updated 2:56 PM UTC, Feb 17, 2020

Meetings

Centenarian residents recognized by county

County Recognizes Centa

By Chris Edwards

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WOODVILLE – At its Monday morning meeting, the Tyler County Commissioners Court took an opportunity to honor a couple of centenarians with resolutions.

Helen Grammer and Alonzo Randolf, both of whom are set to celebrate the century mark with their coming birthdays, were honored by County Judge Jacques Blanchette and the Commissioners Court for their longevity. Although neither resident was present, both were represented by individuals who accepted the resolutions on their behalf. Grammer’s granddaughter Sharon Johnson accepted hers while volunteers and workers with the county Veterans Service Office accepted Randolf’s.

Randolf, as Blanchette noted, is a decorated military veteran, who served in an African American regiment, which was a sort of successor to the famed Buffalo Soliders of the Civil War.

On the regular agenda of items to consider or approve, the commissioners approved the appointment of a delivery supervisor of the election equipment for the coming election, as early voting begins next Tuesday.

By statute, the sheriff’s office is in charge of the delivery and setup of voting materials to the polling locations, but since incumbent Bryan Weatherford has an opponent in the coming race, Blanchette said that the appointment was an idea put before a vote “for the sake of oversight.”

“We don’t have any concerns about tampering,” Blanchette said. “We just want an extra set of eyes.”

Pct. 1 Commissioner Martin Nash volunteered to work with Blanchette to find someone to serve as elections equipment delivery supervisor.

Other Business
• During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to initiate the procurement for administration of the county’s Hurricane Harvey program of buyout/recovery funds from a CDBG grant.
The commissioners also voted to appoint a committee to rate the proposals for the program. The committee will consist of Jackie Skinner, Ken Jobe and Blanchette.
• Commissioners approved an increase in the fee for pipeline crossings in Tyler County from $1,000 to $1,500 per crossing.
• An agreement between the county and Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas was approved for training individuals at no cost to the county. Blanchette noted that the county has participated in the program in the past.

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Chester mayor honors longtime city secretary

At their regular council meeting Monday evening, Feb. 3, Chester Mayor Floyd Petri honored City Secretary Annette Hickman for 39 years of faithful service. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESS PHOTO)At their regular council meeting Monday evening, Feb. 3, Chester Mayor Floyd Petri honored City Secretary Annette Hickman for 39 years of faithful service. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESS PHOTO)

By Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Chester Mayor Floyd Petri honored City Secretary Annette Hickman for her 39 years of service at their city council meeting Monday evening, Feb. 3. She will begin her 40th year in September.

Petri said, “I have found her knowledge indispensable,” and he joked that her appointment was a life-time affair, for she was here when General Custer passed through.

Not only does it appear she is the longest serving city secretary in Tyler County history, her assistant Charlot Thomas said, “Probably is the longest in Texas.”

Petri introduced a proposed “Second Amendment Education Ordinance.” He has been passionate about protecting citizens’ rights since coming into office, being the first to pass an anti-red flag ordinance in Texas as one online paper reported. This ordinance reflected a clarified definition of “shall not be infringed” and that the amendment to the Constitution was not simply about hunting or self-defense rights but also a “necessity to the security of a free State.” The ordinance finds any lawmaker in violation who passes any gun control for the illegal seizure of any gun “not used in a crime.” The ordinance asks for the violating lawmakers to be impeached or to get a recall election for their “violation of their Oath of Office.”

There was a brief discussion, and the ordinance was tabled to the next meeting.

Petri recognized Michelle Cowan who completed two National Incident Management System classes, and he directed that copies of her certificates be placed in her personnel file. He has been encouraging all since coming into office, and he has 12 in his file. The NIMS training helps all city officials work with others in crises and speak the same language.

There was a little discussion on the computer upgrades and the need within two years to upgrade their gas monitoring equipment and software.

There was no emergency as Director of City Works Dale Clamon had the foresight to obtain extra parts.

The council passed the minutes to the previous meeting as well as the city and gas company financials without much comment.

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Citizens hosting meeting concerning plant

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By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – A group of Woodville residents is hosting a public meeting on Thursday to ask “Is Woodville Pellets smoking you out?”. Some are claiming the wood biomass pellet plant, located south of the city, has been emitting illegal smoke, dust and other air pollution.

The organizers of the meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Wheat Elementary School in Woodville, will address these concerns, and representatives from Woodville Pellets will be on hand to answer questions.

