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Trinity County News - Breakout

New judge in town

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Danny Martin became the new judge for Trinity County on Jan. 1.  Photo by Marlena StubblefieldDanny Martin became the new judge for Trinity County on Jan. 1. Photo by Marlena Stubblefield

By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — Danny Martin assumed the County Judge position this month, a position he said is one of service.

“I want’s best for the county, and if that takes raking a yard on the weekends, that’s what I’ll do,” he said. “My door is always open, and if someone has an idea, I’m not bullheaded and I will listen.”

As well as getting everyone in the county moving the same way, a county judge, who should act as the governor of the community, also needs to fiscally prudent, or, as Martin said, “squeeze a dime to keep things low-cost.”

Martin has been a business owner for more than 42 years, the last three of which were building storage units. He also owns a propane company and sells and subdivides land, and is the former Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1.

Based on that, he said he would like to see the county grow, and all the cities in the county grow.

“At some point, we’re going to have to talk people into coming our way,” he said. “The lake is one asset we have going for us, and there’s cattle and some farming.”

Martin also said that logging is important in this part of the county, but is a double-edged sword; Trinity is ranked 163rd in the state for tax revenue, making it one of the poorest counties.

Taxes will become an even greater issue, particularly because the county needs to build a jail, he said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that for a jail, our tax base will go up,” he said. “I’ve contacted surrounding counties, and the overhead for running a jail runs about $1.4 million, and that doesn’t include the notes needed to build a jail.”

Given Trinity’s lack of available industry, such as in Angelina County, or oil and gas extraction, such as in Houston County, it makes financing things long-term and expensive, and that is only if a bond is approved by voters.

“It’s one of the biggest issues facing the county, and it’s a Catch-22 for the county,” he said.

On average, the cost to build a jail would add about 86 cents per $100 valuation to the current tax rate of 57 cents, which would strain a lot of landowners, Martin said. Additionally, the bond would have a 38-year term, but his research shows that a new jail’s life span is about 20 years.

For now, though, the county is in good shape, and Martin said his business background will be an asset.

“I’m a money man, and I’ve scrutinized the budget and found a few things to adjust to turn a negative into a positive,” he said.

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County looks to upgrade security camera

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Outgoing County Judge Doug Page swears in new Judge Danny Martin at an event on Sunday. COURTESY PHOTOOutgoing County Judge Doug Page swears in new Judge Danny Martin at an event on Sunday. COURTESY PHOTO

By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners Court approved an upgrade to a camera in the County Tax Office but held off on bids to upgrade the Courthouse’s current camera system.

At its regular meeting on Dec. 27, the county gave its OK on a new dome camera for the hallway, since the current camera only faces the front of the building. County Tax Assessor/Collector Nancy Shanafelt said there is a lot of activity in the back of the building, which contains voting machines and money.

Cost of the camera is $866.91.

Relatedly, Sean Luce, head of the county’s IT department, said there are issues with the current system in that the cameras are 10 to 11 years old and are low resolution and have no audio.

Additionally, two cameras recently replaced by Vector Security were of poor quality, after taking two months to happen.

The court tabled the matter.

In other business, the court:

•approved personnel action forms;

•approved extended loan agreements with Cadence Bank/Bancorp South for Mack trucks, which can’t be replaced until December 2023; and

•approved a bid for chip seal on Lake L Drive and Creekside Subdivision for $188,496.

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Top stories of 2022

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TopStory Stock

By Tony Farkas
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A city got older, a hospital got a new life and schools got new digs in 2022.

Other top stories include a summer of fires and a year of jail issues.

In October, the Trinity Memorial Hospital District board ended a five-year search by signing a lease agreement with a firm that will reopen the hospital.

MidCoast Health Systems will create the MidCoast Medical Center-Trinity.

Hospital Board President Randy Karnes said it was like a great weight being lifted from his shoulders, which had been there since East Texas Medical Center pulled up stakes in July 2017.

According to a press release from MCHS, the facility will be a full-service hospital for residents throughout the county, including surgery, rehabilitation, diagnostic services and WellCare clinic services.

Once up and running, the hospital would employ from 50 to 70 people.

MCHS started as a regional health care provider for the Texas Gulf Coast region, but now has expanded throughout the state to enhance rural health care. The company operates hospital facilities in El Campo, Palacios and Llano as well as 20 clinics. It has been recognized for its achievements and methods.

