MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Dwayne Alsbrook and Autumn Dial attend the drawing ceremony for ballot placement on Monday at Groveton City Hall. The two have filed for candidacy for the two council positions up for election on Groveton City Council. The election will be held May 1, 2021.
Trinity County cities and schools to hold elections
By Tony Farkas
As the county creeps out from under a blanket of snow, business resumes, and that includes the business of the respective governments in the area.
For this year, that means city and school board elections, all scheduled for May 1.
In Groveton, Superintendent Don Hamilton said that three people have filed for election to the Groveton School Board: incumbent members Benny Abshier and Board President Mark Folds, and newcomer Sam Shanafelt.
Early voting will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. April 19-23 and April 26-27 at the School Administration Building, 207 N. Main St., in Groveton.
At the City of Groveton, two incumbents — Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett and Council Member Tommy Walton — have filed for the mayor position, which came open due to the passing of Mayor Byron Richards.
For the two remaining council positions up for election, six residents have filed: Chris McFarland, Philip Schmitten, Autumn Dial, Dwayne Alsbrook, Mark Taylor and incumbent Council Member Robert Smith.
Early voting will take place from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 19-27, with April 20-21 set aside for voting from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Ballots can be cast at Groveton City Hall, 115 W. Front St.
MARLENA STUBBLEFIELD | TCNS Council Member Tommy Walton (right) and Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett will face off in a spring election for the position of Mayor of Groveton. Early voting for the May 1 election is scheduled for April 19 at City Hall.
In the City of Trinity, both the city and school district will not have to hold elections, as only incumbent members of their respective boards have filed for candidacy.
For the city, Mayor Pro Tem Billy Goodin and Council Member Phillip Morrison are unopposed, and will resume their positions for the next term.
For the Trinity ISD School Board, incumbent members Judy Bishop and Elizabeth King also are unchallenged and will retain their posts.
School districts in Apple Springs and Centerville do not have elections scheduled.
PHOTO BY TONY FARKAS TxDOT employee Wayne Byers spreads a compound to help melt ice and snow.
By Tony Farkas
From rescheduling certain sporting events to clearing roads of dangerous conditions, workers at local, county and state levels as well as possible, given the nature of the weather event that shut the area down last week.
Trinity City Manager Steven Jones called the weather last week unprecedented, and while water pressure was a problem at first, it was handled within a matter of hours.
“The Trinity water system is up and running,” he said. “Other than people having personal problems, all is good with us. Our system was prepared for this; what happened was a mechanical function, a pump, which was repaired within a couple of hours, and a pipe burst which was fixed right away.”
PHOTO BY PHILIP SCHMITTEN Apple Springs resident and neighbor Dreux Land distributes some water to the folks in Groveton who are still without. Good neighbors and great citizenship are what help make this a wonderful place to live.
The city wells did perform, and any lapse in service was because of problems with Trinity River Authority equipment.
Throughout the county, TxDOT scraped roads and applied a compound to melt the ice.
Groveton Acting Mayor Ralph Bennett was out as long as possible each day, helping where he could, and inspecting streets for signs of water breaks.
There was a major line break and Fourth and Crow streets, and Bennett asked residents to call the city if they suspect there are more water leaks.
All area of town should have water restored by Wednesday, he said.
Area schools from Apple Springs to Trinity went to remote learning and were closed for the week, although in Groveton, the school was on its winter break and only had to cancel some sporting events.
Apple Springs Superintendent Cody Moree said he decided Feb. 12 to switch to remote learning for two days in light of forecasts, and then extended it through Monday.
“Our greatest concern was for our students and families who spent extended time without power, heat and water,” Moree said. “But we are looking forward to getting back to face to face learning ASAP.”
Centerville Superintendent Mark Brown also closed the campus, and while the first two days featured remote learning, the district will file an inclement waiver with the state to excuse the remaining three days.
Trinity ISD was closed through Tuesday, and was to resume classes Wednesday, according to Superintendent John Kaufman.
PHOTO BY TONY FARKAS TxDOT employee Keith Rogers uses a front-end loader to remove snow and ice near the intersection of Main and FM 355 in Groveton.
Other than two small water line breaks, there was minimal damage to the facilities, he said.
