County Officials Convene For Special Budget Meeting

by Stephen R. Juneau

County officials convened for a special budget meeting the morning of August 2, 2016 in Tyler County's Courthouse. Jackie Skinner, County Auditor, provided handouts detailing the county's budget. Ms. Skinner gave a positive report on the county's financial standing in today's challenging world. It was the result of responsible budgeting on the part of decision makers staying informed of current trends and laws by attending workshops for efficient governing, as well as their seeking out the best solutions in serving the people of Tyler County. This special budget meeting included the consideration to the rising cost of medical care for incarcerated individuals held in the county jail.

Ms. Skinner cited the medical cost on one inmate as being $6,500 every two weeks in order to meet the requirement of the law. In seeking out a more efficient means of handling medical needs of county inmates, officials are considering contracting with Southern Health Partners, a leading provider of customized inmate healthcare serving over 200 city and county detention centers across 13 states, including 20 counties in Texas.

Tim Quintana, marketing representative for Southern Health Partners, having served 38 years in Law Enforcement, offered his company's solution to the county's rising cost for inmate medical care. The base price for the county would be $6,400 monthly for up to 30 inmates with an additional $1.25 per day {around $38.00 per month} for each inmate above the thirty. Tyler County is currently housing 31 inmates in the Tyler County Jail.

Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy, noted that 50% of the earnings of inmates is put on their books {escrow} for expenses incurred by those individuals, including that of their medical cost. However, there are times when costs outweighs the escrow of certain inmates. That burden then rests with tax payers: the reason to consider greater efficiency for medical care on the part of inmates held in the county jail.

Quintana then stated: ‟The idea behind contracting with Southern Health Partners would be to take responsibility off the county and pass it on to us. If it does not work out, there is no long term commitment on the county and we can part ways." He went on to say that the base medical package includes a twice monthly on-site local physician / medical provider, as well as an RN for 20 hours a week; and 24/7 on call RN availability. The package sets out to reducing the high cost of unnecessary medical treatments including those at ER facilities through the screening of inmates requesting medical attention. The plan also includes overnight–pharmaceutical deliveries as well as the following services: Mental Health Care, Laboratory and Diagnostic Services, Medical Records Management, Patient and Correctional Staff Training with necessary manuals.
Commissioners will decide on the plan in a follow up budget meeting scheduled for August 29, at 9:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House.

Donece Gregory, County Clerk, mentioned of upcoming elections. They are: Warren ISD School Board on August 16 with Early Voting from August 1 – 12; Spurger ISD School Board on August 27 with Early Voting from August 10 - 23; and, the General Election on Nov. 8 with Early Voting from Oct. 24 – Nov. 4.

County officials present at this commissioners' meeting were: Jackie Skinner, Auditor who presided over the meeting; Martin Nash, Pct. 1; Rusty Hughes, Pct. 2; Mike Marshall, Pct. 3; Sue Saunders, Treasurer; Donece Gregory, County Clerk; Lynette Cruise, Tax Collector; Bryan Weatherford, Sheriff; and Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy. Tim Quintana, Marketing Representative with Southern Health Partners was guest presenter.

Commissioners regularly schedule meetings are held on the 2nd Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House. In observance of holidays that fall on the 2nd Monday, they convene on Tuesdays.

City of Chester reconsiders staff

by Michael G. Maness

City of Chester will continue to hire some part-time help to aid city Director of Public Works Dale Clamon.

Mayor Pro Tem Gale Williams convened the council at their regular time Monday evening, Aug. 1. Light discussion on the bills preceded the reading of the minutes by City Secretary Annette Hickman.

The financials were approved without much comment.

A lengthy discussion over the park ensued. Not a lot was able to be done in July. The help they had been receiving from community service was coming to an end, and Councilman Floyd Petri tendered the refilling of the fulltime position.
After reviewing the finances, including the decrease in revenue, the council concluded that they will continue to hire part-time help to aid Clamon. Given all the duties Clamon already has, if the park was to continue to be renovated and upgraded, he will need help.

