Part 1 of 3
LIVINGSTON -- As 2017 winds to a close, it’s time to look back on some of the major news stories that filled the pages of the Polk County Enterprise during the past 12 months.
During the first third 2017, the news began on a positive note with a number of awards being handed out and included the death of an official from one city and the court-ordered removal of another city’s mayor.
Some of the top stories during this four-month period included:
Goodrich buys land
The City of Goodrich purchased property for its new community center. The center will be placed on the property, located on Loop 393 with 150 feet of frontage to the road. On the property’s south side, it will adjoin the General Dollar store that was opened in August 2016.
The property was purchased at a cost of $22,500 for just under an acre of land.
In their February 2014 meeting, the Goodrich City Council decided on a community center for its 2015-2016 Texas Community Development Block Grant application to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The $275,000 grant was approved for construction of a center, which at some point is expected to include a parking lot, picnic tables, grills and playground equipment.
Law enforcement history
A ceremony was held at the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ reservation on Jan. 11 to honor Sergeant Brandon Frazier as he was presented with special certification that made Texas law enforcement history.
The Special Law Enforcement Certification (SLEC) through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) made Frazier the first officer in Texas history to hold concurrent jurisdiction in federal, state and tribal law.
The new certification will give Frazier federal authority in law enforcement matters concerning the tribe, which is a sovereign nation with its own criminal jurisdiction on certain offenses.
Polk Countian of the Year
John D. Clifton of Corrigan was named Polk Countian of the Year on Jan. 26 during the 81st Annual Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet.
Clifton was recognized for the commitment he has made not only to people in need, but service to the community.
He served on the Corrigan City Council for 16 years and for 19 years, he has supported fundraising efforts for St. Jude’s Children’s hospital. He has organized cooking teams and fundraisers for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship fund.
Community service award also were presented to retired DPS Sgt. Nita Bowen and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8568 Honor Guard.
Miss Polk County
Livingston High School senior Riley Dunson was crowned as the 2017 Miss Polk County on Jan. 28 during the annual scholarship pageant. She is the 18-year-old daughter of Jay and Jennifer Dunson.
Winning the 2017 Junior Miss Polk County title was LHS freshman Caroline Harrison, 15-year-old daughter of Lauren and Tres Harrison.
Tribe expands gaming
The Naskila Gaming was set to begin installing temporary buildings to expand its operation, according to an announcement issued Feb. 10 by Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairperson Jo Ann Battise.
“First of all, we are grateful to everyone in the county – and the entire Big Thicket Region– who have been so supportive of our operations,” Battise said. “The facility has enjoyed great success in the first eight months of operation, and the Tribe will continue to operate within our rights granted by the National Indian Gaming Commission.”
Battise said they chose to use temporary buildings due to the Texas Attorney Generals’ federal lawsuit challenging the gaming license issued under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. She said that since the suit had been filed, they had “been in discussions” with the AG but the state had elected to move forward with their lawsuit.
The AG’s challenge is still pending before the court.
New Center of Hope
The Center of Hope -- also known as the Polk County Mission -- held grand opening ceremonies on Feb. 11 for their new facility, located in the old Big Star Grocery building located at 600 S. Washington in Livingston.
Originally launched by local pastors and churches, the Center provided food each month to low income families but expanded to offer education in various areas to help those in need find jobs, make lifestyle changes and break the destructive cycles in which many were trapped.
Goodrich accepts bid
The Goodrich City Council accepted a bid for construction of a 1,600-square-foot community center during their meeting on March 9.
After two years of planning, the council awarded the bid to Lufkin’s Timberline Construction.
Under the $275,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant given to the city by the Department of Agriculture, a total of $210,000 was available for construction with the rest budgeted for land, architectural plans and administrative costs.
The bidding process was completed Feb. 27 and produced four companies vying for the contract. The lowest bid was Timberline at a cost of $218,523, leaving the city to cover the additional $8,500.
Services held for city official
Flags in Livingston were lowered to half-mast following the death of longtime City Manager Marilyn Sutton.
Sutton, 65, died at her home on March 12 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
She was employed by the city for 42 years, starting in a part-time clerical position before moving up to accounts payable and payroll clerk, assistant city secretary, city secretary and finance officer. She was named as the city manager and finance officer in April 2005.
Police Chief Dennis Clifton was subsequently named as the interim city manager while the city council began its search for Sutton’s replacement.
Goodrich mayor removed
On March 27, Goodrich Mayor Jeremy Harper was removed from office by order of visiting District Court Judge David Wilson following a hearing in the 411th District Court in Livingston.
Harper, who had only weeks remaining in his second term, was removed due previous felony convictions in Louisiana. Under state law, those seeking elected office cannot have a felony conviction on their records.
The charges in question from Louisiana included theft greater than $500 in Natchitoches Parish in June 1999 and issuing a worthless check in Rapides Parish in December 1994.
VFW Post sells building
Officials with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8568 of Livingston reassured the community that while they had sold their building, the post would continue to operate out of a temporary home until a new site could be obtained.
Post Commander Robert Dodd said that declining membership made the sale of the post necessary.
“Rumors have it that the VFW Post 8568 of Livingston is no longer an active post,” Dodd said. “Although the facility has been sold in order to downsize and cut the cost of overhead, we have plans to move closer into the community. We as an organization are not closed or dissolved.”
Relay for Life raises money
More than $100,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society during the annual Relay for Life event held April 28 at Pedigo Park in Livingston.
Over 30 teams took part in the annual fundraiser and more than 200 cancer survivors took part in the opening walk during the event.