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Fire departments staying busy

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Forty-three firefighters from five area volunteer fire departments responded to a fire at The Mason Jar Bar & Grill 2 located at 200 Southpoint Dr. in Livingston at 10:41 p.m. Dec. 28. Although there were no injuries, the restaurant was a total loss. The cause of the fire is undetermined but is still under investigation. Photo by Jessica CorwinForty-three firefighters from five area volunteer fire departments responded to a fire at The Mason Jar Bar & Grill 2 located at 200 Southpoint Dr. in Livingston at 10:41 p.m. Dec. 28. Although there were no injuries, the restaurant was a total loss. The cause of the fire is undetermined but is still under investigation. Photo by Jessica Corwin

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Local volunteer fire departments have been busy with many calls over the last two weeks.

The Livingston Volunteer Fire Department (LVFD) responded to a call at 10:39 a.m. Dec. 23 at 1652 Ollie Loop.

“There was on older farm-type house. There was a power outage and the occupants left. They were notified the power was back on, so they returned and found the house on fire. Shortly after the power was restored the fire was started and was quickly involved. It spread and got to some hay and a pasture and was a total loss,” LVFD Chief Corky Cochran said.

Indian Springs VFD, Onalaska VFD and Corrigan VFD responded as well, for a total of 12 trucks and 37 firefighters. Also responding were the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, EMS and the Polk County fire marshal.

LVFD responded to a house fire on Milliken Drive in Thunder Mountain Subdivision at 7:36 p.m. on Dec. 23.

“It was a wood-frame house and the owner reported they’d had an electrical issue prior. They were gone down the street and came back and it was well-involved. They had two dogs that did not survive,” Cochran said.

Two trucks and 18 firefighters responded, in addition to the Livingston Police Department, the City of Livingston Electrical Department and EMS.

LVFD responded to a structure fire at 261 Soda Oaks at 1:16 a.m. on Dec. 24.

“It was an outbuilding and storage shed. We’re not sure how it started but they did have a heat lamp with eight puppies. The back part was totally destroyed and an attached shed was heavily damaged. The eight puppies did not survive,” Cochran said.

One truck and 12 firefighters responded, along with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Polk County fire marshal and EMS.

A call was received at 8:07 a.m. on Dec. 27 of a structure fire at 452 Powell Lane. Cochran said it was a fully involved one-story frame house that was heavily damaged. Livingston had two trucks and 13 firefighters respond. Scenic Loop VFD had one truck and four firefighters respond. Also responding were the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative and EMS. Cochran said the cause is unknown.

Firefighters from Livingston and Holiday Lake Estates VFDs assisted Goodrich VFD with a pasture fire on Moffett Road at 10:52 a.m. on Dec. 27, with each department bringing a brush truck.

Two trucks and 10 firefighters from LVFD responded to a major head-on collision at 1:41 p.m. on Dec. 27 on Hwy. 146 near Hermes Fireworks.

“There was no entrapment but some serious injuries. We assisted with traffic control and EMS,” Cochran said, adding that the person who caused the collision was on the run from a previous accident by Melbo’s. Other’s assisting included Livingston Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Office and EMS.

LVFD sent a tanker truck and three firefighters to assist Indian Springs with a fully involved travel trailer on Fire Tower Road on Dec. 27.

Livingston, Onalaska, Scenic Loop, Goodrich and Holiday Lake Estates VFDs responded to a call 10:41 p.m. Dec. 28 at The Mason Jar Bar & Grill 2 located at 200 Southpoint Dr.

“It was after hours and the property-owners were there and heard an alarm and saw a haze of smoke. They went to the back of the building and encountered fire and called 911,” Cochran said.

“We arrived at the scene immediately and the first on scene advised there was heavy fire showing on the east end of the building. We began an interior attack and had been there about five minutes in the kitchen area when the ceiling started coming down. We backed into the restaurant area and tried to pull the rest of the ceiling down but as they were backing out, the ceiling structure was coming down,” Cochran said.

“It was a solid wood ceiling, so we had to leave the building and go to a different mode. As we were leaving the building, we had to leave a nozzle, fire hose and a ladder. We later were able to find the nozzle. The hose burned up and I’m not sure about the ladder,” Cochran said.

