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Tyler County News - Breakout

Weatherford responds to Uvalde mass shooting

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By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – In response to the tragic events of last Tuesday, May 24, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford committed to increasing the presence of law enforcement on the five public school campuses in the county.

Weatherford said that last week, for graduation ceremonies, there would be an increase in law enforcement, as “the safety of our citizens, especially the precious children, remain our number one priority.”

Last Tuesday, an 18-year-old shooter identified as Salvador Ramos fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary, and remained inside a classroom for about an hour before a U.S. Border Control Tactical Unit fatally shot him, according to reports.

Weatherford said that with many similar incidents, county residents feel distanced, but this one is different.

“A lot of time you see where these incidents are further away from us and don’t hold on to us as long,” he said. He said that several people have called him and were both angry and sad about the event. 

“I pray that we stay as vigilant,” he said.

“As long as I’m in office, I’m protecting you and your family,” he added. 

In addition to upping the security detail for last week’s events on school campuses, Weatherford has reached out to school superintendents to have a round-table discussion about school security and safety protocol.

He also spoke with the county’s commissioners about school safety, and to consider added measures in next year’s budget.

In the aftermath of the Uvalde massacre, law enforcement officials have been criticized for their lack of action in response to the shooting, which has resulted in separate investigations by the Texas Rangers and the federal Department of Justice.

Weatherford said Tyler County Sheriff’s Office is committed to being “very proactive on our end with the schools.”

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Facilities findings presented to CISD board

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Colmesneil ISDBy Mollie LaSalle

COLMESNEIL – Colmesneil ISD held their regular monthly meeting May 16 and welcomed a representative with Texas Association of School Boards to present his findings upon evaluating the facilities around the campus (Elementary and Jr/Sr High Schools).

Mr. Read presented his recommendations upon a thorough inspection of all buildings on both campuses. He also noted the age of some of the buildings in his evaluation; the old gym was built in the early 1970s, as was the cafeteria. There were several recommendations for improvement, namely gutters, exterior walls, doors and windows. Restrooms were also cited as needing to be in ADA compliance, and repairs to fixtures. He re-iterated that most of the repairs could be done at a cost considerably lower than building a brand- new facility (at either campus). The last new buildings built were the High School, in the late 90s, and the R.B. Moffett gym in the early 2000s. 

Board members moved on to agenda items fairly quickly and discussed hiring Parsons Roofing to repair and remodel the gutters on the high school building. The board had reached out to two other companies for bids; one offered a no bid, and the second bid was too high. The board voted to accept the bid from Parsons, which was a little under $37K. Next was a discussion on the fencing around the football field; Superintendent Franco commented that there are certain sections where it is falling down or warped (from people leaning against it) and it is needing to be repaired and/ or replaced. Franco advised the board that there are funds available from Special Ed Services that can be used for this purpose; cost would run around $55-56K total. Also on the agenda were the door systems on the north side of the elementary school, the elementary gym and the CTE building, which are all safety issues, per the Superintendent; total cost to upgrade would be about $22K. A discussion was also held to consider the purchase of a new commercial mower for the district. 

Franco said “it would cost more to repair the existing mower than it would to buy a new one”. A new mower will cost around $7,900. Board members approved each of the above agenda items.

A discussion was held to consider a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Tyler County to enter into an agreement for the drainage project on the northwest side of the district property, and to consider a resolution to allow Superintendent Franco to be the agent for the district in the FEMA Hazardous Mitigation Grant Project (board approved both discussions). Franco noted that the drainage project will be 90% funded by FEMA with the district funding the remaining 10%. 

After reports form the elementary, junior and high school principals and athletic director, the board adjourned the open session to go into executive session namely to discuss hiring a new principal for the junior high/high school to replace Walter McAlpin, who is retiring. 

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Powers seizes GOP nomination

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Vote Another GraphicBy Chris Edwards This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TYLER COUNTY – Milton Powers clinched the Republican primary nod for the race for Tyler County Judge on Tuesday night, with 1,534 votes to challenger Melissa Riley’s 1,498.

Powers will face Democratic opponent Wesley Whitman in the November general election. The race for county judge was one of several that went into runoffs after the March primary.

The winner of the race will see a new face in the judge’s office for the first time in 16 years, as longtime county judge Jacques Blanchette announced his decision not to run for re-election last year.

The race for county treasurer, incumbent Leann Monk sealed the nomination for the GOP, with 1,566 votes to challenger Maegan Rains Odom’s 1,442 votes.

Monk is unopposed by a Democrat for the general election.

Incumbent Pct. 2 commissioner Stevan Sturrock earned 408 votes to challenger Doug Hughes’s 458.

One more county race, that of Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace, went to the runoff, with incumbent Jim Moore facing challenger Henry Sawyer, Jr.

Moore narrowly defeated Sawyer with 359 votes against Sawyer’s 340.

The total from early and absentee voters was 1,443 ballots cast.

All told, 3,086 voters turned out to vote in the runoff election.

In statewide races, the hotly watched runoffs for the office of attorney general and land commissioner showed challengers George P. Bush and Sarah Stogner, respectively, losing to incumbents Ken Paxton and Wayne Christian for the GOP nods.

Paxton was the projected winner at press time in a landslide with 67% of the votes Paxton will face Democratic primary winner Rochelle Garza in November.

In the Democratic runoff for Lieutenant Governor, Mike Collier was projected as the winner against Michelle Beckley with a 54.7% margin of victory.

All totals are unofficial until canvassed.

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Council hears presentation from Ramos

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CityofColmenseilBy Mollie LaSalle

COLMESNEIL – Colmesneil City Council held their monthly (rescheduled meeting) last Tuesday evening in the break room at City Hall. The meeting was moved back a week due to the A/C going out in the council room. 

