Chester will prosecute vandals

by Michael G. Maness

Those following the City of Chester know they council has been scrimping and cutting corners to manage all while at the same time doing all they can afford to upgrade their city park piece by piece over the last several years. So when the recent vandalism of the restrooms was reported, it tore their hearts. They will be prosecuting the vandals if they ever catch them. For the families that use the park, and those that live nearby, any assistance will be appreciated. There will be greater vigilance.

A week postponed from Labor Day, Mayor Pro-tem Gale Williams convened the council at its regular time on Monday evening, September 12.

Among the financial statements was a financial review of the Chester Gas Company by the Axley & Rode accounting firm, the review of net position not being a full audit. The purpose was see if there were concerns, and though they expressed no official determination, they overview did say, "We are not aware of any material modifications that should be made" to the documents provided.

The council passed the financial statements for the city and gas company.

Steve and Barbara Robbins were guests at the council meeting. As the new owners of a small apartment complex, Steve Robbins expressed a desire for the city to take down a tree on city property that hangs over a portion of the apartment complex. The city will be removing the tree. He also requested to be able to pour some concrete for their trash dumpster, a portion of which would need to go onto city property. The council deferred to City Maintenance Director Dale Clamon who will look at and consult with the council on where that concrete pad might be placed. Councilwoman Charlotte Barnes mentioned how glad she was that the Robbins have taken an interest in that property and made such long-needed improvements.

There is a Chester City Facebook page not officially run by the city that caused a little concern. Councilman Floyd Petri consulted with an internet expert and concluded that there was little they could do, and it appeared to be good for public relations. Since there was no bad or slanderous activity and mostly good social interaction so far, council determined to leave well-enough alone.
Councilman John Wayne and Petri will be consulting with a contractor for a bid on more remodeling of the concession stand. The city will pursue an Entergy grant. And the election for vacant council positions was cancelled because there was no opposition to the seats that candidates had sought.

Colmesneil ISD approves raise for senior teachers

by Michael G. Maness

CISD President Curtis Pittman convened the full board Tuesday evening, Aug. 16. Board member Kenneth Adaway led the invocation, and Pittman led the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

The board approved the Employee Handbook that included only one change: all employees will move to direct deposit.
Colmesneil ISD, according to Superintendent Angela Matterson, have clarified their handbooks on graduation. The guidelines are specific and will be enforced. There were provisions for those with illnesses. But for those who just skip school—if they don't have the mandatory attendance, they will not graduate. There was also a remedial process, documented all the way, to make contact with the student and parent at specific intervals to make certain all is fair and all know exactly where they stand as graduation nears. Pass or fail, the school was going to go the extra mile to make sure the student had every opportunity to make that important threshold and graduate.

Use of the Chromebook was also clarified. They have about 215 and do not charge, a great benefit for students, yet a few students have abused this asset. The board approved for the school to clarify and stiffen policies that will curb abuse and even charge for clear abuse of the Chromebook. The Chrombook is a handheld computer, similar to an IPad, that is required for some classes, and is part of the school's desire for the students to get the best cutting-edge education to face the real world of computers.

The board approved an innovative salary raise for their senior most teachers. The current TEA pay schedule for teachers maxes their salary in 20 years. Recognizing the value of senior teachers, the CISD approved a 1.5% raise for each additional year up to 30 years.

Matterson said, "Our teachers rock! They are rock stars!"

In addition, Matterson explained further the appraisal process for new and experienced teachers. There was quite a discussion on the attendance and possibility of needing another first-grade teacher. Matterson had presented the board with a detailed spreadsheet of attendance broken down by each grade, Pre-K through 12th, with totals for the previous 12 years. This important history showed a steady increase over the last few years. Importantly, they have a first-grade waiting list, with three students wanting and ready to come (currently enrolled in another school). Matterson will wait for the first six weeks to assess, after which, if high attendance is maintained, they will be able to consider adding a teacher—good news all the way.

County Commissioners busy with second meeting in August

by Stephen R. Juneau

Tyler County Commissioners convened for their second meeting of the month at 8:30 A.M., August 18, in Room 101 in the Tyler County Court House. Commissioner Jack Walston gave an invocation followed by Judge Jacques Blanchette leading in the Texas Pledge being the 2nd meeting of the month.

Due to a number of guests out from Amanda Lake having an interest in Agenda Items E & F, Judge Blanchette—with the endorsement of all Commissioners—chose to address those two items of interest of those guest first up. (See Commissioners Court Decision Appealed.) Afterwards, Judge Blanchette went on to addressing all remaining items on the agenda.

Starting out was the approval of the Minutes from previous meetings. Next up was the consideration of budget amendments/line item transfers; however, since there were none to consider, the judge moved on to Item C: Paying County Bills. Item C was approved.