“It started on the outside of the building and it appears the fire may have been burning for some time. It had an A-frame attic and we discovered over three-fourths of the entire attic was engulfed. The cause of fire is undetermined but it’s still under investigation trying to determine cause,” Cochran said, adding that there were no injuries and that it was a total loss.

Livingston VFD had four trucks and 23 firefighters, Onalaska VFD had two trucks and five firefighters, Scenic Loop VFD had three trucks and nine firefighters, Goodrich VFD had one truck and three firefighters and Holiday Lake Estates VFD had three firefighters. Others responding included Livingston Police Department, City of Livingston Electrical Department and EMS.

LVFD assisted Goodrich VFD with a house fire in Shiloh Ridge on Gettysburg at 7:35 a.m. on Dec. 29, sending an engine, a tanker and four firefighters.

Two trucks and six firefighters from LVFD responded to a vehicle fire at the Shell station at Hwy. 190 and FM 2457 on Dec. 30.

LVFD also worked a major accident at Melbo’s on Dec. 30 where a vehicle ran under a travel trailer. There was no entrapment so they assisted with traffic control and EMS. One truck and seven firefighters responded.


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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office held its seventh annual Christmas Food Drive Dec. 20 in which deputies and volunteer citizens passed out full Christmas meals to 61 families who may otherwise have not had a meal this year. Every year since its inception, deputies of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office have personally provided the funds to purchase the turkeys and hams for the meals. This year, Georgia Pacific Corrigan Mill provided 34 meals to go with the turkeys and hams. Over 27 additional meals were able to be purchased due to the kindness and generosity of both Livingston Walmart Store Manager Johnathan Montalvo and Livingston HEB Store Manager Dustin Young, along with additional funds raised by deputies. Without these donations from both stores and deputies, the sheriff’s office would not have been able to complete this year’s Christmas Food Drive. Additionally, several students from Onalaska High School assisted the deputies in packing the meals and distributing them to the families. Courtesy photo

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Law enforcement warns of new scam

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Scam Stock

Over the past month, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has received several reports involving driveway paving scams and is warning citizens to be aware of these types of incidents.

Driveway paving scammers solicit door-to-door, claiming that they have material left over from another job after they had miscalculated what materials were needed, and that they will pave a new driveway for the victim for half the price of what it would originally cost.

The scammers will then give the victim a cheap estimate on the cost for materials and spreading it on their driveway. Once the victim agrees to the work and the work is completed, the scammers then insist on payment well over the agreed price. They will then attempt to demand and threaten you into paying a much higher price.

A recent report received by the sheriff’s office, involved a victim who paid a large sum of money by check. The check was then altered/forged by the scammer and presented to the bank for a much larger amount of money.  Most of these have involved targeting elderly residents. Once they have swindled a victim out of money, they will usually leave the area and head to another location to commit additional rip-offs before victims can report the incident.

The sheriff’s office is urging residents to look out for one another and contact law enforcement at 936-327-6810 to report any encounters with solicitors whom they believe to be involved in such deception.  The Polk County Sheriff’s Office takes these very seriously and will investigate all reported incidents.

The following report is from the Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA), involving these type of scams at:  https://www.tdcaa.com/journal/let-the-buyer-beware-of-asphalt-paving-scams/

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County earmarks ARPA funds

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court approved expending some of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during its regular meeting Tuesday. One of the items approved was the purchase of automated CPR devices from Life-Assist in the amount of $96,412.80 for Allegiance Ambulance and Texan EMS for the ambulances operating in Polk County.

The Court approved to advertise for bids for the remodel of the Precinct 4 Road and Bridge buildings. The remodeling project will also be paid for with ARPA funds.

Other projects approved to be funded with the ARPA funds include the construction of secure parking and a break area for the Onalaska Sub-Courthouse, not to exceed $48,000; improvement of the recycling drop-off services on the Onalaska Loop, not to exceed $45,000; and the purchase of two pro-gravity recycling trailers from Pro-Tainer, not to exceed $32,000.

Having learned of a solid waste infrastructure for recycling grant available through the Environmental Protection Agency in which no match is involved, the Court approved applying for the grant and procuring an engineer to assist with the application and project if grant funds are awarded. In related activity, the Court appointed Kari Miller, Jessica Hutchins and Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis to serve as the scoring committee.

