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Polk County News - Breakout

Goodrich ISD employees to receive pay raise

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Goodrich ISD Hornet Facing LeftBy Brian Besch
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The Goodrich school board passed the GISD Compensation Plan for 2022-2023 and heard vupdates on maintenance items. 

All employees of Goodrich ISD will receive a bump in pay after an item approved by the school board. Superintendent Daniel Barton and his staff have worked on the plan since just before Christmas.

“We know our struggles. Our struggles are being competitive with our surrounding schools,” Barton said. “Part of the reason for it is that we pay social security and other districts don’t. The other reason is just our size. When you put 30 kids in a classroom, versus our classes — which are smaller and maybe half that size — it creates more of a cost and more of the burden on our district.”

Barton said many school districts now are paying first-year teachers more, and veteran teachers are not seeing the amount of increase in pay they once did.

“That is what we have tried to do, to align with that strategy,” Barton said of neighboring districts’ pay scales. “That is really the only way that we can begin to be competitive.”

Barton compared teacher salaries with school districts in Livingston, Onalaska, Shepherd, Big Sandy and Leggett. Currently, Goodrich has a similar pay scale to that of Leggett, yet still trails that district to the north.

Starting the next academic year, first-year teachers will begin at $43,000, which is an increase over the current $36,160 — nearly a 16% difference. 

Future compensation will be determined each year by the board, rather than an annual-step raise. Teachers will be paid by the pay scale upon entering Goodrich ISD. However, all teachers will receive a minimum increase of their annual step for 2022.

Barton said he and his staff originally had a goal of $40,000 for starting salary. When area schools recently increased their salaries, the superintendent said the school would still lose ground at that number.

Overall, teachers will receive a raise of 4.63%. The adjustment for steps 0-13 (teachers in their first 13 years of experience) is 8.19%. There will also be stipends for certain positions, such as math, science and foreign language instructors, as well as those with a master’s degree.

The increased cost projections for 2022-23 are $32,285 for teaching staff, $9,406 for administrative staff, $9,081 for support service staff, $4,549 for clerical staff and $24,507 for auxiliary staff. In total, the increase will be $79,828. That number will decrease by absorbing two positions, saving $47,525, meaning the total cost to the district for the compensation plan is $32,303. 

That number is a projection and based on the staff currently in place. Payroll for the staff is currently between $1.1 million and $1.2 million for staff.

The school is still waiting for a change order to mount the electronic sign that will sit in front of the campus. All products have arrived to complete the restroom renovations, while windows have yet to come in. 

There are a few leaks in the old gym. The school plans to have both the roofers and representatives from the solar panel company out to discuss the leaks April 8. McWilliams & Sons will be out to the campus June 6 for the air conditioning project. 

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Pavilion at Matthews Park renamed for Rotarian

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Following a dedication ceremony Thursday, the Livingston Rotary Club renamed the Rotary Pavilion in the City of Livingston’s Matthews Park the Ward Jones Rotary Pavilion. Livingston Rotary Club President Andrew Boyce holds the plaque that will soon be mounted at the pavilion. He is joined by the Ward Jones family. Photo by Emily Banks WootenFollowing a dedication ceremony Thursday, the Livingston Rotary Club renamed the Rotary Pavilion in the City of Livingston’s Matthews Park the Ward Jones Rotary Pavilion. Livingston Rotary Club President Andrew Boyce holds the plaque that will soon be mounted at the pavilion. He is joined by the Ward Jones family. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Thursday was a special day in the history of the Livingston Rotary Club as members met at the Rotary Pavilion in the City of Livingston’s Matthews Park to picnic and to dedicate and rename the pavilion in memory of Ward Jones, a 65-year member of the club. Jones died in May of 2021 but his family gathered Thursday as Rotary Club President Andrew Boyce read the inscription on the plaque that will soon be mounted on the pavilion. It reads, “In loving memory of his longtime dedication of service above self, Ward Jones Rotary Pavilion, Rotarian 1956-2021.”

