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Trinity County News - Breakout

Jail problems mount for county

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Trinity Countyseal 200By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — The dilapidated jail is becoming worse, and county officials were told by Sheriff Woody Wallace that the county is running out of options.

“We’re out of compliance. We have a liability issue,” Wallace said. “If we’re found out of compliance, that opens up a whole lot of lawsuits against us.

“It’s a sinking ship,” he said.

Wallace said he has been in contact with state agencies, and has been told the county is not abiding by jail standards, and essentially, it has 90 days to get it fixed.

“We’ve had other issues,” he said. “With overcrowding, multiple times we’ve had to keep more people that we’re allowed to in that jail, because other jails are not taking inmates because they’re shut down over COVID. Last week, there was a problem with a sewage line at the jail, and raw sewage leaked out. then there was another backup that flooded the dispatch area and sewage started backing up in the sink.”

County Attorney Colton Hay said that in his discussions with the state, it has come to light that while the Trinity County Jail has been grandfathered in to hold prisoners, it is currently barely meeting standards. 

Wallace said he recommends building a temporary structure while waiting for the Jail Commission to come up with a plan for a new facility, but is willing to accept any ideas.

“We can build any temporary structure we want, as long as we can prove we can keep them there,” he said. “We can use COVID money because it’s an emergency situation. We can build a dormitory structure, and it will allow us to pull inmates out of that and other jails, and we can use it for three years.”

Wallace cautioned that in addition to the facility, five full-time employees will have to be hired to run it. He also said that the state said there needs to be action on a new jail.

County Commissioner Neal Smith said he would prefer to purchase and renovate an existing structure to not spend county money on property not owned by the county.

Wallace will begin looking for existing structures to build a temporary structure, and present options at the next county meeting. However, he stressed that the county must build a new permanent facility, as the temporary facility is a one-time deal.

Wallace also was directed to look at relocating the dispatch office.

In a related matter, the county will begin using the web-based Nixle for public information purposes for county residents.

In other business, the court:

• approved official bonds for Lenore Martinez and Molly Ware;

• approved personnel action forms;

• approved seeking bids for a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck the county has for sale; and

• tabled a request from the Apple Springs VFD seeking $7,500 for repairs.

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Candidates, voters get cozy

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Candidates and constituents mingle during a Republican Party candidate forum held Thursday at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton. Photo by Tony Farkas/TCNSCandidates and constituents mingle during a Republican Party candidate forum held Thursday at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton. Photo by Tony Farkas/TCNS

By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — Republican candidates for Trinity County positions stumped at the first of three forums presented by the Trinity County Republican Party.

GOP Party Chairman Scott Womack said these events are done during election cycles to get the word out to the people about the candidates.

“One of the most important things we have in this country is the right to vote and to elect our representatives,” Womack said. “Sometimes that’s taken for granted by people just not getting involved.”

Womack said voters can see the candidates, listen to them speak and to make a decision based on that and their own research.

“It helps them find the best candidate that represents the values of themselves and the Republican Party,” he said. “This is done during the primary election cycle every two years.”

Two more meetings are scheduled; the next is at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Centerville school, and then at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at Trinity Café in Trinity. 

“Hopefully this will get the candidates enough exposure, and the people enough information,” he said.

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Updated property tax information available

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PropertyTax graphicNew and updated property tax information has just been compiled by the Trinity County Appraisal District and is available now to assist taxpayers. This property tax information is current and covers a wide range of topics, such as taxpayer remedies, exemptions and appraisals, and has information for select groups, such as disabled veterans and persons age 65 or older. “Whether you are a homeowner, business owner, disabled veteran or taxpayer, it’s important you know your rights concerning the property tax laws.” said Mr. Gallant, Chief Appraiser.

“You can contact us about any property tax issues with full confidence that we will provide you the most complete, accurate and up-to-date information available to assist you.” This includes information about the following programs.

• Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans - The law provides partial exemptions for any property owned by disabled veterans or surviving spouses and surviving children of deceased disabled veterans. Another partial exemption is for homesteads donated to disabled veterans by charitable organizations at no cost or not more than 50 percent of the good faith estimate of the homestead’s market value to disabled veterans and their surviving spouses.

The exemption amount is determined according to percentage of service-connected disability. The law also provides a 100 percent homestead exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans and their surviving spouses and surviving spouses of U.S. armed service members killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.

• Property Tax Exemptions - Non-profit organizations that meet statutory requirements may seek property tax exemptions and must apply to their local appraisal district by a specific date. Businesses that receive tax abatements granted by taxing units; ship inventory out of Texas that may be eligible for the freeport exemption; store certain goods in transit in warehouses that are moved within 175 days; construct, install or acquire pollution control property; own and operate energy storage systems; convert landfill-generated gas; or store offshore drilling equipment while not in use may also be eligible for statutory exemptions.