Item D required the opening of bids for emergency standby services in the event of a hurricane type disaster. The only bid received was from DRC Emergency Services. Their services included emergency supplies and support, debris management, tree trimming and removal, demolition, traffic control and fourteen other services. With hurricane season around the corner and favorable reviews of the company received by County Auditor Jackie Skinner, Commissioners voted unanimously to award DRC with the contract. According to Mrs. Skinner, ‟Projects projected to exceed $50,000 must be in compliance with the Competitive Bid Law." The Competitive Bid Law is designed to obtain the best products/services at the lowest practical price. Regardless of having received only the one bid, County Officials met the requirement of that law. Approved!

Item G was to approve the joint election agreements with cities and school districts elections with the upcoming Nov. 8 General Election. Approved!

Item H was to approve the appointment of Margaret Pope as alternate election judge for Pct. 18 for a two-year term. According to County Clerk Donece Gregory, ‟The law requires that the position of ‛precinct election judge in a General Election' be determined by the party that received the majority of votes in the last governor's race in that voting precinct. Hence, Gail Husband, a Republican, will continue in her role as election judge; while Margaret Pope, a Democrat, will serve as alternate." Approved!

Item I was for the sponsorship of a DETCOG (Deep East Texas Council of Governments) Lunch Meeting on Sept. 15. This is an annual ‟Board of Directors" meeting involving various government leaders throughout the twelve counties of Deep East Texas. The twelve are: Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, & Tyler. Commissioner Nash referred to the success of Tyler County hosting the event as people enjoy coming out to Tyler County for the event. He recommended the spending of more money on the event which Judge Blanchette endorsed. Approved! (The board will hold their luncheon in the First Baptist Church, Family Life Center, followed by their Board Meeting. DETCOG'S President is Lufkin City Commissioner Lynn Torres.)

J. Memorandum of Understanding between Texas A & M Agrilife Extension Service and County for IT Services. Judge Blanchette explained, ‟Here is the essence of what this is: It is a renewable arrangement that we have—renewable every two years. The county provides for Internet access and provides for the Usual and Customary Services that are afforded to the county. Any special types of needs they have pertaining to what they want, they are responsible for." Approved!

K. Revised Proposal to Provide Professional Engineering/Consulting Services Roof Condition Assessment of Courthouse, County Clerk, Annex, and District Attorney offices. This was a follow up from Commissioners Court held on Aug. 8. After a study of the conditions of Tyler County buildings, County Treasurer Sue Saunders, reported that the following structures were removed from the list as not being in need of repairs: Commissioners Complex, the Justice Center and the Nutrition Center. The removable of the three resulted in a sizable cost saving factor for Tyler County, it was approved!

Agenda Item L was for the appointment of Raymond Wooten to the Emergency Service District (ESD) #2 as a result of the death of Robert Mott who held the position. Commissioner Jack Walston cited that Wooten lived in that district and owned property there. He added that Mr. Mott was associated with the volunteer fire dept. for years before it became an ESD. Approved!

Item M was for a correction to ‟911" Maps on CR 3230 and CR 4368 since those maps have at times, erroneously routed drivers beyond them onto private property which is not maintained by the county. Approved!

Item N was to assist Woodville Youth Football League financially with $2,000 for equipment having had an increase in its youth enrollment. Commissioner Marshall pointed out that, ‟Dues were raised from $85 to $95; however, if it goes any higher the kids won't be able to play." The $2,000 is within the County's limit of $6,000 in donations to youth organizations which is included in the county's budget. Approved!

Item O was to seek bids on a 2016 dump truck having 14/15yard capacity. Approved!

Item P was for the Renewal of Title IV-E Child Welfare Contract #23938992 with Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services. Title IV-E is Foster Care. Auditor Jackie Skinner described the contract as follows: ‟What that contract does is any child services that the Tyler County Child Welfare Board provides through their funds, providing the requirements are met, will be reimbursed to them by Title IV-E funds." Approved! [Kathy Harris, a Child Welfare Board (CWB) Member clarified as follows: ‟Child Protective Services (CPS) is responsible for placing children in foster homes. The local CWB Members are appointed by Commissioner's Court to be advocates of the foster children from Tyler County. The Title IV-E contract allows the CWB to apply for Federal Title IV-E Reimbursable Funds. These funds provide financial assistance related to the care of the foster children from Tyler County. Tyler County has eleven volunteers on its Child Welfare Board headed by Chairman Terry Allen."

The final item on the agenda was for the Renewal of SAVNS (Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service) Maintenance Contract #1772110 for Fiscal Year 2017. Judge Blanchette pointed out that the fiscal year for this contract renewal begins Sept. 1, therefore, it was up for renewal. County Auditor Jackie Skinner explained that the contract was actually twofold: ‟Contract with the State; but, also with APRISS: the vendor providing the service." The cost to the county is at $6,000. APPRISS—derived from the word "apprise," sets out to enable victims of crime to remain informed or apprised concerning the status of their incarcerated or released-from-prison attackers. Approved!
Having addressed all agenda items, Judge Blanchette adjourned the meeting.

