Commissioners honor American Red Cross, revise meeting schedule

Tyler County Red Cross volunteers Jodi King, Mary Annette Stagg, and John Stagg accepting a proclamation from Woodville Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson after the Woodville City Council proclaimed March Red Cross month in the city.  (Valerie Reddell)Tyler County Red Cross volunteers Jodi King, Mary Annette Stagg, and John Stagg accepting a proclamation from Woodville Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson after the Woodville City Council proclaimed March Red Cross month in the city. (Valerie Reddell)

By Valerie Reddell
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County officials signed a proclamation Monday recognizing the vital role the American Red Cross plays in helping local families recover from disasters. Volunteers serving with the national organization have worked for decades to create the procedures used around the world to help families during and after widespread natural or man-made disasters. Red Cross also assists members of the uniformed military services return home when their family suffers a bereavement or other emergency.

The court also named John Wilson as chairman of the Tyler County Beautification Campaign.

"This is a good day in Tyler County. This man called and said Tyler County needed to be cleaned up and I asked if he would volunteer as chairman, and he said yes," Blanchette said.
Wilson will work to coordinate volunteer efforts between the city, county and school districts to clean up litter prior to the 75th annual Dogwood Festival celebration.
The Texas Department of Transportation has had crews and a contractor working along the highway rights-of-way, but it doesn't take them long to replenish the trash," County Judge Jacques Blanchette said.

"This is an ongoing issue in the county — not just our county but all across the state," Wilson said. "you have to keep working on it and trying to get people involved. You have to educate people not to throw it out to begin with, take more pride in where we live."

"So far the response has been great. When you start piling it up and see how much each mile produces ..." Wilson said.

"That information will be very valuable," Martin Nash said.

"It's amazing how much trash each mile produces," Blanchette said.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Walston reminded those in attendance that residents can drop off used appliances and other scrap metal items at the Pct. 4 barn.
County Treasurer Sue Saunders reported that the county received a check for $1,850 recently for scrap metal good collected and sold.

Commissioners voted to amend their meeting schedule for the remainder of 2018. Commissioners court session will be held every other Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
A recent attorney general's opinion required Commissioners Court to convene to approve payroll prior to checks being issued. In response, Tyler County officials added meetings to their schedule to ensure the current payroll schedule would continue. After reviewing statutes related to meeting schedules, they have been able to consolidate their regular court sessions to alternate Wednesdays.

Finally, commissioners approved renewal of the LexisNexis agreement for the County Law library as well as a resolution to seek bids for road materials and fuel.

Woodvile ISD recognizes teacher, reviews performance report

By Valerie Reddell
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Woodville ISD trustees presented STAR awards to Kim Smith, a math teacher at Woodville High School, and Kara Harrington, who teaches seventh grade math at the middle school campus.

Amy Shumake also made the WISD list of honorees, but was unable to attend the Monday night meeting.

Trustees then held a public hearing on the district's Annual Performance Report for 2016-17.
Superintendent Glen Conner called trustees' attention to six or seven sections of the report.
He explained that a simplified version of the district's independent audit is included in the report.

In 2015-16 the district general fund had nearly $14 million in total revenue, yielding $10,216 per student. Local ad valorem taxes provide 47.29 percent of that; and 49.16 percent comes from the state. Local and intermediate fund generated $461,911 — 3.31 percent of the budget. WISD a quarter of 1 percent in federal funds.

The district earned the highest possible rating from the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). Texas Education Agency says the system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.

WISD ended the year with an unassigned fund balance of $1,494,742, or 11.7 percent of the total budgeted expenses.

Texas public school districts are required to keep a fund balance sufficient to handle district operations for a minimum of two months.

WISD's accountability rating for 2016 was "met standard" which is the highest rating currently assigned.

Criminal Incidents for 2016-2017

The report offers data for violent or criminal incidents that occur on WISD campuses.
The report shows there was no gang-related violence or assaults against teachers or staff during the reporting period. No firearms or weapons were confiscated and no vandalism or criminal mischief causing more than $200 in damage was reported against student property or teacher/staff property.