“I want to thank all the members of Rotary Club for this. Ward would be in hog heaven,” his wife, Billie, said. “He loved this club and each of its members. He was part of everything that went on with Rotary Club. I remember back during the Folklife Festival he and Bob Belt went around selling turkey legs out of a wagon and sold out. He loved this club. Our family thanks each and every member for this. He would be thrilled to death.”

On behalf of the city, Mayor Judy B. Cochran remarked on the importance of the event. “This is a special day and I’m so pleased that this pavilion is being dedicated to Mr. Ward Jones. Thank you to the family for being here.”

Reminiscing, Dr. Bill Watson shared recollections of Jones.

“About 50 years ago, Ward Jones did the job of bringing me into Rotary. We’ve known each other for 50 years and we’ve shared some things. He truly practiced Rotary congeniality. Each week he’d shake everyone’s hand and go around asking, ‘How are you doing?’,” Watson said.

“He had so many stories and we’d get him to tell them. He told about when the city swimming pool was put in up on Cemetery Hill in the 50s by all the service clubs. He knew when and how the pancake supper started. Evidently, in the late 50s the Rotary Club had a popcorn machine that they used for all the community events and they loaned it to the Lions Club and never saw it again. I came in ‘72. In ‘76 there was a bicentennial and there was a running thing with the Lions Club,” Watson said, telling about a tug of war in which the two clubs participated.

“As his health declined, one thing I think he missed as time went by were the dress up events – the Rotary Installation Banquet in June and the Christmas Party. We were both born in Polk County, both served in the service and came back to Polk County and started businesses. We were both in rentals. We certainly appreciated him and loved knowing him and Billie,” Watson said.

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Partnerships paying off for Polk County

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court was apprised of an $18,250 grant that’s been received by Polk County Recovers during the informational reports section of the Court’s regular meeting Tuesday. Polk County Recovers is the county’s Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG), and the grant funds are earmarked for Winter Storm Uri repairs.

An LTRG is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives and volunteers from faith-based, nonprofit, government, business and other organizations working within a community to assist individuals and families in their recovery after a disaster such as hurricanes or tornados.

“Our board that we appointed is wonderful. They are all very proactive,” Polk County Veterans Service Officer Melissa Gates, the county’s liaison for Polk County Recovers, said. Gates added that the grant funds were donated by Saint Bernard Parrish and that she has a couple of additional funding opportunities coming up soon.

County Judge Sydney Murphy commented that this funding came about through partnership with a nonprofit. An additional item on Tuesday’s agenda also illustrated the benefits of forming partnerships.

Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with Keep Texas Beautiful for the purpose of increasing the amount of recyclable #1 plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) collected at the recycling center.

“The volunteers have received a second baler for plastics,” Murphy said. “This is another example of a partnership. The recycling center opened Nov. 4 and, in that time, we’ve received funding in the amount of $40,000, two balers, a forklift, grants and volunteers. I can’t think of a better example of taxpayers figuring out what they want and what they’re willing to commit.”

Although the Court was to consider a request from Republic Services to initiate an exact change policy at the Citizen Collection Stations effective May 1, the item was deleted for the time being as the parties involved were unable to attend the meeting due to weather conditions.

Action related to application for the hazard mitigation grant program to update the multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan for emergency management was discussed and approved. According to Murphy, there is a 25% local match requirement but there is an additional grant that can be applied for that, if received, covers the match. She recommended that the Court apply for both, which they approved doing.

The Court approved the procurement of appraisal services for the Polk County Community Development Block Grant Program Voluntary Buyout Program GLO Contract #20-066-018-C125. Murphy explained that participation in this program allows the purchase of vulnerable properties that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Commissioners approved Jordan Appraisal to provide appraisal services and Scott Stephens to provide appraisal review services.

Commissioners were slated to consider the approval, upon conditions met, or the rejection of several subdivisions. They approved waiving the construction bond and allocating the maintenance bond for Rolling Pines, Section 2, Block 2 Subdivision, located in Precinct 2. They voted to reject Caney Pines Subdivision, located in Precinct 3, until the plat is received. They approved, upon conditions met, Royal Livingston Subdivision, located in Precinct 4.