The biggest obstacle, though, was delays in the delivery of food and milk to the cafeteria, and drinkable water was in high demand and short supply.
“We could have opened the district on Monday, but we have many students and staff members who are still without water, and I wanted to give our community and staff a few more days to try and recover,” Kaufman said. “This was a very damaging storm to our community and effected everyone in our town. The school district is very aware of the needs of our families and want to be very sympathetic to their concerns. I would like to thank the community for being patient and working with us as we try and navigate through these difficult times.”
In a news release, Entergy Texas expected all customers who can safely take power were able to turn the lights on by the end of the business day on Friday.
At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott, after issuing an emergency declaration for all Texas counties on Feb. 14, on Saturday announced that President Joe Biden approved a partial emergency declaration for Texas.
FEMA added 33 Texas counties to the list on Monday, but Trinity County was not included at that time.
Additionally, Abbott temporarily waived regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in the response to winter weather and power outages throughout the state.
These waivers allowed commercial vehicles to travel in Texas as long as the vehicle is registered elsewhere and doing emergency response.
These waivers are helping increase the delivery of water, food, and other supplies to Texas communities dealing with power and water outages.
PHOTO BY PHILIP SCHMITTEN Trinity County Judge Doug Page looks on as Apple Sprints resident helps some of the waterless victims of Groveton with a helping hand, distributing free water to those who are in need.
“As we continue to bring power and water back online throughout the state, it is essential that we deliver the food, water, and supplies that Texans need during these challenging times,” Abbott said. “These waivers will help us provide more of these vital resources to communities across the state and ensure that Texas families have the supplies they need to stay safe as we work to overcome this emergency.”
Since the Legislature is in session this year, Abbott added a mandate for the winterization of Texas' power system to the list of emergency items the state must tackle.
Abbott also requested a Major Disaster Declaration — which includes Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program — from the White House. This declaration will allow eligible Texans to apply for assistance to help address broken pipes and related property damage.
The state is also working to distribute food, water, generators, and additional supplies to Texas communities, and warming centers are established every day. For winter weather resources, including a map of warming centers and ways to help Texans in need, visit: https://open.texas.gov/winter
Expressing concern about financial challenges Texans will face as a result of the winter storm, Abbott will address the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market.
The meeting include committee leaders, including Sen. Robert Nichols, who represents San Jacinto County.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees public utilities, prioritized natural gas deliveries for human needs with an emergency order on Feb. 12, and recently extended it through Tuesday.
This action helps ensure the availability of gas supplies to gas-fired generation facilities in Texas during this critical period. The Commission took this action to help protect public health and safety during this extreme weather event.
TRINITY — July 3, a Saturday, will be the day for Trinity’s Fourth of July celebration.
The Trinity City Council approved the Saturday date at its regular meeting on Thursday.
Based on Mayor Wayne Huffman’s recommendation, the council agreed that should weather cancel the show, it will be done the following Saturday, July 10.
The council also approved expenditures recommended by the Trinity Economic and Industrial Development Corp., part of which will benefit the holiday display.
TEIDC President Neal Smith said the board approved the payment of $9,300 for the fireworks display.
Additionally, TEIDC will pay the city’s match portion of $75,000 for a grant that will allow the city to install sidewalks on city streets.
Smith also told council members that the industrial park it purchased last year has billboards, which should be paying some sort of lease to the city. However, he is not aware of any such payments made as of yet.
In other business, the city:
•turned in signed contracts with the Trinity River Authority, to ensure the city’s water supply for about 30 years. In addition, Glendale and Trinity Rural municipalities have expressed interest in buying water from Trinity, and contracts will be available at the next meeting; and
COURTESY PHOTO BY TERRI GARVIN Dylan Knight and Chase Knight measure the snowfall on Monday.
The area has been hit with record low temperatures and uncharacteristic snowfall, and Trinity County came to a standstill on Monday.
Schools have been closed at least through Tuesday; roads have been closed, and electric utilities have been forced to start rolling blackouts to stave off a larger blackout because of the huge demand put on the electric grid.
The possibility of a second winter storm bearing down on the region exists as well.
According to Trinity County Emergency Management, about 1,130 people were without power, mainly due to the overloaded electric service and the Montgomery County Power Station being down.