Although bids will not be let until January of 2026, the Court approved the temporary closure of a bridge on Nine Bridge Road at Piney Creek Branch and a bridge on Old Bering Road at Long King Creek, both in Precinct 3.

Purvis was quick to emphasize the bids will not be let until 2026 but that Tuesday’s action by the Court was to allow the Texas Department of Transportation “to get it moving in their system.”

The Court entered into an executive session to consult with Attorney J. Eric Magee. Upon return to open session, the purchase of the Pritchard property in Livingston Old Town, Block 3, Lot 1, part of Lot 3 and Lots 4 and 7 at a cost of $190,000 was approved. This is what is referred to as the courthouse parking lot which is located on the block west of the Polk County Courthouse.

During the executive session, the Court received a status report from outside counsel regarding Tyler Epstein v. Thomas Timber Investments LLC, et al, Cause No. CIV22-0716 in the 411th District Court. The Court also received a status report from outside counsel regarding T.F.R. Enterprises Inc. v. Polk County, Cause No. CIV22-0460 in the 411th District Court. The second item was approved to be added to the January agenda for action.

The Court approved requests for capital purchases to be paid from fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2023 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt, as follows: an aging department request for one desktop printer, not to exceed $500; a district clerk’s request for two desktop scanners and three desktop printers, not

to exceed $2,093; and a district attorney request for software and accessories, not to exceed $11,991, for purchase authorization in 2023.

Offers to purchase tax foreclosed properties in Precinct 3, specifically, Lot 22 of Block 4 and Lot 17 of Block 15 in Moscow, Cause #T15-204, were approved.

In personnel matters the Court approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed an authorized emergency hiring at the sheriff’s office. Additionally, an update to the personnel management system was approved.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.

During informational reports, the Court reviewed an appraisal report for Polk County school lands located in Throckmorton County. The purpose of having the land appraised was to determine the value so the Court can either consider selling it or swapping it for other land of equal value. The land was appraised at $720,000.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis informed the Court of the death of John D. Clifton, “a longtime supporter of Corrigan and Polk County.”

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of order designating surplus property;

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

Ratifying an agreement between Polk County and First Choice Grease Services for pickup at the aging center and the jail; and

Acceptance of the Governor’s fiscal year 2023 Criminal Justice Grant Award #4588601 for bullet-resistant shields for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

As this was the last meeting for Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet and Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent who are both retiring effective Dec. 31, other members of the Court, as well as many in the audience, expressed their appreciation to the two men for their work and dedication over the years.

Polk County Maintenance Superintendent Jay Burks opened the meeting with prayer.

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Top Stories of 2022

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This look back at the top Polk County stories in 2022 is the first of a three-part series. Look for subsequent parts in the next two editions of the Enterprise.This look back at the top Polk County stories in 2022 is the first of a three-part series. Look for subsequent parts in the next two editions of the Enterprise.


Scenic Loop Fire Departmentvehicle stolen

Scenic Loop Fire Chief Donald Marlow has nearly four decades dedicated to fighting fires, but the events from January are likely to be burned into his memory.

Around 2:30 p.m., the Scenic Loop Fire Department reported its 1996 Ford Super Duty Rescue 15 stolen.

Scenic Loop Fire Department also broadcast via social media that the truck was stolen. Around 45 minutes later, dispatch contacted Marlow to inform him that a Union Pacific Railroad employee had located the truck in Dayton.

Marlow was then told that the truck had been unloaded under the overpass on FM 321 and thrown onto the ground. The doors of the vehicle were left open.

After a few firemen arrived on the scene and performed inventory, Marlow said that a cervical collar bag was taken, as well as a pet oxygen mask.

Wires had been cut in the truck and many fuses were cut out. Marlow said the police department surmised it was done because someone wanted to come back later that night to go through the truck and scrap it for parts. He was told that the drivetrain on the truck is an expensive part and could have been the motive.


Chamber president resignsamid award controversy

The Board of Directors of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce accepted the resignation of President/CEO Janet Wiggins following “an exceptionally long and arduous special called meeting” according to an email that went out to all chamber members, notifying them of the resignation.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I would like to express our appreciation to Janet for her many contributions to the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce. Please join me in wishing her well with her future endeavors,” the email said.