Commissioners approved an order authorizing the sale of fireworks during the San Jacinto Day period of April 16 through midnight April 21.

A request for a waiver from the five-foot interval requirement on the topographic map for Hunter’s Ridge Subdivision, located in Precinct 2, was approved.

The Court approved requests for capital purchases to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the FY 2022 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt as follows: the purchase of a new scanner, not to exceed $1,000, for the Precinct 1 justice of the peace office and the purchase of security equipment, not to exceed $1,830.63, for the 411th Judicial District.

Although the Court was expected to discuss and consider approval of an interlocal agreement between Polk County and the Texas Department of Public Safety for a permanent commercial driver’s license facility in Polk County, the item was deleted from the agenda and will be brought back later.

Commissioners approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and also approved FY2022 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.

The following items on the consent agenda were approved:

Minutes of the March 8 regular meeting;

Schedules of bills;

An order designating surplus property;

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

A proclamation designating April 2022 as Fair Housing Month in Polk County;

A request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $3,000 for annual furnished transportation expenses and $1,000 for annual communications expenses;

A request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $872.11 for reimbursement to Beau Price for travel expenses;

An order of special election to be held on May 7;

An update to the Master Street Address Guide;

An agreement with Texas Association of Counties for website services for the Office of Emergency Management; and

A resolution authorizing the submission of a hazard mitigation grant program application for the purchase and installation of emergency back-up generators at eligible public water supply facilities in the unincorporated areas of Polk County.

Col. Howard Daniel, pastor of Chesswood Baptist Church, opened the meeting with prayer.

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City views historic video

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Onalaska logoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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During its regular March meeting, the Onalaska City Council viewed a three-minute video filmed in 1946 by Robert W. Richardson of a Ford Model A utilized to transport people between Trinity, Livingston, Blanchard and Onalaska, which in earlier years was utilized by the Wobbly Bobbly Train. The original film is stored in the Railroad Museum in Colorado and was discovered by former Onalaska resident Rus Schmidt who sent it to Roy Newport to share with the city.

Darla Dear, with Belt Harris Pechacek LLLP of Houston, presented the FY 2020-2021 annual audit and Council approved accepting it as presented.

Either Frank C. Miller or Michael S. Miller was expected to make a presentation regarding property located at 126 Gazelle Loop and 132 Gazelle Loop in Onalaska (Impala Woods Subdivision Section 3, Block 8, Lots 26 and 27 described in a deed dated May 31, 2012 from Jack A. Miller Jr. to Frank Miller recorded in Volume 1847, page 665 of the Official Public Records of Polk County, Texas) to show cause why such building should not be declared unsafe and/or dangerous.  However, neither was present. Council subsequently acted, declaring the building dangerous or unsafe.

Resolution 2022-03, an interlocal agreement between the City of Onalaska and the Greater Onalaska Heritage Society for the community garden project, was approved.

Council reviewed and approved updating police department policies by replacing sections specified as follows: 1.7 Department goals and objectives; 2.1 Rules of conduct; 2.3 Sexual or other illegal harassment; 2.4 Internal investigation process; and 2.5 Employee disciplinary process.

Ordinance 422, the continuation of exclusive franchise agreement with Piney Woods Sanitation, was approved.

Council also approved the employment of Adron Seward as a part-time telecommunications operator with the standard probationary period.

Reporting on behalf of the Onalaska Police Department, Chief Jessica Stanton reported that the department responded to 328 calls during the month of February, making five misdemeanor arrests and 14 felony arrests and issuing 123 warnings and 100 citations. The department assisted the Polk County Sheriff’s Department 11 times and the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department 12 times. The department drove 2,879 miles, working 45 cases and 15 warrants.

Onalaska Fire Chief Jay Stutts reported that the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department responded to 18 calls in the City of Onalaska and 17 calls in Polk County during the month of February, putting in a total of 91 man-hours. The department responded to two mutual aid calls, 24 medical calls, four structure fires, five grass fires, three motor vehicle accidents and one landing zone.

