Stotts Named CHA Director

By Lynda Jones
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Kelly Stotts, a former office manager at the Crockett Housing Authority (CHA), will return to the CHA on Tuesday, March 1, as the new executive director.

The CHA Board of Commissioners met in executive session for about two hours. For approximately 30 minutes each, the board interviewed two appicants, Stotts and Maintenance Supervisor Mark Stephenson.

Commissioner Pam Wells said both candidates have a lot to add to the CHA, and her sentiments were echoed by Commissioners Danny Ory and Joni Clonts.

Ory made the motion to hire Stotts, with her salary to start at $52,000 with incentives that include contributions to a 401K plan totalling 13% of her gross income as well as contributions to medical and dental insurance. Stotts also will receive a $500/month car allowance until the CHA board decides to purchase a vehicle for CHA use.

The vote was unanimous in favor of hiring Stotts. Clonts said the commissioners wanted both Stotts and Stephenson, with Stephenson remaining as the maintenance supervisor. Stephenson said he thought it was "a great decision".
Clonts said, "These are the first steps to a new beginning (for the CHA)."

County Honors David Lamb

By Lynda Jones
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There were moments of laughter as well as tears at the retirement reception for Houston County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator David Lamb on Tuesday, Feb. 9.  (Lynda Jones Photo)There were moments of laughter as well as tears at the retirement reception for Houston County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator David Lamb on Tuesday, Feb. 9. (Lynda Jones Photo)The Houston County Commissioners recessed their Tuesday, Feb. 9, meeting to move next door to honor retiring County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator David Lamb.

A reception was held for Lamb in the Community Room at First Community Bank, next door to the Commissioners Courtroom.
After Lamb was presented with a plaque of appreciation for his years of service, and a flag from the State Capitol that State Rep. Trent Ashby sent for the occasion, friends and family shared mostly humorous stories with Lamb.

Lamb served Houston County from 2008 - 2016. His retirement date is Feb. 19.

Before recessing for the reception, the commissioners received as information the January Environmental Control Report prepared by Ashley Perry, Environmental Control Officer.

The report indicates illegal dumping continues to be an issue in the county. Perry's report states, "There were a total of 5 complaints, 94 bags of refuse, estimated at 30 lbs. each for a total of 2,820 lbs. of refuse removed from county roads.

Environmental Control patrolled or removed refuse from CR 1272, 1720, 1725, 2076, 2035, 2080, FM 229, Fifth St., Pease, 231, 3400, 2130 and 1270."

Community service workers supervised by Perry assisted or completed several special projects, including cleaning up the grounds at the Crockett Public Library, buffing the floors of the old jail, hauling surplus furniture from the tax office and cleaning the pilot building at Houston County Airport.

In other business, the commissioners approved accepting the Juvenile Deputy Grant for the Sheriff's Office in the amount of $16,565.17 and the Body-Worn Camera Grant for $40,363.75 with 25% match (budgeted by the HCSO).

The court also granted approval for the HCSO to apply for three additional grants: a joint equipment grant between the Sheriff's Office and County Attorney's Office for interview recording system, computer and projector equipment; a Crime Victim Deputy Grant; and continuance of the Juvenile Deputy Grant.

Also, the court accepted as information the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 Financial Statement for FY 2015 and the annual presentation of the Houston County Historical Commission.

Ansel Bradshaw of Crockett appeared before the court to announce a lumber supply company began construction this week at the former Crockett Coca Cola facility on East Loop 304, and that the company hopes to be open by April.

At the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner Tuesday night, Bradshaw announced the name of the company, Parker Building Supply. The company has headquarters in Port Arthur and several stores, including one in Woodville.

Commissioners Receive Auditor’s Road & Bridge Expenditure Report

By Lynda Jones
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Houston County spent $2,194,169.03 on county roads and bridges in all four precincts during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2015, according to the Texas County Lateral Road and Bridge Expendiures Yearly Report submitted by County Auditor Melissa Mosley.

Mosley explained during the Tuesday, Jan. 26, Houston County Commissioners Court meeting, that the report must be submitted to the state each year and is a composite of the expenditures made in all four county precincts.

She further explained the report only addresses funds designated exclusively for road and bridge projects. Those funds include monies from automobile registration fees, timber funds, fine money that comes through the court system. It does not include projects funded in other ways, such as FEMA grants. Those funds are tracked and reported in a different way, Mosley explained.

