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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Shepherd ISD to offer performance money

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The December Anchor Award staff recipient are (from left) Adrian Porrata- Doria, Shepherd High School; Jessica Moheng, Shepherd Intermediate School; and San Juanita Cruz, Transportation. Anne Gallmeier of Shepherd High School was the November recipient.The December Anchor Award staff recipient are (from left) Adrian Porrata- Doria, Shepherd High School; Jessica Moheng, Shepherd Intermediate School; and San Juanita Cruz, Transportation. Anne Gallmeier of Shepherd High School was the November recipient.

By Tony Farkas
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SHEPHERD — The Shepherd ISD Board of Managers additional pay for good grades.

The Board, at its regular meeting on Dec. 16, approved a pay plan which will reward all teachers and staff for good grades, which will be determined by state evaluations.

Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that the “performance pay matrix” is two-pronged, and depending upon teacher and campus success, employees could see bonuses from $1,000 to $5,000.

Hewitt said the plan encompasses all teachers, including CTE teachers, as well as all employees and support staff.

Based on state rankings, teachers graded A will receive $5,000, B gets $3,000 and C’s will receive $1,000.

All staff members are eligible to receive a stipend based on campus grades; those are A, $1,000; B, $750; and C, $250.

Hewit said that the new matrix took effect immediately, although the grading won’t be done until the summer months.

In a separate matter, the Board approved the financial audit report for last year, which came back with an unmodified opinion, the highest result. Hewitt said the district has been able to put about $1 million into its fund balance.

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Sheriff asks community for concerns

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Neighborhood watch graphicSpecial to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — This first of many Community Services Program meetings is scheduled for Tuesday, and Sheriff Greg Capers looks to step up law enforcement in San Jacinto County with the help of the community.

Part of the sheriff’s program initiative is to provide to the community safeguard measures to help county residents from becoming a victim of a variety of crimes. 

One such crime that is becoming a large problem in the area is people finding paper stuck to the rear windshield, which could lead to carjacking or worse.

The obstruction can be a ruse to allow a thief to get into a vehicle with the keys and other items, leading to a person’s entire life in jeopardy.

Law enforcement personnel offer suggestions should this happen, victims should drive away and remove the item later.

This type of information and more will be available at the Sheriff’s Office of Community Service Program. Capers said that county residents should plan to attend and bring a friend or neighbor along with a list of questions and concerns that are important to the community.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Sheriff’s Office, 75 W. Cedar Ave., in Coldspring.

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Top Stories of 2021

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SanJacSnowFeb2021 1

By Tony Farkas
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Many of us would agree that 2021 was not as bad as some of the year’s past — dealing with COVID crises, terrible economies and strange elections — but still it had some items of interest to keep the year lively and interesting.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights of the last year.


It isn’t often that those of us in East Texas can complain about winter weather, but we got that chance when a week in February dropped snow on the ground and temperatures into single digits.

So with record low temperatures and uncharacteristic snowfall, San Jacinto County came to a standstill.

Schools were closed, roads were closed for ice, pipes burst, water mains ruptured and sewers and homes suffered damage. Even more disastrous was the electrical grid being unable to handle the load, and power companies were forced to start rolling blackouts to stave off a larger blackout.

Water had to be shipped it to give residents something to drink, because many areas were put under a boil water notice.

Rainfall also posed a problem in the first half of the year, with most of the annual rainfall soaking the ground by June. And in May, just under 14 inches of rain fell.

The result was that construction projects were delayed, travel was discouraged and even school buses had to be rerouted because of impassable roads.

041521 helicopterChanges

There were several changes in the county, most notably in leadership, as 24-year political veteran Kevin Brady decided to retire from his position as U.S. Representative for District 8.

Brady said it was just time to bring in fresh faces and fresh ideas.

Coldspring-Oakhurst school district, however, gained a superintendent after hiring Dr. Bryan Taulton.

Taulton had served previously in Goodrich ISD.

Lunch order

The city of Coldspring gave a rapid response after a customer of a local diner decided to pick up his to-go order in a helicopter.

Mayor Pro Tem John Benestante said that on April 2, while he was working in his vineyard, he noticed a R44 model helicopter circling the area.

He then received a call that a nearby restaurant, The Hop, on Texas 150, had a helicopter landing in a yard. Apparently, the pilot had called in a burger order for himself and a passenger, and told the person taking the order he was flying in to pick it up.

Benestante, who had previously worked with the FAA and had some familiarity with requirements, told the pilot he had to have the property owner’s permission to land; the pilot claimed he had it.

Coldspring Mayor Pat Eversole, who owns The Hop as well as the property, said she was unaware of the incident, and said she did not give anyone permission to land near her business.

In response, the city passed an ordinance banning such landings.


Twice during the summer, once in June and once in July, people held Sheriff’s Deputies at bay by barricading themselves in homes.

In June, a 39-year-old Cleveland man told police he was tired of living and kept officers away for three hours while holding a rifle and threatening harm to himself.

After lengthy communication, the man allowed deputies access, and he was transferred to a hospital for evaluation.

