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November 8, 2017 - The Shelby County Commissioners met November 1, 2017 and collectively carried forward $1,339,330.70 in monies from their 2017 budgets.  

Each of the commissioners had a cash balance remaining in their budgets at the end of the budget year and there are options on what can be done with that money. 

Jason Fulbright, Intelligent Computer Concepts, spoke with the commissioners about the advantages of switching the courthouse to fiber internet service.Clint Porterfield, County Auditor, suggested to the commissioners they leave at least a portion of their remaining cash balance to help cover end of year expenses for the next year.

"I'm going to ask the court to take action to recognize the year end balances to begin with and then need to take action to decide of that amount, how much each precinct would like to budget as cash forward in their fiscal year 2018 budget," said Porterfield.

He explained that amount would then be budgeted in each commissioners' expenses and can be put into fixed assets, or material purposes at their discretion.

Porterfield let the commissioners know it was acceptable for the full amount to be budgeted; however, he wanted them to bear in mind at the end of next year they have the month of October before tax collections take place, and during that time the commissioners will have bills to still pay. He cautioned that if the full amount was budgeted, there would be future discussions to insure they don't spend the total amount.

Each of the commissioners expressed their wishes as follows:

Roscoe McSwain, Precinct 1 Commissioner, stated he was carrying over $479,330.70 and he chose to budget $429,000 to fixed assets leaving $59,330.70 of that amount un-budgeted.

Jimmy Lout, Precinct 2 Commissioner, stated he would budget $200,000 in fixed assets leaving $76,090.75 not budgeted.

Charles Barr, Precinct 3 Commissioner, chose to move $200,000 to fixed assets and according to financial records that leaves a remainder of $91,944.73. 

Bradley Allen, Precinct 4 Commissioner, elected to maintain $460,000 in fixed assets and leave $56,185.22 not budgeted.

A motion carried to recognize the cash balance of the four precincts and to adjust the cash on hand as each commissioner indicated.

Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison informed the commissioners of a request made by Judge Melissa Crouch, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, for software to be installed on her computer. Her assistant already has the software on her computer; however, Judge Crouch would like to have the software as well, so she may perform tasks with it from her computer.

Judge Harbison said the cost for the additional Serenity Software is $1,409.20. Porterfield informed her there were funds available in the Justice of the Peace Technology fund.

A motion carried to approve the purchase of the software.

Next on the agenda was a resolution for the Indigent Defense Grant Program which Judge Harbison explained has to be considered every year as a formality to get the grant.

"While we spend over $200,000 on legal defense for indigents we usually only get back $20,000-$25,000," said Judge Harbison.

A motion carried to approve the resolution for the Indigent Defense Grant Program.

Ann Blackwell, County Treasurer, accompanied by Jason Fulbright with Intelligent Computer Concepts spoke about upgrading the courthouse internet from DSL and U-Verse to a fiber connection.

Judge Harbison explained there are difficulties with the internet at times. Some offices are on DSL and others are on U-Verse.

"DSL never goes down, but it's slow. U-Verse goes down quite often," said Judge Harbison.

Blackwell said she put together numbers because she was asked to figure out what the cost would be to make the change to fiber. She said she knows a lot of businesses in Center are changing over to fiber which she understands is a more reliable option.

The plan which has been proposed would drop the cost of each phone line to $13.30 each using voice over IP (VOIP). Blackwell said that is a great improvement over where she has already been able to decrease the cost. 

In speaking with other individuals about the changeover it was recommended, and Blackwell suggested to Fulbright, the courthouse retain one analog phone line for each main office in the building as a backup in the event the fiber were to go down. Even still she says that will be a savings to the county.

The cost for the new lines would be $1,131 plus taxes and fees likely savings around $200 a month by switching to fiber. According to Blackwell, upgrades within the courthouse would cost around $2,500 and with the savings on the bill she said it wouldn't take long to recoup that expense.

Fulbright explained fiber is more of an enterprise internet solution.

"The U-Verse product, which predominantly a lot of people have, was originally rolled out as a consumer product. Simply because it did offer some higher speeds, businesses, public offices began to adopt it," said Fulbright. "The problem that we've seen with U-Verse is it has a tendency to go down quite often."

Fulbright continued to explain, when the system goes down they aren't sporadic outages, it's countywide and for a long period of time. 

"[Fiber] does obviously cost more but they have what's called a service level agreement of 99.9% access and what it offers is speeds that you cannot get with U-Verse product," said Fulbright.  

He also described the opportunity of future expansion that fiber paves the way for by having it available. Fulbright said with the increase of state agencies doing more online there's going to be a dependency on higher speeds.

