ONALASKA – In hopes of retaining more of its teaching staff, the Onalaska School Board is reviewing ways to enhance the school district's salary structure.
During their meeting on Monday, Superintendent Lynn Redden presented several options for salary scales to the board at the request of President Brandon Smith.
Redden explained that offering a signing bonus does not help retain teachers beyond the first year. The goal of the Onalaska Independent School District should be offering a solid program that will allow hiring excellent prospects and keeping them. Redden said that if a teacher stays through the fourth or fifth year, they usually spend many more years in a district.
"When they have no incentive for wage increases they will look elsewhere after the first year," Redden said. The board voted to complete a salary schedule through 35 years of service to be used at recruiting expos this spring.
The board held their regular meeting at the Junior/Senior High cafeteria and were served a meal prepared by a board member prior to the actual meeting. This was in support of the statewide Board Appreciation Month. Spouses and friends were invited to the meal and students had decorated the room with signs thanking the board for their dedication to helping the district by their service. Special book bags and gift baskets were prepared by staff and the elementary school children made hearts and signs for each board member.
In other business during the meeting, the discussed retaining legal counsel and Redden suggested they ask the firm of Hardy, Cook and Hardy of Tyler to make a presentation at the February meeting. Redden said this is a firm that represents several school districts and yet is small enough to serve Onalaska's needs. He said when he would call the larger firms to see if they were interested he always got a different person on the line.
The Texas Academic Performance report (TAPR) showed both OISD campuses and the district met the standards with the elementary school receiving an academic achievement designation in Reading/ELA and science, top 25% in Closing Performance Gap and Post-Secondary Readiness. OES was rated above state average in math, reading, science and social studies and a large percentage of students met or exceeded progress in math. The OES attendance was above state average.
The junior/senior high was above average in math, writing and social studies and the seventh grade was above in math and writing, The eighth grade was above average in math and reading; end of course (EOC) English 11 and U.S. History; SAT scores; and a 0 annual dropout rate. Areas for improvement included writing in all grades; grade 8 science and social studies; EOC English 1 and Algebra 1; increase testing on ACT/SAT; and increase Advance College Course enrollment.
Junior/senior high Principal Charles Boyce reported enrollment at 357 with 98.86 percent attendance. They held STARR/EOC retesting in December and had 35 students retested. The campus also hosted the District 21-3A UIL Academic meet and Onalaska placed third overall with several students earning first place recognition.
They also hosted a JV boys' basketball tournament and Onalaska placed third overall in that event. Brittany Lightfoot placed eighth in the Congressional State Debate Finals in Austin. This was her fifth time to represent the campus and district at a state final debate. The annual Angel Tree project was a huge success with 90 children locally receiving Christmas gifts.
The Annual FFA Buyers Group steak dinner for two will be Feb, 7 at 6 p.m., mock STAAR testing will be Feb. 9-17, the 10th Annual Military Ball will be Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. and the second running of the Running Wild in O Town will be Feb. 28 starting at 8 a.m.
Principal Hannah Williams reported the elementary school had an enrollment of 544 with 95 percent attendance. Seventy three students in grades one through six meet their Accelerated Reader goal for the second marking period and enjoyed a popcorn party.
Parent volunteers Debra Svoboda, Alice Whimpey, Arlene Burchert and Donna Crain organized and operated the Christmas Store, the proceeds from which will help offset the cost of field trips. Williams also noted the second through sixth graders did a great job at UIL events. Fourth and fifth graders will take mock STAAR tests during the week of Feb. 2nd in preparation for the actual test early in April.
On Feb. 5 students will mark 100 days of school with a Hip-Hip-Hooray It's the Hundredth Day celebration. Students should dress in 1970's style attire. Valentines exchanges will take place on Friday, Feb. 13, and dance will be held at 6:30 p.m.
The board passed a resolution approving the proposal by the Polk Central Appraisal District to construct an addition to the appraisal building. No new funds will be expended, and they are using accrued fund balances.
The board voted to utilize ERATE service from Eastex Telephone for phone service, AT&T for cellular service, Eastex Telephone Cooperative for long distance, Internet fiber access from Region 6 Education Service Center (ESC) to the cloud and Eastex Telephone for wide area network between campuses. Video conferencing will be through the Region 6 ESC and basic maintenance and internal communications (Wi-Fi Upgrade) from Eastex Telephone.
The board voted to call an election for May 9. Position 3 held by Lewis Landsman and 6 held by Linda Vincent will be on the ballot. The board also voted to hold the election jointly with the City of Onalaska. Filing for a position on the ballot opens Jan. 26 and those interested should contact the school administration office.
