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Trinity County News 2

Six file for two council seats

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N1411P33001CFILE PHOTO

By Tony Farkas

GROVETON — The candidates seeking a position on the Groveton City Council each feel there is much more that can be done to make the city a better place.

On May 1, Groveton residents will go to the polls to pick a mayor and two council members; early voting began Monday.

One candidate, however, Mark Taylor, is withdrawing from the race for family reasons, and if elected, will not be able to serve, saying he would not be able to devote the proper amount of time.

For the remaining candidates, infrastructure is key.

Autumn Dial

Community involvement is a major component of Autumn Dial’s candidacy, that and a belief that the town has seen better days, and can once again.

“My family was on City Council in the ‘90s, and I have a little buzz for politics and want to give something back to the community,” she said. “It’s time for the next generation to get involved.”

Dial said she has worked for the Nacogdoches Housing Authority for six years, worked in low-income housing and as a police dispatcher, and her dealings with people in all walks of life makes it easier to relate.

“I’d like to see new businesses come to town, and more people get involved cleaning up of the local areas,” she said. “I remember riding the back roads with my grandparents and all the properties were pretty. We don’t have that now. The homes have gone to pot, and I want to see that come back. I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”

Dial said other areas of concern include better pay for city workers, especially those in law enforcement.

Philip Schmitten

The former Air Force recruit Phillip Schmitten said that although he is not a Groveton native, he got here as quick as I could.

Schmitten has lived in town seven years, and finds it to be a wonderful retirement community.

“I love the people that live here, and I think there are some things that need addressing to make better,” he said. “We need things for the kids to do, so I would like to focus on creating a city park. The roads need some serious attention, as well as our water system.”

Schmitten said he spent 21 years in the Air Force as combat photojournalist, and ran squads of men in battle conditions, which gave him leadership experience. Additionally, he learned about caring for other people while working as a special education teacher, as well as serving as president of the Groveton Lions Club. He also served two years as vice president of the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce.

Robert Smith

As one of the few incumbents running for re-election, Robert Smith said he wants to focus on continued improvement on all standards — neatness, the city’s water system and its streets.

“I’m running because I’m interested in the city, and I want to continue improving the city,” he said. “I’ve been on the council three years. I look to serve.”

The 1967 Groveton High School graduate said he brings experience, integrity and honesty to the table. That, combined with 26 years of work at the Lufkin Abitibi paper mill, and 16 years at the Diboll correctional facility, gives him the knowledge to serve the city well.

“I’ve learned so much, such as we work on a budget,” he said. “People want this and that, but we have to follow that budget.”

Chris McFarland

Chris McFarland said he has a lifetime of experience in Groveton, which gives him a leg up on what needs the city has.

“I have 52 years of living experience in Groveton, and I know everything there is to know about the town,” he said. “I’m tired of the way things are — not happy with the status quo. The dirt streets are a problem, and I think no one is getting adequate representation for the tax money they pay.

“It’s ridiculous we don’t have a better place to live,” he said. “We should have decent roads and adequate law enforcement. This is messed up. Our city has been run into the ground for the last 50 years.”

McFarland said he worked for TxDOT for 12 years and know how roads should be built, so he said he wants to focus on streets, along with the water system, emergency preparedness and “get the employees situation straightened out so they can do their work without having their hands tied.”

“I’ve been met with huge opposition because I want to build streets out of concrete; it would be easy to do, and we can make our own cement and use our own materials,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s too expensive, but it’s not.”

Dwane Alsbrooks

“We’ve got a lot of problems with city streets and our water, and possibly I can bring some knowledge to the table and help the situation out,” said candidate Dwane Alsbrooks.

Alsbrooks said he wants to focus on streets and the water and sewer system — all city infrastructure.

He said that his 30 years of road-building experience, and having been in business for 30-plus years, gives him the background to not waste the tax dollars the city has, and fix the maintenance that’s been done on the streets, which he said has been done wrong.

•Early voting began Monday, April 19, at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St., and will end Tuesday, April 27. Polls on May 1 will open at 7 a.m.

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Trinity County reverses stand

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042221 countyTONY FARKAS | TCNS County Judge Doug Page is surrounded by SAAFE House members Rana Wingo, Tracy Szymczak and Renee Murphy as the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month on April 23.

By Tony Farkas

GROVETON — With the exception of one commissioner, the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court approved personnel changes — including pay raises — at its Tuesday meeting.

After a raucous meeting on March 23, the commission denied approval of any personnel action forms because they contained pay raises.

