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Despite slight rise, January jobless rate lowest in 15 years for Polk County

LIVINGSTON – Although Polk County's unemployment rate once again climbed above the 6 percent mark in January, the 6.2 percent figure recorded for the month was the lowest January jobless figure in 15 years.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), while the January unemployment rate was up by six tenths of a point from December's 5.6 percent number, it was a full point below the 7.2 percent rate recorded one year earlier.

The lowest January rate recorded by the county since 2000 was the 6.3 percent figure posted in 2007. The alltime high jobless figure listed for the county occurred in January 2010 when local unemployment reached 10.5 percent.
The 6.2 percent January rate – which is the latest rate available from TWC – translates to mean that out of an estimated workforce of 17,138, there were 1,060 county residents looking for work during the month. One month earlier, TWC's revised estimates put the local labor force at 17,124 with 965 looking for jobs.

The January figures were released Friday, March 6, and were delayed while TWC incorporated revisions in their methodology required by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Statewide, January's actual unem­ployment rate of 4.6 percent was up from December's 4.1 percent but well below the 5.7 percent jobless figure recorded in January 2014.

When seasonal factors are added to the equation, the state's January adjusted unemployment rate was listed at 4.4 percent, which was down slightly from the 4.6 percent posted for December and well below the 5.5 percent listed in January 2014.

The actual national unemploy­ment rate for January was listed at 6.1 percent, which was up from the 5.4 percent figure recorded in December. It was down from the 7.0 percent number posted in January 2014.
The January sea­sonally adjusted U.S. rate of 5.7 percent was up from the 5.6 percent listed in December but well below the 6.6 percent rate listed for January 2014.

According to TWC officials, Texas employers added 20,100 seasonally adjusted total non-farm jobs in Janaury for a total of 392,900 jobs over the past 12 months.

Nine of 11 major industries saw an increase in jobs in Texas in January and were led by the 10,900 positions added in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector. An additional 4,800 jobs were added in Professional and Business Services, 3,600 in Information service and 1,800 in Leisure and Hospitality.

After rebounding in December with the addition of 4,900 jobs, Mining and Logging employment fell by 3,400 jobs in January.

From among the 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) monitored by TWC, the Midland MSA had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.6 percent. The Odessa and Amarillo MSAs were tied in second place at 3.3 percent while the Lubbock MSA was listed at 3.5 percent.

The MSAs with the highest jobless rate in January was the McAllen–Edinburg–Mission MSA at 8.3 percent. The Brownsville-Harlingen MSA was next at 7.7 percent and the Beaumont-Port Arthur MSA was third from the top after recording a rate of 7.1 percent.

Unemployment rates posted for other East Texas counties include:

JAN. %
COUNTY RATE CHANGE
Anderson 4.3 0.5
Angelina 4.8 0.5
Cherokee 5.3 0.5
Grimes 4.6 0.8
Hardin 5.5 0.5
Harris 4.5 0.5
Houston 5.2 0.7
Jasper 7.7 0.9
Jefferson 7.4 0.6
Leon 4.9 0.4
Liberty 6.5 0.8
Madison 4.4 0.3
Montgomery 4.0 0.5
Nacogdoches 4.8 0.7
Polk 6.2 0.6
Sabine 9.9 0.2
San Augustine 9.2 0.5
San Jacinto 5.4 0.7
Shelby 5.0 0.3
Trinity 5.8 0.6
Tyler 7.2 0.5
Walker 4.8 0.4

County sales tax income continues upward trend

LIVINGSTON – Polk County sales tax income continued to climb in February, jumping almost 19 percent over the amount collected one year earlier.

According to a report issued by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Polk County's February rebate check totalled $229,618.954.49, figure that was up by 18.9 percent or $36,482.98 from February 2014's $193,471.51.

This marked the fifth – the strongest – consecutive monthly increase reported for the county. It follows a $319.99 or 0.2 percent gain in October, a $5,246 or 2.9 percent growth in November, a $8,149,15 or 4.9 percent rise in December and a $6,856.37 or 4.2 percent gain in January.

The lastest payment is the second highest ever received by the county in February, coming in behind the $271,501.55 payment collected in February 2007.

During the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, the county has received $935,152.68 from the sales tax, a total that is up by $57,054.49 or just 6.5 percent over the total received during the same five-month period under the 2014 budget.
Hegar's office collects the county and city sales taxes along with the state tax and sends the local entities a rebate for their share each month.

