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Local Officials gather to discuss impact of Legislative session on County Government

Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette, Pct. 1 Commissioner Martin Nash, Pct. 2 Commissioner Rusty Hughes, Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall and Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Walston were among hundreds of county officials who gathered in Austin Aug. 27-29 at the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) 2014 Legislative Conference to discuss common concerns shared by local governments from across the state, learn about the biggest issues facing counties and local taxpayers heading into the 84th Legislature and to discover the resources available to those who wish to advocate the needs of their local communities to legislators.

"The Legislative Conference is the one time each year county officials from across the state can gather together as colleagues and as community leaders to discuss common issues and potential solutions to our shared problems and challenges, and to prepare together for the upcoming legislative session, the workings of which will undoubtedly affect counties in many ways," said TAC Executive Director Gene Terry. "County government is the working arm of the state, and counties shoulder many responsibilities that affect citizens in their day-to-day lives. Any and all of those responsibilities can be affected by the Legislature. County officials must be dedicated to ensuring that legislators are aware of the all pros and cons of any legislation that may affect local control, counties and Texans."

During their three days in Austin, county officials heard from their peers, experts and legislators on a number of current and expected hot topics affecting counties, including:
• An update on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including how counties can prepare for the excise tax in 2018;
• Compliance with the Supreme Court of Texas' statewide e-filing mandate;
• Water and drought issues, including how the State Water Plan project prioritization is progressing and how local entities are responding to changing water needs;
• Rising indigent defense costs and best practices;
• How the state budget is written, how legislators use dedicated funds to balance the budget and the affect that practice has on Texans and important services;and
• An update on the Mental Health Advisory Panel and how counties are working to improve mental health crisis services across the state.

In addition, the conference's General Sessions included presentations by author David Houle, a business consultant and one of the nation's top futurists; University of Texas communications professor John Daly, who discussed best practices for advocating to legislators; Chet Garner, the creator of the Emmy-award winning television show The Daytripper, who gave his perspective on how important diversity is to Texas and what it means to be a Texan; and Steven Murdock, the first official State Demographer of Texas and former director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Other notable speakers included Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), the chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, who discussed possible funding solutions to help build and maintain the state's road system, and Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio), who spoke about services and resources available for Texas veterans.

Several county officials and department heads also led discussions and helped educate their colleagues on a number of topics. Those county officials included Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen, Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson, Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter, Travis County Court-At-Law Judge Mike Denton, Fort Bend County Clerek Dianne Wilson and Tom Green County District Clerk Sheri Woodfin.

TAC work to unite Texas counties together in search of solutions for challenges faced by all counties and to provide services to support county officials in the vital work they do for their local communities.

If you are walking at night, carry a light

by Emily Waldrep

According to Woodville Police Captain Mike McCulley, there has been heavy foot traffic in Woodville recently, especially at night.

"We have had several complaints called into the police department regarding incidents where people have almost run over people walking down the street at night," McCulley said. "We are urging people that want to take a walk that they need to wear light-colored, reflective clothing and carry a flashlight."

McCulley said without proper night attire, the chance of people getting ran over will increase and that several close calls have been called in within the past few months.

"If you are going to walk after night please be aware that people traveling may not see you on the road," McCulley said.

McCulley also recommends not to walk down the middle of the road, but to walk down the side of the road or on the designated sidewalks. He also wants people to use safety and common sense when traveling on foot at night.

"We do have some streetlights but they don't provide safety in all areas," McCulley said."We want to avoid any accidents from happening."

McCulley says the same rules go for bike riders, and that all bikes need to be equipped with reflectors or head lights.

"Motorists need to be able to see you from a distance," McCulley said.

The Woodville Police Department wants to keep everyone in the city safe. Keeping pedestrians safe is a huge part of that.

Sounds too good to be true? it’s probably a scam

by Emily Waldrep

Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford wants to warn citizens of several phone and Internet scams circulating in the area recently. According to Weatherford almost all of the scams require people to send money outside of the country where law enforcement has little to no recourse to capture these types of criminals.

Nigeria, one of the main countries from where these scams originate, is not interested in stopping these types of crimes, so it is up to citizens to remain aware and diligent to prevent falling victim to a scam.

"One current scam is a Facebook lottery scam," Weatherford said. "People will hack into Facebook accounts and send them a message through Facebook that appears to come from a good friend and they say they want to let you know about a prize they won, and will say that they can win too. Then, the hacker will get you to send some amount of money to 'claim' your prize."

Chief Deputy Phil Ryan says that if someone asks you to send money to receive a prize, it is probably a scam.

"Scammers will also call the elderly pretending to be a bonds company saying a relative is locked up," Ryan said. "They usually will not be very forthcoming with information and will ask for an amount of money to get them out of jail."

Weatherford and Ryan want citizens to know that if someone calls and wants money to get a relative out of jail, make sure to do your research before sending any amount of money because it is probably a scam.

A third type of scam is something Ryan calls a 'Pay day Loan' scam.

"Scammers will call and say that you have defaulted on a payday loan and will threaten felony charges if you do not pay it immediately," Ryan said. "That is a scam too."

Ryan says if you have any questions about scams or if you think you may be being scammed, you should call the police.

