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May 31, 2022 - The Shelby County Commissioners approved the acceptance of a bulletproof vest donated by the city of Timpson to Josh Tipson, Constable Precinct 5, and further discussed and approved a reserve officer for the Precinct 5 Constable office during their meeting held May 18, 2022. 

The city purchased the vest March 9, 2022, in the amount of $970.42 from Teeco Safety out of Shreveport, Louisiana. 

"I did speak to the mayor [Debra Pate Smith], and she apologized because she was not aware that any donation that the city makes to county needs to be run through court, and she said that will not happen again," said Judge Allison Harbison. 

According to Judge Harbison, Smith assured her any future donations from the city to the constable would be communicated better. She also said the city is willing to help the constable out.

Judge Harbison relayed Mayor Smith stated the city could probably contribute $5,000 from the current time through the rest of the fiscal year and then include that amount in their future budget to go toward the constable budget.

Josh Tipton, Constable Precinct 5, was seeking to have Billy Lusk, Timpson ISD PD officer, as his reserve constable. Judge Harbison said she has not yet spoken with the Superintendent of Timpson ISD; however if Tipton is appointing Lusk, it would then be his responsibility to make arrangements with the school.

Commissioner Bellmyer asked Constable Tipton for clarification on what Lusk's duties would be and if he has a vehicle to drive, and there is no vehicle available at this time. So, Tipton suggested Lusk would just need to be in the vehicle with him for the time being.

"As generous as the people have been up in my precinct about helping out, I don't think it's going to be no problem at all to get him some kind of vehicle," said Tipton.

Tipton wanted to clarify some issues related to concerns of Clint Porterfield, County Auditor. Tipton stated Lusk has not responded to any calls in his personal vehicle and the times he has called him for assistance, Tipton said his has met him with his constable vehicle and Lusk has ridden with him to a calls. Tipton said, as peace officers they have the right to summon citizens, if willing, to assist them in a situation.

"The one time that he has flown the drone was what I would consider exigent circumstances, " said Tipton. "We had a 10-year-old child come up missing, mom and dad was freaking out, of course we didn't have any idea and they lived in close proximity of Highway 59, the child was a little bit autistic. Of course that raised concerns, not only with me but with other law enforcement officials."

Roscoe McSwain, Commissioner Precinct 1, said he would prefer Tipton request assistance from a law enforcement officer, but when he has the right and ability to summons a citizen, why does he need a reserve?

"At that point, the county assumes the liability of that, because he summons them and put them in that position. So why do we need a reserve anyway? Why do we need that can of worms open for a constant liability," said McSwain. "Just like the incident Josh was talking about he got expunged from, he did, but that still cost this county $18,700 to pay an attorney to get him expunged from it."

McSwain said it was nothing against Tipton, but any constable being subject to potential liability, and even if they do everything appropriately there is the potential to get sued.

"He says the county's backwards, that's not true, this county's moved way farther. We've supported that Sheriff's Department and that's why I said if there's a problem in Timpson that they're not getting the service they need, we need to put pressure on the Sheriff's Department," said McSwain. "That's the reason we hired them another deputy and they assured us when the mayor was here to help donate the car and stuff like that, that they would pick up and step up and do more and they're not doing it."

McSwain reiterated a need to take the issue directly to the Sheriff's Department, and not pursue other avenues. 

"If we're not getting a bang for the buck, we need to get a better understanding," said McSwain.

Tipton commented Shelby County is a poor and small county and it takes everyone to make the wheel turn easier.

Constable Tipton explained the main obligation of the constable is the service of papers and if the Sheriff's Department has two or three deputies on a shift, he feels it would be a disservice to his constituents if constables only served papers and did nothing on the days they had no papers to serve.

"What good does that do my contituents and the citizens of Shelby County, what good does that do them to pay me 40-something-thousand dollars a year to serve two or three papers a month," said Tipton. "That's why we as a small county and smaller agencies we try to do our part to pitch in and help out investigations, traffic, and so on."

He said 75% of the calls in Precinct 5 come through his office. 

"I've got the biggest municipality in Shelby County, other than Center and I do not have a police department," said Tipton. 

