TRAFFIC BACKED UP — A wreck involving a highway work convoy on Tuesday, Dec. 16, tied up traffic for hours on both the north and southbound lanes of U.S. 59 near Moscow. An 18-wheeler struck the rear of a work truck, sending it into a ditch where it overturned. The 18-wheeler ended up on its side in the grassy median (above). (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)
MOSCOW – A wreck involving a work convoy truck painting lines on U.S. 59 near Moscow made a mess and sent one person to the hospital.
The accident occurred at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday.
A 1995 Volvo truck-tractor driven by Wayne Darnell Daniels, 51, of Memphis, Tenn. was southbound in the outside lane and disregarded the traffic device arrow aboard the 1999 International truck being used to paint the highway lines, according to Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Darwon Evans. Daniels failed to control speed and struck the rear of the work truck, which was driven by 23-year-old Demond Frank McGowen of Lindale.
McGowen's truck left the road to the right and overturned, spilling paint and reflective material. Daniels' truck left the road to the left, overturning in the grassy median.
Daniels, listed with non-incapacitating injuries, was transported by ambulance to the Livingston hospital. He was charged with disregarding an official traffic control device and failure to control speed.
LIVINGSTON – A 20-year-old Livingston man was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week after being found guilty of two counts of intoxication manslaughter by a Polk County jury.
Caleb Luke Edwards was convicted in connection with the deaths of Jacob Klein, 17, and Tiffany Seamons Lewandowski, 33, both of Goodrich. The two were killed Dec. 8, 2012 during a collision that occurred on State Highway 146 south of Livingston.
During the trial that began on Monday, Dec. 8, before District Judge David Wilson, First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Joe Martin presented evident showing that Edwards had been drinking alcohol and was driving a friend's Dodge Ram 3500 truck northbound on SH 146.
A Chevrolet S-10 pickup with Klein and Lewandowski was traveling southbound, returning home from a Christmas party. At about 10:30 p.m., the two vehicles collided, killing Klein and Lewandowski instantly. The jury heard from Arthur West, the adoptive father of both Lewandowski and Klein. West had arrived at the scene of the crash moments later and testified he heard Edwards admit he had consumed four or five beers and a mixed drink containing whiskey before the accident.
Containers of alcohol were found at the scene of the crash including beer cans and bottles, as well as a bottle of Crown Royal Whiskey.
Trooper Alan Stanton with the Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol also described the crash scene. He told the jury he made contact with Edwards shortly after the collision and was told by Edwards that he had been drinking.
A subsequent test of Edwards' blood, which was drawn almost two hours after the crash, indicated he had a blood alcohol level of .085, which is above the legal limit in Texas.
Stanton also testified regarding an accident reconstruction that he performed after the crash. The evidence established that Edwards' vehicle entered the southbound lane Klein and Lewandowski's vehicle had been traveling in and struck passenger side to passenger side.
After returning a verdict of guilty, the jury proceeded to hear evidence in the punishment phase of the trial. Testimony from several witnesses revealed that Edwards had repeatedly violated the conditions of his bond while awaiting trial, particularly by consuming alcohol, driving a vehicle not equipped with an alcohol breath detection device and by having sexual relations with an underage female.
After a day of punishment evidence, the jury sentenced Edwards to 10 year's in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on both counts with a $10,000 fine. As a result, Edwards will not be eligible for parole until he completes half of the sentence.
Following the trial, Martin expressed his thanks to the jury for their verdict and service, as well as all of the law enforcement agencies that made it possible to bring justice to the two victims.
Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon added that he "hoped that the jury's verdict would send a message to the community that the consequences of the irresponsible use of alcohol combined with the operation of a motor vehicle are just too great. The message is very simple: 'Just don't drink and drive.'"
LIVINGSTON – The body of a driver killed in a one-car accident on Dec. 4 has been identified as Shamel Donnel Baldwin, 22, of Camden.
The identity of the victim was confirmed last week by DNA testing and released Friday by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Baldwin died when the 1989 Ford Taurus he was driving struck a tree and burned. He was believed to have been northbound on Lyons Cemetery Road, approximately three miles east of Moscow, when the car left the east side of the road and collided with a tree. The vehicle caught fire and burned with the driver still inside.