One incident was reported at the middle school that targeted school property.

The elementary and high school each reported one incident in which a student was assaulted.

Nine incidents at the high school involved the possession, sale or use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. One incident was reported at the middle school.

Post-secondary performance
After graduation, 16 members of the Class of 2015 were enrolled in four-year public university in 2016. Six students had grade point averages of 3.0 or higher.

Another 22 graduates in 2015 were attending two year public colleges, with eight of them earning a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Two students were at independent colleges or universities and 30 could not be found.

Monthly Financial reports
Cody Jarrott, assistant superintendent of finance, informed board members that ad valorem tax revenue had underperformed the prior year, but that line item caught back up with 2017 numbers in the first week of February.

"We are in a very good financial position at this time," Jarrott said. "Most taxes are collected so we expect to see [revenues and fund balances] drop down until taxes are collected in August."

The board approved an afternoon bus route that will deliver younger WISD students to two licensed day care centers in the city.

"We've been looking at what it takes to get that approved, and capture transportation mileage," Conner said.

The route has also been designated as "hazardous" to meet state and federal requirements for reimbursement for transportation within two miles of the campus.

Calendar approved
Trustees approved the calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.
Conner noted that it was similar to the current calendar. It is also aligned with other Tyler County districts.

Early resignation incentive
Trustee's approved a stipend bonus of $500 for teachers who notify the district that they will not be returning next year by March 30.

Conner said the early notification helps the district search for replacements. The stipend has been paid to retiring/resigning teachers for the past two years.

Commissioners OK contracts, appointments & spring cleaning item in sprint through agenda

By Valerie Reddell
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County Commissioners approved fireworks sales for Texas Independence Day, received the quarterly investment report and filled a vacancy on the hospital board of managers during a session held Feb. 15.

Vendors will be allowed to sell fireworks from Feb. 25 to midnight March 2. "As wet as it has been, that's a no-brainer," said Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall. The motion passed unanimously.

The court also approved contracts related to the administration of the primary elections for the Republican and Democratic parties.
County Clerk Donece Gregory told commissioners that the Texas Election Code states the elections administrator can execute the contracts without bringing them before the court.

"Since I'm spending county money — although they do reimburse us — I feel like it would be good to get it approved," Gregory said.

County Treasurer Sue Saunders presented the quarterly investment report to commissioners.

Saunders said two $2,500 Certificates of Deposit have been cashed out, in accordance with action taken at a prior court session. The proceeds were put in the TEXPOOL Prime investment pool where the county can earn 1.5 percent interest per day, and Texas Class which pays 1.09 percent a day.
Saunders said the bulk of the county's investments are in pools.

"The checking accounts have pretty good balances," Saunders said. "The investment committee agreed to move the Jail interest and sinking fund over to TEXPOOL Prime. We can get $140 a day, rather than a month. We will be able to move it back and forth very quickly if we need to."

Investments earned $77,073 for the year, she added. "The pools are safe and giving a very good return," Saunders said. "I am looking for money that is just sitting there that we can move over there."

County Cleanup
Commissioners unanimously approved an item that offers free disposal of metal and white goods at the Tyler County Collection Center for the month of March.
"This helps people get rid of old appliances etc.," Walston said. "We make a little bit on the metal when we get rid of it, so it's good for the people and the county."

Hospital Board of Managers
Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Susan Thompson of Precinct 2 who resigned. Commissioner Rusty Hughes made the motion to appoint Jobe effective immediately.

In other business, commissioners approved the following:
• Monthly reports from probation department, district clerk, county clerk, Extension office, auditor, treasurer and Justice of the Peace Pct. 1.
• Ratify payroll ended Feb. 14.
• Appointed Aleena Conner as Deputy District Clerk.
• Approve a bond for the treasurer of Emergency Services District #2.
• Purchase of a 2500 HD Silverado 4x4 Crew Cab truck from Caldwell Country through the BuyBoard.
• Auction surplus county equipment through and
• Amended an offer for office space for DETCOG Hurricane Harvey Disaster Recovery Coordinator, changing location from courthouse to Senior Citizens Center.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Walston presided over last week's session while County Judge Jacques Blanchette was on vacation with family.