"Everything is going to be more online," said Fulbright.

Fulbright detailed how many businesses locally as well as City of Center have already been using fiber. 

A motion carried to go forward and upgrade the courthouse internet service to fiber for a 24-month contract.

Commissioner Barr presented a need to lease a maintainer. He expressed how it wasn't something he intended on having to do at this time; however, his precinct got down to one machine and he's had to use one on loan from precinct 1.

CASE and Caterpillar both brought in demo machines for him to consider.

The total cost for the Caterpillar was listed at $238,414.

A motion carried to lease the Caterpillar for three annual payments, arrears at $38,769.85 with 2,000 hour min run.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:12am.

Martha Ventura (front) is a Panola College student of governmental studies. As part of her class she was to attend a local government meeting and following the Commissioners' Court the officials posed with her for a photo.

November 8, 2017 - The Tenaha City Council held a meeting Monday, November 6, 2017 to consider applications for the position of police chief, and they have chosen a candidate.

Following closed session, the council returned to open session and made a motion they had chosen a candidate to be revealed at a later date.

Shelby County Today contacted Natalie Harris, Mayor Pro Tem, and she announced the candidate which they have chosen is Jeremy H. Pope.

No further action was reported to have been taken during the meeting, and Pope's first day on the job has not yet been announced.

Pope is a former Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy and has most recently been a Sabine County Sheriff's Deputy..

November 7, 2017 (Local results by precinct)- Shelby County unofficial election results for November 7, 2017 Texas Constitutional Amendments ended with all seven propositions passing. Of the 14,922 registered voters in Shelby County, only 770 ballots were cast. As of 9:32pm, statewide election results show all propositions passing. (Election Night Returns Link)

Proposition Number 1 (HJR 21) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution."

For - 644
Against - 98

Proposition Number 2 (SJR 60) "The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads."

For - 596
Against - 155

Proposition Number 3 (SJR 34) "The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person's term of office."

For - 606
Against - 141

Proposition Number 4 (SJR 6) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional."

For - 550
Against - 180

Proposition Number 5 (HJR 100) "The constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles."

For - 432
Against - 297

Proposition Number 6 (SJR 1) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty."

For - 649
Against - 102

Proposition Number 7 (HJR 37) "The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings."

For - 384
Against - 349

November 7, 2017 - Center ISD board of trustees November 7, 2017 election results, 1 position an for unexpired term.

Total Ballots Cast - 457

Greg Hubbard - 231 (Early Voting 80, Election Day 151)
Shannon Denby - 148 (Early Voting 60, Election Day 88)
Kris Kirby - 75 (Early Voting 16, Election Day 59)

DeSoto Parish Crime Stoppers Felon of the Week Program is asking for the public’s help in locating/identifying suspect(s) wanted from DeSoto Parish Area.

Ladaryl D. BurnsLadaryl D. Burns of Mansfield, La. Burns is wanted for Felony Probation Violation. Burns is described as a black male, 5’11” tall and weighing 205lb. Burns is 41 years of age.

DeSoto Parish Crime Stoppers is offering a reward up to $1,000.00 for information that results in the suspects arrest, anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Stoppers line at 1-800-505-STOP(7867) all calls are confidential or contact the Desoto Parish Sheriff’s Office at (318)872-3956. Capt. James Clements.

Explanatory Statements for the November 7, 2017 Constitutional Amendment Election (

October 16, 2017 - (Notice with Spanish) - Notice is hereby given that the polling places listed below will be open from 7am to 7pm, November 7, 2017, for voting in a special election to adopt or reject the proposed Constitutional Amendments as submitted by the 85th Legislature, Regular Session, of the State of Texas.

Location(s) of polling places:

  • Precinct 1 N (Center) - First United Methodist Church, 211 N. Porter Street, Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 1 SO (Center) - Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 1 SE (Center) - Pineywoods Family Outreach Center, 255 Haley Drive, Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 1 SW (Center) - Center Community House, 423 San Augustine Street, Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 1 W (Center) - JOI Ranch, 5198 FM 2026, Tenaha, TX 75954
  • Precinct 2 (Aiken) - Excelsior School, 11280 St. Hwy 7 W., Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 3 (Campti) - Campti Pentecostal Church, 6153 FM 414, Center, Texas 75935
  • Precinct 4 (Huxley) - Lydia Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 14998 FM 139, Shelbyville, Texas 75973
  • Precinct 5 (Joaquin) - First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 175 Faulkville Road, Joaquin, Texas 75954
  • Precinct 6 (Dreka) - Dreka Pentecostal Church Fellowship Hall, 1193 FM 2427, Shelbyville, Texas 75973
  • Precinct 7 (Shelbyville) - First Baptist Church — Shelbyville Fellowship Hall, 5030 SH 87 South, Shelbyville, Texas 75973
  • Precinct 8 (Tenaha) - First United Methodist Church Schiede Hall, 256 N. George Bowers Drive, Tenaha, Texas 75954
  • Precinct 9 N (Timpson) - Texas State Bank, 830 N. St. W., Timpson, Texas 75975
  • Precinct 9S (Timpson) - Timpson School Gym Foyer, 836 Bear Drive, Timpson, TX 75975

