GISD Board accepts Ron Lankford’s resignation; incumbents unopposed

By Martha Mericle

Members of the Groveton School Board of Trustees meet March 16th in regular session beginning at 7 PM.

President Dean Due called the meeting to order. Members present were President Dean Due, Vice President Benny McClain, Secretary W. H. Holcombe and members Benny Abshier, Mark Folds, Randy Hughes and Anthony Lowery. Faculty present was Superintendent Don Hamilton, Assistant Superintendent Todd Moore and Elementary School Principal Rachel Gallaway. Board member Anthony Lowery led the group in prayer.

A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Randy Hughes to accept the minutes of the February 16, 2015 meeting.

A motion was made by Randy Hughes and seconded by Benny Abshier to approve bills, payroll and budgeted expenditures. Benny McClain abstained. Voted and Carried.

The Board received a report from Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott Attorney, Mr. Tab Beall. He delivered an update on the April Sheriff's Sale. It will be held on the Courthouse Lawn in April.

A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Benny Abshier to approve an extension of the depository contract with Citizens State Band. Voted and Carried.

A motion was made by Randy Hughes and Seconded by Anthony Lowery to appoint Dorothy Kennedy as liaison to homeless students in accordance to the schools FFC local. Voted and Carried.

Assistant Superintendent Todd Moore presented a proposal concerning the establishment of a new employee sick leave pool. A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Randy Hughes to establish the new DEC Local. Voted and Carried. Now, employees will be able to voluntarily give their personal sick days to a fellow employee in need. If the specified employee does not use the time, the time is returned to the giving employee.
The Board reviewed three renditions of the 2015-2016 GISD School Calendar. These three had been presented to the teachers and two-thirds voted for calendar one. A motion was made by Benny Abshier and seconded by Charles to adopt Calendar 1 for the next school year. Voted and Carried.

A motion was made Benny Abshier and seconded by Henry Holcombe to accept the recommendation of Superintendent Hamilton when casting the schools vote in the upcoming Region 6 Education Service Center's Board of Directors election ballot. Voted and carried.

A motion was made by Benny McClain and seconded by Anthony Lowery to cancel the scheduled May 9th 2015 School Board Election as no one signed up to run against the incumbents. Voted and Carried.

In accordance to the Texas Open Meeting Act, the board went into closed session to discussion of professional teaching personnel and other personnel matters. Upon returning, three items of business were settled.

A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Randy Hughes to accept the resignation of Ron Lankford. Voted and Carried.

A motion was made by Benny Abshier and seconded by Anthony Lowery to approve the Elementary School Campus Staff for the upcoming school year. Voted and Carried.

A motion was made by Benny McClain and seconded by Randy Hughes to approve the Junior High and High School Campus Staff for the upcoming school year. Voted and Carried.

A motion to adjourn was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Benny Abshier. Voted and carried.

Groveton City Council hears report on well

Mayor Byron Richards called the Groveton City Council Meeting to order at 6:30pm.

The minutes for the meeting for the November 24, 2014 were presented and approved by Council.

Mayor Richards stated that there were a few items on the agenda for this meeting.

Chief Raiford presented the citations and department incident activity report for November 2014 for Council to review.

He informed Council that he would be submitting the racial profiling report at the next regular meeting for Council to review and approve.

Stephen Countz was present for the meeting. He has applied as a Reserve Officer, but Chief Raiford stated that he was interested in the part time officer's position for 16 hours a week. Mr. Countz addressed Council on his experience in the Police Dept. and Fire Dept. in different areas.
A written report was submitted to Council for review of the street maintenance performed throughout the City.

Allen Jenkins with STE presented Council with the monthly report and invoicing for the water and sewer operations. He stated the sewer plant was looking good and no excursions for the month at the sewer plant. He informed Council that the extra charge was for general repair and maintenance at the sewer plant on the chlorination system. This is done yearly by Severn Trent Services. Council approved the monthly invoicing of $7,226.78 for Severn Trent Services.
Mayor Richards stated that the water well is pumping 150 gallons per minute. They started this on Monday and it has to test for 36 hours. Then they will do the cleanup at that area and set the generator.

Without any further business for discussion or action by the Council, the meeting adjourned at 6:55 p.m.

Pre-construction workshop held at Commissioners Court meeting

By Chris Edwards

Trinity County Commissioners met on Monday to discuss several items pertaining to upcoming projects funded by the Hurricane Ike 2.2 grant and CETRZ grant monies. The Commissioners held a pre-construction workshop conducted by Ray Vann, of Ray Vann & Associates and Herbert Bickley of Klotz Associates to discuss particulars.