There were eight parcels of land on the approval list from foreclosure and all meet the district's minimum bid requirements and were approved by the board.
After an executive session the hoard voted to extend Redden's contract for another year. With no further business the board adjourned.
ONALASKA – Plans for an open-air, steel pavilion at the Onalaska Park were reviewed Tuesday by the Onalaska City Council, which voted to seek bids for the structure.
Mayor Roy Newport presented a sketch and site plan for a 60 x 100 x 16-foot pavilion with ten steel columns and a 60-foot clear span. The plans call for it to be built on a concrete slab with exterior walls that drop down to a 10-foot height.
Newport said he has a major contributor for the project which, when completed, would allow for citizens to hold meetings, outdoor events and provide shade for activities during the hot summer days. Council voted to go out for bids for the project, with specifics and construction specs to be voted upon at a future meeting.
The Jan. 13 session began when Newport asked Mason Brecheen, son of the city librarian, to open the meeting with the pledge to both American and Texas flags. Newport then presented the certificates to the winners of the Christmas decorating contest, who posed for a group photo. Represented were winners from the Onalaska Water and Gas Company, Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD), Impala Woods Subdivision, Twin Harbors Subdivision, Ron Gilbert, Jacqueline Thompson, and Ed and Julia Rodgers.
During the meeting, the council agreed to seek a Texas Community Development Block Grant (TxCDBG) for street improvements and voted to hire Raymond K. Vann and Associates as the grant's management consultant and KSA Engineering as the engineering firm. There were only two bids for engineering services, which were opened in December, and only one for the management position.
Ordinance 354 was approved, calling for a city election on May 9. Three council positions are up for a two-year terms, including those of Carl Cruse, Shirley Gilmore and Patsy Goins. This will be the first election since the annexation of Canyon Park and those new residents will be eligible to vote, having been in the city more than the required six months.
Applications for a place on the ballot will be accepted at city hall Jan. 28 - Feb. 27. Early voting will be April 27 through May 5, daily except weekends 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and on May 4 and 5, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Applications for mail ballots will be accepted starting March 25 until close of business April 24. Mail ballot requests should be sent to: Angela Stutts, Early Voting Clerk, P.O. Box 880, Onalaska, Texas.
Council passed interlocal agreements with Polk County for voting equipment and Onalaska Independent School District for a joint election to be held at Onalaska City Hall. Should Onalaska not have to hold an election, it will be at the school administration building for OISD voting.
Police Chief Ron Gilbert reported the department made 122 dispatched calls and responded to 411 incidents, making four felony arrests and 52 misdemeanor arrests. It also wrote 88 citations and 27 warnings, assisted Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department twice and Polk County Sherriff's Office 17 times. Officers drove a total of 4,119 miles, opened 38 new cases and handled two drug cases. Gilbert reported the new cars are performing well and council voted to go out for bids to sell the three old vehicles.
Onalaska Fireman Trevor Ruthstrom presented the stats for the OVFD. They responded to 27 medical calls, four motor vehicle accidents, one lake rescue and two lift assists when a patient needs assistance. With an aging population, more than 80 percent of the calls in December were medical in nature.
Fire Marshal Lee Parish reported no fires during the month. As building inspector, he issued permits for one new home, four new manufactured homes, two refurbished manufactured homes, and two commercial modifications. Fees were $1,528 and the value to the city increased by $345,350. As building inspector, he issued nine red warning tags and sent two letters regarding violations. One case in Canyon Park was resolved with a voluntary removal and one case went to court and had stipulations placed on the building.
The library report showed that though open just 23 days during the holiday month, the use was high with 781 patrons circulating an average of 58 books daily and 258 computer users. The summer reading program planning is underway and the school will send out information in May.
Newport said he is working with several business people and will announce an Economic Advisory Board at the Jan. 29 Central East Texas Association (CETA) morning coffee meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. at Jerry's Restaurant in Onalaska. The speaker, Michelle Spodnik from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will discus having a farmer's market and a local farmer will address his experience with these over the years.
The Onalaska Athletic Booster Club will hold the second annual Color Fun Run at 8 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the high school.
Council also approved the consent agenda consisting of minutes, financials and voucher payments.
DECORATING WINNERS – Winners of the Onalaska Christmas Decorating Contest received their certificates during city council meeting on Tuesday. Winners included Onalaska Water and Gas Company, Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department, Impala Woods Subdivision, Twin Harbors Subdivision, Ron Gilbert, Jacqueline Thompson, and Ed and Julia Rodgers.
LIVINGSTON -- January's Livingston City Council meeting marked the end of over a decade of service for Alderman Ray Hill.