The Timpson City Council decided March 1, 2021, to dissolve their police department. 

Tipton said it isn't that the Sheriff's Department isn't doing anything, he sees them.

"Especially at night time, there's two deputies per shift, that's what their budget calls for and I listen to the radio. It just seems like once you get south [part] of Shelby County it's just 'no-man's land' and it's a lot of time spent down there,' said Tipton. "I'm not saying nobody's camping out or it's just there's a lot of calls that are generated down that way."

Jimmy Lout, Commissioner Precinct 2, remarked if they allow a reserve for the Constable 5 office, they would likely see other constables at court wanting the same thing. Constable Tipton posed the question, "why not, when you have people willing to give back to your community?"

Tipton questioned what differentiates his office from that of the Sheriff's Department, or any other elected official in running their office as they see fit, when the Sheriff's Department is practiced at having reserve officers.

With the large case load Constable Tipton says he has, Commissioner Bellmyer asked if there would be any way an investigator from the Sheriff's Department would be able to take on some of those cases.

"That's just not a standard operating procedure that we do, I mean if I take it, I take it, just they don't ask me to take nothing," said Tipton. "We might join in with each other."

Constable Tipton remarked it's never been a problem for him to ask something of the Sheriff's Department and for them to help him, and Sheriff Windham has never told him "no" about anything.

Judge Harbison asked what the cost to the county would be for a reserve deputy, and he said the number of reserves the county has is all that is reported, not even their name.

Commissioner McSwain remarked the addition of the officer doesn't cost directly, but that the chance of liability increases. He also said a car may be donated, but it will have insurance which has to be paid on it, and with the likelihood of the vehicle being an older model, it will probably need a lot of maintenance. He said he sees both positive and negative and liability in adding a reserve. His opnion was to continue with the investment in the Sheriff's Department and demand results there.

"We may need to have a sit down with the Sheriff, and we may have to hire another deputy or two, have somebody that serves their community, not goes up there once or twice a week," said McSwain. 

Commissioner Bellmyer said he sees both sides of the situation and if a new deputy were hired, they still would be responsible to the whole county.

"If we have a reserve that lives in the Timpson area, that is ready to work within the constable 5 precinct, and that's the only area that that individual works, then we do help increase some visibility within the Timpson area and within the constable 5 precinct," said Bllmyer.

Bellmyer made a motion to accept Lusk as a reserve constable with the caveat of his not having an automobile and if one comes available in the form of a gift or donation that the constable will return to the court.

He suggested the possibility of the city affording the cost of the insurance for the vehicle, rather than the county having to afford that debt solely.

To continue discussion on the item, Judge Harbison seconded the motion to prevent the motion from dying, and Judge Harbison invited Robin Connell who is a business owner in Timpson and Joaquin, as well as a resident of precinct 4.

She wanted to remind everyone that Timpson is on U.S. Highway 59 and 84 and Joaquin is on U.S. Highway 84. U.S. 59 is a main thoroughfare from Houston and the traffic running on those highways is unique to other parts of the county.

"I can't tell you how many times I've called the Sheriff's Department and this is what I'm told, 'we don't have anybody on duty right now, we don't have anybody we can send, the only people we have on duty are down in Possum Trot,'" said Connell. 

She says she has been told that many times and in her experience of having a convenience store that's open 24 hours a day for 22 years and another for 18 hours a day for 20 years previous to that, emergencies aren't Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.

"That's not when you call and you're scared to death of what's going on, that's not when it happens," said Connell. "We had the luxury of having a city police department and I say that in all sincerity we had the luxury of having one, that's gone."

Connell discribed if you call the Sheriff's Department Monday morning at 9am, you'll have a whole "army" show up, but Thursday at 12:15am it would be a different situation.

"I don't know how Josh gets done what he does, I really don't, and I know he works ridiculously long hours," said Connell.

Connell said she understands McSwain's position on the reserve situation, but the city of Timpson is willing to help supplement. 

"I've lived here for a long time, I've never seen the Sheriff's Department step up and have a presence in Timpson, not when you need them," said Connell. "We were fortunate we had deputies that lived in Timpson and when something would happen they could be right there," said Connell.