Early voting by personal appearance will be conducted each weekday at:

Shelby County Clerk's Office, 124 Austin Street, Center, Texas between the hours of 8am and 4:30pm beginning on October 23rd, 2017 and ending November 3rd, 2017.

Application for ballot by mail shall be mailed to:

Application for ballots by mail must be received no later than the close of business on October 27, 2017.

Issued this the 16th day of October, 2017.

Order of Special Election

Order listed on ballot: Greg Hubbard, Shannon Denby, and Kris Kirby

An election is hereby ordered to be held on November 7, 2017 for the purpose of electing a trustee for the Center Independent School District Board Trustees. 

Filling one (1) unexpired term.

Applications for a place on the ballot shall be filed by: September 6, 2017. 

Early voting by personal appearance will be conducted each weekday at: Shelby County Clerk's Office, 124 Austin Street, Center, Texas

between the hours of 8am and 4:30pm beginning on October 23, 2017 and ending on November 3, 2017. 

Applications for ballot by mail shall be mailed to: 
Jennifer Fountain — Shelby County Clerk (Name of Early Voting Clerk) 
P.O. Box 1987
Center, Texas 75935

Applications for ballots by mail must be received no later than the close of business on November 7, 2017.

Issued this the 8th day of August, 2017

November 6, 2017 - The President has issued a proclamation honoring the victims of the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting. The Flag of the United States and all other flags flying with it are to be displayed at half-staff from now until sunset on November 9, 2017.
Proclamation can be viewed by clicking here 

November 5, 2017 - Following investigation, information has been released into a school bus crash which took place on October 26 in Shelby County.

Center ISD staff and police responded to the scene as soon as the incident was reported to see to the safety of the children and employees involved. ACE EMS also was dispatched to the scene to treat any possible injuries that may have been incurred by the occupants.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Taylor Buster, at 4:45pm just east of FM 711 on CR 1005 was a Center ISD school bus driven by Amanda Nicole Handy, 45, of Center with a school monitor on board Shelley Stanley, 53, as well as an 11-year-old female and 14-year-old male passenger. 

While the school bus was eastbound, Handy heard a loud pop come from the bus and the vehicle traveled left across the roadway striking a mailbox and then a tree head-on.

No one was injured from the crash and it was determined the incident was due to mechanical failure.

DPS Trooper Buster was assisted at the scene by DPS Trooper Daniel Dellinger. No citations were issued.

November 4, 2017 - State Highway 87 South was the scene of a major two-vehicle crash early on the morning of November 3, 2017.

Three fire departments were dispatched to the crash scene one mile south of the FM 139 intersection at Lout Town.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Keith Jones, at 4:38am a 2016 Mack truck-tractor owned by Tyson Foods Tenaha and driven by Thomas Maurice Tyrone, 55, of Dallas was pulling a 2017 Pace trailer also owned by Tyson foods southbound on State Highway 87. 

As Tyrone attempted to make a wide right turn into a private farm location, the Mack traveled into the northbound lane when all of a sudden a maroon 2001 Pontiac Montana passenger van driven by Dennis Monroe Bishop, 53, of Louisiana traveling northbound struck the left back quarter of the trailer.

The collision caused major damage to the van and it came to rest in the northbound barrow ditch facing the roadway. The truck-tractor remained in the roadway having received damage to the trailer.

Bishop was transported from the scene by ACE EMS to Nacogdoches Medical Center - Shelby Emergency Department for treatment of unknown injuries. 

Tyrone was issued a citation for wrong side of roadway not passing.

Huxley and Shelbyville Volunteer Fire Departments assisted at the scene with traffic control and Center Fire Department was turned back when it was determined Jaws of Life were not needed for extrication of Bishop.

November 3, 2017 - Ron Atkison, representing Martin Walker, PC, explained to the commissioners about opioid litigation and the benefit of retaining the services of the firm he represents during the October 23 meeting of the Commissioners' Court.

Atkison said the manufacturers of opioid based pain relievers have a marketing strategy to manipulate insurance companies and to push their products.

"In one county in West Virginia they shipped enough opioid pain killer that every man, woman and child in that county could have four bottles of it in a year," said Atkison.

