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Colmesneil nears completion of Emergency Services Building


by Michael G. Maness

The City of Colmesneil city council was convened by Mayor Don Baird at its regular meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.

After the regular agenda items of the financial, office, water and sewer reports were approved, the council proceeded with several discussions.

Baird said the completion of the Emergency Services District #7 Building had been delayed, but that "This is just part of it. We want to do it right." This will house the local volunteer fire department and other emergency related equipment as the city finds grants, monies, and works with the county emergency services. City Secretary Carrie Edwards added, "Asphalt surfacing was laid last week and the building is looking better and better."

Baird also was happy to report the old County Market is being renovated and will be opening as Graham's Grill and Grocery – a welcome addition to the community.

Edwards noted that the probationary period for part-time employee Linda Bailer was up, and Edwards was happy to have her working for the city.

The council ended their meeting with an overview of the Homecoming festivities that were planned to include a bonfire, parade, pep rally, a queen's coronation, and a homecoming game.

The council adjourned quite proud of the developments and activities on the immediate horizon.

Spurger ISD Board votes to allow superintendent hire all contract employees

by Emily Waldrep

The Spurger School Board held its monthly board meeting on October 16. Board members approved several items that must be reviewed and approved yearly, including the Revised Student Wellness Policy, the Emergency Operations Plan, Policy Update 100 and the Quarterly investment report.

The board also went out for bids on a canopy project that would include work on sidewalk canopies and new canopies.

"There are several packages included in the bid," said Superintendent Joe Fisher. "Just canopies, canopies and repairing the awning in the back of the cafeteria, canopies that go over to the ag building and some concrete work."

Next, the board voted to change a policy that will allow the superintendent to hire all contracted employees. Previously, the superintendent had to hire an at-will employee and the board had to hire contracted employees, but now the superintendent has the power to hire all employees.

The board also discussed the recent Ebola crisis and the fact that the district already has a contagious disease policy and plan. The board reviewed that plan and agreed to send everyone in the district a letter that said the district is aware of the virus, and while it isn't here, the board has looked at plans in case it did become an issue.

Ivanhoe Councilman files misappropriation of public funds charge against two other Councilmen

by Emily Waldrep

Ivanhoe city council held its regular meeting on September 11 at 6 p.m. All members were present besides Jim Gremillion.

Some internal acrimony among council members surfaced at the end of the meeting during council comments. Councilman Priddy said that recently he and Councilmen Morris and Gremillion had criminal charges filed against them by Councilman Baier for misappropriation of public funds.

The Tyler County Grand Jury no- billed the case. Councilman Priddy noted that the criminal charge was a waste of taxpayer dollars and said it indicates that Councilman Baier is not interested in working with other members of the council. He asked for Councilman Baier to resign. Councilman Baier responded that he would not resign, and that he felt that misappropriation of public funds was justified.

Returning to council business, a special guest, Randy Blanks, was present and spoke about agenda items related to the Community Developmental Block Grant Street Improvement Project for the city.

Blanks summarized the activities that have occurred with the notification of the award of the grant to the city in August and let council members know that staff from the Texas Department of Agriculture will make a site visit to Durwood Drive in the coming weeks.

Councilman Priddy made a motion to continue with the Community Development Block Grant and the motion passed unanimously.

Next, council heard from Supervisor of Dams Rusty Harrison. He reported that the guardrail repairs on Charmaine were completed and that the portion of guardrail from the dam that is still in good condition will be utilized for replacing the guardrail at Camelot dam low water crossing.

The security liaison for the city reported that August was a quiet month with 34 calls including four for criminal mischief, three for disturbances, three for animal complaints, three for thefts and two for burglaries.

In a report from the liaison for streets, councilman Priddy reported that 39 hours of grading occurred during August while the streets had sufficient moisture to work and the grader operator was available. Priddy and Morris also met with a contractor that will overlay hot mix on a badly deteriorating section of paved street. The contractor was authorized to overlay a 165-foot- by-16 foot portion of Charmaine Drive at a cost of $5,400.