Presiding over the meeting was Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette. All other county officials who make up the court were present. They include Commissioners Martin Nash, Pct. 1; Rusty Hughes, Pct. 2; Mike Marshall, Pct. 3; and Jack Walston, Pct. 4. Also present throughout the meeting were County Auditor Jackie Skinner, County Clerk Donece Gregory, County Treasurer Sue Saunders, and Ben Kissee representing the Office of the DA.

Chester ISD budget remains the same

by Michael G. Maness

Chester ISD President Ray McKnight convened the board on Tuesday evening, Aug. 16, and he led all in the invocation. Board member Vernon Lewis led in the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

McKnight opened the floor to public comments, and regular visitor and citizen Chuck Davidson announced that the local churches and Chester Lions Club have purchased a lot of school supplies for children. They will be giving away supplies to children who need them on Thursday, Aug. 18, in the Chester school cafeteria.

The board approved an agreement for the Polk County 4H to work with their students.

In regular business, the board removed the previous superintendent and approved the addition of Principal Brandi Havard and Superintendent Cory Hines the school's bank signature card.

The financial auditors will be visiting soon, and Hines reported that the budget will remain the same for the ensuing year, conservatively based upon a 165 attendance.

McKnight read a letter from Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford that was apparently sent to all the districts. Therein, Weatherford set a consistent minimum and hourly rate for his deputies should the schools desire to secure one or two off-duty, and apparently this was to make the pay equal in all areas. Of course, the department would be available for any 911 call.

In the closed session, the school approved to hire a second-grade aide to help with the 25 students for the coming year.

County Officials Convene For Special Budget Meeting

by Stephen R. Juneau

County officials convened for a special budget meeting the morning of August 2, 2016 in Tyler County's Courthouse. Jackie Skinner, County Auditor, provided handouts detailing the county's budget. Ms. Skinner gave a positive report on the county's financial standing in today's challenging world. It was the result of responsible budgeting on the part of decision makers staying informed of current trends and laws by attending workshops for efficient governing, as well as their seeking out the best solutions in serving the people of Tyler County. This special budget meeting included the consideration to the rising cost of medical care for incarcerated individuals held in the county jail.

Ms. Skinner cited the medical cost on one inmate as being $6,500 every two weeks in order to meet the requirement of the law. In seeking out a more efficient means of handling medical needs of county inmates, officials are considering contracting with Southern Health Partners, a leading provider of customized inmate healthcare serving over 200 city and county detention centers across 13 states, including 20 counties in Texas.

Tim Quintana, marketing representative for Southern Health Partners, having served 38 years in Law Enforcement, offered his company's solution to the county's rising cost for inmate medical care. The base price for the county would be $6,400 monthly for up to 30 inmates with an additional $1.25 per day {around $38.00 per month} for each inmate above the thirty. Tyler County is currently housing 31 inmates in the Tyler County Jail.

Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy, noted that 50% of the earnings of inmates is put on their books {escrow} for expenses incurred by those individuals, including that of their medical cost. However, there are times when costs outweighs the escrow of certain inmates. That burden then rests with tax payers: the reason to consider greater efficiency for medical care on the part of inmates held in the county jail.

Quintana then stated: ‟The idea behind contracting with Southern Health Partners would be to take responsibility off the county and pass it on to us. If it does not work out, there is no long term commitment on the county and we can part ways." He went on to say that the base medical package includes a twice monthly on-site local physician / medical provider, as well as an RN for 20 hours a week; and 24/7 on call RN availability. The package sets out to reducing the high cost of unnecessary medical treatments including those at ER facilities through the screening of inmates requesting medical attention. The plan also includes overnight–pharmaceutical deliveries as well as the following services: Mental Health Care, Laboratory and Diagnostic Services, Medical Records Management, Patient and Correctional Staff Training with necessary manuals.
Commissioners will decide on the plan in a follow up budget meeting scheduled for August 29, at 9:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House.

Donece Gregory, County Clerk, mentioned of upcoming elections. They are: Warren ISD School Board on August 16 with Early Voting from August 1 – 12; Spurger ISD School Board on August 27 with Early Voting from August 10 - 23; and, the General Election on Nov. 8 with Early Voting from Oct. 24 – Nov. 4.

County officials present at this commissioners' meeting were: Jackie Skinner, Auditor who presided over the meeting; Martin Nash, Pct. 1; Rusty Hughes, Pct. 2; Mike Marshall, Pct. 3; Sue Saunders, Treasurer; Donece Gregory, County Clerk; Lynette Cruise, Tax Collector; Bryan Weatherford, Sheriff; and Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy. Tim Quintana, Marketing Representative with Southern Health Partners was guest presenter.

Commissioners regularly schedule meetings are held on the 2nd Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House. In observance of holidays that fall on the 2nd Monday, they convene on Tuesdays.