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Presentation outlines possible infrastructure projects

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Architect SpeaksArchitect Ben Miller made a presentation before the Woodville City Council on a series of proposed pedestrian infrastructure projects. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – The Woodville City Council, at its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, received a presentation on some possible future projects.

Ben Miller, who works as a landscape architect with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong, spoke about a series of three proposed pedestrian traffic improvement projects for the city. The funding for the projects, if awarded, will come through the Texas Department of Transportation from federal funding earmarked for building any kind of non-vehicular transportation infrastructure. 

“Luckily this year, in this particular call for projects, towns of under 5,000 have a special pot of money set aside for them, so I think you are all well-suited to get these funds,” Miller said.

The three projects Miller outlined in his presentation include improvements along North Beech Street and two projects involving segments of US 69.

The North Beech project will provide continuous, six-foot sidewalks along the west side of the street from US 190 to Bluebonnet Street and will continue along the south side of Bluebonnet up to existing sidewalk near Woodville High School.

The second project, labelled “US 69 Segment A Pedestrian Improvements,” will provide continuous sidewalks along both sides of US 69 from 190 south to an existing, signalized crossing at Barclay Street. The third project, labelled “Segment B” of the US 69 Pedestrian Improvements, will provide sidewalks along the west side of 69, from 190 north to Dogwood Street, and end at existing sidewalk on the north side of Dogwood.

Miller said he has been in communication with City Administrator Mandy Risinger since March to discuss the funding possibility and needed projects. He said they looked at six possible projects, which were narrowed down to three, which they deemed the ones having the best chance at funding. TxDOT caps funding allocation for the projects at three per entity.

If funded, the projects would possibly have no local match from the city, as it has applied for funding to pay the matches out of funds taken from the profits from toll road usage. The estimated costs for each project, according to Miller, are $1 million for the North Beech Street project; $900K for Segment A and $300K for Segement B. The council passed three resolutions in support of the projects. “Some of these projects will lead us into future projects,” Risinger said.

Willis Motel update given

Right before the council’s short meeting was adjourned, the city’s health inspector Colin Bishop gave an update on the ongoing work at the Willis Motel.

The structure had been affected by fire in 2019 and had since fallen into disrepair, and the city has held hearings to get its owners to bring it up to code. Bishop said the motel’s owners have completed the health portion of the cleanup work on schedule. 

The city is still awaiting building reports, and reports from a fire inspector. Bishop said the building is “a very old structure in very rough shape,” and said that all of the problematic materials that were in the rooms have been removed. The motel is not open for business while the owners move through the city-mandated process of cleanup.

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Ivanhoe awarded $11.4m

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Cathy Bennett lakeCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett stands in front of the remnants of Lake Ivanhoe. Its dam was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey.

Funds will go toward flood mitigation projects

By Chris Edwards

IVANHOE – For a city that has seen its fair share of progress in its short life as an incorporated city, last Friday was a red-letter day for Ivanhoe.

On that date, Ivanhoe’s mayor Cathy Bennett, along with the state’s land commissioner George P. Bush and state Senator Robert Nichols announced that the state’s General Land Office (GLO) approved a funding amount of more than $11.4 million to go to the city toward flood mitigation projects, which will improve the city’s drainage infrastructure.

Bennett said when she received the good news, she was “extremely elated.” The money will go toward several projects in the city that, with its budget, could have not accomplished, she said.

Multiple flooding events, going back to 2015, and the Hurricane Harvey disaster in 2017, have damaged parts of Ivanhoe’s dams, and in the case of the Lake Ivanhoe Dam, breeched it, and caused severe erosion on the face of the dam. Lake Ivanhoe was reduced from a 22-acre lake to a body of water the size of a pond. That dam will be reconstructed, along with the Camelot Dam.

Along the Tristan Dam, the road level will be raised to match the level of the dam. Recent storms have exceeded the lake’s capacity of its emergency spillway. This has presented a hazard to first responders, as well as the public, travelling along Lakewood Drive during and after storm events.

These projects are a few of the major infrastructure works to be undertaken with the funding within the city.

According to a news release from the GLO, the scope of the work to Ivanhoe’s infrastructure will, in the long term, increase the city’s resilience to any future disasters and reduce the long-term risk of loss of life and damage to property.

“Since 2015, 140 Texas counties have received a Presidential disaster declaration,” said Bush. “The need is extensive, and this first round of mitigation funding is geared directly at helping communities that are majority low-to-moderate income and lack the resources to fund their own mitigation projects. The GLO is proud to help communities across Texas increase public safety, prevent property loss and minimize hardship on residents,” he added.