In his letter of resignation, Hill said it had been a pleasure to serve on the council.
"I feel it is now time for me to retire from the city's political arena and make room for someone else to step up to the plate," Hill's letter stated.
Mayor Clarke Evans presented a resolution of appreciation at the meeting. Hill's wife, Ann, and other family members were in attendance for the presentation.
City Manager Report The project engineer presented preliminary streets, necessary repairs and cost estimates for the major street improvement project at the November City Council meeting. He requested authorization to proceed with development of plans and specifications and advertisement for bids in January 2015 so work can begin in n the spring of 2015. $1 million has been included in the 2014 - 2015 budget for this major street improvement project. Plans call for the opening of bids for the project on March 25 at 2 p.m. with the award to be made by the city council at the April 14 meeting.
The project engineer presented preliminary plans, specifications and cost estimate for the exterior and interior painting of the 300,000-gallon water tank on Walnut Street on Cemetery Hill at the November City Council meeting. He requested authorization to proceed with development of plans and specifications and advertisement for bids in January 2015 so work can begin in the spring of 2015. Bond proceeds from the Certificates of Obligation. Series 2012 issue will be used to fund this project which has been Included in the 20 14 – 2015 budget. Plans call for the opening of bids on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. with the award of the bid by the city council at the Feb. 10 meeting.
The project engineer presented preliminary plans and specifications and cost estimate for the sewer lift station upgrade project, to expand and upgrade the lift station located on the US 59 bypass south adjacent to the Relax Inn at the November city council meeting. He requested authorization to proceed with development of plans and specifications and advertisement for bids in January 2015 so work can begin in the spring of 2015. Bond proceeds from the Certificates of Obligation 2012 issue will be used to fund this project, which has been included in the 2014 - 2015 budget. Plans call for the opening of bids on Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. with the award of the bid by the city council at the March 10 meeting.
Financial: Sales Tax: The January 2015 sales tax, which represents sales in November, was in amount of $280,965.02, an increase of $27,280.10, or 10.76 percent, from last January. This is the second largest amount of sales tax revenue ever received by the city for the month of January (January 2009 was the highest; result of Hurricane Ike in September 2008).
Events: Thursday, Jan 22, the library will host the TAME Trailblazer II exhibit, one of two interactive science and engineering museums-on-wheels in the state. The exhibits are geared to motivate and promote careers in science and engineering for all students. The program is free and will provide hands-on activities and exhibits for children in grades 3 - 8. Both USD and the Montessori teachers have been contacted to attend.
The Polk County Historical Commission will celebrate Texas Independence Day at the City Cemetery on Saturday, Feb. 28, with a special ceremony beginning at 11 a.m.
The Historical Commission plans to express appreciation and recognize all the individuals and groups who have worked on the beautification of the cemetery this past year.
The 3rd annual First Baptist Church Day of Service (RISE UP!) is scheduled for Sunday, April 19. They expect more than 650 adults and children to participate in this event this year and are inviting other area churches to join them in this effort of community service.
Work on the community projects will begin at 9 a.m. and continue for three or four hours that day. The annual Multicultural event will be held on Monday, Jan. 19 at the Livingston Junior High School beginning at 5 p.m. with a free fish fry, musical entertainment and a variety of other events to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Current Developments: Murphy's Gas Station - The project is for a 1,200 square foot convenience store with six gas/diesel pumps to be located on the southeast comer of the Wal-Mart parking lot. City staff has reviewed plans and the building permit has been issued for the project - construction cost of $1,825,509. We have been notified that construction will begin in early February.
The EI Patron Grille project involves the renovation of the old Peoples State Bank building in Jackson Square as a new Mexican restaurant with construction costs of $135,000. A permit has been issued and construction is about 80 percent complete.
The Melbo's Gas and Car Wash project involves the demolition of the existing convenience store and car wash at US 190 and SH 146 Intersection. A pre-development meeting with owner and architect to review plans for new convenience store and gas station was held. Plans were submitted and approved by the city with the building permit issued for construction to begin - construction cost of $392,657. Demolition of the existing car wash and convenience store is complete with the removal of the old gas tanks underway. The historical renovation project is to relocate the Polk County Courthouse elevator from the outside to inside. Plans have been approved, permit has been issued and construction is underway - construction cost of $875,000. The project is 90 percent complete, with exterior brick remaining. They are currently waiting on matching brick to arrive to complete the project.
A pre-development meeting was held on Oct. 8 with developers for a proposed convenience store and restaurant lease spaces at the intersection of Church and Willis Streets to include one or two restaurant lease spaces and a convenience store with gas pumps. Existing server line and recorded easement have been located and identified for the site. Developer is currently working on plans to submit to the city for review.
