Workers make structural repairs and renovations to the outside of Groveton High School. There is also construction taking place inside the building as crews work to replace the floor in the hallway. (Photo by Melissa Kemper)
By Melissa Kemper
The Groveton ISD Board of Trustees held its regularly scheduled meeting on the night of Monday, June 15. There were many items on the district's agenda for this month.
Scott Evans, the attorney for the district, was in attendance to give his recommendations regarding assets recently willed to Groveton ISD for the purpose of funding the future Miles-Bradley Scholarship.
Superintendent Don Hamilton presented evaluations of two special programs under the direction of Susan Kitchens. Kitchens is doing an excellent job as the head of the Gifted and Talented program as well as the English as a Second Language program. The Internet Policy, Dyslexia Plan and Grant Policy Manual for the 2015-2016 school year were reviewed and approved.
The contract with Interquest Detection Canines was renewed and the budget was amended to accommodate cafeteria expenses. Two closed sessions were conducted. One concerning a student discipline appeal and the other regarding personnel matters. Approval was given to hire Rogelyn Andrews as a Math teacher, Victoria Wiesman as a teacher/assistant coach and Chrystal Smith as a Kindergarten teacher.
The second hearing on Local Policy Update 102 was held. There were no questions and approval is expected at next month's meeting.
Before Mayor Byron Richards called the Monday, May 18 meeting of the Groveton City Council to order, he, along with returning councilmembers Tommy Walton and Glenn Ward were administered the oaths of their respective positions by Groveton Municipal judge Angelia Evans. Council met a week in advance of its usual stated meeting due to Monday being the observance of Memorial Day.
Once Mayor Richards signaled the meeting's beginning with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, Groveton EMS owner David Robison was on hand to speak during the public forum portion of the meeting.
Robison reported that he and his crew have been busy with the ambulance service. "I wanted to invest....and I have," he said. Robison made note of upgrades he had procured for the ambulance, including $3500 worth of new pharmaceuticals, which have helped upgrade the status of the ambulance to a mobile ICU. "I believe we're making a difference," he said.
Robison also reported that he is currently working on a deal with Terry Cartwright to move Groveton EMS headquarters into the old Groveton Funeral Home. He asked council members to look over a sample contract he handed out and for help subsidizing the service. Currently, Groveton EMS is subsidized by Trinity County for $1,000 per month, with the county officials looking at a possible increase, but otherwise, Robison has handled most expenditures. With the re-routing of the Medicare and Medicaid system, post-Affordable Care Act, it has been difficult for emergency service providers to be reimbursed for their services, particularly with rural providers. Robison asked the council to consider a $1,500 monthly subsidy toward the service. Robison said the money would be used toward his insurance and fuel.
Groveton Police Chief John Raiford gave his monthly report and called last month's numbers "good, citation-wise and in terms of calls [responded to]". He made note of his department's participation in National Night Out, which will take place on October 6, on the square in downtown Groveton. He called the event "a lot of fun" and encouraged the officials at the meeting as well as the citizens present to come out and enjoy the fellowship and fun of the event.
Allan Jenkins of Severn-Trent Services presented the City of Groveton with an invoice of $4,668.86 for water and sewage services for April. He said everything was in compliance and presented council with a request for an amendment to the firm's existing contract with the city. The contract would have Severn-Trent available for daily services to the city for four hours per day, instead of a weekly allotted 20-hour figure.
Groveton VFD Assistant Chief David Mueller was present to ask the city for help toward costs incurred during the repair of a fire engine. Mueller said the vehicle had to undergo major repairs, which have been paid for, but that with the 10 days it took for repairs, the cost of renting another fire engine exceeded the initial budget. He asked the councilmembers for $1,500, which councilman Walton motioned to fund, with councilman Ralph Bennett providing a second to accept.
In other business, Mayor Richards updated council on the potential SR-20 bio-fuels plant project. He said that representatives from the Oklahoma-based company were supposed to be scouting a location in the area soon.