When the commissioners voted on the motion to approve the reserve, all voted in favor with the exception of McSwain who voted no.

"I'd rather have had a conversation with the Sheriff in closed session before these votes were ever taken. It's too late now, let's just move forward," said McSwain.

Judge Harbison continued they probably do still need to have a conversation with the Sheriff.

"I feel like when the Timpson Police Department went down, your folks thought it was a free-for-all," said Judge Harbison.

The commissioners had several bidders for work to be done on the Annex building and on the Adult Probation building. One of the bidders, Easy Way Construction, has withdrawn their bids and the commissioners were then compelled to review the other bidders in place of Easy Way Construction.

The two other bids for the Adult Probation building were Cornerstone Construction $121,000; and Hagler Construction $120,000.

Commissioner Bellmyer was designated to visit with each of the contractors as they toured the locations and he said they both covered all of the elements of the proposed projects.

Stevie Smith, Commissioner Precinct 3, asked Tom Bellmyer, Commissioner Precinct 4, if he actually had a preference on which contractor to choose. Bellmyer remarked on a question that was submitted to Allison and Bass about bid selection and Bellmyer stated the answer on that query was the county is actually obligated to accept the lower bid.

"When you go out for competitive bidding like that, if all the bids are covering all the portions correctly, we are obligated to take the low bid," said Bellmyer.

He stated both are good contractors and do a good job.

A motion carried to accept the bid from Hagler Construction to be paid out of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). 

Agenda items approved during the meeting include:
​1. Approve and pay weekly expenses.
2. Public comments on Agenda item.
3. Discuss and possibly approve Constable Pct. 5 to add a reserve, Constable.
4. Discuss and possibly approve the donation of a bullet proof vest to Constable Pct. 5.
5. Bid from Hagler Construction in the amount  for renovating the Adult Probation Building.
6. Canvass the May 7, 2022 Constitutional Amendment Election votes.
7. Adjourn.

May 31, 2022 - The Shelby County Commissioners considered the approval of a county road for a subdivision that is working to be established in precinct 3 during their meeting held May 11, 2022.

Darin Borders spoke to the commissioners about the subdivision he is working to establish.

"I came in a couple months ago with the first meeting we discussed this and I gave everybody a copy of the plat and kind of laid out the plan for everybody and requested that the plat be approved and submitted and the road bid be accepted into the county maintenance," said Borders. "So, absence of any opposing discussion or anything it's my take that it should be approved just like that."

Stevie Smith, Precinct 3 Commissioner, stated he believes the plat and the road to be two separate issues.

"I met with Mr. Borders the first of the week and he said that he would be willing to, if we accepted it and gave him the county road, that he would be willing to sign an agreement that says he is responsible for the road for two years while the build is being done, and then after the two years it would come back to court to make sure that the road was turned over in the condition that it was agreed upon when the county road was established," said County Judge Allison Harbison.

Borders agreed that was what he had said and he still agreed to that. According to Borders, the county would not have any expense during the construction period. He explained the intent is for the road to be a county road where people will be paying county taxes, with county addresses. It would not be an established subdivision with people paying dues.

There are 32 lots fronting 1500 feet of roadway.

"It would be hard to get anymore tax revenue for the distance of road than what we're getting here on what this is," said Borders.

Borders opinion was that the taxes would be more than enough money to support the road and the roads coming to it.

I don't know why we have to commit to maintaining before see what we're going to get," said Commissioner Smith. "I saw the road, it is a descent road."

Commissioner Smith referred to a class for commissioners he attended in College Station where a lawyer strongly suggested not taking subdivision roads as county roads.

Borders questioned, "What's the function of government, if not to maintain roads, how do you build a tax base where you don't accept county roads?"

Borders stated he felt that was a left-wing radical mindset and he had difficulty accepting that for Shelby County.

"One very positive thing that this subdivision is, is it's the first time the county will accept a subdivision that you also get a guarantee that for two years, ever who puts the subdivision in is maintaining the road and that you still have the right for approval of the condition of the road when you accept it fully in two years," said Commissioner Roscoe McSwain.