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Larry Whitworth pronounced him dead at the scene of the accident. Although not discovered until later, the crash is believed to have occurred between 5-10 a.m., but because of the low volume of traffic on the road the exact time is unknown.
LIVINGSTON – Authorities believe they know the identity of a man found inside a wrecked and burned vehicle Thursday, Dec. 4, but the name has not been released pending confirmation through DNA testing.
The car, a 1989 Ford Taurus, is believed to have been northbound on Lyons Cemetery Road, approximately three miles east of Moscow, when it left the east side of the road and struck a tree, according to Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Zack Lenderman. The vehicle caught fire and burned with the driver still inside. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Larry Whitworth.
Although not discovered until later, the crash is believed to have occurred between 5-10 a.m., but because of the low volume of traffic on the road the exact time is unknown, the trooper indicated. Investigation into the accident is continuing.
Also investigated was a two-vehicle collision at 1:30 p.m. Friday on FM 2457, just east of Hoyt Eastepp Road.
A 2012 Toyota Scion driven by Harold Raymond Briggs Jr., 74, of Van Zandt was westbound and attempted to turn left and make a U-turn to travel east, according to Trooper Robert Akers. The car turned when unsafe and collided with a westbound 1993 Ford pickup truck driven by Ruben Aquirre Sr., 27, of Livingston, which had been traveling behind Briggs' car.
Both drivers were listed with non-incapacitating injuries and were transported by ambulance to CHI St. Luke's Medical Center in Livingston.
Christie Marie Holeman, 34, of New Caney was driving a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee northbound in the right-hand lane. The driver told Trooper Allen Stanton that she fell asleep. The Jeep traveled across the left lane and into the center median, where it rolled onto it right side and top before coming to rest upright in the left-hand lane.
Holeman, listed with non-incapacitating injuries, was transported by ambulance to the Livingston hospital.
A passenger in the vehicle, 30-year-old Richard Glen Davis, was listed as uninjured.
The accident report indicated no charges have been filed.
LIVINGSTON – A 35-year-old Goodrich man remained in the Polk County Jail this week under an additional $50,000 bond after being charged with arson with intent to damage or destroy a habitation.
Ervin Demond Harrell, who has been held in jail since Nov. 19 on other complaints, was charged by Polk County Sheriff's Office investigators in connection with a house fire that occurred on Rayon Road on Nov. 17. Sheriff Kenneth Hammack said sheriff's detectives interviewed several witnesses and, with the assistance of the State Fire Marshall's Office, conducted a very thorough investigation of the crime scene. Harrell had been previously arrested Nov. 19 in San Jacinto County on two Polk County warrants stemming from a disturbance the day the fire occurred. The charges included injury to a child and assault causing bodily injury to a family member. There was also an outstanding probation violation warrant issued by the 411th District Court in Polk County. He has been held in the Polk County Jail since his Nov. 19 arrest in lieu of bonds totaling $39,000. The warrant on the latest arson charge was served on Harrell in the jail on Dec. 3, increasing his bond total to $89,000.
LIVINGSTON – A 10-year tax abatement plan for the proposed Corrigan OSB manufacturing plant was given the green light Tuesday by Polk County commissioners.
