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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

New drug becoming extremely dangerous

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GregCapersSheriffThere is no word more frightful at the dinner table than the word “fentanyl”, especially when you’re in discussions with your children.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently revealed that they have seized more than 350 million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl tablets in Texas, enough to kill every man, woman and child in the US. Additionally, the DPS has reported an increase in deaths in Texas, resulting from fentanyl by 89 percent from 2020-2021 and the percentages are increasing rapidly.

fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Even a small dose, (as seen in the photo on the tip of a pencil) fentanyl exposure can result in a life-threatening overdose.

The Mexican cartels are importing fentanyl from as far away as the Far East and mass-produced counterfeit pills to look like oxycontin, oxycodone, Percocet, Adderall, Zanax and other pills so that the unsuspecting user doesn’t know what they’re taking that potentially will end their lives.

Of particular interest to me as your sheriff with children and grandchildren of my own is the ever-increasing availability of “rainbow fentanyl” throughout our state of Texas and beyond. As you can see from the photo depicting “rainbow fentanyl” how easy it would be for one of our children to succumb to the temptations of what appears to be a candy-like treat.

The signs of an overdose are varied, as is the first aid protocol for victims:

•Small, constricted pinpoint pupils, face is extremely pale and feels cold or clammy to the touch. Attempt to wake the person up.

•Body goes limp. Give Naloxone if available.

•Fingernails or lips have a purplish color: Administer CPR.

•Vomiting or making gurgling noises: Turn person on their side to prevent choking.

•Cannot be awakened or unable to speak: Stay with the person until emergency services arrive.

In all cases of overdose or suspected overdose, call 911.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including fentanyl. Keeping it on hand, could mean the difference between life and death. It’s available at many pharmacists in Texas without a prescription.

As sheriff, I’m committing myself and the assets at my disposal to combat what we are experiencing in the state of Texas and throughout the country with the introduction of a dedicated drug interdiction team with the assignment of Special Operations K9 Handler Deputy Dustin Oliphant with his partner, K9 Belgian malinois Lady Duna, along with a specially outfitted pursuit vehicle to maintain proactive surveillance throughout the county in partnership with federal, state and other local authorities.

In further partnership with the residence of the SJC and beyond, I ask for your assistance.

It’s my hope that you will find the information helpful, and I look forward to sharing my experiences and the experiences of my senior law-enforcement professionals with the community of San Jacinto County and beyond.

Greg Capers  is Sheriff of San Jacinto County.

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City seeks grants for variety of projects

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coldspringcityBy Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The Coldspring City Council on Jan. 9 discussed ongoing and new grants for numerous projects, including installing sewer lines throughout the city.

Mayor John Benestante said that providing sewer lines to all points inside the city limits is a project that needs to be completed “once and for all.”

Benestante said the city only uses 20 percent of the capacity of the sewer plant, but it costs as if it’s running at 70 percent. Additional revenue will help offset those costs.

Additionally, the project to extend sewer lines down FM 2025 is progressing; engineering drawings are finished, and Benestante said the city hopes to solicit bids statewide in May.

The council also discussed the 2023-24 Texas Community Development Block Grant of $630,000 application, as well as applications for TAP grants to construct sidewalks near the High School.

In a separate matter, the council discussed construction of the proposed concession stand for the youth league ballparks.

Benestante said the council is waiting on design changes, and when finished the city will seek local bids, possibly by end of January.

In other business, the council:

•discussed a proposed purchase of 10 acres of land from the school system;

•approved budget transfers for the 2022; and

•approved the election contract with the county. The council members have elections every year, based on terms of city alderman.

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County opts for short-term jail fix

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SanJacCountySealBy Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners Court approved using funds budgeted for unfilled position to offer a month’s worth of overtime pay, with a promise of looking at the issue again in February.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, Chief Deputy Tim Kean said the Sheriff’s Department is near a crisis point and was looking for help.

A letter from Sheriff Greg Capers, which Kean read to the commissioners, states that a possible solution to staffing issues would be paying overtime pay to jailers, instead of current offering only comp time.

Capers said the solution would not include any additional taxpayer funds. He states that income from housing inmates from other counties has been averaging more than $60,000 a month; since the staffing issue at the jail is in critical shape — the department is short 11 jailers.

In the letter, Capers said that six jailers left in one day, moving on to jobs in Walker County, which pays overtime. Polk County also provides overtime pay.

The county is losing jailers because we don’t pay overtime while all surrounding counties do, the letter states.

Capers writes that overtime would cost about $10,000 per month at current staffing levels; as staffing goes up, though, overtime costs will go down. Adopting the proposal, at least on a trial basis, should help solve the staffing issues.

Faulkner said that the county went through a similar issue six months ago, and that every nickel of revenue that comes into the county is accounted for, and it’s all spent.

