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Grants available to Texas landowners for prescribed burning

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COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M Forest Service is accepting applications for grants to help eligible Texas property owners with the cost of prescribed burning on their land.

The grants will reimburse landowners to offset the cost of having a prescribed burn conducted on their property by certified and insured prescribed burn managers. Last year, these grant programs provided more than $322,000 to landowners for a total of 11,667 acres treated.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 30. Interested landowners can determine eligibility and find an application at tfsweb.tamu.edu/cppgrant.

“Prescribed burning can be an important and effective tool for landowners to reduce wildfire risk, while enhancing wildlife habitat and promoting a healthier forest ecosystem,” said Weldon Dent, Texas A&M Forest Service Fuels Specialist.

Prescribed fire is a land management practice that eliminates brush, weeds, dried vegetation and downed trees. Prescribed fire also fosters seed and plant regeneration, reduces invasive plants and restores soil nutrients.

“This year’s extreme wildfire season is a good example of the importance of prescribed burning,” Dent said. “Prescribed fire in a controlled environment can reduce the intensity of an unplanned fire by reducing the fuel load on the ground.”

Texas A&M Forest Service offers grants to landowners to complete prescribed fires on private lands across the state, each with their own goals.

The Community Protection Program - Prescribed Fire Grant is available for property owners within 10 miles of a national forest in East Texas as well as property owners within 10 miles of the Caddo and LBJ national grasslands.

The State Fire Assistance for Mitigation Central and East Texas - Prescribed Fire Grant is available to all counties in the eastern part of the state, from Goliad County in South Texas to Cooke County along the Red River.

The Neches River and Cypress Basin Wastershed Restoration Program – Prescribed Fire Grant is for prescribed burning in priority East Texas watersheds.

The Texas Longleaf Conservation Assistance Program - Prescribed Fire Grant is available for East Texas landowners interested in enhancing longleaf pine ecosystems. This cooperative program is available in select counties throughout the year. For details on this program, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/longleaf/.

For residents in parts of the Panhandle, West Texas and South Texas, applications for the State Fire Assistance Mitigation - Plains Prescribed Fire Grant are available each June 15 through August 15.

Texas A&M Forest Service does not conduct these prescribed burns. Grant recipients must select a certified and insured prescribed burn manager to be eligible for reimbursement.

For more information, including eligibility requirements and an application, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/cppgrant/.

For information about other natural resource programs that offer financial assistance to Texas landowners, visit https://texasforestinfo.tamu.edu/fundingconnector/.

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Renowned surgeon, author Barclay dies

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A portrait of Dr. George W. Barclay, Jr. Courtesy of Elizabeth Joy SingletaryA portrait of Dr. George W. Barclay, Jr. Courtesy of Elizabeth Joy SingletaryBy Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – World-famous medical pioneer and author Dr. George Willis Barclay, Jr., died at his Woodville residence last Wednesday at the age of 92.

According to a caregiver, he died in the early morning hours and was with his beloved chihuahua, Clementine.

Barclay, who was a cardiologist and brought the procedure of heart catherization to Southeast Texas, was equally famous for his large body of literary work. Barclay wrote 45 novels, such as Murder on the San Jacinto and Murder on Pine Island Bayou, many of which feature sleuth Sandra Lerner.

He described his writing acumen as being about “mystery, mysticism, metaphysics, science fiction, mayhem and murder.” 

Prior to his careers in medicine and then writing, he wore many other hats, including a stint as a chemical engineer at Mobil Oil and service in the Army, where he worked to rise to the rank of captain.

His daughter-in-law Elizabeth Joy Singletary said that Barclay’s service began when he joined the Naval reserves during the Korean War. At the time, he was working for Mobil, and was not allowed to enlist when the draft began, as he was considered essential.

When the ban was lifted, Singletary said, he immediately joined the Army, and for a while was a member of both branches of the armed forces.

He decided to go to medical school when he came up for officers’ training school, and during his training, he studied alongside Drs. Michael E. Debakey and Denton Cooley, who were cardiovascular medicine pioneers.

Barclay practiced in Beaumont for more than 25 years and brought heart catherization to both Baptist and St. Elizabeth’s hospitals. 

Singletary said that after retiring from medicine, Barclay “transitioned from checking patients twice a day to checking his chickens twice a day, still making rounds.”

It was then that he also began travelling widely and a post-retirement career as a writer. Aside from his mystery novels, Barclay also studied the stock market closely, and wrote financial articles for various markets, and began a blog on financial matters when online blogging was in its infancy.

One aspect of his ancestry that gave Barclay great pride, and likely attributed largely to his decision to retire to Tyler County, where he developed properties, along with his other endeavors, was that his family were among some of the earliest settlers in the county.

His grandfather James Barclay was the first Indian Agent, before the county was established. Barclay’s father, George Sr., was a superintendent of schools in Tyler County.

Alongside his many other activities, Barclay was active and an athlete throughout his long life, Singletary said. When he was young, his nickname was “Rooster,” and he had the opportunity to play collegiate sports, but a knee injury turned him toward the academic side of the college experience. 

In his later life, he enjoyed fishing and loved the house he purchased, which formerly belonged to the late Don Forse, because it had a dancefloor. “He loved ballroom dancing, and it was his favorite form of exercise next to walking his dogs and fishing,” Singletary said.

A funeral service is scheduled for Sept. 17 for Barclay, with arrangements handled by Stringer and Griffin of Woodville.

