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Commissioners Report...

by Martin Nash

The Court has been very busy over the last few weeks. It is budget time; that time of year when the Commissioner's Court has the opportunity to visit with every elected official, every department head, every employee and every organization that has ties to the county. Most officials understand the constraints of the taxpayer's dollar and will only ask for things that are truly justified. We actually have a few officials that are reluctant to ask for things that are needed. The court goes through the budget line by line and determines if that particular line item should be cut, increased or left the same. Many factors become involved in making the determination and the responsible official has an opportunity to make their case.

This has been one of the most productive budget sessions that I have had the pleasure of being involved in. We trimmed the budget quite a bit last budget session but still had to vote for a small tax rate increase due to a loss of property values. The good news this year is the property values are up and the court has the opportunity to lower the tax rate a little. By going through each line item and questioning its relevance we were also able to decrease the budget enough to offer our employees a decent salary increase. Lower tax rate and a raise- it doesn't get any better than that. It has been many years since we have been able to adjust for a cost of living increase. There are still some discussions and some of this could change, however I do not perceive an increase in the tax rate. The final budget has not yet been approved but I feel the court has done an outstanding job and continues to budget in a very conservative and responsible manner.

Actions at the August 13th Commissioners Court meeting:

Approved Minutes from previous meeting.

Approved Monthly reports, Probation, District/County Clerks, Extension office, Auditor, Treasurer and Justice of the Peace. These are reports that are required on a monthly basis.

Voted to approve the Appointment of Election Judges and Alternate Judges. Donece Gregory (Tyler County Clerk) is responsible for the election process and submitted a list of folks who were willing to assist the county and help facilitate one of our most precious rights (the right to vote).

Voted to move the Early Voting Polling Place from the Tax office to the Tyler County Nutrition Center. There have been some issues since the remodeling of the tax office and it was felt that after the completion of remodeling of the Nutrition Center it would handle the election more effectively.

Approved payment of the Tyler County Bills and Budget amendments/line item transfers requested by Jackie Skinner (Tyler County Auditor)

The Court also took no action in appointing someone to fill the vacant Tyler County Hospital At Large board position

The 2011 Independent Audit by Belt, Harris, & Pechacek was presented to the court and represented by Darla Dear. The county is in the process of changing accounting procedures. We were operating on a cash basis which is not in conformance with the Government Auditing Standards as required. It has been a real challenge and our Auditor Jackie Skinner and her staff has done an outstanding job in facilitating this change. One of the major issues was that the December bills which were paid previously out of the January budget would now come from the December budget. This meant that we would be paying for 13 months instead of 12 out of the 2011 budget. This would happen only for the 2011 budget cycle. WOW, what a hassle. The audit indicated that the process has been completed, and we are on track to finally being in the 21 century. When asked by Judge Blanchette how she would rate the county financially Mrs. Dear gave us a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent. Mrs. Dear also explained that the normal amount required for contingency is 20 percent or from 3 to 6 months expenses to be held in reserve. Tyler County currently has reserves of 32 percent which is very good for these difficult times.

Keep safe and take care! As always if I can be of service please do not hesitate to give me a call.

Colmesneil man sustains multiple injuries in crash

(Emily Waldrep Photo)by Emily Waldrep

A Colmesneil man was transported by helicopter to a Houston area hospital on August 13, after he wrecked his vehicle into a culvert. Members of the Woodville Police Department were dispatched to the single vehicle accident near the 1400 block of West Bluff Street at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Monday, where they discovered a 1992 Chevrolet S-10 Pickup truck had left the highway and crashed into a large culvert.

According to witnesses and police reports, the vehicle driven by Arnold Topham, age 74, of Colmesneil, was traveling east on West Bluff Street into Woodville when it appeared to drift over both oncoming lanes of traffic. The vehicle then continued to travel down the westbound shoulder of the highway, where it ran off the road and struck several small trees and a road sign. The small truck traveled approximately 400 feet before striking a large culvert and coming to a stop in a deep ditch.

Texas Department of Public Safety, Tyler County Sheriff's Department, Dogwood EMS and the Woodville Fire Department JAWS team all responded to the scene of the accident. Topham was trapped inside of the vehicle, and had to be freed with the Jaws of Life.

After assessing Topham's injuries, Dogwood EMS requested Air Rescue to assist and transport Topham to a Houston hospital to receive treatment.

The cause of the accident is unknown at this time.

Mr. Topham is currently listed in stable condition after suffering several broken bones and lacerations. The Topham family would like to thank everyone in the community for their concerns and prayers.


