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City utility customers to see increases in next bill

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081122 main streetLIVINGSTON MAIN STREET RECOGNIZED — Livingston Mayor Judy B. Cochran congratulates members of the Livingston Main Street Committee who were recently recognized at a meeting of the Livingston City Council for Livingston Main Street’s designation as a 2022 Accredited Program by Main Street America and Texas Main Street. (l-r) Joyce Knierim, Molly Anderson, Tammi Ogletree, Jessica Corwin, Julie Mayes Hamrick, Main Street Manager Lynn Riley, Kim Brown Jernigan and Cochran. (behind) Aldermen Alan Cook and Marion A. “Bid” Smith, City Secretary Ellie Monteaux, City Manager Bill S. Wiggins, Aldermen Clarke Evans, Elgin Davis and Dr. Ray Luna. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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City of Livingston utility customers will see increases in both electric and garbage on next month’s billing following action taken by the Livingston City Council during its Aug. 9 meeting.

The City of Livingston’s electrical provider is Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency (SRMPA), who also provides electricity for the cities of Liberty and Jasper. Each of the three cities has two representatives that sit on the Board of Directors of SRMPA. Livingston’s SRMPA board members are Mayor Judy B. Cochran and Alderman Clarke Evans.

SRMPA Executive Director Bruce Mintz recently traveled to each of the three member cities to meet with the respective cities’ two representatives and city managers. The purpose of these meetings was for Mintz to inform the cities of an upcoming rate increase.

“I think what constituted this is rising fuel costs. It’s everywhere. It’s not just us. But we can’t absorb that. I know that this is a retirement community and it pains me to go up, but we don’t have a choice,” Livingston City Manager Bill S. Wiggins said.

The next billing cycle will reflect a 3-cent increase in electrical, from $11.75 per kilowatt to $14.75 per kilowatt.
“This will enable us to absorb the rising cost from Sam Rayburn,” Wiggins said.

Having recently received notification from Republic, the company the city contracts with for garbage collection, of a fuel surcharge increase of 4.13%, as well as an increase in the cost of garbage bags, Council approved a residential increase from $22 to $23.50 and a commercial increase from $23 to $24.50.

Council conducted its annual review of the city’s investment policy, approving a change in the wording. Previously, the policy stated that the finance director will prepare the report and submit it to the city manager. Finance Director Patricia Crawford has announced her retirement effective Aug. 31 and the city has not hired a replacement yet. Therefore, Wiggins suggested changing the policy to read that the report will be prepared by the finance director or city manager.

“With the rise in interest rates, there is some good news when you’re investing. The last few months the interest income has started to pick up,” Wiggins said, commenting on the city’s investment reports.

Regarding additional SRMPA business, Council approved a proposed resolution accepting a deed from the agency conveying two electrical substations.

“Back in 1989 the City of Livingston transferred ownership of the substation on Old Woodville Road to SRMPA. Then, in 1994 we had the newly-constructed Ogletree substation that was also transferred. SRMPA used these two assets to borrow funds for bonds and the bonds were paid off last year and they no longer need these assets so they want to deed them back to us,” Wiggins explained, adding that no monies were involved.

The preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2022 and ending Sept. 30, 2023 was presented to Council for review, with Wiggins stating, “This was a very hard, hard budget to put together.”

Citing uncertainty in both state and national governments, increased costs in the oil and gas industry, supply chain issues and a 9% inflation rate, Wiggins said that it would seem like the time to tighten the belt and wait for the storm to pass, but that the city is unable to do that for a variety of reasons.

“With the growth we’ve experienced the past few years and the Supreme Court ruling that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe may continue the operation of its gaming facility, we’re expecting it to start booming. Our little town is about to explode,” Wiggins said. He added that the city already has aging infrastructure – water, sewer, electrical, streets – that it’s been trying to improve in recent years.

He encouraged Council to review the proposed budget, write down comments or questions and get with him individually to visit about it. Council approved calling a public hearing on the budget for 5 p.m. Sept. 13.

During his monthly report on events and current development projects, Wiggins commented that Livingston Youth Baseball has had a lot of success this year, with three teams going to the playoffs.

He apprised Council that the radio tower behind the police department was recently taken down, after having been compromised during a vehicular collision. He said it was a liability and could not be fixed but that all of the police, fire and public works radios had been transferred to the city’s West Street tower.

Wiggins informed everyone that the city’s annual 9/11 Prayer and Remembrance Ceremony is slated for 9 a.m. on Sept. 9 at the city hall.

