,742 were dog adoptions and 513 were cat adoptions. He said that 1,543 animals were transferred and that a total of 3,798 animals have found forever homes since Jan 2020.

In other information, Hornsby said puppies have accounted for over 50% of all adoptions since 2019 and that adult dog adoptions have decreased 35% since 2019. He said that 2020 was unprecedented for adoption numbers, but that 2021 and 2022 are seeing a return to pre-COVID adoption numbers. He said dog adoptions have decreased and are continuing to fall, but that cat adoptions are up, due to various pictures and promotions.

Hornsby said the local SPCA supports and operates community programs such as TNR (trap neuter release) and LISN (low income spay and neuter). He added that the organization has a new website, new IT system and new telephone system which has improved the way they communicate and work.

As for finances, Hornsby said it takes about $23,000 per month to operate the facility which doesn’t include medical costs which are about $8,000 per month. He said about $22,000 per month is brought in but that donations have decreased and adoption income has decreased.

Hornsby said 2021 was the first year in many years that the organization broke even, through controls implemented in cutting expenses and managing animal populations to control the ability to care and manage resources. He said they survived previously on estates and that they now offer sponsorship opportunities for kennels, transport, dog park, cattery, etc. to generate annual income to support the operating costs and medical costs.

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An open letter from our sheriff - Staffing shortages reaching crisis level

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Polk County SheriffBy Byron Lyons
Polk County Sheriff

I am deeply honored to serve as your sheriff of Polk County. I take great pride in representing each of you, including those doing business here and passing through Polk County. 

I come to you with an issue that should cause great concern in each of you as it affects my department’s ability to provide adequate public safety.

The beginning of my term was met with unprecedented obstacles. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office, like so many others, was forced to modify the way duties were performed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The historic pandemic created a bottleneck effect throughout all levels of the criminal justice system.

Now, I am facing another emergency—one that greatly affects my ability to provide adequate law enforcement coverage for the county. My greatest resource is the men and women wearing the uniforms of my patrol and detention divisions. As of April 20, I have eight vacant positions on the law enforcement side and nine vacancies in the detention division. While it is true this problem is being felt across this country, the staff shortages here have become a great concern because it affects lives here.

The staffing shortages within the sheriff’s office are reaching a crisis level. Regarding the shortages, some of the prevalent concerns are public safety, officer safety, delayed response time and officer visibility.

With 1,057 square miles to cover in Polk County, shifts are running two deputies short with one of the shifts being three deputies short. Coupled with large volumes of calls over a 24-hour period, the personnel shortages amplify the issues listed above. During the month of March alone, there were a total of 3,551 calls for service received by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. All the above are directly affected by staff shortages, including clearance rates and narcotics investigations.

Since taking office in January of 2021, I’ve lost a total of 16 deputies and 49 jailers. The majority of those were by way of resignations with a few being by way of terminations. These losses equated to more than 100-plus years of law enforcement experience—experience and training paid for by the Polk County taxpayers.

The cause of our public safety crisis can be blamed on low salaries. A first-year deputy makes $37,679 annually. Listed below are the salaries paid for first-year deputies and officers in neighboring cities and counties: Livingston Police Department, $43,660; Walker County Sheriff’s Office, $55,160; Onalaska Police Department, $39,600; Diboll Police Department, $48,500; San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office, $43,672; Corrigan Police Department, $37,440; Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, $53,300; Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, $40,482; Angelina County Sheriff’s Office, $45,550; and Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, $35,000. The salaries listed do not represent the benefit packages.

Speaking with administrators from agencies from within Polk County and surrounding counties, I found that the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office and Corrigan Police Department were the only agencies whose starting pay was less than Polk County.

Speaking with Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy during our budget meeting we agreed there needs to be raises given throughout the county, especially with there being a nationwide inflation increase of 8%. Judge Murphy reminded me of the revenue cap placed on Texas counties by our state legislators from 8% to 3.5%. I was informed this 3.5% cap handicaps counties in their attempts to maintain raises for their employees. Therefore, I come before the citizens of Polk County to say I need your help to better protect your communities. I look forward to working with the communities of Polk County about ideas and solutions.

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MANNAFEST OPEN HOUSE

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mannafest

Marilyn Wise, executive director of the MannaFest Food Pantry explained the work of the organization to a visitor to the open house Thursday. MannaFest hosted the open house to celebrate its accomplishments and recognize those who make it all possible. This year marks the 20th year that the local food pantry has been in its present location at 803 W. Feagin in Livingston where an additional 1,200 square feet was added to the building last year. “A lot of donors helped us with that, and we wanted to recognize them, as well as our volunteers,” Wise said. A not-for-profit organization, MannaFest is a member of the Southeast Texas Food Bank. Through this relationship the pantry is linked to the USDA for supplemental food and to the Feeding America Program. The organization provides supplemental groceries to those in need in Polk Country from 9 a.m. to noon each Monday and Friday as well as 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. the first Saturday of the month. For more information, visit the organization’s website at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

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Races for Goodrich board set

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Goodrich ISD Hornet Facing LeftBy Brian Besch
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Thursday’s regular board meeting at Goodrich ISD set dates for canvassing votes, provided information on tax collections, and reports were given for teacher recruitment and student testing.

