LIVINGSTON -- Follow-ing two days of testimony in the 258th District Court, a Polk County jury deliberated only about 20 minutes Wednesday before finding Ricky Ray Martinez, 42, of Onalaska guilty of the aggravated sexual assault of a child. A punishment hearing on the first-degree felony conviction immediately following the guilty verdict and, after a short deliberation, the same jury assessed Martinez’ punishment at 99 years of confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Evidence presented at trial established that during 2014 Martinez had repeatedly sexually abused his 11-year-old stepdaughter at a Livingston residence while the victim’s mother was at work. The victim, who testified during the trial, had originally reported the sexual molestation to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in January 2016 while living with her grandparents and was interviewed by a forensic interviewer at Children’s Safe Harbor, a Children’s Advocacy Center in Conroe. The matter was subsequently referred to the Livingston Police Department where a follow-up investigation was conducted by Detective Leon Middleton and a Polk County grand jury indictment was returned in April 2016. In addition to the testimony of the victim, Polk County assistant district attorneys Kari Allen and Nicole Washington presented testimony regarding the child’s outcry of abuse from the victim’s grandparents and mother; as well as expert testimony from the forensic interviewer. Under Texas law, Martinez will not become eligible for parole consideration until he has served a minimum of 30 years in prison. He will also be subject to lifetime registration as a Sex Offender. Following the verdict and sentence, Allen commended the young victim for “having the courage to come forward to report the abuse,” and thanked the “police officers and child victims’ advocates who worked hard to obtain justice in this case.” Allen also expressed gratitude to the Polk County jurors who “sat through this difficult testimony and returned a verdict which will hopefully send a loud message that the citizens of Polk County have no tolerance for the victimization or sexual exploitation of our children.”
LIVINGSTON – Polk County’s sales tax income once again climbed above totals received last year, with September’s figure rising 6.7 percent over the amount collected in September 2016.
The $204,508.25 payment received in September was up by $12,905.48 from the $191,637.74 received one year earlier. It also was the largest sales tax payment received by the county during the month of September.
The September increase followed a 1.7 percent drop in August and a 19.4 percent gain in July.
The comptroller collects the sales taxes for all governmental entities and then rebates the local share to counties, cities and other political subdivisions on a monthly basis. The September check represents taxes collected in July by local merchants that file monthly reports. So far in 2017, the county has collected more than $1.62 million in sales tax revenue, a total that is down by $48,764.32 or more than 2.9 percent from the more than $1.83 million received during the first nine months of 2016.
The September total also represents the 12th and final payment the county received under its FY2017 budget which ended on Sept. 30.
During the fiscal year, the county collected almost $2.41 million in sales tax income, which was up by $4,628.35 or almost 0.2 percent from the more than $2.4 million received during the 2016 fiscal year.
Under the FY 2017 budget, the county projected it would collect $2,342,305 in sales tax income during the fiscal year. The final total represented 102.9 percent of the projection and exceeded the budget total by $66,905.37.
Polk County collects a 0.5 percent tax on sales while the cities of Livingston, Onalaska and Corrigan assess a 1.5 percent tax. Goodrich and Seven Oaks each have a 1 percent sales tax.
Of the county’s five cities that collect a sales tax, all reported increases when compared to the September totals of one year ago. Livingston’s latest sales tax rebate of $315,608.72 was up by $21,079.27 or almoast 7.2 percent from the $294,529.45 received in September 2016. So far this year, he city has collected almost $2.8 million from the tax, which is up by $45,806.71 or almost 1.7 percent from the more than $2.7 million received during the first nine months of 2016.
With a rebate of $50,446.69, Onalaska’s sales tax check was up by $2,697.39 or 5.6 percent from the $47,749.30 reported one year earlier. Since Jan. 1, the city has collected $423,223.07 from the tax, a total that is down by $2,290.21 or 0.5 percent from the $425,513.28 received during the same period last year.
Corrigan’s September sales tax rebate was $38,931.71 which was up by $2,017.67 or almost 5.5 percent from the $36,914.04 received in September 2016. So far this year, the city has received $324,587.80, a total that is up by $35,389.38 or 12.2 percent from the $289,198.42 collected during the first nine months of 2016.
During September Goodrich received $2,881.92 in sales tax income, which was up by $235.61 or 8.9 percent from the $2,646.31 received one year earlier. The total for the year now stands at $25,401.14 which is up by $5,508.24 or 27.7 percent from the $19,892.90 collected during the same period of 2016.