The report indicates the following expenditures: County Road Maintenance, $763,849.36; County Road Rehabilitation, $330,898.82; County Bridge Maintenance, $62,302.23; County Bridge Rehabilitation, $2,207.50; Right of Way Acquisition, $268.10; and Other Road Expenditures, $1,034,643.02. No expenditures were made on new construction of roads or bridges.

Mosley also reported she compiled an additional report showing a history of road and bridge expenditures over the past 20 years.

That report indicates the county spent $982,332.13 on its roads and bridges in 1995, compared to the $2,193,900.93 spent in 2015. The county first jumped over the $1 million expenditure mark in 1997, when the expenditures totaled $1,147,587.35.

The commissioners unanimously voted to accept the 2015 report as information.

In other business, the commissioners unanimously voted to approve a contract with Records Consultants, Inc. to upgrade the county's inventory management system with software that will allow the county auditor to create fixed asset depreciation reports.

Prior to the vote, Mosley told commissioners, "As you know, our outside auditor has been concerned about our inventory process. This is what our next step in that process."

Next she introduced Dan Gibbons, president and CEO of Records Consultants, Inc. Gibbons explained his San Antonio-based company works exclusively with government entities.

In a brief presentation before the court, Gibbons said , "This is a program we provide to counties like yourself to get a handle on your fixed assets. By rule, local government entities have to maintain their fixed assets on their balance sheet, their depreciated value. A fixed asset is in excess of $500 or more...."
He continued, "We developed software for our guys to come and complete inventory of every asset in the county, including technology that might be less than $500 and has a useful life of at least a year and sometimes might get misplaced. What we do is we come in and go through every facility in the county. We'll barcode the door going into that. We'll scan that in, name the room, and we'll tag every fixed asset in the room. Then we'll go back to Melissa and capture the date it was purchased and the amount that was paid for she can create those depreciation reports as the auditor."

Gibbons estimated the project in Houston County will take six to eight weeks for completion. The company then will deliver a software program that runs on the network, allows the county maintain the inventory and commissioners will have access to see their fixed assets.

He further stated the Records Consultants employees completing the initial inventory have gone through drug screening, fingerprints, etc. Background checks are done annually on their employees, Gibbons said.
Mosley reminded commissioners the county already has policy requiring every asset valued at $500 or more be placed on inventory, as well everything with a serial number. This program will allow the auditor's office to create the depreciation reports.

The cost of the project will be $6,700. The county will pay $2,600 to begin the project and the balance when the project is complete.

Fire Marshal/OEMC Retiring

By Lynda Jones
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Houston County Fire Marshal and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator David Lamb will retire on Feb. 19. He has held the posts for 18 years.

During the Tuesday, Jan. 12 Houston County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Erin Ford made a motion to have two individuals fill the positions rather than just one.

"I've looked at separating the two positions into their respective functions. David's been unique in being able to assume both. Guys like David are scarce. In order fill the emergency management coordinator position, I want to make a motion that we separate these two positions," Ford said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen if the two positions "have" to be separated.

Ford responded that the two positions don't have to be separated, but it makes it harder to find an individual that meets the qualifications of fire marshal and EMC. They're not very common, and the real need at this point is a replacement EMC."
He continued, "I talked to the City of Crockett, and they're willing to assume any responsibility on fire investigations by Jason Frizzell, so we're covered on the fire marshal." Frizzell is fire marshal for the Crockett Fire Department.

Ford repeated his motion three times and it failed for lack of a second.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Roger Dickey then said, "Judge, .... I would still like to keep the jobs together. I don't want to restrict our movement forward..."

Ford said, "You're restricting the ability to get an individual for this county. Now the motion's been closed ... it's a closed issue."
In other business, the court unanimously voted to include the Community Supervision and Correction Department as county-owned buildings with courtroom or offices utilized by the courts for inclusion of the buildings where firearms are prohibited.

They also voted to adopt the Firearm Policy Section for the Employee Handbook and a related change to the Discipline Section as recommended by the Human Resources Committee.

‘I Concur’ Commissioners told TxDOT

By Lynda Jones
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"I concur," was uttered several times by county commissioners during the Tuesday, Jan. 12 Houston County Commissioners Court meeting.

Several bridges in Houston County are scheduled for replacement between 2016 and 2020 by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). One of the steps towards this work is the approval - or concurrence - of the Houston County Commissioners Court to temporarily close those bridges during construction.

