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Chief Deputy Ruth Gonzales spoke with the commissioners about a new cell check system for the Shelby County Jail.

August 23, 2023 - The Shelby County Commissioners continued the burn ban during their August 16, 2023, meeting and discussed additional options to help address the situation.

Tom Bellmyer, Commissioner for Precinct 4, commented he has had calls because people are dumping trash on the side of roadways in the county since they are not able to burn. Bellmyer encouraged for the public to be aware all four commissioner precinct barns have dumpsters where people can take their trash during the burn ban. Bellmyer asked Chief Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Ruth Gonzales if citations were being issued, and she confirmed they are.

Bellmyer remarked on several fires previous to the meeting that were started due to people burning trash and brush. As with other commissioners, Bellmyer has placed burn ban signs in his precinct of which he stated 25 of those are in English and 10 of them are in Spanish. He reported seven of the signs have been stolen.

Ann Blackwell, County Treasurer, stated those signs are county property and those who take them are stealing from the county. Resident are encouraged not to take the signs and to report anyone seen taking them. Bellmyer encouraged the return of the signs that were taken.

Roscoe McSwain, Commissioner for Precinct 1, wants anyone who is considering using the dumpsters at the county yards to be aware the dumpsters are only for acceptable items such as household trash and not prohibited items such as tires, paint, batteries, furniture, refrigerators, etc. Prohibited items could potentially cause the precinct to cease having a dumpster at all.

There was discussion about possibly staging dumpsters during the burn ban at some locations. Commissioner McSwain remarked there is a trash company in the area that would take a pickup truck load for a minimal cost, and Commissioner Bellmyer suggested multiple homes could get together and save some month that way.

A motion made by Commissioner McSwain to continue the burn ban was seconded by Commissioner Bellmyer, and the motion carried.

Judge Allison Harbison implored the public not to burn and to be careful with things like cigarettes.

The commissioners considered the Sheriff’s and Constables fees, and they are as follows:
Subpoenas - $90
Summons - $90
Writ of Attachment - $175
Writ of Garnishment - $175
Writ of Sequestration - $175
Orders of Sale - $175
Forcible Detainer - $90

Service Fees:
Small Claims Citation - $90
Justice Court Citation - $90
All Other Courts’ Citations - $90

Other Service Fees:
Injunctions - $90
Precepts - $90
Protective Order - $80
Distress Warrant - $90
Posting Written Notices - $70
Writ of Execution - $250
Writ of Restitution - $175

Commissioner McSwain moved to approve the fees as they are was seconded by Stevie Smith, Commissioner for Precinct 3, and the motion carried.

The commissioners discussed a new cell check system for the Shelby County Jail. The system they considered was Guard1 which electronically logs officer security rounds, activities, and inmate movement. It is meant to help the jail customize its electronic logs and reporting needs including inmate well-being checks, cell check observations, inmate movement, and activity logging.

The system is also meant to help the jail by way of real time reporting, updates and alerts. The platform is also ment to help generate reports from selected parameters and save commonly run reports.

John Price, Shelby County Attorney, stated the initial cost is projected to be $9,388.96 and the following year the cost will be $4,250.50.

Commissioner Bellmyer moved to enter into the contract with Guard1 for upgrading the monitoring system for the jail, Commissioner McSwain seconded the motion and it carried.

The commissioners were presented with election judges for the Republican Party and the Democrat Party and they were Barbara Walton; Carolyn Cochran; Rose Specter; Pam Sanford; Melody Griffin; L.D. Eddins; Darlene Clark; Etola Jones; Dr. Debrah Worsham; Robin Thompson; Renita Hudman; Linda Perry; Marilyn Corder; Shannon Ramsey; Tammy Lemoine; Milton Horton; Alice Fields; Richard Lundie; Janice Swindle; Jacklyn Moton; John Anson; and Debra Hippler.

Commissioner McSwain moved to approve the 2023 election judges and Commissioner Bellmyer seconded his motion, and it carried.

The meeting then went into an executive session at 10:25am.

The meeting returned to open session at 10:58am and there was no action taken on anything discussed in executive session and the meeting was adjourned.

Agenda items approved during the meeting include:
1. Pay weekly expenses.
2. Current Payroll.
3. Continue Declaration and Order Prohibiting Outdoor Burning.
4. Sheriff and Constable Fees.
5. Purchase of Guard1 as a new cell check system for the County Jail.
6. Election Judges for the County Election Precincts.
7. Adjourn at 10:58am.

Standard sized crapemyrtles shade the front walls and windows of this East Texas home.

August 22, 2023 - Folks, it has been hot and miserable. Especially in and around my old farmhouse.  Energy conservation and environmental quality are among the most critically important issues of our time. Global warming and the greenhouse effect are becoming familiar terms used to describe what is considered by many as a significant climatic change largely brought about by fossil fuel emissions. To reverse these trends, it is important to identify practical solutions to this growing challenge.

