Leaders meet to discuss issues affecting youth

By Beverly Cockrell
and Lew Vail

CORRIGAN – "It takes a village to raise a child," as an old African proverb states, expressing the importance of the family and community connection in society. The same holds true for Corrigan, Texas.

On Tuesday, November 1, members of the clergy, business leaders and community officials met at the high school with school officials by invitation of Corrigan-Camden Superintendent of Schools Sherry Hughes. Hughes requested this meeting in an effort to start a conversation about combating the problems of many of the children in our community face and to hopefully initiate an outreach program in an effort to focus on doing more to make our children successful and happy.

Hughes listed her goals, and noted the importance on focusing on positive, open lines of communication with all groups, and celebrating C-CISD. She noted that all members of the school board attended C-CISD, and were all proud to serve their school.

Even though Hughes led the meeting, she was quick to point out it would take the community as a whole to combat the problems facing our kids. And, she also reminded the audience that these "problems" are really not new they are simply in a different form.

Hughes presented the issues that she sees in the schools such as low grades, discipline issues, and other factors. She added that the schools need to be "connected" to the community's businesses and places of worship. In discussing strategies, Hughes quoted this line about students: "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise." As many heads in the room nodded, she then told them Socrates wrote it in 600 BC. Children are no different now then way back in history.

Hughes pointed out when talking to students, they complained there is nothing to do in Corrigan. However, the school offers a variety of after regular school hours activities such as athletics, UIL academic preparation, student council activities on all three campuses, Learn to be a Leader programs, band, choir, FFA, track and Bible club.

One local minister said he felt that when they took prayer out of school, it was a mistake. Hughes responded that students still pray in school but no prayers are led by teachers or the administration. Just last week one students lead a prayer for a fellow student who is having health issues. They also pray before sporting activates and they assemble for the See You at the Pole prayer each year.

In addition, the school started using state funds to help pay tuition for Angelina College courses that students can take to get a leg up on a degree. There are also several two-year programs they can take leading to employment after graduation, such a phlebotomy, certified nurse's aide, welding certification as well as the woodworking program that could lead to employment at the new RoyOMartin OSB mill now under construction in Corrigan.

There were comments and suggestions from the audience.

One question arose about the possibility of drug testing all students. Hughes said only those in extracurricular activities have signed releases allowing the school to perform the tests. Parents can request their children be tested but the school cannot randomly do testing.

C-C Elementary Principal Barbara Roden pointed out that on a happier note, she has witnessed more students being respectful and polite with each other and with teachers this year more than in years past.

Angela Ener made the point that all of us should set good examples for our children to follow.
Pastor Phil Corbett and his wife Rachel were also present and stressed the importance of keeping an open door for the youth to talk about their problems and concerns. They have raised their family here in Corrigan but are concerned and anxious to do whatever it will take to help.

Corrigan Mayor Johnna Gibson said that this year instead of having the annual Winterfest, on the city square at the beginning of the holiday season, the city is "trying to get [singer and motivational speaker] Panda Ross" back to town on Saturday, December 3, for a type of "youth rally."

Susan Torrez, C-CHS Principal, recommended a character development program that could be emphasized and correlated between churches, community officials, business leaders, and school campuses. This character program would be a unified effort on the part of all to focus on specific character traits for the month or whatever time frame decided upon. A majority of audience was in agreement that the character development program should be implemented.
On Monday, November 7, Mrs. Hughes stated that she is "researching the character program Susan mentioned. She found her resources and brought them to me. My goal is to share the program with all groups inside our school district boundary lines. I am not sure which direction this endeavor will take us, but we have to take chance."

Trump favored by Polk Countians

LIVINGSTON – While voters nationally appeared to favor Donald Trump for president by a narrow margin, locally voters turned out heavily in favor of the Republican nominee, according to vote totals available at press time.

In the hotly contested national race, Trump carried Polk County by a vote of 15,106 (76.3%) to Hillary Clinton's 4,146. Other candidates and their local vote included Libertarian Gary Johnson, who garnered 361 votes and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who received 82 Polk County votes.