The grant carries a 1% match, which Bennett said the city still has money in its bond fund to cover. There are many in the community asking questions on social media about the coming windfall and the timetable of the work it will cover, and to that end, Bennett has scheduled a town hall meeting at the Ivanhoe City Hall for Saturday, June 5 beginning at 10 a.m. She said the meeting will address the myriad of questions that residents, as well as city officials, may have, including the timetable of the project and how the funding is awarded.

Bennett has invited the engineer working on the project, the city’s grant administrator and also the GLO grant manager to participate. The town hall meeting will be livestreamed on the official City of Ivanhoe Facebook page and YouTube site. For anyone who might have questions to bring up at the event, but cannot attend, Bennett is encouraging them to email her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their name, address and question. Bennett invited the citizens to read the grant application, which the city has posted to its website, in full, at https://cityofivanhoe.texas.gov.

Ivanhoe’s grant award is part of more than $2.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) earmarked to protect Texas communities affected by Harvey and other severe floods going back to 2015.

Nichols made a statement last week in support of the grant funding, and noted that within Senate District 3, more than $105 million of the overall funding was awarded. Neighboring Jasper County was approved for $29.4 million, which will go toward projects in the cities of Jasper and Kirbyville.

“This grant money will be key in protecting infrastructure that we have, and it is also going to be helpful in our economic future,” Bennett said.

One bittersweet note occurred as the city’s grant award was announced on Friday. Jack Brockhouse, who served as the mayor of Ivanhoe for a term before Bennett was elected in 2014, died. Brockhouse lived on Lake Ivanhoe and had hoped to see it return one day, Bennett said.

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WISD lifts mask mandate

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Jarrott 052021CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott discusses information for the board members to look at about possible salary schedules for the next school year.

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – The Woodville ISD Board of Trustees had a host of achievements to recognize among the faculty, staff and student body at its regular Monday night meeting.

Prior to moving the meeting to the board room in the WISD Administration Building for the regular agenda items, the meeting began in the community room in the cafeteria to accommodate the large audience of students, parents and well-wishers. The board recognized WISD athletes Kesean Paire and Linus Mannino for their achievements at the UIL State Track and Field Meet. Paire won the gold medal in the wheelchair shot-put event and Mannino took home a bronze medal in the high jump.

Lady Eagle powerlifter Natalli VonEssen was recognized for her achievement of placing eighth in the state in her sport.

Two WISD Speech and Debate competitors, Jaydee Borel and Izzy Narvaez were recognized for qualifying in the State-level Congressional Debate event.

The trustees also recognized Michelle Merchant on being named “3A Girls Assistant Coach of the Year” by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

On to its regular agenda, the WISD trustees approved an interlocal agreement between the district and the board of directors of the Allan Shivers Library and Museum.

Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke about the matter. She and trustee Josh McClure have served on the library board and have worked with the other board members to come up with a new interlocal agreement to help with administrative matters concerning the library, particularly since the death of longtime director Rosemary Bunch last year. The last document was signed in 1985, Meysembourg said. The City of Woodville recently entered into an interlocal with the library, as did the county.

Mask mandate lifted

The board approved a recommendation by Meysembourg to change its district-wide COVID-19 safety protocol of mask wearing.

Meysembourg said she feels “very confident” that it is time to lift the mandate, and make mask-wearing optional. There have been two active cases reported since spring break, and no active cases in the district for several weeks.

“I feel the community and school district have taken all of the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID,” she said.

The lifting of the mandate was deemed effective immediately after its passage by the board.

Architectural firm chosen for long-range planning

The trustees approved an architectural firm, Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong, for long-range planning. The district went out for proposals earlier in the year from architects and construction managers and combed through them to review and rank the submissions to find the best fit for the district.

At the board’s April meeting, Meysembourg said that gathering the proposals and reviewing them was the first step toward whatever measures the district might need in the future, infrastructure/facilities-wise.

Meysembourg was approved by the board as authorized to negotiate and execute a contract with the firm. The Lufkin-based firm was also selected as the construction manager for the district’s long-range planning concerns, and Meysembourg was given authorization to negotiate and execute a contract with the firm on that front, as well.

