The story headline links to a better view of the story and share features.

May 20, 2015 - Mayor Orinthia Johnson swore in newly elected council members Natalie Harris, Michael Baker and Claudine Howard at the recent Tenaha City Council meeting held on Monday, May 18, 2015.

Ron Barker, election judge, read the voting results for the council and following the council approving the canvass of votes Mayor Johnson administered the oath of office to the council members.

As council members reviewed the financial statements, councilwoman Harris asked if the council could meet at a time previous to a meeting to go over the budget to gain a better understanding of the finances.

Mayor Johnson stated, "That's gotta have a called meeting or something like that, no can't do it."

Stephen Shires, legal council for the city, suggested the council could have a financial workshop to meet her request.

Shires spoke with the council about a truck ordinance and dog ordinance which the council requested at their previous meeting and which he has written. During the meeting the council members reviewed the truck ordinance and Shires stated he would be sending City Secretary Clark the animal control ordinance.

Although Shires says once a dog is captured there is no place to take them, which is a countywide problem, adopting the ordinance is a step in preparation for such a solution in the future. The ordinance incorporates the "Dangerous Dog Act" allowing law enforcement to take proper and necessary action if a situation occurs.

The council approved a motion to review the truck ordinance and table the item until the next meeting. Another motion was then approved to table the animal control ordinance until the next meeting.

Public comment was heard during the beginning of the meeting from four of Tenaha's citizens. Curt Lawrence spoke regarding mowing in and around the city. He stated he has been a resident of Tenaha for five years and has his own business. Lawrence said he has helped the city to clean up and cut grass when George Bowers was mayor and he would like to help in any way he can.

Linda Perry spoke about the tall grass and the need for maintenance on Loop 157 and at McNeil Park, "The grass is getting so high you can't see the traffic coming. It's not the city's problem, but what can we do to get the state highway department to come see about it and take care of it? Because it's dangerous, if we have some bad accidents where people can't see the traffic coming out there it's going to be a problem.."

Perry wanted to clarify McNeil Park does not belong to the Tenaha Beautification and Events Committee, but does belong to the city, "We're just helping to get it fenced and donations to get tables and benches and it's not being mowed very well and especially the outside and the weeds and the concrete. When we had our garage sale all of that was grown up and needed to weed-eat it and if you poisoned it, you wouldn't have to weed-eat it all the time."

Dewayne Reese stated he is shocked that in 10 years as a resident of Tenaha not a whole lot has changed, "What really got me to the point where I really need to get active is that schools about to be out and our kids have nothing to do. I didn't know Tenaha had a park until my wife told me and when I went around there I was literally blown away and I was like 'we can't spend no money on our future, we can't spend no money on our children? We can't buy them a basketball goal and concrete where our children can get themselves busy?'"

Reese suggested change would come when citizens hold public officials accountable and they could be voted out, "We elect y'all in, we can get you out."

Claudine Howard, Councilwoman, invited Reese to participate with the Tenaha Beautification and Events Committee in working to improve Tenaha.

The Fiscal Year 2014 audit was a point of discussion for Marie Crawford during the public comment, "The state statute, financial statute says the audit was supposed to be completed 180 days after the end of the fiscal year. We are now into day 230."

Mayor Johnson stated he has spoken with Norman Wright, city's auditor, on the week previous to the meeting and he stated he would be in Tenaha on the first or second week of June. Sheryl Clark said Wright's intent is to have the audit completed by the end of June.

Some of the water customers have asked how many gallons they actually receive for a minimum. Stacy Cranford, water department manager, recommended the minimum be from 0 - 1,000 bringing the average bill to for $26.50. Tommy Rinkle, councilman, recommended 0 - 2,000 gallons and Cranford agreed.

Cranford gave an update on the current status of negotiations with BNSF regarding the Railroad Street area, "I wanna kind of let the citizens know at this meeting so if you have a concern with it we're going to try to schedule our Tenaha Economic Development meeting for next Tuesday (May 26, at 4:30pm)."

