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Commissioners approve 90 day burn ban, will ‘cancel if rain’

by Kelli Barnes

"It's dry, and getting dryer," said Emergency Management coordinator Dale Freeman. "We (Tyler County) are already experiencing extreme drought conditions." Commissioners voted to ratify the current week-to-week burn ban and make it effective for 90 days. "We will keep it on the court docket, so we can release the burn ban order at any time," said county judge Jacques Blanchette.

Commissioners agreed to spend $17,446 of data processing funds, to upgrade security on computers in the county judge's office and the county treasurer's office. A new server will be installed in each of the two offices, and they will be segmented. "The current system was recently tested and we discovered county bank accounts and communications could be compromised with very little effort," said Blanchette. "If it is that easy, we definitely need the security," said commissioner Mike Marshall.

Vending machines in the courthouse and nutrition center are up for sale, and commissioners were offered the opportunity to purchase them. "I just don't think we should be getting in the vending machine business," said commissioner Martin Nash.

The motion to purchase failed from lack of support.

The tax office will be getting a new currency scanner, which according to county tax assessor collector, Lynette Cruse, will save several hours of labor for each deposit. "All checks and cash can be loaded into the scanner, and it automatically prepares the deposit," said Cruse. "Several months out of the year, our staff spends days on the deposits, due to the large volume of revenue received. The scanner will give us time to work on other projects." The total cost to the county is $4,095 for the purchase of the scanner and $675 for a three-year maintenance agreement. Commissioners also approved the renewal of the tax office copier lease agreement and maintenance contract for the copier and printers.

Deep East Texas Council of Government (DETCOG) will be offering free training services to Tyler County 9-1-1 dispatchers at the Tyler County Sheriff's Department. "The training will help dispatchers with medical emergency calls," said Blanchette. "We are definitely interested in this service," said Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. The service has not been offered since 2012 and will ultimately benefit Tyler County 9-1-1 callers.

Tyler County Clerk, Donece Gregory, presented for approval, one joint election for all cities and school districts to be held on the same day at the same location for Tyler County voters. Commissioners approved the joint election and commended Gregory for the extra work involved in making these elections more convenient for the voters, acknowledging the labor intensive process to make it happen.

In other business, the court approved the July 23 minutes, extension agent reports, approved budget amendments for audit report, a lease/purchase deal for Pct. #1 and approved the VINE victim's notification system. Also, commissioners approved the same rates as last year for sheriff and constable fees, DMV auto registration optional county fees, road and bridge and child safety fees, etc. The local 9-1-1 DETCOG Board, chaired by Nash, renewed their annual agreement with the county.

The next meeting of commissioner's court will be Thursday, August 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Stray Animals…It’s a problem

by Kelli Barnes

Over 16,000 people live outside of a city limits in Tyler County. As a resident, what do you do when someone dumps a stray animal in your yard?

What I have learned: You don't keep the animal for more than a day, unless you can afford to have the animal spayed or neutered and are willing to feed and shelter him or her forever or at least until you can find a suitable home.
What can happen? If you delay, you may find out your drop off stray is already pregnant and then you are obligated to keep through birth, you fall in love, and then you have another entire set of little animals who need to be spayed, neutered, fed, sheltered and suitable homes found.

Why do people delay? Well, from experience, where exactly does a person take a stray animal in Tyler County if you live outside the city limits of Woodville?

I personally have two indoor dogs and two indoor cats who are all family. I love them. My office also has a brother/sister cat family who have been spayed and neutered and call the office "home"...lucky cats.

My heart hurts to see pets who never get any attention from their owners, but my heart hurts even more to see unwanted animals with no place to go.

Every family is not capable of caring for animals properly. Some are on a very limited budget and cannot afford the food and care. Some are unable to have animals due to health issues, work and/or travel constraints. And then some, like myself, already have as many animals as they can manage properly. Drop offs or wandering strays who arrive at the home of people like these need to have some place to be taken immediately.

I prefer no kill shelters, but as you can imagine, if animals are not spayed, neutered and handled with responsibility, this problem can become (and in fact already is) out of control.

I have also learned, there IS no one to call in Tyler County. There is no place to take strays if you are not in the city limits of Woodville. Other counties say "Every county should take care of their own...we have all we can handle".

The absolute only thing a person in Tyler County can do, is take the animal to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). All other regional SPCA locations I have contacted are full.

The next option is find a home immediately or have them spayed and neutered and say "welcome home". What does Tyler County need? Its own SPCA. Anyone available to start one? If so, contact the kind people at Polk County SPCA to find out how they started their organization. The number is 936-327-7722 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Sex offender evades arrest, still on the loose

by Emily Waldrep

On Saturday, July 11 at approximately 9:30 a.m., a Tyler County Deputy conducted a traffic stop on County Road 4090 in the Dam-B area. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, the deputy made contact with both the driver and passenger of the vehicle.

"Both males were identified by name and date of birth as neither subject had any identification on them," Weatherford said.
The passenger was identified as Michael Morgan, age 19, of Silsbee. A computer check through the Tyler County

Communications Center showed Morgan to have an active warrant out of Hardin County for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender.

