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Two accidents at LHS prompt safety concerns

LIVINGSTON -- Two similar vehicle accidents last week near the front entrance of Livingston High School on FM 350 South has prompted safety concerns for the district and community.

On Wednesday evening, the driver of a 2008 Chrysler Pacifica, Brittney Hewitt, was northbound on FM 350 South and attempted to turn left into the LHS front entrance. However, Hewitt reportedly failed to yield for a Livingston school bus, driven by Matthew Sellers, that was southbound.

The collision caused Hewitt’s vehicle to spin into a 2000 Toyota Corolla, driven by Badiliso Hernandez, that had stopped to exit the LHS drive.
Hewitt and a passenger in her vehicle were the only individuals to suffer some injuries. No students were reportedly inside the school bus at the time of the accident.

A citation was later issued to Hewitt for failure to yield right-of-way and driving without a license.

The next morning, a driver identified as Angie Few of Livingston was traveling north on FM 350 South and also failed to yield for a southbound vehicle while attempting to enter LHS.

That wreck caused a passenger from Few’s vehicle to be transported to CHI St. Luke’s Heath Memorial hospital with undisclosed injuries. The driver of the southbound vehicle, James Peachee of Livingston, was reportedly uninjured.

The recent accidents prompted a public statement on behalf of LISD on its Facebook page:

“This past week we have had two wrecks on FM 350 in front of Livingston High School. Safety of our students and community has always been a priority for LISD. Please know the district has gone to great lengths to stay engaged regarding the traffic at the high school campus.
“Efforts have been made beginning with the planning stages of the high school construction to present day. The district engaged in conversation with TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) earlier this year discussing the safety concerns at the LHS entrance. The City of Livingston is also involved in working to address the area as they do so throughout our community and we appreciate their efforts in this process.

“LISD does not have governance over roads and streets. We have communicated our concerns to the appropriate agency and look forward to solving the problems in the future. Thank you for your understanding.”

Both accidents were placed under the investigation of the Livingston Police Department.

FEMA center to close

LIVINGSTON -- The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center located at the Dunbar Gym Facility in Livingston will close at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29. Any individual or business owner who would like to discuss their application with a representative need to present themselves to the DRC before it closes.

The DRC hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Polk County residents can still register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by phone at 1-800-621-3362 through Nov. 24.
Those with questions may contact the Polk County Emergency Management Office at 936-327-6826.

Man sentenced for child pornography

LIVINGSTON -- The day after a jury convicted him for possession of child pornography, a 54-year-old Livingston man was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jeffrey Andrew Bryant was sentenced Thursday morning by 258th District Judge Ernest McClendon, who also took into account Bryant’s two previous felony convictions including an aggravated assault case in Texas and another charge from Alabama.

Bryant was initially taken into custody on Aug. 10, 2016 by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department after his cell phone was found inside a local business. The finder of the lost phone went through it in an attempt to return it to its owner and discovered photos of what appeared to be children engaged in sex acts.

The cell phone was turned over to sheriff’s investigators who obtained a warrant to further examine the cell phone. An arrest warrant was then issued for Bryant who subsequently surrendered to investigators.

During the trial, Bryant’s attorney argued the photos in question were put on the phone after Bryant had lost it but that was rejected by the jury.

After being found guilty, a sentencing hearing before the judge was held the following day. In his testimony at the hearing, Bryant said, “I want to file for a mistrial right now.”

During the hearing, McClendon said the possession of child pornography conviction was Bryant’s second in Texas, adding it is a “very serious” crime. The judge also described the photos found on the cell phone as very violent.

While prosecutors in the case had asked for a life sentence, McClendon opted to give the 54-year-old man a 25-year term in prison, which was the minimum possible in the case.

“It’s hard for the court to minimize the crime,” McClendon said.

McClendon said 25 years was the minimum possible sentence in this case.

Early voting to begin Oct. 23 on amendments

LIVINGSTON -- Texans will have the opportunity to vote on seven possible amendments to the Texas Constitution Nov. 7 for items pertaining to taxes, housing and state executives.

Those in Polk County will have five locations to fill ballot boxes. Voting boxes 3, 4, 7, 16, 18, and 21 will vote at the county courthouse. The Onalaska Sub-Courthouse at 14111 U.S. Highway 190 West will host voters for Voting Boxes 5, 6, and 17. The Escapee’s Care Center at 159 Care Center Drive in Livingston will hold voting for Voting Boxes 1, 2, 15, 19 and 20. Voting Boxes 8, 9, 10 and 11 will vote in Sechrest Webster Community Center at 100 West Front Street in Corrigan. Soda Baptist Church at 8135 U.S. Highway 190 West in Livingston will host Voting Boxes 12, 13 and 14.

Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Voting locations will include the first floor of the Polk County Judicial Center in Livingston, the Polk County Subcourthouse in Onalaska and the Sechrest Webster Community Center in Corrigan. All three locations will remain open during the lunch hour.

The Propositions are as follows:

Proposition Number 1 (HJR 21)
HJR 21 proposes a constitutional amendment that would permit the Texas legislature to expand the circumstances under which a partially disabled veteran or their spouse may qualify for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the veteran’s residence homestead. Currently, the Texas legislature may provide that a partially disabled veteran or their spouse is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a percentage of the market value of the disabled veteran’s residence homestead only if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amendment would allow the Texas legislature to provide that the exemption also may be taken when the residence homestead was donated, sold, or transferred to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead. The amendment also harmonizes certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.”

Proposition Number 2 (SJR 60)
SJR 60 proposes a constitutional amendment to require that certain conditions be met for the refinancing of a home equity loan to be secured by a voluntary lien on a homestead. The amendment also would: redefine what is excluded in the calculation of the cap on fees associated with a home equity loan, lower the cap from 3% to 2% of the original principal amount of the extension of credit, and specify that such fees are in addition to any bona fide discount points used to buy down the interest rate. The amendment would further specify the list of authorized lenders to make home equity loans, change the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, allow agricultural property owners to acquire home equity loans, and update technical terminology in the Texas Constitution. The amendment would be effective on January 1, 2018, and applicable only to a home equity loan made or refinanced on or after that date.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.”

Proposition Number 3 (SJR 34)
SJR 34 proposes a constitutional amendment that would prevent certain office holders from serving indefinitely beyond the expiration of their term. Office holders who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate and receive no salary would only be able to serve until the last day of the first regular session of the Texas legislature that begins after their term expires.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person’s term of office.”

Proposition Number 4 (SJR 6)
SJR 6 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to require any court that is hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute to notify the attorney general of that challenge, if the party raising the challenge notifies the court that the party is challenging the constitutionality of such statute. Additionally, the amendment would allow the Texas legislature to set a period of not more than 45 days following the notification to the attorney general that the court must wait before rendering a judgment that a state statute is unconstitutional.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.”

Proposition Number 5 (HJR 100)
HJR 100 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide a more detailed definition of “professional sports team” for purposes of their charitable foundations, which the Texas legislature may permit to hold charitable raffles. The amendment also deletes a requirement that an eligible professional sports team charitable foundation permitted by the Texas legislature to hold charitable raffles had to be in existence on January 1, 2016.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles.”

Proposition Number 6 (SJR 1)
SJR 1 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature by general law to provide that a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is entitled to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. It would also allow the Texas legislature to provide that the surviving spouse, who qualifies and receives the exemption and then qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the different homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the exemption of the first homestead for which the exemption was received in the last year in which the surviving spouse received the exemption for that first homestead. Like the initial exemption, this benefit will only remain available if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. The proposed amendment would apply only to ad valorem taxes imposed for a tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”

Proposition Number 7 (HJR 37)
HJR 37 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to make an exception to the law regarding the award of certain prizes. Currently, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas legislature to pass laws prohibiting lotteries, raffles, and other programs where the award of gifts is based on luck or chance. The proposed amendment would make an exception to this general rule to allow the Texas legislature to authorize credit unions and other financial institutions to institute programs which, in order to encourage savings, would award prizes based on luck or chance to the credit union’s or financial institution’s customers.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.”

No injuries in two pickup collision

Two-pickup-collision-by-Shell

COLLISION -- No injuries were reported after a two-pickup collision near the intersection of FM 2457 and U.S. Highway 190 on Monday. Shortly after 3 p.m., the driver of a silver Chevy pickup was traveling eastbound on the shoulder on FM 2457 and attempted to turn into the corner Shell gas station. In the process, the man reportedly cut-off another driver traveling eastbound in a tan GMC pickup. Texas Highway Patrol, along with deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and local EMS units, were dispatched to the scene shortly after. Traffic was temporarily slowed down during investigation and cleanup. Both vehicles were later transported by wrecker. (Albert Trevino Photo)

Rescue teams recover victim

victimGOODRICH – Rescue teams recovered the body of a Livingston man inside the Trinity River, nearly two days after he went missing in the water at River Lake Estates.

On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 10, Jesus Robles, 32, reportedly stepped-off inside the water near Riverview Road and was unable to escape. Shortly after Robles went missing, law enforcement from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with local Texas Game Wardens, conducted a preliminary search of the area that night.

Rescue teams continued their search in the water the following morning and later discovered Robles’ body after 8 a.m. Thursday morning down the Trinity River, near the same area he went missing.

Funeral services for Robles took place on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Cochran Funeral Home in Livingston. A fundraiser has also been organized to help cover expenses for Robles to be buried back at his home in Mexico. Those who would like to donate can visit www.youcaring.com/jesusrobleschuy.