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Officers will soon be on school buses

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From Enterprise Staff

In a concerted effort to increase the safety of school students on the highways, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Livingston Police Department are partnering with Livingston ISD through a pilot program which will place law enforcement officers on school buses to observe traffic.

The idea came about from local law enforcement who selected Livingston ISD to start the pilot program as it is the largest school district in the county with the largest percentage of miles driven by school buses. In time, however, efforts will likely expand to include other school districts as well.

Livingston ISD disseminated information regarding the development to its parents and staff on Tuesday.

“We wanted to share with our parents and staff that our students may see a law enforcement officer on their school bus in the coming days. The district is proud to be part of a collaborative effort between the Polk County-based troopers with the Department of Public Safety, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and the Livingston Police Department to observe traffic and increase safety on our roads and highways,” LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent E. Hawkins said. “We extend our grateful appreciation to these three agencies for their work on this project.”

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Special meeting called to expedite business

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court approved scheduling a special called meeting of the Court for 10 a.m. Feb. 6 during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“We have multiple grants from various offices that have deadlines approaching. Scheduling this special session allows them an additional two weeks to get their applications consolidated and sent to the Court for approval,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “We also have two bid packets out and the special session will allow us to award those bids sooner so that work can get started.”

The Court approved a request from the sheriff’s office to apply for a rural law enforcement grant.

“Based on the population of Polk County, the sheriff’s office is eligible for $500,000 which may be used to increase the salary of deputies and jailers, hire additional staff or purchase vehicles, firearms or safety equipment but the first thing they must do with the available funding is increase deputy pay to a minimum of $45,000 and increase jailer pay to a minimum of $40,000,” Murphy said.

The Court approved updating the county’s driver/vehicle policy.

“Several, several months ago we were made aware that some of our policies were out of date and that we were non-compliant with the insurance companies and with the IRS. The IRS uses take home vehicles for non-law enforcement employees as taxable compensation which must be reported on an employee’s W-2. They county may be assessed penalties and interest for failing to report the taxable benefit. There are multiple vehicles and personnel that are exempt from this. It’s a minimal number of employees that will be impacted,” Murphy said.

In personnel matters, the Court approved personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting. Fiscal year 2024 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were also approved.

In old business, the Court approved a request to cancel a portion of Ridge Lake Estates Subdivision Phase 1, Lots 125, 127, 129, 131, 133, 146, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155 and 156 (removing lots) and re-plat the same as Ridge Lake Estate, Phase 1, Partial Replat No. 1, Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4.

During informational reports, the Court recognized the human resources department and heard the annual report from the AgriLife/Extension Office. This report will be covered in depth in the Jan. 28 issue of the newspaper.

Items on the consent agenda included:

•Approval of the minutes of the Jan. 9 regular meeting;

•Approval of the schedules of bills;

•Approval of an order designating surplus property;

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

•Receipt and recording of personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since the last meeting;

•Approval of sheriff’s request to submit an application to the Office of the Governor for the fiscal year 2024 criminal justice grant program for special victims officer;

•Approval of sheriff’s request to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, for evidence/procurement manager position;

•Receipt of sheriff’s department 2023 racial profiling report;

•Approval of purchase of equipment for Precinct 2 Road & Bridge from Pavement Technologies in the amount of $22,950, to be paid from the American Rescue Plan Act funds;

•Approval of agreement with Deep East Texas Council of Governments for solid waste project;

•Approval of Amendment No. 4 to Contract No. HHS000285000012 with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services;

•Receipt of county treasurer’s monthly report for December 2023; and

•Receipt of county treasurer’s first quarter fiscal year 2024 report.

Sean Ferry with Pine Forest Baptist Church opened the meeting with prayer.

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Work zone to impact traffic

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From Enterprise Staff

As work progresses on the Corrigan Relief Route being constructed on the west side of Corrigan, motorists will experience a work zone near the main lanes of U.S. Hwy. 287.

In coming days, crews will close the eastbound shoulder of U.S. Hwy. 287 from west of Reily Street to Bear Creek Crossing west of U.S. Hwy. 59. Work will include the construction of temporary asphalt pavement in preparation of an upcoming traffic shift on U.S. Hwy. 287. The traffic switch is estimated to occur in March, weather permitting, and will include moving traffic from the main lanes of U.S. Hwy. 287 south onto the temporary asphalt pavement. The traffic switch will be necessary to continue work that will widen U.S. Hwy. 287 near the Corrigan Relief Route construction.

Construction began in late 2023 on the Corrigan Relief Route after Texas Transportation Commissioners approved the $172.8 million construction for Polk County.

James Construction Group LLC out of Baton Rouge, La. is serving as contractor for the project that will bring U.S. Hwy. 59 to interstate standards with construction of new U.S. Hwy. 59 northbound and southbound lanes with controlled access.

The seven-mile project will include overpasses at the United Pacific Railroad, U.S. Hwy. 287 and Union Springs Road; entrance and exit ramps at U.S. Hwy. 59 tie-ins, and at the U.S. Hwy. 287 overpass. The project is being built to interstate standards and will promote public safety, improve emergency evacuations and support freight transport.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 936-404-7485.

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Congressman tours local animal shelter

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U.S. Congressman Morgan Luttrell checks out some of the cats in the cattery and some of the dogs in the outdoor kennels at the SPCA of Polk County’s animal shelter located at 802 S. Houston in Livingston on Monday. Luttrell toured the facility to determine if he can assist with any of their needs. Photo by Emily Banks WootenU.S. Congressman Morgan Luttrell checks out some of the cats in the cattery and some of the dogs in the outdoor kennels at the SPCA of Polk County’s animal shelter located at 802 S. Houston in Livingston on Monday. Luttrell toured the facility to determine if he can assist with any of their needs. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Strides are continuing to be made by the SPCA of Polk County and have caught the attention of someone who can possibly offer additional help.

