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San Jacinto County News

COCISD Supt steps down

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COCISD Superintendent Dr. Leland R. MooreCOURTESY PHOTO COCISD Superintendent Dr. Leland Moore will resign from his post effective Dec. 31, 2020.

Special to the News-Times

Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD will be looking for a new leader.

After serving as COCISD superintendent for nearly five years, Dr. Leland Moore has tendered his resignation, effective Dec. 31. Moore’s resignation was accepted by the board at the December meeting, which took place during the COCISD Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, at the Jones Auditorium.

“As I begin a new season in my life, I am ready to pursue new opportunities. I have given five years of service to the COCISD and every day of that time has been rewarding for me. My heart tells me it’s time for a change,” wrote Moore in a message to staff. “I have been privileged to serve with a great team of educators and staff who are loyal and dedicated to the children of the COCISD. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with trustees who are on a vibrant and exciting mission.”

The Board of Trustees held its regular December meeting a week earlier than usual due to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

After formally accepting Moore’s resignation, the board approved the appointment of education consultant and former San Augustine superintendent Walter Key to serve as interim superintendent. Also approved was the engagement of Haglund Law Firm, P.C. to perform the superintendent search.

In other business, the meeting opened with a public hearing to present the 2019-20 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR). Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Vikki Curry gave the presentation, explaining that due to the TEA response to COVID-19, the report was essentially the same as the previous year. There were no public comments. The TAPR may be viewed on the district website at cocisd.org > District > Accountability.

Under New Business, the board discussed and approved the following:

Renewal of a legal services agreement with Walsh, Gallegos, Trevino, Russo & Kyle P.C. 

Extension of additional COVID-related leave to COCISD employees. 

Adoption of a formal board resolution urging TEA to cancel the STAAR tests for the 2020-21 school year.

A Verizon operation connectivity contract.

The next regular meeting of the COCISD Board of Trustees will be held at the Jones Auditorium on Monday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m.

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Commissioners seek upgrades across county

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Commish 1EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA I SJNT Representatives from the ThyssenKrupp Elevator, an elevator modernization company, along with county maintenance, discuss the costs of upgrading electrical and fire alarm components in the courthouse elevator.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

The San Jacinto County commissioners court met to discuss upgrades in the county regarding the use of census data, contract upgrades within the jail, and even modern touches to the courthouse elevator. 

Jail Update

Captain Rosa Bass stood before the court asking for a three-year addendum to a current contract with NCIC Inmate Phone Communication services, which currently ends in 2022. The three-year extension comes with the company implementing the service of sorting through inmate mail in-lieu of jail staff. This will help alleviate man-hours spent inspecting mail, as well as relieves potential tensions between staff and inmates regarding mail-related complaints.

The services will come at no additional cost to the county aside from a contract extension. The company has already installed kiosks in the cells that allow inmates to place grievances and commissary requests, and will allow them to view mail. Inmates also have limited video communication services, which have been offered and heavily utilized since Covid has stopped visitations. According to jail staff, since implementing the video services earlier this year, inmates have been calmer and less disciplinary action has been taken.

Family and friends can contact the jail directly to set up video visitation and messages, which are still monitored by staff. With the main change being to mail services, anyone seeking to send mail to inmates will send all correspondences to a central sorting location instead of the jail- all mail sent to the jail will be returned to sender. The exceptions include attorney mail and bonafide press-releases.

On Dec. 9 of this year, the jail was set to be fully staffed and in compliance with The Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

After months of review and pending the final contract, the board entered into an agreement to purchase seven plain work trucks with no after-market specs, but with full-maintenance through Enterprises’ Fleet Lease Program. The trucks will be leased for around $38,000. Under the contract, the trucks will run in the county for 12 month or until they reach 15,000 miles, at which point the county will decide to purchase, replace, or retain the equity from the vehicle.

Enterprise will also remove several currently existing vehicles that are older models or have higher millage to help offset the cost of the new fleet, as well as provide the county with a six-month update on their vehicle usage and equity.

Other business

The San Jacinto County Courthouse is currently working to plan and receive bids to modernize the elevator. Some features on the elevator will be grandfathered in per Texas Historic Commission guidelines, but other features like the fire system will be renovated.

The county is also in the process of hiring a firm to assist with using 2020 Census data to potentially redistrict areas and determine what economic and social needs residents could benefit from.

To help streamline legal paperwork filed in the county, the court voted to transfer all registrar duties from the Justice of the Peace for all precincts to the county clerk. In the past there has been confusion between the county and state regarding precincts handling paperwork outside of their jurisdiction, which creates backlogs in certifying things like birth and death certificates. While all able parties will be certified countywide to handle all paperwork, ideally the County Clerk will act as the main authority.

Commissioner’s court meets every first and third Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. in the Emergency Shelter in Coldspring, across from the courthouse. Public comment can be made at the beginning of the meetings.

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Shepherd city meets for election results

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Shepherd CityEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Yvonne R. Cones gets sworn in as a city alderman following the Nov. 3 elections.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

SHEPHERD - Brenda Myers, Executive Director of the Impact Center in Shepherd, addressed the council regarding ordinance violation fees she had received while trying to build a free-standing restroom near the center.