“It’s all spent,” he said. “If it’s the will of the court, I could go along with using unspent funds from unfilled positions.”

Faulkner reminded the court that the funds from housing prisoners was accounted for, and the court approved raises for county employees and elected officials. Diverting those funds could mean layoffs, he said.

Commissioner Laddie McAnnally proposed sending all out-of-county prisoners back until their own jail facilities can get back lost personnel.

District Attorney Todd Dillon pointed out that the county’s inmate population is mostly felons, and given that court calendars are structured such that only 12 weeks a year are used for trials, it’s hard to keep the population down.

The county did not amend its budget or its pay policy to allow for overtime, but authorized $10,000 on a one-time trial basis, as long as there are concrete figures available, which is to be used to pay jailers only, and not any deputies that are filling in as jailers.

In a related matter, the county approved retiring four Crown Victoria used by the Sheriff’s Department and will offer the vehicles for auction.

In other business, the commissioners:

•discussed ordering a land survey on property the county has up for sale;

•discussed removing a crossover near the intersection of Highway 59 and FM 1127;

•approved extending a lease for office space to the county Health and Human Services Commission for one year;

•discussed renewing the Vidanyx system contract for the District Attorney’s Office;

•approved changing the mileage rate from 62.5 cents per mile to 65.5 cents

•approved bond renewals for Tracy Galloway;

•approved updates on the county’s financial goals and policies and federal grant procurement policies;

•declared items as surplus and approved offering the items for auction;

•approved a lot split in the Samuel Folger survey abstract; and

•accepted an agreement with Kelly Hoot for dumping unusable material.

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Council hears VFD complaints

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FireFighter StockStock Photo

By Tony Farkas
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POINT BLANK — The majority of the Jan. 9 meeting of the Point Blank City Council was taken up by a discussion regarding the Point Blank Volunteer Fire Department.

Gary Wulf, a former department volunteer, claims the city is in trouble because of the events that have transpired over the last few months.

However, Mayor Mark Wood said the issues at the VFD were an internal affair, one that the city has no stake in, since the VFD is a volunteer organization, and volunteers can leave or be removed at any time.

Wood also said the VFD still is responding to calls.

Among the issues claimed by former members of the VFD, the chief and assistant chief met privately to amend the group’s bylaws, and when existing VFD volunteers voiced objections, they were let go or demoted.

Additionally, the ex-firefighters say they have been reprimanded for arriving at emergency sites ahead of EMS crews, which violates PBVFD procedure as per a verbal order.

At its regular meeting on Dec. 12, council members heard from the PBVFD leadership about the dismissal of several firefighters and other complaints that have been levied against VFD.

The VFD told the council it has proceeded as it always has since its inception.

In other business, the council:

•approved resolutions for the receipt of a Community Development Block Grant rant from the Texas Ag Department for several projects;

•designated Kelly Hoot and Mel Basham as grant signatories; and

•discussed the creation of a committee to investigate community affairs, such as parades, for Point Blank. City gave her blessing to conceive a plan and present it to the council.

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Area student selected as Texas All-State Musician

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Special to the News-Times

Luc ButlerLuc ButlerLuc Butler, a member of the Coldspring-Oakhurst High School Band, will perform with the Texas All-State Band in San Antonio on Feb. 11 at the Henry B. González Convention Center as part of the 2023 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention.

Luc was chosen for this honor through a competitive process held this year across the state at district, region, and area levels. Luc plays clarinet at school under the direction of Trent Graves, who is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, a 14,000-plus member organization headquartered in Austin.

This is Luc’s second time performing as a member of a TMEA All-State organization. This is also his second instrument with which to achieve this honor.

Luc is the grandson of Suzanne Butler.

High school students selected to perform in the all-state concerts have competed through auditions to qualify at the state level. All-State is the highest honor a Texas music student can receive; 1,875 students are selected through a process that began with over 70,000 students from around the state vying for this honor to perform in one of 18 ensembles.

Texas Music Educators Association sponsors the Texas All-State competition. This competitive process begins throughout the state in auditions hosted by 33 TMEA Regions. Individual musicians perform selected music for a panel of judges who rank each instrument or voice part.

From this ranking, a select group of musicians advances from their Region to compete against musicians from other areas in eight TMEA Area competitions. The highest-ranking musicians judged at the TMEA Area competitions qualify to perform in a TMEA All-State music group.

Only the top 2.6 percent of musicians who initially audition become All-State musicians.

All-State students participate in four days of rehearsals directed by nationally recognized conductors during the TMEA Clinic/Convention. Their performances for thousands of attendees bring this extraordinary event to a close.

For the All-State concert and conductor information, go to the Performances section of www.tmea.org/convention.

Founded in 1921, Texas Music Educators Association is an association of over 14,000 members dedicated to promoting excellence in music education. Go to www.tmea.org/convention for more information.

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