The City of Tenaha asked for a contribution to the city from BNSF and according to Cranford a reimbursement for the loss of the street, utility loss, property tax loss, utility relocation, reconstruction of West Railroad due to traffic diversion was requested and totaled over $400,000. BNSF countered by offering $11,520 for utility relocation, $25,000 for a crossing closure, and $7,623 for the cost of the street, totaling $44,143.

"The only thing that they can claim imminent domain on and take from us, is where that actual crossing is going to be," said Cranford.

Cranford continued by suggesting telling BNSF to just put a crossing in and let the city keep their street.

"We can force them to build a crossing and save our street and that would probably be the thing to do is just say, 'look we just want to keep our street,'" said Rinkle.

Toward the end of the meeting Mayor Johnson thanked Larry Terry for his service on the council and congratulated Natalie Harris, Michael Baker and Claudine Howard.

Approved items on the agenda:

    Minutes of the previous meeting.
    Financial statements.
    City of Tenaha Employee Handbook.
    Authorization of Mayor to accept contract with NetPLEA Services Government Collections and Consulting to collect warrant fines, contingent on change of indemnity language.
    Purchase a 52 HP Kubota tractor and finish mower package with a $31,800 financed through Kubota at 0% interest and $565.30 a month for 60 months for parks and streets. Baker abstained from voting.

Items discussed and tabled:

    Truck ordinance.
    Animal control ordinance.

May 20, 2015 - Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports that sometime on Monday, May 18th, 2015 at 10pm to Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 at 4am, unknown suspect(s) entered into several vehicles in Shelby County. Areas in which the burglaries occurred was in the James/Antioch Communities on County Road 3215 and FM 2608. Suspect(s) stole a Pioneer stereo system and money.

If anyone has any information regarding this case, please contact the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 936-598-5600 and ask to speak with Criminal Investigation Division Sergeant DJ Dickerson or Investigator Kevin W. Windham.

Center Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information. Anyone who has information regarding this crime should call Center Crime Stoppers at 936-598-SAFE (7233) or submit a tip online at Remember, you don't have to give your name. All calls and cash rewards are completely anonymous. Rewards will only be paid on tips submitted through the Center Crime Stoppers system.

May 20, 2015 - Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports that on April 11th, 2015 suspect(s) entered onto the property of a deer lease located on County Road 1017 in Center, Texas and stole items such as a utility trailer with deer stands, deer feeder, solar panels, trail cameras, and buddy heaters. A photograph was provided from a trail camera that shows a vehicle of interest that was on the deer lease on April 09th, 2015 at approximately 12:33pm. The property was stolen on April 11th, 2015 at approximately 12:42am. Photographs were also provided depicting the some of the stolen property.

If anyone has any information regarding this case, please contact the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 936-598-5600 and ask to speak with Criminal Investigation Division Sergeant DJ Dickerson or Investigator Kevin W. Windham.

Center Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information.Anyone who has information regarding this crime should call Center Crime Stoppers at 936-598-SAFE (7233) or submit a tip online at Remember, you don't have to give your name. All calls and cash rewards are completely anonymous. Rewards will only be paid on tips submitted through the Center Crime Stoppers system.

May 20, 2015 - Sheriff Willis Blackwell would like to report that on the 12th of May at around 12am Sergeant Michael Griffin while on routine patrol made a traffic stop on a vehicle for an expired registration on Martin Luther King Drive in Center. Sergeant Griffin identified the driver as James Allen Watson, 41, of Joaquin with passenger Crystal Monique Steffen, 26, of Center.

During the course of the traffic stop, Sergeant Griffin observed the driver to be nervous and was denied consent to search the vehicle. Sergeant Burkhalter and K9 Taz with the Center Police Department was contacted to perform an open air sniff around the vehicle. K9 Taz alerted on the vehicle as containing possible narcotics and a search of the vehicle was performed.