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Sex offender arrested on indecency charge

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DeesDeesBy Chris Edwards
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DOUCETTE – A Doucette resident with a previous record of aggravated sexual assault of a child was arrested last week and charged with indecency with a child (sexual contact).

Johnathon Broussard Dees, age 46, was arrested by deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office. Dees was booked into the Tyler County Jail and bonded out the same day on a $75,000 bond on Wednesday, August 31.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry database, Dees is classified as a low-level offender, with a requirement for annual verification.

On his profile on the DPS database, Dees registered with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office as a sex offender in 2018.

At press time, the details of Dees’ arrest are unavailable.

Dees was previously convicted of a sex crime charge, and the case drew a high level of attention due to his career in law enforcement.

The charges stemmed from an investigation on an incident from 2006, where he was allegedly sexually assaulted a child under the age of 14, according to one account of his crime. He had worked as a sheriff’s deputy for both Jasper and Jefferson counties.

The four-month investigation that resulted in the charge was headed up by the Texas Rangers.

Dees was indicted in December of 2011 for the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony. He took a plea bargain in 2016, and avoided jail, with seven years’ deferred adjudication, a $2,500 fine and 160 hours of community service, along with the lifetime sex offender registration requirement and a permanent surrender of his peace officer license.

According to statute, the charge Dees is faced with is a second-degree felony, and if convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

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Death ruled a homicide

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Homicide GraphicBy Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – An inmate death initially reported as a suicide was ruled, ultimately, to be a homicide.

In the August 11 edition of the Booster, it was reported that an inmate at the Gib Lewis Unit died from what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds.

The 42-year-old inmate, identified as Justin Levi Gallaway, was found dead in his cell with a noose around his neck. His body was sent to Galveston for an autopsy to be conducted.

Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Jim Moore said the death is still under investigation, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice oversees such investigations that occur within TDCJ facilities.

The death certificate obtained by the Booster states that the death occurred at 8:20 p.m. on August 5, and under a description of the fatal injury it lists “noose around neck causing asphyxiation.”

Amanda Hernandez, who serves as TDCJ Director of Communications, said that the Office of the Inspector General is investigating the death. A request for information from that agency had not been answered at press time.

At the time the death was reported, initially, Hernandez did state that “Life saving measures were initiated, additional staff were requested and 911 was contacted.” 

Once paramedics arrived, the EMS supervisor was contacted by one of the paramedics on the scene, who pronounced the man dead.

Galloway’s death was the second reported at Gib Lewis in the summer months this year. On June 27, another death occurred at the prison, when a corrections officer was confirmed dead due to a self-inflicted injury.

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Daycare facility subject of investigations

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082522 Early Bird Daycare Front

Early Birds Learning Center in Woodville is the subject of two active investigations, one conducted by the state agency in charge of licensing such facilities and one by the Woodville Police Department. Photo by Chris Edwards

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – A Woodville-based daycare facility is the subject of an investigation involving multiple agencies.
Early Birds Learning Center has been the subject of a weeks-long investigation by the Texas Child Care Licensing Investigative Unit and the Woodville Police Department.

While Woodville police are handling the criminal investigation aspect, the state agency responsible for licensing will determine whether or not the facility stays open or if fines are levied, according to Woodville Police Captain Jathan Borel.

There is, according to Borel, more than one allegation of abuse reported. He added that this is the first time he was aware of Early Birds being under investigation.

Kelly Bass, the director of the facility, has denied the allegations aimed at the facility and its employees, and alleged that a former employee has made the claims.

Borel, who is assisting on the investigation outlined where his agency is at with the case.

“Right now the Woodville Police Department is in the process of gathering statements, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence,” he said.

Once the investigation concludes, Borel said that if there is enough evidence to bring to District Attorney Lucas Babin, it will be up to him to decide whether or not to bring it before the Grand Jury.

“Right now we are in the process of investigating the evidence and the testimony to corroborate it,” Borel said.
According to records on the facility from the state department of Health and Human Services, Early Birds is licensed to serve infants up through school-age children.

Early Birds was cited by DHHS in February of 2019 for lack of supervision for infants’ basic requirements. The citation was listed as a “high” risk level by the agency but corrected in March of that year.

Seven other violations were listed, dating from 2018 to 2021, but at lower levels of severity, and pertaining, mostly, to the building’s upkeep and various disaster drills.

One aspect of the investigation that Borel wanted to remind the public about is the pervasive nature of social media posts relating to it.

Several posts on various Woodville and Tyler County-related pages on Facebook have been made about the facility and its director within the past week, and a video emerged, allegedly depicting abuse within the facility, which was removed from a page and given to law enforcement.

“One thing the public needs to be aware of is that social media, in my opinion, is not a reliable source of information,” Borel said.

One site with a prevalent local following that put the story out was Concerned Citizens of Tyler County. Sal Baldovinos, who is an administrator on the site, said that parents of children had come to him asking if he was aware of the situation at Early Birds.

Baldovinos said he published what information he had that was public record and had received messages in response compelling him to “lawyer up.” Baldovinos explained that what CCTC does with the news stories it publishes and shares is in no way libelous.

He added that a video allegedly depicting abuse was shared to the site, but taken down, after a parent of one of the children seen in the video requested it to be removed.

Another rumor that has emanated from social media is that the facility is being shut down, however, at this time, no charges have been filed and it is still open. Also, postings have spawned that its owner, Jillian Bass, has been removed, but has not been.

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