County Judge sets off alarm system inside the county courthouse

By Megan Whitworth

County Clerk Dawn Wright received a call on July 7 from the alarm company stating the alarm in her office at the courthouse was breached. She received the call at 5:29 p.m. According to Wright, County Judge John Lovett, Jr., set off the alarm.

“I said, ‘OK, you need to send the sheriff over there, because my office is closed,’” Wright said. “Me and one of my clerks were here till five. We walked out of the office, locked the doors, set the alarm; so there is no reason the alarm should have went off.”

“I would have to say it was actually him  (Lovett) that did it when I came back up here, and had the police come over here with me,” Wright said. “And went outside and checked the commissioner’s court agenda and saw my file stamp was on it.”

Wright’s file stamp includes the date, time and her signature. Her file stamp was used to mark the agenda for the Commissioner’s Court meeting set for July 1.

“Our file stamp is basically proof that the original documents have come into my office,” she said.

Lovett was out-of-town when News-Times reporters reached out to him; he said he was advised to “not grant any press interviews” by a lawyer

Sheriff Greg Capers confirmed the alarm incident.

“Our next step once our investigation is completed is to turn the entire case over to the District Attorney’s Office and then they will follow their protocol as they do with all of their cases. We are a few days out from delivering the case to their office.”

Wright said her office has changed their locks, and new protocol includes locking up the file stampers at the end of the day. Lovett does not have keys to the new locks.

“He came into my office after hours; and it was not deemed an emergency situation,” Wright said. “It’s not like it was a fire or something like that. There was no reason for him to enter my office.”

Rep. Bailes hosts open house for district

Rep. Ernest Bailes shakes the hand of a community member during the open house of his district office in Shepherd on Thursday, July 13. (Megan Whitworth/San Jacinto News-Times)Rep. Ernest Bailes shakes the hand of a community member during the open house of his district office in Shepherd on Thursday, July 13. (Megan Whitworth/San Jacinto News-Times)

By Megan Whitworth

Dozens of community members attended an open house and ribbon cutting at Rep. Ernest Bailes’ district office in Shepherd on Thursday, July 13 to celebrate his recent membership to the Chamber of Commerce in both Shepherd and Coldspring.

“It was great to have a big showing of support from the community and throughout the district, and to let everybody come and see the office,” Bailes said, “and meet the rest of the staff that came in from Austin.”

The newly-elected representative for District 18 also addressed approximately 40 teachers and administrators from Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated ISD and Shepherd ISD at the Jones Educational Complex the same day as the open house. Topics discussed included “The Simple Facts” – an update on the 85th Legislative Session and the upcoming Special Session that began on Tuesday, July 18.

There are multiple items on the agenda Governor Greg Abbott outlined to be discussed at the special ssession, including approving a $1,000 pay raise for public school teachers.

Bailes said public education has always been an issue he is passionate about.

“Public education has always been a real important factor we try to make sure of,” Bailes said. “A lot of the legislation from the state level loses sight on our rural school districts, and it’s hard to fit in the one size fits all with the legislation. So we try to make sure we have a mouth piece to help represent our rural schools so that we can take care of the kids here back in the district.”

Bailes also encouraged community members to reach out to his office to share their opinions and beliefs.

“It’s important to hear from you guys,” Bailes said. “We don’t know what to put on the radar unless you let us know.
“I really appreciate all the help and all of the support, and we need that,” he said. “I appreciate the number of people who reached out to both myself and my office during session so that we could find out what piece of legislation was most important to them so that we could make sure that we’re doing our part to help represent their needs.”

In addition to his capitol office in Austin and district office in Shepherd, Bailes also announced he will have a satellite office in Walker County at the HEARTS Veterans Museum on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, and at the Liberty County Courthouse on the second and fourth Tuesdays. The office number in Austin is 512-463-0570, and in Shepherd it is 936-628-6687.

Emergency Preparedness Planning Meeting Being Held – Public Encouraged to Attend

San Jacinto County's Office of Emergency Management is holding a second public meeting on Monday, December 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm to discuss creating a Long Term Recovery Group. The group, working with the county and FEMA, consists of state and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) and Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COADs), all working to help storm survivors with unmet needs.

Long-term recovery groups are independent of FEMA or any other federal agency and consist of a coalition of organizations ranging from the national to the neighborhood level. Their role is to help meet remaining needs of survivors after they have maximized state and federal funds available to them.

Long-term recovery groups typically include federal partners, voluntary agencies and grassroots organizations. These partnerships require close coordination to address community needs, distribute resources and to help restore vital support systems – health, social, economic and environmental systems, among others.