Fire Marshal/Building Inspector Lee Parrish reported that 13 permits were issued during the month of February, totaling $1,091,000 in project costs and $9,064.20 in total fees. Regarding code enforcement, he reported on a dilapidated building, a dilapidated RV and an unsafe or dangerous building in Impala Woods 1-5 and an unsanitary condition in Canyon Park Section 2. He reported that there were two investigations for illegal burns where no evidence was observed of anything other than brush and leaves being burned and both were ruled unfounded. Additionally, the fire marshal’s office assisted the police department four times and the volunteer fire department four times.

Library Representative Sherry Brecheen reported there are 1,751 current patrons of the library and a total of 15,227 holdings. The library was open 19 days during the month of February with 356 patrons, a circulation of 481, a circulation per day of 25 and 94 people using the computers. Thirty-eight volunteer hours were put in and $502.15 was the total income for the month.

City Administrator Angela Stutts reported that the 2020 TDA project construction is complete in Oakridge Subdivision. The work has a one-year warranty, so she asked if anyone sees anything that needs to be addressed to let her know as soon as possible. She said the city is waiting on materials for Holmes Road, Pine Grove and Sycamore. She reported that the potholes on Town and Plaza Streets were filled in. Volunteer assistance is being sought to clean up around the city sidewalks. She additionally asked that if anyone has a road complaint that they please let her know so that it can be documented and evaluated.

Other business included approval of the minutes, payment of vouchers and financial reports.

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Recycling, collections on agenda

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recycling logoA memorandum of understanding with Keep Texas Beautiful for the purpose of increasing the amount of recyclable #1 plastic (polyethylene terephthalate) collected at the recycling center will be considered by the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The Court will also consider a request from Republic Services to initiate an exact change policy at the Citizen Collection Stations effective May 1.åThe Court is expected to discuss and consider approval of an interlocal agreement between Polk County and the Texas Department of Public Safety for a permanent commercial driver’s license facility in Polk County.

An order authorizing the sale of fireworks during the San Jacinto Day period of April 16 through midnight April 21 will be considered.

The Court will consider action on requests for capital purchases to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the FY 2022 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt as follows: the purchase of a new scanner, not to exceed $1,000, for the Precinct 1 justice of the peace office and the purchase of security equipment, not to exceed $1,830.63, for the 411th Judicial District.

Action related to application for the hazard mitigation grant program to update the multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan for emergency management will be discussed and considered for action.

The Court is expected to discuss and consider action to approve the procurement of appraisal services for the Polk County Community Development Block Grant Program Voluntary Buyout Program GLO Contract #20-066-018-C125, as follows: Jordan Appraisal to provide appraisal services and Scott Stephens to provide appraisal review services.

A request for a waiver from the five-foot interval requirement on the topographic map for Hunter’s Ridge Subdivision, located in Precinct 2, will be considered.

Commissioners will consider approval, upon conditions met, or rejection of: Rolling Pines, Section 2, Block 2 Subdivision, located in Precinct2; Caney Pines Subdivision, located in Precinct 3; and Royal Livingston Subdivision, located in Precinct 4.

In personnel matters, the Court is expected to review personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and any authorized emergency hirings.

The Court will consider requests for revisions and amendments to the budget, specifically, FY2022 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.

During informational reports, the Court will be apprised of an $18,250 grant that’s

been received by long term recovery for Winter Storm Uri repairs.

Items on the consent agenda include the following:

• Approval of the minutes of the March 8 regular meeting;

• Approve schedules of bills;

• Approve order designating surplus property;

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

Approve proclamation designating April 2022 as Fair Housing Month in Polk County;

Approve request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $3,000 for annual furnished transportation expenses and $1,000 for annual communications expenses;

Approve request from Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes for asset forfeiture expenditure of seized property not to exceed $872.11 for reimbursement to Beau Price for travel expenses;

Approve order of special election to be held on May 7;

Approve update to Master Street Address Guide;

Approve agreement with Texas Association of Counties for website services for the Office of Emergency Management; and

Approve a resolution authorizing the submission of a hazard mitigation grant program application for the purchase and installation of emergency back-up generators at eligible public water supply facilities in the unincorporated areas of Polk County.

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