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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Shattered Lives - Students see tragedy first-hand

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Area first responders simulate the extrication process. Courtesy PhotoArea first responders simulate the extrication process. Courtesy Photo

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — Coldspring-Oakhurst High School students were witness to a different, more graphic lesson in the mid-morning of April 13.

It was a scene out of the backlots of Hollywood — preplanned and well-orchestrated; a mock life-and-death scenario of what is in many cases the aftermath of driving while intoxicated. 

The objectives of the event were to call attention of the realities of DWI and the effects on the individuals and family members, and how a community can organize, equip and train volunteer first responders to respond to tragedies. 

Saving lives comes about as a result of the response by first responders, starting with the on-scene assessment, extricating and stabilizing victims, triaging to hospitals, and more. 

A witness to the scene said, “I am amazed at the proficiency of these responding agencies, fire, ambulance, police, helicopter who are able to work seamlessly together.” 

Coldspring-Oakhurst High School Assistant Principal Courtney Robison, one of the organizers of the simulation, said the intent of the exercise was to highlight the process that follows a crash, from the initial accident through the arrest. 

That included subjecting the alleged DWI driver to a field sobriety test administered by a DPS trooper, transporting him to the San Jacinto County Jail for processing, and then to court where Assistant District Attorney Todd Dillon brought charges before Justice of the Peace Christina McGee for sentencing.   

“As heart wrenching as DWI is, I should like to point out that on average, 11 teens die every day in fatal texting related car accidents, compared to the average of 8 deaths a day from DWI related accidents,” Robison said. “Parents need to be aware of these frightening statistics.”

Individuals and organizations involved in the event include Robison; Health Science Teacher and First Reponders VP Kaitlin Cook; Texas Farm Bureau; Karen Cox; Allegiance Mobil Health; San Jacinto County First Responders; PHI Air Ambulance Service; Coldspring VFD Chief Emmitt Eldridge; Bear Creek VFD Chief Bryan Matthews; Shepherd VFD Chief Michael Gray; Sheriff Greg Capers; COCISD Police Chief Jack Dean; DPS Sgt. Gary Wright; ADA Dillon; and Precinct 1 JP Christina McGee.

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Point Blank talks rental issues

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For RentBy Tony Farkas
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POINT BLANK — The Point Blank City Council told a full house of city residents about the new ordinance affecting short-term rentals in the city limits.

Mayor Mark Wood said that people in the area are waking up to the fact that vacation rentals are cropping up throughout the city, especially around the lakefront.

The council fielded numerous complaints about noise and property damage in connection with the short-term rentals. Additionally, there were questions about how to enforce the ordinance, as the city doesn’t field a police force.

No action was taken.

In a separate matter, Wood said he informed the residents and council that FEMA is changing flood plain definitions, which will impact property east of Governor Wood most particularly.

In other business, the council:

 •discussed sale tax revenue being down 15 percent; and

• approved disposing of city assets that are non-functional.

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Early voting to begin Monday

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Vote GraphicBy Tony Farkas
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Two constitutional amendments dealing with property taxes will be on the ballot of the May 7 election, along with any contested city and school board races for each county.

Proposition 1 will benefit individuals with an over-65 or disabled exemption on their property.

According to information released by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, if an individual currently has an over-65/disabled exemption on their home, the proposal will provide a reduction on school district property taxes.

There are 1.8 million over-65 exemptions and 180,000 disabled exemptions in the state; on average these households will see a $110 reduction the first year and $125 reduction in the second year, and the reduction will continue to grow each year.

This amendment will become effective as of January 1, 2023, if it passes.

Proposition 2 will increase the homestead exemption by $15,000.

If this amendment passes the state homestead exemption on home values for school district taxes will increase from $25,000 to $40,000. On average, the 5.67 million homesteads in Texas will see a $175 savings in their school district tax bill at the current average statewide school property tax rate.

This amendment will be effective as of January 1, 2022, if it passes, so homeowners will see the savings when they receive their property tax bill this fall.

Other races in San Jacinto County include:

•On the ballot in the Cleveland ISD, LaDerrington Baldwin is facing off against incumbent Willie Carter for the Cleveland ISD Board of Trustees Position 4; for Position 5, Sharica Lewis is running against incumbent Amanda Sandoval Brooks.

•On the ballot in the Willis ISD, the district is looking to issue $143,045,000 in bonds for school improvements, $62,565,000 in bonds for improvements to the athletic stadium, and $19,390,000 for a natatorium.

•Coldspring has city and school board elections on its ballots; John Benestante is running against incumbent mayor Pat Eversole, while Dianne Griffith us running unopposed for District 2 and Nichole Gatewood is running unopposed for District 4.

For COCISD, incumbent Tony L. Sewell is running against Roosevelt Joseph for Position 3, and incumbent Berlin Bradford is running unopposed.

