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Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke Clayton
April 16, 2024


Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke ClaytonThere was a time back when I was in my twenties and thirties that I thought I would be hanging…
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April 13, 2024

Close-to-home fun

Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
As an outdoors writer for the past 39 years, I’ve become accustomed to “gallavanting” around the country fishing, hunting and collecting material for my articles. Lately though, I’ve been sticking pretty close to home. Kenneth Shephard with a good “eater…

San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Ready for the second half

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Shepherd ISD staff learn strategies to engage with their students. Courtesy photosShepherd ISD staff learn strategies to engage with their students. Courtesy photos

Special to the News-Times

Each campus at Shepherd ISD participated in a Capturing Kids Hearts reboot to start the new semester, during the Teacher Workday on Jan. 3.

The High School team got a few laughs from the role-playing portion, reviewed the components of CKH, discussed ways to greet and interact with students, provide daily affirmations, and reviewed how to support students.

All Shepherd ISD staff members are ready for a fresh start to the 2023 school year and look forward to seeing the smiles on our students’ faces.

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Bailes to focus on property taxes, education

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010523 bailesBy Tony Farkas
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AUSTIN — Property taxes and education will be the cornerstones of the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature.

The session starts Tuesday, and Rep. Ernest Bailes of Shepherd said property taxes, or more importantly property tax relief, is at the top of the list.

“Property taxes are the biggest thing we still are working on, and we’re looking to get certain caps in place,” Bailes said. “The rates aren’t the issue, but the actual appraisals are.”

Bailes said that property values increased about 14 percent, but the tax rate either remained the same or dropped a little, and for property owners, the math is simple — either you

write the same check for taxes, or you write it for a little bit less or a little bit more.

“You can say you’ve dropped property tax rates for 5 years in a row, but with appraisals growing, you’re still writing a bigger check,” he said.

Bailes also said the state doesn’t do much for commercial property taxes, which can be extremely expensive for small businesses. Those taxes, he said, could go up 75 to 100 percent in a year’s time regardless of the shape of the economy, and people can’t continue to run a business like that.

For education, Bailes said that there is a lot of talk regarding school choice, but in reality, it is a different way of saying a voucher system. However, with state money comes state parameters, and instead of moving state money around, Bailes hopes to level the playing field and make all schools in the state equally attractive.

He also said we need to keep focus on actual education and keep social issues out of the equation.

“The difficult part is that at the state level, we preach local control over schools until we don’t like what the schools do, and then try to tell the schools how to do it better,” he said.

Other items of interest, Bailes said, that particularly for San Jacinto County, it’s inevitable that growth is coming, so he would like to ensure that all growth in the county is positive growth, and that there is enough infrastructure to sustain it.

Additionally, rural broadband is still an issue, as there are a lot of students who don’t have access to broadband in their homes.

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County abandons roads

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By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners Court approve a measure left over from its Dec. 14 meeting that was delayed because it was unsure it could be approved with only three attending members.

The item, a request to abandon Webb Road and portions of Carey, Dolive, Kilgore, Lombard and Webfer county streets in Oakhurst, was on last meeting agenda, but no action was taken. At the time, there was concern that since Commissioner Donnie Marrs had left and Commissioner David Brandon was absent, that a small quorum was insufficient to pass the measure.

Other information was lacking, namely the exact portions of the roads to be abandoned, which also gave the court pause; at the time, County Judge Fritz Faulkner pointed out that it was a serious matter to close roads, as he did not want to leave any county resident stranded behind poor roadways.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Greg Magee said that in 1899, the plat of the city of Oakhurst showed a subdivision with several lots, and several roads were placed in the drawings.

Oakhurst was incorporated as a town in 1980 and started closing roads that were not being used; the town disincorporated in 2000 and administration of the roads fell to the county, he said, and since a residents in the area have different ways to access his property, closing the roads will not affect any area resident.

Commissioner Mark Nettuno said he was all for it as it would relieve the county of any maintenance responsibility and moved to approve closing the roads with the proviso that anyone with valid easements can still access the roads.

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Entergy donates $105,000 to 14 local non-profits

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010523 donation

Special to the News-Times

THE WOODLANDS — Entergy Texas partnered with local food pantries and non-profits to make the holiday season a little brighter for families in Southeast Texas.

The company donated $105,000, funded by Entergy shareholders, to local organizations to help provide nutritious foods to families in need.

“At Entergy, we are always looking for ways to help our community beyond providing power,” said Stuart Barrett, vice president of customer service for Entergy Texas. “The cost of just about everything is going up, so it’s only right we stepped up our commitment to the ongoing fight against hunger. Our local partnerships help ensure Texas families, regardless of their financial status, have access to nourishing meals, especially around the holidays.”

Local organizations receiving funding include Trinity River Food Bank  (which includes San Jacinto County), Meals on Wheels Orange Community Action Association, United Christian Care Center of Vidor Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels Montgomery County, United Board of Missions Food Pantry, Montgomery County Food, Nutrition & Services for Seniors, Robertson County Care Inc., Brazos Valley Food Bank, Central Baptist Church , LA Walters Ministries, Mission Northeast, SETX Food Bank and Keep Us Fed.

Entergy Texas remains committed to building a better future for everyone through financial support, volunteerism, low-income customer service initiatives, advocacy and economic development.

Entergy employees and retirees also support the places they call home by volunteering their time and talents and through charitable donations to The Power to Care and various community programs.