Other Business

WISD’s Board of Trustees also approved the following items, or received the following information items:

  • Belt, Harris, Pechacek was approved to conduct the annual fiscal year audit for WISD.
  • The board authorized a resolution regarding ESSER III policy.
  • Meysembourg reported a community-wide meeting scheduled for Monday, May 24 beginning with food at 6 p.m. The public is invited, and it is an open-house for information for the community’s benefit. The meeting will take place in the cafeteria on the elementary campus.
  • WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott reported in his regular report that the district is at 91.53% for its collection of property taxes. Jarrott also presented packets of information for the trustees pertaining to possible salary schedules for the coming 2021-22 school year.
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Evans issued another charge

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NEWS Evans mugshotMUGSHOT Dr. Kerry Evans

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – Longtime local physician Dr. Kerry Evans was handed down another charge for sexual abuse of a child. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, Evans turned himself into the Tyler County Jail on Saturday, May 8 at 7 a.m. that morning.

Evans turned himself in regarding a warrant out of the Tyler County District Court for a first-degree felony charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Evans, a 52-year-old Colmesneil resident, is currently out of jail on a pre-set bond amount of $100,000, according to Weatherford.

Evans was first handed down two indictments in July 2019 for continuous sexual abuse of a child and multiple counts of indecency with a child by contact and indecency by exposure, which range from first-degree to third-degree felonies.

According to those indictments, handed down by the District Court, Evans is accused of having sexual contact with two minors, one of whom was younger than 14 and another who was younger than 17 at the time of the alleged abuse took place.

One of the indictments, which consists of eight counts, alleges a series of incidents taking place around May 18, 2012 through May 17, 2014, while the other, three-count indictment, alleges incidents that took place in April, May and June of 2017.

At the time of those charges’ issuance, Evans’ attorney, Ryan W. Gertz, of the Beaumont-based Gertz Law Firm, released a statement concerning his client and the charges, and said Evans submitted to and passed polygraph exams regarding the allegations, and that other forensic analysis indicated “no evidence of deviant sexual behavior.” The attorney alleged that “a nasty, multi-year divorce” was the source of the allegations.

There is no word on a trial date scheduled for Evans at this time.

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Warren lifts mask mandate

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Tribe Tribute Gladys MitchellCOURTESY PHOTO | TERRY BABINO The Warren ISD Tribe Tribute for April went to Gladys Mitchell from the WISD Food Services Department who was praised as being a model employee and "cooking from the heart". (Left to right front row) Scott Mitchell, Tammy Heriard, Gladys Mitchell, Stephen Mitchell, Dr. Tammy Boyette (Left to right back row) Kimen Johnson, Clay Brown, Steve Moore, Rocky Burks, Burt Moore, Billie Read.

By Caleb Fortenberry

WARREN – At its most recent monthly board meeting, the Warren ISD board of trustees voted for the mask mandate to be lifted, it passed.

After Gov. Greg Abbott made Executive Order-GA 34 allowing school boards to determine their school’s mask policy, many schools in Texas jumped to remove the policy.

The board voted to make masks optional effective Monday May 17, nearly seven days before some graduation ceremonies will take place.

WISD UIL HonoreesCOURTESY PHOTO | TERRY BABINO UIL District, Regional, and/or State Qualifier Honorees (Left to right front row) Dr. Tammy Boyette, Brianne Dean, Isabell Stanford, Ty Lambert, Bryce Dean, Julia Drake, James Swinney (Left to right back row) Kimen Johnson, Clay Brown, Steve Moore, Rocky Burks, Burt Moore, Billie Read.

WISD superintendent Dr. Tammy Boyette released a letter with the following information covering the frequently asked questions of the matter.

  • Masks will be a matter of personal choice for employees and students beginning on Monday, May 17
  • Daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms is still required for all employees and students
  • Employees and students remain subject to existing requirements for self-reporting and quarantining
  • The current TEA definition of “close contact” remains in effect and is enforceable for all employees and students
  • Students required to quarantine will be allowed to attend school remotely
  • The district will continue to provide notice to parents of known positive COVID-19 cases and to monitor data associated with case prevalence
  • The district will continue to provide hand sanitizer and maintain existing cleaning protocols
  • To the extent possible, schools will continue to exercise social distancing practices at lunch, common areas and in the classroom in order to reduce the likelihood that students meet the close contact definition
  • Buses will open windows to allow for improved air circulation while in transit
  • Indoor school visits will continue to be restricted to only those essential to school operations
  • To the extent possible, principals will provide events for end-of year celebrations that can be held outdoors to accommodate family attendance
  • TEA requires that screening protocols be in place for entrance into all WISD sponsored events
  • Medically fragile students may submit a waiver with accompanying medical documentation to opt in to the At-Home learning platform for the remainder of the school year, if they so choose

Other Business:

  • The TEA 2021-2022 Allotment and TEKS certification were approved
  • Burke Dagle was approved as the “designated asbestos manager” for Warren ISD
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