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Trinity County News 2

Trinity County Sheriff warns of future funding crises

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Countyseal 250 08192121By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace told the Commissioners’ Court that unless something is done, there will be a population problem at the county jail.

At a budget workshop during the regular Commissioners’ Court meeting on Aug. 10, Wallace said there were two areas of his budget that needed additional funding — the jail and vehicles.

Wallace said that even though the office contracted with Enterprise Fleet earlier this year, all vehicles are on back-order, and he believes the county should put in additional funds for purchases — at least $125,000 — even if they continue with the lease program.

Currently, the fleet of Sheriff’s Office vehicles are averaging 200,000 to more than 300,000 miles driven, he said, and they need 10 patrol vehicles and two transport vans.

Wallace also said that all of the jails this county contracts with to house prisoners has informed him that they cannot take any more. Also, most counties are looking to increase their per day jail fees, some up to $75 per day.

“We are fixing to be in a huge bind,” he said.

Wallace said that years ago, he mentioned that the county will need to build a jail, but was told to wait until the funds for courthouse renovations were repaid. That was done this year, he said.

“If we’re going to operate the little jail we have, we need repairs; everything about it is old,” he said. 

Wallace said he had no solutions, and was looking for guidance.

Separately, the county tabled two items pertaining to the FY 2021-22 budget: approval of the property list from the County Appraisal District, and approval of a new salary schedule, which Commissioner Neal Smith, who was chairing the meeting in County Judge Doug Page’s absence, said needed some tweaking before approval.

In other business, the county:

  • approved a title change for 911 Addressing Coordinator Jolynn Wars to be in line with DETCOG;
  • appointed County Treasurer Bob Dockens as the county’s representative for the U.S. Department of Treasury Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds;
  • declared 10 lots in the Trinity Cove subdivision as public nuisances;
  • approved bids of $40,079 and $6,950 for Waters Construction for chip and seal paving of Pinecrest Drive;
  • approved an agreement between Road District 3 and Darren Smith for rock and clay;
  • approved the addition of about ½ mile of Reggie Lane to the Precinct 1 road inventory;
  • approved the annual agreement with Lubbock County for a public defender for capital cases;
  • approved optional county road and bridge fees;
  • designated County Commissioner Mike Loftin as supervisor to any grant administrator hired by the county; and
  • drew lots of county employee names for a salary grievance committee.
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Crash claims life of Trinity resident

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011A7237 1000Special to the News-Standard

TRINITY — One person died and one injured as law enforcement officials on Tuesday worked to investigate three separate vehicle accidents in Trinity County.

James Golden, 75, of Trinity, died as the result of a two-vehicle crash on State Highway 94 about 2 1/2 miles east of Trinity.

According to DPS reports, a 2000 Ford pickup was traveling eastbound on 94 collided with a 2021 Dodge pickup, which was traveling westbound, at about 5 p.m. 

Golden, the driver of the Ford, reportedly drove off the roadway to the right, overcorrected back to the left and traveled into the westbound lane where it was struck by the Dodge.

Golden was transported to Huntsville Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Dodge is identified as Richard Herring, 31, of Conroe. Herring was transported to Conroe Regional Hospital for treatment.

Later on Tuesday, a two-vehicle crash occurred at about 6:50 p.m. on FM 356, about 2 1/2 miles south of FM 355.

Reports indicate a 2016 Kia SUV driven by Jennifer Slade, 51, of Groveton, was traveling northbound, while a 2004 GMC pickup pulling a trailer, driven by Daniel Leonard, 25, of Huntsville, was traveling southbound. 

Leonard attempted to enter a local business parking lot and turned left when unsafe, and the Kia collided with the trailer.

Neither driver was injured in the crash.

At about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, a 2001 Toyota pickup driven by Curtis White, 47, of Kennard, was traveling westbound, while a 2012 Dodge van driven by Jerrilyne Wathey, 71, of Glendale, Ariz., reportedly failed to yield right of way from a private drive and drove into the roadway, causing White to take evasive action to the right, where he drove off the roadway and struck a culvert.

White was not injured, reports indicate.

All accidents remain under investigation.

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Ready to play - Trinity Marching Band season also starting

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A little water from a firehose keeps the bad cool during marching practice.A little water from a firehose keeps the bad cool during marching practice.

By Tony Farkas
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TRINITY — It’s almost time for Friday Night Lights, which means not only will there be the sound of pads clashing, but there will be musical entertainment as well — just as much anticipated as the game.

The Trinity Tiger Marching Band will take the field on Aug. 27 for the first performance of this year’s halftime show, and Team Captain and Senior Zoey Gray is looking forward to it. 

Band 01 250VThis year, the band will play “Rise of the Phoenix,” a compilation of several classical pieces arranged by Doug Moore, Drum Major and fellow Senior Andi Hickman said.

Andi said the group started drills last week after two weeks of band camp, and will perform in front of a crowd at first home game on Aug. 27.

