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Colmesneil Fire Chief Indicted

by Emily Waldrep

Major discrepancies in Colmesneil Volunteer Fire Department's forensic auditing report conducted in June of last year led to an investigation by the Texas Rangers, and the indictment of Colmesneil Fire Chief, Stephen Bell.
According to First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Lou Ann Cloy, the case was reviewed and the Texas Rangers, along with other state agencies and an auditing firm, were contacted to conduct an in depth investigation.
"When the investigation was completed, that evidence was presented to the Grand Jury and Stephen Bell was indicted for Theft by a Public Servant of more than $1,500 dollars but less than "$20,000 dollars," Cloy said. "The case of more than $1,500 dollars but less than $20,000 dollars is a state jail felony which carries the range of 6 months to 2 years in prison. However, Stephen Bell is a public servant; he is the Colmesneil Fire Chief, therefore the charge is raised a degree, and Stephen Bell is facing a Third Degree Felony which carries a range of punishment of 2 years to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000 dollars."
Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette said that after the signing of SB 917 into law, commissioners wanted to be sure that Volunteer Fire Departments were in compliance with the accountability requirements set forth by the law, which required Fire Departments to keep documentation of where tax dollars were spent within the department and submit an audit. A county auditor conducted an internal audit of the VFD's books and ultimately informed the commissioners that she could not complete the audit on four of Tyler County's fire departments because they did not provide sufficient documentation. With this information, commissioners voted to call in outside forensic auditors to attempt to construct an audit trail from individual records.
Their report noted that Colmesneil deposited 82.52 percent of the tax proceeds and spent a total of $139,364.12 from January 4, 2010 until September 27, 2011. Only 19.5 percent of that money had valid support while 69.37 percent had no support at all.
Bell turned himself in at Tyler County Justice Center October 16. His bond was set at $75,000.

Chester ISD buildings vandalized

by Emily Waldrep

Deputies were called to the Chester School on October 12 in reference to a report of criminal mischief. Once they arrived and met with school officials, they determined that the school had received damage to the weight room building, profanities painted inside the elementary school and several broken windows and doors. Most of the damage seemed to be done with spray paint.
The school is equipped with a video surveillance system, but the person or persons involved in the crime were able to cover their face(s) and spray paint over the camera lenses.
Deputies obtained the video and are currently reviewing the footage to get some identification of the actor(s) in the case.
"We do have suspects in this case and we are following all leads to get warrants issued for the person or persons involved," said Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. "We would also like the public's help to gain any information."
The investigation is currently ongoing, and Tyler County citizens who have any information about the vandalism should leave tips with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department. No names or personal information will be taken.
"I feel confident that there will be an arrest made in this case," Weatherford said. "We want to make sure we get everybody who was involved in the incident."
Deputies believe the actor(s) are someone familiar with the layout of the school.
Call the Sheriff's Department at 283-2172 to leave an anonymous tip.

Trio of Candidates announce for Ivanhoe Council

Rowland PriddyRowland Priddy—Raised in Southeast Texas, Rowland Priddy traveled the world, including Viet Nam, serving the Navy and Army National Guard for a total of twenty-two years. In Washington, D.C., he met Jackie, an FBI employee who later became his wife. They settled in the Port Neches-Groves area to work and raise a son and daughter. While employed, Rowland continued his education at nearby Lamar University where he earned a degree in business. In 1994, the couple moved to Ivanhoe, and Rowland commuted to Texaco for ten years before retiring. Shortly after moving to Ivanhoe, Rowland was recruited for the Ivanhoe Volunteer Fire Department and has been volunteering there ever since. He is a certified fire investigator and recently attended training for handling propane fires. Rowland has served on several boards in the Port Neches-Groves area. Rowland and Jackie are active members of Wildwood United Methodist Church, where they have worked countless hours with their Circle of Faith Sunday School Class to raise money for charity and the church by organizing and managing estate sales. Rowland is determined to communicate and listen to all residents and involve all community organizations in city council issues whenever possible. His promise is to listen to the voice of the people.