"As the deputy began to place handcuffs on Morgan, Morgan took off running from the deputy towards FM 92," Weatherford said.

The deputy secured the driver in his patrol unit and began to search the area as other deputies, including Chief Deputy Steven Sturrock and Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, arrived on scene. Deputies were unable to locate Morgan but learned that he had family living in the area. According to Weatherford, deputies checked the residence several times and reminded the family that harboring a fugitive is a Felony.

Morgan is currently charged with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender and Evading Arrest or Detention. The driver was issued citations and released. If you know the whereabouts of Michael Morgan, please contact the Tyler County Sheriff's Office at 283-2172

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin held a Town Hall meeting Monday...but you don’t get to see it

By Jim Powers, Editor, Tyler County Booster

U.S. Representative Brian Babin held a Town Hall meeting Monday, July 20, at the Lions Club building in Woodville. Town Hall meetings are an interesting dynamic, a relatively unstructured opportunity for constituents to interact directly with their representative. That interaction has always been hard to convey with the written word. The written story is either a list of dozens of questions and answers, which many readers will not look at, or a short summary of the main points with context missing.

The Booster has for several years tried to overcome that limitation by covering political events with video posted to Facebook and our YouTube channel. We planned to cover Representative Babin's public Town Hall meeting by shooting video of the event. Because the meeting was held at 7 p.m., which might prevent some older people from attending, video would allow them unfiltered access.

A couple of hours before the meeting, we received an email from Representative Babin's Press Secretary telling us that we would not be allowed to shoot video during the Q&A part of the meeting. The expressed concern was that people would not feel comfortable asking questions if a video camera were present. Ultimately, after a couple of email exchanges, I received an email from Babin's District Director, saying that an audio recording was o.k., (but still not video) and that they had "worked out a way to handle the privacy of folks."

I have shot video at numerous political forums in Tyler County. In none of those events have folks in attendance seemed intimidated or uncomfortable because a video camera was present. These events have at times been contentious and frank.
Most people do not attend a public Town Hall format meeting with any expectation of privacy. Government representatives should seek transparency when dealing with constituents. Because this was a public meeting, open to anyone, with no expectation of privacy for those in attendance, it is unclear why Representative Babin chose to prohibit shooting video. When I questioned the decision, I got a reply only restating the prohibition.

The Tyler County Booster is committed to using the full range of technology available to provide Tyler County citizens with the news. We offer coverage in print, through our website, through a digital edition of the Booster, on Facebook and through video on our YouTube channel. Many people, in fact, prefer video to text and our video has proven very popular. A free press and transparent government are essential to a functioning democracy. Hopefully, Representative Babin will reconsider limiting media coverage of his public meetings.

Woodville man with handgun threatens woman

by Emily Waldrep

On June 27, deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department were dispatched to a residence on County Road 4400 in the Mount Neches area. A caller contacted the communications center and reported that they could hear people fighting in a neighboring yard.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, when deputies arrived on scene they could hear the arguments from the original callers yard. When they went to the residence, a female identified as April West opened the door.

"At that time deputies saw Mark David Whittemore, age 53, of Woodville, holding a black semi-automatic pistol in his right hand," Weatherford said. "Deputies ordered Whittemore to drop the weapon and he complied."
Whittemore appeared to be under the influence of some type of chemical agent and reported that he had possibly taken some Xanax, Weatherford said.

Deputies investigated the crime and determined that Whittemore had held a pistol to the head of West and threatened her.
Whittemore was arrested for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon/Family Violence.

He was transported to the Tyler County Sheriff's Office without further incident. Whittemore is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Woodville man arrested for DWI after colliding with TCSO vehicle

by Emily Waldrep

A 27 year old Woodville man was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated on June 27 after he struck a Tyler County Deputies vehicle on 1943 West near Warren.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, two Tyler County Sheriff's Deputies were responding to a prowler call just outside of Warren when one noticed a vehicle matching the description given by the complainant traveling back towards Warren. The deputy informed the other deputy traveling behind him that the vehicle was headed his way.

The second deputy observed the pickup traveling towards him and he activated his emergency lights as the vehicle approached.

"The vehicle did not attempt to slow down and as it passed the patrol vehicle it struck the drivers side mirror, knocking it off of the patrol vehicle," Weatherford said. "The vehicle continue down 1943 towards Warren, and the deputy was able to catch up to and conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle."

The driver was identified as Aaron Michael Sanford, age 27, of Woodville. The deputy immediately detected the strong odor of alcohol coming from inside of the vehicle.

"Sanford admitted that he had been drinking and there were two boxes of beer as well as 16 ounce cans that were still open and still cold as well as a six pack of glass Corona bottles of beer," Weatherford said.

The DPS trooper conducted field sobriety tests on Sanford, and he was placed under arrest for Driving While Intoxicated and transported to the Tyler County Sheriff's Office.

His bond was set at $2,000.