Councilman Walton motioned to re-appoint Evans as City Judge of Groveton, with a second from councilman Ward. Evans was re-appointed to serve the city for another two-year term.
Mayor Richards made note of a shortfall in the city budget due to the Westwood Shores subdivision using far less water than what was budgeted. Mayor Richards said he was not certain as to the cause, but noted that the city's budget is "very tight" and told council to think about the issue. He said he would talk with city accountant Jack Paschetag about the issue and more discussion would take place at the next city council meeting, pending more information.
The long-awaited water well project is "pretty close to start-up," Mayor Richards said. He said he was waiting to have a conference with engineer Jimmy Thompson of KSA Engineering concerning the final details of the project.
With no further business to discuss, councilman Walton motioned to adjourn the meeting, with councilman Steve Casper providing a second to the motion.
Members of the Groveton School Board of Trustees meet 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 and members Benny Abshier, Mark Folds, Randy Hughes and Anthony Lowery. Faculty present was Superintendent Don Hamilton, Assistant Superintendent Todd Moore and High School Principal Bryan Finch. Board Member Anthony Lowery led the group in prayer.
A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Benny Abshier to accept the minutes of the April 20, 2015 meeting.
A motion was made by Randy Hughes and seconded by Anthony Lowery to approve bills, payroll and budgeted expenditures.
Elizabeth Ledbetter administered the Oath of Office for returning board members Benny Abshier and Mark Folds.
A motion was made by Anthony Lowery and seconded by Benny Abshier for current board members to maintain their current positions so there is no need to reorganize. President Dean Due, Vice-President Benny McClain and Secretary W. H. Holcombe. Voted and carried.
The board recognized Co-Chairmen Teressa Ray and Medical/School Representative Virginia Redden as they delivered a presentation outlining the annual committee report from the School Health Advisory Committee. The board had no questions and thanked the committee for their efforts.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Moore presented for the first hearing the TASB Local Policy Update 102. No action was taken.
A motion was made by Mark Folds and seconded by Randy Hughes to purchase a 71-passenger bus from Thomas Bus Gulf Coast for $87,957.00 for the 2015-2016 school years. Voted and Carried.
A motion was made by Benny McClain and seconded by Anthony Lowery to approve a resolution for the immediate implementation of Senate Bill 149. 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 Jorene Williams, Melanie Drake, Kaila Gressett and Jeanie Newman. Voted and Carried.
Establishing safety measures on county roads was chief among the items on the agenda for the Trinity County Commissioners Court at its Monday, May 11 meeting at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton. County Judge Doug Page opened the courtroom to the public for a hearing concerning Lake "L" Drive in the Lake "L" Estates subdivision in order to determine reasonable and safe speeds on the road. The speed limit of 25 mph had been recommended prior to the hearing, and Judge Page closed the hearing a minute after opening it, at 9:31 a.m., with no one present to voice concerns on the matter.
Following the hearing, a series of directives were addressed for setting the speed for the subdivision, as well as the installation of speed limit and stop signs. Questions arose among the commissioners about the legality of establishing a weight load limit along the road as well as the wording of some of the directives. One of the parts of the item of business involved installing "pass with care" signs along the road at points where passing would not be hindered by limited sight distances. County Attorney Joe Bell said that there were no points along Lake "L" Drive which are safe for vehicles to pass one another.
The commissioners approved the establishment of a speed limit of 25 mph within the subdivision; installing a 25,000-lb. weight load limit along Lake "L" Drive; putting up "Do Not Pass" signs in both directions along the road and establishing a three-way stop at Lake "L" Drive and Darrell Hall Drive, along with the installation of two additional stop signs at that intersection.
The commissioners also set a hearing to take place during their first meeting in June, on Monday, June 8, to determine a reasonable or safe speed limit for Willis Road, which was recommended as 25 mph by Constable Reggie Olive.
In other business, Trinity County was awarded a Gold Star Safety Award from the Texas Association of Counties. Risk control consultant Isaac Garcia was on hand to present the commissioners and Judge Page with the award. He thanked the officials for helping "promote a good safety culture," and said that although loss ratios are just numbers, it takes a lot of effort to achieve a county-wide extremely low loss ratio.