The board agreed to keep next month’s regular meeting on May 19, while holding a special session May 12 at 10 a.m. for the purpose of canvassing election votes. Early voting begins Monday and lasts until May 3. Early voting will be held at the Polk County Judicial Center, Sechrest Webster Community Center and Onalaska Courthouse. On May 7, voting will take place at the Goodrich Administration Building.

Position 1 of Rigoberto Reyes, Rosalie Blackstock in Position 4 and Brenda Bennett’s Position 7 are all running unopposed. In Position 5, Lydia Merino and Bobby Bridwell will run. In Position 6, Berenice Merino will challenge Thomas Finger, who took over the remainder of a term a few months ago.

This month, Goodrich received its tax collection report. The total assessed taxes for 2021 were $1.772 million. Of that amount, around 90% has been collected. Preliminary taxable values is at $178 million, while last year’s number was $140 million, meaning the coming year’s assessed taxes should see a significant increase. A certified value
will be received July 25.

“July is when we are really going to get the ball rolling on budget and taxes,” Goodrich business manager Kaelin Smith said. “Once we have our certified appraised value, that’s when we can really start talking about what the tax rate is going to be in August.”

Goodrich Superintendent Daniel Barton said much has been accomplished in teacher recruitment for the coming fall.

“Since the last board meeting, we went to Lamar University and Sam Houston, doing teacher recruitment, where we picked up about 10 resumes at both. We are just trying to build our pool of choices. Right now, teachers hired for 2022-23 school year, we have two positions that are officially unfilled, but in reality, we really only have one unfilled position for the coming year at this time. That is really good. We are at April 21 and we are full with full-time teachers. The other thing that is exciting is they are not new teachers. They have experience, every one of them. That gives us a little jump when we bring teachers on, because they have training prior and know the systems. We are excited about that – very excited.”

Barton said scheduling for teacher training has begun over the past week.

During data digs, teachers go through the previous tests and principal Aubrey Vaughan gave a positive report on that data Thursday. The third graders are making gradual improvements in math. Students in fourth and fifth grade have made “huge improvements,” according to Vaughan, in math. A fifth grade bootcamp is already showing results. Scores in eighth grade science have also improved. Social studies for eighth graders is still a concern. Scores in eighth grade reading and math have risen to “approaches level,” which Vaughan said is a lot better than where the group began.

“Slowly but surely, these gaps are getting filled, and that is very exciting to see,” Vaughan said. 


Goodrich ISD has more staff members training to receive their CDL, giving the district additional options for bus drivers. 


The district is beginning to install the smartboards that were purchased with the ESSER funds collected during the pandemic. The panels that display classwork from an instructor’s computer screen will be hung in each classroom and should take around 30 minutes, with no further assistance required. The remainder should be installed over the summer, ready for each classroom in the 2022-23 academic year. 

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Court to eye Polk CAD budget

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Polk County LogoThe Polk County Commissioners Court will receive and take any necessary action regarding the FY2023 budget adopted April 11 by the Polk Central Appraisal District (CAD) during its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Changes to the distribution of the road and bridge portion of the tax rate in conformance with the revised precinct boundaries will be discussed and considered.

Commissioners will consider any necessary action regarding expenditures from maintenance capital outlay buildings (budgeted funds) for painting the Onalaska Sub-Courthouse and regional health building roof.

A request from Sheriff Byron Lyons to relocate the quarterly tax sales from the commissioners courtroom to the Dunbar Gym will be considered.

Commissioners will discuss and consider action regarding a proposal from McCord Engineering for a countywide topographic map and implementing a fee for developers that elect to use the map for subdivision applications.

Commissioner will review and consider personnel action form requests submitted sine the last meeting and review any authorized emergency hirings. Commissioners will also consider action on the FY2022 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.

Requests for capital purchases to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the FY2022 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt include the following: a courthouse security request to purchase four body restraints not to exceed $1,527; a permits request to purchase two Adobe licenses not to exceed $936; and am auditor’s office request to purchase one desktop scanner not to exceed $1,026.

Items on the consent agenda include:

Approve minutes of April 12 regular meeting;

Approve schedules of bills;

Approve listing of previously authorized capital purchases to be included on reimbursement resolution;

Approve order designating surplus property;

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

Approve agreement with Goodwin, Lasiter and Strong as engineer for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) water infrastructure;

Ratify Amendment No. 2 to General Land Office Contract No. 20-065-018-C064 to revise the performance statement, budget and benchmarks for River Road and Taylor Lake Road infrastructure projects;

Approve resolution for Polk County Special Services to join the Texas Indigent Health Care Association; and

Accept Patrick Leahy Grant Award for bullet proof vests for the sheriff’s office.

During informational reports, the Court will issue a proclamation declaring April 24-30 as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The Court will reconvene at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday to enter into an executive session to discuss and consider filling the position of human resources director. The position is vacant following the recent resignation of Adrena Gilbert.

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