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Polk County News - Breakout

Apportionment of public spaces on agenda

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Polk County LogoFrom Enterprise Staff

An order authorizing the apportionment of public spaces and resources at the Polk County Judicial Center will be discussed and considered for approval during the regular meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Proposals received for the remodel of the judicial center breakroom, to provide additional office space for the county clerk and district attorney, and the method of payment, will be considered for approval.

The Court will consider approval to advertise a request for proposals for an independent auditing firm to complete the fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2025 audits.

A request from the district clerk for a new deputy clerk position, to be funded through the end of fiscal year 2024 by the district clerk records management fund, will be discussed and considered for approval.

The Court will discuss and consider a request from Sheriff Byron Lyons for specified payout of FLSA and holiday time, to be paid from the sheriff salaries line item.

Action regarding the Texas General Land Office community development block grant for local hazard mitigation planning funding will be considered, including: a resolution designating authorized signatories for contractual and financial documents; advertise request for proposals to procure a contractor to update the Polk County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Plan; and select a scoring committee to review and score the proposals.

The Court is expected to receive a nuisance abatement hearing determination for Cause Number ET0024 and consider an order to abate the nuisance.

A request for a capital purchase to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2024 reimbursement resolution for the yearend issuance of legally authorized debt, specifically, aftermarket equipment for sheriff’s office vehicles, not to exceed $26,450, will be considered for approval.

Fiscal year 2024 budget amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, will be considered for approval.

In personnel matters, the Court will review and consider personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting and review any authorized emergency hires. They will review and consider a personnel management system update. They will also discuss and consider action regarding pay for employees eligible for the rural law enforcement grant as follows – addition of new pay groups to pay scale and action regarding the proposed payroll changes.

In old business, the Court will discuss and consider any necessary action regarding an update to the purchasing and credit card policy and will also consider approval of the minutes of the Feb. 6 special called meeting.

Items on the consent agenda include:

Approve minutes of the Feb. 13 regular meeting;

Approve schedules of bills;

Approve order designating surplus property;

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

Receive and record personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since the last meeting; and

Receive county treasurer’s monthly report for January 2024;

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Beef, forage production number one commodity outside of Forestry

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a multi-part series exploring the variety of services offered by the Polk County Extension Office and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program and the impactful contributions made through these programs.)

Cow STOCKOutside of forestry, beef and forage production is the number one agriculture commodity in Polk County in both number of producers and net sales, with approximately 95-98% of all livestock value in the county coming from cow calf or breeder operations.

Locally in 2023, 14,658 acres were harvested for hay, producing an estimated value of $1.8 million and an average cash rent for hay land of $22 per acre. Additionally, the estimated value of beef cattle in 2023 was $8.2 million with an average cash rent for pasture land of $9 per acre.

Because of this, beef and forage production is one of three major programs focused on by Matthew March, the Polk County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Production of forage species, mostly bahia grass and Bermuda, is harvested for hay to support the beef industry in Polk County and the Polk County Ag Committee recognized the importance of beef and forage production for the local economy and asked March to focus programming on this so he geared topics toward current issues or problems facing producers in the county.

“Severe to exponential drought conditions persisted throughout much of the growing season of 2022 and 2023, affecting hay production, hay and feed prices and forage availability. Many producers have faced decisions on how to remain profitable during the drought and what steps to take to ensure their operations remain viable in coming years,” March said.

“Additionally, high input cost over the last few years including fertilizer, herbicides and feed stuffs has caused additional financial strain to producers who are seeking to remain profitable through drought conditions and high input cost,” March said.

The response of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension was to develop programming to not only educate beef and forage producers, but to provide producers the opportunity to improve the sustainability of their operations even during fluctuating cattle markets, adverse weather events, climate change and high input costs.

The Polk County Ag Committee, local producers, community members, industry support businesses and Polk County Farm Bureau were consulted and identified specific topics needing to be addressed and the target audience was cow calf producers, hay producers and new landowners with small herds of 25 or less head.

In addition to Polk County Farm Bureau, March also partnered and collaborated with Corteva, Bayer Crops Sciences, First Baptist Church and Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Baker.

In response, a beef and forage workshop allowed local producers the opportunity to hear from specialists on topics related to common management concerns in Polk County. This included managing pond weeds, stand decline in warm season pasture, cool season forages and beef cattle nutrition.

“By focusing on emergent and relevant management concerns, producers implement learned techniques on their operations and improve their operations’ sustainability,” March said.

A pesticide applicators certification and CEU course benefitted all local livestock and forage producers that wanted to utilize restricted use products in their operations.

“This program is essential for local producers, as restricted use products are necessary to manage certain pests in Polk County,” March said.

He said newsletters were important in reaching producers who were unable to attend in-person programming and that a focus was to work one on one with producers on management issues related to exponential drought conditions.

Four hundred fifty people received a quarterly newsletter with management recommendations. Two people participated in a pesticide certification course and 32 people participated in a recertification course. Ten people participated in a beef and forage workshop and 73 people participated in Cow County Congress in Madisonville.

March said the anticipated economic impact to local beef and forage operations from participants attending the beef and forage workshop, the Cow Country Congress and pesticide recertification course is $166,902.