Polk County collects a 0.5 percent tax on sales while the cities of Livingston, Onalaska and Corrigan assess a 1.5 percent tax. Goodrich and Seven Oaks each have a 1 percent sales tax.

The February check represents taxes collected by local merchants in December and reported to the comptroller in January by monthly filers. It also includes taxes collected in October, November and December by businesses that file quarterly reports.

While the county's sales tax income increased in February, all five cities also reported gains. Livingston's payment increased by almost 48.1 percent, Onalaska's rebate was up by almost 12.7 percent, Goodrich's total grew by over 34.3 percent, Seven Oaks was up by more than 33.8 percent compared and Corrigan's payment grew by over 4.1 percent.

Livingston received a February rebate totaling $365,466.80, a figure that was up by $118,754.38 from the $246,712.42 received in February 2014.

With a rebate of $59,354.09, Onalaska's sales tax check was up by $6,676.69 from the $52,677.40 reported one year earlier.

Corrigan's February sales tax rebate was $37,111.19, which was up by $1,466.49 from the $35,644.70 received in February 2014.

During February Goodrich received $2,220.40 in sales tax income, which was up by $567.37 from the $1,653.03 received one year earlier.

Seven Oaks received $1,066.80 in February, which was up by $269.63 from the $797.17 received one year ago.

In his report, Hegar said the state received $2.56 billion in sales tax revenue during the month, which represented a 11.3 percent increase from one year ago.

"The growth in sales tax revenues was led by business spending," Hegar said. "Receipts from the manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors were up sharply. In spite of the recent decline in crude oil prices, tax receipts from the oil and natural gas mining sector also grew strongly.
"This allocation marks the 58th consecutive month of year-over-year growth and is indicative of a dynamic and diverse economy that continues to generate business investment and spending in Texas," Hegar added. "My office will continue to carefully monitor the impact that lower oil prices will have on our state's economy, but these sales tax allocation numbers are an encouraging sign of continued strength."
Texas counties received $54.6 million in rebate checks, up by 10.8 percent compared to one year ago. Cities collected $569.8 million in rebates, which was up by 8.3 percent from February 2014.

In the latest report, Houston received the state's largest check for almost $73.1 million, which was up by 9.1 percent from the $67 million delivered one year ago.
San Antonio's sales tax allocation was $34.7 million, which was up by 7.4 percent from the $32.3 million received one year ago.

The $29.6 million issued to Dallas in February reflects a 12.1 percent increase from the $26.4 million received one year earlier.

The Austin sales tax allocation for February was $20.5 million, which was up by over 10.9 percent from the $18.5 million received one year earlier.

Other area counties that received February rebates included:
• Angelina, which collected $623,061.56, down by 6.4 percent from February 2014.
• Liberty, which collected $399,214.22, up by 3.8 percent from February 2014.
• San Jacinto, which collected $39,695.74, up by 3.2 percent from February 2014.
• Tyler, which collected $65,710.96, down by 5.7 percent from February 2014.
• Walker, which collected $338,684.20, up by 11.1 percent from February 2014.
Other East Texas cities that received Februry rebates included:
• Huntsville received a payment of $828,287.64, which was up by 7.1 percent from one year ago.
• Lufkin received a payment of almost $1.6 million, which was up by 4.8 percent from one year ago.
• Diboll received a payment of $54,571.02, which was up by 14.7 percent from February 2014.
• Cleveland received a payment of $318,817.61, which was up by 2.8 percent from one year ago.
• Liberty received a payment of $318,583.68, which was down by 25 percent from February 2014.
• Woodville received a payment of $108,383.82, which was down by 14.6 percent from February 2014.
• Chester received a payment of $1,336.60, which was down by 16.8 percent from the total collected one year ago.
• Trinity received a payment of $164,565.35, which was up by 10.7 percent from one year ago.
• Shepherd received a payment of $24,925.17, which was up by 2.2 percent from February 2014.
• Coldspring received a payment of $29,048.75, which was up down 7.8 percent from February 2014.

City council members unopposed; two C-CISD board seats challenged

By Kim Popham

CORRIGAN – The last day to sign-up for May's city council and school board election was on Friday, February 27. The ballots are now set for the May 9 elections and in Corrigan, only a couple of school board positions are to be contested.

