After officials at the Newton County jail overheard an inmate talking about a tractor stolen in Tyler County, Newton County Sheriff Billy Knowles and Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford put their heads together to get the equipment back to its rightful owner.
David Doyle of Louisiana admitted to investigators that he had stolen the tractor, and he later led them to an area off County Road 45465 near Spurger where the tractor was found.
The 90 horsepower McCormick Tractor was reported stolen in late 2017.
Doyle is being held at the Newton County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $107,000 on burglary and theft charges in Jasper County, Tyler County, Beauregard Parish and Calcasieu Parish.
"I want to thank Newton County Sheriff Billy Rowles for helping us recover this stolen property," Weatherford said. Weatherford also reported that he and Rowles will be attending a round-table discussion in early April which will be hosted by Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox and San Augustine Sheriff Robert Cartwright. The East Texas sheriffs will join their counterparts in Western Louisiana to share information on crime affecting the entire region.
City officials approved a proclamation honoring the American Red Cross Monday in a City Council session presided over by Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson.
Wilson commended the Red Cross's efforts to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies as well as the agency's 24-hour support of the military, veterans and their families.
John Goodman addressed the council during public comments and advised the council of a planned celebration for Armed Forces Day.
Goodman has organized similar events in the past and he said the owners of Elijah's Café have agreed to allow him to use their property from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday, May 19 to recognize current members of the military and veterans.
Recruiters, ROTC cadets and representatives from the Veterans Administration will be on hand for the event. Moving through a brief agenda, City Administrator Mandy Risinger reported that city offices will be closed March 30 for Good Friday.
Work is complete on the two water well projects funded with disaster recovery funds. Crews replaced the starter on the Pine Street water well and once samples are tested, the contractor will submit a final pay request and final documentation will be submitted.
Risinger reported that no new permits have been requested through the Code Enforcement office during the preceding month.
Members of a group seeking to building a packing house in Tyler County are continuing their search for a site. The city has executed a memorandum of understanding to accept wastewater trucked in from a rural site should those services be necessary.
Municipal Court Judge Judith Haney reported that 144 citations were processed through her court. A total of 86 arrest warrants were issued.
One hearing was held on a juvenile matter with the minor sent to a detention facility.
The court collected $28,064.59 in fine revenue during February.
Police Chief Scott Yosko reported that officers have responded to a few unusual incidents in recent weeks.
Among those was a number of car burglaries in the Chesswood subdivision.
Yosko issued a reminder to all city residents to lock their vehicles.
"It's rare to have anything happen in Chesswood, but it appears the suspects walked from house to house trying the doors of vehicles in that neighborhood.
"They got into those that were unlocked and took a few odds and ends and left," Yosko said. "If the door was locked they just moved on."
Woodville police also arrested man who was reported driving erratically.
"An ex-deputy spotted him and the driver ducked down into Chesswood. He turned into a house that he said belonged to an old friend, but he wound up getting stuck in the yard," Yosko said. "It turned into an expensive incident for him. He got four tickets and a $75 wrecker bill."
LUFKIN — Judge Keith F. Giblin signed an order Feb. 24, granting a motion by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to delay any action related to a Feb 6 ruling that found that the Restoration Act governs gaming on the tribe's land in Polk and Tyler counties.
In essence, the order means Naskila Entertainment Center can remain open during the appeal and cancels a hearing set for Wednesday, Feb. 28 on contempt issues filed by the State of Texas.
"We are grateful that the court has granted the Tribe's motion to stay pending appeal. This means that Naskila Gaming will remain open during the appeal process, which can take anywhere from 12 to 16 months," said Jo Ann Battise, Chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council. "This is wonderful news for the immediate future of the 330 employees whose families' livelihood depends on Naskila Gaming."
"As suggested in Judge Giblin's Order, protecting these Naskila jobs, pending appeal, avoids residual negative impact on the local economy. It is also critically important to the Tribe's ability to improve the quality of life for our people by providing more housing, healthcare and educational services. We will not rest while appealing the state's lawsuit against the Tribe. We will continue the fight for fairness," Battise said.
"On Feb. 8, Congressman Brian Babin (R-36) filed a bill, HR 4985, relating to our ability to offer electronic bingo entertainment that will restore an opportunity for economic development on terms that are equal and fair with other federally recognized tribes in Texas, Battise added. "We will advocate vigorously for passage of this bill."
The court's memorandum opinion and order acknowledge that the circumstances of the case present a serious legal question. Ultimately, the final decision will determine whether the tribe is subject to the authority of the National Indian Gaming Commission or the State of Texas.
"The Tribe has also advanced a number of legitimate legal arguments which – although declined by this Court – are sufficient to at least present a substantial argument on the merits on appeal," Giblin said in the order.
Giblin also found that the balance of equities tilt in the tribe's favor when considering whether to issue a stay.
The order cites the positive economic impact of Naskila through its employment of 318 people — 87 of whom are tribal members.
"The Tribe also points to evidence indicating that if the Court orders Naskila closed, these individuals will lose their employment and that the local economy cannot supply comparable employment to those affected," Giblin wrote.
"Wet Willie," a longtime attraction at Lake Tejas, the waterpark owned and operated by Colmesneil ISD, will come down soon due to the potential safety risks it poses.
The 100-foot long water slide, described as the "crown jewel" of the lake on its website, "will not be a fixture at Lake Tejas for us this year," CISD Superintendent Angela Matterson said at the district's board meeting on Monday, Feb. 26. Matterson said there have been safety concerns with the slide and in looking to dismantle it, the district is "just looking out for the safety of our children."
