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Polk County News - Breakout

County to consider strategic plan, long-term goals

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Polk County LogoThe Polk County Commissioners Court will discuss and consider the appointment of committee to develop a strategic plan and long-term goals for guidance in the county budget process during its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The Court will consider approval to begin procurement for the fiscal year 2023-24 Community Development Block Grant application cycle and appoint a rating committee and will also consider approval to advertise request for proposals for an independent auditing firm to complete the fiscal year 2023 and fiscal year 2024 audits.

The Court will consider approval of Amendment No. 1 to Part III, Subpart B, of the agreement with Langford Community Services to include the dollar amount for grant administration of the water infrastructure projects to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Requests for capital purchases to be paid from the fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2023 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt will be considered for approval, specifically, after-market equipment on a leased vehicle for environmental enforcement in the amount of $7,693 and after-market equipment on six leased vehicles for the sheriff’s office, in the amount of $89,398.

The Court will discuss and consider action regarding a request from the Texas Department of Transportation for a special use project for the bridge replacement on Sunflower Road/County Road 1077 over Big Sandy Creek in Precinct 4.

In personnel matters the Court will review and consider approval of personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and will review any authorized emergency hirings.

The Court will also consider approval of fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office.

During informational reports, the Court will receive an update from the county clerk regarding voter registration and will also receive the annual report from the Polk County AgriLife Extension Office.

Items on the consent agenda include:

•Approve minutes of Feb. 14 regular meeting;

•Approve schedules of bills;

•Receive county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to local government code Sec. 114.025;

•Approve interlocal agreements with the City of Livingston and Goodrich ISD for the county’s provision of election equipment and services for the May 6 election, as recommended by the county clerk;

•Approve rescheduling the regular commissioners court session set for May 23 to May 30;

•Approve renewal of agreement with Polk County Community Service Restitution program of the 258th and 411th Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections Department;

•Approve Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes’ request to appoint Kent Martindale to reserve deputy constable to replace Keagan Newman;

•Receive treasurer’s monthly reports for December and January; and

•Accept donation of two polimaster personal radiation detectors from the City of Houston Public Safety and Homeland Security Office for the Office of Emergency Management.

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AlertMePolkCounty changes providers

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alert me pc logo

From Enterprise Staff

Polk County’s emergency notification system, AlertMePolkCounty, has changed providers from Blackboard Connect to Genasys Emergency Management. The Polk County Office of Emergency Management launched the new system Friday.

AlertMePolkCounty powered by Genasys will offer lifesaving emergency notifications. AlertMePolkCounty allows users to designate whether they depend on medical assistance, signify which city or area they live in, and add multiple phone numbers and email addresses for notification purposes.

Users can also set preferences for how they would like to receive emergency alerts, such as via SMS, voice, email, etc. Overall, users should expect a more focused emergency alert system with this transition.

Emergency alerts include, but are not limited to: tornado, flash flood, flood, tropical storm, hurricane, wildfire threat, winter storm, hazmat chemical threat and evacuation.

Outreach messages that provide information on emergency shelters and commodity points of distribution may also be sent through AlertMePolkCounty.

Existing users of AlertMePolkCounty should already be registered and are encouraged to log in to the new registration portal and update their information. Visit the page on the emergency management website at https://polkcountyoem.com/page/alertmepolkcounty for instructions on how to access your account in the registration portal, establish a new account, and set preferences. For additional assistance, call the Polk County Office of Emergency Management at 936-327-6826.

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In what is called the “Parade of Champions,” the Livingston ISD School Board recognized numerous students for their accomplishments during its regular meeting Monday. NNDCC students under the direction of Sgt 1st Class Grady Tinker making the National Joint Leadership Academic Bowl Round 1 and Semi-Finals Top 20% included Cadet Lieutenant Commander Leah Robeson, Cadet Ensign Jase Whiteside, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Gabriella Woychesin, Cadet Ensign Edith Perez, Cadet Lieutenant Kayla Islas, Cadet Ensign Jamie Hopson, Cadet Ensign Stacy Weatherspoon, Cadet Ensign Molly Black, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Monica Fisher, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Jaxson Fuller, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Austin Mahon and Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Isis Mcloud. Senior leaders include Cadet Lieutenant Commander Xavier Mindiola, Cadet Commander Sonja Wiley and Cadet Commander Samantha Rodriguez. Students making Top 30% on the National Academic Exam included Cadet Lieutenant Commander Leah Robeson, Cadet Lieutenant Kayla Islas, Cadet Ensign Stacey Weatherspoon, Cadet Ensign Jaime Hopson, Cadet Lieutenant Jr grade Gabriella Woychesin, Cadet Lieutenant Jr grade Autumn Duarte, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Lizzy Zuniga, Cadet Ensign Edith Perez, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Isis McLoud, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Jaxson Fuller, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Alaya Jusko, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Alexus Jusko, Cadet Ensign Thomas Burnett, Cadet Chief Petty Officer First Class Austin McMahon, Cadet Ensign Kathryne Griffin, Cadet Ensign Jase Whiteside, Cadet lieutenant Jr grade Jaden Fryar, Cadet Lieutenant Jr grade Tristan Hardy, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Joseph Teano, Cadet Ensign Molly Black, Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Jeweleanne Aguilar and Cadet Lieutenant Jr Grade Cody McCarty. Senior Leaders included Cadet Commander Samantha Rodriguez, Cadet Commander Sonja Wiley and Cadet Lieutenant Commander Xavier Mindiola.

