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San Jacinto County talks trash

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CountySealSJFILE PHOTO San Jacinto County Seal

By Tony Farkas

COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners Court talked a little trash at its regular meeting on May 19.

County Judge Fritz Faulkner said that about 20 people from the Trails End subdivision in the southwest part of the county came to express their concerns about a proposal for an area landfill planned in that part of the county.

Faulkner said Peach Creek Environmental has put in an application with Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for a proposed landfill.

Area residents that showed up told the court they don’t want it in their back yards; however, Faulkner said that the county is not part of any of the process. Peach Creek has 2,000 acres of land purchased, and 600 acres will be part of the initial phase.

“When you put one of these things in, there’s a valid concern about water quality,” Faulkner said. “There is a membrane put down to protect water table, but it could rupture. You’re also talking about 500 trucks a day coming in through the roads, and there are concerns about property values. Also, part of the area may be in the flood plain, which carries additional concerns.”

Faulkner said it was a very informative discussion; however, the plan is only in the permitting process and there a lot of work left to do. He also said the county will look into the matter, but took no action.

“It’s people just bringing concerns to the court,” he said.

In other business, the county:

  • discussed new storage for the county’s records, which currently are stored in elections building and the basement of the courthouse. Maintenance personnel were asked to price metal buildings or seagoing containers;
  • approved purchase of track loader for $86,200; and
  • approved bonds for all employees of the Sheriff’s Office.
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Board makes it official

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060321 cocisd board 2COURTESY PHOTO | CASSIE GREGORY Executive Administrative Assistant Cindy Elliott administers the oath of office to new school board members William Baker and Ashney Shelly during the May 24 COCISD board meeting.

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD Board of Trustees officially hired Dr. Bryan Taulton as Superintendent of Schools at a special meeting on May 27.

Taulton was named lone finalist on May 4, but due to state law, there was a 21-day waiting period before the Board could formally vote to approve him for the position. 

Taulton has 15 years of professional experience in public education and has served as a teacher, assistant principal, junior high principal, high school principal, and assistant superintendent before taking the position of superintendent at Goodrich ISD.

He currently teaches graduate courses at Houston Baptist University in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, specializing in school law, school business management and finance, instructional leadership and evaluation, and interpersonal communication and public relations.

At the board’s regular meeting on May 24, the board swore in two new members, elected in the May 1 general election.

Other items discussed by the board include:

  • the annual review of board policy on ethics.
  • a proposal for the construction of stadium restrooms.
  • awarding the depository contract for the 2021-2023 biennium.
  • revisions to summer school supplemental pay rates.
  • the COCISD 2021-2022 compensation plan.
  • a resolution regarding ESSER III grant funds.
  • the purchase of technology devices and components.
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Annual car show granted weather delay

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cabmaFILE PHOTO

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — Weather is responsible for another delay, this time the annual Car, Truck and Bike Show sponsored by the Coldspring Area Business and Merchants Association.

CABMA’s Car Show Committee voted to move the event to July 31.

According to information from the meeting posted on the group’s website, vehicle owners will not show the cars in rain, and musicians and DJs will not risk damage to their equipment.

Sponsors for the event, Bourland Land Surveying, Paradise Grille, Bear AC & Heating, Farm Bureau Insurance and Matticks Real Estate, have been contacted and have agreed to the delay; however, the food purchased for the event will not be used, and it is non-refundable.

Vendors that have been booked for the event will not be charged to set up on the new date, and were allowed to set up Saturday if they so chose.

In the release, members stated it was a very hard decision to make as a new board, and that some people will be disappointed, but Mother Nature is 100 percent out of the board’s control.

The board cannot take of chance of losing or wasting hard-earned money to possible thunderstorms, the release states, and postponement of any event is not the end of the world, it’s a compromise.

More information is available at cabma.org.

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Anti-mask mandate mandated

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052721 mandateFILE PHOTO Gov. Greg Abbott

Special to the News-Times

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. 

Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

However, in San Jacinto County, the governor’s action will have no effect, as both the Coldspring-Oakhurst and Shepherd districts had already voted to remove masks.

Shepherd Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that in April, the board voted to remove masks after a survey of the staff and community showed masks should be removed.