From the previous council meeting, the council has confided in Petri to lead the renovation. Councilman Vincent Incardona noted that they had savings enough to continue the renovation. Clamon mentioned the cost of wire and conduit, and the council seemed to concur that they proceed with upgrades as they are able.

The intention to go into executive session did not seem needed, and the council adjourned their rather brisk meeting in good spirits.

Chester ISD hires new principal

Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard from Huntington, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18. Shown, from left, are Jake David, Bryan Martin, Superintendent Corey Hines, Havard, President Ray McKnight, Cheryl Barnes, Steve Havis, Vernon Lewis and Wade Read.Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard from Huntington, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18. Shown, from left, are Jake David, Bryan Martin, Superintendent Corey Hines, Havard, President Ray McKnight, Cheryl Barnes, Steve Havis, Vernon Lewis and Wade Read.

by Michael G. Maness

Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18.
CISD President Ray McKnight convened the board, member Vernon Lewis led the invocation, and McKnight led the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

The board approved the consent agenda after a small discussion on the finances, chiefly over the payment to SECCA and Superintendent Corey Hines' explanation that SECCA was well worth their cost as they filled out the complicated federal paperwork for the fed money the school receives for its title programs.

The board moved next month's ISD board meeting to Aug. 30 and set the 16th for their public tax hearing program. They also approved the tax rate of 1.04 percent for M.O. and 1.06 for I.M.F.
Hines reported that the attendance was 181, but would increase soon with his children and the new employees' children. He would have had a more detailed report, but two hours prior to the evening meeting the power went out because of a storm. The power had just been restored prior to the scheduled meeting.

After returning from a closed executive session, the board hired Havard as the school's new principal. She comes from Huntington, where she had taught for nine years, and Huntington and Hudson have been home until her move to Chester. Her daughter was with her, and they were both excited for this new post.

The board also hired William Williford to teach science, Cathy Buckner for technology, Dwayne Armstrong to coach and teach social studies and Jeremy Wooten to coach and teach P.E.

Chester tightens gas payment procedures

by Michael G. Maness

Chester City Council was convened by Mayor Pro Tem Gale Williams on Monday evening, July 11, the meeting deferred from the regular time of first Monday because of the July 4 weekend.
After a few concerns on a bill, the financials were approved.

Concern over the past due customers with the Chester Gas Company continued to be discussed with the council determined to enforce policy. A long discussion included a review of the policy set forth in the 1980s. Ever desiring to keep the best interests of their customers, the city and company in mind, it was determined that a "Lock Out" letter specifying a clear time will be sent. Such action was not easy, for the council appeared to want to work with all in as fair and generous a way as possible, while also being fair to all customers. It was also clear that several customers appeared unresponsive to previous notices, and the city will be locking those out according to the company's forthcoming letter.

As training of the new part-time office employee progresses, there was a consensus that the office start and develop a complete job description, including weekly, monthly and annual duties. Given the 30-plus years of dedication by City Secretary Annette Hickman, it was a given that she was valuable and the multitude of her tasks would clearly overwhelm any new staffers should something happen to Hickman. Hickman outlined some of her duties and the need for some flexibility as each day varies. A list of duties will be started by the part-time employee as the council progresses. Councilman Floyd Petri mentioned that such a job description also helped the employee, as well as the city, when it came to assess a raise. The need for such during an emergency predominated the concerns.

A previous adjustment on the employee insurance was rescinded in the best interests of the city and its employees.

Petri gave the council an update on the work of the city park. Some progress was being made, including the eaves, painting, and so forth. He was willing to be the council's designee, if they so wished, to insure the work was done and progressed.

Woodville City Council approves application for Police Body Camera grant

by Jim Powers

Woodville City Council Monday approved a request from Woodville Police Chief Scott Yosko to apply for a matching grant to equip Woodville Police officers with body worn cameras. The grant requires a 25 percent match, which would amount to between $8,000 and $9,000. Woodville City Administrator Mandy Risinger said that there is sufficient money in the department's capitol account to cover the match; but, the application is the start of the process and the money would actually come from next year's budget.