During the workshop, Vann and Bickley addressed concerns that some of the commissioners had pertaining to materials to be used for the next projects undertaken with Ike funds. Precinct #1 Commssioner Grover "Tiger" Worsham said the figures quoted in a bid from Johnston Commercial, Inc. for chipseal surfacing to be used was 125% over the current going rate for the material. He said he felt "very discouraged" by the quoted price.

Vann addressed the issue, saying that once monies were awarded to an entity for construction projects, orders can be changed as to the amounts. Vann and Bickley also spoke to Russell Byrd of CCC Blacktopping, who will be working on upcoming projects. Bickley said the county has some degree of latitude in using left-over funds from the grant money in what they can be used for. After the workshop's conclusion, the commissioners decided to allocate a sum of $62,927 that remained from Base Bid D-1 of the Ike funds to each precinct, in a four-way split.

In other business, the Commissioners voted to renew the county's current policy with United Healthcare for retiree insurance for the coming year. According to county treasurer Jo Bitner, there is a slight rise in premiums for 2015 under the policy, with a $16.07 raise in medical and a $9.21 raise in medication on the premium, per month. Bitner said the policy is still significantly lower than the previous policy held by Trinity County.

Trinity County resident and longtime tree farmer Jane Baxter was on hand to speak before the Commissioners and Judge Doug Page. Baxter spoke on behalf of loggers, saying that a recent embargo on truck traffic near her property, located along Trinlady Park Road, has hurt wood revenue in the area. She also spoke about the condition of the roads near her family farm. Page welcomed Baxter's comments and referred to the item on the agenda during which she spoke as a means to open a dialogue between the county and trucking companies to try and keep them accountable for the condition of the roads they use to haul freight.

Baxter stressed a need for tree farmers, loggers and the county officials to work together to get two miles of road "workable" to go to Hwy. 94. She suggested using some of the funds from the Ike 2.2 grant toward this end. Precinct #3 Commissioner Neal Smith spoke about a stipulation in Houston County where companies that damage roads are required to bring in materials to fix the damage. Judge Page said he and County Attorney Joe Bell would research the issue and the mechanics of a possible remediation agreement with the trucking firms to come to an agreement.

City council receives updates

by Chris Edwards

When the Groveton City Council had its regular monthly meeting on Monday, October 24, the council and guests who were present heard updates on a few projects and the monthly reports, which were given, indicated that Groveton is a safe city that is in good shape financially.

Vernon Goeyns was present for the meeting and spoke on behalf of his fellow citizens during the public forum portion of the night. Goeyns asked the councilmembers to consider installing a streetlight on the corner of Goeyns and Reese streets.

He said the area is very dark at night. Goeyns also asked the council to consider widening Goeyns Street and clearing out some of the brush from the neighborhood. He asked the council for ideas in helping to "upgrade" the city of Groveton and offered one idea himself, to get together for a clean-up day.

Chief John Raiford of the Groveton Police Department gave his monthly report. Raiford spoke about the National Night Out, which Groveton PD hosted last month. He called the event "a great success." In other departmental news, Raiford gave a figure of 96.9 percent as the clearance rate for Groveton PD in September.

Raiford also addressed the subject of a social media policy for city employees. He stressed the need for such a policy "as technology changes and as the department changes with the technology." The policy was brought up later during the meeting and approved by the council.
Allen Jenkins of Severn Trent Services gave the monthly invoice for the city's water usage fees, which amounted to $8,190.04.

Jimmy Thompson, of KSA Engineers, was also on hand to present an update on the new water well project. Thompson mentioned the water shutdown last Tuesday to make a connection to the new elevated tank. He said the new water lines will soon be open.

In other business on the agenda, the council members discussed a vacation policy for city employees. Instead of carrying over vacation time, like with the current policy, council members discussed adopting a new policy with different guidelines for accumulating vacation time to where employees would have to use their vacation time and not carry it over into the next year.

The council also discussed and approved a resolution for a drought contingency plan.
The city's water bill adjustment policy was voted to be kept as-is by the council.

With no further business to conduct, Mayor Byron Richards entertained a motion to adjourn until the next stated meeting at 6:30 p.m. on November 24.

Groveton “Highly Qualified” teaching staff at 94%

by Martha Harrison Mericle

President Dean Due called the October 20 school board meeting to order. Members present were Dean Due, W. H. Holcombe, Benny McClain, Randy Hughes, Anthony Lowery, Benny Abshier and Mark Folds. Also in attendance were Superintendent Don Hamilton, Superintendent Todd Moore, Elizabeth Ledbetter, High School Principal Bryan Finch and CPA Darla Dear. Anthony Lowery opened the meeting in prayer. Anthony Lowery made a motion and Randy Hughes seconded to approve minutes from the last meeting. Voted and Approved. A motion was made by Mark Folds and seconded by Benny Abshier to approve payments of bills, payroll and budget expenditures. Benny McClain abstained. Vote and carried.

