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By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – In its final regular meeting of the year (as well as the final regular meeting of County Judge Jacques Blanchette’s tenure) the Tyler County Commissioners Court tackled a lengthy agenda on Monday morning.
Commissioners voted to authorize Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Blacksher to serve as the director for the county’s senior citizens’ activity and congregate meals program.
Blacksher has taken the lead on the program since the previous provider pulled out at the end of the last fiscal year. The item put before a vote also authorized Blacksher to negotiate and execute a contract with the Deep East Texas Council of Governments, as approved by the court.
“Right now we went to negotiate [with Tyler County Hospital],” which will cook the meals for the service, Blacksher said. The cost to the county is estimated to be around $62,735, Blacksher said, based on an average of 42 meals served per day. The contribution from DETCOG to the program would come at $80,815.87, annually, broken up between salaries, food and supplies.
Blacksher said it would be advantageous to start up at 30 meals, at a cost of $36,183 to the county. Before COVID, he said, the county was averaging 42 meals per day with the program.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the county paying for start-up costs for the program from the county’s general fund contingency for miscellaneous expenditures.
TxDOT trees controversy addressed
Ellen Buchanan, of the Big Thicket Association, spoke about the recent TxDOT four-lane expansion project along U.S. 69, which factors into both Tyler and Hardin counties, during the public forum portion of the meeting.
Buchanan spoke about a controversial measure by TxDOT to remove trees along the existing median as part of the project. It would affect an eight-mile stretch of road.
Buchanan said that the public response to TxDOT’s planning phase on the project was valuable, but in gathering public comment for it, the taking down of the trees would detrimentally affect the Big Thicket community.
The goal, Buchanan said of the project, was to increase safety, but “at the same time keep our Southeast Texas wooded community.”
“We love our trees,” Buchanan said. “They’re part of our identity.”
Environmental groups have spoken out against the plan, and recently commissioners in neighboring Hardin County tabled action on a resolution to intervene for a second time.
Buchanan said that TxDOT’s plans to remove the trees would cause erosion and more flooding.
Among its resolutions up for consideration, the commissioners approved a measure to communicate from the court that Buchanan spoke on the matter.