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Texas’ Voter ID Law to Remain in Effect

August 6, 2015 - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released the following statement on the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Texas’ Voter ID law:

“Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect. I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters.”

Texas has successfully held three statewide elections and numerous local and special elections with the Voter ID law in place – with no disenfranchisement reported.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller presented arguments on April 28, 2015, on behalf of the State of Texas in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The Texas Legislature enacted Texas’ Voter ID law in 2011 through Senate Bill 14 (SB14), which requires voters to present government-issued photo ID when voting at the polls. The seven acceptable forms of photo ID include the following: a Texas driver’s license, free Texas election identification card (EIC), Texas personal identification card, Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, U.S. military identification card, U.S. citizenship certificate, and U.S. passport. Connect with us: Follow us on Twitter at @TXAG • Find us on Facebook at TexasAttorneyGeneral

August 6, 2015 - As of 6pm on August 4, 2015 a BURN BAN is in Effect in the City of Joaquin. No Outdoor Burning until further notice. This is for the City Limits Only.

Jeremy Boyett
Assistant Chief/Fire Marshal

3:50PM CDT Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 - The National Weather Service in Shreveport has issued a Heat Advisory in effect from 1pm through 7pm Thursday.

A building heat wave and increasing humidity will result in heat index values between 103 and 108 degrees Thursday afternoon. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity values will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illness are possible.

Precautionary/Preparedness actions
Take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities or early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Wear light weight and loose fitting clothing when possible and drink plenty of water.

Drink plenty of fluids. Stay in an air-conditioned room. Stay out of the sun. Check on relatives and neighbors.

August 5, 2015 - The Center Police Department is seeking information in regards to a missing person. Vance Ethridge, 41, of Center was last seen on July 4th at the Super 8 Motel in Center, Texas.

Ethridge was reported missing by his family and is described as a white male, 200 lbs, 5'4" tall with brown hair who walks with a limp.

If you have any information in regards to this missing person, 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.

August 4, 2015 - The intersection of State Highway 7 East and new Loop 500 West was the scene of a two-vehicle crash on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at 9:55am.

When emergency personnel arrived, they began checking the condition of driver's and passengers involved in the crash. Once ACE EMS was on scene, it was determined the driver of a Pontiac needed treatment and she was transported from the scene.

According to Center Police Officer Jake Gross, a silver 2008 Toyota Sienna driven by Ronald Smith, 69, of Many, La. was crossing from the old Loop 500 to the newly opened section at State Highway 7 East traveling northbound.

Loretta Wheles, 36, of La. was traveling west driving a gold 2005 Pontiac Grand Am toward Center on State Highway 7 when Smith failed to yield right of way at the stop sign and drove in front of Wheles. This caused the Grand Am to strike the passenger side of the Sienna.

ACE EMS transported Wheles from the scene to Nacogdoches Medical Center - Center Emergency Department for treatment of minor injuries. Smith and his passenger Susan Smith, 65, received no injury. Smith was cited for failure to yield right of way at a stop sign.

This is the first official crash since the new section of Loop 500 was opened. A crash occurred on the new Loop 500 section on April 30, 2015 when a truck-tractor failed to yield right of way to a vehicle crossing on FM 699. Some roadways no longer have right of way as they once did and drivers are urged to use caution when meeting new Loop 500 from adjacent roadways.

August 4, 2015 - The barricades have been removed and the Loop 500 Extension from Hwy 7E to Hwy 96N has offically opened. The signage and striping on the new roadway has been completed.

Drivers must use caution when approaching all affected intersections, especially the Loop and FM 699. Stop signs are in place at this intersection but because of the now active roadways, they may be overlooked.

August 7, 2015 - Shelby County Today was notified that according to Texas Local Government Code, Sec. 118.133, Shelby County does not meet qualifications to be able to adopt a system by which the county charges a fee for false alarms.

August 3, 2015 - In response to questions concerning the registration of home security systems with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to clarify.

The reason for the registration of your security system is to get accurate, detailed directions to your home or business should your alarm go off. Your alarm company is most likely in another city or possibly another state and the answering service that alerts the Sheriff’s office does not have the best information of how to locate you. The registration form asks for 911 address, detailed directions to your home or business, as well as contact numbers.