Long-serving Trinity County DETCOG representative Bell was appointed to serve on the organization's Board of Directors for another term, for 2015-16. Following his re-appointment, Precinct 3 Commissioner Neal Smith expressed interest in seeking more DETCOG grant monies for projects within Trinity County and asked Bell for a list of the different types of grants the organization awards.
The commissioners approved a moving forward with necessary litigation to enforce a nuisance abatement lien against a property in Trinity, which was last owned by Mae Lyness Coborn. Smith and Bell gave some background information on the case and said that all correspondence from the county to Coborn have gone without response in regard to the matter.
In other business: •A bond of $5,000 was approved for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 employee Tammy Stone-Pursley. •Bids for several tax resale properties from Chief Appraiser Gary Gallant were all approved. •Updates for grant-funded construction projects were given by Precinct 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin.
Chamberlin said that some roads within Precincts 1 and 3 were all that remained from the CETRZ grant-funded projects, and he is awaiting loads of rock to be delivered. Chamberlin also noted that according to county records, there are 382 or 383 county roads that are maintained in Trinity County, which contrasts the figure of 379 given in TxDOT's inventory file. The commissioners agreed to draft a letter to correct this information.
The possible "greatest thing to happen to Trinity County" according to Precinct 3 Commissioner Neal Smith was discussed on Monday morning when the county commissioners held their first regularly stated meeting for April. Representatives from Oklahoma-based SR20 Holdings and a committee led by Trinity County Treasurer Bob Dockens spoke to the gathered officials and citizens about the proposed bio-fuels plant that SR20 has maintained an interest in constructing in the county. Following a thorough study by the committee as to the effect such a facility would have on Trinity County, a resolution was drafted, presented and approved at Monday's meeting. SR20 president Andre Thomas, who was present along with attorneys Hull Youngblood and Harold Kennemer, thanked the court and the committee for moving forward.
Before the approval of the resolution, Dockens and each of the committee members spoke before the court, with each member affirming that a bio-fuels plant would be a feasible and beneficial asset to the county. Dockens also outlined the steps toward setting the project in motion. Essentially, the county will form a public/private partnership in order to purchase tax-exempt revenue bonds and equipment to lease to SR20, as well as attorneys to work on a contingency basis. These steps would require no up-front money from the county and would be of no liability to Trinity County or its taxpayers should the project fail, which Dockens explained in a hypothetical situation.
Once the resolution was approved, the SR20 representatives fielded questions, one of which came from Commissioner Smith regarding a timetable for permits to be obtained and eventual construction. Youngblood said the time it would take was "nebulous," citing due diligence work yet to be done in preparation.
Smith said that if it is built, the bio-fuels plant could "put [Trinity County] on the map and put a lot of people to work."
In other business addressed by the commissioners, contracts were ratified for the two ambulance service providers in the county, with an exclusive 911 contract being awarded to Ventura EMS by the county and an exclusive service contract between the county and Groveton EMS awarded for the assistance of $1,000 per month. Each contract came after discussions and collaboration between Trinity County Judge Doug Page and the respective services' owners, Keith Shelley and David Robison.
A public hearing was set for the date of May 11 to establish a speed limit, install speed limit signs, weight load limit signs and other types of signs in the Lake "L" Estates subdivision. During the discussion, Smith asked County Attorney Joe Bell about the legality of 4-wheelers being driven on county roads, an issue that the other three commissioners concurred was also a problem in their respective precincts. According to Bell, 4-wheelers were allowed to cross the roads, but not on the roadways.
County Auditor Sheila Johnson gave the commissioners the quarterly report for the county's fee-collecting offices and the monthly expense report. According to Johnson, Trinity County's income is at 91% overall for taxes and the general fund's income is at 86% while expenses are at 50% for the month of March, figures she said were "really good".