Other Items Livingston was designated a Main Street City by the Texas Historical Commission in 2005 and will celebrate the 10 year anniversary this year. The First Lady's Tour was held in March 2005 as the official kick-off of the historical renovation program. Preliminary discussion is underway for a Downtown Block Party to celebrate Main 5treet's 10th anniversary and to recognize the many accomplishments of this program.
Recognition of several new businesses in the Main Street District is underway with the delivery of welcome baskets by Main Street Board members - Friends and Neighbors, Blue Duck, Petalz, Across the Tracks, A - Z Auction, and Vision Satellite. Tony's Pizza is expected to open In February next door to the Donut Express.
Attitude of Gratitude Program - A new recognition program by the city council and administrative staff with frequent expressions of appreciation of individuals, businesses, churches, and community organizations that have shaped our community.
Request of Friends of Reservoirs of the City to participate as a Sponsor in the Lake Livingston Reservoir Fisheries and Riparian Habitat Enhancement Project known as "Bringing Lake Livingston back to life." The 2015 General Election will be held Saturday, May 9. Positions to be filled are three city council positions currently held by Judy Cochran, Ray Luna and Elgin Davis. The first day to file for a place on the ballot is Wednesday, Jan. 2l, and the last day to file for a place on the ballot are Friday, Feb. 21. The DAR has partnered with the Department of Defense and is participating in a special commemorative event to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. They have been given a special flag and plan to have a flag raising ceremony on Armed Forces Day (Tuesday, May 12) at city hall to honor and recognize the Vietnam War veterans.
The 2015 - 2016 Community Development Block grant applications are due by Feb. 21. Work is underway to determine a project that will qualify for this grant. City council will be asked to consider the resolution to submit the grant application at the regular February meeting.
Infrastructure Rehabilitation USA, Inc. from Shreveport, LA is beginning work on the rehabilitation of 17 manholes in various parts of town. They will be here for about two to three weeks wor1ting on this manhole rehabilitation project, which involves installing a triplex liner system in the existing manhole. Each manhole rehabilitation takes from four to six hours. This liner system is guaranteed to stop Infiltration and future deterioration of the manhole for 10 years.
LIVINGSTON – A major move to streamline the tax collection system was taken Wednesday when the Polk County Commissioners Court approved the purchase of a new integrated tax collection software/hardware package.
During the meeting, commissioners accepted a recommendation from Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Burks to purchase the system offered by Harris True Automation at a total bid price of $221,227, including a maintenance agreement.
Burks told commissioners they had looked at the various systems being offered to the county – including trips to other area counties and appraisal districts to see them in operation – and decided that the Harris system would best meet the county's needs.
She noted that one of the major selling points for her was that the Polk Central Appraisal District (PCAD) already is using a Harris True Automation system. This means that when the new computer package is installed in the county tax department, the two offices can be linked electronically.
"Right now when we receive changes from the appraisal district, we have to enter them in by hand," Burks told the commissioners. "During peak times, that can tie up at least one of my people full time." Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis, who once served as the county's tax assessor-collector, also voiced his support for Burks' recommendation.
"When ever you have someone entering information in by hand, there is a chance for a mistake to be made," he said. By linking the two offices electronically, Willis said they would greatly reduce the chance of human error in the tax records.
The new system will replace one the county purchased 25 years ago. At that time the county's system and the one used by the PCAD were compatible and could be linked electronically, but over the years the PCAD had upgraded to a new system that could no long "talk" to the one used by the county.
In other business, commissioners approved the purchase of a new car for the district attorney's investigator at a cost of $29,589.87.
District Attorney Lee Hon told commissioners that he had only been offered $1,200 in trade for the existing car, a 2006 Dodge Charger with over 100,000 miles on it. After consulting with the commissioners, it was agreed that they would first offer the car to another county department but if none wanted it, the county would sell it through a surplus property auction.
Other action During the meeting, the commissioners also: Ratified the addition now being built on the PCAD headquarters in Livingston. The overall plan for the expansion and renovation of the PCAD office had been approved previously.
Approved a request from Maintenance Supervisor Jay Burks to install a new telephone system for use by his department at a cost of $1,600. Burks said the modern, Internet-based system being offered by
LivCom should solve a number of issue caused by the aging system now in place plus provide a number if new features. He said his office could be used as a test of the new system and if it works as advertised, it could be expanded to other county facilities such as the courthouse and the justice center.