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Lobbying vs. the Texas Legislature

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WordFromTheJudgeBy Sydney Murphy
Polk County Judge

Senate Bill 175 prohibits cities and political subdivisions from using taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists, which includes all 254 Texas counties and a massive number of cities and political subdivisions. This legislation sounds good on paper, but in practice banning lobbying by local government entities will place all the power in Austin. Texas cities, counties and political subdivisions along with their respective organizations will be banned from the hallways of the Texas Legislature.

This will eliminate any input or communication during the legislature with regard to bills that would negatively impact our communities. Quite often the impact is severe and the only way to mitigate the damage to Texas residents and communities is through lobbying and through information provided by the individual associations. This is not the first time that this type of bill has been introduced to the Texas Legislature and is being floated before the voters as a positive change. It was introduced by Sen. Mayes Middleton, and has the support of Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dan Phelan. Lawmakers need to reject it without further consideration!

Supporters of the bill claim that it hurts taxpayers and is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. However, the State of Texas utilizes those same taxpayers’ dollars to lobby in Washington – to protect Texas. Local elected officials work closely with their constituents and better understand the needs of their communities. They are more qualified to provide accurate information and take a stand for the issues that directly affect their constituents and provide solutions that work at the local level – in the same way that Texas legislators better understand Texas as opposed to Washington.

SB 175 will silence Texas cities and counties but allow corporate lobbyists and special interests complete access to the Texas Legislature. Shouldn’t the people of Texas as a whole have complete access as opposed to special interests? The legislature needs to evaluate lobbying in the legislature, but not move forward with trying to silence local government. To represent the interests of Texans, every city and county has a duty to stand for the issues that affect their constituents and other Texas residents. Texans should not be silenced by their own state legislature.

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Livingston ISD mulls staffing

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Livingston ISD LogoBy Brian Besch
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The Livingston ISD School Board heard from a staffing expert, an update on the teacher incentive allotment, and approved a staffing pool in Monday’s regular meeting for February.

Expert Dale Dixon spoke to the board, informing them that LISD is efficiently staffed, but needs to examine staffing every year.

“You are, in fact, more efficiently staffed than similar districts,” Dixon said. “However, there are some data here that should definitely be part of the planning process. When you go through the planning process of hiring teachers — and you should be underway — you have to keep in mind what it takes to meet accountability demands. And also, you need to take into account what it’s going to take to keep you in competition with salaries that are exploding in districts around you. There’s no computer program that will tell you what that is, but we can take the data and make important decisions.”

LISD had Dixon complete a staffing study in October of 2014. The district has operated with those staffing ratios since that time, and the board has approved any staffing adjustments. The finances of the district have maintained sound practice by staying with Dixon’s recommendations.

In a related action item, the board approved LISD staffing, including the hiring of a teacher pool to 50% of a three-year hiring average.

Livingston ISD Director of Personnel Ben Wilroy said he looks at a four-year average when going through the hiring process.

LISD superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins explained the pool process that has allowed the district to begin the school year with a full staff, a rarity amongst local school districts.

“Mr. Wilroy looks at a historical average of how many people we hired over the years,” Hawkins said. “If you approve that tonight, we go ahead and start posting pool positions. We start hiring positions in that pool, so that as positions become available, those employees are put into those positions. That is very proactive and it does come at a risk. The other side of it is the old adage of ‘the early bird gets the worm.’ It closes quick, so when you are hiring in July, you’re hiring people who are like some of our districts to the south of us that do that — associate teachers, where they don’t have their certification.”

The Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) was created by the Texas Legislature as part of House Bill 3 to provide a realistic pathway for top teachers to earn six-figure salaries and to help attract and retain highly effective teachers at traditionally hard-to-staff schools.

The district submitted its designation data to Texas Tech University to go through the process of valuation for the teacher incentive allotment. At the beginning of the month, the district received an email stating 22 teachers have been approved. By the end of April or first of May, notification should be received from the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Incentive Allotment division on a final approval and what amounts of money will be sent.

The teachers will have the designations for five years and receive a certain bonus for those five years. All 22 of the teachers submitted have been approved to this point. Wilroy said the first approval is a major hoop in receiving the designation.

“That’s the whole idea behind this, is to put the most talented and the best teachers in our classrooms, and especially in our rural districts where those dollar amounts will rise.” Wilroy said.

Wilroy also said the bonus money earned for the designation will follow teachers to another district, should they choose to move.

Hawkins thanked his staff for the work provided to get over the first major hurdle. He relayed stories he has heard over the past week of school districts who were not able to secure the designation for their teachers because of errors in the application process.

There was no motion made on amending a policy that would strike policy provisions, meaning the board would hear all grievances in the policy including all extracurricular grievances.

The consent agenda was approved, consisting of overnight trips, payment of bills, property donations, and a cheer and Emerald Belles constitution. 

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