Commissioner Mike Loftin said at the time that during the budget season last year, the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal.

At the April 13 meeting, Loftin questioned the source of the raises, noting that none will increase the bottom line of department budgets.

“As long as the budget’s not changing, it is OK,” Loftin said. “We face something we’ve never faced because of COVID — people lost their jobs — and that was the concern that I had. We didn’t know how much tax revenue we would be gaining, and we didn’t need to be eating up our savings.”

He also said he found out that tax collections are very close to last year’s levels.

Commissioner Neal Smith said that now is not the time to be giving raises.

“Since I’ve been on the court, we’ve given raises ever year except last year,” he said. “Now, we’re jumping around and giving this one a little, and that one a little, and that’s not fair, and every month they’re coming in for more and more.”

Smith said the requests will start coming in from all departments requesting raises, and while he is not against paying employees more, he is against approving raises at this time.

Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Loftin. Smith was the only commissioner voting against the measure.

Commissioner Steven Truss said that regardless of the outcome of the vote, there needed to be some organization regarding pay raises across the board, suggesting there be a scale instituted, much like there is at the state level.

Smith agreed, saying that he is aware that some starting employees are hired making more that people who have been with the county for 30 years or more, and that pay needs to be fair.

“I’m not against people making more money, but we need to be equal about this,” he said.

The court agreed, and approved the payment of $5,000 for an outside firm to conduct an employee compensation study, which will also provide suggestions for a scale as well as determine how employees’ salaries stack up to state averages.

In other business, the county:

  • proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Trinity County;
  • proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month;
  • approved a budget amendment moving funds into vehicle maintenance after the city received insurance money to fix the wrecked Sheriff’s Department vehicle;
  • approved a measure allowing the county to hire for a cleanup of phone and IT cables and the addition of three wifi access points in the County Annex;
  • approved closing a bank account the county no longer used;
  • approved hiring a part-time clerk to hand filing and processing of notices for nuisance abatements;
  • approved the purchase of several used vehicles from the Texas Forest Service;
  • approved a road use agreement for Precinct 1; and
  • approved a replat of lots on Merrywood Drive
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70 years and counting

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041521 anniversary 1COURTESY PHOTO Benjamin Malrey Pyle and Mary Ellen Hartman

Couple celebrates ‘Platinum Jubilee’

Special to the News-Standard

GROVETON — The key to a happy marriage is to love and cherish each other completely and always be respectful of each other's differences, something Ben and Mary Pyle took to heart and nurtured — 70 years ago.

Benjamin Malrey Pyle and Mary Ellen Hartman tied the knot after knowing each other for about seven weeks on March 23, 1951, and have been side-by-side since.

This was in spite of naysayers; Ellen's mother was skeptical about their marriage and said, "it will never last.” The couple smiled, knowing their love would survive any of life's storms.

Benjamin and Mary met in the home of a friend, Bettyy Scott Tripp, when Ben was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed at Cherry Point, N.C.; Ellen lived at home in Alliance, N.C. with her mother and stepfather, Fairy and Nathan Miller, and worked as a stenographer.

Ben escorted her home that evening, and they arranged for a date on the following weekend. The rest is history.

Ellen's uncle, Saint Elmo Harper, A Baptist minister, performed the ceremony in his home in Grantsboro, N.C., and at her request, sang "Amazing Grace" in his beautiful tenor voice. His wife, Aunt Nancy, accompanied him in her sweet voice.

Ben's best friend, Jack Wroten, a fellow Marine from Tyler, served as best man, and Ellen's friend Betty, served as matron of honor.

The newlyweds honeymooned in historic Richmond, Va., where Ellen had lived until the age of 12.

The Pyles have two wonderful sons, their lovely wives and one lovely granddaughter.

The family members are Malrey Nathan Pyle, his wife, Jan, and their daughter, Madison, and Dwight Dana Pyle and his wife, Sharon.

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Saving Children

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041521 child abuse 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS County officials, area residents and representatives of child agencies release balloons on Thursday to commemorate Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

Area agencies show support during Child Abuse Prevention Month
 
By Tony Farkas

GROVETON — Children are the country’s most valuable resource, and deserve all the support and protection they can get.

Representatives from Kalin’s Center, the Groveton Police Department, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, CASA and numerous county officers marked the occasion on Thursday with information, a flag raising, and a balloon launch.

