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Tyler County News - Breakout

City moves forward with Willis Motel

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Willis Motel

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Last week, the Woodville City Council and City Administrator Mandy Risinger discussed, in closed session, the status of the Willis Motel.

Councilmembers, Risinger and Mayor Paula Jones discussed the topic with City Attorney Brad Elrod to see what options the city had to move forward with the structure.

Risinger said the city “reached a point to where we had run our gauntlet of what our ordinance permits,” and wanted to find the next step available in condemning the structure.

The motel, which has operated in Woodville for more than 75 years, was the location of a fire in 2019, and was the subject of hearings held by the city last year. The city compelled the owner to come and testify as why it should avoid condemnation.

The pandemic had hampered the city’s ability to work on many cases of dilapidated structures. When the city got to work on the case, they had found that the Willis’s owner had not resolved any issues. Subsequently, when the owner appeared at a hearing in March 2021, he was under the impression all of the issues had been resolved.

The motel fell into further disrepair after the owners completed some of the work on the city’s deadline, following the hearing, and has been closed to the public since the city took initial action.

The motel has been ordered vacated and secured, and Risinger said the city would put up orange fencing and signs stating for no one to enter the property. She said the measures were to make sure there is a full understanding that there is not supposed to be anyone on the property.

The process of judicial abatement with dilapidated structures is an extensive one, Risinger said, and allows the property owner every opportunity to remedy the situation.

“Litigation with these things has made us cautious with how we proceed,” Risinger said. “We just needed to make the determination on what the next step should be.”

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Multiple agencies battle Fort Teran fire

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Tina Barnes PhotoTina Barnes Photo

By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – According to Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe, multiple agencies responded to a complex fire on County Road 2845 (Fort Teran road) on Tuesday, August 9.

The initial report came through at 2:30 p.m., according to Jobe, and was reported at first as three separate fires, although two were located.

Agencies including Colmesneil and Woodville volunteer fire departments; the Texas A&M Forest Service; Big Thicket Fire and Tyler County Office of Emergency Management all responded.

According to Jobe the efforts included the use of six bulldozers; four grass rigs; two engines; several support vehicles and 30 responders.

“Initial assessment is the two fires burned approximately 130 acres. At about 5:30 p.m., all county fire departments were released,” said Jobe. The dozers were left behind to cut lanes to prevent further spread.

Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford noted that it has been “a very busy and tragic fire year with the loss of precious lives and property,” and reminded citizens, in a statement, to be mindful of all the volunteer efforts of many firefighting agencies.

“These volunteers are always available 24 hours a day, whether it’s fighting a fire, vehicle crashes, assisting the community,

aw enforcement and EMS personnel,” Weatherford said.

By Wednesday night the Texas A&M Forest Service reported that one of the fires, which encompassed 173 acres, was 90% contained, while the second, comprising 121.7 acres, was 100% contained.

There were no injuries reported and no structures destroyed or damaged.

Multiple wildfires have been reported in the region, largely due to the drought conditions that have persisited. At the same time firefighters battled the Teran fires, agencies were fighting one in Polk County, which covered 24 acres. That fire was reported as 100% contained on Wednesday.

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Colmesneil council discusses vehicle purchase for city

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CityofColmenseilBy Mollie LaSalle
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COLMESNEIL – Colmesneil City Council held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, August 9. Council quickly approved all minutes from the previous month’s meeting before addressing the new agenda items.

The first agenda item was to approve holding a general election November 8, 2022. The city then approved the resolution to hold a joint election with the county, and both were approved in short order. 

The next item up was the permanent removal of the Check Free Bill Pay service that the city has been providing to customers for several years. They have to notify the public 31 days in advance that it is being terminated; the mayor advised that they have begun this process. 

As of August 9, they hadn’t heard anything from the owner of the hardware store about taking this over as a service provider. 

Mayor Duane Crews and councilmembers are still considering the purchase of a new truck for the city; the one they currently utilize is in the shop for repairs. The mayor has been shopping around various dealerships and other sites and has yet to find anything that council members would deem acceptable to purchase. This matter has been in discussion for the last few months. 

Ultimately, the city will have to purchase a truck (either new or used), but they want to wait until they can get a vehicle that will serve the needs of the city for years to come. 