He added that the yellow office building that formerly housed parks and recreation and Trade Days is currently listed on an online auction with AuctioneerExpress.com and the auction is set to close at 11 a.m. on Aug. 18. He said the building has been out of use for a number of years and its removal will allow the black pipe fencing in the area to be completed.

Wiggins also informed everyone that the city was awarded the Community Safety Grant from CenterPoint Energy in the amount of $2,500. The grant will partially fund the purchase and installation of 10 automated external defibrillators to be installed at municipal facilities, including city hall, the police department, public works, the electric department, the sewer treatment plant, the parks shop, the Trade Days office, the library, fire station #1 and the fire training facility.

Although Council entered into an executive session to deliberate the employment or appointment of an employee, no action was taken upon return to open session.

The city recognized Livingston Main Street for its designation as a 2022 Accredited Program by Main Street America and Texas Main Street.

“This is quite a great accomplishment for these folks. Being accredited means a lot,” Wiggins said.

“I’d like to thank y’all for recognizing us. Without y’all, we wouldn’t have a Main Street,” Special Events/Main Street Manager Lynn Riley said.

This program started in 2005 and the Main Street District consists of 10 blocks in the downtown area, bounded by Beatty Avenue, East Abbey Street, East Calhoun Street, North Jackson Avenue, North Tyler Avenue and West Church Street. They help businesses with different types of grants for roofs, facades, paint, signs and infrastructure,” Wiggins said.

Other business included approval of accounts over $500 and minutes of the July 12 meeting.

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Livingston Lions Club

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081122 lions club

(Left) Debra Jenke, director of the Angelina College Polk County Center, recently spoke to the Livingston Lions Club, discussing the various courses that are offered as well as the current remote learning process. (l-r) Lion Gary Davis, Jenke and Lion President Kim Jernigan.

(Right) Maci Hill, a Livingston High School Senior and daughter of Chad and Mary Hill, recently visited the Livingston Lions Club and presented “Communist in the Cornfields,” her individual documentary that was chosen among 600,000 entries as first place in the senior division for individual documentary during the National History Day competition this summer. (l-r) Lion President Kim Jernigan, Mary Hill, Maci Hill, Chad Hill and Lion Henry Ager. Courtesy photo

081122 lions club twoLion First District Governor Jerald Peterson and Zone Chairman Lourene Medlowe recently visited the Livingston Lions Club, giving an update of the district. (l-r) Medlowe, Lion President Kim Jernigan and Peterson. Courtesy photo

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081122 broadband for everyone During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Polk County Commissioners Court entered into a contract with Eastex Telephone to provide broadband services to the unincorporated areas of the county. (l-r) Eastex Telephone Plant Manager Anthony Hendrix, Precinct 1 Commissioner Guylene Robertson, Eastex Telephone General Manager Rusty Dorman, Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet, Director of Regulatory Affairs Wes Robinson, County Judge Sydney Murphy, Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent and Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis. Courtesy photo

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Corrigan PD receives Trauma kit donation

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081122 corrigan pd trauma kitEmployees of Roy O Martin, Corrigan OSB, LLC recently delivered eight trauma kits to the Corrigan Police Department, along with other lifesaving materials from North American Rescue to go inside each of the department’s patrol units. When seconds matter, the trauma kits will allow for faster response in case of specific medical emergencies. (l-r) Detective Jason Porter, Corporal Fitzpatrick Foster, Officer Jonathan Reynolds, Director of Projects and Construction Marty Neiswender, Director of Human Resources Sherry Hughes, Chief of Police Darrell Gibson and City Manager Darrian Hudman. (Not pictured) Occupational Health Nurse Stephanie Reynolds. “The Corrigan Police Department would like to sincerely thank Roy O Martin, Corrigan OSB, LLC for their generous donation to our department. We appreciate your efforts to help our officers make our community a safer place,” Porter said. Courtesy photos

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Broadband heading to northern Polk County

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081122 broadband north polk county

To be paid for with ARPA funds

By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court approved action regarding a request for proposals for rural internet connectivity to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“A little bit of history – previously we formed a committee in 2018 or 2019 that included our local vendors. We invited everyone to the table. It also had DETCOG representation. This was pre-COVID, pre-knowing we were going to get ARPA funds, this was pre pre pre,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

“The broadband committee appointed by the Court has been meeting since October 2021 to develop the plan to provide fiber access to all areas of the county that do not currently have service and specifically making sure that the black hole that currently exists in Precinct 3 starts closing some of those gaps.