Vance Cowart was called out to assess the problem(s) and as of May 17, it was still not operational. 

Council members welcomed Sergio Ramos, the tennis coach at Colmesneil ISD to speak about National Tennis Association Month, which is in May. 

Ramos has been teaching and coaching for a total of 55 years; he taught and coached at Woodville ISD (Spanish and Tennis) for 50 years, retired, and came back when offered the job at Colmesneil. When he came to Colmesneil, the district had one tennis court. Ramos went to the school board to lobby for new courts; his efforts have paid off. May 27 at 11 am, there will be a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at the new tennis courts, and two distinguished former players will be in attendance, Jeff Moffett, former CISD tennis standout, and Jacques Blanchette, current Tyler County Judge, and former CISD tennis player. 

Ramos said that attendees will also observe a moment of silence in memory of Lacy Reynolds and Kaitlyn Byrum. Reynolds and Byrum died in March 2021 from injuries sustained in a car accident. 

Both girls were standout tennis players also, having won tournaments around the southeast Texas area.

Council moved on to the rest of the agenda items in short order. All council members were given a summary review of the FY 2021 budget to read over. Council will discuss and vote on accepting the findings at the June meeting. A discussion was begun on changing the city’s garbage service provider. Pineywoods Sanitation of Huntington currently charges the city for rent of one dumpster, and wanting to possibly utilize local companies, and keep the money within the community, discussed switching to Local Sanitation which is based in Colmesneil. No action was taken at this time. 

Mayor Duane Crews brought up the subject of acquiring a new city truck. The one currently being used by utilities director Keith Barnes is having too many problems, and a discussion entailed about shopping around to get the best price on the purchase of another one; again, no action was taken on this matter. 

All office, Financial and Investment and Water/Sewer reports were approved in short order, and the meeting was adjourned at 7:35 p.m.

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Bond election topic of board meeting

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WoodvilleISD graphicBy Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – The recent Woodville ISD bond election results were canvassed at the regular meeting of the WISD Board of Trustees. 

The canvassing was the first action item on Monday evening’s agenda, but prior to that process, the bond was the topic of two speakers during the public forum portion of the meeting.

The $47.8 million bond package is for a series of district-wide improvements and passed in the May 7 special election by a 51.20% majority.

Phil McClure, a Woodville business owner, spoke first, and said that there has been rhetoric in the community from some individuals encouraging a boycott of businesses that did not support the bond measure.

“Schools are essential to the community, as are small businesses,” McClure said. “Without either, neither will exist,” he added.

McClure said that any WISD trustees who “would suppress voters in any way or seek revenge against anybody that doesn’t vote the way they should” should not serve on the board, to which he added that WISD Board of Trustees President Jimmy Tucker was “one of whom I speak.”

“We want to build a strong community, not divide it,” McClure said.

WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke to the Booster on the concerns raised by McClure and said that as far as any voter suppression goes, she is not aware of what was referenced.

Meysembourg said that supporting local businesses was paramount to the district, and that “as a school district we absolutely support our local community and businesses and work to give back to our community.”

Another resident who spoke during the public forum portion, Charles Rawls, addressed the projected amount of money, and asked from where the figure was derived, and also addressed a topic of improper balloting. The latter issue was explained, in detail, by County Clerk Donece Gregory, prior to the canvassing.

Rawls also expressed a safety concern with elementary-age students; that there is a higher likelihood of an active shooter near the Woodville High School and Middle School campuses, where the new elementary building will be located.

The improvements to WISD covered by the bond include the construction of a new Pre-K through fifth grade elementary school building, which would be housed under one roof, as well as additions to the Career and Technical Education Center.

Meysembourg said that timeline-wise, the district hopes to have the design process completed by December. She said a kick-off meeting will take place next week, where she and WISD Assistant Superintendent/Finance Manager Cody Jarrott will meet with a team of experts, including architects, a project manager and financial experts, to discuss the next step.

“We will put everything out for bid, and hopefully have all of the bids in by February, and hopefully start construction at the end of February or early March of 2023, with a completion date of fall 2024,” Meysembourg said.

For the renovations to the CTE Center, Meysembourg said the plan is to try and tackle that project either summer 2023 or 2024, so as to not disrupt the facilities for students who are working on projects during the regular academic term. 

Gregory, who was on hand to explain discrepancies with two voters, said that she was contacted by a couple in the Dam B area who did not get to vote on the bond issue, but it was not on their ballots.

She said their address should have been in the WISD area of service on the voter rolls, and she has contacted the Secretary of State’s office to inform about what had occurred.

Gregory answered questions from Meysembourg and trustee Josh McClure about the canvassing process and possible contesting from voters. She said that there is a 30-day window for voters to contest their ballots, once the canvass is rendered.

Following the canvass, the board counted 621 “for” votes and 592 “against” on the bond issue.

In another pair of agenda items, the WISD Board of Trustees voted to accept an application of an energy firm, reNRG, and authorize Meysembourg to extend a deadline for any board action regarding a possible tax abatement for the firm. The board also voted in favor of a possible action to retain consultation to assist the district in processing the firm’s application.

The firm is looking build a 120-megawatt solar power facility near Doucette, which according to projections, could provide enough electricity to power up to 24,000 homes annually.

Representatives from the firm, the O’Hanlon Group and Moak-Casey were on hand to speak to the WISD trustees.

The representatives said they will approach the county officials next about a tax abatement for their facility, which they estimate to be online by the fourth quarter of 2027. 

They explained that a tax abatement from WISD would only cover M&O (maintenance and operation) tax levy and not for the I&S (interest and sinking) levy.

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