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Polk County News - Breakout

DONATIONS MADE TO RECYCLING CENTER

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Donation04 03 2022

Both the Polk County Democratic Club and the Polk County Republican Club recently made $1,000 donations to Polk County’s new recycling center which is operated by Polk County Recycling & Beautification, a volunteer group. Located at 10311 Hwy. 146 in Livingston, the center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. First picture (l-r) Kari Miller, assistant to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and the county’s liaison to Polk County Recycling & Beautification, and Willie White, president of the Polk County Democratic Club. Second picture (l-r) Pat McCulley, president of the Polk County Republican Club; Shawn Loring, a volunteer with Polk County Recycling & Beautification; Bob Martone, treasurer of the Polk County Republican Club; and Miller. For additional information about the recycling center, visit www.pcrbtexas.org.

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Local tree farm to host tour

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From Enterprise Staff

The Texas Forestry Association will host a field tour to highlight the Thomas Timber Investments 1,791-acre tree farm in Polk County from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on April 30. The local tree farm was named the 2022 Texas Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year. Claud Thomas and his sons manage their tree farm, located at 1342 Walding Rd., for timber income, wildlife habitat and recreation.

Hay-covered trailers will take guests to stops along the tree farm where professional foresters and natural resource providers will give presentations on prescribed burning/U.S. Forest Service grant programs; understory herbicide applications; timber management/basal area/tree stocking; and seedling selection/genetics. Continuing education units will be available for foresters and loggers.

The event is free and lunch will be provided but registration is required to reserve a spot. Register online by clicking the member portal tab, then calendar, on texasforestry.org or call 1-866-TXTREES, 936-632-8733 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. with your name, mailing address and the number attending.

Participants are asked to wear outside attire and comfortable shoes or boots as some walking will be required.

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Is it rude to say ... we’re desperate

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3 31 spca

From Enterprise Staff

Help and support are needed now for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Polk County to continue offering lifesaving treatments and care for cats and dogs in and around the county.

“We were lucky enough to break even in 2021 for the first time in several years. This was due in large part to the cost-cutting measures across the board that we implemented,” SPCA Executive Director Ron Hornsby said. “In addition, we more effectively managed the animal population on-site to ensure the very best care is provided and to allow our team of dedicated volunteers and staff to better manage their ability to care, treat and improve the quality of the lives of the animals.

Hornsby said 2020 saw record adoption numbers across the U.S. which was great for the animals and shelters and rescues across the country but that what transpired afterward was also unprecedented.

“There was a noticeable decline in adoptions for 2021, as well as a record number of animal returns from those returning to work or unable to care for the animals any longer. We also saw a drop in donations, even though we increased our marketing opportunities via television, radio, print and social media by 75% and held a number of events to help generate donations and support,” Hornsby said.

Without the cost-cutting measures, Hornsby said the SPCA of Polk County wouldn’t have been here today to share the news and provide updates on the lives of the animals in their care.

“This is why we need your help,” he emphasized. “It costs to run a facility of our size, being the only nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Polk County. We receive zero funding or support from the city, county or state. We are so reliant on your generosity and dependent on your support, that without it, we cannot survive and continue to improve countless lives and perform the function that we do.”

Donations may be made to the to the SPCA of Polk County by visiting www.spcapolk.org, by texting spcapolk to 44321, by donating supplies to the shelter at 802 S. Houston in Livingston or by making purchases from their wish lists at wishlist by amazon or chewy.com. For additional information call (936)755-3020 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays

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Chamber members hear about commerce center

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Debbie Mayes speaks at the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce quarterly membership meeting.Debbie Mayes speaks at the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce quarterly membership meeting.By Emily Banks Wooten
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Debbie Mayes, executive director of the Polk County Commerce Center, was the guest speaker for the quarterly membership meeting of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at the Cho-Yeh Camp & Conference Center.

Thanking the chamber for inviting her to speak about the Polk County Commerce Center, Mayes said she’s been walking those halls for nine years now and that she is the only fulltime employee, but that she is blessed with some “as needed” employees that help her clean and reposition tables and chairs.

“Many people are confused as to who I work for so if you’re one of those people I’d like to explain. The Polk County Commerce Center is a county-owned building, but I do not work for the county. I work for the Polk County Higher Education & Technology Foundation Board of Directors. Those directors are Andy Evans, Garvey Jackson, Judge Sydney Murphy, Shelly Bush Sitton, Connie Slocomb, Dr. Brent Hawkins, Bill Wiggins and Martha Watson,” Mayes said. “This nonprofit foundation was created to assist in providing educational opportunities in Polk County. They’re supportive of Angelina College Polk County Center and the education opportunities they offer.

