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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Coldspring seeks expert to help with grants

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072122 grant expert

By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The Coldspring City Council is looking for experts to help administer various city grants as well as seek more.
Mayor John Benestante said he wants to request proposals for other parties to be the administrator of these grants, such as the current American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Benestante said that grant administration is a lot of work, so the council, at its regular meeting on July 11, approve soliciting bids from five firms in the area, as well as anyone with experience that is interested in the position.

“I want to turn this over to someone who does it professionally,” he said. “This will give us some separation of duties.”

In a related matter, the city continues to use ARPA funds to extend its sewer system to FM 2025, and Benestante said the city is earmarked for another $641,000 to finish the project.

“My goal is to give everyone in town sewer service,” he said. “There is no cost difference for what the sewer plant is processing now and if it processes at 100 percent; currently, the plant is operating at 70 percent.”

In other business, the council:

•discussed two pieces of property the city has deemed nuisances have been cleaned and are finally in compliance with city ordinances;

•appointed Jennifer Manuel as alderman for Position 5, as the position was not on the last city ballot;

•accepted the 2018 and 2019 audits by Axley and Rode, which were approved with no discrepancies;

•approved a memorandum of understanding with Coldspring Youth League;

•approved salary range and qualifications for an office clerk, and the city is now seeking resumes for a person who will work 30 hours a week for a salary range of $20,000-$28,000, depending on experience;

•approved a $4,000 bid for flooring replacement in City Hall;

•approved an agreement with San Jacinto Special Utility District regarding meter reading;

•accepted a 30-foot right-of-way at EastTex Environmental from Sarah Brumley;

•discussed changing speed limits in city to 35; and

• discussed grease trap sampling requirements.

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No supply list needed

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072122 no school supplies

District provides swag for school

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD is providing school supplies for all students for the first day of school this year. No school supply lists needed.

With the exception of backpacks and zippered binders, the school district is making sure every child has what he or she needs to get off to a great start for the 2022-23 school year.

It should be noted that some secondary teachers may have specific requirements for extra items for their classes. In those cases, they will let students know after school starts.

With the tax-free holiday coming up on the first weekend in August, COCISD families will now be able to focus on purchasing clothing, shoes, and other essential items without the worry of long lists of school supplies.

From Aug. 5-7, tax-free items in the state of Texas include backpacks, binders, book bags, clothing, shoes (excluding athletic footwear), lunch boxes, and various school supplies.

Not included as tax-free is athletic clothing or footwear, athletic bags, computer bags and computers, among other items.

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Council starts budget process

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072122 council discusses budget

By Tony Farkas
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POINT BLANK — The village of Point Blank started its annual budget process with the first reading of the budget at its regular meeting on July 11.

Mayor Mark Wood said that the budget of around $659,000 will be roughly the same as this year’s but will include additional funds for street repair, up to $80,000.

He said the city is expecting a $500,000 grant from DETCOG, and that Point Blank brought in $127,252 in revenues. Last month’s sales tax revenue was $8,400, and the city has been averaging $8,800 in a month.

The city is in good financial shape, Wood said, with $200,000 in operating accounts right now.

The new budget should be finalized in September

In a separate matter, the city continues to deal with short-term rentals. Wood said that he doesn’t know how many there are in the area, but there are six renters registered under the city’s new STR ordinance.

However, Wood said there is a lot of pushback from residents of area, particularly since Sheriff’s deputies were called for a bachelor party recently.

“Homeowners want to rent their house, but the neighbors don’t want the noise,” he said..

Aside from noise complaints, the mayor said another problem caused by the rentals is parking, as the roads in those areas can’t accommodate many cars.

The city will continue to monitor the situation, he said.

In other business, the council:

• discussed updates to the city web page; and

• discussed the city using its road repair budget to finish projects before the end of the fiscal year.