During their meeting, the commissioner first held a public hearing on the creation of a reinvestment zone near Corrigan covering about nine square miles. They then approved the zone during their regular meeting. The zone includes all of the land being purchased by the RoyOMartin Co. of Alexandria, La, to be used as the site of a proposed $280 million oriented strand board plant. After setting up the reinvestment zone, commissioners then agreed to a tax abatement plan for the property within the zone. Although some details still have to be finalized, the commissioners approved the general 10-year plan under which the county would waive all property taxes on the "eligible" items such as buildings, equipment and other improvements for the first five years, starting on the date the plant goes into operation. In year six, the county would waive 98 percent of the taxes, a figure that would decrease by 2 percent per year until it reaches 90 percent in year 10. On the 11th year, the facility will go on the tax role at 100 percent of its value. "Even though we're granting a tax abatement, the county will see an immediate increase in its tax income because the land is not included," County Judge John Thompson said. It was noted that the land in question would be purchased by the RoyOMartin Co. at a cost of $5 million or $2,500 per acre. "Right now the land is on the tax roll based on timber values which I think are in the $300 to $500 per acre range. When the deal is finalized, it would go onto the tax rolls at commercial values – in this case $2,500 per acre -- which means we would experience an immediate increase in tax revenue," he added. The approval of the tax abatement agreement Tuesday morning was a major hurdle in having the OSB plant come to Polk County but it is not the last. The Corrigan-Camden Independent School District's board was scheduled to consider a tax abatement plan for the plant at its meeting Tuesday night but results of that discussion was not available at press time. Roy O. Martin III, president of the company, said he hopes his company will give final approval for the Corrigan plant sometime in January. He noted one hurdle outside the control of local officials is the EPA permitting process, which is taking longer than anticipated. "I am very hopeful that everything will be completed soon and we can get started," he said. In addressing the commissioners during Tuesday's meeting, Martin noted his company tried to locate a plant in Polk County 10 years ago but ran into problems with the Union Pacific Railroad. That issue has now been resolved because the company has decided to use trucks to ship the product produced by the plant rather than the railroad. The plant would be the company's first in Texas and Martin said they want the facility here to take advantage of the strong Texas economy and its building market. He also noted one of the major reasons his company is interested in coming to Polk County is the Corrigan-Camden school district. He said wherever they build a plant, they work with the local school system to help encourage young people to consider the timber industry as a potential career path and the Corrigan-Camden schools already have programs in place that will help train a future workforce. In his presentation, Martin noted the plant would hire 160 "direct" employees to work in the plant at average wage of $50,000. However, the number of indirect jobs created by the plant would include about 250 loggers, about 200 truck drivers and 50-75 maintenance personnel. He added that over time, the 160 direct jobs at the plant could expand. "We have a plywood plant in Chopin, La. and when we went in there, we promised them 300 jobs. Today we have 700 people working there." Martin noted that the tax abatement granted that plant by Natchitoches Parish expired in 2006 and today it is one of the parish's largest taxpayers. During the public hearing held prior to the commissioner's regular meeting, only one person spoke against offering the company tax abatement. Rick Andrews of Onalaska said that while he favors having the company come to Polk County, he believes they should not be given "special treatment" and should pay taxes like everyone else. "All taxes should be assessed equally," he said. "I believe a tax abatement would shift the burden of taxes onto other taxpayers." Other speakers including Claude Thomas, Marlin Hughes, Corrigan-Camden School Superintendent Sherry Hughes, County Judge-elect Sydney Murphy and Jim Johnson all voiced strong support for offering a tax abatement plan. Thomas noted the county also would benefit through an increase in its sales tax income generated by the increase in the local workforce. "It will benefit everyone," he added. Marlin Hughes noted that the plant would also allow more of the local young people to remain here. He noted that many area students are forced to leave as soon as they graduate from high school in order to find jobs. "In the long run, this will benefit Polk County in many ways. It will not just bring in jobs, but it will bring in families," he said. Sherry Hughes said she has been working with Martin and others on the tax abatement and other issues associated with the plant coming to the Corrigan area and she sees major benefits for the Corrigan-Camden school system. Murphy, who will sworn in as the new county judge on Jan. 1, said she sees tax abatement as an investment in the future of the county. By helping attract an industry such as the Corrigan OSB plant, the county will help create needed jobs. In his remarks, Johnson simply pointed out that if Polk County failed to grant tax abatement, there are other locations that would jump at the chance in order to attract a major manufacturing plant. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: -- Cancelled their Dec. 23 meeting due to the Christmas holiday and rescheduled the Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 meeting to Wednesday, Jan. 14. Thompson explained that commissioners would be in Austin on Jan. 13 for the opening of the 2015 legislative session. -- Approved the purchase of computer equipment for the sheriff's department at a cost not to exceed $39,380 and for the county clerk's office at a cost not to exceed $11,400. -- Voted to formally terminate a contract with the Committee to Save Dunbar regarding the management of the Dunbar Community Center. Thompson noted the county has spent almost $1 million to renovate and upgrade the building and he felt the county should have more control over the building and its maintenance. The committee will remain as an advisory group regarding the Dunbar center.