With some votes left to be count, state-wide totals indicated Trump also carried Texas by a margin of about 4.3 million (52.2%) to about 3.6 million.

Nationally, Trump was narrowly edging Clinton at press time and was leading slightly in the popular vote and in the electoral college tally.

In other races on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) easily defeated Green Party challenger Hal J. Ridley the District 36 race by a vote of 137,053 (89.4%) to 16,327. In Polk County Babin received 15,337 votes (90.7%) compared to Ridley's 1,575.

The Polk County vote in the statewide races, included:
Railroad Commissioner
Wayne Christian (REP): 13,803
Grady Yarbrough (DEM): 3,870
Mark Miller (LIB): 763
Martina Salinas (GRN): 279
Justice, Supreme Court,
Place 3
Debra Lehrmann (REP): 13,985
Mike Westergren (DEM): 3,810
Kathie Glass (LIB): 672
Rodolfo Rivera Munoz (GRN): 221
Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5
Paul Green (REP): 14,182
Dori Contreras Garza (DEM): 3,796
Tom Oxford (LIB): 484
Charles E. Waterbury (GRN): 232
Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9
Eva Guzman (REP): 13,825
Savannah Robinson (DEM): 3,915
Don Fulton (LIB): 588
Jim Chisholm (GRN): 322
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2:
Mary Lou Keel (REP): 13,954
Lawrence "Larry" Meyers (DEM): 3,885
Mark Ash (LIB): 585
Adam King Blackwell Reposa (GRN): 173
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5:
Scott Walker (REP): 14,162
Betsy Johnson (DEM): 3,833
William Bryan Strange III (LIB): 430
Judith Sanders-Castro (GRN): 212
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6
Michael E. Keasler (REP): 13,946
Robert Burns (DEM): 3,952
Mark W. Bennett (LIB): 634
Member, State Board of Education, District 8
Barbara Cargill (REP): 15,069
State Representative, District 19
James White (REP): 15,416
Justice, 9th Court of Appeals District, Place 2:
Charles A. Kreger (REP): 14,855

Local incumbents win new terms

CORRIGAN – Polk County Sheriff Kenneth Hammack and 411th District Judge Kaycee Jones won new four-year terms by wide margins while Mike Nettles, Scott Paske and John Allen Slocomb appeared to have claimed the three at-large Livingston Independent School District seats during Tuesday's elections.

Hammack, who was the Republican Party nominee, defeated his Democrat challenger, Bobby L. Watson, by a vote of 14,721 (77.6%) to 4,247 in the county-wide general election.
Jones, whose judicial district includes Polk, San Jacinto and Trinity counties, held off the write-in challenge of Livingston attorney John Wells. Jones, who was unchallenged in the Republican Primary earlier this year, received a total vote of 25,683 (88.9%) compared to Wells' 3,206.
In the unofficial vote breakdown by county, Polk County favored Jones by a margin of 13,523 (85.4%) to 2,318, San Jacinto County gave Jones a winning margin of 7,672 (91.9) to 676 and Trinity County sided with Jones by a count of 4,488 (95.5%) to 212.

The overall voter turnout in the election was considered to be high and narrowly missed the county's record turnout of 20,323 set during the 2008 general election. In that race, over 52.9 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots.

In this election, a total of 19,903 voters turned out, which is about 51.7 percent of the 38,533 voters currently registered.

The only other local contested races were for the three at-large seats on the LISD school board. This marked the first time that the local school board race appeared on the same ballot with the general election administered by the county.

During the early voting period, there was some confusion regarding who was eligible to vote in the LISD races but county officials worked to correct the situation. There was no official word Tuesday night on whether any of the candidates would contest the election but reportedly complaints regarding the ballot confusion have been filed with the state.

In this race, voters could select up to three of the eight candidates in the race to fill the positions. Because they are all at-large seats, the three who garner the most votes win the positions.

The preliminary totals announced Tuesday night listed incumbent board member Nettles in first and newcomers Paske and Slocomb in second and third. The totals will remain unofficial until the election is canvassed by the school board and results are accepted.

