Council members were given an update on the status of the city's Community Development Block Grant at Tuesday's meeting by David Waxman with David Waxman Consultants, Inc. of Jasper.
The city has applied for a grant in the amount of $275,000.
"The state will announce the recipients in the next couple of months, as it is a competitive process, and there are two rounds of funding", Waxman explained. He also said that they are not anticipating any problems, either environmental or from an engineering standpoint.
Waxman said that Colmesneil "was in great shape to receive the grant". He also said that there will be public notices published in local newspapers before June. This will give citizens and cities input on how the grants are distributed and spent.
The objective of the Community Development Block Grant program for Rural Texas is to develop viable communities by providing decent housing and suitable living environments and expanding economic opportunities principally for persons of low-to-moderate income.
The Texas Department of Agriculture oversees the program, and eligible applicants are non-entitlement cities under 50,000 in population and non-entitlement counties under 200,000 in population and not eligible for direct CDBG funding from HUD or funding through any of the Texas CDBG programs.
In other business, council approved the audit report for fiscal year 2017. The financial and investment reports were tabled until next month, as the bank statements had not arrived in time for the meeting. Council also approved the minutes from the last meeting, office reports, and water and sewer reports. City secretary Mandy Pattillo attended a Grant Writing Seminar in San Antonio on May 3 and 4.
"I learned a lot about writing grants, and that was two days of cram-packed info," Pattillo said. With no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m. Colmesneil City Council meets the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Colmesneil City Council passed a resolution proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the city at its regular meeting April 10.
Mike McCulley, with the Woodville Police Department, and Paula Gibbs, with the Tyler County District Attorney's office, were present and spoke on behalf of the Tyler County Child Welfare Board about the work they are doing to prevent child abuse and neglect in the county. McCulley and Gibbs are long-term members, and they thanked the council for passing the proclamation, as it helps in their effort to get the word out.
McCulley said,"172 children died last year as a result of abuse in the state of Texas, down from the previous year. The main objective of the board is to help one child at a time, and currently, there are 26 children in foster care in the county, either awaiting placement with other family members, remaining in foster care, or awaiting placement in residential treatment facilities. It is an important ministry for us, and we are doing all we can to help these children."
One of the programs the board sponsors is the Angel Tree program at Christmas which served almost 400 children last year. This is a painstaking mission which takes a lot of time to co-ordinate. The program serves not only the children in foster care, but also underprivileged children in the county.
Council members asked McCulley about the status of the now closed Sinclair Center in Woodville. McCulley replied "the property has been purchased by an unnamed individual who has previously worked with Girl's Haven in Beaumont and is in the process of getting a license to get the facility re-opened, sometime later this year.' He further added that" the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns about what the facility is and what they are going to be doing." There will be an announcement in the local press about the date and time for the public forum.
In other business, council approved minutes form the previous meeting, financial and investment reports, office, and water and sewer reports for February and March. Mayor Don Baird had the audit report for fiscal year 2017 available for council to read and review, as the representatives for Todd, Hamaker, and Johnson were not present for the meeting.
Baird, council member Billy Andrus, and city secretary Mandy Pattillo will attend a budget seminar/workshop in Beaumont in June, and Pattillo is slated to attend a grant writing seminar in San Antonio in early May.
Baird closed out the meeting by thanking everyone who helped him celebrate his 90th birthday in February. Baird was honored for his many years in public service by U.S. Representative Brian Babin and Lucas Babin, who won the Republican primary in March for the office of Tyler County District Attorney.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, Autism Awareness Month and Fair Housing Month thanks to three proclamations approved by Woodville City Council on Monday under the leadership of Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson.
The city also accepted a donation from Youth Leadership of Southeast Texas that will provide puncture resistant safety gloves for police officers and other first responders.
Rachel Iglesias addressed the council on the group's behalf, reporting that the group raised the funds by putting on a ragball tournament.
Fellow adult coordinator Steve Sturrock said the gloves would be delivered as soon as he and Police Chief Scott Yosko determined what size gloves were needed to fit the city's current roster of officers.
The council also voted to adopt a small increase recommended by the Public Utilities Commission in the Municipal Telecommunications Right-of-Way access line rate.
City Manager Mandi Risinger explained that increase amounts to a few cents per month and prevents the city from having to adopt larger increases.
The council postponed appointing a board member to serve on the board of directors of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. Councilman Lee Mann currently serves in the role and asked for additional time to consider whether to continue.
Risinger added that the city has until July to make that appointment.
Risinger also reported on that state of the Pine Street Water Well project.
At the March meeting, Risinger reported that the well had problems with its starter. Crews replaced that piece of equipment and now they are having difficulties with one of the pumps. As soon as the well is operational, it will be used for several days, then water samples will be submitted to TCEQ for testing. If those samples pass, the well will be put online.