The Long Term Recovery Group can coordinate with volunteers from around the area and the nation to help residents lives get back to normal after a disaster. It can solicit donations of money, manpower, and material to help the San Jacinto residents.
San Jacinto County Emergency Management Director, Judge John Lovett, is working to proactively help those living in the county to recover after a disaster, whether it be a flood, hurricane, tornado or drought.

The meeting will be held in the Election Administration Building located at 51 E. Pine Ave., Coldspring, TX 77331. Contact Josh Brogdon in the Emergency Management Office at 936-653-3395 for additional information.

Sales tax rebates continue up in SJC

By Martha Charrey
San Jacinto News-Times editor

Sales tax revenue payments for October in San Jacinto County indicate that sales tax rebates continue upward for all three incorporated cities in the county, according to the most recent report released from the office of state comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Coldspring’s rebate check amount will be $19,101.49, up by 11.58 percent from last October’s amount of $17,118.29. Payments to date for Coldspring total $226,156.63, up 4.34 percent from the prior year’s payment to date of $216.747.37.

Shepherd’s rebate check amount will be $18,530.55, up 8.46 percent from last year’s comparable payment of $17,084.29. Payments to date for Shepherd total $194,915.55, up 5.16 percent from the prior year’s payment to date of $185,344.47.

Point Blank’s net payment this period will be $4,550.68, up 30.57 percent from the comparable payment in 2015 of $3,485.00. Payments to date for Point Blank total $38,723.26, up 13.55 percent from last year’s payment to date of $34,101.32.

The county of San Jacinto collects a current 0.500 percent rate. The county will receive a rebate check in the amount of $36,968.86 for October, up 25.20 percent from last year’s comparable payment of $29,525.20. Total payments received by the county to date for 2016 amount to $353,775.62, up 7.58 percent from the same period in 2015 which was $328,841.19.

Tax rates for cities in San Jacinto are 1.500 percent for Coldspring, 1.000 percent for Point Blank and 1.500 percent for Shepherd.

Texas Comptroller Hegar said that state sales tax revenue totaled $2.29 billion in October, 0.2 percent more than in October 2015. “Opposing trends in consumer and business spending resulted in slight overall growth in state sales tax revenue,” Hegar said. “Continued declines in collections from the mining, manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors, reflecting the subdued level of drilling for oil and natural gas production, were offset by significant gains from retail trade and restaurants.”

Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in October 2016 was down by 2.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Sales tax revenue is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 58 percent of all tax collections. Motor vehicle sales and rental taxes, motor fuel taxes and oil and natural gas production taxes also are large revenue sources for the state.

In October 2016, Texas collected the following revenue from those taxes:
• motor vehicle sales and rental taxes — $396 million, down 4.6 percent from October 2015;
• motor fuels taxes — $299 million, up 2.1 percent from October 2015; and
• oil and natural gas production taxes — $224 million, down 6.9 percent from October 2015.

Trump wins—Wyatt wins contested race for constable

By Martha Charrey
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San Jacinto County, the State of Texas and voters around the United States cast ballots Tuesday to elect Donald J. Trump for president in what is being called one of the biggest upsets in political history.

Electoral votes from the State of Texas went to Trump fairly early in the evening as national election results were being reported. By 1:44 a.m. Vice President elect Mike Pence announced that Trump had won the election, introducing him as President elect Donald J. Trump. By 2 a.m., Trump had garnered 275 electoral votes to cinch the presidency.
In a speech, Trump said he wants to be a president of all people and thanked Secretary Hillary Clinton for the work she has done for the country.
Trump said Clinton called him to concede. However, Clinton did not speak to her supporters during the night.

In San Jacinto County, Trump took the early votes with 5,541 compared to Clinton’s 1,214 early votes. On election day, Trump further outdistanced Clinton with 2,509 more votes for a total of 8,050 unofficial votes, while Clinton got a total of 2,034 county votes.

In other elections, San Jacinto County resident Ernest Bailes (Rep.) easily beat his Libertarian opponent Evan Nagel in San Jacinto County with 8,185 total unofficial votes compared to Nagel’s 653 San Jacinto County votes for State Representative, District 18. Districtwide Bailes received 40,911 votes, or 88.01 percent.

Announcing his victory in being elected as the next state representative, Bailes said Tuesday night, “I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the campaign, and I look forward to representing the people of Liberty, San Jacinto, and Walker counties during the 85th Legislative session.”