“Most of these board members have served faithfully for the entire nine years. They are all volunteers and do a great job. The next time you run into one of them, how about giving them a pat on the back for their dedication to serving our community through their volunteer service on this board,” Mayes said.

“Many people are unaware of this, but in the event of a natural disaster, the Polk County Commerce Center becomes a shelter for Polk County residents. It has been used in the past for those who were in danger due to flooding. When used as a shelter, the building is taken over by the county through the Polk County Emergency Management System. During the pandemic, the National Guard used the commerce center as a COVID testing site and the Polk County Emergency Management team organized 13 vaccination clinics at the commerce center,” Mayes said.

“Also during the pandemic, the Polk County judicial system used the commerce center seven times for the grand jury, jury selections and one trial. The commerce center was large enough to accommodate the social distancing guidelines that were in place at that time. We were paid through the county for all these events and what a blessing that was. The global pandemic in 2020 was devastating to the Polk County Commerce Center. When you’re an event center and nobody can have events, you suffer financially. There were more than 25 events cancelled in 2020,” Mayes said.

“My board was able to take advantage of a government loan that offered a low interest rate and a long-term payment plan to help us navigate through the crisis. Things really began to look up in 2021. I worked 49 events in 2021, and so far in 2022, I’ve worked or booked 45 events and have seven events booked for 2023,” Mayes said.

“We host a variety of events–gun shows, spa shows, weddings, quinceaneras, proms, graduations, Christmas parties and all manner of celebrations. First Baptist Church held their Easter service at the Polk County Commerce Center last year. We were honored to serve the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in being the venue for the funeral of their chief, Herbert Johnson, last August. The Polk County Commerce Center hosts a variety of organizations’ fundraisers and serve many businesses during the Christmas season for their company parties,” Mayes said.

“With our ability to seat 1,200 concert-style, we’ve offered several Grammy Award-winning country artists, such as Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Asleep at the Wheel, Neal McCoy and through a private donor, Mickey Gilley. This October 8 through the generous donation of The Smith Family Foundation and Robert Smith, we’re bringing Grammy Award-winner Marty Stuart back. This is a Polk County Commerce Center fundraiser sponsored by The Smith Family Foundation,” Mayes said.

“People are hungry for live entertainment and hopefully they’ll come out and enjoy the beautiful music of Marty Stuart and help support their local community center. In the past, 90% of the people attending these concerts were out-of-towners which is great, because it’s a great promoter of tourism to our wonderful city and county. But if the local community would support these concerts as well, we’d have a full house and an even more financially successful fundraiser,” Mayes said.

“We’re thrilled that the Livingston Community Concert Association has selected the commerce center as their venue for all their concerts. I visited with a group that plans to hold a Comic-Con at the commerce center in the fall of 2023. It’s interesting work in that I meet so many people, with dreams of lots of interesting events. One of the people attending the Neal McCoy concert is a famous supporting actor and his name is Glen Morshower. He’s famous for his acting in “The Resident,” “Bloodline,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Blackhawk Down.” He was there to meet Neal McCoy simply because he was a fan. I met a famous entertainer from Switzerland at the Marty Stuart concert. He had flown into Houston and driven up because it was his birthday and he wanted to spend it at a Marty Stuart concert,” Mayes said.

“Also at the Marty Stuart concert I met Reid Gettys, a member of the Houston Cougars basketball team during the Phi Slama Jama days from 1982-1984. They were famous for slam dunking and their explosive fast breaking style of play. Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were also a part of that team. Reid Gettys has a home on Lake Livingston and his wife is a huge Marty Stuart fan. He’ll be back in October and if you’re there, you won’t have any trouble spotting him. He’ll be the tallest man in the room,” Mayes said.

“This past November, Rachel Drake and Christina Stutts worked their tails off hosting a fundraiser for the Polk County Higher Education & Technology Foundation which benefits the Polk County Commerce Center. Their event was purse bingo and raised over $60,000. The Polk County Cares fundraiser raised over $80,000, which benefits the Center for Hope Food Bank, F.A.I.T.H. Ministries and Polk County cancer patients,” Mayes said.