•Rendering Taxable Property - If a business owns tangible personal property that is used to produce income, the business must file a rendition with its local appraisal district by a specified date. Personal property includes inventory and equipment used by a business. Owners do not have to render exempt property such as church property or an agriculture producer’s equipment used for farming

•Appraisal Notices - Normally, taxpayers receive a notice of appraised value from the appropriate local appraisal district. The city, county, school districts and other local taxing units use the appraisal district’s value to set property

taxes for the coming year . . • Property Taxpayer Remedies - This Comptroller publication explains in detail how to protest a property appraisal, what issues the county appraisal review board (ARB) can consider and what to expect during a protest hearing. The publication also discusses the option to request limited binding arbitration to compel the ARB or chief appraiser to comply with a procedural requirement and the options of taking a taxpayer’s case to district court, the State Office of Administrative Hearings or binding arbitration if the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the outcome of the ARB hearing.

• Homestead Exemptions - A homestead is generally defined as the home and land used as the owner’s principal

residence on Jan. 1 of the tax year. A homestead exemption reduces the appraised value of the home and, as a

result, lowers property taxes. Applications are submitted to the appropriate local appraisal distric

•Productivity Appraisal - Property owners who use land for timberland production, agricultural purposes or wildlife

management can be granted property tax relief on their land. They may apply to their local appraisal district for an

agricultural appraisal which may result in a lower appraisal of the land based on production, versus market value.

•Residence Homestead Tax Deferral - Texas homeowners may postpone paying the currently delinquent property

taxes due on the appreciating value of their homes by filing a tax deferral affidavit at their local county appraisal

district. This tax relief allows homeowners to pay the property taxes on 105 percent of the preceding year’s appraised

value of their homestead, plus the taxes on any new improvements to the homestead. The deferral postpones the

remaining taxes, with interest accruing at 8 percent per year but does not cancel them

• Property Tax Deferral for Persons Age 65 or Older Disabled or Disabled Veteran Homeowners - Texans who

are age 65 or older or disabled, as defined by law, or who qualify for a disabled veteran exemption may postpone

paying current and delinquent property taxes on their homes by signing a tax deferral affidavit. Once the affidavit is

on file, taxes are deferred, but not cancelled, as long as the owner continues to own and live in the home. Interest

continues to accrue at 5 percent per year on the unpaid taxes. You may obtain a deferral affidavit at the appraisal

district.

•Notice of Availability of Electronic Communication - In appraisal districts located in counties with a population of

more than 200,000 or that have authorized electronic communications, and that have implemented a system that

allows such communications, chief appraisers and ARBs may communicate electronically through email or other

media with property owners or their designated representatives. Written agreements are required for notices and

other documents to be delivered electronically instead of mailing.

•Protesting Property Appraisal Values - Property owners who disagree with the appraisal district’s appraisal of

their property for local taxes or for any other action that adversely affects them may protest their property value to the

appraisal district’s ARB.

•Informal Meetings - Property can request an informal meeting with appraisal district staff to try and resolve their

disputes prior to attending ARB hearings.

For more information about these programs, contact the Trinity County Appraisal District at 123 S Main Groveton,

Texas 936-642-1502 or 103 W Caroline Trinity, Texas 75862.lnformation is also available on the Comptroller’s

Property Tax Assistance Division’s website at comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/.

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Payments to stay at current level

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Trinity Countyseal 200TCNS staff

GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on Jan. 10 left mileage reimbursements at the level it has been for the last four years.

Commissioner Neal Smith, who chaired the meeting in the absence of County Judge Doug Page, said the county tries to keep its policies current with federal standards; County Auditor Bonnie Kennedy told commissioners the new standard was 58.8 cents per mile.

Currently, the county reimburses at 58 cents a mile.

Commissioner Mike Loftin said he felt it didn’t need to be changed, and moved to keep the rate the same, which was passed unanimously by the court. 

In other business, the county:

•discussed an ordinance passed by the city of Groveton requiring businesses and residences to post addresses according to 911 mapping requirements; and

•approved the cost of providing equipment for the recently purchased constable vehicles through CARES Act funds.

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Trinity talks trash trucks

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Trinity City SignBy Tony Farkas
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TRINITY — With an aging and mostly broke-down fleet of garbage trucks making service spotty, the Trinity City Council has opted to begin leasing new vehicles to solve its trash problems.

City Manager Steven Jones said that at the Jan. 10 meeting, council members approved leasing a 25-yard trash truck through Rush Trucking of San Antonio at a cost of $5,100 per month.

“On a four-year average, we were spending $4,300 a month on purchase and repairs of our fleet, which does not include tires and other regular maintenance,” Jones said. “(All that money) would get us three unreliable trucks.”

Currently, the city has two 20-yard trucks and one 25-yard truck. Of those, one of the smaller trucks needs an engine replacement and the larger truck has high mileage and trouble with loading. 

Leasing a new truck would be more reliable, and maintenance and breakdowns will be covered by warranty, Jones said. 

“Hopefully this will provide uninterrupted service,” he said. 

In a separate matter, the city discussed a sidewalk grant it has received, and that work is expected to start next month.

Given that work is expected to start in February, the city will start advertising for a contractor.

The grant is for $500,000 with a $75,000 match from the city. Plans include installing a new sidewalk on Railroad Street from Highway 94 to Brookshire Brothers, and well as widening the street to make it safer.

Jones said that if there are any affected water and sewer lines, they will be replaced as well.

In other business, the city:

•discussed an upgrade to the city’s camera system.

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