ONALASKA – School construction in Onalaska is proceeding and is expected to be completed before the August start of the 2016-2017 school years, members of the Onalaska School Board were told this week.
During the board meeting Superintendent Lynn Redden said he along with contractor Jim Kingman and the onsite project manager met Friday and they are showing more progress every day.
Also discussed was the painting of the existing building in order to have the exterior match the new construction. Redden said the roof on the existing junior high/high school needs refurbishing, noting the plastic over coating is 15 years old and was a very thin membrane to start with. The board will have to discuss the needed repairs as soon as bids are developed, leaks need to be sealed. Also discussed was the banning of concealed and open carry weapons on school property. At present there is a question regarding the parking lots not being covered by the "not allowed" doctrine and the Texas Attorney General has been asked to clarify the issue. No weapons are permitted at any sports events and stadiums while games are in progress as well as in all school facilities. Proper signage is in place.
Elementary school Principal David Murphy reported that 333 second through sixth grade student enjoyed parties for achieving their goals for the second nine weeks. They have a program titled iAcheive, which tracks their progress.
The semester awards presented Friday were for principals honor roll, teachers honor roll, perfect attendance and exemplary behavior with kindergartners through sixth graders recognized.
On Friday, Jan. 22, the Star Students will have lunch with administrators. Teachers have conducted two planning sessions in January using common database programing developing the third nine-week plans. Middle of the year screening for math and reading for grades K, four, five and six have been conducted in preparation for STARR testing. They have a new math teacher, Charley Vandver who joined the staff in January.
JHSH Principal Anthony Roberts recognized the Ag FFA teachers Adam Graham, Jessica Graham and Marlee Foxworth for guiding the teams in state competition. He is confident that next year the school will have a state champion. He also recognized the FFA for hosting the "beauty pageant," with this year's winning being Tevan "Ty" Gaston.
Also recognized were Angela Kennedy and her staff for hosting the UIL completion where several students and teams medaled, and for making the Angel Tree project a success with 99 families being served. The one act play, guided by Brandi Green, was a success with Ginny Boyce winning all-star cast honors, Maddie Stelk being named to the all-star crew and William Boyce and Kayla Johnson earning honorable mentions.
The Onalaska Band and Choir's Christmas program, under the direction of Kay Randolph, was a success and they also played for the art dinner, sponsored by Maggie Leysath, Brandi Green and Nick Curry where the art department, JROTC, drama department, choir and band had a show for almost 200 displaying activities other than sports.
Homecoming queen is Tara Hayes and king is Darren Jennings.
Mock STARR/EOC testing will be Feb. 8, 9 and 10 for seventh grade writing, eighth grade reading and English 1 and math. The military ball will be Feb. 6 starting at 6 p.m., FFA Buyers Group dinner is Feb. 13 and there will be a junior high dance on Feb. 19. Laura Redden, curriculum specialist, conducted a review of the special programs including the accountability required by the state and where the students rank. Board President Ted Wiggins asked if there were many 'red' marks, referring to the various color coding so prevalent in the report, and Redden said "very few, and we are addressing them." There is also more tracking of students after they graduate and attend college or technical schools.
Charles Boyce reviewed the Internet Safety Policies for the public hearing and discussion. Software is working well in blocking and reporting improper searches. One glitch is that a word like 'strip' -- as in seeking a 'film strip' -- will cause a search to be listed for review by a counselor, but those incidents are few and cleared quickly.
The board also conducted a public hearing on the 2105-16 Annual Report.
The board called for an election for trustees for May 7 for a pair of two-year term for appointed members Tom Curran (Position 3) and John Hayne (Position 6) and a trio of three-year terms for Brandon Smith (Position 1), Dennis Hodge (Position 2) and Ted Wiggins (Position 5). Filing starts January 20 and packets may be picked up at the administration office during normal business hours. Action was taken to lease election equipment and hold a joint election with the city of Onalaska.
Five properties on the delinquent tax role were approved and one denied for not meeting the minimal criteria for approval. The consent agenda consisting of tax report, quarterly investment report and a budget amendment were approved the minutes of the Nov. 16 meeting were approved.