Following are the unofficial totals announced late Tuesday:
• Nettles: 3,189 (19.25%)
• Paske: 3,110 (18.78%)
• Slocomb: 1,906 (11.51%)
• Kevin Wooten: 1,872 (11.30%)
• Matt Anderson: 1,752 (10.58%)
• Kevin Grimm: 1,621 (9.79%)
• Incumbent Henry O. Ager III: 1,592 (9.62%)
• KaSaundra Leggett: 1,521 (9.18%
In addition, there were a number of uncontested races for county and precinct offices on Tuesday's general election ballot in which only the incumbent officials sought the offices. All were nominated during the Republican primary earlier this year.
The incumbents who were re-elected and their vote totals included:
• District Clerk Bobbye Richards: 15,366
• County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks: 15,695
• Pct. 1 County Commissioner Bob Willis: 6,310
• Pct. 3 County Commissioner Milton Purvis: 2,317
• Pct. 1 Constable Scott Hughes: 6,338
• Pct. 2 Constable William (Bill) Cunningham: 3,315
• Pct. 3 Constable Ray Myers: 2,303
• Pct. 4 Constable Dana G. (Bubba) Piper: 3,389

Sheriff’s Office seeking leads on tractor theft

On September 5, 2016 a theft was reported at MSC Landscaping off of U.S. Hwy 190 W, in Livingston. During the early morning hours, two Kubota tractors were stolen from the property.
The suspects entered from the rear of the property off of Forest Hills Loop. If you have any information please contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 936-327-6810 or call Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP where you can remain anonymous and may collect a cash reward for information leading to an arrest.

Commissioners vote to put Reily building up for sale; new county budget adopted

By Greg Peak
Area News Editor
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LIVINGSTON – A new $28.4 million budget that calls for a 2.5 percent cost of living raise for all county employees was adopted Tuesday by the Polk County Commissioners Court during their regular meeting.

The adoption followed a public hearing at which no one appeared to speak either for or against the new spending plan, which now goes into effect on Oct. 1 for the 2017 fiscal year.

Expenditures in the plan are up by about $500,000 from the almost $27.9 million budget adopted one year ago for FY 2016. Revenues projected under the FY 2017 adopted Tuesday are listed at $28.7 million.

To support the budget, commissioners also approved an overall tax rate of 64.61 cents per $100 in assessed value, which is unchanged from the rate adopted one year ago. Under the rate, a homeowner with a taxable value of $100,000 can expect to pay $646.10 in county taxes this year.

The overall rate is actually a combination of two tax rates. The Interest and Sinking (I&S) portion of the rate is 11.22 cents and is earmarked to pay off the county's existing debt. The second part is for Maintenance and Operation (M&O), which covers everything else in the county's budget. The M&O figure includes a tax rate of 38.68 cents to fund the county's general fund and 14.71 cents to fund the road and bridge departments.

During the coming year, the tax rate is expected to generate almost $19.16 million, a total that is down by a little over $3,000 from the amount collected last year.

The slight drop in property tax income is expected to be more than offset by substantial increases in other income, such as the sales tax, which is expected to increase by more than $180,000; fees for services, which is projected to grow by almost $52,000; auto registration/vehicle license fees, which is expected to increase by $15,000; federal/state funding, which is listed as increasing by over $54,000; and "other revenue," which is projected to increase by over $543,000.

M.G. Reily Building
During the meeting, commissioners agreed to put the M.G. Reily Humanitarian Building in Corrigan up for sale pending the relocation of its sole occupant, the Corrigan Clinic.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis explained that Dr. Carlton Lewis is the only occupant in the building and there is an effort underway to relocate his office to a more modern facility in Corrigan.

Purvis said the building, which was originally built as a small hospital, is old and the cost of maintaining it is becoming a problem.

"Right now it needs a new roof so we're talking $100,000 or more," Purvis said.
Commissioners agreed that before any final action can be taken to sell the building, arrangements must be made to relocate the clinic. Purvis noted because the current lease expires in October, he may come back to ask for extensions of a "month or two" in order to accommodate the doctor.

County leases
In other action, the commissioners agreed to move forward on a plan to develop a consistent policy on leasing office space in county-owned buildings.

County Judge Sydney Murphy noted that currently the county leases space to non-profit groups, state agencies and private businesses.