Cassie Gregory, information officer for COCISD, said that board had made masks optional previously.

Beginning May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the executive order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

"The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."

Exempt from the order are state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.

Additionally, the governor said that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective June 26.

This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, a release states.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”

The current job openings are good paying jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.

Another reason why the action was necessary is the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed. TWC estimates that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totals more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.

Federal law requires the effective date of this change to be at least 30 days after notification is provided to the Secretary of Labor. As a result, the effective date will be June 26.

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San Jacinto County to receive grant funding

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9a115719052b863acadd43acbc60e24fFILE PHOTO Shepherd logo

Funds to improve drainage and sewer infrastructure for the city of Shepherd

Special to the News-Times

AUSTIN — Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Texas Sen. Robert Nichols and County Judge Fritz Faulkner announced the Texas General Land Office approved funds for flood mitigation projects in San Jacinto County and the City of Shepherd.

These infrastructure projects will directly benefit residents in a majority low-to-moderate income area that faced repetitive storm damage in 2015, 2016, 2017 with Hurricane Harvey, and 2019.

The City of Shepherd 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.

Shepherd Mayor Charles Minton said the city is excited about the grant, which will go a long way to improve its sewer plant and lines.

“I believe this is one of the largest grants the city has received, and will greatly benefit our residents and greatly improve our infrastructure for water and wastewater,” he said.

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

“With the severe weather we have, our sewer system was reaching an age where it suffered from infiltration and overflow at the sewer plant,” Minton said. “Heavy rains overload the plant, causing function issues, and could back up into homes.”

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.

Click here to view the locations: 052721_grant.pdf

“The city of Shepherd has experienced ongoing drainage issues for years, running the risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship for our residents,” Faulkner said. “This $4.2 million will help us improve our citywide sewer system, including the replacement of almost nine miles of sewer lines, to reduce the impact of future disasters.”

In May 2020, Commissioner George P. Bush announced the kick-off of the application process for the first round of more than $2.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect Texas communities hit by Hurricane Harvey and severe flooding in 2015 and 2016. During the first round, the GLO conducted three competitive application programs from the CDBG-MIT Action Plan. Those programs include:

  • 2015 Floods State Mitigation Competition – GLO awarded $31,426,781 to four grantees.
  • 2016 Floods State Mitigation Competition – GLO awarded 21 grantees with $135,462,438.
  • Hurricane Harvey State Mitigation Competition Round 1 ($1 billion of $2,144,776,720 total)

“Texas leads the nation in disaster designations for repetitive flooding,” Bush said. “We must work together to help communities across Texas be more resilient against devasting storms in the future. This first round of funding represents an historic investment in protecting lives, homes, and public facilities, as well as minimizing environmental impacts of severe storms, in many of our state’s lower-income communities. The GLO is proud to play a part in addressing this tremendous need.”

Nichols offered his support from the Texas Capitol saying, "It's impossible to overstate how important these flood mitigation funds are to East and Southeast Texas. Senate District 3 saw severe flooding during the 2015 floods, the 2016 floods, and again during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. These flooding events showed just how vulnerable this area of the state is and how necessary mitigation efforts are. Senate District 3 won over $105 million in the competitive flood mitigation fund award process because the projects in our region are vital to protecting Texans from future flood events. I appreciate the professionalism of the GLO throughout this process and our local officials who worked so hard to make these projects a reality."

Applications closed for the first round of funding Oct. 28, 2020, and the GLO evaluated all 290 submitted applications in accordance with the HUD approved scoring criteria. Eligible applications with the highest scores were awarded funds. The second round of the competition will award the remaining $1,144,776,720 in mitigation funding to Hurricane Harvey eligible entities.

HUD defines mitigation as activities that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters. HUD requires that at least 50 percent of total funds must be used for activities benefiting low- to moderate-income persons.

The State of Texas CDBG Mitigation Action Plan: Building Stronger for a Resilient Future outlines the use of funds, programs, eligible applicants, and eligibility criteria as required by HUD. The plan was sent to HUD on Feb. 3, 2020, after an extraordinary public outreach effort including a 50-day public comment period and eight regional public hearings, far-surpassing HUD requirements. HUD approved the plan March 31, 2020.

For more information, visit recovery.texas.gov/mitigation.

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