In the city election, Johnna Lowe Gibson (I) in Position 1 has filed, Johnnie Brooks (I) in Position 3 has filed and Irene Thompson in Position 5 has filed. No one has filed against the incumbents. Gibson, Brooks and Thompson will be welcomed back after the election is likely canceled at the regularly stated City Council meeting on March 17, when it is made an item on the Council's agenda.

In the school board election, Seth Handley (I) and Chris Ricks have filed for Position 4 and Anthony Harrell (I) and Lesly Wilkinson have filed for Position 5.

The election will be held May 9 and early voting will be April 27-May 5.

To vote in Texas, you must be registered. The last day to register for voting in the May 9 election is April 9. Early voting will be April 27 – May 5. Ballots by mail must be received April 30 – May 9.

Voter registration applications may be picked up at a library, any government office or download one from votetexas.gov. Upon acceptance, a voter registration will be effective 30 days from registration.

Completed applications may be mailed to the Polk County Voter Registrar, Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks at 416 N. Washington Livingston, TX 77351. The phone number is (936) 327-6801.

Suspect(s) sought in connection with Corrigan Central arson

ARSON AFTERMATH – Corrigan Central Park after the Monday morning fire. (Photo by Kim Popham)ARSON AFTERMATH – Corrigan Central Park after the Monday morning fire. (Photo by Kim Popham)

By Kim Popham

CORRIGAN – The recently opened city park was vandalized early on Tuesday morning.

According to Corrigan Police Chief Darrell Gibson, an unknown perpetrator set fire to the playground equipment at Corrigan Central Park. At 5:45 a.m., a resident living close to the park called and reported the park was on fire. The park, which is located on MLK Street, was opened to the public last September.

Personnel with the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department and Corrigan Police officer Charles Murray responded to the call.

According to City Manager Darrian Hudman, the damage to the park is valued at approximately $100,000.

The FBI, Texas Fire Marshal's Office and the Corrigan Police Dept. are investigating the fire. Chief Gibson said that the crime is being investigated as an arson, which is a second-degree felony. Gibson also wanted to clarify that it was not being investigated as a potential hate crime. "That's not even on the table," Gibson said. Gibson noted, however, that with more investigation into the damages, the crime could possibly be a potential first-degree felony offense. Initially, damages were assessed at $40,000 before the figure of $100,000 at press time.

The City of Corrigan is offering a $1,000 reward, the Administration by Texas Advisory Council (ATAC) is offering a $1,000 reward and Polk County Crime Stoppers are also offering a $1,000 reward, with a possible total reward of $3,000 from all the participating agencies for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandal or vandals responsible for the damage.

Drake named ‘Polk Countian of the Year’ at Chamber Banquet

Livingston police detective Marty Drake receives the “Polk Countian of the Year” award.Livingston police detective Marty Drake receives the “Polk Countian of the Year” award.

By Brian Besch

The 79th Annual Polk County-Livingston Chamber of Commerce Award Banquet celebrated outstanding community service award recipients for 2014 and recognized the efforts of several chamber members Thursday at the Polk County Commerce Center.

Chamber Executive Director Christi Sullivan was the night's master of ceremonies, while the Go Texan Committee Cookers provided steak dinners to those in attendance. Texas Congressman Brian Babin was on hand to present special commendation awards as was Shawn Dunn of State Rep. James White's staff.

Polk Countian of the Year Marty Drake is a detective with the Livingston Police Department. He is newly elected to the Livingston ISD school board, but does much more.

The officer was responsible for starting many groups and activities in both Onalaska and Livingston ISD when he served at each.

He becomes Coach Drake for three months of the year when he leads the Polk County Go-Getters, a local Special Olympics basketball squad.

An additional transformation is when he is the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department's "Bunker the Safety Clown," teaching fire safety to the children of Polk County.

Drake takes part in SAAFE House, Miss Polk County, Childrenz Haven Gala, Polk County District Attorney's Crime Victims 5K, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Timber Creek Elementary Carnival and City of Livingston Employee Appreciation Banquet, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Lunch and Learns, school employees, bank employees and youth groups — just to name a few.

For the past five years, community service award winner Peggy Huson's association with the Rotary Club has been a large part of her daily activity.