At this time, there is NO FEE. When county fees are set in January, the county may choose to impose that fee. But we still need you to please register your system with us for your safety and to possibly save precious time in reaching you should your alarm sound.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Sheriff Willis Blackwell

July 27, 2015 (Original release) - Due to the increasing number of security alarm calls, the Shelby County Sheriffs Office (SCSO) is requesting property owners register any security systems installed and existing in the county (outside the Center City Limits). Forms to register the systems are available at the SCSO. An initial registration fee of $30 is required to register new systems or any existing systems. Property owners will not incur any additional charges unless the SCSO responds to more than three false alarms in a calendar year. After three false calls, a fee of $30 will be charged per incident.

Shelby County Sheriff Willis Blackwell suggests property owners have their alarms adjusted to prevent alarms from being set off falsely. Blackwell said deputies respond to numerous false alarm calls per night and with no more than two deputies on duty per shift, it is difficult to cover the false calls which average more than 200 per month.

This change will not affect Life Alert systems or similar systems used by the ill or elderly citizens in the county. For more information contact the SCSO at (936) 598-5601.

August 3, 2015 - Photos by Talia MatthewsA fire destroyed the home of a Shelbyville family on Sunday, August 2, 2015 while family and neighbors were gone to church.

The Shelbyville Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) was paged to a structure fire off FM 417 West in the Gates Chapel Community at 4pm. Upon arriving on scene, the SVFD found the home of Dean Lister fully engulfed in flames.

Called to assist at the scene as well was the Center Fire Department. The house was a total loss as were several storage buildings located near the home.

August 1, 2015 - Although the Timpson City Council was presented with a reduced police force, the proposal didn't meet with the majority's preference and for a second year in a row, not all budgets were immediately adopted.

Mayor Smith prepared the 2015-2016 budget for the General Department, which she stated is everything the city spends money on other than water, sewer and electric. A four-man police department schedule was presented to the council by Timpson Police Chief Kent Graham and although this is a reduction in force, Wolfe and Baker stated once again they want a three-man police department.

Mayor Smith stated she doesn't believe the patrol vehicles are going to hold up well to that scenario, because officers would need to take the cars home with them to be able to respond in an emergency situation when they are on call. If officers were to respond to an emergency in a personal vehicle, this would both increase response time in an emergency and create a number of liability issues if the officer were to be involved in a crash while en-route to the emergency.

Although Baker wished to know where the current officers live, this is irrelevant, because future officers would not necessarily be the same individuals or live in the same location as current officers.

Ramsey stated she has been seeing what she describes as criminal activity from the porch of her home. Once she witnessed a man hiding a tiller in bushes near her home and the suspect fled when an officer arrived. She also stated neighbors have had items stolen when they were on vacation, "I'm gonna tell you, you can ask my brother (Constable Stanley Burgay), it is bad and it is bad, y'all might just want to think about that."

Chief Graham confirmed there has been a rash of burglaries, which he said luckily have all been solved. He said 90% of the individuals responsible for these burglaries are in jail.

Ramsey made a motion to adopt the proposed budget for the General Department for the city of Timpson for 2015-2016, as well as a four-man police department. The motion was seconded by Allen. Mayor Smith asked if Wolfe would like to elaborate on his wishes to have a three-man department.

"We had a three-man department and they worked eight hour shifts, they was on call four hours and we had 24-hour coverage," said Wolfe.

Allen asked what benefit there is to the city by cutting back from a four-man department to a three-man department when the four-man reflects a positive budget, "Exactly where would you see a reallocation of need of those funds being greater than that officer, just simply answered."

Wolfe responded by stating the last meeting the council was discussing replacing 20,000 feet of clay sewer line which would cost $2.3 million. Mayor Smith said that money is a water/sewer plan and asked Wolfe if he was talking about transferring that money from the electric to the water and sewer, because there is no water from the General Department which goes to water/sewer, "Water/sewer is a water/sewer deal, it's either a bond, or property taxes or transferring from your other utility company. You can't transfer from General (Fund) to water or General (Fund) to electric."

Wolfe stated money is being transferred from electric to police and Smith tried to explain to him how the funding process works involving city funds, "Police is a General Fund, by Texas law they are a general service, they are not a for hire business." To which Wolfe responded money is being transferred from electric to the General Fund. Smith continued, "Because that's a business, General (Fund) is not allowed to do that. General tax dollars have to be used for the general welfare of the city of Timpson, but that includes street paving, police service, sidewalks. But, it doesn't do the water/sewer or the electric because we have our own utility company."

An ominous picture was painted by Wolfe as he stated along with the sewer repair is street repair also in the future. Smith stated the Economic Development Corporation has $60,000 they are planning to put toward street repairs, which they will be meeting about soon.