During the search a usable amount of methamphetamine was located along with several items of drug paraphernalia. James Allen Watson was placed under arrest for Possession of a Controlled Substance (state jail felony) and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (class C misdemeanor).

This illustrates the inter agency cooperation between different law enforcement agencies committed to make Shelby County a better place. We would like to stress if you observe anything you believe to be suspicious or believe there is illegal drug activity in your neighborhood to please feel free to call your local agency or report it to the Center Crime stoppers.

May 19, 2015 - Margie Anderson, Justice of the Peace Precinct 3, swore in the newly elected City of Joaquin Mayor, Bill Baker and City Council Members, Joe Long and Mike Atkinson Monday, May 18th at the Joaquin City Council Regular Meeting.

From left: Council members Ben Brittain, Mike Atkinson, Joe Long, Lee Vern Stotts Gillian, and Mayor Bill Baker

Following the swearing, council discussed establishing a separate account for Public Safety Fees which are a voluntary donation of $3 included in water bills which goes to public safety or the fire department. The fire department would manage the account and take over payment of all bills. Steve Cockrell, representing the Joaquin VFD, said, "We are asking the Council to think about this $3 that comes in every month for public safety be put into a separate checking account, write us a check for it and we will take care of all the bills. We will pay for the insurance, the gas, the utilities, the phone bill, and anything else that comes up." He went on to say any additional bills which come in over the amount collected through the Public Safety Fee, the fire department would take responsibility for it and pay it out of the fire departments own personal funds. Council agreed it would benefit the city to let the fire department manage the funds and be responsible for their bills. Council approved the motion to put it into a separate account for the fire department to manage.

Council approved the previous month's minutes and payment of bills following a breakdown of the bills explained by Amanda Willey, City Secretary. Council member Mike Atkinson addressed Willey saying, "I can tell Amanda [Willey] has taken some time to try to rectify some stuff that has happened in the past so I appreciate your effort."

"Last month was the first month that I'm sure that some of y'all know that we weren't able to pay all the bills, this second month we did just about get all those caught up now," stated Mayor Baker.

Mayor Baker spoke to the council about annexation of Haslam Tire Company located on Highway 84. Mayor Baker said he spoke with the owner of Haslam Tire, Mr. Tinkle, and he expressed willingness to be annexed into the City. Baker discussed the annexation process with the Council members according to Texas Municipal Leagues' (TML) advisement and council approved moving forward with the process. Mayor Baker said, "That is tax dollars we need."

During open forum, Cedric Jones addressed the council concerning trying to allocate or find funding to repair roads. He was concerned with health hazards and safety issues. Two top roads mentioned to be some of the worst streets in the city was Coulter Street and Morris Street. Discussion did include plans to help including cleaning out a creek and ditches; however, none of it can be done to improve the roads until the rain stops and it drys out.

Agenda Items Approved
1) Approved Previous Month's Minutes
2) Approved Payment of Bills
3) Council member Ben Brittain was appointed to be Mayor Pro Tem.
4) Approved starting annexation process for Haslam Tire Company.
5) Approved establishing a separate account for Public Safety Fees.
6) Approved establishing a separate account for payment of USDA Loan.

Agenda Items Tabled
1) Tabled hiring a new part-time clerk
2) Tabled Utility Rate Increase until more information can be gathered from finances.

May 18, 2015 -  Residents on Gladstone in Center got quite a surprise when a large oak tree fell across the street Monday, May 18, 2015 at 11:30am.

City of Center crews clearing the tree from the roadway

In the process of falling, the tree broke a gas meter and struck some overhead power line. Center police, fire department and street crews were called out to the scene. Also notified was SWEPCO and Center Point Energy.

While Center PD blocked off the street firemen made repairs to the meter. Upon securing the scene and beginning clean up, it was discovered the tree had fallen on a small car parked along the curb on the opposite side of the street. The car at the time was unoccupied and received damage to its top as well as the front window being busted out.  As of 5:10pm the tree has been cleared from Gladstone and the roadway is back open.