As a possible alternative to Wet Willie, Matterson suggested the construction of fiberglass water slides. The report on Wet Willie came during Matterson's report to the school board. At this time there are no plans or any actions taken to proceed with the demolition of the slide or for subsequent replacement. Matterson added that with the recent rains, the water level at the lake is up substantially, henceforth it would be impossible to do any work on the project at present.
In further comments on Lake Tejas, Matterson spoke about the job being done by lake manager Dena Kay Stewart-Settlocker. "She is doing a great job as manager," Matterson said. She also commended Settlocker's job of running the kitchen and concessions area of Lake Tejas, and the variety of food items she has provided for patrons of the lake since taking over those tasks.
Other Business On its regular agenda, CISD Board of Trustees approved its District Improvement Plan for the 2017-18 school year. Matterson made mention of several items included in the plan, including the addition of I-Excel testing software across the CISD campuses, additional needs for students, teacher retention and incentives for end-of-course testing. Matterson said she meets with new teachers each six weeks to "discuss anything they've got going on from grading to lesson plans." "We've got all those things [within the plan] in place in hopes of keeping them," she said.
Board members also reviewed and approved the 2016-17 Texas Academic Performance Report. The Texas Education Agency-issued report examines "all accountability, credibility, financials...everything everyone would want to know about the school," Matterson said. Prior to Monday night's meeting, a public hearing was held for discussion of the report. There were no members of the public present at the meeting to provide any comments.
CISD's district-wide accountability rating per the report is that it met standards in all examined fields. Both the campuses of Colmesneil Elementary as well as the secondary campus were given the "met standard" accountability rating, as well, with the secondary campus achieving several distinction designations from TEA. These distinctions include: Academic Achievements in English Language Arts/Reading; Academic Achievement in Mathematics; Top 25 percent in student progress and Top 25 percent in closing performance gaps.
Matterson said once the report was approved by the board, it will be posted on the district's website. Following the review, the report was approved after board member Twyla Darder motioned for its approval and board member Danny Brown provided a second.
Matterson presented the trustees a packet of accountability ratings from TEA for districts in the region, all measured by the new letter grade system. She explained that while CISD is "far above the standard" in comparison to neighboring districts, the ratings system still represents an unfair system. "Hopefully when the legislature meets again things will change," she said. Currently the ratings system, which assigns school districts letter grades of A-F depending on three domains used to measure academic performance, is being used as a test. "We don't get penalized right now," Matterson explained. The system was passed during the 85th Texas Legislature, and is slated to begin in August 2018, when TEA plans to measure overall performance, as well as performance in each domain. The A-F ratings for campuses is scheduled to begin the following year, according to the TEA website. Matterson showed the board members how the letter grading system is broken down, and how TEA decides to cut points and for what.
City officials announced last week that March 17 will be a citywide cleanup day throughout Woodville. Volunteer teams from local businesses and civic groups are being asked to choose an area of the city that they will clean up — either an area near their location or adopt an area that needs extra attention. The goal is to have the city looking its best for the 75th annual Dogwood Festival.
The city will accept heavier items that residents need to dispose of at the city warehouse from March 5 to 16. Although hazardous waste such as chemicals, tires and batteries can't be accepted, this will be an opportunity to dispose of items that don't fit in the trash can, City Administrator Mandy Risinger said.
Council members also approved a request from Sam Haney to block off a portion of Village Street adjacent to Emporium for the Arts on March 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tents will be placed in the area to allow artists space to demonstrate and sell their work during the Festival of the Arts.
City officials have also been meeting with representatives who are considering locating a packing house south of Woodville.
"They asked the city to take their sewerage, which would be trucked to the wastewater plant," Risinger said. "We proposed a couple of other sites nearer the city that have utilities available. They are looking at those."
The investors are considering opening a packing plant because there are not many beef packing plants left in Texas, they told Risinger. An internet search revealed two packing operations in East Texas that primarily process wild game.
Current city projects Risinger announced the new industrial park water well is now online. The Pine Street water well has a few minor items on a punch list that need to be completed as of Tuesday.
The city has submitted all records for public assistance projects in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The roof damage at city hall has been repaired under the terms of the warranty given when the roof was installed.
"The interior damage doesn't meet the threshold for a public assistance project," Risinger said. She will work with a contractor to repair drywall and other damage.
Employee recognition Public Works Director Charles Maclin will retire at the end of February after 20 years of service with the City of Woodville. He worked with the City of Diboll prior to Woodville. Risinger said Charles Odom will be promoted to the position after Maclin's retirement.
The next city council meeting will be March 12. City hall will be closed Feb. 19 for President's Day.
Brian HensarlingTyler County deputies responded to a call from a Fred resident at about 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, reporting a suspicious vehicle near a residence.
The caller reporting seeing a black Ford Mustang parked near a fence that bordered property owned by his brother-in-law. When deputies arrived at the location, several witnesses said they heard someone running from the home into a nearby wooded area. Those witnesses also said the homeowner was out of town. Deputies found that the door had been forced open as well as other evidence a burglary had occurred.
At about 8:45 p.m. deputies saw a white male exit the woods near the black Mustang. They identified the man as Brian Hensarling, 37, of Woodville. Hensarling was sweating and out of breath. Deputies saw dirt all over his jeans, and small twigs were around the neck and collar area of his shirt. Investigators then were able to match Hensarling's shoe prints with footprints found at the scene of the break-in.
Hensarling was taken to the Tyler County jail and charged with burglary of a habitation. He remains in custody in lieu of a $15,000 bond set by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford.