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County begins road to
recovery from Uri
Winter Storm Uri forced several Polk County businesses to close for much of the week. The county’s biggest winter storm since 1996 didn’t cause as much damage as anticipated. While there were power outages, frozen pipes, water main breaks and water shortages, there were no fatalities from automobile accidents or freezing/hypothermia.
Power was restored fairly quickly after the storm. SHECO (Sam Houston Electrical Cooperative) moved really quickly and Entergy resolved most of their outages Thursday.
SHECO had 11,758 meters without power due to outages from the storm in Polk County between Monday and Tuesday, but as of Thursday, they were operational. Entergy had slightly less than 100 outages as of Thursday.
Uri made her mark Sunday night, bringing snow and freezing rain to the area. Snow continued through Monday night, and much of the county had to deal with icy road conditions until Thursday.
Uri also forced the county’s six school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – to shut down for the entire week.
Eight indicted for
transnational drug trafficking, money laundering connected to company in Onalaska
A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas returned an indictment charging eight individuals with various federal violations related to a complex international drug trafficking conspiracy. This investigation led to indictments of individuals for transnational drug trafficking, money laundering, and financial crimes out of the Eastern District of Texas Federal Court related to a complex international drug trafficking conspiracy.
The indictment details approximately $350 million in alleged criminal activity since 2016. According to court documents, the defendants allegedly purchased and illegally registered aircraft under foreign
corporations and other individuals for export to other countries
According to the indictment, several of the illegally registered and exported aircraft were used by transnational criminal organizations in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to smuggle large quantities of cocaine destined for the United States.
The indictment further alleges that illicit proceeds from the subsequent drug sales were then transported as bulk cash from the United States to Mexico and used to buy aircrafts and cocaine.
Chesswood Baptist to rebuild after church fire
Around 60-70 firefighters battled a blaze off Highway 59 between
Livingston and Goodrich, but the structure that housed Chesswood
Baptist Church is now deemed a total loss. The fire reportedly began
around 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
There were no injuries, however, the building was engulfed in flames
for several hours. Most fire departments from Polk County and
neighboring counties responded to the scene, some from as far away as
The fire is thought to have begun in the annex or fellowship hall,
with faulty wiring believed to be a possibility. Cochran said power
lines were on the ground when first responders arrived and still hot.
It prevented firefighters from working in that area until the
electricity could be shut off.
Honoring a Polk County hero
Masses gathered Thursday at First United Methodist Church to remember
a former fire chief, friend and mentor to many.
Billy Roy “B.R.” Haynes died March 13 at the age of 94. In tribute, a
procession of first-responder vehicles made their way with Haynes for
one last trip by Livingston Fire Department Station 1 before ending at
Growing up in Livingston, Haynes played football for the Lions and
graduated in 1943. After enlisting with the Merchant Marines during
World War II, he joined the family business (Haynes Manufacturing Co.,
now Little Beaver, Inc.) with his father. After his father’s
retirement, he took over the business and would later pass it on to
Haynes was 1972’s Polk Countian of the Year and a 32nd-degree Mason.
He was a member of the board of directors of First State Bank of
Livingston since 1981, serving as Director Emeritus since 1997.
Joining the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department in 1960, Haynes was
elected chief just three years later. He was president of the Texas
State Fireman’s and Fire Marshall’s Association in 1970. He served
with Livingston Fire until his retirement in 1977 and will forever be
known as Chief Haynes, Unit 3.
Historical marker honors Doolittle Raider
Hundreds braved gloomy skies and the threat of rain Saturday morning
in recognition of a Polk County hero.
Restland Memorial Park was the site for an unveiling of
a Texas Historical Marker for Lt. Col. James (Jim) M. Parker Jr., a
member of the Doolittle Raid during World War II.
Orders were kept confidential for 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers to leave
aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet to bomb Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe
and Nagoya. Arrangements had been made for the 16 planes with five men
each to land in airfields in an unoccupied portion of China. Launched
earlier than planned, all but one aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed
in Chinese provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangxi and surrounding islands.
Parker was one of the 64 American airmen that were forced to
parachute. With the help of the Chinese, many of the B-25 crews,
including Parker, eventually found safety. He and others received
several medals and commendations for the operation.
The new historical marker may be found at Restland Memorial Park at
his gravesite, where he is buried next to Vonda.
Gold, gold and more gold
Onalaska athlete captures multiple first-place medals at state meet
Onalaska student-athlete Will Boyce had one of the better showings in
Texas history at the 2021 UIL State Track Meet, collecting titles in
the 3200-meter run, 1600-meter run and 800-meter run.
The 3200-meter run (two miles) occurred at 9:15 a.m., the 800 meters
took place at 5:20 p.m. and the mile was a short time later at 7:50
p.m. in Austin’s Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Boyce said the accomplishment hasn’t really sunk in, but he has
watched videos of the races and heard several people tell him he
pulled off a feat never done before. Runners were not allowed to
compete in more than two distance events before 2016. Obtaining gold
in all three events is believed to be a first.