Those unexpected equipment problems have also delayed the final paperwork to close out the grant, Risinger said.
Once repairs and testing are complete, she can process the final pay request and release retainage.
FEMA is still processing the city's request for reimbursement for expenses related to Hurricane Harvey.
Ending on a positive note, Risinger said the gas system earned a 100 percent performance evaluation from the Texas Municipal League.
A notification letter commended Woodville for earning a score of 95 or better in performance ratings for the last 10 years. The wastewater treatment plant also underwent a recent inspection. A few issues were identified and have been resolved, Risinger said. They are currently awaiting a confirmation that TCEQ is satisfied with the city's response.
The Ivanhoe City Council approved the purchase of a used maintainer to help make repairs to city streets. Currently, city crews are renting a maintainer and operator for $672 per day.
Public works supervisor David Marshall pointed out that in 90 days, the city would spend $20,160.
The used maintainer that Marshall located, a trusted colleague examined, and council approved to purchase has a price tag of $29,500. Delivery charges will add an $1,500 to $1,700.
Marshall described the maintainer as a 1989 John Deere 570B, 24 feet long with a naturally aspirate engine that has 575 operating hours.
The Bar H Ranch near Dalhart used the maintainer for road maintenance.
In response to a question from Councilman Mark Peterson, Marshall said TxDOT operates many maintainers with 10,000 to 12,000 hours on them.
The purchase also remains within the budget for capital expenses.
Earlier in the year, the city purchased a dump truck for $20,000. These two pieces of equipment working in tandem will allow the public works crews to continue to improve the base on the city's 46 miles of roadway.
Since putting the dump truck in service, Marshall said his crews have spread 36 tons of material to roads.
Then last week's rainfall dumped another 10 inches of rain in 16 hours, but that event allowed Marshall to make an assessment on what base materials will work best.
Marshall filled some potholes with green glauconite and used crushed concrete commonly referred to as washout in others.
"The washout was gone and the green glauconite stayed put," Marshall said
In developing a plan of attack, Marshall divided the city into four quadrants and evaluated needed repairs into A, B and C priority levels. The crew will spend one week out of four in each quadrant attacking repairs in order of priority.
Once the maintainer arrives, someone will be operating that equipment eight hours a day, four days a week.
Bennett and Herrington spend much of last week's public hearing discussing various ways the city can use the bond package to obtain grants using the bonds as a local match.
In some cases, one grant can be used as local matching funds for other grants — further extending the roadway that can be rehabilitated.
Although a map was circulated at the first town hall meeting held in March, Bennett said they are continuing to have conversations about which portions of the road will be addressed first.
"Everything is still up for grabs, from the front all the way to the back," Bennett said.
Consulting Engineer Allen Sims of LJA Engineering addressed one suggestion that the city order a traffic study to determine which streets see the most traffic.
Sims said the equipment needed for the traffic study that most people are acquainted with comes at a cost of $100 per day. Two are needed for each roadway for a minimum of three days.
"I estimate 35 roads would need to be studied, so you would be looking at $25,000 to $30,000 in equipment rental and another $10,000 to have the data analyzed," Sims said.
Sims said he often uses a less expensive method of determining relative traffic counts by counting rooftops from a map of the city. A final option that is no longer used much is to hire someone that will sit alongside the road and click a counter each time a car drives by.
Herrington pointed out that all residents have a right to speak their mind, and urged Ivanhoe citizens to continue expressing their thoughts — but maybe those thoughts could be expressed in a more positive — or even neutral — manner.
"The best part of Ivanhoe is here in this room — it's the people," Herrington said. "I ask you, when you go home time, ask yourself if you would spend that amount of your time and effort — just to get your butt ripped up?"
Each council member receives a stipend of $10 a meeting, and they must be present to get the stipend.
TML regulations require that the elected officials receive some form of payment — gratuitous as it may be — to qualify for insurance.
CDBG grants became available April 6. Sims said the timeline for those grants includes a 14-day comment period, a 30-day implementation period, 60 days to take applications and 90 days to review the applications.
Sixty-five percent of those grants will be tagged for housing, and 35 percent will fund infrastructure.
If voters approve the bond package, those funds can be used for a match, even before the bonds are sold. Bennett pointed out that they will put off the sale of those bonds for as long as 12 to 18 months to minimize the interest expense.
"We're not going to sell the bonds, and have the proceeds just sit in the bank," Bennett added. City officials have been battling against a number of myths regarding the bond project and other city operations.
Bennett dismissed a number of myths circulating on social media and through other sources. One false report states that the mayor and City Marshal Terry Riley are about to be arrested.