Missing person investigation leads to murder charge in White Tail Ridge slaying

Leonard Anthony CowanA report Tyler County Sheriff's office was investigating as a missing person case turned into a murder investigation last week when family members of Alvin William Cowan told Chief Deputy Trisher Ford that he was not in Tennesee working out of state as originally reported.

According to a release from TCSO, family members were told August 2 by a family member who was a "person of interest" in the case that there had been an altercation between he and the victim about six weeks ago. Leonard Anthony Cowan told the other family members that he had hit the victim on the head and that he was dead. He went on to tell them that he had buried the victim in the back yard of the residence.

Chief Deputy Trisher Ford, Deputy Chuck Marshall, Deputy Tony Reynolds, St. A Sturrock and Chief Administrator Clint Sturrock responded to the residence in the White Tail Ridge community in Tyler County and searched the garden area of the back yard. They found a freshly dug site with a strong odor. The burial site had been covered with corn stalks and long couch cushions. They found human skeletal remains at the location.

Tyler County Justice of the Peace Bryan Weatherford was notified, and held an inquest on the victim, ruling the death a homicide and ordering an autopsy be performed on the victim. The autopsy was performed Friday, August 3, at Forensic Medical Management Services in Beaumont with Sgt. A Sturrock in attendance.

DNA was collected from the victim during the autopsy and DNA collected from a family member for comparison and the DNA samples sent to a lab in Brandon, Mississippi. The test should be compete this week.

Leonard Anthony Cowan was arrested and taken to Tyler County jail without incident, and after further investigation, was charged with the murder of Alvin William Cowan and booked into the jail.

Cowan was charged with murder and placed under a $350,000 bond by Judge Weatherford.

The Tyler County Sheriff's Office case is still active and under investigation at press time by Sgt. A. Sturrock.

Tyler County Emergency Management looking for Severe Weather Spotters

Tyler County Emergency Management is looking for Severe Weather Spotters. This is for persons who will observe the weather and report severe or unusual conditions to the EOC or to the National Weather Service. We want to have persons strategically in all areas around the county so that we can get a broad view of a storm from all perspectives. We are hoping to get a good response from our Law Enforcement, Firemen, and First Responders Community but the training is open and we invite everyone to attend.

On Monday, August 20th at 7PM National Weather Service Meteorologist Roger Erickson will present training at the Emergency Operations Center enabling our citizens to qualify as official "Severe Weather Spotters". I am not entirely sure what all he will present, but you should be able to spot and identify certain clouds and other weather situations that indicate a dangerous storm. Your observations can be used to issue alerts and make weather decisions that could possibly save lives. You will be issued a unique identification number and it is possible the NWS might even call upon you from time to time to verify weather conditions they observe on radar occurring at your location.

There will be no record keeping requirements and you will not need to report normal conditions. You just call in the "Unusual and the Severe Conditions" as you go about your normal daily activities.

This training is free of charge and the certification and participation resulting from this training will not be compensated. We are even inviting our neighbors in the adjoining counties to attend this training- if they so desire. Please call the Tyler County EOC at 409-331-0874 with your intentions to attend so we can insure adequate seating is available. Again, there is no limit on who can be part of this program so come with your neighbors and let's learn about clouds and weather conditions.

Wayne Ivey is new Chester ISD Superintendent

(Wendy Whitworth Photo)Chester ISD school board announces the signing of its new superintendent, Wayne Ivey, who comes to Chester from Woodville ISD. Also pictured are school board members (middle rowL-R) Vernon Lewis, Kelli Jobe, Sheryl Barnes and Ray McKnight; (back row L-R) Steve Havis, Jake David and Bryan Martin. Not pictured, Wade Read.

Guilty plea entered in sexual assault case

Elvis Eugene Wiggins has pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and will now be facing up to 10 years in a state jail and multiple fines.

Wiggins court date was set for July 23, 2012 but after a jury was chosen, was changed to July 24, 2012. On that date, Wiggins pled guilty to all charges instead of continuing on with the court process.

He was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, which is a first-degree felony. He will spend 10 years in a state jail and will have to pay $1,500 in fines as well as $640 in court fees. In addition to those requirements, Wiggins will also have to register as a sex offender yearly and if he ever changes addresses.

A no-contact order was also filed and Wiggins will not be allowed to see the victims or the victims' family while he is in jail or after his release.

According to court documents, Wiggins committed aggravated sexual assault against the same child on multiple occasions. Once when the child was 12 and again when the child was 13.