Tree across Gladstone

May 18, 2015 - The Shelby County area has received a great deal of rain as the result of storms which have blown through. Joaquin and Haslam have a lot of flooding as a result. Shelby County Today captured, and viewers submitted, photos of roadways and homes in the area.

These photos have been included in a photo album on the Shelby County Today Facebook and can be viewed there.


The photos in this album include submissions by viewers as well as photos taken by Shelby County Today.

Posted by Shelby County Today on Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015 - As of 4 PM, Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative is reporting approximately 130 members remaining without power due to the severe weather.

    Nacogdoches Co: approx. 70 (with the majority located in the Etoile area)
    San Augustine Co: less than 5
    Sabine Co: approx. 55 (Hemphill)

As of 1 PM, Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative is reporting approximately 230 member without power due to the severe weather.

    Panola Co: approx. 85 members out
    Shelby Co: approx. 80
    Nacogdoches Co: less than 10
    San Augustine Co: approx. 50
    Sabine Co: less than 5

As of 11 AM, Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative is reporting approximately 1,300 member without power due to the severe weather.

Panola Co: 550 members out – due to an outage experienced by SWEPCO whom feeds the DETEC line.

    Shelby Co: 95
    Nacogdoches Co: 60
    San Augustine Co: 450
    Sabine Co: 150
    Jasper Co: less than 10

Crews are currently out working to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible. To report an outage, please call: 1-800-392-5986.

DETEC would like to remind members to be safe - STAY AWAY FROM ALL DOWNED LINES. Consider them all to be live and dangerous. Call DETEC at 1-800-392-5986 to report downed lines and outages.

May 17, 2015 - FM 699 was the scene of a two-vehicle crash outside of Tenaha on Sunday, May 17, 2015. Residents at the scene of the crash were first to check on those involved in the crash and to contact 9-1-1.

Jessie Griffith with ACE EMS arrived with law enforcement and the Tenaha Volunteer Fire Department and began treatment of injured parties.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper Jade LaVergne, at 1:20pm a white 2012 GMC Sierra SLE pickup truck driven by Marion Jackson, 71, of Joaquin was traveling north on FM 699 1/2 mile from U.S. Highway 84. At the same time a blue 2013 Ford Fusion driven by Doyle Taylor, 83, of Joaquin was traveling south when he blacked out due to a medical condition and the Fusion crossed into the northbound traffic lane.

Jackson attempted to avoid colliding with Taylor by vacating his lane and entering the southbound lane, which is a legal action. Taylor regained consciousness and when he saw what was happening he attempted to veer the Fusion back into the correct lane; however, the vehicles still sideswiped each other head-on on the front right driver side and disabling both vehicles in the middle of the roadway.

Emergency personnel from the Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department and Tenaha Volunteer Fire Department provided traffic control at the scene while those involved in the crash were examined by ACE EMS.

Taylor was transported from the scene by ACE EMS to Nacogdoches Medical Center - Center Emergency Department for treatment of his minor injuries. Following examination by EMS, Jackson and his passenger Dewana Jackson, 38, of Joaquin refused transport to the hospital.

No citations have been issued at this time.

May 15, 2015 - On Friday, May 15, 2015 Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell reports that Johanna Vickers, 36, was arrested for the offense of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student and the offense of Sexual Assault of a Child, both 2nd degree felonies. The need for an investigation was reported to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office by Shelbyville I.S.D. who then fully cooperated with the Sheriff’s Office throughout the investigation.

Sheriff Blackwell would also like to thank the Shelby County Children’s Advocacy Center who has purchased and donated through a grant to local law enforcement earlier this year of a Universal Forensic Extraction Device which played a key roll in the investigation.

Mrs. Vickers was booked into the Shelby County Sheriff's Department jail facility and arraigned by Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Marla Denby with bond being set at a total of $50,000 dollars for both charges.