Though the school had just one representative qualifying for the state
meet, Boyce scored enough points (30) for Onalaska to register a team
finish of second place. He finished just 15 points off from team
Both of Boyce’s parents attended Sam Houston State University and he
will do the same to run for the Bearkats. He said the goal is to win
as many championships as possible while in Huntsville.
Quick delay for Chick-Fil-A on opening day
Customers not chicken of the wait in line
After a long-awaited opening, the popular restaurant franchise
Chick-fil-A began serving customers Thursday.
The response from Polk County was strong, as the drive-thru line
flowed out onto Highway 190 and back to Discount Tire.
The Livingston Police Department had officers stationed at the
restaurant and on Highway 190 to keep the flow of traffic moving. They
would also have a presence in the area Friday.
Belcher is responsible for all day-to-day activities of
the business, including employing approximately 120 full- and
part-time team members, cultivating relationships with local
organizations and neighboring businesses, and serving guests.
Chick-fil-A Livingston is located at 1821 U.S. Highway 190, near the
intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and U.S. Highway 59, and will be open
from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate has died after battle with cancer
Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate died after a battle with cancer. The City
of Onalaska received word of Choate’s passing Tuesday afternoon. The
mayor had announced to the council previously that he was in treatment
for cancer of the salivary glands. He had been in the hospital for
around a month.
The city announced the news in a Facebook message around
noon on Wednesday.
Choate was officially sworn in as Mayor of Onalaska in
2018 and elected to a second term in 2020. Councilwoman Shirley
Gilmore, who was Mayor Pro Tem, assumed the duties of mayor to
complete Choate’s existing term through 2022.
Choate was said to have been in treatment for around
eight weeks. He had been placed in rehabilitation, then later
transferred to a hospice facility.
Tragedy on the tracks
Glover Road is next to the train tracks that run parallel to Highway
59 in Leggett. The problem is that the road dead ends and there is
only one crossing to reach Highway 59 or any other road.
Reportedly, trains stop on the tracks for an hour and up to three
hours at a time, blocking any vehicles from getting in or going out.
Monica Franklin’s baby, K’Twon, was not breathing during
a nap. Franklin immediately started CPR and her husband called 911. It
was about 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. maybe when she called 911 and the train
was on the track at the time.
Eventually, the EMTs made it through the train cars.
When they all ran to the train track to crawl back through to get to
the ambulance, the train began to start.
They were able to regain a heartbeat, however, he was
not breathing on his own. He was then airlifted to Children’s Memorial
Hermann Hospital in Houston and there for two days on life support.
Tests showed that his brain did not make it through the trauma. K’Twon
was said to be without oxygen for too long and life support was
The train continues to cause problems and elected
leaders in Polk County are working toward a solution.
LPD looks into several burglaries
A trio of Livingston businesses and four outside the city limits were
The Livingston Police Department investigated three similar business
burglaries that occurred days apart. The burglaries took place between
The first burglary was reported Jan. 22, at Carniceria
Rosa’s in the 200 block of S. Washington Ave. The second burglary was
reported Jan. 25, at Shipley’s Donuts in the 1000 block of W. Church
St., and the third burglary was reported Jan. 25, as well at Popping
Smoke BBQ in the 200 block of South Point Loop.
In each of these burglaries the suspects forced entry into the business.
In addition, four businesses along US Highway 190 were broken into
during the early morning hours of Jan. 25 as well. ChaddyDaddy Brisket
Bar, Lash Out Loud and Pink Blush Boutique – all located in Old Mill
Center – and La Flor de Puebla Meat Market and Taqueria were
According to the owners of two of the businesses that were broken
into, the suspects used forced entry by breaking windows or kicking in
doors before proceeding to ransack the business and take what money
they could out of the cash registers. One business owner also reported
that a pair of shoes and a pair of heeled boots were taken from its
place of business.
Tribe wins major victory in federal court
After five years of litigation, the U.S. District Court in Beaumont
ruled that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas may legally operate
its Naskila Gaming electronic bingo facility near Livingston, saying
that such gaming is permissible under the Tribe’s 1987 Restoration
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Keith Giblin is a major victory
for the future of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, the hundreds of people
employed at Naskila and the economic stability of the East Texas
For years, the State of Texas has worked in court to close Naskila
Gaming, even as tens of thousands of Texans, dozens of civic groups
and elected leaders from both parties have expressed strong support
for allowing the tribe to operate the facility.
The tribe fought back on two grounds. First, the tribe argued that the
decision of the NIGC to approve the tribe’s gaming ordinance was
entitled to deference by the courts and superseded a 1994 decision by
the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that the tribe’s right to game was
not covered under IGRA but, rather, the tribe’s Restoration Act.
Second, the tribe asserted that even if it was not covered under IGRA,
the gaming being offered at Naskila was permitted under the
Alabama-Coushatta Principal Chief dies
Herbert G. Johnson Sr., Principal Chief of the
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, died Monday after a brief hospital
stay. He was 79 years old and had served as Mikko Choba Skaalaba since
Jan. 1, 2020.