The use of basic Earth-Kind landscaping principles and practices can significantly modify the micro-climate surrounding homes and communities, making them more energy efficient, while lower utility costs. Although it is not possible to control temperature, wind, and other weather elements, properly placing trees, shrubs, vines, and structures in the landscape can assist in keeping homes and surrounding areas warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If the landscape is well planned, installed and maintained, the increased aesthetic value and decreased maintenance costs can result in increased real estate values. A well-planned Earth-Kind landscape is one of the best investments a home or business owner can make.

Protection from the sun: Trees can reduce summer temperatures significantly. Shading the roof of a house from the afternoon sun by large trees can reduce temperatures inside the home by as much as 8 to 10 degrees F. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) provide summer shade, then drop their leaves in fall, which allows the warmth of the sun to filter through their bare branches in winter to help warm the home. If a home can be situated to take advantage of shade from existing trees on south and west exposures, energy expended for cooling can be considerably reduced.

To shade the roof or a wall of a one-story home, trees which will reach a medium to large size should be selected and placed 15 to 20 feet from the side or 12 to 15 feet from the corner of the structure. To be most effective, the canopy of the tree should extend over the roof. Smaller trees such as crapemyrtles, redbuds, and vitex can be planted closer to the house and used for shading walls and window areas. Since they are deciduous, these plants will provide shade during the summer and allow light and sun to penetrate during the winter.

Another way to reduce energy consumption with trees and shrubs is to provide shade for the outside portion of a split system air conditioner. A study by the American Refrigeration Institute shows that this practice can reduce the temperature inside a home by as much as 3 degrees F. However, shrubs planted near the compressor should not obstruct air flow or service access. Screening outdoor air conditioning equipment with plantings not only reduces energy consumption but can also enhance the aesthetic appearance of a home or business.  Just remember to wait until fall for cooler temperatures and more moisture before planting any trees and shrubs.

To read the “Landscaping for Energy Conservation” publication in its entirety or for more information on Earth-Kind landscaping, visit the Aggie Horticulture website.

Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is the author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Texas Home Landscaping, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at and read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine ( More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at and

August 21, 2023 - Center Fire Department responded to a structure fire on CR 3148 Monday, August 21, 2023, at 9:30am.

When firefighters arrived, a mobile home was fully involved and was already down. The firefighters got to work at extinguishing the fire and the Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department also arrived at the scene with additional fire personnel and water.

Once the house was extinguished, the fire departments returned to their stations at 11:20am.

The cause of the fire is suspected to have originated at an air conditioner window unit. When the resident woke up, the house was on fire and they were able to escape unharmed.

August 21, 2023 - Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Troopers investigated a crash on Farm-to-Market Road 699, north of County Road 3717, that occurred on Friday, August 18, 2023.

The preliminary crash investigation indicates that at approximately 9:30am, a 1993 Peterbilt truck tractor driven by Richard Mills, 66, of Carthage was traveling south and stopped for a construction zone flagger. It is reported that a 2019 Dodge Ram driven by Bryan Orellana, 33, of Farmers Branch and towing a trailer, also traveling south, struck the rear of the Peterbilt.

Mills was transported to a local care facility by personal vehicle for treatment.

Orellana was not injured and was cited for failing to control his speed.

There is no further information available.

August 21, 2023 - Red Flag warning has been extended until 8pm Tuesday evening, August 22 for critical to extreme fire weather conditions near and south of the 1-20 corridor of East Texas, northern and central Louisiana. East wind continues 10 to 15 mph today and Tuesday. Relative humidity as low as 24% and temperatures up to 107 both today and Tuesday.

August 20, 2023 - The National Weather Service, Shreveport, Louisiana issued at 1:46pm Sunday, August 20, 2023 a Red Flag Warning which is in effect from 7am to 8pm Monday for critical to extreme fire weather conditions near and south of the I-20 corridor of Northeast Texas and Northern Louisiana near and south of the Interstate 20 Corridor.

  • Winds are southeast to east near 10 to 15 mph with occasional higher gusts.
  • Relative humidity is as low as 20 to 25 percent.
  • Temperatures forecast from 103 to 107 degrees.

***Rapid ignition and spread of wildfires is possible due to persistent hot and dry conditions!***


A Red Flag Warning means that extreme fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and dry vegetation can contribute to extreme fire behavior. Avoid all outside burning and welding today. Do not toss lit cigarette butts outside. Report wild fires to the nearest fire department or law enforcement office.

Red Flag Warning areas in Texas and Louisiana are Caddo, Bossier, Webster, DeSoto, Red River, Bienville, Jackson, Ouachita, Sabine, Natchitoches, Winn, Grant, Caldwell, Lasalle, Smith, Gregg, Harrison, Cherokee, Rusk, Panola, Nacogdoches, Shelby, Angelina, and San Augustine.