U.S. Congressman Morgan Luttrell and a couple of his staffers met with SPCA Executive Director Ron Hornsby and one of his board members Monday, touring the local animal shelter, its kennels and cattery, hearing about the organization’s needs and its victories, even briefly viewing a surgery in progress.

The SPCA of Polk County is a 501(c)3 nonprofit no kill animal welfare organization that serves the residents of Polk County and surrounding communities. It is run primarily by volunteers and a few paid staff members. The SPCA of Polk County is not funded by ASPCA or other SPCA organizations, nor does it receive any city, county, state or federal funding. It relies solely on donations to continue its operations and offer lifesaving treatments and care for cats and dogs in and around the county.

“It costs to run a facility of our size, being the only nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Polk County with a physical location people can visit. 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,” Hornsby said.

The SPCA of Polk County had a busy 2023, according to Volunteer Dorene Philpot, who reported that 894 animals came into the organization’s care during the calendar year of 2023, including 525 dogs and 369 cats. Five hundred twenty-seven surgeries were performed, and 2,615 vaccines were administered. 2023 boasted 615 adoptions, reflecting a 19% increase in cat adoptions compared to 2021 but a 14% decrease in dog adoptions compared to 2021. The organization fostered 305 animals, with an average length of stay of 58 days. Over 3,500 volunteer hours were clocked, and donations were up 1.38% from 2022.

Philpot was especially pleased to point out several notable accomplishments for the animal shelter over the course of 2023. “The Clinic,” a low-cost spay, neuter and wellness clinic, was established as a nonprofit addition to the SPCA of Polk County. Over 600 free microchips were administered in the community and over 400 free annual vaccinations were administered. The organization went viral on several TikTok videos, improved kennel care through new cleaning solutions and systems and installed new and secure exterior kennels for housing dogs during the day.

“These achievements and more were all made possible by the support and generosity provided by our volunteers, donors, members and staff. We are forever grateful for the dedication and hard work creating a society that we can all be proud of,” Philpot said.

To make a donation to the SPCA of Polk County so that it can continue its mission to help dogs and cats find loving homes, please visit https://givebutter.com/dOnmGf, call 936-755-3020 or mail in donations to SPCA of Polk County, P.O. Box 1403, Livingston, TX 77351, or visit the facility at 802 S. Houston Ave. in Livingston. The SPCA of Polk County is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit no kill animal welfare organization (EIN: 74-2119232).

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Local real estate similar to ‘the wild, wild west’

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PamDeBlasioPam DeBlasioBy Emily Banks Wooten
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“She is the first person I met, the first person I saw, and I was so delighted at how she described Livingston when my husband and I moved here,” Rotarian Bev Reed said of Pam DeBlasio, who provided a recent program for the Rotary Club of Livingston.

“The Lake Livingston market currently has 757 listings with a total list price of $169,684,172. She’s been here for over 25 years and works for the nation’s only lake-focused brokerage, Lake Homes Realty. She currently has 28 listings in this market and is ranked number two out of 379 agents with listings in this market. She has 12 off-lake listings totaling $1,703.447. In 2022, she won the Alpha Award for sales over $20 million and in 2023, she won the Big Wave Award for sales over $10 million,” Reed said.

DeBlasio likened real estate in Polk County to “the wild, wild west,” in recent times, with COVID sales, skyrocketing prices and exceptionally low interest rates.

She explained that to become an agent, one must take 180 class hours, take a national and state test and that Texas’ is one of the hardest to pass. To become a broker, one must have 900 hours and multiple years of experience.

DeBlasio explained that to buy, one must identify an agent, line up financing and look at properties. “Hopefully, it can be fun and a learning process and not too stressful if you have the right people,” she said.

She touched on interest rates and said the difference in rates can be a make or break for a new home buyer or a step-up buyer.

“They are predicting that we are going to see a little bit of a drop with it being an election year,” she said, adding, “We’re definitely in a buyers’ market right now.

“It’s never a bad time to sell. You just need to know what your bottom line is and what you need to do,” she said, emphasizing the importance of curb appeal, keeping the home clean and uncluttered and staging.

“You want broad appeal. Pricing correctly is so important, especially now with the current market we’re in,” she said.

“Sellers were still trying to ride the wave of COVID in which a home was on the market for 30 days. Now, it’s 60-90 days. Buyers have become more particular. They want to look at a home that is move-in ready so present your property in its best light,” DeBlasio said.

If you’re attempting to sell acreage, she recommended doing a little underbrushing and cutting some paths, saying it will garner more attention.

“Just looking at Polk County, there are approximately 260 homes on the market and the average price is $315,000. Twenty-three are waterfront on the Livingston/Polk County side and of those 23, only six are under $600,000,” she said.

“We like to see a little more of an equitable market. There are right around 100 acreage listings and the average price per acre is about $15,000. As for single family homes, there is one that’s over $5 million and another that’s $42,000,” she said, adding, “HGTV has done a terrible job of exploding everyone’s expectations.”

She said there are lots ranging from $4,500 all the way up to $1.3 million.

“Downtown Livingston is going through a renaissance. Most of the folks I’m dealing with want to be in downtown or in that 190 corridor to the lake,” she said, adding that it is very difficult to price commercial property in the area.

“We’re in an area that doesn’t have a lot of industry and there’s a very large rental need, so if you’re looking to invest in rental property, it’s still a very good bet,” she said, adding that people typically pay $1,500 a month to rent. “There’s no end in sight for the need for rental property. It’s still a very valid investment.”

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