Risinger had several reports for Council, including a reminder that the first day to apply for candidacy for the November election is July.

A disaster recovery grant for the water well at the Industrial Park is underway, Risinger said. The well driller has completed his portion of the job, and the waterline tie-in is underway. The project is nearing conclusion.

Risinger also reported on the attempt to get recovery funds for culvert damage that happened during the March 10 flooding at MLK and Shivers, Barlow Hill Road and Beach Street and Holland. There is a new project manager, and everything is in the works to obtain funding to make those repairs. Several other disaster related grants are also in the works.

Risinger also explained that after a lapse of four years, because of a change in the way Community Development Block Grants were handled, the City is again in an advantageous position to obtain the grant. The City's last CDBG funded grant was in 2011-2012. The City has used these grants for infrastructure in the past. Water and sewer projects have been. She said that a Public Hearing would be held in the future to consider what project to pursue and give the public opportunity to comment.

In other action, the Mayor appointed Councilmen Lee Mann and Byron Lowe to represent the City on the budget committee.

WISD Board Meeting recognizes STAR 2016 Honor Graduates

by Darby Kethan

The packed community room Thursday, May 19, on the WISD elementary campus was a wonderful recognition of the 2016 Honor Graduates, UIL One Act Play State Qualifying Cast and Crew, HOSA National qualifier, and State and State Track and Field Qualifier and STAR (Superintendents Team for Academic Recognition) students.

Following the presentation of certificates to the students, Board President Tony Castillo recognized and thanked the parents for their support of students, transporting to and from practices, and expressed the school's appreciation of the efforts made in behalf of the students and recognized the instructional staff and teachers for supporting kids.

Sergio Ramos, who is completing 50 years in education in Woodville, recognized tennis team members and expressed his pride in the students and appreciation to the assistant coach who stepped in to continue supporting the team members during Ramos' recent illness and recovery.

Superintendent Conner expressed appreciation to the WISD Board for recognizing the students and expressed appreciation to a motivated instructional staff and parents for the support they provide for students.

Financial reports for the month ending April 30 were presented and approved by all board members.

The approval of a purchase of a new 77 passenger bus, part of a yearly purchase plan in which one bus is retired as a new one is bought, was brought before the board. Board member Dingler questioned whether the bus would be equipped with seat belts or not. Superintendent Conner responded that choosing seatbelts would be a board decision. Discussion included questions about how much to fit the new bus with seatbelts ($10,000) and the expense to retrofit currently owned busses ($25,000, each). Assistant Superintendent Jarrott said that statistically, bus accidents are rare. Other concerns expressed also included if one bus only were equipped, which students would ride that, (the newest bus is considered a "trip bus", used for out of town trips), and concerns about extricating students who were in belts in case of accident. The bus purchase, no seat belts, was approved by all.

The board was asked to approve a Full Day Pre-kindergarten Program for Woodville ISD 2016-17 school year. Superintendent Conner suggested a cap on 50 students for full day with students first coming from eligible Pre K students, ESL students, and then others, as space allows. The school will receive a $25,600 High Quality PreK Grant funding which may be used on additional personnel, classroom supplies and training.

Board member Shaw expressed concerns he had received from the community about the PreK full day program regarding the student/certified teacher ratio, how much and what kind of training the staff will receive for the implementation of the new program, the time frame for the training and the transportation arrangements for students. Laura Willis, Curriculum Coordinator responded to the concerns. Approval of Full Day Pre-kindergarten Program passed by a majority of 5-1, Mr. Shaw voting against.

The Superintendent's report included summer maintenance work and storm damage repairs. STAAR testing early results look good despite a spate of problems that created testing issues, such as computer glitches, and missing answer choices for multiple choice questions.

Seven district Instructional grants have been awarded for innovative technology programs for the upcoming school year and the request for funding for the PreK grant has been approved. Conner was questioned regarding the issue of transgender bathroom facilities and he stated that those needing such a facility will be appropriately accommodated.

Project Graduation '17 is being considered with a volunteer from the community to head up the program. This program has been successful here in the past but has not been held for several years and will be a welcome addition.