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Polk County News - Breakout


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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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First responders honored, classmate remembered

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First RespondersLivingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran makes remarks during the Cole Overstreet Memorial Breakfast honoring Livingston’s first responders Wednesday. The breakfast was hosted by the Livingston High School dual credit government class taught by Debra Jenke at Angelina College Polk County Center. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

At Cole Overstreet Memorial breakfast

By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Cole Overstreet Memorial Breakfast in honor of Livingston’s first responders was hosted Wednesday at the Angelina College Polk County Center by Cole’s peers from his dual credit government class.

Cole Overstreet, 18, a Livingston High School senior, was killed Sept. 24 following the homecoming football game in a hit-and-run collision with a drunk driver on FM 350 South.

“It was an honor to be Cole’s government instructor,” Debra Jenke said. Jenke teaches dual credit government classes for Angelina College Polk County Center where she also serves as director. Each year when her senior students are studying the rights and responsibilities of citizens, she emphasizes the importance of giving back to one’s community by having her students complete a service project.

“We batted around several ideas, and this is what they wanted to do. It was very successful, and plans are already in the works for Spring 2023,” Jenke said.

Cole’s parents, siblings and grandparents were guests, along with numerous first responders from the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and the Livingston Police Department. They were treated to a breakfast taco bar with all the trimmings and a beautiful array of fresh fruit and pound cake, along with coffee, juice and water. Dylan Shannon, a classmate of Cole’s, gave the prayer.

“Thank you all for coming to the Cole Overstreet Memorial Breakfast. This is something that we, as a class, have been planning since the fall semester,” Ryan McNabb, another classmate, said. “We are so thankful for all the first responders being here and for everything y’all do for the community.

“And thank you to the family for being here when we know how hard this is for y’all and us. It was a pleasure for all of us to know Cole. Thank you for helping us honor him,” McNabb said.

“I want to thank you for the honor of being here this morning to honor Cole’s memory. I want you to know that it affected us,” Livingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran said. “You may think we’re just hard-shelled people but we’re fathers too. Things happen and we question our sanity and ask ourselves why do we do this?

“You youngsters have so much going on and so many activities and you take time out of your schedule to do this. I look at you and I see the future. I look at you and see policemen, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers and coaches. It makes me realize why we do what we do,” Cochran said.

Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent E. Hawkins agreed.

“I think so much of what Mr. Cochran said is spot-on. There are tough storms that we go through—some we create and some we don’t—but it’s all a part of growing up and living and I see remarkable people in this room,” Hawkins said.

“As I look around, I see so many people who have been a part of great things. I’ve been through championships and victories and so many things that are great, but I think the heart of what we do is the love we have for each other. The love that you have for Cole is special. That is very reassuring for our future. As a parent, my heart breaks. As a community, I think it’s important we continue to love on the Overstreet family,” Hawkins said.

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SPCA Grant

The Rotary Club of Livingston recently participated in a project to assist the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Polk County with some improvements to the front façade of its facility located at 802 S. Houston. With the guidance of Ron Hornsby, executive director of the SPCA of Polk County, local Rotarians removed and replaced some old and rotten wood. They sanded down some of the older wood to try to remove the old paint. They also did a lot of caulking, then repainted a good portion of the front. They did some weed eating and used plywood to put soffits under the overhang. Funding for the project was the result of the local club’s successful participation in a matching grant program. Half of the project was funded by a grant from Rotary District 5910 which receives grant money from The Rotary Foundation, an international fund, and the Rotary Club of Livingston funded the other half. The local club has the opportunity annually to apply for a district grant. The club provides a certain amount and if approved, then the district matches that amount. It’s like a return on contributions from the community that is then used in the community. Photos by Emily Banks Wooten

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