A month later, a 36-year-old former Coldspring resident held his parents hostage for about four hours when deputies attempted to arrest him on a Harris County warrant for murder.

The parents were extricated from the home without harm, and later, the Harris County SWAT team was able to arrest the suspect.


A proposed landfill has residents in the southwest part of the county petitioning the County Commissioners Court for help to get it stopped.

Residents have repeatedly sought help from the county, and have spoken at every meeting since June.

Concerns about safety, the environment, polluted ground and surface water and the effect on area crops and animals have been voiced to both the state TCEQ and the county.

Residents continue to oppose the effort.


While not a Cinderella story, the Coldspring-Oakhurst Trojans put up an exceptional performance in this year’s football season, making it to the first round of the playoffs.

The team went 5-1 in District play, and 7-3 overall.

It was the second year in a row that the Trojans posted good numbers, an accomplishment after the shortened 2019 season.

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Court meets last time in 2021

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sanjacinto courthouseBy Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
SJNT Correspondent

COLDSPRING- Meeting for the last time of 2021, the court finished out old business and planned projects for the new year, but not before declaring Friday December 31, 2021 as Donny Murray Day in recognition for his 38 years of service to the county in the Road and Bridge department. 


To clarify statements written in last week’s commissioners court article, residents (voters) in the area affected by redistricting will receive a written notification per the Texas Elections Commission only if they have an “ACTIVE” voter status within San Jacinto County. Voters will receive a new blue colored voter registration certificate containing their new Commissioner’s Precinct (formerly Pct. 3, now Pct. 1).

Residents in the affected area can expect delays in receiving the cards, which are expected to be mailed out mid January and will replace any current cards expiring at the end of this year.

For any questions or concerns, please call the Election’s Office at 936-653-5804.

Public comment

Police Chief Tim Keen came to the court with concerns over a deadline to transfer all emails over to a new server by January 1, 2022. The department is legally required to keep emails, but archiving the files has proven to be tough on time and manpower. Faulkner offered little solution, only saying that the office had been given ample time to transfer the emails. Keen eventually countered, asking for an extension on time or for the county to contract professional service to assist in the digital migration.

The change in email servers comes after the county endured heavy amounts of spam emails in recent years and was seeking a system with more security. Currently county employees are making parties aware of the new email by emailing them the new address before the end of the year and forwarding all old emails. 

James Larimore of Holiday Villages in Point Blank wants TEXDOT to conduct a study at the US 190 Bridge over Lake Livingston in Point Blank. Claiming the speed is already too high, he wants the matter to be looked into before RV traffic increases with a new RV park being built close by with anywhere from 75-100 lots. Larimore is currently working with his HOA to write a letter of intent. When the letter can be presented to the court, Judge Faulkner said he will at that time put it on the agenda for a vote.


Lonnie Thomas, maintenance supervisor for San Jacinto County presented several projects to the court that he intends on accomplishing next year.

Replacing the roof of the DPS building on FM 2025 with metal roofs

Performance construction bud request 

Plans to asses the clerks office basement which currently has water penetration problems 

Plans to improve handicap access at the courthouse including adding traction to the ramp

Insulation, water line and drainage system improvements across county buildings

Light improvements in the jail

Following a vote of approval from the court for the organization to use the facility pending insurance clarification, the Women’s League of San Jacinto County will hold their annual Style Show for the first time in two year at the Emergency Shelter in Coldspring. Money from this event held fund scholarships given to local San Jacinto County school students. For updates on their event, follow their Facebook Page at Women’s League of San Jacinto County. 

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Shepherd begins grant paperwork

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PaperWorkBy Tony Farkas
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SHEPHERD — The city of Shepherd has begun the paperwork for the $4.2 million grant, starting the process to begin work on its infrastructure.

At the regular meeting od Dec. 13, the county approved resolutions that will set signatories, provide for adherence to Civil Rights policies and all necessary startup and policy documents.

City Secretary Debra Hagler said the red tape has been cut, and the city hopes to get started.

In May, the city received $4,200,000 for its Citywide Sewer Infiltration and Inflow Mitigation Project, which will assist with ongoing drainage issues throughout the city by replacing sewer lines, replacing or reconstructing sewer manholes and raising and hardening a lift station.

The city developed a scope of work in order to qualify for the money, which is part of the Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund.

The project will encompass approximately 46,872 linear feet of sanitary sewer line replacement, trench safety, connect new main (or new manhole) to existing manhole (or existing main), main line cleanout, connect service to new main, remove existing manhole with standard manhole replacement, driveway repairs, highway and railroad bore, replace one sewer lift station, elevate and rehabilitate 18 manholes, and associated appurtenances.

In other business, the city:

•amended its manufactured home ordinance to remove a requirement for stamped engineer designs for dirt pads;

•approved the abandonment of an alleyway to allow for a property sale;

•appointed Mark Porter as Mayor Pro Tem;

•reappointed Harris Blanchette as municipal judge;

•gave the annual approval for the city’s investment policy;

•approved the city holiday schedule; and

•filled a vacancy on the EDC board with Kurt Stowers.

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