The brouhaha stemmed from the presentation of the Polk Countian of the Year Award to Lee Hon, Wiggins’ first cousin, at the culmination of the chamber’s 86th annual awards banquet. It came as a surprise to many in attendance, as the chamber has always had a strict policy of not presenting awards to individuals seeking office during election years. Hon, the Polk County district attorney, was running for 258th District judge in a contentious race against Incumbent 258th District Judge Travis Kitchens.

 VFW Post 8568 operationssuspended

State Commander Norman J. Macey suspended the operations of VFW Post 8568 of Livingston — effective Feb. 15, for a period of up to 90 days — due to violations of the laws and usage of the organization, specifically, the failure to have all required elected and appointed positions filled.

In conjunction with the suspension, Macey assigned an administrative committee to supervise and assist the post. The committee comprises Immediate Past State Commander Richard “Dick” Shawver who will serve as chairperson, District 19 Commander Joel Pipes and District 19 Trustee Max C. Montgomery.

“If a quorum of five members is established, an election will be held to fill all post officer vacancies and a discussion will be held on what VFW Post 8568 must do to rectify any problems. If a quorum is not met, I will have no choice but to recommend to the VFW National Commander in Chief that the charter of VFW Post 8568 be cancelled in accordance with Section 212 of the National Bylaws and Manual of Procedure,” Macey said in a letter mailed to all 217 members of the post. “If you want to save your post, then again, I urge you to attend this meeting.”


Sitton wins DA race

Only 18.6% — or 7,669 — of the 41,214 registered voters in Polk County cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections and it appears that two races are headed for the May 24 runoff election – those of criminal district attorney and Precinct 4 county commissioner.

After 16 years serving as criminal district attorney, William Lee Hon chose not to seek reelection but instead opted to run for judge of the 258th Judicial District.

Shelly Bush Sitton defeated Tommy Coleman in the May 24 runoff election in the race for criminal district attorney. To win outright, a candidate must have 50% plus one vote. Sitton received 3,305 votes, which was 50.86% of the votes cast in this race. Coleman received 2,099 votes, or 32.30%, and a third candidate, Julie Mayes Hamrick, received 1,094 votes, or 16.84%.

Incumbent Judge Travis Kitchens prevailed 7,473 to 6,135 in the contested race for judge of the 258th Judicial District in which he was being challenged by Hon. The 258th comprises Polk, San Jacinto and Trinity counties. Kitchens received 3,510 votes in Polk County and Hon received 2,988 votes. In San Jacinto County, Kitchens received 2,576 votes to Hon’s 1,571 votes. In Trinity County, Kitchens received 1,387 votes and Hon received 1,576 votes.

Man jailed after shooting threat at Corrigan-Camden

A Crockett man was taken into custody at the Polk County Jail after a terroristic threat in Corrigan.

Randy Dewayne Jones Jr., 19, turned himself in after threatening to “shoot up” Corrigan-Camden High School, according to a Corrigan Police Department press release.

Corrigan police said Jones turned himself in at the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. He was in custody and being transported to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, charged with terroristic threat of a public servant, a third degree felony.

“He was associated with some students at the high school and it was basically like a lover’s spat,” Corporal Terry Valka of the Corrigan PD said. “They ended up blocking him on social media and then he started mentioning on Snapchat that he was coming with seven carloads deep with his gang members and going to shoot them and whoever else was in the path at the school. He sent it via text message, and they (students) showed it to them at the school. He is supposedly affiliated with some gang members in the Crockett area.”

Firefighters respond to fire at Corrigan plant

Firefighters from 14 area departments responded to a fire at the Roy O Martin OSB Plant in Corrigan.

“We received a call at 5:30 a.m. Thursday stating that Roy O Martin had a fire,” Corrigan Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy McDonald said. “I believe it started in the dry bins, then went into the blenders.

“The majority of the fire was under control probably around 9:30 or 10, but we stood around putting out hot spots,” McDonald said, adding that firefighters left the scene around 12:30 p.m.

“I don’t have any idea what started it and will probably never know,” McDonald said, adding that there were no injuries to firefighters or plant personnel.

Firefighters from Corrigan, Livingston, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, Holiday Lake Estates, Scenic Loop, Woodville, Shepherd, Diboll, Cleveland, Tarkington, South Polk County, Trinity, Groveton and Onalaska responded to the fire.