City Secretary Wendy Bendy inquired about the status of the Fall Festival which the city has hosted for the past two years; it was decided to go ahead with preparations for this year in light of the success of last year’s event. The festival would be held the week prior to Halloween. Per Bubba Sheffield, Homecoming will be September 16, and he has not heard of any plans to have a parade this year. 

The city has hired Sherry Brown as part-time office help to assist Wendy Bendy. She has already started in her position and is only working three days a week for now. With no further business to discuss, council adjourned at 7:23 p.m.

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Tyler County schools earn passing grades from TEA

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Passing Grade 200pxBy Chris Edwards
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AUSTIN – For the first time in three years, the Texas Education Agency has released, on Monday, its accountability ratings for the state’s school districts as well as individual campuses.

The A-F letter grade rating system, which was adopted in 2018, after a bill passed during the 85th Texas Legislature to establish the system as a simplified means of evaluating the academic performances of Texas schools.

The system uses a series of letter grades, A through F, as one would receive on a school report card. It is based primarily on standardized testing results from students in grades three through 12 throughout the academic year.

“The ratings examine student achievement, student progress, efforts to close the achievement gap and postsecondary readiness,” according to the TEA accountability website.

This year’s slate of ratings is the first since 2019 due to two years of COVID-related pauses, according to a news release issued Monday by TEA to announce the ratings’ release. “These results show our state’s significant investment in the post-pandemic recovery of Texas public school students is bearing fruit,” said TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.

Across the state, 1,195 districts and 8,451 campuses were rated this year, with noted significant gains in students’ academic growth. This year saw 25% of districts and 33% of campuses improve their letter grade from 2019’s reports. 

All of Tyler County’s five school districts made the passing mark, with Chester, Colmesneil, Spurger and Warren receiving “B” grades and Woodville ISD receiving a “C.”

The last time the accountability ratings were issued, Spurger received a “D” rating, with its overall score a 62 out of 100. This year, it is up to 88 out of 100 in its overall score.

Morath said the driving force behind the rise in the numbers is upon the shoulders of teachers and local school leaders. “Statewide policy in Texas continues to remain focused on meeting the needs of students, with an accountability system that supports high expectations…and an investment in evidence-based training for our teachers,” Morath said.

At the statewide level, 33.1%, or 396 districts, received an “A” rating, compared to 25.3% or 301 districts in 2019. Fifty-four percent of the state’s school districts, or 645, received a “B” grade with the 2022 results.

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Cauthen inducted to ag teacher hall of fame

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081122 cauthen inductedIn this file photo, Ken Cauthen is shown at the Warren ISD Ag Banquet in 2018. Cauthen has inspired many students to follow his path into classrooms around the state, including Warren alumnus Jacob Spivey, who joined the faculty for the coming fall semester as an ag instructor.

From Staff Reports

CORPUS CHRISTI – In July, the Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas (ATAT) hosted its annual Professional Development Conference for teachers of agriculture, food and natural resources in-person at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.

The week-long conference was designed specifically for the educational enrichment of agriculture teachers and stakeholders and allows attendees to enhance teaching methods, discuss developments in curriculum, learn more about industry-based student certifications as well as network with leaders within the agriculture education profession.

During the award ceremony, ATAT inducted 54 teachers from across the state to its 2022 Texas Hall of Fame, including Ken Cauthen, who taught at Hull Daisetta High School, Chester High School, Warren High School and Spurger High School.

“This Hall of Fame recognition honors the continued commitment of educators like Mr. Cauthen who truly make our students grow into leaders,” said Ray Pieniazek, Executive Director of ATAT. “Agriculture education teachers within the Texas FFA go above and beyond for their students and this community. We celebrate Mr. Cauthen’s years of dedication to professional development with this special induction, marking the difference he has made in his students’ lives and Texas overall.”

The Texas Hall of Fame recognizes and honors agricultural science teachers whose careers, achievements, and contributions stand exemplary. Inductees are known as well-rounded professionals that have proven their success with FFA activities, in the classroom, as well as through involvement in their community. They have proven their desire to provide students with opportunities for premier leadership, personal growth and career success over a significant period of time.

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