In addition, Entergy Texas has a number of bill-payment options, including payment extensions, deferred payment arrangements and level billing. For more information on bill payment options and assistance, please visit entergy-texas.com/bill-help.

About Entergy Texas

Entergy Texas, Inc. provides electricity to more than 486,000 customers in 27 counties. Entergy Texas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., a Fortune 500 company headquartered in New Orleans. Entergy powers life for 3 million customers through its operating companies across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

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Top stories of 2022

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By Tony Farkas
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The county’s schools, arguably the central part of any East Texas community, were front and center in the news during the last year.

For instance, campuses across the Shepherd Independent School District were given a reason to celebrate, since the accountability rankings given out by the state showed the district came in at a B grade.

Superintendent Jason Hewitt said in August that according to the Texas ratings, the district before was an overall C, and there were three F campuses — primary, middle and intermediate. The high school was a B, and a C the prior year; the intermediate school was a seven-year F, and the middle school was at a four-year F.

Because the intermediate school had failed multiple years in a row, the district opted to install a board of managers, and in March 2020, Hewitt was installed as superintendent. Hewitt said he is a turnaround administrator, having improved other districts with failing scores, which is evident by the new score.

• • •

In March, San Jacinto Deputy Constable Neil Adams, 62, was killed during an altercation while working a second job as a security officer.

According to information from the Houston Police Department, 35-year-old Czyz Harrison, who was arguing with a store clerk, was fighting with Adams. During the fight, the suspect took Adams’ weapon and shot him.

Adams was working security at PlazAmericas Mall on Bellaire Boulevard.

Two Houston police officers were dispatched to assist and found the suspect who reportedly was wielding a knife. The officers attempted to get the suspect to surrender, but the suspect refused to comply and then charged at the officers.

The two officers discharged their duty weapons, striking the suspect, and then used a taser, causing the suspect to fall to the ground, reports state. Harrison was taken into custody, and then transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, reports state.

Adams was laid to rest with full honors later that week at Montague Cemetery, with “Taps” and a 21-gun salute. 

• • •

Both the Shepherd and Coldspring school districts, facing issues with staff retention and hiring, and to facilitate learning and growth for students and instructors, have opted to move to a four-day school week.

The Shepherd board approved the measure to allow the staff to learn and grow within its profession in an environment that continues to change regularly.

The move was made since 60 percent of the teaching staff has three or less years of experience in a classroom, all of which has been during a global pandemic. This has led to a 35-40 percent turnover rate, which means almost half of the staff is new to Shepherd ISD each year.

The Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD moved to a 4-day school week.

Superintendent Dr. Bryan Taulton said the switch would be in an effort to recruit and retain teachers in a highly competitive job market due to the statewide teacher shortage.

He also said that the results of surveys that were sent to parents and guardians, employees, and high school students were in the majority favorable to the change.

The calendar would be part of a three-year pilot program during which data would be reviewed to monitor the results in order to gauge its effectiveness and impact on student learning, he said.

• • •

Law enforcement officials closed two cold cases involving San Jacinto County, one three years old and one 17 years old.

In July, Shelley Susan Thompson-Lemoine, 41, was arrested in Angleton by Texas Rangers and detectives from the Cleveland Police Department in connection with a double murder case committed in Cleveland in 2005.

She was charged with capital murder in connection with the deaths of Antonio and Luz Rodriguez. Bond is set at $1 million dollars.

Reports state that on April 14, 2005, Antonio and Luz Rodriguez were found dead in their home on West Waco Street in Cleveland by their daughter. Cleveland PD and the Texas Rangers investigated the crime scene and continued the investigation until it ultimately went cold.

However, as the result of a conviction, DNA was collected when Thompson-Lemoine was incarcerated in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility, which ultimately was flagged as possibly being connected with the closed case.

New information and a re-examination of evidence led San Jacinto County Sheriff’s deputies to make an arrest in a three-year-old homicide case in October.

Charles Dale Clary, 65, of Shepherd, was arrested Oct. 31 on a charge of murder in connection with the May 2019 murder of Rhonda Richardson, 59, who worked as a correctional officer at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Richardson’s body was found in Sam Houston National Forest in May 2019. The investigator at the time, Detective Gary Sharpen, did not find enough evidence to point to a suspect, and then was sent on deployment.

Detective Omar Sheik said Sharpen returned recently, and the two began to re-examine the evidence.

Sheik said that in 2019, Richardson was looking for her dogs. which frequently go loose. He also said that Richardson and Clary were acquaintances, and that Richardson had approached Clary for help in the search.

Later that day, body was found on a trail in a wooded area off FM 2666; however, investigators initially thought the body was moved there.

Sheik said the re-examination went smoothly, and was wrapped up in about 8 days

Sheik said that one of the people in the neighborhood that was not found initially turned out to be an eyewitness and helped tie the suspect to the crime. Additionally, examination of cell phone traffic showed the suspect was very likely involved.

Clary currently is being held in San Jacinto County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

• • •

In November, the Shepherd City Council took the next required steps for the creation of its Police Department on Nov. 14.

The council adopted an ordinance that establishes a police chief and the scope of duties, and appointed Precinct 2 Deputy Constable Clint Headley as chief.

City Secretary Debra Hagler said the ordinance allows Headley to hire another officer to bring department up to two full-time officers. The old City Hall building was used as an office for the constable, and now will become the Police Department building.

Hagler said the department will be up and operational once the city receives the necessary credentials from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

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