“Back to interesting people that I’ve met while working at the commerce center—one of the nicest people I ever met was Bob Phillips, the Texas Country Reporter. He had so many good stories. He’s a good listener and was very interested in our city and county. He asked lots of good questions. We had such fun hosting an event for locals to watch Laci Kaye Booth live during one of the final episodes of American Idol. There were lots of folks there to support and vote for one of our own,” Mayes said.

“I don’t know what we did before the Polk County Commerce Center was built. There was no place for large groups to gather. We all need to support our local community center because a lot of community is supported there. If you have an upcoming event and don’t know where to have it, give me a call. Call me and let me help you with customized pricing for your special event. It’s a great job and a privilege to serve my community there. See you at the next event,” Mayes said. 

More chamber news

“We appreciate you being here today and we want you to know that we are here for you. Call us for anything. There’s no question you can ask that we haven’t heard before. Please call anytime,” Chamber CEO Yvonne King said, reminding everyone that the chamber’s mission statement is “… to enhance the success of business, tourism and civic interests of Polk County and to promote the quality of life for all citizens.”

Ambassador President David Burns apprised everyone of several upcoming events. These include ribbon cuttings at Coats Livingston Jewelers at 11 a.m. on Friday, at First Community Financial Group at 1:30 p.m. on April 20 and at Today’s Dental at 11 a.m. on April 22.

He reminded everyone of the 3rd annual Smoke in the Pines barbecue cookoff, auto and bike show and kids cookoff June 25 at Pedigo Park. The next Power Hour with the Chamber is slated for 8-9 a.m. April 5 at The Bull Shack. The next learning luncheon is slated for April 19 and Jody Morse of Livingston Fitness Center will be the speaker. The next quarterly membership luncheon is June 28 and Courtney Comstock with the Polk County Office of Emergency Management will be the guest speaker.

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Goodrich ISD employees to receive pay raise

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Goodrich ISD Hornet Facing LeftBy Brian Besch
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The Goodrich school board passed the GISD Compensation Plan for 2022-2023 and heard vupdates on maintenance items. 

All employees of Goodrich ISD will receive a bump in pay after an item approved by the school board. Superintendent Daniel Barton and his staff have worked on the plan since just before Christmas.

“We know our struggles. Our struggles are being competitive with our surrounding schools,” Barton said. “Part of the reason for it is that we pay social security and other districts don’t. The other reason is just our size. When you put 30 kids in a classroom, versus our classes — which are smaller and maybe half that size — it creates more of a cost and more of the burden on our district.”

Barton said many school districts now are paying first-year teachers more, and veteran teachers are not seeing the amount of increase in pay they once did.

“That is what we have tried to do, to align with that strategy,” Barton said of neighboring districts’ pay scales. “That is really the only way that we can begin to be competitive.”

Barton compared teacher salaries with school districts in Livingston, Onalaska, Shepherd, Big Sandy and Leggett. Currently, Goodrich has a similar pay scale to that of Leggett, yet still trails that district to the north.

Starting the next academic year, first-year teachers will begin at $43,000, which is an increase over the current $36,160 — nearly a 16% difference. 

Future compensation will be determined each year by the board, rather than an annual-step raise. Teachers will be paid by the pay scale upon entering Goodrich ISD. However, all teachers will receive a minimum increase of their annual step for 2022.

Barton said he and his staff originally had a goal of $40,000 for starting salary. When area schools recently increased their salaries, the superintendent said the school would still lose ground at that number.

Overall, teachers will receive a raise of 4.63%. The adjustment for steps 0-13 (teachers in their first 13 years of experience) is 8.19%. There will also be stipends for certain positions, such as math, science and foreign language instructors, as well as those with a master’s degree.

The increased cost projections for 2022-23 are $32,285 for teaching staff, $9,406 for administrative staff, $9,081 for support service staff, $4,549 for clerical staff and $24,507 for auxiliary staff. In total, the increase will be $79,828. That number will decrease by absorbing two positions, saving $47,525, meaning the total cost to the district for the compensation plan is $32,303. 

That number is a projection and based on the staff currently in place. Payroll for the staff is currently between $1.1 million and $1.2 million for staff.

The school is still waiting for a change order to mount the electronic sign that will sit in front of the campus. All products have arrived to complete the restroom renovations, while windows have yet to come in. 

There are a few leaks in the old gym. The school plans to have both the roofers and representatives from the solar panel company out to discuss the leaks April 8. McWilliams & Sons will be out to the campus June 6 for the air conditioning project. 

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