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Livingston ISD receives grant

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Livingston ISD LogoBy Brian Besch
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The Livingston school board heard the tax report, report on extracurricular success and of a grant received at its meeting Monday that was postponed last week.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented the Cops School Violence Prevention grant report to the board. 

“I’m grateful to LISD school resource officer Kevin Blackburn, LISD technology director Kip Robins, and LISD director of student services Lana Smith for working on this grant, which brought in $600,000 for the safety and security of the district. Tracy Galloway, former school resource officer at Timber Creek Elementary, recommended that a fence at the back of the campus would improve the safety of students during the planning and needs assessment of the grant project. The Cedar Grove campus P.E. classes are able to utilize Lion Stadium for student activities. Creekside Elementary has a fenced area that is safe for P.E. students to utilize on campus. The new fence at Timber Creek gives students the same security.” 

The Timber Creek Elementary Principal has not received any phone calls or questions from the community regarding the fence. Baseball and softball community activities have continued access to the fenced property. Outside of school hours, the fenced area may be used as a walking path or other community needs, including the use by students. 

“We had some issues on campus with homeless folks smoking at the former fence line during school hours,” Blackburn said. “Multiple criminal trespass warning tickets have to be issued to individuals that pose a risk to the campus. We felt that a four-foot fence would help designate the perimeter for P.E. classes on campus. It also helps to keep dogs out of the play area. We’re not going to lock the gates after school hours so that people can still use the areas for ball practice or to walk in the evenings and weekends.”
LISD Technology Director Kip Robins discussed the camera equipment purchased through grant funds. 

“The grant helped us upgrade technology in camera software. We are able to cut down on the man-hours that are used to search through lengthy videos, and instead, we can enter specific searches,” Robins said. “For example, the search can be for someone wearing a ballcap or a red shirt, and the advanced technology will produce the requested video segments. We are now able to set perimeters at the bus barn with motion and light detectors. When someone crosses the property line, the area will light up as detected by the sensors, which will notify security. We are excited about the improvements that were made possible by the grant funds.”

The April LISD School Board meeting opened with James Guest, an attorney with Linebarger and Associates. Guest introduced Polk County Tax Assessor Leslie Burks and area managers with Linebarger — Gina Hullihen and Jennifer Moffett. Guest presented the tax report from February 2021 to February 2022, including a five-year comparison of collection numbers and discussed how the report showed litigation progression. Last year, Linebarger sent four mailings equaling 12,000 collections letters, and have plans this year to add a fifth mailing. As a result, 300 accounts have resulted in $75,000 of collections. The total tax sales equaled $1.1 million in revenue for the district. In July, delinquent taxes will be reviewed. Not all properties listed on the delinquent tax roll are eligible because they may be in bankruptcy. Around 30% of the tax roll consists of bad addresses, and some are already in litigation. 

Hawkins shared the recent student success in the district. Livingston Junior High won third place at their UIL academic meet out of seven competing schools. LHS was the UIL academic District 21-4A champion at the meet last week. Livingston High School boys golf won the district championship trophy on Monday, and six Lions were named regional qualifiers. The girls golf team won third place at the district meet and had one regional qualifier. Girls tennis earned the district championship Thursday, with one athlete advancing to regionals, and the UIL One-Act Play won first place at area competition. Their play, “Of Mice & Men,” is advancing to UIL Regionals on April 21.

A level four grievance hearing was held involving a student at the high school. The board went into a closed session, and after resuming in open session, upheld the findings from level three.

LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the quarterly investment report for the second quarter of 2022. The beginning balance on Nov. 31, 2021, was $31,578,934.53. In December, the interest earned was $6,889, January interest was $7,848, and February $7,953. The ending balance on Feb. 28, was $41,015,391. 

Under action items, the board approved the quarterly investment report and board goals that were determined during a recent board workshop. The goals are focused on certain areas. The first is a curriculum goal for every student to leave high school as college, career, or military ready, based on the individual student’s long-term goals. Second is leadership goal, striving to recruit, hire, and retain a high-performing faculty and staff of student-centered, life-long learners. Third is finance and operations exercising fiscal and operational responsibility. School safety is a goal, believing students perform at the highest level in a secure environment. 

The board approved the hiring of Lisa Cagle as a professional employee in the district. Cagle will start July 1 as chief academic officer of the district.

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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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AdobeStock 315157486

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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