• • •

With fanfare, music, classic cars and historical displays, residents of Trinity celebrated the town’s 150th birthday in November.

Also as part of the event, there were booths and food, historical tours led by Dan Barnes, and cake that came with the burial of a time capsule.

Organizer Julia McMichael said it was her fervent hope to be around when the capsule was opened in 50 years, even though she’ll be 138 years old.

Included in the capsule is a copy of the Nov. 10, 2022, Trinity County News-Standard, a Trinity VFD badge, a Trinity Tiger football program and homecoming program, a listing of the Trinity Memorial Hospital Board, a People Magazine with a salute to Prince Charles, and a 2022 Houston Astros World Champions cap.

Additionally, there are toys, a COVID test kit and mask, and information about families that settled the area.

The day ended with numerous musical acts, as well as punch and cake.

• • •

A drier than normal summer combined with storms that produced lightning but no rain kept area firefighters busy.

In June, 207 acres of wooded land along Highway 94 was burned, breaking out a week after 25 acres in the same area caught fire

A separate fire on Highway 94 destroyed an abandoned home.

Fires broke out in Davy Crockett National Forest, and around Corrigan and even in the median of Highway 19. Additionally, an Onalaska man was arrested on arson charges for violating a county burn ban, and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office was investigating possible arson near Apple Springs.  

• • •

Throughout the year, Sheriff Woody Wallace had been discussing jail population and jailer staffing, telling the County Commissioners Court that a crisis could be brewing.

The Trinity County Jail can hold only seven prisoners, but the county averages 45 to 50 prisoners at any time, meaning it has to pay to have prisoners housed in other jails at a pretty high cost.

Other options explored included tent jails, temporary jail construction, and even using existing building for a new jail. The county ultimately will look into converting an old sewing factory into a 48-bed facility.

• • •

Both Apple Springs ISD and Centerville ISD got new ballfields — Centerville got a new baseball field and Apple Springs a newly refurbished football stadium.

Apple Springs installed new bleachers, a press box, a new field house, sidewalks and made the area ADA-compliant.

In Centerville, the school installed a new baseball diamond, complete with dugouts, fences, and a professional, manicured field. Until the construction of this field, the only home games played at the school were during basketball season.

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Ashby in new district

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Trent AshbyBy Tony Farkas
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While Rep. Trent Ashby’s district changed in 2022, his priorities at the State Legislature have not, and he looks to ensure Texas remains the beacon of prosperity it has become.

District 9, which used to be District 57, lost Leon and Madison counties, but gained Tyler and Polk counties. Ashby said this is because of the population growth the state.

One the issues at the top of the list is border security, which Ashby said is one he hears at all of his stops throughout the district.

“What’s going on is very concerning, and with the federal denial and abrogation of their responsibility, it’s up to us,” he said. “We will continue to build on what we’ve done and continue to fund our efforts down there.”

Two related issues dealing with property taxes also will be on the radar; Ashby said people are crying out for property tax relief, and to the extent that the state has a surplus coming into this session, Ashby said he hopes it will steer more funds toward schools.

Secondly, Ashby said that appraisal districts are out of control, and there needs to be some sort of, whether it be caps on increases or a complete redesign to the system, something to protect the property owners from this.

Ashby also said that aside from taxes, education should be the state’s top priority, and if the Legislature doesn’t get it right, nothing else matters.

“We will focus not only on the public school system, but on higher education as well,” he said. “My big concern is teacher shortage, and the Legislature will have to take a deep dive and build a pipeline to bring in more teachers.”

In light of that, all options are open, Ashby said, such as enhanced benefits, retirement improvements, and the STAAR test needs to be reined in and high-stakes testing needs to be addressed.

“This is common sense; we need to make it easier for districts to rehire former educators,” he said. “The state puts a penalty for districts to rehire former teachers, and I think we need to make it easier to help local districts.

“For higher education, in East Texas especially, we are looking at a new funding system for the 50 community colleges in the state,” Ashby said. “In the interim, we came up with a proposal for funding that increases funding and rewards colleges that are graduating students and placing them in the workforce.”

Also, Ashby said that more first-generation college students are attending, and it’s been a few years since the Legislature has looked at making college more affordable, and students that took dual enrollment need to have all of their credits transfer to their college of choice to help make things more affordable.

