ONALASKA – Tax exemptions for senior citizens and the disabled were doubled on Monday by the Polk County Fresh Water Supply District No. 2.
During the meeting, the PCFWSD board voted to increase the tax exemptions from $10,000 to $20,000 per year.
The board began looking at the possibility of increasing the tax exemptions for property owners who are disabled or over 65 years of age when they adopted their current tax rate. They requested a survey on what effect increasing the exemption would have on the district.
"Texas law does not allow a water district to freeze taxes like a school district," said Board Chairman Fred Alderman, who added that even when the tax rate remains unchanged, the tax burden can increase due to increased property values.
It is estimated that this increase in exemption will save PCFWDS taxpayers about $23,914 or more each year.
Financial advisor Bill Blitch was in Houston marketing two bond issues, but reported that the refunding of the 2002 bonds were sold Dec. 9 and after expenses and interest paid, the district realized about $230,231 income. Vice Chair J.R .Jones, remarked that "he would take that kind of profit every day."
The operations managers' report covered a litany of activity including a new grease trap that has been installed yo help separate heavy grease out of the mainstream going to the plants. The pumps in residences in section 5 of Impala Woods are nearing 15 years of age or more and since they were lower horse power, they are being replaced with more modern equipment. Several lateral lines have been extended or replaced both residential and commercial.
Office manager Loveearl Hodge reported that the district in October and November collected a total of $9,718.02 in delinquent accounts. Taking legal action on some arrears has brought customers in wanting to make payment plans. A total of 12 customers were disconnected for not responding to collection efforts. In the two-month period five new connections were made, seven permits issued and, at the end of November, active users totaled 2,207 with 132 commercial accounts.
Two tracts of land in Twin Harbors were on the tax forfeiture listing, TI200035400 and TI200023600. Both bids were above the minimum and the board accepted them. Minutes for the October and November meetings were approved and financial and voucher reports for November were reviewed and approved for payment.
LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston Independent School District held its December meeting Monday to present an award for financial transparency, approve curriculum and receive an update for on the construction at Cedar Grove Elementary.
Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson was presented with an award for leading the financial department in achieving platinum status with the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle program. Davidson said everything the office does is searchable online and all the checks that go out from the district are on the website.
The award is given to entities for opening their books to the public; providing clear, consistent pictures of spending; sharing information in a user-friendly format that lets taxpayers easily drill down for more detail. "The district has a lot of great things happening," Superintendant Dr. Brent Hawkins said. "This one I am really proud of. Our business office has attained the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle as a platinum member. I believe we're the only school district in the county and definitely in a very elite group across the state of Texas that has gotten this distinction. I appreciate Ben and all his folks on the other end of the building that make this happen. Our financial rating system received a superior rating, but this goes a step further into transparency and if the taxpayer wants to know what's going on in our district, the things that they have done have led to a greater connectivity with our community."
Construction at Cedar Grove Elementary in the past 30 days had site paving work, siding, roofing (except trim work) masonry, caulking, metal frames, and doors are completed. The HVAC has been mobilized to the site, and block filler and fire alarm installation has begun.
In the next 30 days, trim work, HVAC ductwork, block filler, stud framing, overhead utilities, grading and seeding will be finished. The installation of a mechanical mezzanine, hand railing, fencing and painting will also begin.
The softball planned overnight visit to Camp Cho-Yeh for a team-building activity was not approved. The program is something Camp Cho-Yeh offers that the softball program wished to take part in.
"I know it is probably in their budget, but I don't think it is money well spent from the standpoint that it is the coach's job to teach that on the field," board member Henry Ager said. "I think if we start doing this, every other program is going to want to do it. I think $1,800 can be spent more appropriately — like if they need more equipment. Sometimes I'm not sure if they make good decisions on spending the money and as a taxpayer, I question that. Just because you have the money budgeted doesn't mean you have to use it for something that may not benefit you."
"I see lots of concerns about it," Hawkins added. "If somebody comes and ask for some balls or batting helmets or other things and you spend this money here — this is nice, but not necessary. I just know that money is short, times are hard, and softballs are expensive. I think we have to look and say, 'what kind of program do we have?' Are we teaching the young ladies character, integrity, skill, how to compete, how to be young ladies and at some point winning? It may not be today, but at some point, there's got to be winning. As long as you know as a coach that those things are the expectations, if this is what you are telling me is an expectation of excellence, I'll generally do it. But, if you don't fulfill that, then I have to come back and hold you accountable at some point."
