LIVINGSTON — Although it officially opened for business on Tuesday, the new Polk County Senior Center in Livingston will be receiving additional upgrades as the result of action by the county commissioners this week.
During a brief meeting Tuesday, commissioners approved bids for landscaping at the new center as well as for a covered walkway linking the center and the adjacent Polk County Annex Building. The senior center is located at 605 E. Abbey in Livingston immediately behind the annex building which once housed the old Polk County Memorial Hospital.
The bid for the landscaping was for $13,100 while the low bid on the covered walkway was $9,870. The money for both items will be paid from the county’s aging services fund balance.
Barbara Hayes, the county’s director of aging and social services, explained the meals served at all county senior centers — including those in Livingston, Onalaska and Corrigan — are prepared in the annex building and then transported to the various centers each day. They also prepare the meals for local “shut ins” that are delivered throughout the county.
“We used to have to drive the meals to the old center in Livingston but now we can just take them by cart to the new location,” Hayes explained. However, to meet state health regulations, the food needs to be protected from contamination so a covered walkway was needed to shield the food carts during bad weather days.
Hayes noted the new senior center is the first one owned by the county in Livingston and said the food program had been allowed to utilize the old center on North Houston Ave. for a number of years. The old center will continue to operate as a meeting area for seniors and it will continue to operate a resale shop, but the food program formerly housed there is now located at the Abbey Street location.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the board of directors at the old center for allowing us to use their building for such a long time,” she added.
The new senior center was built utilizing a $275,000 Texas Department of Agriculture grant as well as over $112,000 in local funds.
Other business In other action during the meeting Tuesday, commissioners: Revised and extended its contract with Futurus Telemed PLLC to provide inmate medical services at the Polk County Jail. The county approved a three-month contract with the group in October and agreed Tuesday to extend it until the end of the current fiscal year or Oct. 1.
Approved agreements with the city of Onalaska as well as the county Republican and Democratic parties allowing them to use the county’s election equipment. Onalaska is scheduled to conduct a city election on May 5 while the two political parties will each hold primary elections on March 6. The agreement with the political parties also will include any run-off election that may be required.
Approved a request from Pct. 2 Constable Bill Cunningham to appoint William Anthony Guy as a reserve deputy constable for that precinct.
ONALASKA — The contract for Superintendent Lynn Redden was extended for another year and students turned out to thank members of the Onalaska School Board during their meeting Monday.
Redden’s contract was extended to cover the next three years following an executive session conducted by the school board.
As part of School Board Appreciation Month, which is observed each January, Onalaska students from both the elementary and junior/senior high school campuses made decorations for the board room and small gifts for each board member. This year, the theme was soaring to greatness and large kites decorated the front of the boards table.
The school staff also prepares a special thank you dinner for the board members.
The student council also made a presentation, verbally thanking each board member for the time they take to attend meetings, functions, athletic events, and other activities; and all the monthly meetings.
In other business, the board ordered an election for school trustee Position 3, currently held by Tom Curran, and Position 6 currently held by John Haynes, to be conducted on May 5.
They then approved interlocal agreements with the City of Onalaska for the election to be held in the city’s conference room and with the Polk County Clerk’s Office for the use of the equipment to conduct an election and count the ballots.
Should the city not need to conduct an election this year, voting would be at the school administration office.
Information for seeking a place on the ballot can be obtained at the administration office during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Early voting information will be published along with information on requesting a mail-in ballots.
Elementary School Vice Principal Crystal Byrd advised the board that report cards were sent home on Jan. 10.
In her report, she also noted the third-grade students enjoyed a pizza party for being the grade level with the highest attendance rate for the second nine weeks; 96.4% of the students attended school during that time period. On Jan. 19, they conducted the semester award ceremonies for pre-K through sixth grade students which included presenting the principal’s honor roll, teachers’ honor roll, perfect defendants awards, exemplary behavior for pre-K through second grade students and the individual and team awards from the UIL competition conducted in December.
On Monday, Jan. 22 administrators had lunch with the STAAR students from each teachers’ homeroom class. The fourth-grade students will take their mock writing tests on Feb. 13 and fifth graders will take their mock math tests on Feb. 12-13.
Kindergarten through second grade students will participate in “Ag in the Classroom” activities Feb. 13 at the junior/senior high school and the fifth to sixth grade students will enjoy a Valentine Day social on Feb. 16. Shout outs for the new year went to Savannah Golson, Kelly Gonzalez and Michelle Kaufmann for facilitating the new lesson plan study for spring 2018. Special shout out went to Lisa Smith and Pat Pass for their guidance with the teachers that met for the planning sessions to develop lesson and CPAs for the third nine weeks of school.