Myers, who is being fined for failing to obtain a building permit which would ensure the structure is up to ADA standards, (a water and electric permit had been obtained prior), claimed she was given bad information when she asked what permits she would need. Per city ordinance, buildings that have not obtained all proper permits prior to construction will be fined double the original cost. Myers, along with several members of the crowd, pleaded with the council to drop the violation fees.

After several minutes of discourse, a vote to dismiss the fine was reached, with the possibility of having the Shepherd Economic Development Cooperation (EDC) determine if they are able to help with the permit fees, since the restroom may serve public use. The Impact Center, located in Shepherd, is a 501c3 non-profit that provides relief programs to several surrounding counties.

Update to voting results

At 4:30 p.m., shortly before the Tuesday monthly council meeting, election results for the City of Shepherd were certified, with Mayor Charles P. Minton serving his second term as Mayor, unopposed. Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who had won a majority of the votes and was set to take on an alderman position, was discovered to be ineligible to hold the position due to an old conviction on his record.

Despite having served his term and taking care of all associated matters, according to Texas Election Code, a felony conviction leaves individuals unable to hold public office without a governor pardon, something the board and Wesley did not know until after the election. Since the offense occurred in Louisiana, he would need a pardon from that state’s governor to serve in Texas.

The city’s attorney, Larry Foerster, spoke with the Secretary of State in Texas in an attempt to find a legal way that would allow Wesley to serve, citing overwhelming support from his community as a testament to his character, but was unable to find an initial solution. With two positions open for city alderman, Yvonne R. Cones will fill one, and if they are unable to find a course of action to instate Wesley, a special election will be held to fill the second.

Both the legal entities for the city and Wesley encouraged the audience to reach out to representative Earnest Bailes and Robert Nichols to try and change the current law that makes felons ineligible to hold public office.

Other Business

With money left over from not holding a July fireworks ceremony, the Chamber of Commerce and Impact center are seeking to combine their holiday events for a Christmas fireworks show and parade on Dec. 5 with the parade starting at 6 p.m. Two job vacancies will be posted to the city’s website, one for a temporary front office position and the other for the public works department.

The November Food Bank Drive will happen on Nov. 20 from 4-7 p.m.

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Point Blank discusses drainage problems

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Screenshot 2020 11 17 20201116 122303 2 pdfCourtesy photo - 2020: A Google Map view of the Forest Cove subdivision from the year 2020.

By Jason Chlapek

POINT BLANK – Point Blank city council aldermen decided to table an agenda item regarding the Forest Cove subdivision during last week’s city council meeting on Nov. 9 at the Point Blank Civic Center.

The issue regarding Forest Cove is its drainage. The subdivision was platted in 1979.

“The drainage has been happening since it was first platted,” Point Blank Mayor Mark Wood said. “Forest Cove has a rough infrastructure where the roads are not in good shape. You’ll see that throughout the city.”

Wood and other council aldermen are going to research the problem before coming to a consensus on what to do. The decision could be made by next month’s city council meeting, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14.

During the month of October, Point Blank made a profit of $9,631.71. The city’s net operating income is now $6,382.80.

The sales tax revenue compensation for the month of October was $8,284.01. Wood doesn’t know if these types of numbers are permanent or temporary though.

“We made money during Covid because the people who own lake houses either moved up here or spend more time here,” he said. “I don’t know if the growth is permanent, but you don’t see houses for sale. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I didn’t anticipate.”

Wood also discussed how the city determines how much money to spend on street repairs per subdivision. He also talked about the outdated POA assessments.

“The POAs were set up in the 1970s and they have never upped their assessments,” Wood said. “There’s not a property tax base in Point Blank either. What we do is set a budget for what we think we can spend on streets for the fiscal year. We had a really good year last year and we try to spend it based on the percentage of miles in each subdivision.”

The actual street mileage for the North Woods subdivision is 4.57 miles, Governor’s Point is 4.07 miles, Forest Cove is 2.574 miles and the remainder of the city is 4.925 miles. Last month, the city spent $500 on street repairs (Forest Cove $79.75, Governor’s Point $126.09, North Woods $141.58, rest of city $152.58).

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San Jacinto County turns out the vote

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SanJacelectionCOURTESY PHOTO Most of San Jacinto County voted “Red” or Republican in the 2020 election.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

SAN JACINTO COUNTY - San Jacinto County saw a little more than 65% of registered voters turn out for a mix of Election Day and absentee voting with an overwhelming majority participating in early voting at one of the 10 polling places within the county. 

Overall, residents casted roughly 80% of votes for the current president Donald Trump with just under 20% for former vice-president, Joe Biden. Other elections followed similar voting trends, including the closely-watched race for senator between republican incumbent John Cornyn and democratic hopeful MJ Hegar, as well as State Representatives, Railroad Commissioner, judges positions and most other races that ran both democratic and republican candidates.

For the City of Shepherd, Mayor Charles D. Minton will serve his second term along Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who will act as a City Alderman. Yvonne Ryba Cones also earned a spot on the Shepherd City Council.

Coldspring also voted to re-elect Pat Eversole as mayor, with 58% of the vote being cast in her favor.

For a full list of election results for the county, please visit http://www.co.san-jacinto.tx.us/page/sanjacinto.Elections. Please note that as of press time, results are unofficial and are subject to change as provisional ballots are counted.

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