After an executive session the board extended Redden' contract for an additional year and accepted the resignation of Duke Barrier.
LIVINGSTON -- On Tuesday, the January meeting of the Livingston City Council approved new flags, pay estimates, and heard the monthly city manager report.
Dan Ellis attended the meeting on behalf of the Livingston Rotary Club flag project to review plans and seek council input for the special flags they are proposing at the pond near U.S. 59 and Highway 190.
The city has contacted property owner Cannon Pritchard to exercise the option to extend the lease agreement for the pond property for a five-year period.
Plans were accepted to add five or six 30-foot smaller flagpoles around the current flagpole, with each flag representing each branch of the military. Ellis said he hopes to have the flags in place before Veteran's Day.
A final pay estimate for $71,160 and change order for $36,478 from Longview Bridge and Road for the city's street improvement project was approved, as was a resolution authorizing a final pay estimate and change order of the project. City Manager's Report
Major Projects Currently Underway: The Express Feeder Project is designed and funded by the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency and includes a new feeder from the Livingston substation to the Ogletree substation. It will provide additional reliability in service. The 2.7 miles of construction is an overbuild of the city's existing distribution system and has been completed. The project is expected to be complete within the next 30 days.
The Substation Transformer Project is also designed and funded by the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency. It includes the purchase and installation of seven transformers of the various electrical substations in the cities of Livingston, Jasper and Liberty at an estimated cost of $8 million. Specifications and plans for the installation of the transformers will be developed by the project engineer with bids to be opened on the installation of the transformers after the first of the year.
The TRA Water Treatment Plant expansion project increases the plant to a 5 million gallon per day plant versus the current 3 MGD plant with numerous upgrades. It ensures long-term water supply to Livingston for the future. The scheduled completion for the project has moved back to early 2016 due to construction changes, equipment delivery schedules and weather delays. The project has been delayed substantially with the new estimated substantial completion date in February 2016 and final completion in March 2016.
The sewer lift station upgrades have Duplichain Contractors, LLP as the contractor, which expands and upgrades the sanitary sewer lift station on the US 59 south bypass to allow for future growth along the US S9 bypass US 190 West corridor.
Due to the recent inclement weather and delays in equipment delivery, the contractor had been delayed in starting work, which began Sept. 28. The contractor has made progress and it is expected to be complete by the end of the month. The total construction cost of the project is $451,010.
Events: Livingston Municipal Library is closed for biennial inventory Jan. 1-16. The library will reopen Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The Friends of the Library book adoption day will be Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Genealogy research help will be Jan. 21-28 and Feb. 4-11 at 10 a.m.
The annual employee awards and appreciation dinner will be held Friday, Feb. 5, at the Watson Building with employees who have earned service awards, attendance awards, safety awards and volunteer awards during 2015 being recognized.
The 16th Annual Multicultural Festival will be Monday, Jan. 18, at Livingston Junior High beginning at 5 p.m. The festival will include a variety of cultural entertainment and local talent, a fish fry, health fair, job fair, drug awareness and safety fair, and information on voter registration, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, as well as DETCOG programs and service.
Construction Work In Progress: Holiday Inn Express is adding a fitness center at the existing hotel in Southpoint Center.
Livingston ISD is in the process of constructing eight tennis courts at the high school with plans for the courts to be in use by the spring.
Premier Nail Bar is a new salon that also serves wine to customers and will be located beside Donut Express and Subway on North Washington with the proposed opening within a few weeks. This is the old location of ShukyDee's Ice Cream that is undergoing renovations.
The Milam Street Coffee House and Bakery includes a renovation of the old Cassity's Café located on North Washington. Plans include a complete interior renovation of the property, which will include bakery item, a coffee shop, and a light lunch menu.
Pit Row Pit Stop Café is planned for the existing building at the corner of First Street and Church Street as a diner-type café.
Siegleman's Deli will be in the old My Place location and has recently opened. The business was previously located at the corner of Feagin and North Washington.