Trinity County Emergency Management opened a warming shelter in the Apple Springs area for anyone in need, and opened the VFW in Trinity as well.
Anyone feeling they are in need of the service can contact Justice of the Peace Richard Steptoe, Constable Brian McMullen, County Judge Doug Page or Apple Springs Chief Brett Selman.
According to The Weather Channel, Winter Storm Uri spread brought heavy snow and damaging ice to parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast. Winter Storm Viola has already begun in the West and will be right behind #Uri, bringing significant snowfall totals to many across the country this week. It is expected to bring snow to many of the same locations currently being hit by Uri.
COURTESY PHOTO BY KELLY DIAL 10-year-old Brance Dial enjoys some time in the snow.
Area road closures included:
•Highway 190 Trinity River Bridge shut down
•Highway 59 Trinity River Bridge heavy ice over roadway
•FM 223 to Stringtown Road heavy ice over road
•FM 1514 Heavy ice over the roadway
•FM 1725 heavy ice
•East Fork San Jacinto River Bridge on FM 495 heavy ice
•FM 2025/FM 2666 to Highway 150 iced over
•FM 946 South and Highway 156 iced over.
COURTESY PHOTO BY CHELSIE JO COOK Roads are beautiful, but dangerous, after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow in Texas.
TxDOT is encouraging motorists from traveling across the nine-county Lufkin District during the winter weather.
As of Monday, the Lufkin District currently had 170 employees working 12-hour shifts to monitor and address trouble spots as they arise, utilizing more than 125 pieces of equipment. Pre-treatment of roadways began on Friday.
“We want people to be aware that driving surfaces will freeze and we are doing all we can to prepare the roadways, but even with a brine mixture, if we experience the low temperatures they have predicted, roads will still freeze,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer. “I don’t think there is enough manpower to cover the more than 7,000 road miles in the Lufkin District with a brine mixture but we are doing our best. We have focused our attention on major roadways, state highways and farm roads, but we should remember that Mother Nature is and will always be undefeated. It is up to us to prepare our homes, our families and ourselves to stay safe.”
Crews will re-treat all major roadways as needed if conditions continue to decline, since additional moisture will re-freeze road surfaces after the initial downfall of snow and ice.
“Pre-treatment with a brine solution can reduce the temperature at which water freezes and assists with reducing the bond of ice to the roadway, but it does not guarantee that ice will not form,” Oaks said. “There will be patches of ice on local roads, even on roads that have been treated. If you must drive, motorists should reduce speed and stay alert. But because this is an unprecedented weather event, TxDOT is urging drivers to stay home and travel only if absolutely necessary.”
TCNS FILE PHOTO Groveton ISD Superintendent Don Hamilton (right) will be retiring effective Aug. 31, and Board President Mark Folds (left) and fellow board members selected Assistant Superintendent Jim Dillard as his replacement at a special meeting on Feb. 8.
By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — The Groveton ISD School Board settled on a finalist for the upcoming superintendent vacancy at a special meeting on Feb. 8.
Jim Dillard, who currently serves as the district’s assistant superintendent, will assume the top spot in September, after the retirement of current Superintendent Don Hamilton.
Board President Mark Folds said Hamilton had some challenges and tough calls, but he had the backbone to make them.
Folds cited the improvements to the baseball fields, the cafeteria and other items as proof of Hamilton’s dedication and service.
“We are pleased with his work,” Folds said.
Don Hamilton is retiring Aug. 31 after eight years as superintendent and 34 years as an educator, 31 of which were in the Groveton district.
“I told them 2 years ago (when my contract was renewed) that this would be my last year,” he said.
Hamilton said he was looking for a little time off, mostly to spend working on his ranch and spending time with grandsons.
“We have done a lot of construction on the facilities, and we were named one of the top schools in America by U.S. News and World Report,” Hamilton said of his accomplishments. “We’ve had FCCLA students who have advanced to nationals, and won, we’ve had ag students excel at Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show, and Beta Club has advanced to nationals several times.
“I hope I left the place better than when I got here,” he said.
Folds said that aside from Dillard being the lone finalist, he also was the lone applicant, but has the board’s full support.
Dillard has been in education since 2014, and started in the Groveton district as assistant principal for the junior/senior high school.