With two representatives of TxDOT present to answer any questions during Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners unanimously voted to approve the requested closures.

Traffic on County Roads 1545, 4180, 1765, 2245, 1515, 2235, 1680, 1750, 3365 and 4025 will be affected for about four months.
According to TxDOT documents, the existing bridge at Cook Branch Tributary on CR 1545 is scheduled to let to contract in June 2016 with construction beginning in the following weeks. The bridges at Rich Creek on CR 1765 and 1750, and Silver Creek on CR 1680 are scheduled to let to contract in July 2016 with construction beginning in the following weeks.

The existing bridges at White Rock Creek on CR 4180, Big Elkhart Creek on CR 2245, and Flat Branch on CR 1515 (Sullivan Rd.), are scheduled to let to contract in January 2018.

The bridge at Gail Creek Relief on CR 4025 is scheduled to let to contract in September 2019. Two bridges are scheduled to let in January 2020, one at Tantebogue Creek on CR 3365 and one at Big Elkhart Creek on CR 2235.

During the public forum at the beginning of the commissioners court meeting, Lonnie Ellis, a resident who has requested a number of documents from the county, said, "All people listening, people here at the county, we're not mad at ya'll. We love ya'll. God is on our side, and in fact he's on your side....We don't do their job and protect the taxpayers, and we want the roads (inaudible) . We pray for ya'll, and we don't hate ya. We love ya." Ellis then sat down and County Judge Erin Ford thanked him for his comments.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Pat Perry voiced frustration about a contractor wanting to move a crane weighing about 154,000 pounds across a bridge in Precinct 3, much more than the 84,000 pounds Perry thought it might be. Perry also stated that when he told the contractor he couldn't sign off for that heavy a load, the contractor told him to talk to the county judge. Ford said he has not talked to the contractor about the bridge and indicated he was displeased with the contractor's reported statement to Perry. Ford added, "I make enough mistakes on my own."

At the end of the meeting, Ellis stood and asked who drove a truck he pointed to outside the courtroom. Ford reminded Ellis the time for public comments was at the beginning of the meeting. The court, being finished with its posted agenda, then adjourned.

Council Responds To Business Growth

By Lynda Jones
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The Crockett City Council during its Monday, Jan. 11 meeting, approved a zoning change for a new business, held a public hearing and approved a plat for an existing business that reports rapid growth. All votes were unanimous. Precinct 3 Council Member Ernest Jackson was absent.

The approved zoning change will allow the site of Park Hill Farm to be used as a special events venue.
Larry Christopher recently sold the historic estate to the owners of Rings True & Event Venues (Rings True).

Dan Huggins, CEO and partner of Rings True, was present at the meeting.

Huggins explained to the council that the property will be a high-end events venue.

When Mayor Robert Meadows asked for clarification that the site will not include a Bed & Breakfast, Huggins confirmed that overnight stays will only be available to persons renting the entire venue.
For example, he explained, if a wedding party rents the entire ranch they will be able to include overnight stays.

After the meeting, Huggins said they plan to be open by June, in time for the wedding season. They already have a website ( that describes the venue, "Nestled deep in the heart of the Davy Crockett National Forest in Houston County, this 100-acre event venue is in the historic town of Crockett."

The new owners foresee the property as a perfect place for weddings, corporate events, family reunions, Quinceanera celebrations and more.

Huggins and his wife, Kim, previously lived in Abilene for 40 years. Their partners, Laura and Robert Norris of Houston, also were present at the meeting.

Meadows noted that the city's Planning and Zoning earlier approved the zoning change and recommended that council do the same.

Council members extended a warm welcome to the owners of the new business.
Also related to the local economy, the council held brief public hearing regarding plat approval on a tract of land behind Los Ranchos, on Loop 304. No one spoke against the proposal.

Meadows explained that Los Ranchos is expanding, and with the recent property purchase the owner plans to add more parking behind the Sonic Drive-In.

The mayor added that the proposed plat approval came with the blessings of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which already gave their vote of approval.

As the council voted to approve the plat, members congratulated owner Emilio Estrada on his successful business.

The council also approved the resolution calling for the May election of council members in Precincts 3, 4 and 5, and approved a joint election agreement between the Crockett ISD and the City of Crockett.
Meadows explained the two actions were normal business items required before an election.