Board President Bea Ellis suggested a compromise of the team attending Camp Cho-Yeh for the activities on Saturday without spending the night. The issue did not receive a motion from the board for vote.
The board also approved the ESTEEM curriculum, which was brought to the administration by the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). It was placed on the board agenda as an informational item last spring and a public hearing was held prior to consideration of the item. The board followed a SHAC recommendation to adopt the health curriculum to be taught in high school health classes.
ONALASKA – Proposals from management and engineering firms interested in handling the City of Onalaska's 2014 Community Development Block Grant programs, were presented Tuesday during the Onalaska City Council meeting.
The only proposal for the management services was submitted by Raymond K. Vann and Associates of Lufkin. Two engineering firms submitted proposals for that portion of the contract, including Klotz & Associates and KSA Engineering, both from Lufkin.
Council will likely make their selection in January.
During the meeting council members accepted the resignation of Officer Liham White, who is returning to the Polk County Sheriff's Office jail division and appointed reserve officer Michael Gregson to full time status, with the usual six months' probation period.
With Police Chief Ron Gilbert is still recovering from surgery, Capt. John Maddox presented the report for the police department. The department responded to 175 dispatched calls, answered 679 other incidents, made one felony and 10 misdemeanor arrests, issued 105 citations and 25 warnings, and assisted the county sheriff's office 18 times. Officers drove 4,631 miles, opening 38 new cases, including three driving while intoxicated or narcotic cases.
Fire Chief Jay Stutts reported the fire department responded to 23 medical calls and well as eight fire calls, including four structure, three grass and one vehicle. There were three motor vehicle accidents, seven calls to assist other agencies and two mutual aid responses. The 43 calls were divided by 16 in the county and 25 in the city and two mutual aid.
Building Inspector Lee Parrish reported they issued six permits, two for new homes, one for a new manufactured home, one for a commercial sign and an electrical permit. Total fees were $2.045 and the new structures increased the value to the city by $511,600. In his capacity as fire marsha, Parrish said is investigating one of the two incidents for November as a suspected arson. Code enforcement continues with one commercial cleanup, three citations being issued and 11 warnings sent out.
The Onalaska Library Board report acknowledge the donation from the Teague library of many excess books to add to the local collection. The summer reading program will begin June 15, unless there is too great a conflict with local bible school programs. They will have information on these in early spring. Tuesdays at 10 a.m. has been set for the program.
The librarian's report showed the facility was open 122 days with 1.095 books circulated and served 817 patrons and 239 computer users. Fax and copy fees were $235.90, fines $53.95 and regular donations of $48.85.
The consent agenda for vouchers, minutes and financials were reviewed and approved.
Mayor Roy Newport thanked all who participated in the Christmas in Our Town Parade and the events at the fire station. The flash mob appeared at the Tree Lighting and everyone enjoyed singing carols. He reminded everyone about the decorating contest for business, residential and subdivisions, entry deadline is Dec. 19 and judging will be that weekend so those wishing to participate should leave their holiday lights on.
CORRIGAN – Although details of the plan were not released pending a review by the State Comptroller's Office, the Corrigan-Camden Independent School District board has approved a tax abatement agreement for a proposed timber products manufacturing plant.