The Concrete Batch Plant has received an air permit to operate at 709 U.S. Highway 59 South feeder road just south of Bound Chevrolet on the site of the old J.C. Smith plant. Work is progressing on the project with utilities connected in January. The office building will be moved in and the plant is expected to arrive this week.
Gary Davis has purchased the Coats Law Office located at 408 North Jackson and is renovating the property.
Pending Projects in Development Plans are developing and a groundbreaking is planned for a new state-of-the-art emergency room facility at CHI Hospital at an estimated cost of $6 million. The project will include a total of 37 ED stations, three trauma rooms, three fast-track rooms and six results-waiting stations. The new emergency room is expected to open by June of 2016.
A proposed plat revision has been submitted to the Community Development staff for a site at the intersection of West Park Drive and the U.S. 59 North feeder road. Initial plans call for the construction of a 7,104 square foot dialysis center to be called Livingston Fresenius Medical Care. A pre-development meeting was held Oct. 30 and plans are currently under review by city and TxDOT staff. O'Reilly's Auto Parts held a pre-development meeting Oct. 22 with the owner of the new store to be located in the 600 block of West Church Street.
The Polk County Mission Center of Hope had a predevelopment meeting on Nov. 16 for the construction of the new facility at Garner and South Washington. Fundraising for the construction project will begin in January of 2016. It is currently in the design phase. The Polk County Farm Bureau office has plans underway to expand the existing office on the U.S. North bypass. The general contractor has advised that they are waiting on the metal building plans.
Other Items To Mention: In early 2016, the city will begin the development of a new five-year capital improvement plan that will include the 2016 citizen survey, a supervisory personnel planning workshop, and a city council strategic planning session.
A general election for the purpose of electing a mayor and two council members will be called for Saturday, May 7. The first day for a candidate to file is Jan. 20 and the last day to file is Feb. 19.
The City of Livingston will host the "Tony Korioth Supervisory Academy" which is offered through the Texas Municipal League on March 15-17 at the Polk County Commerce Center. The training program will be offered to employees of all cities in the area at no cost. It is recognized as a valuable resource for both new and experienced supervisors.
ONALASKA – The Onalaska City Council completed recent annexations during their meeting Tuesday night.
Back in November, the city announced it was moving to "clear up" seven parcels of land that had been overlooked in prior annexation efforts. All properties are actually inside the current city limits, but were not on earlier plats submitted for a vote.
There were two public hearings that drew minimal interest from citizens and the council voted Tuesday night to bring them into the city with all rights and privileges and a service plan in place.
The council also voted to join the new Polk County Blackboard notification system. Mayor Roy Newport asked council to review the system as it becomes effective to decide if the citizens could benefit from the larger, more expanded segment of the program. The city has opted in at the .45-cent per household level.
This would afford residents the emergency notifications should a disaster such as a tornado occur within their territory. The expanded system, costing around .75 cents per household, would allow for advertising of events such as Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department barbecues, Fourth of July fireworks and any other program or event the city holds yearly.
Newport also presented certificates to those who placed in the city's annual Christmas decorating contest. Council member Chip Choate accepted for Twin Harbors, which won the subdivision category, and two members of the Impala Woods Ladies Club accepted second place. The Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department won in the commercial division and Jerry's Restaurant was second. Neither of the residential winners were able to attend due to health reasons. They were Susan Mitchell and Jac Thompson.
With the upcoming May elections for city council and Onalaska School Board and the Polk County Fresh Water Supply District #2 board, there were four resolutions passed regarding the sharing of equipment and location for the elections.
If the city does not have a contested race for either mayor or two council positions, the election would be held at the school district offices. The school has a regular election for positions 1, 2 and 5 for three year terms and two-year unexpired terms for positions 3 and 6.
The PCFWSD#2 terms of Fred Alderman and Royce Newport will stand for election.
Filing starts on Jan. 20 and Election Day will be May 7. Final locations and other dates will be posted as they developed. The fourth resolution was to utilize the voting equipment from the county clerk's office.