The two seniors believe the band will do extremely well this year.

“We have a very young band this year — about half of the band are sophomores or younger,” Andi said. “We have about eight juniors and seniors. The lower classmen have come along so much and I’m so proud of them. They’re amazing musicians that learn more and more every day.”

“I think our team is amazing, in all honesty,” Zoey said. “We get along like a family.”

As well as a positive feeling about the band’s prospects, both seniors say this season and school year will be bittersweet.

Band 03 250V“I have a lot of friends; these people are my family,” Zoey said. “But I’m glad to be a senior because I get to move forward in life.”

Zoey said that after she graduates, it’s off to college to study veterinary science.

Andi will “hopefully” be going to Texas A&M to study neuroscience.

“I feel very content in my journey here, but it’s sad to leave the people I’ve been closest to for years,” she said.

Till then, the team leaders hope to advance as far as it can.

Band 04 250VIt’s our year to advance, so we will go to UIL,” Zoey said. “We will need an overall 1 rating to advance to area competition.”

I’d like to think we’d make area, but it depends on how the other bands perform, but I would love to get area before I move on,” Andi said. “We are double ahead of where we were last year. We just have to keep the work ethic up.”

Photos by Tony Farkas/TCNS

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Trinity County Commissioners, sheriff spar over pay raises

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TrinityCountyseal 250By Tony Farkas

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GROVETON — A request for pay raises for dispatchers and jailers by Sheriff Woody Wallace touched off an argument over timing and budgets.

At the July 27 meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court, Wallace had submitted requests for four employees, currently making between $9-$10 per hour, to be paid $14 per hour.

While initially against the raises, the county relented and approved a $12 per hour rate, but not before tempers flared.

“We’re taxing the people, we might as well pay our people better salaries,” Wallace said. “Is there any opposition to that, or do we want to defund the police by not funding them properly? Because that’s what we’re doing.”

Wallace said that neighboring counties are paying $14 per hour, and his employees are looking elsewhere.

However, the county had just commissioned a salary study, which was to be incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget, which becomes effective Oct. 1, two months away.

Commissioner Mike Loftin said he calculated that to begin paying these employees now as opposed to Oct. 1 would cost the county $5,331.

Wallace countered, saying that these employees are answering 911 calls, taking hundreds of calls a day while dealing with walk-ins, all in a stressful environment.

“I welcome anyone to come over and sit through a 12-hour shift and see if you would do it for $9 an hour,” he said.

Commissioner Steven Truss said that the new budget will take effect in October, but Wallace said he will lose several employees before then, and has no applicants for open positions now.

“They are starving to death; this is wrong,” Wallace said. “I don’t understand why we are against paying the females of this county a little money.”

Commissioner Tommy Park said that several months ago, the county denied a raise for a 30-plus-year employee, and if they were to approve raises now, they needed to approve that one as well; Loftin said that they would then have to provide raises for every county employee.

Commissioner Neal Smith said that someone in the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t paying attention to the people, citing a 2014 agreement made between the Sheriff and the Trinity Police Department to hire dispatchers at $10, made to stop employees from swapping jobs.

Wallace said that he’s not asking for the county to borrow money, but to have some compassion for its employees.

County Judge Doug Page said that with the new salary survey in place, there was going to be some good increases within the new budget for dispatchers and jailers in the new budget cycle.

Smith also said that last year, the Sheriff’s Office was $159,000 over budget in the jail, and this year is tracking to be $100,000 over, and that Wallace should manage his department better. Wallace said that since he took office, the county no longer has to borrow funds to run the jail, and he’s just asking for a few thousand dollars to pay his people.

Since a new dispatcher was hired at $12, commissioners unanimously approved raises for other employees at the same rate.

In other business, the county:

  • declared office equipment as surplus and salvage;
  • approved the sale of three pickup trucks from Precinct 3 by sealed bid;
  • discussed the quarterly audit;
  • approved the FY 2020 audit, which was given an unmodified opinion;
  • approved a lease for a copier for the Sheriff’s Office; and
  • held budget workshops for county departments.
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Accident victims identified

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trinity sheriif 1000

Special to the News-Standard

TRINITY — While the details surrounding the July 23 death of two men near White Rock City Marina remains unknown, they have been identified.

Bruce Devlyn Sutton, no age given, of Point Blank, and Eric Franklin Womack, no age given, of Trinity, were found dead.

The bodies of the two men were recovered Friday after officers responded to a caller reporting a body floating on a private lake near the marina, according to police reports.

Deputies and game wardens retrieved the body, and officers noticed what appeared to be vehicle tracks leading into the water.

Game wardens were able to use the sonar on a boat to locate a vehicle submerged in about 12 feet of water. A second man was discovered inside the truck that was pulled from the lake by a wrecker service.

DPS Troopers were called to investigate, and Justice of the Peace Lyle Stubbs pronounced the two dead at the scene.

The investigation continues, and autopsies were ordered to determine the cause of death, the reports state.

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