Bailes is a fifth generation rancher and small business owner who lives in Shepherd, with his wife Courtney and their two boys, Ernest V, aka Cinco, and Rigby. With deep roots in and around the district, Ernest understands the importance of having a strong voice in Austin, one that represents rural conservative values.

Running unopposed, U.S. Representative, District 8 Kevin Brady had 8,210 votes.
For railroad commissioner Wayne Christian got 7,295 San Jacinto County votes; Grady Yarbrough got 2,057 votes; Mark Miller received 391 votes and Martina Salinas got 118 votes. Statewide, Christian (R) had 4,554,824 (53.2 percent) votes for the win.

In the district race for Judge of the 411th Judicial District, Kaycee Jones received 7,672 or 91.90 percent of votes in San Jacinto County compared to 676 for her write-in candidate. Districtwide, Jones got 4,488 in Trinity County compared to her write-in candidate’s 212 votes.
In Polk County, Jones received 13,523 votes, or 85.37 percent compared to her write-in candidate who received 2,318 votes or 14.63 percent. Her unofficial districtwide votes total 65,683.

San Jacinto County races
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers (R) received a total of 8,458 votes. He ran unopposed.
Kelly Selmer (R) received 7,579 for County Tax Assessor-Collector, compared to 965 write-in votes for her opponent.

Running unopposed for Precinct 1 Commissioner, Laddie McAnally (R) garnered 2,012 votes.
Thomas Bonds (R), also running unopposed, got 2,138 votes.

Running unopposed for Constable, Precincts 1, 2 and 3, Roy Rogers (R) got 2,071 votes for Pct. 1; Roy Pippin, Jr. (R) received 1,612 votes for Pct. 2; and Sam Houston (R) got 2,240 votes for Pct. 3.

The only Democratic race in the county was won by Precinct 4 incumbent Alvin R. Wyatt who garnered 1,979 votes, while his Republican opponent Haney Wilkerson received 1,219 votes.
Shepherd city and school board elections results

In the City of Shepherd’s mayoral race, Earl Brown was running unopposed. He received 344 early votes and 136 election day votes to become mayor of Shepherd.

Two candidates with the most votes for aldermen in the City of Shepherd will be seated on the city council. C. Mark Porter received 142 votes; Jody Holloway received 282 votes; Chester Holden received 92 votes; W. Williams received 110 votes; Walterine Brooks Carr received 125 votes and Cecil Barnett received 74 votes. The two that will be seated on the Shepherd council are Jody Holloway and C. Mark Porter.

For trustee, Position 1 in the Shepherd Independent School District race, Dwayne Wright, unopposed, garnered 1,819 votes to retain his seat on the school board.

For trustee, Position 2 in the Shepherd Independent School District race, David Smith got 723 votes, Daniel L. Brown got 665 votes and Brian D. May got 663 votes, giving the win to David Smith.

For trustee, Position 3 in the Shepherd Independent School District race, Michael Courvelle, unopposed, garnered 1,848 votes to retain his seat on the school board.

Still no decision on sheriff’s budget request

By Martha Charrey
San Jacinto News-Times editor

It was déjà vu in San Jacinto County Commissioners’ Court last week as another debate erupted concerning a repeated request to approve an 84-hour work week for law enforcement and detention center employees to alleviate four hours of compensatory time every pay period.

San Jacinto County Chief Deputy Joe Schultea’s request was the same as before.

“Approve an 84-hour work week for deputies and detention center employees to stop the increase of overtime created by the shortage of personnel in the sheriff’s office and establish a cap on the amount of compensatory time afforded to all sheriff’s office personnel,” Schultea said. “This cap is an amount the elected sheriff has agreed to and will be enforced by all supervisors in the sheriff’s office should the current comp and holiday time be paid off and rule established.”

The original payoff Schultea requested is an estimated amount to pay-off all comp and holiday time for all employees in the sheriff’s department totaling about $189,000.

“However, the civilian employees, administrative personnel and dispatch are not in an overtime crisis. We are managing their overtime by having them take time off. Patrol and jail only creates a pay-off of comp time totaling about $75,000,” Schultea said.

Currently the sheriff’s department is working an 80-hour pay period with 12-hour shifts.

“This means four hours of comp time automatically goes onto the comp book for each patrol officer and jail employee each pay period. I still hold that paying those four hours as straight time each pay period is better than having to pay overtime at time and a half later in the budget year,” Schultea said.

The increase from an 80-hour to an 84-hour pay period will create an increase in salary for those deputies of about 5 percent, according to Schultea.