Hwy. project could impact lift station

By Mollie LaSalle

Colmesneil City Council met Tuesday, Feb. 13, and packed a lot of information into a short amount of time. A discussion of the future Hwy. 69 Corridor was broached by Mayor Don Baird.

Baird's main point of concern was the lift station on Hwy. 69 North. At this time, the city is uncertain as to whether the state will buy the land it is on, or if the city will have to move it.

Baird said that "the city is in limbo right now" in regard to the station. Both pumps are in working order, per Keith Barnes, Director of Utilities. The city cannot tear the building down because the pumps are inside. Baird estimates that the cost to the city to move it would be between $5,000 and $7000.

"It can be moved," Baird said. If the state doesn't buy the land, the city has no choice, it will have to move the building.

Parts of Hwy. 69 at present are under construction. The highway between Zavalla and Huntington to the north, and from Lumberton to Warren to the south. The Colmesneil area is last on the list, and work is not scheduled to begin until sometime in 2019.

"That gives us time to consider our options,"Baird said.

In other business, council approved all reports and the minutes from the January meeting. Council also approved a motion to write off all unpaid water bills from 2017. Council went into executive session to discuss and accept bids for the sandblasting and re-painting of Well #2. Upon returning to open session, council voted to hire Tandem Tank & Tower of Moscow for the job, with work slated to begin in the near future.

The city has CDs at Citizens Bank totaling $350,000, and at present, the interest from them is going back into the general account or rolling back into the CD. Council voted to let the interest roll back into each individual CD.

City secretary Mandy Pattillo informed council members that FEMA has all the documentation they need, and the city has been approved for money due to Harvey damage. Council was also updated on road repairs. FM 3065 is slated to get four-foot extensions on each side.

Mayor Baird closed out the meeting with comments about the city's water system, which is still in good shape, and has sustained the city through two hurricanes. The generators are also in good shape.

Council member Duane Crews reiterated the age of the city's water system. The lines currently in place are over 40 years old, and at some point will need to be replaced.

Council members all agreed that the work could be done "a section at a time and pray for a grant."

Chester council discusses gas service

By Chuck Davidson

The Chester Gas System & City of Chester's council met on Monday Feb. 5 to discuss and act upon several important issues. Entergy's Sam Bethea updated them on their current franchise agreement which ends in March and after discussion, all approved a new 25-year agreement which keeps the same gas fee intact. This fee generates some income to the city based on amount of gas used by its 85 customers. The new agreement begins March 28 and does include an incremental fee clause, which the current council declines to use. Mayor Floyd Petri emphasized that this should not be confused with the recent changes in gas rates and installation fees approved by council: they were changed due to increased costs for gas.

One position on City Council remains vacant after the last election. Anyone living within the city limits who is interested in serving can contact the mayor or anyone at City Hall.
The mayor also updated the board on the NIMS (emergency) training which can be done online and encouraged all to do so.

Guest Mike Davis asked about number of past due gas accounts and the recent changes to the basic charge and installation fees.

Since this was on the agenda, the current policy was discussed and the listing of 28 customers was reviewed. Past due notices are sent out monthly and once any account is more than 60 days past due, the service can be turned off.

The mayor mentioned that some vandalism had recently occurred at the city park and that the city will take legal action if a suspect is identified.

Related to the park and use of city facilities, the council reviewed current policy. Facilities can be rented at city hall. Renters pay $100 clean-up deposit and an electrical fee (if appropriate), and may be given a key if the event takes place outside of regular business hours.

The new Employee Handbook was presented and approved as revised after several months of consideration.

Council members draft plans for 2018

By Valerie Reddell
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Woodville Mayor Russ Nalley opened a planning workshop Monday by announcing that the key to a successful 2018 is planning.