McSwain expressed concern regarding the county picking and choosing who it serves, and he equated the request of Borders to that of someone requesting a tax abatement, "He's building a tax base for the county out there. We invested money either in that road or like a tax abatement, we invest money in the tax abatement because we're not making them pay taxes for years, it's the same thing, how do you pick and choose?"

McSwain continued, "I said this back when Quick Stop was built in Joaquin. How do you give this person a tax abatement, but you don't give a lady that's invested a million and a half dollars a tax abatement?"

Judge Harbison commented the fact there are no rules and regulations on the subject hurts them because it makes it appear the county picks and chooses what they will and won't approve.

Tom Bellmyer, Precinct 4 Commissioner, referenced sitting in on a meeting for counties dealing with subdivisions. "One of the points that they brought out that was very clear is that the legislature had changed the rule on subdivision acceptance, and they were talking about the plat," said Bellmyer. "It went from 60 days to 30 days, on what the plat had been submitted, you had 30 days to make the decision. If not, then it was accepted."

Bellmyer continued, "My recollection is that the advise was not to accept the road when you accepted the plat, and the reason was unless it was a paved road, and when I say a hard surfaced concrete road, then it would take some damage during construction and the discussion was hold the road open for two years and get the major portion of the construction on the road behind you, and then have the sub-divider maintain the road during construction and at the end of two years then he felt like you were on pretty firm ground to accept the road."

Borders agreed that makes sense to him, and they have performed similar projects in other counties, and he said they put up a road bond.

"If for some reason I don't do what I said I'll do, you draw against the bond to fix the road at that point," said Borders.

Commissioner described how the bond would be a safety net for the county were the project not to be completed to specifications, and Judge Harbison also interjected Borders would be installing the culverts for the properties.

Judge Harbison said she has explained to Borders attorney, the county would need a contract to go along with the agreement.

"I don't have a problem, except that a county road in two years, after all the construction is done and we see what we're getting. Right now I've got a problem with accepting it right now," said Commissioner Smith. "The road's there right now, it's been there for several months, and who's it serving?"

Judge Harbison said Borders shared the property would become a trailer park if he can't get a county road.

Toward the end of discussion, Commissioner Bellmyer recollected, once the plat is submitted to the commissioners' court they have 30 days to comment and if they don't in that time it is automatically approved.

Borders followed up stating it does say county road on plat as submitted.

Commissioner Smith commented, "Well, if we need a motion, somebody else is going to have to make it."

The motion was made by Commissioner McSwain to accept and approve the county road number with detailed stipulations of a $25,000 bond will be posted for two years and Mr. Borders agrees to keep the upkeep on the road, install the culverts in that time period and at the end of two years Commissioner Precinct 3 will re-address the road and make a final decision if it's up to par or if he wants to file on the bond.

The motion carried with Commissioner McSwain, Commissioner Bellmyer in favor, and Commissioner Smith and Commissioner Lout against. The tie was broken by Judge Harbison voting in favor.

The commissioners considered an anonymous training donation to the Sheriff's Department and Tanner Peace, Sheriff's Department Captain, described the circumstances.

"We had an individual approach [the Sheriff's Department] a couple weeks ago and basically said they wanted to do something to help the Sheriff's Department any way that they could," said Tanner Peace, Sheriff's Department Captain. "They expressed their gratitude for the work we've been doing and wanted to help out with training."

Peace asked the commissioners to allow them to accept the donation and have it placed in their donation fund.

A motion carried by the commissioners to approve a $1,000 to the Shelby County Sheriff's Department for training.

Agenda items approved during the meeting include:
1. Minutes of April 6, 2022 Special meeting, April 13, 2022 Regular meeting, April 20, 2022 Special meeting, April 27, 2022 Special meeting, of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court.
2. Pay weekly expenses.
3. Officers reports.
4. Current payroll.
5. Accept an anonymous training donation, in the amount of $1,000 to the Sheriff’s Office.
6. Award bid for updating the records building to Easy Way Construction.
7. FY2022 Budget Line-Item Transfers.
8. County road number with detailed stipulations of a $25,000 bond will be posted for two years and Mr. Borders agrees to keep the upkeep on the road, install the culverts in that time period and at the end of two years Commissioner Precinct 3 will re-address the road and make a final decision if it's up to par or if he wants to file on the bond.
9. County Investment Policy.
10. Ann Blackwell as County Investment Officer.
11. Participation in the TAC CyberSecurity Training program.
12. Adjourn.

