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Crockett Raises City Property Tax

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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As expected, the Crockett City Council voted to approve and ordinance setting the city's fiscal year 2018 property tax rate at 58.6094 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation at a special council meeting Monday, Aug. 28.

The new rate is a 5.2271 cents per $100 of assessed value increase of the 2017 rate of 53.3823 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

Making the motion to approve the ordinance was Mike Marsh, Precinct 5 councilmember and mayor pro tem. The motion was seconded by Precinct 3 Councilmember Ernest Jackson, and it passed on a unanimous vote of all five councilmembers.

The ad valorem tax levy is for use and support of the municipal government of the City of Crockett and is apportioned into two parts: 46.0097 cents for the General Fund used for maintenance and support of the general government (maintenance and operation) and 12.5997 cents for the city's Interest and Sinking Fund used to pay down the city's bond indebtedness.

The ordinance states taxes levied under it shall be due at the outset of fiscal year 2018 which begins Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, and will immediately become delinquent if not paid before Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018.

On a related matter, the councilmembers unanimously voted passage of a motion offered by Marsh and seconded by Precinct 1 Councilmember Butch Calvert, approving a resolution that accepts the city's 2017 tax roll as certified to them by Chief Appraiser Carey Minter's Houston County Appraisal District office.

The city's certified real estate appraisal roll is a breakdown of all properties in the city and their assessed values.

In other business, City Administrator John Angerstein updated the councilmembers on the city's application for a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office.
Angerstein said he received notification the previous week that the application has been approved for a loan of $3.327 million for improvements to the city's water storage facilities and replacement of water meters. He said $200,000 is going to be provided by the Houston County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1.

City officials also had applied for grant funds along with the loan application. However, the city did not qualify for a grant award because the water rates paid by the municipality's water customers are lower than those paid in average water districts, he said.

The interest rate on the loan is 2 percent.

The loan will enable city officials to have both elevated water tanks completely rehabilitated, inside and out – recoating them, painting them and so forth, Angerstein said, adding, the city's two 350,000-gallon ground storage facilities will be removed and replaced with a one-million-gallon storage tank.

The third portion of the loan is for replacement of all of the city's current water meters with Smart Meters, he added.

"That's really good news for us to move forward on some of our key items that could cost us a lot of money if they went down," Angerstein said.
He noted, the city's new budget "does have the funding for repayment" of the loan.

The councilmembers voted 4-1 to pass a motion made by Jackson and seconded by Precinct 2 Councilmember Darrell Jones to table appointment of a director to fill a vacancy on the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) Board of Directors that opened up as a result of the recent resignation of CEIDC Vice President Gene Glover.
Marsh voted against the motion to table making the appointment.

Mayor Joni Clonts had nominated Michael Brenner to fill the position. However, Jackson asked Clonts and the other councilmembers to grant him time to seek out and suggest the name of a person of color to fill the position in order to maintain ethnic diversity on the board.

In other action, the councilmembers:
• Voted 4-1 to pass a motion made by Jackson – seconded by Calvert – selecting a $35,518 bid submitted by Parsons Roofing, headquartered in Waco, to do roof repair work – including replacement of all shingles, rotten decking and tar paper – and other repairs to the Crockett Public Library, with Marsh voting against the motion; and
• Unanimously voted to pass a Calvert motion – seconded by Jackson – approving a resolution designating KSA Engineers as the city's engineering services provider for the 2017 Texas Capital Fund Downtown Revitalization/Main Street Program application and project-related engineering services.

Three Ways To Help Hurricane Victims

By Pastor Jeb Dotson
HCCourier Contributor

As the need for emergency relief becomes greater throughout Texas, we are formulating some avenues for those who have a desire to help out.

First is the need for prayer. Pray for those displaced by Hurricane Harvey and then also for the many emergency responders that will be working in hazardous conditions. Pray that the churches will rise up and be the hands and feet of Christ in this hour of need.

Second is the need for funds. If anyone would like to give towards the relief effort, They can give through Crockett First Assembly and we will forward all funds to the North Texas Disaster Response Team. They are currently setting up a 5,000 person shelter along with the American Red Cross at the Dallas Convention Center.

Third is the need for workers. We are partnering with David Beaulieu with Christ in Action from here in Houston county. He will be helping to set up an Emergency Response Command Center this weekend in the most strategic area that they can find. Crockett First Assembly will be assisting them in the first leg of that work this Sunday and we are looking for volunteers who want to join in.
We will leave Sunday afternoon and return either Monday evening or Tuesday depending on the time that the group can commit to. After that, we can make plans to make as many trips as necessary to help out. Anyone who wants to deploy with Christ in Action must register online. www.christinaction.com.

Finally, many people have asked about donating items such as food, water and hygiene products to the relief effort. Currently gift cards are suggested and they will be delivered to Christ in Action this weekend so that they can fill the greatest need that the people are dealing with. As for as other items, Betty Frizzell is helping to coordinate a collection area at Betty Boop's in Crockett. They will make sure that these items are taken to the areas where the needs are the greatest.

Be Blessed.
• • •
Jeb Dotson is senior pastor at Crockett First Assembly of God Church, director for Southeast Region Men's Ministries and a chaplain for the Crockett Police Department.

Houston County Has Heart

With the look of men filled with determination and on a mission, three Crockett police officers - Lt. Clayton Smith (front left), Sgt. Alfredo Fajardo (back left), Officer Blake Gates (back right) - and Crockett Precinct 5 Councilman Mike Marsh (front right) headed out in a monster truck pulling a flat bottom boat to rescue flood victims in southeast Texas. (Courtesy Photo/CPD)With the look of men filled with determination and on a mission, three Crockett police officers - Lt. Clayton Smith (front left), Sgt. Alfredo Fajardo (back left), Officer Blake Gates (back right) - and Crockett Precinct 5 Councilman Mike Marsh (front right) headed out in a monster truck pulling a flat bottom boat to rescue flood victims in southeast Texas. (Courtesy Photo/CPD)

By Lynda Jones
Editor-in-Chief
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Houston County has heart! It's an indisputable fact.

When meteorologists first predicted Hurricane Harvey would hit the Texas coast, volunteers from Houston County headed south to help evacuate nursing home patients in the path of the storm.

When the floods hit Houston and the surrounding areas, individuals, churches, businesses, other organizations in Houston County immediately started collecting a variety of items for those displaced by the storm.

Many are assisting with ongoing rescues of people, pets and livestock between Houston and the Beaumont/Orange/Port Arthur area.
Others are collecting donations of products needed by Hurricane Harvey victims from Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas, Victoria, Houston and the Golden Triangle (Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur).

Donated items include cash, gift cards, diapers, baby formula, pillows, blankets, school supplies, clothes, personal hygiene products, bottled water and cleaning supplies.

Thursday afternoon, Aug. 31, preparations began for a group of 60 assisted living residents from Port Arthur to take refuge at the Houston County Medical Center in Crockett.

The unprecedented amount of rainfall (more than 50 inches in the Houston) and the life threatening floods that accompanied Harvey touches a large portion of the Houston County community.

While we did not suffer the damage our neighbors did, many have family members and friends who lost their homes or otherwise suffered extensive damage.

Many people making donations say they feel helpless that they can't do more. That's the kind of heart we have in Houston County ... the kind that loves and is filled with a generous spirit.

Courier Digital Etype Edition free for two weeks

We want our readers to get all the information available about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in our area.

We are making the Digital Etype full edition of our newspaper free for two weeks.

Simply locate the Etype edition graphic in the right sidebar of our website at www.hccourier.com and click on it, then click on the image of the newspaper to read the full edition online.

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.