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updated 7:57 PM UTC, Nov 8, 2019

Meetings

Campaign signs reported missing in Colmesneil

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By Chris Edwards
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COLMESNEIL– With an election day less than a month away, signs for various candidates and items up for voting have become a common display in many Tyler County residents’ yards.
Such public displays can often be encouraging to thieves and pranksters; however, it is no laughing matter. In the state of Texas, stealing campaign signs is considered theft of property.
Bo Bendy, who is running for a position on the Colmesneil ISD Board of Trustees, recently had eight of his campaign signs taken from Colmesneil residences.

Bendy said the signs were taken on Saturday night and five of them were thrown into a current board member’s yard. “It’s petty and childish,” Bendy said.

Bendy said that although people have a right to disagree with him and to vote for whomever they wish; it is not just his own money being spent to produce the signs.

“I have spent my own money and have had people sponsor and spend their own money on these signs. You don’t need to trespass or commit any crimes,” he wrote in a public post on Facebook on Monday.

Bendy said he has already replaced the signs but said “hopefully” there are no future incidents.

“A lot of people got upset about this,” he said. “I don’t know if it was kids who did it or who it was.” He added that one of the residents who reported sign theft had contacted the sheriff’s office.

By Texas statute, most cases of sign theft result in misdemeanor charges, but if the value is more than $1,500, the crime is considered a state jail felony. Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said that while there has been similar incidents, the thefts are usually not reported by the candidates.

The statute states it is illegal to “steal, willfully deface, mutilate or destroy any campaign yard sign on private property,” and is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or a year in jail.
Ultimately, Bendy said voters can show who they support at the ballot box. “The bottom line is it doesn’t need to happen. If you don’t agree with my politics, then don’t vote for me. Don’t go trespassing,” he said.

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Ivanhoe mayor gives bond update; clarifies sales tax election

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By Chris Edwards
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IVANHOE – In her report to the councilmembers, Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett was pleased to announce that the money awarded to the city for its $2 million bond issuance is in the city’s bank account.

Bennett’s update during last Thursday’s city council meeting drew a round of applause from the crowd. “That was a process,” she said with a sigh of relief. The bonds, which will finance street improvement work, were issued in September, and came by way of a bid from a New York-based firm, the Baker Group.

During her report, Bennett spoke about an upcoming item on the Nov. 5 ballot for sales tax allocation. The item will allow Ivanhoe residents to vote for or against a 1.5% sales tax allocation into the city’s general fund.

The vote is not an additional ad valorem tax, Bennett said. “If we don’t pass this thing, we will not be collecting any sales tax,” she said. “If this thing does not pass, we’ll lose it all.”

Councilmember David Herrington said the majority of the city’s general fund goes toward roadwork. “If we lose that [current sales tax allocation]…then what we do is we wind up losing about $40K per year,” he said. Herrington added that the sales tax revenue would increase due to the opening of a Dollar General store in the city.

Bennett also reported that the city has been approved for a grant in the amount of $192,080 toward the purchase of a fast attack brush truck for the Ivanhoe Volunteer Fire Department.

The grant, awarded through the Fire, Ambulance and Service Truck (FAST) fund from the Texas Department of Agriculture, provides funds for eligible vehicles to provide emergency response and special services to rural communities.

Bennett provided another update during her report about the coming grand opening of the Dollar General store. She said the store is ahead of schedule for its planned opening. Nov. 4 is the scheduled moving in day, and it will be open to the public three days later.

TWDB grant update
Bennett reported that the city had received a “good report” from the Texas Water Development Board for a grant the city applied for.

Ivanhoe is on the TWDB agenda for its January meeting, Bennett said. “They’ll consider our application, and we’ll have 90 days to close,” she said. The loan, classified as a forgivable loan, will go toward repairs on Ivanhoe Drive.

If approved, Bennett said the money will come at a good time to begin the work next spring.

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Chester City Council working on NIMS

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By Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Chester City Council’s brisk meeting Monday evening, Oct. 7, centered around the National Incident Management System training. Mayor Floyd Petri has been working on getting a few council members certified.