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County upbraided for actions

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072122 budegt processMark Nettuno (right), San Jacinto Precinct 4 County Commissioner, takes the oath of office to Deep East Texas Council of Governments Board on June 23 at the annual awards ceremony in Lufkin. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — A county resident took the San Jacinto County Commissioners Court to task over its spending practices, particularly regarding the Sheriff’s Department.

During the public forum at the July 13 regular meeting, county resident Gerald Deeter told the panel that out of all of the 30,000 residents in the county, he found it amazing the five members of the court control the county pursestrings.

Deeter said he was concerned county funds were not being spent diligently and for the good of the community.

“You don’t have any accountability; you don’t have set hours or time clocks to punch, and we put an awful lot of trust and confidence in you,” he said.

Deeter said the county needs to monitor funds more closely, and give consideration that the deputies put their lives on the live for $34,000 per year, while the commissioners get $66,000 per year.

In other business, the commissioners:

•approved a request to have the county transport a large block of pink granite from Highway 99 and Fisher Road in Baytown to San Jacinto County. This block is from the quarry in Marble Falls, and was in route to the building of the State Capital in 1886 when it fell from a rail car.

The block was recovered 120 years later and has been donated to the San Jacinto County Historical Commission in memory of Dr. Stephen H. Everitt, who signed the Declaration Independence of Texas. This block will be placed in Precinct 3 near the site of the Everitt Post Office, and weighs 20,000 pounds;

•approved county personnel attending a cybersecurity course;

•approved the county accepting the unclaimed capital credits from electrical cooperatives;

•appointed Mark Nettuno and David Brandon to the DETCOG board;

•approved a 1-year lease to Health and Human Services for office space;

•approved providing a truck for the Office of Emergency Management;

•gave approval for work to begin on a community wildfire protection plan;

•approved an agreement with Valbridge Property Advisors for appraisal services;

•tabled requests for grant funds from Trinity River Food Bank and Friends of Hopewell over legal questions;

•discussed the audit of the Emergency Services District, which was received without comment;

•approved the installation of a generator 1651 S. Byrd St.;

•approved the bond renewal for JP clerk Kristen Reeves;

•approved raising mileage reimbursement to 62.5 cents, to become effective Oct. 1;

•approved the purchase of a new compactor for Precinct 4, to be paid for from recovery funds;

•approved the sale of surplus items through auction;

•approved a variance for Denson Allen;

•approved the rehire of Bethany Evans;

•approved the application for a disaster recovery grant from the Texas General Land Office

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COCISD Board OKs salary package

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071422 cocisd salary package

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The COCISD Board of Trustees has approved an employee salary package for the 2022-23 school year to include a $2,000 retention stipend and increased teacher starting pay.

The $2,000 retention stipend will be paid out in $500 increments to staff employed by the district during allotted time periods starting in August. The stipend is provided through the federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and is designed to recognize the unprecedented and unforeseen additional responsibilities and duties of staff due to the pandemic and to retain employees.

“In responding to the pandemic, maintaining instructional continuity, rising inflation costs, and teacher shortages, we know how vitally important every school district employee is,” said Superintendent Dr. Bryan Taulton. “We want our staff members to know just how much we truly value and appreciate the hard work they put in, day in and day out, to make sure our students are getting the high-quality education they need and deserve. Overall, we simply cannot accomplish the district’s goals without our dedicated employees.”

Also included in the salary package is a general raise for all employees of 2 percent of their salary midpoints and a 3 percent raise for teachers. Staff will still enjoy free lunch daily during the school year and one of the best medical insurance contributions available in the area at $359 per month.

Teachers in critical needs areas will continue to receive stipends such as $6,000 for Math/Science in grades 6-12; $4,000 stipends for English Language Arts and Reading grades 6-12; Spanish; and Special Education: Adaptive Behavior & Life Skills.

“This was an answer to prayer, as I’m sure many other employees feel the same,” said CCMR Counselor Kathryn Pedigo in a thank-you letter to the Board. “COCISD is a great district that is moving forward and making a difference.”

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