The number of employees directly affected by this request is 16 patrol deputies, four patrol sergeants, 14 deputy jailers and four jail corporals.

“It does not affect command, detectives, court or transportation,” he said.

Following a debate over the request that lasted for more than an hour and a half, commissioners’ court once again tabled a vote on the agenda item.

During discussions, Schultea told the court that the State Jail Commission has ordered that six more jailers are needed to remain in compliance.

“The commissioners’ court only allowed us two,” he said.

Concerning stats on the department’s current manpower and organization, Schultea said, “Our patrol division operates on four 12-hour shifts. Each shift has three deputies and one sergeant assigned. This puts one deputy north of 150, one deputy south of 150 and one deputy west of 2025. The sergeant floats the entire county and operates as a supervisor and backup to the other deputies. This is a very poor manpower situation considering the amount of high priority calls our deputies make each day. We cannot use the officer to population figure due to our county’s layout, but even if we could, that federal example says we should have six per shift instead of four. Overtime, by itself, shows us seven deputies short.”

According to Schultea, the plan of an 84-hour pay period after paying off all comp time is a major improvement to keeping his deputies working.

“Right now, by having to send some home to hold down comp time, we are paying deputies to stay home instead of paying them to come to work,” Schultea said.

The average paycheck to pay a deputy for comp time when he leaves employment in San Jacinto County is around $7,000 to $9,000, according to Schultea.

“Last month we lost seven employees due to low pay and four are on the slate to move this or next month,” Schultea said. “When they leave, their comp, holiday and vacation books are paid to them. Comp is paid at time and a half. This money comes out of our payroll budget, greatly reducing that line item and causing a budget failure.”

During an interview with the San Jacinto News-Times, Schultea said, “They (commissioners’ court) blame low revenue on the problem; however, after watching budget workshops for the past two cycles, it is my opinion that the men who are responsible for placing the tax money in the correct place are only placing it into their own road and bridge funds. I would not have requested what we needed had there not been sufficient money to work with. I only requested what we need to supply sufficient protection to the county, maintain protection for our deputies, and to remain in compliance with the State Jail Commission. If we are not in compliance with the jail commission, they could literally close our jail, creating an approximate $1.8 million problem for this county, all while zeroing out $200,000 to $300,000 revenue from contract counties we house inmates for.”

“You need to learn to utilize the resources you have,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Thomas Bonds told Schultea, during the court meeting.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Mark Nettuno echoed that by saying, “Work within your means.”

Pct. 2 Commissioner Donny Marrs made a motion to approve the 84-hour pay period. The motion died for lack of a second.

In other business, commissioners’ court approved to accept the donation of two hand held radios for Pct. 1 Constable Roy Rogers’ office by local business owner John Few.

A request was made by San Jacinto County 911 addressing coordinator Ashley Segovia to possibly change or approve a final street names for E-7 Drive known as Moore Lane and add Goodnight Trail in Pct. 4, and discuss and take action on a conflict of road names between Fomby Road and Oak Ridge Road in Pct. 3.

Following a lengthy debate over the agenda item, a motion was made to delete the name Fomby by Bonds, but it failed after the court abstained from the vote, following Pct. 1 Commissioner Ray McCoppin’s question about how the court would address the street and the situation due to the confusion of the matter.

The court did approve keeping the name of E-7 Drive instead of Moore Lane in Pct. 4, but voted to take up the addition of Goodnight Trail in Pct. 4 at a later date.

Commissioners approved the appointment of Brianna Shaw as election judge for Voting Box 6 and approved the emergency appointment for alternate judge for Box 5, Suzanne Choate, to serve in the Nov. 8, General Election.

No action was taken on an agenda item to approve the hiring and use of a local person knowledgeable in construction to periodically check the progress of the stages on construction of the county’s community shelter project and report back to commissioners’ court on the pace and quality of work being performed until the project is complete.

An agenda item to review and possibly increase bond amounts for certain elected officials was passed with no vote.

San Jacinto County Auditor Carole Martin said, “We are at minimum for the county clerk, treasurer and tax assessor-collector who handles most of the county money. For years those bonds have been $500 to $100,000, depending on the person’s credit rating.”

It was agreed by the court to see what other counties are doing and come back to the agenda item later.

Chief Deputy Schultea was appointed by the court to serve as a liaison to Deep East Texas Council of Government to develop a community plan as part of the Regional Criminal Justice Strategic Plan to receive funding from the Governors Criminal Justice Division.