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Celebrating Black History Month - John Earl Payton

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a multi-part series celebrating Black History Month by recognizing the service, contributions and achievements of some of Polk County’s finest.)

JohnEarlPaytonJohn Earl Payton (Jan. 21, 1935-Jan. 27, 2018) was born on Jan. 21, 1935 in Livingston to the late Robert and Margaret Payton-Freeman. The oldest of four children, he graduated from Dunbar High School in 1952, where he excelled in football, basketball, track and baseball.

He earned a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1956 and his master’s degree in 1964. While at Prairie View, Payton participated in football, basketball and track. He still holds the school’s all-time rushing record of 3,703 yards and is the second leading rusher in Prairie View’s football history, averaging 143 yards a game. A two-time football All-American, he was instrumental in helping his school win the 1953 National Championship by defeating Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic. Payton signed with the Chicago Bears, but an injury during his senior year prevented him from honoring his contract.

Payton’s multi-faceted career as an educator and coach spanned 57 years. In 1956, he teamed with future ABA/NBA basketball standout Zelmo Beatty and led Scott High School in Woodville to two consecutive state basketball titles in the prestigious Praivrie View Interscholastic League. His basketball team went 77-7 over two years and his football team went 15-5 over the two years.

In 1958, he continued his career with a 12-year span as a teacher and coach at Dunbar Junior High school for one year and Charlton-Pollard High School in Beaumont for 11 years. His C-P basketball team won district championships in 1962 and 1964 and the state championship in 1964. As the head track coach, Payton brought home three UIL regional titles and as the offensive coordinator of the football team, the team was a state semi-finalist with a 10-1 record in 1962 and a UIL regional finalist in 1969.

In 1970, Payton moved on to Lamar University to serve as an assistant football and track coach, becoming the first Black coach in the school’s history. He served as the interim head football coach in 1980, academic advisor and professor in the health and kinesiology department and as assistant to the athletic director, Larry Tidwell. Thanks to Tidwell, Payton was recognized as one of Lamar’s Legends in 2010. Payton retired from Lamar University after 43 years of service, where the academic success center is named for him in the football athletic complex.

He extended his love of sports to that of an official, officiating four State Boys’ Basketball Tournaments, the last in 1991, and was given the State’s Distinguished Service Award for Basketball Officials in 1992. He also continued to officiate high school football games. He wrote several articles on coaching techniques including “Coaching the Running Backs,” which was published in the Texas Coach magazine in 2002.

Payton received numerous honors and awards: the Texas Southern University Ex-Letterman Association’s Coach of the Year Award (1963-1964); Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s Achievement Award (1971-1972); induction into the Prairie View Sports Hall of Fame (1988); the Ex-Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Hall of Honor (1988); Livingston Independent School District Outstanding Graduate Award (1991); induction into the Houston Prairie View Alumni Athletic Purple and Gold Club (1993); induction into the Livingston Dunbar Hall of Fame (1998); honored by the Tyler County Heritage Society (1999); induction into the Southeast Texas Coaches Association Hall of Honor (2000); the Lamar University Cardinal Hall of Honor (2004); the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame (2004); the Black Sports Hall of Fame (2005); honored by the Magnolia Baptist Church for “Fifty Years in Education” (2006); presented the Lamar University Merit Award for Distinguished Teaching (2008); honored with the “John Earl Payton Day” by the Livingston Dunbar High School Alumni Association (2011); induction into the Charlton Pollard High School Hall of Fame (2014); and awarded the William “Billy” Nicks Legend Award at Prairie View A&M University (2014). On Aug. 13, 2017, the Lamar University Athletic Department honored him in a special church service during which Mayor Becky Ames proclaimed it “Coach John Payton Day.”

Payton was a faithful member of Magnolia Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont for over 50 years, where he served in the deacon and trustee ministries, brotherhood ministry, adult choir, men’s choir, the finance committee and as a Sunday School teacher. He was a charter member of the church’s education auxiliary, where the annual scholarship is named the “Deacon John and Deaconess Dolly Payton Education Scholarship.” He was a member of the NAACP and a charter member of the Beaumont Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.


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Important announcement

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ImportantAnnouncement STOCK

The Texas Department of Transportation has issued a message saying they understand the need and desire of the public to express their sympathy with condolences and remembrances near where the body of Audrii Cunningham was found.

For the safety of all motorists and pedestrians, TxDOT urges the public to refrain from leaving vehicles on the shoulder, placing any remembrances, ribbons, signs, flowers or toys on Highway 59, the bridge or railings of the Trinity River Bridge in Polk County. 

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Students make memorial

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2 25 memorial setup

Creekside Elementary students created a sign for their beloved friend this week. Livingston ISD superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins announced Thursday that the Audrii Cunningham Memorial Scholarship will be included in the Green & White Scholarship ceremony held May 7. Members of the Class of 2024 who have submitted a Green & White application will be eligible to receive this scholarship. “Audrii loved school, so what better way to honor her memory than to help a student further their education,” Hawkins said. Donations may be made to the Audrii Cunningham Memorial Scholarship by mailing funds to Green & White Scholarship Fund — Audrii Cunningham, P.O. Box 1297 Livingston, TX, 77351. For more information, contact Lea Davis at 935-328-2100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. COURTESY PHOTO

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