On Friday, Feb. 2 staff members will bring soup and many delicious dishes to support Fellowship for the Super Bowl; the sunshine committee is heading this up. All pre-K and kindergarten classrooms will be receiving classroom audio systems; amplification, surround sound for the classrooms to help with language development and articulation.
Junior/Senior High School Principal Anthony Roberts reported that returning from Christmas break they used their two in-service days to focus on several important areas including: Department instruction planning for the second semester, department/administrative data talks to improve instructional focus for the second semester taking time to reflect on what they’ve learned from the district wide book study regarding poverty, reviewing updates to state accountability and reviewing and updating the TAIS process for junior/senior high school.
Over the past week administrators have been meeting with students to discuss student progress in all academic areas. These meetings involved identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses, goal setting, and ways to improve performance. Monitoring will continue through CBA’s and mock testing and additional data talks will follow.
The mock star and EOC tests will occur on Feb. 21-22 for the following subjects: ELA 1 and ELA 2, eighth grade reading and math and seventh grade writing. Data from these assessments will be used to further refine in-school intervention and will establish which students are in need of after school tutorials.
Several of the math teachers will be attending the STAAR EOC review at the Region 6 Education Service Center. This event will provide teachers with review material and strategies to increase the standards of mastery of the math content. The ELA department teachers will attend a writing roundup at the service center. This event will review the scoring requirements for the STAAR essay and then allow participants to score students papers and have others score their student papers, for a wider perspective on the students’ abilities. On upcoming events Roberts noted that softball practice began this Monday. The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. (JROTC) military ball will be at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the high school cafeteria. Fine arts night will be Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. also in the cafeteria.
There were shining stars and shout outs given to Mrs. K Randolph and the Onalaska Wildcat band and choir for putting on an outstanding, standing room only, Christmas concert; to Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Thornton, Mrs. Ebert and Mr. Schubert for organizing the Angel Tree Program which provided gifts for 112 children of the Onalaska area; to Mrs. Kennedy for helping all of the students meet new year’s resolutions by starting a biggest loser weight program with all proceeds benefiting the Maroon and White Scholarship Fund; to all the teachers and staff and help train students in the junior high UIL competition.
In closing, Roberts also thanked the school board members for their support of students and the Onalaska high school program throughout the year.
Redden reported attendance this Monday at 1,118 as compared with 1,047 a year ago. The elementary school has three less students at 637 than last year’s 640, however, the high school at 441 is increased considerably over the 405 from last year. The board approved consent items that include the current tax report, quarterly investment statement report, and budget amendments suggested by the accounting department.
The board approved the bids on tax sale properties received in Impala woods, for properties in Cedar Point, one each in Forest Hills in Paradise Acres, if all the other entities approved today’s sales ably returned to tax rolls to be productive.
The board discussed a first reading of update 109, which contains mandated changes to the Texas Association of school boards manual; at least one or two more hearings will be held before they act upon this.
LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston ISD school board decided on a venue for graduation and amended its school calendar in its monthly meeting for January.
By a vote of 4-3, the board approved holding 2018 high school graduation on campus in the Competition Gymnasium. An option to hold the event in Lufkin was first rejected by the same vote. Graduates will park at Livingston Junior High and take buses to the LHS campus to help alleviate parking congestion and the sound system will be upgraded for the ceremony.
High school principal Dr. Paul Drake held multiple meetings with parents through the year to discuss graduation ceremonies and the district placed a survey on its website to seek feedback on the graduation. Drake formed a committee of parents to bring a recommendation of the graduation venue. Two options were made available.
The first option had each student receiving eight tickets that allow for the ticket holder to enter an hour earlier than those without tickets. It ensures that closest family members will be in the gym for graduation. This option would be supported by satellite parking and busing students and staff to the high school campus.
The second option was to hold graduation in Lufkin at a price that would have likely exceeded $12,000. It would increase parking and the number of people who can attend. However, it would take students to graduate in another community and away from local businesses. Students would also have to bus to the Lufkin location.
“I appreciate the effort of the committee,” Livingston Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said. “It is obviously a very close split as to what they wanted to do. I think at the end of the day, from the folks that I heard from and talking to Dr. Drake, there was a sense of community pride and the kids went to school here and want to graduate here. Those parents on the committee echoed that. I totally respect that and get that.”