Police Chief Ron Gilbert reported the department has been very busy with several major crime investigations, requiring travel to other states. They responded to 1,486 calls, 147 dispatched calls, made six felony and 18 misdemeanor arrests; and issued 145 citations and 80 warning tickets. During December, they assisted Polk County Sheriff's Office 32 times, driving 6,914 miles, opening 48 new cases, three of which were DWI or narcotic related and closed 20 warrants.
Fire Chief Jay Stutts reported the department responded to 40 calls in December, 20 of which were medical in nature. Other calls included five structure fires, nine assists, three hazmat incidents, two vehicle accidents and one grass fire. There were two Life Flight incidents in one evening. Stutts said the training really shows when you have multiple events.
Fire Marshal Lee Parish reported two environmental investigations during December and no fire investigations. As code enforcer, he issued four warnings and four certified letters sent out that will require follow up in January. Permits for the month totaled $1,274 with a yearly increase to the city of $770,208.
The Onalaska library added 127 new books and had a circulation of 570 while open 19 days. There were 723 patrons with 276 using the computers. Income from fax and copies was $326, fines totaled $13 membership fees were $15 with a total of $54 in donations.
The consent agenda of financials, vouchers and payments were approved.
During the open forum OISD Coach Freeman asked for support selling Astro baseball tickets so the team can play on Minute Maid field in March. The school has vouchers for $54 for two reserved seats that can be selected when patrons go to the park. Contact any ball player or coach for more information.
LIVINGSTON -- Tuesday's meeting of the Polk County Commissioners saw the approval of grant related items, discussed weapons in county buildings, and heard speakers in public forum.
Commissioners approved a Texas traffic safety program grant agreement, the Impaired Driving Mobilization (IDM) Incentive Grant, for the purchase of portable breath testing units, portable video system for crash scenes and still photography equipment totaling $3,000.
Also approved was a replacement voice recorder system from Vistacom in the amount of $25,000 that will be reimbursed by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) strategic plan. One last approval was for an application for the traffic safety grant program that would be matched and impact the budget next year for $18,000.
A discussion with District Attorney Lee Hon and the court regarding the new "open carry" law and the possible prohibition of weapons in county buildings detailed different areas in the county where there is uncertainty.
The court asked Hon about the Onalaska Sub-courthouse and county annex building, where there are judge's offices or courtrooms. The concern was that facilities in the county serve several purposes that both allow and prohibit weapons.
Hon advised the court to ask each judge to make a determination as to which areas of the facilities are essential to the functioning of his or her court. Hon was concerned that passing a broad prohibition would lead to further difficulties.
The item was tabled to get information from each justice of the peace and allow Hon the opportunity to review the item.
In public forum, two sides spoke on a lease disagreement in Holiday Lake Estates between the fire department and civic club.
Holiday Lake Estates Volunteer Fire Chief Bobby Bridwell said the station has improved, buying gear with county money and has spent its money wisely. He said there is an ongoing battle with some homeowners in the community about the department's lease with the area's civic club.
The department is in the process of purchasing a piece of property to continue to service the community and the county.
Rosalind Caldwell, a Holiday Lake Estates board member, said she did not want to get rid of the fire department. She said she would like upper management to be able to communicate better with their volunteers so they have accurate information.
She asked for the court's participation in settling the problem, saying the main problem they're having is communication. She suggested an arbitration to line up questions and have answers. She said she would like to hear both sides to get a complete picture and get to problem solving.
The problem will be further discussed in a meeting at the civic club on Jan. 30 at 9 a.m.
GOODRICH -- A special meeting on Tuesday brought the Goodrich City Council together to form a zoning commission and set commercial rates for city utilities.
The council has discussed zoning for nearly two years and has now set a zoning commission. The item was pushed forward with the possibility of a scrap yard moving into what many in the city consider a residential area.
"Tonight's meeting was about forming a zoning commission, so we can start laying out the city to set commercial, industrial and residential properties," Goodrich mayor Jeremy Harper said. "We want it to be very organized as the city grows. We will start in January and have a calendar for zoning.
"We will have a minimum of two public hearings and a maximum of four. We would like to hear from everybody to see if they have any input as the city council zones. The council deemed themselves as the zoning commission, so they will be the ones that will hear from the citizens."