Agenda items tabled during the meeting include:
1. Constable Pct. 5 reserve constable.
2. Sealed bids for renovating the Adult Probation building.

May 31, 2022 – Crews will set barricades this week in various locations throughout the Lufkin District as sealcoating operations are expected to begin by June 2, weather permitting.

Roads that are scheduled for sealcoat this year include:

  • Angelina County: FM 325 from BU 59/Timberland Drive to the end of state maintenance; FM 1669 from SH 103 to just west of FM 2109; SH 63 from US 69 to the Jasper County line.
  • Nacogdoches County: FM 95 from US 59 to SH 7; FM 226 from SH 21 to SH 103.
  • Sabine County: FM 83 from SH 87 to end of state maintenance; FM 83 from FM 1 to SH 87.
  • San Augustine County: FM 1751 from US96 to FM 83; FM 1751 from FM 83 to end of pavement; FM 1279 from SH 147 to the Shelby County line.
  • Shelby County: FM 139 from SH 7 to FM 2694; FM 138 from FM 1645 to US 96; FM 417 from US 96 to SH 87; FM 1279 from the San Augustine County line to SH 87.
  • Houston County: US 287 from the Anderson County line to the Grapeland city limits; FM 2022 from the Anderson County line to FM 2423; FM 2712 from SL 304 to the end of pavement.
  • Trinity County: FM 357 from FM 357/FM 233 to SH 94; FM 357 from the Houston County line to FM 357/FM 233; FM 357 from SH 94 to FM 2262; FM 3453 from SH 19 to the end of pavement.
  • Polk County: FM 350 from US 59 to 2.6 miles north of FM 3152; FM 350 from 2.6 miles north FM 3152 to US 190; FM 3277 from FM 2457 to FM 3126.
  • San Jacinto County: SL 424 from US 59 North to US 59 South; FM 2914 from US 59 to end of state maintenance.

As this project begins, motorists are urged to remember this is a moving operation. There will be signs, barricades, and traffic control in place. Reduce speed and obey all traffic control. Stay alert for workers near the lane of traffic and moving equipment throughout the work zone.

For more information, contact Rhonda.Oaks@txdot.gov or call (936) 633-4395.

May 31, 2022 - Looking back over the past week, here is a breakdown of the calls the Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department responded to.

Starting on Monday May 24th a call came in about a building behind a house on fire on FM 139. Upon arriving on the scene the JVFD found a small shed fully engulfed in flames. Assisted by a few members of DeSoto Fire District #1 the Joaquin VFD took the shed down and extinguished the fire. Just as the scene was set to be cleared, the homeowner came out of the house and declared that the back room was on fire. The firetrucks that had left returned to the scene and the JVFD and DFD1 made short work of any flames found in the back room, preventing any spread to the rest of the house.

Next in the early hours of Thursday May 27th, members of the JVFD EMR team responded to a call off of Highway 84 East of someone having severe abdominal pain.

On Friday May 28th, there was a call about a portable building on fire on CR 3315. Much like the fire on Monday, the small size of the building made it much easier for the fire to spread and not much of anything was able to be saved.

Lastly on Saturday May 28th, another call came in for the JVFD medical team, this time in the form of a lift assist on FM 699.

That concludes the calls for the past week. The Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department hopes everyone had a great Memorial Day and week going forward.

May 29, 2022 - George Bowers Drive in Tenaha was the scene of a two-vehicle crash May 26, 2022.

Emergency personnel with several agencies responded to the scene of the crash incident to provide assistance.
 
According to Tenaha Police Department officer Chris Benton, at around 9pm a maroon 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Annotoria Daniels, 27, of Tennessee was traveling west on George Bowers Drive.

At that time a black 2012 Chevrolet Impala driven by Ernesto Hernandez, 21, of Tenaha failed to yield right of way when exiting a private driveway into George Bowers Drive causing the Pontiac to strike the driver’s side, causing damage to both vehicles.