Hawkins said churches in the area and the Polk County Commerce Center were both smaller venues then the gym, which holds just over 2,000 people. The football stadium also presented problems.
“The football stadium will obviously hold more, but there were so many complaints about parking,” Hawkins said. “That is the time of year you have afternoon thundershowers and you run the risk of having to move from one location to another there. The committee, things I heard back from them, was just the heat and that it was equally as hard to hear in aluminum bleachers.”
The board approved the 2017-2018 school calendar amendments to allow for two days missed during the winter storm on Jan. 16-17. Students will make up missed days on Monday, Feb. 5, and Monday, March 5. The days were originally scheduled as professional development or teacher workdays, but will now be regular school days.
Teachers are contracted for 187 days and will also have to make up the missed days. Saturday, March 3 will be a professional development day and the second make-up day will be offered online.
Citing a need to review its business plan, the district approved a previous notice given to GCA Services to terminate its agreement. The district is looking at all options to ensure that the operations department is best serving the students of the district in the most efficient manner possible.
Feeling the current plan does not match its needs, this will trigger district administration to arrange the presentation of proposal and a new model for delivery of services in the operations department. The board will consider GCA and other vendors that best serves the district goals.
District curriculum and instruction updates were presented by representatives of each campus. Comparisons of reading levels at the beginning of the year to the beginning of the second semester were reviewed by each campus principal. Interventions were outlined for students needed extra help. Tutoring is offered before, during and after school and outside tutors are provided for additional help. January’s meeting opened with honoring Elaine Wood with the Apple Corps award. The Livingston High School Career and Technical Education programs were spotlighted in a video outlining the certifications offered in the vocational areas. Members of Livingston FFA presented metal art to the board members in honor of School Board Recognition Month to show their appreciation for the agriculture barn improvements made to house the animals. Jarett Smith, Brian Riddle and Dane Young created the plaques in their Ag Mechanics class.
GOODRICH -- Goodrich residents can expect a slight increase in their water bill after a vote by the Goodrich City Council Thursday night. Council voted 4-1 in favor of a $5 hike on city water bills. The money will go to cover the higher cost of providing water since the city’s last water bill adjustments nearly a decade ago.
“Everyone agreed on $5 total,” council member Marlene Arnold said. “That will create us being able to have enough income to be able to pay off the bills. Everything has gone up in price and our price has not increased in about nine years. Our pumps have all gone up and every piece of equipment that we have had to reorder has gone up in price to us. Therefore, we are having to look at raising that cost. We felt like that would help with the finances a bit, but we tried to keep it the least amount that we possibly could.”
The average water bill is around $23 in Goodrich and the city currently has 239 customers.
Though no action was taken, council also discussed the long-standing LivCom franchise fee item. Information has been requested from the City of Livingston regarding their current pact with LivCom.
In 1982, Star Cable began acquiring customers in Goodrich. At that time, the city council adopted an ordinance stating that Star Cable and its successors were permitted to come into the city of Goodrich for cable television. They were to pay a five percent franchising fee. However, since that time, Star Cable sold the business to Suddenlink. From there, it has become Versalink, and finally LivCom.
LIVINGSTON - The Livingston Independent School District’s Board of Trustees was presented with energy optimization report and approved a Medicaid-reimbursement program during its November meeting.
During informational reports, Wesley Daniel, CEO and founder of Ideal Impact, presented information on energy optimization for the district. Daniel has developed a program that allows his current school district customers to save 50 percent of their utility bills. The mission of Ideal Impact is to give back to schools by providing more funding as a result of energy optimization.
Daniel outlined how other issues can be solved when implementing energy savings including maintenance issues. The company has analyzed 24 months of energy bills and calculated proposed savings to the district. Daniel feels that the key to savings is to drop relative humidity and make improvements to the controls and processes at the start.
New controllers would be utilized on 191 units, as well as major control improvements on 462 units. Daniel is a class A mechanical engineer and would be responsible for installing and implementing the system which is estimated to take 90 days. A detailed energy and operations plan will be build and fine-tuned over time.
Each month the electric and gas bills will be sent to Ideal Impact, which will calculate the savings. The goal is to cut energy costs in the amount of $605,236 per year with a net 15-year savings of $13,699,189 which is a 44 percent savings over the current bills while guaranteeing all costs to implement the savings plan.
The school board meeting opened with a public hearing for the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) report. The FIRST report ensures that school districts will be held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and achieve improved performance in the management of their financial resources.
LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the 2015-2016 FIRST report which is graded on 20 different indicators. Dr. Brent Hawkins, LISD Superintendent, commended Davidson and the business department staff on receiving a perfect score of 100.