Another claims that Bennett and other council members will "get rich" off the projects. Bennett pointed out that all grant projects are thoroughly audited.
Bennett said she has reached out to a few of the people who administer groups on Facebook, but none of them have accepted her invitation to talk face to face and learn more about city operations.
Another town hall meeting on the road bonds is set for Saturday, April 21.
Warren Independent School District's most recent school board meeting was held on March 19. Among the items on the agenda were matters of hiring new personnel, as well as sale of properties held in trust by the district.
"There are five properties, and these were held in trust because people quit paying taxes on them," Brad McEachern, Warren ISD Superintendent, said. McEachern explained that after a legal process, properties with unpaid taxes are placed in trust by the county.
"Every so often – once or twice a year – (Warren ISD gets) properties that have gone through the process. (The school board) approved a sale of those properties."
McEachern said that the school board also addressed matters related to personnel at the meeting.
"We hired Mark Hardy as director of operations," he said. "We accepted a resignation at the end of the year from Ed Lee, who is a teacher at the high school. We renewed administrator and teacher contracts."
The board also approved the creation of a safety/security officer position for the district, McEachern said.
"They approved for us to post a position for next year," he said. "There are a couple of ways you can go about this. You can create a police department or you can have a school resource officer." According to McEachern, a school resource officer position would be in conjunction with the Tyler County Sheriff's Office, with the district covering a portion of the cost. He said the district is still trying to determine which solution would be best for Warren ISD.
The district, meanwhile, has met Texas Education Agency standards, McEachern said.
"We have met standard at every campus and in the district at every level," he said, adding that Warren ISD will soon go to the TEA's A-F system. The new system, which assigns schools letter grades based on their performance, will change the way schools are rated by the TEA beginning in August.
"They're going to give a grade to each campus and district," McEachern said.
The next Warren ISD school board meeting is scheduled for April 23. For more information, visit www.warrenisd.net.
SPURGER – Spurger ISD Superintendent Kendall Smith made it clear at the district's March board meeting that adopting a policy to allow district personnel to carry firearms needs to be decided soon.
Smith told the board members that it is a time-consuming process to put such a policy in place.
"Before I start building a plan, I want to make sure it is something ya'll want to pursue," he said. Currently there are 172 school districts in Texas permitting personnel to carry firearms, according to Texas Education Agency. The debate about arming teachers and staff has surged in response to recent school shootings, such as the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Texas school districts can choose between two plans, the Guardian Plan and the School Marshal Plan, to authorize employees to carry a firearm on school property, according to TEA. The Guardian Plan has been discussed by SISD administrators. The Guardian Plan allows for the school board to adopt a local policy authorizing the designation of specific employees to carry firearms on school premises, according to a document outlining the different plans from the Texas Association of School Boards.
Smith explained some of the steps necessary to adopt the policy, which include psychological evaluations, firearm training and testing and getting the needed legal paperwork in place. Smith said that under such a policy, employees chosen to carry firearms will be held to a standard of confidentiality.
Board President Carroll Hatton suggested that the superintendent "dig into it a little more to see if we want to pursue it." Smith said he's already done a lot of research into the policy, but the trustees needed to decide whether or not it was something SISD wants to do.
Security and safety measures were foremost on Smith's mind when he gave his report to the board members at the March 15 meeting.
Smith said a security door, accessible via a keycard, was installed on the back of the elementary school building last weekend. Smith said he chose the location to test the door out due to the high amount of traffic coming and going. He said the door was programmed to automatically unlock at certain times of the day and teachers were given keycards.
The company that installed and programmed the door volunteered to do so at no cost to the district so SISD personnel could see how it works and practice its use before deciding whether or not to outfit the district with the doors.
Smith also reported that he has also been looking into policies of other districts as to the items students are allowed to bring on campus as well as student clothing. He pointed to Woodville ISD's policy of allowing only clear backpacks and its ban on hoodies as possible safety measures to adopt in the future for SISD.
On its agenda for regular business, SISD trustees voted to renew three contracts for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The contracts of Connie Griffith, Business Manager; Doug Jenkins, Transportation/Grounds Maintenance Supervisor and Leona Callaway,
Child Nutrition Supervisor, each were renewed for one year.
Smith gave the current enrollment figures for the district. There are 197 students enrolled in the elementary school and 173 in the secondary program with a total of 370 pupils. Smith said attendance is at 94.24 percent, and the district is at 353.93 for average daily attendance.
Other Business Board members also voted to approve the following: • The instructional materials allotment and TEKS Certification for the 2018-19 school year. • The hiring of Mitchell T. Fontenote, CPA, as auditors for the district for the 2017-18 school year. •The TASB Policy Update 110 Affecting Local Policy BBB, as it pertains to school board member elections and terms.