The motion to adopt the General Fund Budget failed with Baker, Wolfe and Grace all against. Mayor Smith stated a meeting would be necessary on August 6, 2015. Item four on the agenda involving the employee handbook was not able to be addressed, because not all budgets were adopted.

Earlier in the meeting, councilwoman Yvonne Ramsey reiterated her motion from the previous meeting of July 28, 2015 to accept the 12.2% increase in the premium of TML healthcare which means continue to pay the full amount at the rate of $495.80. The motion was seconded by councilman Kyle Allen; however, when the item came to a vote council members Ronnie Wolfe, Janell Baker and George Grace all voted against the motion causing it to fail.

Wolfe then brought up street sweeping in Timpson and said he would like to do away with having the streets swept, he also stated his intent to put a cap on the cost of insurance for city employees, "We can't just continue, insurance is going to continue to escalate."

No longer having a service sweeping the streets of Timpson is a savings of $4,458 a year. The streets the sweeper covered were around the Timpson square and near MLK Park.

Baker agreed she would like to see a cap put on how much the city pays for insurance and she would rather see the money from sweeping go toward the employee insurance. Wolfe made a motion to pay 100% of the employees insurance and put a cap on it to not pay more on the insurance than currently, ever and to discontinue the street sweeping. Baker seconded the motion.

Councilman Allen remarked he was glad the council didn't put a cap on insurance in 1981 as cost increase is inevitable, "As the price of everything goes up, I mean, to keep employees. I mean, we're more or less giving them a pay cut if we do that."

Wolfe remarked the employees are already receiving a cut in their benefits with the proposed budget. Mayor Debra Pate Smith confirmed the motion was to to pay the full amount at the TML rate increase of 12.2% at $495.80 and add a cap of that amount going forward. The motion carried. Street sweeping will discontinue on October 1, 2015.

Ramsey made a motion to adopt the proposed budget for the Electric Department for 2015-2016, which was seconded by Wolfe and the motion carried.

July 31, 2015 - The Annual Center Volunteer Fire Department Bingo has been temporarily canceled resulting from the requirement by the Texas Lottery Commission of the event to be licensed.

Thomas Hanson, Texas Lottery Commission Enforcement Division Investigator, was informed of the upcoming bingo and he explained for Shelby County Today the laws governing bingo and raffles. Charitable and nonprofit organizations have the right to have bingo and raffles if they are properly licensed.

"It requires the charitable organizations, even if they're having one event for the year, they have to apply for a license. Normally it takes, if you're only doing one event for the year, you apply for that license that's normally a 30 day turnaround," said Hanson. "If you already have a license, then a temporary license for a different event might be a 7-10 day turnaround."

State law requires any of the authorized organizations to seek a license with the Texas Lottery Commission or face the possibility of serious penalties which Hanson explained, "If you go ahead and have bingo you are subject to being charged with a felony of the third degree which authorizes imprisonment up to about five years."

Any organization in Shelby County found to be in violation of the law would be subject to prosecution by the Shelby County District Attorney.

"That's something that probably no organization wants to see and we certainly don't want to see any members of a volunteer fire department getting charged six weeks from now for conducting a bingo session without a license."

Hanson says the Texas Lottery Commission does everything they can to make direct contact to try and get voluntary compliance from any organization which is not licensed and is preparing to have a bingo.

Many local organizations and events in Shelby County may not be aware of the laws governing bingo and raffles, and to avoid the risk of legal action should be informed of the law. According to the Texas Occupations Code, Title 13. Chapter 2001, A bingo license for a qualified organization (volunteer fire department, religious society, veterans organization, nonprofit organization) has a fee of $25 and, once acquired, is for use on a single occasion and within a 4-hour time period. No more than six licenses may be used by an organization in a calendar year.

The Occupations Code, Title 13. Chapter 2002 pertains to charitable raffles. The following information must be printed on each raffle ticket sold or offered for sale:(1) the name of the organization conducting the raffle; (2) the address of the organization or of a named officer of the organization; (3) the ticket price; (4) a general description of each prize having a value of more than $10 to be awarded in the raffle; and (5) the date on which the raffle prize or prizes will be awarded.

A lot of organizations may be under the impression a 50/50 raffle is legal when according to the Charitable Raffle Act, Occupations Code, Title 13. Chapter 2002, Sec. 2002.056. Restrictions on Prizes: A prize offered or awarded at a raffle may not be money.

More information relating to bingo and raffles is contained within the statutes and can be found at the following links, as well as frequently asked questions: Bingo Enabling Act, Charitable Raffle Act, Raffles and Casino/Poker Nights in Texas Frequently Asked Questions.