Chamber names new CEO

The Board of Directors of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce named Yvonne King as CEO of the organization. King, an administrative assistant with the chamber for the past 22 years, has been serving as interim CEO since the Jan. 31 resignation of Janet Wiggins, the previous CEO.

Asked what’s first on her agenda, King said, “I want to get out there and get with the county and the cities, see what their interests are and promote our area.

“I want to let the people know we’re small, but we have a big heart. We may not have everything, but we have a lot. We’re good. This board is ready to work.”

King said she’d like for the chamber to have more of a presence in the community. She said she also wants to help people understand the purpose of the chamber and bring more awareness to the role of the chamber in the community.

“A lot of what we do is still through word of mouth. We want to be in the know too. We want to help our businesses grow. It’s OK to want more businesses here, but we have to help the ones we have,” King said.

“We’re ready to move forward and get back to the business of what a chamber is supposed to do, and that’s bring new business to the local communities and promote tourism in our area,” Chamber Board Chairman Craig Jones said.

“It’s been interesting. I’ve made a lot of good friends,” King said of her 22 years with the chamber. During that time, she’s worked with six different executive directors.

Two Polk County educators win at Houston Rodeo

Grady Tinker needed a good score at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Competing in ranch sorting, there were 100 other teams looking to better him. But they weren’t the main competition — that would be in his home.

His wife, Krystal, who is a nurse at Leggett ISD, and son, a graduate of Livingston High, also competes with and against him. Successful on his seventh try in Houston, it was mandatory Tinker achieve this goal or face plenty of razzing at home.

Krystal won a buckle in Houston three years ago, and he has been chasing her ever since. In the past, Tinker has won National Finals Champion of the Ranch Sorting National Championships, so he may hold bragging rights for now.

“We’ve been doing this about 10 years — my wife and me. It’s taken me 10 years to get that,” Tinker said pointing at his shiny, new belt buckle. “It is hard. The cows are always tough at Houston.”

With 10 heads of calves and three rounds, Tinker and his partner, Raymond Martinez, registered a perfect 30 score and beat the field by a five-second interval.

Jana Lowe is president of the American Cutting Horse Association and a world champion on the weekends, but during the week, Lowe disguises herself as the superintendent at Leggett ISD.

For over a decade now, Lowe has turned a weekend hobby into travel with friends and family, prizes and championships. Her latest feat was winning first place in cutting horses at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

There were about 50 contestants in Lowe’s class and she was happy just to make the finals. Lowe said this was her third time competing as a cutter in Houston, but had a little extra experience to draw on from the past. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that she was successful in Houston. Lowe has won five or six saddles, as well as the American Cutting Horse Association World Championship a few times.

Her horse, Sweet Lil Billie, allowed Lowe to win with a score of 223. Second place tallied 218.5 and fourth was just 1.5 points under that score.



Tribe breaks ground for education center

History was made when representatives of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas broke ground at the site where its new education center will be located. The Alabama-Coushatta Education Center will be a 49,000-square-foot building that will house the tribe’s education department, Head Start Program, tribal library and youth programs. The building will include classrooms, offices, common areas, kitchens for several of the programs, a courtyard, two play yards and a multi-purpose gym. The site will have a general parking lot, as well as a secure area for bus parking. It will be located behind the Chief Kina Clinic.

“Five hundred forty-eight days. We anticipate being done with the construction process by the end of September 2024 and will rejoin here for a ribbon cutting,” general manager Cheryl Downing said.

LHS robotics wins state, second time in four years

The Livingston High School robotics team won the UIL State Championship Robotics Competition while competing at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The competition consisted of bracket-style play between 30 teams. The scores were totaled from the team and individual players and the bracket was narrowed to four teams. One point separated the first- and second-place teams entering the final competition of the day.

This was the second UIL state championship in four years for the LHS robotics team, along with two regional back-to-back championships in 2021 and 2022. The team were invited to compete in the Robotics Worlds Tournament April 20-23 in Houston. There will be 170 teams in attendance from all over the world. The Livingston High School students make up one of the top 10 Texas Robotics teams competing.

Robotics is offered through the Career and Technical Education Department at Livingston High School. The prerequisite is principals of information technology, where students learn basic programming, hardware and software troubleshooting. Thirty students are admitted into robotics each year.

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