He said there are synthetic pain killers that are just as effective; however, the prices on those pharmaceuticals are hiked up and insurance companies won't pay for them while the opioid based drugs are cheaper and more addictive.

Atkison said Martin Walker represents Dallas County, Rusk County, Smith County, Panola County, and Upshur County among others. He said the reason the issue matters for counties is there are categories within county budgets that tend to increase including law enforcement, healthcare, and foster care that have a link to opioid addiction.

"You notice every year that those are going up, and so it never crosses your mind what the reason for some of these increases is," said Atkison. "Luckily the regulators, people that watch this stuff, have tracked it."

Atkison used Rusk County as an example and said the additional cost to taxpayers there is $6 million to $8 million a year.

"It is a $75 billion a year taxpayer problem, and the reason why you don't ever catch it is 'cause those items are already in your budget and you see them and you think, 'well, they're just going up,'" said Atkison.

According to Atkison, regulators such as the Centers for Disease Control have broken the numbers down and identified the problem, and he pointed out this national opioid crisis is something for which taxpayers are having to foot the bill.

Atkison explained the issue will be addressed in federal court and is based on a nuisance theory. He mentioned a previous litigation which was successful, but money received in that circumstance went through Austin. Having a legal representative for the county in such matters would provide the county opportunity to receive any monies won in court directly rather than having to await a divided sum from Austin, with possible restrictions.

An epidemiological study of the county is something Atkison mentioned would be conducted, and which will be at no cost to the taxpayers. The study will help to indirectly identify the number of people who may have been over prescribed opioids within the county. 

A motion carried to approve the retention of Martin Walker, PC, for opioid litigation.

Sherry Riley, Veterans Service Officer, spoke with the commissioners about grant funding from the Texas Veterans Commission Funds for Veterans Assistance Program.

The funds available are generated through the sale of a lottery ticket that was created by Texas Veterans Commission.

"To date, that lottery ticket is offering $26 million in the grant fund, so I would like to apply for $30,000 transportation grant," said Riley.

She said her intent for the funds would be to transport veterans to and from doctor appointments at medical facilities in the area. For veterans who cannot afford to go to the nearest VA hospital, it will likely be of a great benefit.

Riley explained she would work closely with Ann Blackwell, County Treasurer, to oversee the disbursement of funds. The grant is expected to last the duration of a year. Riley said 80% of the veterans will go to Overton Brooks or Lufkin facilities and 20% will go to Longview or Houston facilities.

Reimbursement rates for round trip will include: Overton Brooks, $80.25; Charles Wilson, $56.71; Longview, $69.55; and Michael E. DeBakey in Houston $191.53. These are funds that are reimbursed to volunteer drivers transporting veterans.

Roscoe McSwain, Commissioner Precinct 1, clarified with Riley the county would be expending the funds first and then the grant funds would be reimbursed quarterly to the county.

A motion was carried to apply for the grant funding.

Ann Blackwell spoke with the commissioners about a bank account held by the county for the Historic Courthouse, which is separate of the general fund. She described how there are many accounts under the general account umbrella; however, the Historic Courthouse has its own for an unknown reason. 

She asked to be able to move the Historic Courthouse under the general fund umbrella to simplify and eliminate needing checks for that separate account.

A motion carried to consolidate the funds.

Daniel O'Rear, Shelby County Juvenile Probation, and Stephen Shires, District Attorney, expressed a need for additional funds for a juvenile accused of murder in that he will need to be housed for an extended time, and possibly under special circumstances should it be ruled he be treated as an adult.

This added expense would likely exceed the Juvenile Probation Budget.

A motion carried for O'Rear to submit bills as needed either weekly or monthly based on whatever agreement he has with the facility where the accused is placed.

Following brief discussion over the need of a replacement truck-tractor a motion carried to approve the purchase of a used truck-tractor under $50,000 for Precinct 2.

Items approved on the agenda include:
1. Payment of weekly expenses
2. Retain Martin Walker, PC, for opioid litigation.
3. Renew licensing software agreement between Shelby County and Software Services for District Clerk's Office, JP1 Office, JP2 Office, JP3 Office, JP4 Office and the JP5 Office.
4. VSO to apply for a $30,000 Funds For Veterans Assistance grant, offered by Texas Veterans Commission.
5. Consolidate the Historic Courthouse account with the General Fund.
6. Consider bills for Juvenile Probation detention services on a weekly or monthly interval.
7. Purchase of a used truck-tractor under $50,000 for Precinct 2.

Items tabled on the agenda include:
1. Appoint a representative from Shelby County to the East Texas Regional Water Planning Group.