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Polk County News - Breakout

Early voting continues

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Vote GraphicBy Emily Banks Wooten

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With the first week of early voting for the March 1 Texas Primary Elections underway, there are still four more days to vote early. As of 6 p.m. Friday, 2,069 ballots had been cast—1,345 at the Polk County Judicial Center, 591 at the Onalaska Sub-Courthouse and 133 at the Sechrest Webster Community Center in Corrigan.

Monday is a federal holiday in which Presidents Day is observed but early voting will resume at 7 a.m. Tuesday and be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the remainder of the week. Early voting ends at 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

Early voting is available at three locations—the Polk County Judicial Center at 101 W. Mill St. in Livingston, the Onalaska Sub-courthouse at 14111 U.S. Hwy. 190 West in Onalaska and the Sechrest Webster Community Center at 100 W. Front St. in Corrigan.

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Academy to provide learning, networking opportunities

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PolkCountySherrifBadgePolk County Sheriff Byron Lyons has introduced a few new events in an effort to build a stronger bond between law enforcement and the public. 

Earlier this week, a gathering with citizens for coffee at The Bull Shack allowed them to discuss current events and to meet county deputies. There are plans for similar occurrences in the future in an attempt to improve engagement.

One of the main topics at Tuesday’s coffee conference was the new citizens’ academy. It is designed to give the public insight into the procedures for deputies to obtain a license and functions performed to protect and serve.

The academy will be divided into several sections over 11 weeks — jail, patrol, procedures, criminal investigation division, evidentiary, and the forensics lab with fingerprinting.

Instructors from the district attorney’s office, justice of the peace offices, probation and the local Texas Ranger are all part of the learning experience. 

There is an application process that is on the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, as well as their website. There is an icon that can be clicked to print the application, yet it can be emailed or dropped off at the station. Background investigations will be performed because academy students will be exposed to some sensitive equipment and information.

The deadline to apply is March 10 and start date is March 24. All students must be a resident of Polk County, and classes are scheduled for Thursdays 6-9 p.m.

 “We want to build better communication with the communities we serve,” Lyons said. “It’s about building familiarity and relationships. The academy is free, but you do have to pay $35 for a polo shirt because we want everyone to look uniform. We want to receive information from the community, find out their concerns. This will open up an avenue for us to reach out.”

 Though the first academy is for adults 18 years of age or older, the hope is to hold classes designed for children in the future.

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One gives comment on replat

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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A public hearing to receive comment on a request to cancel a portion of Cedar Point Subdivision, Section 1, Block 11, Lots 30-32 (removing lots) and replat the same as for Cedar Point, Section 1, Block 11, Block 1, Lot 1 drew comments from one individual during the regular meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court Friday. Due to the Court’s attendance at the V.G. Young Institute of County Government School for Commissioners Courts in Bryan next week, its Feb. 22 meeting was rescheduled to Friday.

“In general, we’re very much in favor of this individual building a house but we think the methodology is incorrect,” Cedar Point Developer Charles Von Schmidt told the Court. “There’s been over a hundred homes built in the last two years and 42 under construction right now and none of them have gone through this process. The reason that they didn’t is our deed restrictions.

“We have the ability to do this without doing a replat and tying up the Court’s time. Under our deed restrictions, you can combine two or more lots or divide a lot as long as you end up with a resulting lot that’s 45 feet or greater. It erases all the lines. So this process is unnecessary,” Von Schmidt said.

Upon close of the public hearing, Commissioners approved denying and tabling the request for now to allow the property owners’ association and the property owner to come to some kind of agreement.

Regarding an emergency addendum to Friday’s agenda, Commissioners considered action to begin the procurement process to select an administrator and an engineer for pre-award and post-award consulting services to prepare the FEMA hazard mitigation grant application DR-4485 for a hazard mitigation project.

“The water infrastructure committee has been gathering data for a while and collaborating with the engineer and grant administrator to determine what the best use would be of our ARPA funds. Generators are listed as a high priority item,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

“It was brought to our attention that we might want to consider applying for the FEMA COVID-19 hazard mitigation grants because it lists generators as an eligible use of the funds and then if this grant is awarded to the county then we do not have to use our ARPA monies for generators but will still be able to provide the service to these water companies,” Murphy said.

“Our engineer, Pat Oates, is currently reviewing all the data that we’ve gathered from the water supply companies and will help prioritize the projects,” Murphy said.

In related activity, Commissioners approved the selection of GLS and Langford Community Management Services for the engineer and grant administrator and also approved the appointment of a scoring committee for the purpose of reviewing and rating the proposals and qualifications received.

Commissioners approved a budget amendment not to exceed $218,000 for the purchase of a Mowermax boom mower from the Precinct 3 Road and Bridge fund balance. The exact cost of the piece of equipment is $217,664.41.

A discretionary exemption to the Polk County Subdivision Regulations for a 6.258-acre tract, I&GN RR Section 62 Abstract 650, located in Precinct 4, was approved.

In personnel matters, the Court approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting. The Court also approved a sheriff’s request for a temporary pay increase for staff at the Polk County Jail.

“We have done this in the past to alleviate some of the staff shortages and the inmate overcrowding that has occurred at the jail which was significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic so what we would like to do is give them temporary premium pay and the jail budget because they have been short-staffed has some unexpended monies and we could match that, those monies, with COVID funds,” Murphy said.

The following items on the consent agenda were approved:

Minutes of the Feb. 8 meeting;

The schedule of bills;

An order designating surplus property;

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

Receipt of the sheriff’s department’s 2021 racial profiling report;

An amendment to the contract between Tyler Technologies and the district clerk;

A request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for an asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $763.52 for reimbursement to Beau Price for the purchase of supplies; and

An interlocal agreement between Polk County and the City of Livingston for the county’s provision of election equipment and services for the May 7 election as recommended by the county clerk.

Simon Gellar of LifeVine Church opened the meeting with prayer.

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New project manager named

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TrinityRiverAuthority logoFrom Enterprise Staff

The Trinity River Authority of Texas (TRA) promoted Chad Holton to project manager at its Lake Livingston Project. Holton will oversee all matters related to the operation of the Lake Livingston Project and will be responsible for the overall general operation of the location, including maintenance, administration, reservoir operations, and managing flood events. He assumed his new duties Monday and is filling the vacancy left with the recent resignation of longtime project manager Mark Waters.

Holton has been with TRA since 2014, serving as the assistant project manager of operations at the Lake Livingston Project for the past seven years. In this role, he was responsible for emergency management functions, maintenance, security and Wolf Creek Park. He also shared some responsibilities with Waters, such as the day-to-day operation of the spillway and working with the local community. He also brings a wealth of land management experience from his previous employment as a consulting forester, along with extensive experience dealing with property owners and the public. Holton earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Lake Livingston is the largest single-purpose reservoir in Texas. At 83,000 surface acres and 55 miles long, its 455 miles of shoreline touches Polk, Walker, San Jacinto and Trinity counties. The lake was developed as a joint project between TRA and the city of Houston. The lake’s sole purpose is water supply.

TRA is a conservation and reclamation district providing water and wastewater treatment, along with recreation and reservoir facilities, for municipalities within the nearly 18,000-square-mile Trinity River basin. TRA also maintains a master plan for basin-wide development and serves as a conduit for tax-exempt financing for municipal projects and as a local sponsor for federal water projects. Each TRA operating project is an independent financial entity and TRA receives no tax revenues or appropriations. For more information, visit www.trinityra.org.

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