The council also approved Timberlakes Construction as the business which will provide routine street and right of way maintenance for 2015.

The Mayor added that he has asked Timberlakes Construction to look into acquiring equipment that could be used in overlay projects and possibly save the city money for such future projects.

Spurger ISD gets highest possible score on FIRST rating, tables action on handbook

by Emily Waldrep

Spurger ISD held its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on September 18. Before the regular meeting, the board held a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the FIRST rating. Spurger ISD got a score of 7 on the rating, which is the highest score possible.

The board also discussed a recent professional development audit. According to Superintendent Joe Fisher, last year the state did an audit in a sampling of schools across Texas. Spurger was chosen as one of the schools.

The audit required a visit from the state, the review of documents from the district regarding professional development, focus groups, surveys and Internet meetings.

The results declared that Spurger ISD is doing professional development right and can hopefully be a role model of how districts can be evaluated in the future, Fisher said.

Next, the board discussed transportation goals. The board decided to purchase a new car, a Ford Focus, to make mandatory trips to Beaumont with students. They also contracted with an online auction company called Lemmons to handle the auction of old buses that need to be sold.

The board then discussed the student and teacher handbooks and making changes to dress and grooming codes. At the last meeting, it was decided that Principal Shumake would talk to student council and student committees to get an idea of what changes or additions students would like to see in the handbook.

Some board members had an issue with changing the handbook or changing the grooming and dress code rules.

"The more you let them do, the more fight you have on your hands," board president Eddie Jordan said.

Some members, however, want to relax the rules so that "teachers can spend less time policing and more time educating."

"We have 19th century rules with 21st century people," said board member Chris Sheffield. "If we aren't willing to validate the students opinion, then why are we here?"

There was no action taken on the handbook as it is an ongoing discussion with the board.

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on October 16.

DETCOG Board Hears that Disaster Recovery Housing Program Well Underway

Woodville, Texas – Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Executive Director, Walter Diggles, announced Thursday that that the DETCOG/Texas General Land Office (TxGLO) Hurricane Ike Disaster Recovery Housing Program has forty two site constructed and manufactured housing units (MHU) assigned to approved contractors. Diggles said that the building and placement of twenty two of those homes and MHU's is underway with four already completed.

The report to the board also noted that another job creating loan in DETCOG's Hurricane Ike Disaster Recovery Forgivable Loan Program was closed this month. Two others from Nacogdoches are scheduled to be closed in the next 30 days. The Texas General Land Office has just approving another of the loans for a business in Jasper. The contract paperwork for that loan will need to be prepared by DETCOG's attorney. That leaves three of the job creating loans still pending in the environmental review process.

Chester Council cancels November elections

by Michael G. Maness

Mayor C. E. Lawrence convened the Chester City Council on Monday night, Sept. 1, at its regularly scheduled meeting.

After approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, council approved the financial statements for the city and Chester Gas System. Included in the financials were an annual audit by Axley and Robe of Lufkin.
Council proceeded to cancel the November election. The mayor's position and two alderman positions were up for re-election. Lawrence re-applied for mayor, John Wayne Davis reapplied for alderman and Floyd Petri applied for the spot vacated by Eric Holton. With no opponents and the timeline for other applicants passed, those who applied will move into office after the election in November.

The council approved the bid submitted by Records Consultants Inc. to clean and prepare the city's records according to Texas' records retention schedule. Councilwoman Charlotte Barnes took the lead and will be contacting RCI to proceed. For about $3,500, RCI will comb through the records, prepare nearly 80 percent for destruction based upon an estimate, destroy the records no longer needed to be in compliance, develop a plan for retaining those records that need to be kept, and send the proper documentation to Austin. RCI estimated that about 72 of the 90 boxes of documents may be able to be vacated, which would free up a lot of needed space.

The council voted to designate the city secretary as their official records management officer.
The council looked at several applications for part-time office help, with a salary based upon experience. A few applicants looked very promising, and the council is planning to interview next month. They will continue to take applications to the end of the month. Anyone interested is encouraged to come by and get an application or call (936) 969-2360.