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Where can I donate items for Texas flood victims?

The Houston County Courier has received many calls and Facebook messages from Houston County residents asking where they can donate items for the flood victims of Texas. As we receive notifications of drop off areas we will notify you by Facebook and our website at www.hccourier.com.

Here are a few places we know of that where you can donate.

Pastor Darryl Bennett and Crockett Mayor Joni Clonts are gathering much needed items for the areas hit by heavy rains. Please, if you have any items to spare, take them by the Eastgate Family Church in Crockett. Pastor Bennett will be taking a load of items today and everyday that items are collected.

You can donate used clothing to Lucky Cleaners to be cleaned and then sent on to Texas' flood victims.

If you live near Grapeland you can take donation items for the flood victims of Texas to the Grapeland Fire Department.

Thank you Houston County for being so giving to fellow Texans in need!

HCHD Votes To Hold Tax Election

By Lynda Jones
Editor-in-Chief
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A handful of residents attended the Houston County Hospital District public hearing Monday, Aug. 21, regarding the petition calling for a tax-related election.

Five or six attendees firmly voiced their opposition to having an election to lift the 15 cent cap on the HCHD tax.

Board President Deborah Blackwell made repeated efforts to explain the election is not to raise the tax, but to give the district the ability to raise it to the statutory limit of 75 cents at some point in the future.

"It's just a tool for us to use," she said.

According to Blackwell, 107 registered voters signed the petition calling for the election.
Blackwell additionally reminded those at the meeting of the Rollback Rule. If the board should decide at some point in the future to raise the tax 8 percent or more (like it did two years ago), taxpayers can petition to hold an election to approve or disapprove of the tax increase.
When the district went from a 3 cent/$100 valuation tax to a 15 cent/$100 valuation tax, no residents petitioned for a rollback election.

Blackwell further stated it would be impossible to raise the tax rate before the next fiscal year (2018).

Ronnie La Rue, a retired teacher and former HCHD board member, chastised the current board for accumulating $7 million in debt within about one year.

Part of the debt was for the purchase of the medical professional building and part of the debt was a loan from Prosperity Bank that was used for hospital operating expenses during the transition from ETMC to Houston County Medical Center, before Little River Healthcare approached the district about operating the hospital in April 2016.

Kathi Calvert, manager of the Houston County Electric Cooperative (HCEC), was one of a couple who favor the election to lift the cap.

Calvert said the employees at the HCEC are conscientious about being safe, but accidents still happen. She said she is concerned about the impact on injured employees if there is not a hospital, or at least an emergency room.

While some of the opponents to the election requested by petitioners argued if the cap is raised, the HCHD board will raise the tax to 75 cents/$100 valuation. Each time, Blackwell stated it is not the board's intent to raise the tax to 75 cents.

"We just want to raise the cap," she said firmly.

Carol Dawson, a board member, said, "Without healthcare, this town will die. We'll never have the kind of hospital we had. It's frightening."

Dawson, Blackwell and Larry Robbins, a board member, all stated the board is exploring every option.

One option being explored is an emergency room and four beds. Another option is a Critical Access Hospital that could be licensed for up to 25 beds. A Critical Access Hospital, Blackwell said, would get reimbursements from Medicaid that would make it viable.

The board also firmly stated they are not going to take over the hospital themselves. They are actively seeking a partner to operate the facility and not leaving any stones unturned.

At the end of the night, the board unanimously voted to accept the petition and ordered the election to be held Nov. 7. Driskell stated his vote was given "reluctantly", that it was only for giving the people a chance to vote on the matter.

Board members Dr. Perry Ramsey and Dr. John Stovall were absent.

HCEC Prepares For Hurricane Harvey

Upon request of the Houston County Courier, the Houston County Electric Cooperative (HCEC) issued the following statement regarding preparations for the potential impact of Hurricane Harvey:

The current path of Hurricane Harvey shows potential impact in Houston County Electric Cooperative's service territory. Ahead of the storm, Alert Level One of HCEC's Emergency Response Plan was activated Wednesday, Aug. 23.

As always, the impacts of the storm can be unpredictable, but HCEC is prepared with our emergency response plan to ensure that we can safely and efficiently maintain and restore power to all of our members.

Our employees will be working hard throughout the storm to make sure that we are bringing our members the best service possible. Our mission is to continually improve our members' quality of life by providing reliable and cost effective electric service, so our number one priority is to keep the lights on for all of our members in the safest and most efficient way possible.

To report an outage in your area, call 1-800-970-4232.