 

Jim GremillionJim Gremillion was born in Alexandria, Louisiana.  After two years of college, he served as a medical corpsman in the Navy, and then returned to Northwestern State in Natchitoches where he earned a degree in biology.  He went to work for Dow Chemical where he met a pert, pretty, and personality-plus gal named JoAn.  Jim and JoAn married and made their home in Missouri City, southwest of Houston where they raised two sons, and Jim broadened his work experience at Shell and Corning Glass Company.  Ten years before retiring, Jim and JoAn became self-employed and operated four neighborhood stores in southwest Houston.  Jim’s two sisters introduced them to the Ivanhoe area, and they’ve been residents here for eighteen years.  Jim and JoAn believe in giving back to the community.  Jim was a long-time board member and past president of the IPOIA.  He and JoAn are active members in various service areas at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church including the Homebound Ministry.  As such, they visit those members at home or in rest homes who cannot attend worship. Jim’s goal as an elected official is to be open and transparent for the good of the community.  He vows to make ethical, moral, and honest decisions and to keep the lakes and parks private.  He will listen to the voice of the people and vote accordingly.

 

Tommy MorrisTommy Morris—Another Louisiana boy turned Texan, Tommy Morris grew up on the East Side of Houston and joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. Attached to the Engineering Battalion, he served in California, Hawaii and twice in Viet Nam. After discharge from the service in 1966, he came home and the following summer married Patsy, the love of his life. He began a career in the Houston Police Department while at the same time earning an associate's degree in business from San Jacinto College. The couple bought a home in Houston and raised their daughter there. He retired from HPD as Lieutenant of the Community Services Division, supervising Houston Crime Stoppers and the Police Activities League, better known as PAL. Tommy and Patsy bought property in Ivanhoe in 1975 after visiting friends here. Later they sold one property, but always remained connected to the area where they relocated in 2007 after retirement. Tommy and Patsy are members of Woodville United Methodist Church and Tommy has served one term on the Ivanhoe City Council. He supports cooperation among Ivanhoe community organizations and city officials. Tommy believes that the Ivanhoe Property Owners Association must exist so that the beautiful lakes and parks remain private. He has learned from experience that planning and preparation which involve community input are important to city decisions and operations.

Cash boxes stolen from Woodville State Farm Ins. office

by Emily Waldrep

Woodville Police Department received reports on the morning of October 4 about a theft on West Bluff street at the State Farm Insurance Office in Woodville.

Woodville Police Officer Dees responded to the call and spoke to the owners of the business, who reported discovering when they arrived at work that morning that two cash boxes were missing from the office. There were no other signs of items being tampered with or missing. The manager, Russ Nalley, said that there was no sign of forced entry into the office and that it appeared the actors gained entrance to the office through a window.

According to reports, the thieves entered the building in the late hours of the night of October 3 or the early morning hours of October 4. According to Captain Mike McCulley of the Woodville Police Department, it appears that the actors knew where the cash boxes were located and what they contained.

Officers believe that the theives could be past or current customers. The police department is asking any citizens that have information or tips on the burglary to contact the police department at 283-5262. No names or personal information will be taken.

Chester Council rejects Entergy rate changes

by Michael G. Maness

Chester City Council declined Entergy's request for any and all rate changes during their regular council meeting Monday night, Oct. 7, at 6 p.m.

Since there were no opponents registered by the deadline for the council seats held by Gale Williams, B. E. Williams, and Vincent Incardona, and all three were willing to serve again, the council voted to cancel the upcoming election.

The council approved the financial statements and paying of the bills in due order.

Councilman Eric Holder reflected with satisfaction that Sheriff Bryan Weatherford's inmate utility crews had done a good job on mowing and maintaining the park.

Councilman Incardona asked about applications for the part-time position to help city secretary Annette Hickman. She reported that they had received one more application, and the council decided to look at all the applications at the next council meeting.

The council had previously approved for City Supervisor Dale Clamon to seek clarification on the city's contract for employee uniforms. As it turned out, the council was proud of Clamon's handling of the contractor. Since the contractor had apparently lost their written contract, Clamon was able to get the contractor to cancel the contract with little fuss. Clamon furthermore negotiated for the city to buy the contractor's remaining uniforms for a song.

A little levity among the council members allowed them some humor. None seemed to be in a hurry, and there were a few reflections of days gone by, reflecting upon their love for Chester.

A peaceful adjournment was secured.