The C-CISD conducted a public hearing Tuesday evening at 6 p.m to hear from interested parties regarding the application for an abatement of school taxes submitted by Martco Limited Partnership. The board entered into executive session with attorneys, financial advisor and principles of Martco. Returning to regular session the attorneys and financial advisor covered the application form submitted to the Texas Comptroller's office and how the abatement would effect the district. At present the land in question is on the school's tax roll for ag value, which means it has a minimal taxation value. If the company gives the final go ahead to build the $280 million oriented strand board plant just outside of the Corrigan city limits, the value of the land would change to commercial levels or about $2,500 per acres. Roy O Martin III, president of the company, spoke of why his firm selected Corrigan for this facility, telling those present that "Your school district is one of the best we have seen while selecting a place for our plant." He praised the superintendent and board members for "caring about the students and their future". A resolution was made to approve the application, pending a final review by the Comptroller's office for legal correctness, grammar and punctuation; the motion passed unanimously. During the board's regular business meeting, Sydney King, who was unable to attend the meeting, was recognized for her artwork that won the 2015 Childrenz Haven Super Hero Calendar art contest. Her work is on the cover of the just released calendar. Also recognized was Samuel Beauchamp, who was an academic all star in cross country. Members of the C-CISD technology team were recognized for their work, both during and after school, helping with the updating and teaching the new Chromebooks to staff and students alike. The Technology report showed that all but 40 of the 296 Chromebooks received are checked out. The district also received a grant from Adobe for Photoshop Elements 12 and associated software. This is for a five-year license and is valued at $64,290. A $10,000 grant from ArcGIS Online will furnish geography information to be used in the environments sciences classes. The district has received from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) almost $400,000 worth of refurbished computer equipment including 900 desktops with monitors, 200 Dell laptops and 35 NC Books along with 70 printers. Over 90 percent of the technology at C CISD is from the TDCJ and almost every campus office is using refurbished computer equipment. During principals' reports, the high school reported enrollment at 282 and attendance at 96.53 percent. Tardiness has decrease 49 percent. Board President Sean Burks said he was recently in the building at class change time and was impressed at how quiet and purposeful the students were. Over 100 parents came to the pick up report card event, the Christmas Concert will be Dec. 16,with the bands from the junior high and high school as well as the elementary choir performing. Regarding attendance, Superintendent Sherry Hughes told the board there are a few children below last the last reporting period, however, they have three transfers from other districts pending. The district does not charge tuition or fees for out-of-district transfers and welcomes applications from students wanting to join C-CISD. The junior high reported their enrolment at 218 with 97.46 percent attendance. The journalism class led by Coach Garcia will be starting an online newsletter and Coach Baker is starting an Art Club. All the teachers are working on UIL or club functions, Superintendent Sherry Hughes reported. The academic UIL events will be Dec. 9 and 11. The elementary campus reported 204 students with 97.32 attendance. They had 99 students with 100 percent attendance during the second grading period. On Dec. 4 the campus received $500 from Polk's Pick It Up, Brookshire Brothers and Exxon to be used for math and science instruction. Walmart in Livingston and Lufkin donated $1,000 each and $500 was given by Sam's Club. The Primary campus reported that the second grade student swill participate in UIL this month. Over 200 parents visited the campus for the Thanksgiving luncheon and 50 percent of parents attended the report card pickup. The children will travel to Lufkin Dec. 16 to watch "The Polar Express" at the Pines Theater. The board also held a public hearing on the Early Resignation Program, which allows those para-professionals and teachers who are planning to leave the district at the end of the semester to receive a small bonus for notifying the superintendent before Feb. 20. This allows the district to seek replacements or phase out the position. The bonus amounts vary from $1,000 to a maximum for $2,500 and the amount of money available for this is also capped. The Corrigan Community Service League has requested a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the district to assure the continued operating of the Corrigan Heritage Center should the service league cease to operate, thus continuing the museum and other functions of the center. The matter was tabled until January, pending review by the district's attorney. Hughes reported in closing that the school has adopted the nursing home and each resident will receive a pair of 'skid proof' slip-on socks, appropriate teats or candy which students will deliver during a visit. The items are being paid for by donations from staff and others. The Art Class also has made large Christmas cards to be delivered to businesses in Corrigan.
LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston City Council approved plans and funding for an existing local arena and equipment for the police department in December's regular meeting Tuesday.
Spike strips were recently purchased for patrol cars and are folded out or slung by officers to slow vehicles that are being pursued. Once the suspect vehicle runs over the strips, tires are punctured and the strip can be recoiled. They are used to put a quick end to pursuits.
This will be the first time the Livingston Police Department has used spike strips.
"Most of our pursuits come from outside the city," Police Chief Dennis Clifton said. "One of our big priorities when that happens is to keep them from coming into the city, especially since most of them will come up (Highway) 59. It gives us a tool that we can use from those access ramps coming off of (Highway) 59 on to Business 59 to try to stop them from going downtown, where they can cause the greatest chaos. They have a huge potential to injure citizens, police officers, or even themselves. We hope to never have to use it. I have read where 68 percent of all pursuits end with deployed spikes."
Representatives from the Barney Wiggins Memorial Arena are looking to repair the arena's roof and fencing on the premises. The Polk County Youth Rodeo Association (PCYRA) and Trinity-Neches Livestock Show (TNLS) have approved to split the cost of expenses in both associations' minutes.