BE PREPARED!
We always encourage our members to be prepared for any disaster. A few things we suggest to keep on-hand are:

Flashlight
Battery-operated radio
Five gallons of drinking water, in bottles or jugs, for each member of the household
Extra batteries
Enough canned food or packaged nonperishable food for several days
Candles and matches
Warm blankets
Change of clothes for each member of the household
A basic first-aid kit

Keep these supplies in a clean, dry area that will be easy to reach in an emergency.

CEIDC Hears Update On Dealership From Gentry At Meeting

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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The Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation Board of Directors had planned to hear updates on the three proposed new facilities at the corporation's industrial park at a meeting Friday, Aug. 18.

Those facilities are the firefighters training center, planned by the Houston County Firefighters Association and Emergency Services District No. 2; the Muscles and Curves business owned by Houston County Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen; and the Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of Crockett auto dealership.

However, due to a medical emergency in CEIDC Executive Director James Gentry's family and the inability of some of the scheduled updates presenters to attend the meeting, it was shortened and only an update of the car dealership was given.

The review of progress toward the firefighter training facility was tabled, and the CEIDC board members agreed to reschedule Kitchen's update on efforts toward the establishment of his business in Crockett Industrial Park.
Gentry, who received a letter he requested from planned partial dealership owners Bill and Marinda Sweatt, presented the update on the dealership.

"One of the things I know everybody is interested in knowing, both the board and the city as whole, is our Chrysler dealership status," Gentry said. "Last month, we had talked about a temporary facility to make a presence here sooner than later."

However, "they (the proposed dealership's owners) went before the Chrysler Corp. at a national meeting in Florida, ...and they were encouraged to forego the temporary and go full board," Gentry said. "With that in mind, they (the owners) were told that they (corporation representatives) wanted them to go back and meet with the Chrysler Capital people.

"They met in Houston two weeks ago. Part of that involves some more paperwork or documentation or rebidding because they (the owners) had already done a lot of work with contractors lining up for the temporary.

"Well, they have almost shuffled the board now and come back with a full package. That was a little frustrating on their (the owners) part that they had to do that. But, the positive of that is that the Chrysler is doing the full financing."

Gentry said he met with Chrysler Capital representatives, who visited Crockett two weeks ago, and they were "quite impressed" after touring the proposed dealership site and the City of Crockett.

"They told me, 'It's on us to get this (complete the paperwork for the financing) done before the end of the year,'" Gentry added. "So, they're in the process of doing the reappraisals, all of that, right now."

Gentry explained, the corporation representatives and dealership owners project that construction of the proposed $8 million dealership will take between seven and 10 months after all financial agreements are signed, approvals are given and decisions on contractors are made. And that is projected to take place by November.

CEIDC Board President Ansel Bradshaw noted, the Crockett City Council voted Aug. 15, 2016, to abate property taxes to be levied on the dealership for a number of years.

"So, it's good that the word is finally getting out that everything is trying to come together because there's been a year to where it's just kind of set there," Bradshaw said.

"That's encouraging news because it (building the dealership) certainly creates opportunities for the City of Crockett, the citizens of Crockett, as well as Houston County."

In other business, the CEIDC board members accepted the resignation of Board Vice President Gene Glover, who stated in a letter, he has accepted a full-time position with the Rice Consolidated ISD.

"(I) will not be able to drive the distance to serve in the capacity (of board member) as needed and required," Glover said.
Glover was appointed to a two-year term on the CEIDC board by the Crockett City Council on Jan. 9, and was elected vice president by board members on Feb. 20.

Woman Charged With Felony Theft

By Lynda Jones
Editor-in-Chief
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Mary Elaine Stephens, 72, was booked into the Houston County Jail and released Friday, Aug. 11, on $10,000 bond for a felony theft charge. (HCSO Photo)Mary Elaine Stephens, 72, was booked into the Houston County Jail and released Friday, Aug. 11, on $10,000 bond for a felony theft charge. (HCSO Photo)A Houston County Grand Jury indicted Mary Elaine Stephens, 72, in June for alleged theft of funds from the estates of Vencie and Melba Beard between June 1, 2012, and Feb. 10, 2016.

Stephens was arrested by the Houston County Sheriff's Office Friday, Aug. 11, and released on $10,000 bond.

The indictment alleges Stephens did, "Unlawfully appropriate, by acquiring or otherwise exercising control over, property, to-wit: U.S. currency, of the value of $100,000 or more but less than $200,000, from the estates of Vencie and Melba Beard, the owner thereof , without the effective consent of the owner, and with intent to deprive the owner of the property."

According to the indictment, the alleged crime is a second degree felony.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty by due process of law.

Texas Sales Tax Holiday This Weekend — Aug. 11-13

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers the annual sales tax holiday is scheduled for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-13.

The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced for less than $100 from sales tax, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend during the weekend.

Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller's website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.

This year, shoppers are expected to save an estimated $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday, which has been an annual event since 1999.