Seven Oaks received $852.85 in September, which was up by $536.60 or more than 169.67 percent from the $316.25 received one year ago. Since Jan. 1, the city has received $5,659.92 from the tax, a total that is down by $259,.60 or about 4.4 percent from the $5,919.52 received during the first nine months of 2016.
In his report, Hegar said Texas counties received $40.1 million in rebate checks, which was up by 9.3 percent compared to one year ago. Cities collected $436.6 million in rebates, which was up by 6.1 percent from September 2016.
In the latest report, Houston received the state’s largest check for over $50.04 million, which was up by 0.03 percent from the more than $50.03 million delivered one year ago.
San Antonio’s sales tax allocation was $26.8 million, which was up by 8.7 percent from the $24.6 million received one year ago. The $23.1 million issued to Dallas reflects a 5.6 percent increase from the $21.9 million received one year earlier.
The Austin sales tax allocation for September was $16.5 million, which was up by 7.3 percent from the $15.4 million received one year earlier.
Other area counties that received September rebates included: • Angelina, which collected $445,626.97, up by 0.4 percent from September 2016. • Liberty, which collected $276,060.68, up by 4.1 percent from one year ago. • San Jacinto, which collected $35,783.36, up by 8.5 percent from September 2016. • Tyler, which collected $48,862.49, up by 13.4 percent from one year ago. • Walker, which collected $279,531.61, up by 13.7 percent from September 2016. Other East Texas cities that received September rebates included: • Huntsville received a payment of over $629,045.66, which was up by 14.7 percent from one year ago. • Lufkin received a payment of over $1.1 million, which was up by 0.6 percent from one year ago. • Diboll received a payment of $54,268.34, which was up by 44.7 percent from September 2016. • Cleveland received a payment of $244,301.55, which was down by 1.9 percent from one year ago. • Liberty received a payment of $202,388.99, which was down by 6.8 percent from September 2016. • Woodville received a payment of $95,481.94, which was up by 28 percent from September 2016. • Chester received a payment of $1,766.12, which was up by 56.5 percent from the total collected one year ago. • Trinity received a payment of $57,007.51, which was up by almost 22 percent from one year ago. • Shepherd received a payment of $22,196.48, which was up by 22.5 percent from September 2016. • Coldspring received a payment of $25,434.74, which was up by 35.9 percent from one year ago. • Point Blank received a payment of $4,785.05, which was up by 20.2 percent from September 2016.
MEDICAL EVACUATION -- A medical helicopter lifts off with two patients bound for Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston following a one-vehicle accident Sunday in Goodrich. A passenger in the car, Esperanza Ramirez, 71, of Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)
GOODRICH – A 71-year-old woman died and two others were flown to Houston following a rollover accident that occurred Sunday afternoon on U.S. 59 in Goodrich.
Esperanza Ramirez of Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene after a white 2003 Chevy Suburban rolled over while going northbound on U.S. 59 near the south end of Loop 393. Two others, including the driver, were transported by helicopter to Houston with serious injuries.
According to reports, Alberto Martinez, 47, of Goodrich was driving the Chevy SUV north on the inside lane of U.S. 59. He reportedly drove off the road to the left, then over-corrected right and left again, entering the center median and rolling across the southbound lanes.
The SUV came to a stop, flipped over in the grass along the right side of U.S. 59 South. No other vehicles were involved in Sunday’s accident. First responders were dispatched to the scene, including Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and local EMS units. Law enforcement with the Texas Highway Patrol and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office blocked all southbound traffic during their investigation and cleanup.
A landing zone was set up on the southbound lanes for a Life Flight helicopter to transport Martinez, along with a 17-year-old passenger identified as Gabriel Garcia, to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Ramirez, pronounced dead, was taken from the scene by Cochran Funeral Home.
The accident remains under the investigation of Texas Highway Patrol.
LIVINGSTON – After dipping to its lowest level of the year in July, Polk County’s unemployment rate rose to 6.2 percent in August, according to reports issued by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
The new August rate of 6.2 percent was up by four-tenths of percentage point from the 5.8 percent rate posted for July. While up from July, the latest rate is the lowest recorded by the county in August since an identical 6.2 percent figure was posted in 2006.
The latest number is well below the 2017 high of 7.5 percent recorded in February and down substanially from the 6.7 percent set in August 2016.
The current 6.2 percent unemployment rate translates to mean that out of an estimated workforce of 17,378, there were 1,072 county residents looking for work during the month. One month earlier, TWC’s revised estimates put the local labor force at 17,412 with 1,018 people looking for jobs.