For those living in the district but outside the city limits, that ballot will include only the school board elections.

Early voting will be held April 25-29 and May 2-3 at the San Jacinto County Election Administration Building, 51 E. Pine Ave., in Coldspring, during business hours, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

On election day, polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those places include:

•Elections Administration Building, 51 E. Pine Ave., Coldspring

•Shepherd Community Center, 10251 State Hwy 150, Shepherd

•Evergreen Community Center, 7550 State Hwy 150 W, Coldspring

•Bear Creek VFD, 11550 FM 1725, Cleveland

•County Precinct 4 Annex, 221 Boat Launch Road, Point Blank

•Oakhurst Fire Department, 990 US Hwy 190, Oakhurst

•New Hope Baptist Church, 13200 FM 2025, Cleveland

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Library tea party returns

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teapartySpecial to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — Princesses ranging in age from 3-10 years of age are invited to take part in the Annual Edith Clark’s Princess Tea Party on April 30, at the Methodist Fellowship Hall and Gym at 1 Cemetery Road in Coldspring.

Sponsored by Eastex Title Company Inc. and the Coldspring Area Public Library, the event will include two seatings. The first party will take place from 10:30 a.m.-noon and the second party will take place from 1-2:30 pm.

Edith Clark’s Princess Tea Party includes several fun activities, such as Tea and Brunch, Princess Style Show, Story time, Keepsake teacup and saucer, Creating bubbles, Games, and Prizes. Each princess that reserves a seat at the party will be mailed an invitation as well as photos mailed to them after the event.

All princesses or groups of princesses must have an adult to share the event with them.

Reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased at the Coldspring Area Public Library during its regular business hours of M-F 10a-5p or Sat 10a-2p. The cost of tickets are $20 for each princess and $20 for each guest. Seating is limited so hurry over to the Library and reserve your place at the party of the year!!

All proceeds benefit the Coldspring Area Public Library. If you have any questions, please contact the Library at (936) 653-3104.

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Food bank office opens

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Johnie Malone, warehouse manager for the San Jacinto County office of the Trinity River Food Bank, stocks shelves with dry goods. Photos by Tony FarkasJohnie Malone, warehouse manager for the San Jacinto County office of the Trinity River Food Bank, stocks shelves with dry goods. Photos by Tony Farkas

By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — Help is here in San Jacinto County.

The newest food bank in Texas, Trinity River Food Bank serves four counties in Texas — Walker, San Jacinto, Trinity and Liberty — under the umbrella of the Houston Food Bank.

Christine Shippey, president and CEO of Trinity River Food Bank, said the reason the bank set up in SJ is that we have partners in the county, but we feel there needs to be more.

“We feel that we can distribute the food here and get the benefits going because there’s a lot of people that don’t know what benefits are available to them,” she said.

Shippey said these are the four hardest counties to serve for the Houston Food Bank because there is very high food insecurity and very low income; the average monthly income in Texas is $3,000 per month, but in this area it’s closer to $1,200 a month.

“There’s no stability in having food for families on a regular basis, and there are food deserts all over the area,” she said. “We are working with our partners and have created a hub that benefits everyone.”

Wanda Campbell, director of operations for the San Jacinto County hub, said anyone can get help at the food bank as long as they meet the criteria. 

“People can come in and either present a link card or fill out an application,” Campbell said. “That gives us information about the client to tell the state and county the type of people that are being served. If you’re not in need of food that day, you’ll get an appointment, and then people can visit the food bank once every 14 days.”

At each visit, people can get 90 pounds of food per family, and the food that’s available covers the nutritional gamut — dairy, dry goods, grains, meat, breads and fresh produce. Shipments come from the warehouse on Mondays.

“We’re here four days a week, Mondays through Thursdays, and we have developed a system to help people skip the long lines,” Campbell said. “People can make appointments online or call and talk to a case manager.”

Shippey said it’s more about food for their customers; they want to help the whole person and the whole situation to bring sustainability to families. 

“We don’t just hand out food, we offer wraparound services,” Shippey said. “We do referrals to medical clinics, indigent health care, GED programs, ESL, food stamps, job referrals; if there is a resource out there to help people, we’ll connect the two.”

Trinity River Food Bank is a partner distribution organization food bank, and has been working with the Houston Food Bank through the Covenant with Christ International Organization since 2017. It became Texas’ 22 food bank in 2022.

The bank will open a new 13,900 square foot distribution center in Cleveland for the four counties it serves in July, and then in the fall it will start augmenting school programs in the four counties, and then taking food trucks into the food deserts.

• Trinity River Food Bank is open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 201 Highway 150 Suite A in Coldspring. For information or an application, call (936) 653-3151 or visit the website at www.trinityriverfoodbank.org.

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