Precinct 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin gave updates for the road improvement projects funded with monies from the CETRZ and Hurricane Ike 2.2 grants. He said that out of 17 roads slated to receive loads of rock in Precinct 2, only two remained. He said that weather permitting, the remaining few loads of rock would be delivered. Judge Page also gave an update on the water tower project in Trinity, on which construction of the structure will begin next week.
In other business, pauper funeral applications were reviewed on behalf of Carl Kappel and Leslie Hughes Dunlap. Dunlap's was approved, while Judge Page said he would look further into Kappel's.
Bro. Jack McMahon of First United Methodist Church of Groveton gave the invocation to begin the meeting and also spoke during the public forum portion. He thanked the commissioners for their involvement in the Davy Crockett Bear Chase Marathon, which took place last weekend. He called the event a "rousing success," despite a near-certain forecast of inclement weather.
Concerns and updates were addressed and given on the active ambulance services within Trinity County at the Commissioners' Court meeting on Monday, March 23.
Among the items of business discussed and acted upon was the setting aside of funds for Groveton EMS from the county and discussion of a contract between Trinity County and Groveton EMS. The issue of approving a budget amendment for the county's funding for the service was initially brought up by Precinct 3 commissioner Neal Smith during the court's review and discussion of claims and invoices. Smith stressed the importance of knowing that the funds would be written into the budget, however the commissioners waited for County Attorney Joe Bell to arrive to verify the legality of the action taken.
Once it was verified, the county's decision to aide the ambulance service with $1,000 per month was placed onto the county budget, with a sum of $3,000 tallied for the months of January – March and the monthly figure to follow.
Commissioner Smith asked Groveton EMS's new owner David Robison how things were going since Robison took over the service. Robison was happy to report that things were transpiring "very well" for him and his crew. "We've had more calls than we've anticipated," Robison said.
Robison and County Judge Doug Page agreed to sit down and discuss drawing up a formal contract between the county and Groveton EMS.
The refund of erroneous/excessive tax payments by the Madisonville-based 5G Inc. on a property in Lake L Acres was approved. The payment of $558.83 on a dwelling which burned in 2012 was brought to the attention of the commissioners by county tax collector/assessor Lindy Warren.
A decision was approved by a motion from Commissioner Smith and Precinct 1 Commissioner Grover "Tiger" Worsham to renew a two-year contract with Citizens State Bank as the county's depository bank.
The commissioners heard a presentation by Carly Anderson of New York Life Insurance and approved the firm as a provider for Trinity County employees for supplemental whole life policies, which would be utilized on a voluntary basis by county employees with payments made as payroll deductions.
In other business, the commissioners authorized a county sponsorship of the upcoming Davy Crockett Bear Chase Marathon. Judge Page stressed the necessity of the county's participation in the event for cooperation with TxDot to close the road (Highway 287) during the race.
A maintenance service agreement was approved for the Trinity County Courthouse with Pax-Sun for HVAC maintenance.
April was recognized as National County Government Month as well as Child Abuse Prevention Month throughout Trinity County by way of proclamations approved by the commissioners. Also, April 7 was recognized as National Service Recognition Day in Trinity County. County Attorney Bell stated that the proclamation was a way to recognize the various service organizations contributing their time and work within the county toward various causes.
The status of the Boys and Girls Club of Trinity was affirmed as a non-profit organization for the purpose of benefiting from inmate labor toward its upkeep and lawn maintenance.
The approval of a contract with the Texas Association of Counties, Health Employee Benefits Pool for the 2015 reporting requirements to the IRS for the Affordable Care Act was approved.
In Precinct 2 Commissioner Richard Chamberlin's absence, updates on the ongoing CETRZ and Hurricane Ike 2.2 grant-funded road improvement projects were not given. Chamberlin was working on one of the projects during the meeting.
Although it was not on the agenda, but of note at the meeting, Commissioner Smith urged County Attorney Bell to research available DETCOG grant monies that could be used toward projects in Trinity County. Smith mentioned to Bell, who serves as the county's DETCOG representative, a few areas in which grants could be applied, including law enforcement funding and the repair of the Trinity Community Center.
With no further business to discuss, the commissioners and Judge Page adjourned the meeting.