In other matters, Ashby said he will spend time on the power grid in the state, to ensure the state, which has the ninth largest economy in the world, has enough power for such a fast-growing state.

Broadband expansion remains a focus, and efforts to deploy broadband across rural Texas need to be addressed. Ashby also said there is an aging water infrastructure in the ground, and rural water supply entities can’t modernize enough.

Ashby said he plans to put an amendment in the state Constitution to ban unfunded mandates from the state, and bolster school safety by not only physical means, but by increasing the pipeline for all mental health professionals to get the help where it’s needed.

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Looking forward to reliving the past

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Julias TidbitsThis is my last tidbit for the year 2022. I started this column seven years ago to help a friend who was a young editor and going to college to become an English teacher. She had a boyfriend who was an excellent photographer, and we were quite a team.

She did become a teacher in Coldspring, but I do not know if they ever married or not. So, you know what my New Year’s resolution this year is. It is to reconnect with the past and close some loose ends still dangling in my life.

•I am going to list below some events planned in 2022 for 2023, but I am not sure if these plans are set in stone. I will call each organization and group to see if their events are iffy or solid, and by Jan. 2, I should have some activities that are set in stone for the year 2023 to report.

•Jan. 7, Martin Senior Center barbecue fundraiser at 400 Walker St.

•Jan. 28, Trinity County Crime Stoppers Gala at Trinity Community Center

•Jan. 29, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church Spaghetti Dinner in the Fellowship Parish Hall at 401 Prospect Drive.

•Feb. 11, Lovelady Love Fest, Old Lovelady School Gym and grounds.

•Feb. 11, Boys and Girls Club Valentine Fundraiser, TBA

•Feb. 20, President’s Day

•March 1, Ash Wednesday

•March 3-31, Knights of Columbus Fish Dinners, 5-7 p.m., MHTCC Parish Hall.

•March 13-17, TISD Spring Break

•March 17, St. Patrick’s Day (Friday)

•March 24-25, Trinity County Fair at the Y Fairgrounds in Groveton

•April 2, Trinity Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Fish Fry at the Fire Station on Elm Street.

•April 7, Good Friday, TISD Student Holiday

•April 9, Easter Sunday

•May 12, fifth annual TCFA Crawfish Boil, Trinity Community Center

•May 14, Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May always)

•May 27, TISD Graduation Day, SHSU Coliseum, Huntsville at 3 p.m.

•May 29, Memorial Day, National Holiday

•June 18, Father’s Day (third Sunday in June always)

•June 19, Juneteenth Holiday at the Trinity Community Center

•July 1, Trinity’s Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks

This list only covers January to July, but I will elaborate on each one as they arise, and as their details become available.

I do know some changes have been made already for 2023, people come and go, and events have been re-scheduled, and progress doesn’t stop.

•The wonderful spaghetti dinners on the third Monday of every month at the (First United) Trinity Methodist Church did not meet in November or December, but I am told the dinners will begin again in January 2023. Watch this space.

•On Jan. 4, the Trinity Lions Club will meet at noon in the Trinity Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Building to welcome the new year. The Trinity Lions Club will be testing all TISD students for eyecare on each campus in January or February, so, watch for this event that will be coming up shortly.

This is a free test and lets you know in 20 seconds if your student’s vision needs corrected. Lion Charles Payne is chairman of this event and works with the school nurse to perform this task. The machine that tests the students’ vision costs over $10,000 dollars, and we are so fortunate to have this capability through the Lions Club International Vision Program to use this machine.

•The Christmas holiday was one that we have not seen in 18 years. I will not see it again, but I hope a lot of important changes will have been made by that time for the good of all mankind. I should not complain about Texas’s leadership when the people of the Ukraine were dodging missiles, freezing temperatures and hunger.

How do you not prepare for climate changes/freezing weather two years in a row, but you had time to bus people to Washington in freezing weather dressed in shorts to make a political statement. Thank goodness Trinity, Texas, and surrounding subdivisions got electrical power quickly, but water sources were a problem.

Westwood Shores Subdivision did not have power for three days. Why?

•I was glad to see we had some Christmas cheer around town with new Christmas pole signs, lamps, and wreaths.

Happy New Year everyone.

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