A member of the Beaver Clan, Johnson served his people
in many capacities throughout his entire life. He was twice elected to
the Tribal Council and worked as the Tribal security director for over
21 years. He was elected as the Tribe’s Second Chief following the
passing of the then-Principal Chief—Mikko Colabe III—the late Clem
Sylestine in 2019. A deacon and elder at the Indian Presbyterian
Church, Johnson also served on the Big Sandy ISD Board of Trustees for
Johnson was born on April 3, 1942 on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Indian Reservation near Livingston.
After high school, Johnson enrolled at Jacksonville College. A
Jacksonville College legend, he earned All-American status in
basketball following the 1963 season. Although he stood only 5 feet, 6
inches tall, he set a then all-time national record when he scored 67
points in a single game. He went on to average 33.5 points a game for
the season in an era that did not feature a three-point shot.
Jacksonville College honored Johnson as a Distinguished Alumnus in
2020. Johnson also attended the University of Houston and played for
Coach Guy V. Lewis for one year.
Lyons elected sheriff
Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons swore in to his new position as head
of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Jan 1. The Polk County
Sheriff’s Office also had deputies swear in. Lyons ran versus Mike
Nettles for the position.
Regional infusion center opens locally
REGIONAL INFUSION CENTER OPENS
The state-supported Polk County Regional Infusion Center to help treat
COVID-19 patients in East Texas opened Monday afternoon at the Dunbar
Gym at 1103 N. Dunbar Ave. in Livingston and patients are already
The center’s hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday
through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Medical professionals will be able to administer a monoclonal
antibody treatment to approximately 30 patients per day. The infusions
are meant for COVID-19 patients who are not yet hospitalized or on
oxygen supplements. The infusion center includes personnel, equipment,
supplies and wraparound services for a five-chair regional infusion
The treatment is available at no cost to patients. Patients must be
confirmed COVID-19 positive and have a referral from a primary care
physician. The referral form is on the Polk County Emergency
Management website which is www.polkcountyoem.com.
Co-op ‘flips the switch’ on clean energy at Lake Livingston Dam
East Texas Electric Cooperative (ETEC), the Trinity River Authority of
Texas (TRA) and the City of Houston officially “flipped the switch” at
the R.C. Thomas Hydroelectric Project during the facility’s dedication
The celebration featured guests such as U.S. Congressman Brian Babin,
representatives from the City of Houston and elected officials in and
around the facility’s footprint.
Situated on Lake Livingston in Polk County, the hydroelectric project
was brought online in early 2021 after eight years of planning,
designing and building. The project generates enough clean energy to
serve approximately 12,000 households in East Texas and has the
potential to offset approximately 64,000 tons of carbon dioxide
emissions from fossil fuel power-generating plants each year.
The plant generates electricity by utilizing the power of water
flowing from Lake Livingston to the Trinity River below the dam. Water
that TRA would otherwise release through the dam’s spillway gates is
diverted through the plant’s powerhouse, turning three 8-megawatt
turbine-driven generators. The electricity generated goes immediately
onto the power grid serving the region. The plant is uniquely designed
to meet water demands downstream and to maintain a relatively constant
County begins road to recovery from Uri
Winter Storm Uri forced several Polk County businesses to close for
much of the week. The county’s biggest winter storm since 1996 didn’t
cause as much damage as anticipated. While there were power outages,
frozen pipes, water main breaks and water shortages, there were no
fatalities from automobile accidents or freezing/hypothermia.
Power was restored fairly quickly after the storm. SHECO (Sam Houston
Electrical Cooperative) moved really quickly and Entergy resolved most
of their outages Thursday.
SHECO had 11,758 meters without power due to outages from the storm in
Polk County between Monday and Tuesday, but as of Thursday, they were
operational. Entergy had slightly less than 100 outages as of
Uri made her mark Sunday night, bringing snow and freezing rain to the
area. Snow continued through Monday night, and much of the county had
to deal with icy road conditions until Thursday.
Uri also forced the county’s six school districts – Big Sandy,
Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – to shut
down for the entire week.
Celebration of life for Williams
Following a standing-room-only Celebration of Life Monday for Yancy
Williams, 54, of Livingston, his body was laid to rest in a graveside
service at Forest Hill Cemetery. Following the interment, Williams’
son, also named Yancy, received a hug from John Tucker Drake.
“Little Yancy” and “JT” formed a special bond two years ago when
“Little Yancy” served as the head of day camp at Camp Cho-Yeh that
summer and “JT” went every single day. “Little Yancy” even taught “JT”
to tie his shoes, something in which “JT’s” mother said she’d given up
hope. Williams, well-loved and respected throughout the community,
died Oct. 5 following a lengthy battle with COVID-19.
He served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps and in the U.S. Army
Reserves. He served his community as a line technician with Sam
Houston Electric Cooperative and as a firefighter with the Livingston
Volunteer Fire Department.