A nurse for 44 years in critical care and case management, most of what Huson did related to career and family.
Huson is part of a group that takes the 'Don't Meth with Me' program from Lufkin to Galveston and throughout Polk County. The nonprofit program began under the umbrella of Rotary, but now stands on its own. In its fifth year of existence, the focus is on educating every fifth grader in Polk County each year on the dangers of methamphetamine.
After just two years with Rotary, Huson was given the Paul Harris Fellow for her contributions to the club. She has been active with Project Play, the Rotary Golf Tournament, and Habitat for Humanity.

Huson is also a large part of the Dolly Parton Library that provides a new book each month from the day the child is born, until his or her fifth birthday.

Kelly Shadix has spearheaded the creation of a home for the history of Corrigan and the surrounding area at the Corrigan Heritage Center. It will include images of artifacts, historic data, and genealogical materials that preserve the history of the north Polk County town.

On the Union Springs Cemetery Board and the Polk County Historical Commission, the community service award winner said she somehow became the town's collector.

As a chamber member, she realized north Polk County had no tourist attraction and hopes the Corrigan Heritage Center can fill that need.

Elfriede Zipprian may have been the biggest winner on the night. The retired registered nurse received a community service award for her endless hours of volunteer work in Polk County.

Before winning the award, she was also acknowledged as the senior ambassador of the year for the second year in a row.

Zipprian loves to travel with friends and visit her family in Germany. She is an active member of the Lions Club and Catholic Church.

She can be found at ribbon cuttings all across the county, helping to welcome new businesses.

Colleen Provasek of First National Bank received ambassador of the year for being a dedicated individual and the example she sets for the rest of the community. She is a past president on the chamber board and currently serves as vice president at First National Bank. On Friday nights in the fall, she can be seen cheering on the Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs.

The 2014 chamber director of the year, Ryan West, has been active in the chamber since joining. She is participates in the Rotary Club, chamber board of directors, and chamber ambassadors. West runs her own business, The Piney Woods Pathfinder.

Also honored at the event were Dan Ellis of Livingston Physical Therapy, Terry Gentle of Lake Livingston Telephone Company, and Jason Pedigo of Pedigo Furniture, Inc. all of whom are retiring directors from the chamber.

Angela Goin received recognition as the 2014 Polk County Chamber Chairperson. She is active in Habitat for Humanity, and has taught on the high school and college level. She has a PhD from Laval University in Quebec and speaks fluent French.

Marty Williams of Lakewood Builders will succeed Goin in serving as the 2015 chairperson.

Officers, K-9s come to Corrigan for AC-sponsored training course

K-9s and their humans – (pictured l to r): Hallsville Police Dept. Sgt. Brian Bass, Corrigan Police Dept. K-9 Officer David Hernandez and Rusk County Pct. 3 Officer Tim Barton pose with their department K-9 officers. (Photo by Kim Popham)K-9s and their humans – (pictured l to r): Hallsville Police Dept. Sgt. Brian Bass, Corrigan Police Dept. K-9 Officer David Hernandez and Rusk County Pct. 3 Officer Tim Barton pose with their department K-9 officers. (Photo by Kim Popham)

By Kim Popham
Times Staff

CORRIGAN – Police officers and their K-9's from all over East Texas came to Corrigan on Tuesday to receive some training that is part of an 8-week K-9 training that is sponsored by Angelina College.

The National Canine Interdiction Association and Angelina College partnered up for this 8-week training in different towns. This week is the third week of the training and the Sechrest-Webster Community Center in Corrigan was the choice of this week's class.

The NCIA serves as a breeding and training facility for police canines. The NCIA is set up to get a statewide setting for the canines and further education. The group trains once a week and the southern division, which Corrigan is located in, trains at Corrigan, Alto and Groveton.

Some of the towns that were represented at the training were Corrigan Police Dept., Rusk County Pct. 3, Smith County Pct. 4, Hallsville Police Dept., Groveton Police Dept. and Alabama Coushatta Police Dept. The goals of the training are narcotics training, apprehension training and tracking training.

According to Corrigan Police Dept. K-9 Officer David Hernandez stated that the police dogs are one of the most effective and diverse tools used in law enforcement.

"Besides being terrific companions, they help the police department and the community by helping search for missing persons and helping keep the drugs off the streets," stated Hernandez.

The Corrigan K-9 is named Heston and he is a rescue dog. Hernandez stated that some depts. spend $20,000 on dogs but the NCIA likes to use rescue dogs and train them up from the ground up.

"The dogs are not used for intimidation, they are not trained to be violent. They act on commands and not to automatically be violent," stated Hernandez.