In terms of the non-profit groups, Murphy said the county had different deals with each group that ranged from leases of $1 per year up to 25 cents per square foot per month.

The judge recommended that as the leases renew, the non-profits be charged 10 cents per square foot in county buildings located outside of Livingston and 20 cents per square foot for office space inside Livingston.

"We want to do what we can to help the non-profit groups because we want to keep the services that they provide to the county," she said.

She also recommended that a "fair market value" fee be established for leases to private businesses regardless of the location of the county buildings.

"We don't need to use tax dollars to subsidize a private business," she said, noting that by paying a lower than fair market rent for space would give a business an unfair advantage over its competition.

Other business
During the meeting, commissioners also:
• Approved a request from Sheriff Kenneth Hammack to create a security committee to assist in the development of crisis management procedures in the event of emergencies at the Polk County Courthouse and the Polk County Judicial Center. Hammack said the group will be asked to help create things like a plan to insure that county employees and visitors can be identified as safely evacuating in the event of a fire, bomb threat or active shooter situation.
• Approved a request from Hammack to create a citizens' advisory committee to make recommendations regarding a county animal shelter.
• Approved a request from the Americare ambulance service authorizing the company to create a membership program to provide coverage for a portion of the charges incurred in as medically necessary ambulance transport. Under the plan, those without insurance could join for $69 which would cover half the cost of their ambulance bill. It was noted that the program would be regulated by the state but that the county had to authorize the program.
• Agreed to continue the county's regulation of wrecker services with the sheriff's department conducting the inspections and collecting the fees.
• Approved three resolutions recommended by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and the Texas Association of Counties. The resolutions (1) request the legislature to fully fund the indigent criminal defense fund; (2) express opposition to efforts to limit local control and any attempts to impose revenue caps on counties; and (3) support a constitutional amendment expressly prohibiting the state from imposing mandatory programs on counties unless they are fully funded by the state.

Pitts speaks at hurricane preparedness clinic

By Chris Edwards
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CORRIGAN – The City of Corrigan hosted a hurricane preparedness clinic on Monday evening at the Sechrest Webster Community Center.

Polk County Emergency Coordinator Larry Pitts spoke before a small crowd, mostly comprised of city officials and first responders, and outlined some of the most important aspects of being prepared for disasters, both of the natural persuasion and otherwise.

Pitts said early in the clinic that although the event was primarily focused on getting people mindful and prepared for hurricanes, other types of emergencies, such as terroristic acts are possible in any location.

Pitts said that Polk County is a region full of self-sufficient people, an important factor in surviving a disaster. In an event such as a hurricane, it is necessary to "plan on being self-sufficient for at least three days," he said. Pitts also explained how and why several items, such as generators, were important to have on hand, and why it is important for everyone to have an emergency kit.

Having up-to-date phone numbers and checking-in on elderly and/or shut-in neighbors are other considerations for residents to make in case of a disaster.

"It's that time of year," Pitts said, "and we don't' want to wait until [a hurricane] comes up to the Gulf." Pitts spoke of his experience in working as the county emergency coordinator, an area he began working in during Hurricane Rita.

Pitts also outlined the methods by which assistance comes to disaster-stricken areas, and that one important reason it is necessary to be self-sufficient in a time of disaster is because assistance from different agencies can take a while to come through. As far as what can be done at the county level in the face of such emergencies, Pitts said "We're going to do the best we can do."

According to Pitts, Polk County is what is referred to as a "pass-through" county and not a shelter county in the event of a huge evacuation. However, as he explained when answering questions from the audience, area residents will be taken care of.

It is necessary for families to discuss plans for what to do during a disaster as well as the possibility of having to evacuate, Pitts said. He urged everyone to "make sure your family is taken care of" first and foremost.

Pitts spent some time stressing the importance of volunteers in Polk County, particularly the firefighters who work for the VFDs in the area. "In the position I'm in now, I see how much they really do. Firemen are handy people."

Ultimately Pitts said it was paramount for everyone to have their own plan for the worst-case scenario. "There's going to be things that come up that we're not prepared for...we have to do the best we can do," he said.