Statewide, August’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2 percent was down from July’s 4.3 percent and down from the 4.7 percent jobles rate posted in August 2016. The July seasonally adjusted U.S. rate of 4.4 percent was up slightly from July’s 4.3 percent and down from the 4.9 percent figure posted in August 2016.
According to TWC officials, Texas’s economy expanded for the 14th consecutive month with the addition of 5,500 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in August.
Texas’ annual employment growth was 2.5 percent, which was double the annual growth rate as compared to a year ago.
“Texas employers added 298,600 jobs over the year in the diverse and competitive Texas economy,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC is dedicated to building and deploying the partnerships necessary to support the rebuilding of our Texas communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey and to put our fellow Texans back to work.”
The Trade, Transportation, and Utilities Industry recorded the largest private-industry gain over the month with 9,100 jobs added. Construction expanded by 2,600 jobs, adding 15,200 jobs over the year. Manufacturing saw an increase of 2,200 jobs in August, representing a 4.2 percent employment growth rate over the year, the industry’s highest annual growth rate since March 2012.
“Private-sector employment was strong over the year with an increase in overall jobs of 270,800, including 4,400 jobs added in August,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “After the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey, TWC and our Workforce Solutions partners are committed to ensuring our state resources and services are provided to impacted Texas businesses, individuals, and communities to help get Texans get back to work and regain their lives.”
“Several goods producing industries are showing strength in Texas, including construction, which has added 15,200 jobs over the year,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “If you have been unable to work due to Hurricane Harvey, go to http://texasworkforce.org for more information on disaster recovery resources.”
From among the 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) monitored by TWC, the Amarillo MSA had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.1 percent, followed the Midland MSA at 3.2 percent and the Austin-Round Rock MSA art 3.4 percent.
The MSAs with the highest jobless rate in August was the McAllen–Edinburg–Mission MSA at 8.0 percent. The Brownsville-Harlingen MSA recorded a rate of 7.3 percent and the Beaumont-Port Arthur MSA posted a 7.2 percent rate.
Unemployment rates posted for other East Texas counties include: AUG. % COUNTY RATE CHANGE Anderson 3.6 -0.1 Angelina 5.2 +0.1 Cherokee 4.7 +0.1 Grimes 5.8 +0.2 Hardin 6.5 +0.3 Harris 5.2 +0.3 Houston 4.7 0.0 Jasper 8.0 +0.3 Jefferson 7.4 +0.4 Leon 6.8 +0.5 Liberty 7.6 +0.6 Madison 5.2 +0.1 Montgomery 4.5 +0.2 Nacogdoches 4.6 +0.1 Polk 6.2 +0.4 Sabine 8.8 0.0 San Augustine 8.0 +0.3 San Jacinto 6.0 +0.3 Shelby 5.3 0.0 Trinity 5.9 +0.5 Tyler 8.2 +0.7 Walker 5.0 0.0
HARVEY HELP — Those seeking help to recovered from the Hurricane Harvey flooding can obtain information and applications at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Recovery Center. Officials with FEMA and the Small Business Administration can be found at the center located in the parking lot of the Livingston Municipal Library, 707 N. Tyler. Hours of operation are now 9 a.m. to 7 p.m Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
CORRIGAN -- RoyOMartin announced Tuesday the first three loads of pine pulpwood were received at the new Corrigan oriented strand board (OSB) manufacturing plant of its subsidiary, Corrigan OSB, L.L.C.
The Alexandria, Louisiana-based RoyOMartin currently owns and operates two wood-products manufacturing facilities in Louisiana: a pine plywood plant in Chopin and an OSB plant in Oakdale.
Construction of the Corrigan facility began in 2015, and start-up is expected later this year. The facility will employ about 165. To mark its first log delivery, the plant held a celebratory gathering with employees and industry and community partners. The logs, delivered by J&J Logging under the supervision of Walsh Timber Company, L.L.C., will be unloaded and held in the site’s log yard to be used in operationalizing new wood-processing equipment and in training.
A versatile structural wood panel, OSB is commonly used in the construction of residential and multifamily housing, as well as in a variety of other applications.
“We are excited to receive and unload our first three loads of pulpwood at Corrigan OSB, L.L.C.,” stated Terry Secrest, vice president of OSB and corporate safety director for RoyOMartin. “This is the first of many milestones on the path to running a world-class OSB facility later this year. Thanks to everyone for making this happen safely.”
RoyOMartin Vice President of Land and Timber Cade Young added, “We have eagerly awaited this log delivery and look forward to many more at the Corrigan site. We appreciate the relationships formed with our raw-material suppliers and vendors, the Texas Forestry Association, and others throughout the region who have welcomed us to Deep East Texas.”