August 21, 2023 - Shelby County Sheriff Kevin W. Windham reports that on Sunday, August 20, 2023, a large fire was reported in the Spann's Chapel area off of Highway 96 South. Numerous Fire Departments from Shelby County responded to the area, along with the Texas Forest Service, federal, state, and out of state Fire Departments assisting to battle the massive fire that covered 500 acres. 

Shelby County Sheriff's Deputies assisted with traffic control and evacuations of residents that were in high-risk locations, on County Roads 1015, 1021, 1022, and 1026.

This has been an active scene area for several hours with Fire Department personnel attempting to protect structures and contain the fire with the additional uses of aircraft.

With such, the Texas Forest Service advised that 50% of the affected area has been contained as of 9 p.m. last night.

As of 2:50 p.m., Monday Aug. 21, crews are still heavy on scene (on the ground and in air) working to keep the fire under control. The fire is contained at 75 percent and holding at 500 acres.

August 21, 2023 - The November 7, 2023 Constitutional Amendment Election is fast approaching. If you are registered to vote and would like to vote absentee, please call our office at 936-234-2147 to request an application for ballot by mail.

There are five reasons one can vote absentee, as follows:

1) 65 years of age or older
2) Disability (as defined in Texas Election Code 82.002a, instructions on back of application)
3) Expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day
4) Expected absence from the county
5) Confined in jail or involuntary civil commitment

After you call and make your request, we will mail the application to you. Once you complete it, you can mail it back to us or drop it by the County Clerk’s office. NOTE: if you and your spouse both want an application, we have to speak with BOTH of you. You are not able to request an application for someone else.

Please do not hesitate to call us for any questions or concerns!

Nancy Adams
Shelby County Elections Administrator

Grass fire near the intersection of County Road 3267 and County Road 3193.

August 21, 2023 - Over the week of August 13th through August 19th, the Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department had a variety of calls including medical, fire, and automotive accidents. Here’s a summary of a few of the more notable events. 

Monday evening at 7:23pm a call was received to assist Tenaha VFD with a house collapse with a person potentially inside. Once on scene, it was discovered that the house had collapsed a few days prior to the call and did have someone inside at the time. Joaquin and Tenaha VFDs were able to lift debris off of the deceased collapse victim and recover their body for funeral home personnel. 

Friday morning at 9:53am a call came in for a 2-vehicle crash on FM 699. Upon arriving on scene, units found that the driver of a Ram dually with a trailer had collided with the back of a dump truck. Both the Ram driver and the dump truck driver were unharmed in the crash. The Joaquin VFD provided traffic control until both vehicles could be removed from the roadway.

Friday afternoon at 1:03pm a page was received in regards to a rapidly moving grass fire near the intersection of County Road 3267 and County Road 3193. The Joaquin VFD responded with brush trucks and an engine for extra water. After about an hour the fire was extinguished and the scene was cleared.

With that, this edition of the report will come to a close. The Joaquin Volunteer Fire Department hopes everyone has a great and safe week ahead.

August 21, 2023 - The National Weather Service, Shreveport, LA at 4:50am Monday, August 21, 2023 extended the Excessive Heat Warning until 9am Tuesday.

Dangerously hot conditions with heat index values up to or exceeding 110 degrees are expected across portions of south central and southwest Arkansas; north central and northwest Louisiana; southeast Oklahoma; and east and northeast Texas until 9am CDT Tuesday.

August 20, 2023 - The National Weather Service, Shreveport, LA issued at 11:10am Sunday, August 20, 2023 an Excessive Heat Warning until 9pm Monday.

Dangerously hot conditions with heat index values up to 115 degrees are expected across some locations this weekend for portions of south central and southwest Arkansas; north central and northwest Louisiana; southeast Oklahoma; and east and northeast Texas.

Extreme heat and humidity will significantly increase the potential for heat related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.


Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances.

Take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside. When possible reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Wear lightweight and loose fitting clothing when possible. To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location.

Heat stroke is an emergency! Call 9 1 1.

Provide ample shade and water for pets and outside animals: Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow.

August 21, 2023 - Drought conditions are widespread across the state. The City of Center is experiencing severe drought conditions with no rain forecast in the near future. Stage 1 of the Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan has been triggered and must be implemented. Stage 1 water restrictions and watering schedule are as follows:

  • Watering of landscape, even addresses Wednesday and Saturday, odd addresses Thursday and Sunday; water between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Reduce non-essential water usages in the home or business
  • Repair known leaks (dripping faucets, running toilets)

With your help, these measures could reduce the water demand and hold off further restrictions set forth in the Drought Contingency Plan required by the State of Texas.