Assistant superintendent Todd Moore presented the Highly Qualified teacher report. The elementary campus currently has 22 total teachers and 100% are highly qualified. The Jr High/High school campus has a total of 27 teachers. Three are not Highly Qualified bring the percentage to 89% on the overall campus but 91.33 % of Core Academic Classes are taught by HQ teachers. District wide, there are 49 teachers and 94% are Highly Qualified. No action was required.

Upon the recommendation from a recent audit Benny McClain made a motion seconded by Randy Hughes to add Don Hamilton and Elizabeth Ledbetter as authorized signatures on the Elementary Activity banking account. Vote and carried.

A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Mark Folds to approve the performance pay stipend for employees for the 2014-2015 school year. This stipend will be included on the November payments. Voted and carried.

Superintendent Hamilton reported on F.I.R.S.T rating. This report has a total of twenty indicators marked yes or no or with rankings of 0-5. Our District score was 65 with 52 set as passing. This gives our school district a Superior rating. This report as well as the financial disbursements or re-imbursements report is available for viewing in the Superintendents office. No action was required as these are simply reports.

A motion was made by Benny McClain and seconded by Randy Hughes to designate budgeted funds of $2.6M and $500K in the Construction and Technology Fund. The construction portion will provide a secure records room, replace the foundation of the homemaking wing, and the office wing on the High School Campus. Voted and carried.

Each year the school board members are required to attend training. This years training will be held during the November regular business meeting. "Team of Eight" will be the title of the training.
Darla Dear presented the district's financial audit report for 2013-2014. Each member had a copy of the audit. She referred to three pages in her re-cap. The opinion page contained the auditors unmodified opinion. Our school received highest remarks.

Page 27 of the audit concerned Revenue and Expenditures. She simply pointed out an ending balance of $461,920 and discussed the meaning of a negative and positive variance. A positive variance is good. On page 50, she pointed out to the board on line 1100 a positive variance for the year. A motion was made by W. H. Holcombe and seconded by Anthony Lowery to accept the financial report from the auditor. Voted and carried. The board entered into a closed session under the Texas Open Meeting Act, Texas Gov. Code Section 551.074 to discuss personnel. Upon return to the open meeting, no action was taken. The meeting adjourned at 8:46 p.m.

Commissioners Court accept Judge Beard’s resignation

by Chris Edwards

The Trinity County Commissioners Court discussed and approved a letter of resignation, via email, by Precinct Two Justice of the Peace Bernie Beard during its October 27 meeting at the Trinity County courthouse in Groveton.

Beard, who spoke with County Judge Doug Page by phone, said he is now living in Florida and gave the commissioners his blessing to allow the court to do "whatever the court wishes to do" in order to process his resignation. Precinct One Commissioner Grover "Tiger" Worsham agreed and said that the court should do whatever it could to get the situation of Beard's resignation "off the books" before making a motion to approve Beard's email resignation.

After some discussion over the legalities of tendering a resignation via email, the commissioners who were present approved Beard's resignation. Precinct Three Commissioner Richard Chamberlin was absent, due to his tending to family matters out-of-state.

In other business at the Monday meeting, Judge Page presented a resolution in support of Proposition One, which is on the ballot for the upcoming general election. The item states that immediate additional funding for the state highway fund is to be used only for constructing, maintaining and acquiring right-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads, a proposition which will provide needed support for public highways without increasing taxes. Trinity County's road system is eligible for such assistance from the funding and the resolution was approved by the commissioners.

The commissioners also approved for the purchase of freezers for the Groveton and Apple Springs senior centers. The restaurant-quality freezers are to be purchased in relation to Hurricane Ike and Dolly recovery projects. Lufkin firm KSA Engineering assisted in the recommendation of the equipment.

A resolution to authorize county grant money (partially awarded by both DETCOG and the state agriculture department) to provide home-delivered meals to housebound citizens of the county through the Martin Senior Citizens Center was also approved.

Judge Page issued a proclamation to declare November as Home Care and Hospice Month. A trio of home health workers were present to help Judge Page usher in the proclamation. Judge Page spoke of the importance of high quality and compassionate health care services for shut-in patients and for end-of-life, or terminal care situations.

In Commissioner Chamberlin's absence, some update was given on CETRZ grant-funded projects by Herbert Bickley of Klotz and Associates. Bickley presented a multitude of options pertaining to the road improvement projects and said that a bid opening date of November 17 for bulk delivery of materials had been set, in reference to Lake L Road.

Bickley said he has been in direct contact with several contractors and material suppliers, all of whom have indicated interest and intent to bid on the upcoming projects, which hopefully will result in competitive pricing.

With no further business on the agenda, Judge Page entertained a motion to adjourn until the next appointed meeting of the court, at 9 a.m. on November 10.