A new gated entrance will also be part of renovations. When there are paid events, the gate on Highway 146 will be closed and traffic will come in from the new entrance located on Fair Street. When the event nears completion, the gate on Highway 146 will be opened for exiting.
There will be a fundraiser show at the arena in mid-January that will also go toward repairs. The amount owed will be less than $20,000 that the TNLS and PCYRA will repay to the city in a maximum of three years.A tax-deductible donation can be made to either organization to help cover the expenses for these costs.
The fountains near highway 59 and Whataburger will be replaced. The old fountains were purchased three years ago and have not worked properly since installation. The city will receive a credit for the old fountains and new displays will take their place.
City manager's report
Major projects currently underway
Financial: Sales tax: the December 2014 sales tax, which represents sales in October, will not be received by the city until Thursday, Dec. 11. Hotel occupancy tax: the third quarter hotel occupancy tax collections (July, August and September) 2014 were in the amount of $82,682. This is the largest amount received by the city for any previous third quarter.
Events: The friends of the library book sale will be Friday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the second floor of the new library.
Current development projects A. Construction pending/permits issued: 1. Murphy's gas station - the project is for a 1,200 square foot convenience store with six gas and diesel pumps to be located on the southeast comer of the Walmart parking lot. The plans have been reviewed by city staff and the building permit has been issued for the project, with construction cost of over $1.8 million. Walmart and Murphy Gas are working out final agreements for the project and expect construction to begin in early February of 2015. B. Construction work in progress: 1. The El Patron Grille project involves the renovation of the old Peoples State Bank building in Jackson Square as a new Mexican restaurant. A permit has been issued and work is underway. Construction costs are $135,000 and interior construction work is underway. 2. The Bull Shack at 113 Commerce Lane is a new coffee and specialty drink business in Southpoint Center. The project is complete and open for business. 3. Melbo's Gas and Car Wash involves the demolition of the existing convenience store and car wash at the US 190 and Hwy. 146 intersection. A pre-development meeting with the 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 at a cost of $392,657. Demolition of the existing car wash and convenience store will be complete this week. 4. The Polk County Appraisal District had its plans submitted and approved by city staff for the expansion of an existing facility to add 2,320 square feet at the building located on Matthews Street. Construction is underway with interior work nearing completion with construction costs of $400,000. 5. The Livingston ISD gym/lockers at football stadium have a permit issued and construction for sewer lines are ongoing. Construction will cost $2.6 million. The framing and interior block walls are erected. 6. The Polk County Courthouse's historical renovation project will relocate the elevator from outside to inside. The plans are approved, permit issued, and construction is 90 percent complete with exterior brick remaining to be done for an $875,000 total. 7. David Mallory has a permit for a new single-family residential development consisting of 14 individual units in the 1100 block of North Houston, with construction costs of $256,228. Water and sanitary sewer services have been extended to the property and driveways have been poured. 8. Thom Bruning is remodeling first floor of a building on Jackson Street for a retail consignment shop for artisans called Across the Tracks. Renovation is complete and the new shop opened Friday, Nov. 28.
Pending projects in development 1. Church Street Financial's project involves the demolition of the existing facility and construction of a new 6,000 square foot building. Plan revisions are currently underway with the city awaiting re-submittal of plans. 2. CP Homes, a developer of an assisted living facility, has advised of their decision to locate in Livingston on North Washington. Preliminary plans are for an 8,000 square foot building with 24 single rooms. The developer has submitted the utility plans for the city's review and the building design is progressing. 3. Polk County Mission Center at Garner and South Washington and the construction of a new 4,000 square foot building. The organization has acquired just short of an acre to the south of the existing location. The organization is currently working on plans for review by the city. 4. Dickey's Barbecue and convenience store had a pre-development meeting on Oct. 8 with developers for a proposed project to include: Dickey's Barbecue restaurant, a convenience store with gas pumps, and a lease space for another restaurant at Church and Willis Street. The existing sewer line and recorded easement have been located and identified for the site. The developer is currently working on plans to submit to the city for review. 5. Moseley's townhouse project had a pre-development meeting Tuesday, Dec. 2 to consider the construction of additional townhomes behind the Cedar Grove School campus at Willis and Handley. Preliminary plans include 17 new units consisting of nine one-story, two-bedroom units and eight two-story, three-bedroom units. 6. Klubb's apartment project on Clark Street is proposed and was put on hold earlier this year, but the developer has contacted the city about moving forward with the project.