The council also established commercial water and sewer rates for the city. Growth in the area and the prospect of new businesses has made the new rates necessary. The new rates resemble those of Woodville.
"We looked and surrounding cities that were similar to ours and took a medium price," Harper said. "The rate for a two-inch tap meter is $26 per month and the sewer rate will be the same. It will be $52 a month for water and sewer with a two-inch tap meter, up to 1,000 gallons. Anything over that is $3.30 per 1,000 gallons for water and $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for sewer."
The city is currently entertaining a contract to buy 17 acres near Loop 393 that will provide space for a community center, ponds for fishing and a park.
"We have a community center that we received by grant and we will get started on that some time in the spring," Harper said. "We want to have a space for people in the community to enjoy. We hope it will be a place to hold fishing competitions for kids, a park for events and holidays in the city, and a farmer's market."
LIVINGSTON -- The Polk County Commissioners approved an energy savings program and heard two speakers in open forum during its last meeting of 2015.
Two weeks ago, Way Companies informed the court of a program that could potentially save the county money on its energy. The company's objective is to fund infrastructure upgrades to create a positive cash flow so that money may be invested back into the county.
The county would spend no capital upfront and would pay the Way Company fees from the difference in energy savings. The projects usually last around 10-15 years. A team of engineers, financial advisors and technical employees toured the county during a feasibility study, monitoring buildings and infrastructure.
The company is looking to go a step further, with what they call a "detailed audit," where they would confirm findings to this point and work with the county to find solutions.
The group would install LED lighting countywide, retrofit old air conditioners, and install a computer control system in the jails. The latter of those would save water, maintenance and operational costs by giving correction officers more control over the cells without having to be inside them.
The annual savings for the county is expected to be around $234,000, something that is expected to increase three percent yearly as energy costs rise. The fees Way Companies would charge would total approximately $197,000 each year, creating a 15-year savings of nearly $1.4 million.
According to the State of Texas, the agreement would be a performance contract, which must be guaranteed by Way Companies and is audited every year. At the end of the year, if the savings do not match what the company says they are, the company must write a check to the county for the difference.
The program was established in the mid-1980s and has already been installed in Liberty County, where representatives have given positive reviews. The program could start by May of next year.
Holiday Lake Estates Civic Club President Jeff Anderson spoke during open forum to let the council know of difficulties in the subdivision.
Anderson said the club had a lease from the fire department that was invalid and brought in a legal team to examine it. In their Oct. 31 meeting, a legal advisor told the civic club they needed to terminate the lease and obtain a better one that had liability insurance.
While negotiating the lease, Anderson said the fire department demanded the board to resign during its meeting. They also had a deed warrant that Anderson said, "seemed pretty reasonable."
The board could not legally give away the property to the fire department without 10 percent of the community signing a petition. It would then need to go back to the community to have at least two-thirds of the 966 lots vote on the matter.
Anderson said both parties worked hard toward a lease, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. On Nov. 30, negotiations had come to a stop. Anderson then asked the board to evict the fire department from the building.
The fire department moved the fire trucks from the facility on Dec. 6. A brush truck was placed back at the department four days later. The next day, a fire at the civic club was called in. The Goodrich Volunteer Fire Department and sheriff's office were called. Anderson said a passing visitor saw the flame in the flowerbeds and put out the fire.
An arson investigator is looking into the fire, as is the insurance company. Anderson said he wants a fire department in the subdivision, but said management of the fire department has "disrespected the community as a whole."
Anderson claims that calls have been made to residents, claiming the residents will not have insurance and that no one will help if a fire occurs in the subdivision without its fire department.
Anderson asked the commissioners and county judge to help, saying he does not know which direction to go. Paperwork is currently in place for the department to leave.
Colonel Howard Daniel also spoke to promote the 16th annual Multicultural Festival. This year, the festival will include a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and a tribute to law enforcement and firefighters.
"I think it is about time for our community to let law enforcement and our firefighters know where we stand," Daniels said. "They have had a tough job are in harm's way every day. They are our protection and (council's) part is to get them there — hopefully in uniform — so we can let them know that we love them."