"You can't get anywhere if you don't plan," Nalley said.

The council and staff quickly reached consensus as to the need for the city's downtown area to look its best for the 75th annual Dogwood Festival.

Suggestions included coordinated efforts by volunteers to tackle troublesome areas of the city in early spring.

City Manager Mandy Risinger reported that Municipal Judge Judith Haney often assigns violators to community service as a way of working off fines.

"We provide the safety vest and bags, then they fill the bag and leave at the side of the road for city staff to collect in a truck," Risinger said. That process also allows city staff to track their efforts. The area around the housing authority and Cob Mill Road frequently have a lot of litter, she added.

Staff also will announce more detailed plans for heavy trash collection during the first two weeks in March. This effort allows residents to bring larger items to a dumpster at the warehouse at no charge.

Risinger noted that certain items such as tires, batteries and lead paint cannot be accepted.

Nalley asked members about other projects they would like to see the city pursue.

"I get lots of ideas from citizens, but they usually want them to be accomplished without higher taxes, raising utility bills and someone else volunteering," Nalley said.

Councilwoman Joyce Wilson asked about the status of a sidewalk project that was part of a recent engineering study.
Risinger responded that the sidewalk proposal would be submitted for the next two-year cycle.

City Secretary Terri Bible mentioned the possibility of partnering student groups and business owners to provide planter filled with flowering plants.

"That's a good way to add a lot of color with minimal cost," Nalley said.

After transitioning into the regular January meeting, the council quickly handled its agenda of monthly reports.

A resolution naming the Tyler County Booster as the newspaper of record won unanimous approval.

In the City Manager's report, Risinger noted that city hall would be closed Jan. 15 in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday.

Staffers are closing out documentation for disaster recovery projects and the Pine Street Water Well. All the work has been accomplished, the final items all relate to closing out FEMA documentation releasing retained funds to contractors.

Risinger also is researching as to whether the city is required to designate a city health officer. Dr. Curtis Garner resigned from the position in November. So far, Risinger said she has not located any requirement that the city replace him.

The city manager also reported that documentation seeking reimbursement for emergency protective measures for Hurricane Harvey should be finalized soon. All the documents are in FEMA's hands, awaiting approval.

As far as damage repairs, Risinger said the contractor who installed the roof at city hall recently made an inspection and the damage should be under warranty.

In response to questions from Nalley, Risinger said water is likely continuing to leak into the attic area, but it's not intruding into the building interior. Some visible mildew damage is visible in the city council chamber where walls meet the ceiling.

"That's all superficial," Risinger said. "It's not in the Sheetrock and not in insulation. That's why we haven't been scurrying around pulling Sheetrock out."

"Budgetwise, we may be looking at a new roof," Risinger added. "It's pretty evident we got a poor job. The roof was replaced 10 years ago and the warranty was for 20 years — supposedly."

Elected officials continued a discussion that began at the December meeting regarding a request to amend a city ordinance on the use of fixed propane tanks for homes and businesses in the city.

Fire Chief Chuck Marshall and Public Works Director Charles Maclin expressed a number of potential hazards posed by increased use of propane within the city.

Marshall recalled Tyler County community faced those risks when a valve broke off a large propane tank at Warren Junior High, the chief said. Firefighters remained at that site for two days, shuttling water and containing the leaking propane by a technique known as "fogging."

The explosive limit of propane is considerable lower, meaning the risk of explosion is greater than natural gas. Natural gas is lighter than air, so when leaks occur, the gas drifts up into the atmosphere; propane dissipates along the ground — sometimes for great distances.

Risinger noted that there are concerns about service issues that accompany leaks. Currently, half of the city employees are members of the fire department. When a leak is reported, those dual roles allow them to enter a residence if necessary and shut off gas. They can also turn off the service at a safe distance from the fire.

If fire crews respond to a propane leak, they must dedicate one truck and crew to keeping that tank cool.

The request for a revision to the ordinance on propane will remain tabled, Nalley said.