Again tabled action on the county's Life Safety Code inspection system. The code requires inspections of buildings being built in the unincorporated areas of the county but commissioners suspended its enforcement last year when they were unable to find a qualified inspector. County Judge Sydney Murphy, who took office on Jan. 1, told commissioners she wanted more time to review the situation and planned to present a recommendation by February.
Ratified resolutions of appreciation thanking three county officials who retired at the end of 2014, including County Court at Law Judge Stephen Phillips, Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Steve McEntyre and Bailiff George Bigler.
Appointed Murphy to serve as the county's representative on the Deep East Texas Council of Government's board of directors. She will replace former County Judge John Thompson, who retired at the end of 2014.
Approved requests from two constables on the appointment of new reserve deputy constables. Bigler, who recently retired as a bailiff, was appointed as a reserve deputy for Pct. 1 Constable Scott Hughes and Jerry Vaughn Grissom was named as a reserve officer for Pct. 3 Constable Ray Myers.
BROOKLAND – U.S. Congressman-elect Brian Babin and Texas State Senator Robert Nichols both extended their greetings to the board members, elected officials, Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) staff and their families and friends in attendance at the DETCOG Christmas Luncheon.
This year the annual meeting and awards presentation was held at Rayburn Country. Dr. Babin spoke of his pride in representing DETCOG counties in the 36th Congressional District. He also invited everyone to attend his Washington D.C. swearing-in.
Sen. Nichols expressed his appreciation for the support the organization and his members have given him during his work in Austin. Before he could sit back down, DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles and DETCOG's president, Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter, talked Nichols into sharing one of his stories (jokes) that have become an annual tradition.
Service awards were presented to DETCOG employees with 5, 10, 15 years of service. However, this year a 25-year plaque was awarded 9-1-1 Program Director Van Bush; a 30-year plaque was presented to Area Agency on Aging Program Director Holly Anderson; Dora Wilmore from Youth Services was recognized for 35-years of service; and DETCOG Regional Housing Authority Director Ethel Bluitt received a 40-Year Plaque.
After earlier receiving her 15-year service award, Scherita McCray was named "Employee of the Year" for the DETCOG. Suiter started the presentation by saying the person receiving the recognition had started at DETCOG as a receptionist. From there she later transferred to the HUD Housing Rental Assistance Program as a case worker where she served landlords and tenants with the same warm smile and commitment to provide "the best ever customer service". Noting this past year has been full of challenges Suiter said that "where others might gripe and complain, McCray has continued to do her job, holding strong and continuing to work with a smile, dedication and confidence.
McCray expressed her thanks and appreciation for the award. She ended her comments with something her father always told her: "Quitters never win, and winners never quit!"
The next DETCOG board meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. It is scheduled to be held in San Augustine.
CORRIGAN -- Corrigan City Council passed a resolution to seek a $275,000 Texas Community Development Block grant to upgrade the city's sewer facility.
Randy Banks, representing the grant writing agency, arrived at the tail end of the meeting and reported to the council a good chance of being selected since they did not receive funding in the last grant application round.
If approved the ground would allow the city to upgrade the sewer plant and council said they would address the need for new pipe throughout the system at a later date.
In other business, the council approved a $7,500 payment to the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department. The department has received a $200,000 grant from the Texas Forest Service for a new brush truck. The grant, the money approved by the city, and a small payment from VFD funds will cover the costs.
City Manager Darrian Hudman also told council he was going to seek an additional grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase a water tanker.
Council Member Bill Safford asked to table a lease purchase agreement for two police cars until January and asked Police Chief Darrell Gibson to furnish specifications for the vehicles. Action on the item was tabled.
Also tabled was an item to approve a circus that has expressed a desire to come perform in Corrigan this spring. Hudman was asked to research the company's reputation, insurance coverage, and what rides might be involved. Gibson said other communities have had problems with burglaries increasing while the events were in town, since perpetrators know when the show will have families away from residences. In police department reports, Gibson said a total of nine arrests were made Nov. 19 - Dec.15. The department wrote 749 citations, made 130 calls for services, performed 817 building checks and worked six cases, turning four of them over to the district attorney's office for prosecution.
The report on CVFD activities for the month indicated firefighters answered seven calls, include one structure fire, two grass fires, two vehicle accidents and two involving power lines and transformers. Hudman's city manager report covered the new signs for Corrigan West Park and parking around city hall, which are ready to install. D&D Logging has begun activities at Corrigan West. He commented that the Christmas tree lighting and WinterFest went well and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and to be safe while traveling.
Vouchers were reviewed and approved, as well as the November minutes. There was no fire department report. The only comments in council forum were about the continuing problem of copper thieves and burglaries. Gibson said the department works every day to identify thieves and checks with area pawnshops and recycling depots.