Kalin’s Center Executive Director Angela Cross said that across Houston and Trinity counties, there are more than 260 children in foster care for reasons dealing with sexual and physical abuse and neglectful supervision.

Cross said it takes a team to deal with child abuse.

“It starts with law enforcement, which usually gets the calls and do the investigations; Child Protective Services investigates, places children and does follow-up care,” she said. “The school usually make the initial reports, so thank a teacher.”

Team members also include Kalin’s Center, which works with all agencies to make sure no child falls through the cracks; therapists who work with the children to help them deal with the trauma; medical staff who take care of physical maladies; prosecutors and judges make decision and punish offenders; CASA sees children through the courts as their advocates; Child Welfare boards provide for the children in foster care; foster families who care for children; and the community for its support of all these agencies.

“We need to pray for our children,” she said. “It’s important for them in this day and time.”

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Trinity County gets pushback

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CountysealFILE PHOTO Trinity County seal

Concern about contract for vehicles results in argument, no action

By Tony Farkas

GROVETON — Concerns raised by the Trinity County Treasurer over a contract for Sheriff’s Office vehicles with Enterprise Fleet two weeks ago led to a battle between elected officials on March 23.

It also led to Sheriff Woody Wallace asserting his sole authority over the Sheriff’s Office, saying he was the only one to decide what vehicles he and his deputies will drive, and that the Commissioners Court’s only responsibilities were to provide vehicle replacements and approve finances.

He also said the court has been less than supportive in the matter.

Wallace also cautioned Treasurer Bob Dockens about meddling in areas that are not of his concern, saying that according to the State Constitution, that was a crime.

“These people in this room, they elected me sheriff,” Wallace said before a packed courtroom. “They did not elect Bob (Dockens) sheriff. It’s my job as sheriff to operate this department.

“My authority is granted by the constitution as to what I can and cannot do. when one elected official interferes with another elected official he has committed a crime for trying to influence another office. You cannot do it.

Commissioner Neal Smith said he put the item on the agenda today because questions have been raised over the last month regarding the contract, and that Wallace brought the contract forward because no one could not buy vehicles as the manufacturers had shut down production.

He also said there is no one on the court more supportive of the department; he said that everything Wallace has asked for he has gotten, and that day’s discussion, and another item to purchase vehicles outright, should indicate that.

Addressing the meeting, which was moved to the grand courtroom because of the crowd, Dockens said that at a Commissioners Court meeting two weeks ago, he brought up concerns after he was asked by the auditor to take a look at the contract, basically regarding the interest rate being charged and actual vehicle ownership.

Dockens also said he was told by Wallace at the last meeting that if he could find some vehicles, he should; Wallace interrupted, saying he was being facetious.

However, Dockens said he talked with several dealers in the area that had vehicles ready to go.

“All I was doing was exploring if there were other places that had vehicles ready, because if we can buy them then let’s do that,” Dockens said.

Wallace disputed that account, saying the information he received from the same dealers was the vehicles were 90 days out. He also was adamant about being the only one to run his department; saying the Sheriff decides what the Sheriff’s Department drives.

Dockens said he only got involved because he was asked to look into it and because his office is in charge of risk management.

“I have a problem with one man getting you to cancel a contract that we’ve already signed,” Wallace said. “I have a problem with anyone getting involved; this is between me and this court.

“The commissioners can only tell me what I can spend,” Wallace said. “They cannot tell me what I can or cannot drive. The people of the county deserve officers that operate in safe vehicles that are not worn out or subject to crash. It’s a known fact that in the automotive world that vehicles wear out at 150,000 miles. We operate vehicles at 120 mph every day.”

County Attorney Colton Hay said he was asked to review the contract by Dockens, and to “get ahead of” some misinformation provided by Dockens, he did the review.

Hay said he thought the contract was standard and a good deal, and since the contract has been signed, work has been done by Enterprise.

“If we back out of this contract because Dockens has cold feet, even though he was not in on the contract from the beginning, that could potentially cost us everything they’ve spent without any of the benefits,” Hay said. “I urge you to remember you agreed to it, and nothing’s changed except one person got involved that wasn’t in on it at the beginning and didn’t understand it all because it was not his department.

“I don’t think this is too good to be true,” Hay said.

Commissioner Tommy Park, a former law enforcement officer, said he took things upon himself to find answers for the questions the court and treasurer had, and then relayed those answers to everyone concerned.

Smith said that no action was needed on his agenda item as he withdrew his objections; however, he said that in the future, there will be no votes whatsoever until everything is understood by the court.

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