During action items, the board approved the implementation of the School Health and Related Services (SHARS) Agreement. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) jointly developed the SHARS program to enable school districts in Texas to obtain federal reimbursement for certain health-related services provided to Medicaid-eligible children with disabilities enrolled in special education.
Federal regulations allow for inter-agency agreements between state educational and Medicaid agencies to ensure the appropriate management of such programs. This agreement produced LISD in an additional $300,000 in revenues this past year.
In addition to the minutes from the previous board meeting, the financial statement and payment of bills the board approved several other action items. TASB Update 109 was approved with the exception of CO local (food service management) so that it may be written specifically to align with the goals of LISD.
The 830 votes for the Polk County Appraisal District Board of Directors positions were split between Mike Nettles and Pam Pierce.
Approval was given for overnight trips to be taken by the Livingston High School Student Council and the Livingston High School Chorale in December.
The LISD District and Campus Plans for the 2017-2018 school year were approved as well as a personal property donation.
During informational items, Livingston High School FCCLA Region IV officers Miranda Glass, president, and Karla Silva, vice president of service learning, gave the board an overview of their duties and responsibilities to their local chapter, region, and state. They also shared their past experiences in their leadership program and previewed their upcoming events.
The Timber Creek Elementary mentoring program was featured in a video showing the Kids Hope USA mentoring process.
During the meeting, the board welcomed Tracie Standley and Al Torres as November inductees into the prestigious LISD Apple Corps.
LIVINGSTON -- Follow-ing a closed, executive session to discuss the matter with their attorney, Polk County commissioners agreed Tuesday to waive the county’s fees from the IAH Detention Facility near Livingston for three months.
After the commissioners returned to open session, attorney Herb Bristow explained that due to a substantial drop in the number of inmates housed at the facility during the months of June, July and August, the income generated by the private detention center did not cover its expenses. The facility and its bond holders were asking the county to waive its fees for the months of September, October and November to help the facility recover from the previous shortfall.
The private detention facility primarily houses people being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the contract with the facility and its bond holders, the county receives a per diem fee for each inmate in the facility, which means the monthly payments go up and down depending upon the number of prisoners held during any given month.
The county also receives a fee for the telephone calls made by the inmates and that income will not be interrupted because of Tuesday’s action.
County Judge Sydney Murphy noted after the meeting that by agreeing to waive their fees during the three-month period, they are helping the IAH facility stabilize its income which could result in larger monthly payments next year.
Bristow noted the inmate numbers have been increasing recently noting that as of Tuesday, the IAH facility was holding 560 prisoners. Murphy added she has been told by the facility management that 500 inmates is their “break event point.”
While it is not known how much money the county would have received during the temporary suspension, Murphy noted that based on previous experience, the loss will not significantly impact the county’s budget.
“No one’s job is in jeopardy because of this,” she said, noting that under the current budget, income from the IAH contract is earmarked for non-critical expenses.
Three years ago, the county agreed to waive its fees for an indefinite period when the facility, under its previous management, fell into a critical financial situation. The IAH income at that time was used to support all phases of the county’s operation and Murphy, shortly after taking office for her first term, was faced with cutting well over $1 million from that year’s budget to make up for that loss.
At that time county jobs were impacted as all department had to slash their budgets.
When the financial situation at IAH was finally stabilized, the county entered into a new contract with the facility earlier this year and the monthly payment were once again being received. However, under the current budget which went into effect on Oct. 1, the income was earmarked for capital purchases and other areas that would not create major problems should it be lost.
Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: Received the quarterly report from Mike Demarco, general manager for Santek Waste Services, the company which operates the Polk County Landfill near Leggett. He noted the amount of waste that went into the landfill jumped from 11,828 tons in August to 19,595 tons in September, with much of the increase attributed to “FEMA waste” collected because of Hurricane Harvey in late August.
Accepted the bids on eight new vehicles for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from Caldwell Chevrolet at a cost not to exceed $353,400. The deal will include six trade-in vehicles. Two other PCSO vehicles that were on the trade-in list will be reassigned to the county’s maintenance and internet technology departments.
Accepted bids for the purchase of four pickup trucks for the Precinct 1 Road and Bridge Department from Grapevine Dodge. Approved a resolution in support of grant application being submitted by the sheriff’s department for rifle resistant body armor.
Accepted bids for the purchase of new tires for the coming year. All bids were accepted except for one submitted by Simple Tires out of Pennsylvania.
Approved the holiday schedule for the coming year.