The facility, which formerly operated under the name German Pellets, was acquired in 2019 by European-based biomass firm Graanul Invest. It produces 450,000 metric tons of pellets per year. The firm also purchased the Port Arthur pellets plant, which was also previously under German ownership. That facility is now used as a storage and shipping point.

In the past, under its previous ownership, the plant was found, through an internal audit, to have exceeded state pollution limits by emitting 580 tons of ozone-producing gases, while it was only permitted to release 64 tons. In 2019, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) required the facility to implement pollution controls.

Some of the citizens involved with the meeting Thursday claim that emissions are causing sinus and breathing problems. One Woodville resident, Dustin Stafford, who lives near the facility said he is “all for our community having jobs and industry, but not for our air being polluted.”

According to Sarah Stephens, who works as an environmental officer for the facility, there are no chemical emissions or any illegal smoke from the plant’s exhaust. Stephens said the emissions are clean, as the plant’s process to create the wood pellets (which are exported and used for fuel and heating) does not involve any chemicals.

Stephens added that the public is welcome to come and tour the facility, and she welcomes questions via telephone, as well.

“What comes out of the main stack, which we run on a daily basis…is not anything unusual, just standard wood chips. There’s nothing treated,” said Aaron Mitcham, who works as IT manager for the plant. “It’s cleaner than the bonfire they do every year at the city park,” he added.

According to a report from the Environmental Integrity Project, released in 2018 and taken from findings compiled in 2017, a third of the wood pellet plants violated their permit limits by releasing illegal amounts of pollution, while another four plants had faulty permits issued by state governments that failed to require pollution control equipment required by the federal Clean Air Act. Overall, more than half of the plants either failed to keep emissions below legal limits or failed to install the required pollution controls.

A Texas Pellets representative said that since the plant re-opened last year, TCEQ has not found any violations, nor has it been fined. The Woodville plant is the largest facility that Graanul owns and produces around 1,200 tons of product each day.

According to the group Concerned Citizens of Tyler County, an environmental advocacy group hosting Thursday’s event, attorneys specializing in environmental-related litigation will be on hand at the meeting. A Facebook post related to the meeting states that the attorneys will present “information regarding compliance that the plant is not adhering to.”

The Booster was able to tour Texas Pellets recently. A detailed look at how the plant functions is coming in an upcoming edition.

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Commissioners discuss courthouse, burials

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By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – The Tyler County Commissioners Court discussed steps to adopt a policy regarding indigent burials during a workshop last week. The topic was discussed but tabled as an agenda item during the regular commissioners court meeting following the workshop, on Monday, Jan. 13.

Melissa Riley, of Riley’s Funeral Home in Woodville, spoke on the topic during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Riley said her business has been assisting with indigent burials since 1985 but wanted to know where the county stands on the issue. “There is no indigent care as far as anyone deceased in the county. I just need to know what to tell these families from now on,” she said.

Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette referred to a telephone conversation he and Riley had concerning the subject, and following a consultation with the county’s legal counsel, realized the need to put a policy in place.

Courthouse project discussed

In a previous meeting, on Dec. 23, 2019, Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock addressed the need to make a distinction, when paying bills pertaining to the courthouse remediation project work, between the required work and the recommended work, the latter of which falls under the heading of rehabilitation.

During this meeting, an invoice from architect Dohn LaBiche was discussed. The invoice billed the county for both types of work on the project, which Sturrock noted included work that was separate and optional from the remediation work required by the Texas Historical Commission. He recommended that any issues pertaining to courthouse rehabilitation be looked at separately and undertaken only after the necessary or mandated steps were completed.

Kay Timme spoke on the topic at last week’s commissioners court meeting and said the architect has since provided a revised invoice which itemizes the type of work. “We’re continuing to study the numbers,” Timme said. The figures on the invoice came out to $25,181 in required work and $8,903 in recommended/rehabilitation work. The revised invoice, which was tabled in its original form last month, was approved to be paid by the county, with the money to be paid from a courthouse remediation line on the budget.

“I would really like to see us stop on the optional work and focus on the required work,” Sturrock said.

Other Business
• Sturrock proposed a change in the county employees’ handbooks to reflect elected officials’ terms, with benefits to begin at 24 years instead of 25. Additionally, he recommended the wording in the handbook be changed from “employee” to “employee/elected official,” which was approved.
• Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford was on hand to inform the commissioners that his office is taking over baliff duties for the courthouse.
• The county approved a bid for Affordable AC Services to maintain the air conditioning systems in all county buildings.

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