No injuries were reported as a result of the crash.

Tenaha Police Department officers were assisted at the scene by Texas Department of Public Safety and Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

May 27, 2022 - Shelby County Jail Administrator Don Moore recognizes one of Shelby County’s finest – Correctional Officer Jimmy Young.

On May 21, one of the inmates housed in the Shelby County Jail went into anaphylaxis shock. Officer Young noticed the signs of this allergic reaction and went to the aid of this inmate. Officer Young did multiple sternum rubs to stimulate the inmates breathing. He continued this procedure until EMS arrived and administered a shot to the inmate. The inmate was then transported to the ER, where he made a full recovery. Officer Young’s quick thinking and training saved the life of this inmate.

Shelby County, we should be proud of the officers that serve and protect our community. Thank you, Officer Young.

Submitted by Leah Chase

May 26, 2022 - As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on May 24, 2022, by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a Presidential Proclamation has been issued that all flags should be flown at half staff until sunset, May 28, 2022.

Read the full proclamation here:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2022/05/24/a-proclamation-honoring-the-victims-of-the-tragedy-in-uvalde-texas/ 

May 25, 2022 - Friday, May 20th, 2022, marked the 10-year anniversary of the murder of Ashton Deon Randle. It was on a Sunday, May 20, 2012 at approximately 6:40 P.M, in which Deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a wooded area off of Forest Service Road 197 in Shelbyville, Texas, just south of Strong Cemetery on FM 139. A body was discovered by two individuals who were out riding on a 4-wheeler.  The body was identified as Ashton Deon Randle, 24 years of age. An autopsy determined that Ashton Randle had been fatally shot. 

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office initiated a homicide investigation, and the investigation has continued since with various leads and collection of additional evidence. 

The pursuit of justice continues. 

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Division is committed to the pursuit of justice, not just for the victims, but also for the victim’s family who are left behind. Despite the passing of 10 years, Ashton’s untimely death has not been forgotten, nor will his family and friends who are left behind looking for answers and much needed closure. There is no statute of limitations for homicide in the State of Texas. 

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is asking for any information that will lead to further evidence in this case and/or further information that will assist in securing a conviction for the suspect(s) involved, so justice can be served and bring the much-needed closure for the victim’s families. 

You are encouraged to contact SCSO Cold Case Lieutenant Investigator DJ Dickerson at (936) 572-0255 or you can submit a tip anonymously on our website by clicking or going to the following link: https://www.scsotx.org/murder-of-ashton-deon-randle/. Any information will be greatly appreciated, not only by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, but especially to the victim’s family. 

May 24, 2022 - Emergency personnel responded to a single-vehicle crash west of Tenaha on U.S. Highway 59 on Friday, May 20, 2022, near CR 4648.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper David Shields, at around 5:30pm a silver 2011 Nissan Versa driven by Roger Gonzalez, 20, was northbound on U.S. Highway 59 when the driver reported having fallen asleep. The Nissan traveled off the roadway to the right, struck a culvert and rolled from the right side onto its top.

No injuries were reported as a result of the crash and no citations were issued at the time of the incident pending outcome of the crash investigation.

Taylor Fanguy, Constable Precinct 4, and Tenaha Police Department, assisted at the scene with traffic control until the scene was clear.

May 24, 2022 - State Loop 500 at CR 2010 was the scene of a single-vehicle crash involving a utility pole on Friday, May 20, 2022, just before 3pm.

Emergency medical services personnel arrived on scene and assisted the driver up a hill to an ambulance.

A grey 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 driven by Gwendolyn "James" Dodd, 53, of Center was westbound on SL 500 when, due to a medical emergency, the vehicle left the roadway to the left and struck a utility pole head-on.

Dodd was transported by ambulance to Nacogdoches Medical Center - Shelby Emergency Department for medical evaluation. No citations were issued at the time of the crash.

The Chevrolet was towed from the scene and the utility company was notified about the pole which was broken during the incident.

Investigating the crash was Center Police Officer Spencer Anderson, assisted by Sgt. Andrew Williams.

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