"Sadly, if you have fallen victim to a scam there is almost nothing we can do," Ryan said.
Weatherford warns citizens that the elderly are often victim to these types of crimes, and if there is any question about whether something is a scam, call the police or the Sheriff's Department.

Tip leads police to arrest of suspect evading police

by Emily Waldrep

On August 21, Woodville Police Sergeant Hicks and Officer Parton received a call at approximately 6 p.m. regarding a disturbance in the 800 block of Bluebird Street in Woodville. A homeowner at the residence said that an ex-husband had just left the scene after they had gotten involved in a verbal altercation. Officers noted that some of the property inside the house was damaged.
Officers then attempted to locate the ex-husband but failed to locate him.

According to Woodville Police Captain Mike McCulley, Sgt. Hicks was patrolling the same area in which the incident happened and observed a subject matching the description of a suspect from the earlier disturbance call.

Hicks found the man, who was identified as Earnest Glenn Hutto, age 49, of Silsbee.

Hutto fled the officers on foot and officers pursued him toward Pecan Street, where they lost sight of him. Officers then saw some residents of Pecan street, advised them that they were searching for Hutto, gave them a description and asked them to contact the police if he was seen.

"About 20 minutes later one of the citizens that officers had talked with called police and said they saw him near Coleman Funeral Home on South Pecan Street," McCulley said. "Officers went to the area and located Hutto laying down, hiding in some weeds."

Hutto was charged with Evading Arrest or Detention.

"The police department continues to seek the public's help in any and all criminal matters," McCulley said. "This is a case in which the public contacted us and helped us make the arrest. We probably would have not been able to make the arrest on this guy without that contact."
McCulley said that the Police Department appreciates any time the public can help with crime and that it makes their job much easier.

WOODVILLE - EMERGENCY WATER SHORTAGE

EMERGENCY WATER SHORTAGE IN WOODVILLE

The City of Woodville has declared a Stage 5 - EMERGENCY - Water Shortage in accordance with the City's Drought Contingency Plan. The City Water System has encountered mechanical failure at a primary water well, thereby reducing the system's water production capabilities.

To ensure that there is no major loss of water service to any customer; all NON_ESSENTIAL water use shall be prohibited.

Water system officials will issue notification lifting this restriction when water production capabilities have been restored and shall do so in the same manner as this notice.

If you have any questions concerning this matter, you may contact Woodville City Hall at (409) 283-2234.

Adult Protective Services aims to help elderly, disabled

by Chris Edwards

For many on the outside (as well as most residents, no doubt) Tyler County appears as some sort of utopia amid the lanes of loblolly; a place where young and old alike can thrive in peace.

The fact remains like everywhere else in our world, some darkness does dwell; however there are people making a difference and helping to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Sammie Martinez-Brown, director of marketing at Woodville Health and Rehab and Ken Jobe, human resources director at Tyler County Hospital, are working with Adult Protective Services in Tyler County. "We're trying to rebuild and get APS active in Tyler County," Jobe said.

As a state agency operating under the Department of Family and Protective Services, APS investigates abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults who are elderly or have disabilities. Any adult who has a disability or who is age 65 or older over who is in a state of abuse, neglect or exploitation is eligible to receive adult protective services, according to its website.
The agency accepts volunteer workers to serve on its board of directors, a county entity. It is a responsibility anyone with a passion can undertake, Brown said.

"We raise money to assist the APS workers and raise money to help those in need with household staples and with utility work," Jobe said, to give a couple of examples of the many types of assistance APS provides. "The money we raise stays in Tyler County," he said.

Brown made note of some of the fundraising activities APS has been involved with, including the last Tours for Charity. Tours for Charity is a quarterly event that spotlights a different non-profit organization in the county each time. APS was the beneficiary of the fundraiser in July. APS will also take part in the upcoming Senior Expo.

APS has a place to keep donated household staples called the Silver Room. It is where items such as paper towels, soap, razors, etc. are stored for those in need and there is always a need for donations.

Brown became involved with APS in part due to her job, which entails working with the elderly and/or disabled, but also from something she witnessed. "What made me passionate about the cause was when I went to an APS house and saw how someone lived. It just broke my heart."

Jobe decided to work with APS after being invited to a board meeting. "I hadn't heard a lot about APS," he said. "After I learned what they did, I decided I'd really like to be a part of it."

"Our goal with APS is to get people to think about APS as quickly as people think of CPS [for cases of child abuse and/or neglect]," Jobe said.

When investigating cases, there are three classes of abuse or neglect that a caseworker looks for: financial exploitation, abuse and neglect. "There are disabled and/or elderly people who are not only being abused physically, but financially, as well," Jobe said. Brown added that "some people live alone, yet probably shouldn't."

Brown said that several different county-wide organizations are represented by the people who serve on the APS board. "There are many different people who run into the things APS deals with who are involved," she said. "Dogwood Trails' social worker is on our board; we all work together."

APS meets at the Dept. of Human Services building from 4 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. "Anybody can come and check it out," Brown said. For more information, contact the local office at 409-283-3765. APS also has a statewide hotline to report suspected and/or incidents of abuse or neglect. That toll-free number is 1-800-252-5400.