At this meeting, Petri passed out some information on training and how each could sign up and pursue it at home from their computers. This would aid the city in an emergency and to help the city coordinate with the county emergency services. Councilwoman Michelle Cowan had started the process.

The training is broad in scope with many modules for a host of positions. The introductory courses acquaint one with the concepts and principles of the National Response Framework. This helps expedite communication between all the various entities involved in a crisis. In other words, this helps all those making decisions to, as it were, all speak the same language. The advanced courses focus upon more specific positions such as Incident Commander, Public Relations Office, and Safety Officer.

Petri, a retired military and life-long law enforcement officer, related some experiences the city might face and the need for the council to be ready to forward the city’s interests.

In other business, the next regularly scheduled meeting was cancelled because of the upcoming election. The council will meet again on Nov. 18, when the new officers will be sworn in.

Councilwoman Sandra Fails commented that the city park was getting some use and she heard some complements. Councilwoman Gail Williams resonated the same with the tennis courts.

All the other regular business items were passed without much ado, including the previous minutes and the financials of the city and Chester Gas Company.

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Tribal rep gives update on gaming bill

Cheryl Downing, general manager for administration of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, spoke before the Woodville Rotary Club. Downing gave an update on the status of H.R. 759. (CHRIS EDWARDS | PCPC  PHOTO)Cheryl Downing, general manager for administration of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, spoke before the Woodville Rotary Club. Downing gave an update on the status of H.R. 759. (CHRIS EDWARDS | PCPC PHOTO)

 

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Cheryl Downing, general manager for administration of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, gave an update on Naskila Gaming and the status of legislation concerning the operation of the venue, at the Woodville Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday.

If passed, H.R. 759, which was authored by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) will allow the tribe to continue operating Naskila, which features Class II gaming. The bill, which has drawn bi-partisan support, was approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources in July.

Jimmie Cooley, a former Woodville mayor, introduced Downing to the Rotary group, who met at the Pickett House restaurant.

Cooley, who has been working in support of the tribe’s efforts with Naskila, referred to the tribe as “our wonderful, wonderful neighbors,” and gave a brief update on the bill, which is on its way to the Senate.

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecilia Flores and other members of the tribal council were in Washington, D.C., meeting with the staffs of Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, neither of whom have yet voiced support for the bill, according to Cooley.

While in the nation’s capital, Flores and the tribal council members are working at getting a hearing scheduled for the bill. “There is support, but they need to move forward,” Downing said.

“We need support of our Texas reps in the Senate, as well as the other votes,” she said.

Naskila employs 410 people, 30 percent of whom are tribal members, Downing said. She added that the number continues to rise, and the majority of employees are from the local region. Cooley added that more than 3,000 people go to Naskila on a daily basis. Naskila is responsible for more than $139 million of the local economy, annually, Downing said.

Tyler County Precinct 1 Commissioner Martin Nash, who was in attendance, said “I don’t think there’s anything we could do, economically, than to give these folks a right to do this.” Nash urged everyone in attendance to also contact Gov. Greg Abbott.

Christi Sullivan, who works as the tribe’s director of media and communications, agreed with Nash. “This is a fairness and equality issue,” she said.

Sullivan spoke about the Kickapoo Tribe, which has operated a gaming facility near Eagle Pass for 20 years. If the bill is passed, it will also allow the same protections for the Yselta de Sur Pueblo (also known as the Tigua) Tribe in El Paso.

Sullivan also said the issue of equality is another talking point, in addition to the number of jobs and economic impact, to answer a question posed by Lisa Meysembourg, Woodville ISD Superintendent. Meysembourg, who is new to the area, asked what would serve as a good talking point to gather support for the issue.

Downing said, ultimately, representatives need to hear from voters in the area about the importance of Naskila. “We desperately need your voice and support,” she said. “It’s going to take [lawmakers] hearing from the constituents, especially here in East Texas.”

Aside from the jobs added to the regional workforce, Downing said the tribe has been able to expand its healthcare offerings with Naskila’s proceeds. They now have a full-time doctor who practices five days a week and have expanded the tribe’s health clinic. The tribe has also been able to build and open a veterans service building.

Downing said that anyone wishing to contact Cruz and Cornyn can send them an email from the website https://supportactribe.com .

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