“In November, the Court accepted water and interconnectivity in the unincorporated areas of the county as the primary projects that would be funded with ARPA funds. A request for proposals for rural internet connectivity for Polk County was issued on June 16 of 2022. We received proposals from Charter Communications, Eastex Telephone and LivCom and the broadband committee was given the opportunity to review the proposals and score them.

“The committee recommends to fund LivCom’s Option 1 which is backbone construction on Highway 59, 190 and 146 for a total county portion of $326,574.50 which is a 50/50 match. The committee further recommends funding the full proposal from Eastex for a total cost to the county of $4,268,025 which is a 40/60 match for a total project cost of just over $10 million.

“These projects are scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2024. Basically, what these projects would do is fulfill the original goal of the committee to build a backbone or structure where children, local business and local residents would have access to internet communications.”

An interlocal agreement between the county and the Texas Department of Public Safety for a permanent commercial driver’s license facility in Polk County was approved.

“The purpose of this agreement is for the county to provide DPS a permanent CDL facility in Polk County in order for DPS to provide CDL skills testing. It will be located on county property adjacent to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is okay with it. He’s reviewed everything. The current construction plan includes testing lanes, inspection, canopy range, office space, equipment storage and restrooms. The initial agreement has a 10-year term,” Murphy said.

A request from the Texas Department of Transportation for a special use permit for the bridge replacement on Sunflower Road/County Road 1077 over Big Sandy Creek in Precinct 4 was approved. “This is a formality with TxDOT through the national parks service to give them easement down there,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said.

Based on the recommendation of the appointed scoring committee, the Court approved the selection of J.C. Stoddard Construction as the construction manager for the two phases of the historic restoration of the Polk County Courthouse. The first phase will be selective demolition and the second phase will be the restoration and rehabilitation project. The extensive historic restoration and ensuing construction is part of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, a grant program administered through the Texas Historical Commission.

A prepositioned contract for disaster debris removal services with DRC Emergency Services was approved. The Court had previously approved DRC as secondary and TFR as primary, but upon further review learned that DRC was actually cheaper than TFR. While both have contracts, per FEMA requirement, the county must accept the lower bid, therefore, the Court approved changing the sequence and naming DRC primary, thus making TFR secondary.

The Court approved receiving and recording the district judges’ orders setting the FY2023 compensation for the county auditor, assistant auditors and 258th and 411th district court reporters, court coordinators, bailiffs and labor pool staff pursuant to Local Government Code.

A request from the City of Onalaska for the collection of their ad valorem taxes by Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks was approved.

Based on a request from the auditor’s office to begin the process of the FY2023 annual bids for precinct road materials, limestone, tires, oil and grease, gas, diesel, pest control services and motor grader blades, the Court approved advertising for bids.

In personnel matters the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and also reviewed an authorized emergency hiring in the district attorney’s office. FY2022 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were also approved.

Although the Court was slated to discuss and consider award on the 2017 GLO DR 4332 (Harvey) Program, GLO Contract No. 20-065-018-C064 in old business, the item was tabled at the request of Precinct 1 Commissioner Guylene Robertson who wants to get more information.

During information reports, Murphy took the opportunity to review the Texas County & District Retirement System plan assessment.

“We received and approved this June 14, 2022. We wanted to revisit it because some people don’t realize the extent of this benefit.

Based on the different lengths of service to the county from 10 to 30 years of employment, it pays out 25% to 99% of your salary respectively. This is in addition to the health benefits. Through the basic plan option, the employee deposit rate is 7%. The county matches it by 250%. That’s a heck of a retirement plan.”

Murphy recognized Casey Lowrie, the county’s information technology and systems administrator, for her reappointment to the Texas Association of Counties Information Technology Advisory Council for 2022-2023. Lowrie is one of 11 across the state who was invited to join the advisory council.

Murphy also offered congratulations to Emily Banks Wooten and the Polk County Enterprise on recently receiving multiple awards at the annual Texas Press Association Convention.

Items on the consent agenda included:

• Approval of the schedules of bills;

• Approval of an update to the master street address guide;

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

• Ratification of an order authorizing a donation to Habitat for Humanity;

• Receipt of the treasurer’s FY2022 third quarter report;

• Approval of a request from the treasurer to open a new TexPool investment account for the American Rescue Plan Act funds;

• Approval of FY2023 budget for the contract with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services relating to Title IV-E Child Welfare Program;

• Ratification of a Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service (SAVN) FY2022 amendment; and

• Approval of the renewal of an agreement with Texas Document Solutions for printer/copier equipment services.

Joel McMahon, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Livingston, opened the
meeting with prayer.

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