|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
TTC, courthouse among top news stories of 2008
Trinity Standard - January 2009
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series dealing with the top local news stories that appeared on the pages of the Trinity Standard during 2008. This part features the stories that appeared during the first six months of the year. Part two will appear next week and will review the stories from the final half of the year.)
TRINITY -- Anger over the proposed Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), a $5 million courthouse restoration grant and changes in the sheriff’s office were among the major events that occurred in Trinity County during 2008.
While the battle over the TTC is still ongoing and the construction phase for the courthouse renovation is planned in 2009, other major events of the year such as elections have been finalized.
The year opened with the announcement that Trinity would play host on Feb. 7 to one of a number of public hearings held throughout East Texas on the proposed Interstate-69/TTC plan.
The controversial TTC plan called for a multi-modal transportation system that, when fully developed, would include high speed passenger rail (two tracks), freight rail (two tracks), commuter rail (two tracks), passenger vehicle controlled access highway lanes (three in each direction), separate truck controlled access highway lanes (two in each direction) and a multi-purpose corridor for utility lines.
Initially, the proposed I-69 route was to have followed the existing highway right-of-ways through East Texas -- primarily U.S. 59 in this region. This would have meant the highway would not enter Trinity County.
However, when Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials decided to combine the I-69 with the TTC, the “preferred route” was changed and TxDOT proposed to bring it through Trinity County following a route generally south of U.S. 287 from Corrigan west to just north of Trinity. From there the route would turn southwest toward Walker County.
Later in the month, Trinity County commissioners expressed concern over the proposed TTC route through the county.
Commissioners noted that the right-of-way for the TTC could be up to half a mile wide and could take up to 6,000 acres off the tax roll.
In mid-January, the Trinity County Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary played host to the District 19 VFW meeting. State VFW and auxiliary officers were on hand to address the veterans.
Trinity County officials also received some welcome news in January that the Texas Historical Commissioner had awarded them a $5 million grant to renovate the Trinity County Courthouse.
The county had been seeking the grant for years and in 2004 had won a planning grant to draw up plans for the project.
Included in the project is a restoration of the courthouse’s exterior, new plumbing and electrical systems, handicapped accessible rest rooms, an elevator, and a complete remodeling of the building’s interior.
The second month of the year opened with the announcement that the Trinity school district would once again be combined with past rivals in a new University Interscholastic League (UIL) district.
Under the biennial redrawing of the district lines, Trinity would begin the 2008-2009 school year in a district that included Groveton, Corrigan, New Waverly, Buffalo and Centerville. In addition, both Anderson-Shiro and Onalaska would be included in the school’s basketball district.
During the Feb. 7 TTC hearing held at Trinity High School, large number of people turned out to voice opposition to the plan. The opposition included a standing-room-only crowd in the THS gym and a large “tractor protest” featuring a parade of tractors, pickups and other farm equipment bearing anti-TTC signs.
Included among the opposition speakers were Trinity County Judge Mark Evans and Trinity Mayor Lyle Stubbs.
Later in the month, the Trinity Memorial Hospital District’s board of directors unveiled plans to build a new $1.4 million clinic adjacent to the East Texas Medical Center -- Trinity hospital.
The new structure would contain almost 7,800 square feet and include 15 exam rooms and office space to accommodate five full-time physicians and a sixth office for visiting doctors.
Also in February, Julia McMichael organized a forum featuring the candidates for district attorney and sheriff in the March 4 Democratic primary election.
Incumbent DA Joe Ned Dean and challenger Jane Reynolds Cassels were joined by incumbent Sheriff Steven Jones and challengers Brent Lee and Richard “Ricky” Hortman to answer a list of questions.
Late in February, the Trinity School Board reviewed preliminary plans to renovate the Old Red School House in Trinity into the district’s administrative office building.
Completed in 1915, Old Red was used for classes until the late 1980s.
Early in March, a record number of voters turned out to select Dean as the Democratic nominee for district attorney. Dean won narrowly with 50.1 percent of the vote while Cassels finished with 49.9 percent.
A subsequent recount confirmed Dean’s win by a nine-vote margin.
The three way race for sheriff ended with none of the candidate winning a majority vote, forcing the two top contenders, Lee and Jones, into an April 8 runoff election.
Lee, a retired Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commissioner supervisor, lead the vote with 42.6 percent while Jones received 39.3 percent. Hortman finished third and out of the runoff with 18.1 percent.
Later in the month, county commissioners voted to issue $1.6 million in certificates of obligation -- to be repaid over a 15-year period -- to finance the local share of the courthouse renovation project.
The local funds, combined with the THC grant, gave the county $6.6 million for the project.
In the Democratic primary runoff election, Lee narrowly edged out Jones for the win.
The retired TABC supervisor won with 52.3 percent of the vote.
Also in April, longtime Trinity Police Chief Lynn Gentry stepped down and joined the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy.
Following a public hearing, the Trinity School Board voted to begin repairs on the old Trinity Middle School Building and to convert it into a new Trinity Intermediate School campus.
The old two-story building had previous housed Trinity High School and Trinity Middle School. The high school students were moved out in 1987 while the middle school students were moved to new quarters in 2006.
A total of $475,000 was initially authorized to complete repairs to the building and to modernize the school’s auditorium.
In late April, remodeling work on the ETMC-Trinity hospital’s emergency room was completed.
A Trinity landmark for over 100 years, the old mill commissary building was dismantled and converted into “vintage lumber” for reuse.
The two-story commissary was built in 1904 by the Thompson Brothers Lumber Co. to serve its mill workers in the Mill Town area of Trinity.
It had been vacant for about 10 years and a portion of its roof was beginning to sag at the time of is demolition.
In the city and hospital district election held May 10, all but one incumbent won re-election.
Place 1 City Councilman Dayrl Morrow lost his bid for a new two-year term to Clegg DeWalt. DeWalt finished with 48.1 percent of the vote while Morrow garnered 42.8 percent. A third candidate in the race, Raymond Hamilton, received 9.1 percent.
Winning re-election were longtime Mayor Lyle Stubbs, Place 2 Councilman Wayne Huffman, and Place 3 Councilman Chris Dennis.
In the hospital board election, winning new terms were Travis Star, Larry King, Gordon Cotton and David Ward.
In mid-May, the Trinity Peninsula Chamber of Commerce named the First National Bank of Trinity as the Business of the Year and Lois Edwards of Waller-Thornton Funeral Home as the Business Person of the Year. Community Volunteer of the Year honors went to Laverne Etheredge for her work with the Good Samaritan House of Trinity.
Following the unexpected resignation of Pct. 4 Commissioner Travis Forrest of Apple Springs on May 30, County Judge Mark Evans appointed former County Agent James Alford to the post.
Alford became the first African-American to hold a commissioner’s post in Trinity County.
Early in the month, a total of 79 students were awarded high school diplomas from Trinity High School and from the now defunct Eagle Academy.
A total of 53 seniors crossed the stage at THS with Micah Hoevelman and Kathryn (Kadie) Davis serving as the class valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.
In what would turn out to be the final Eagle graduating class, a total of 26 students were awarded diplomas. Travis McCaleb was the valedictorian and Johnathan Marvin was the salutatorian.
On June 12, Sheriff Steven Jones announced he would resign as sheriff on June 19 in order to accept the post as Trinity police chief.
The announcement came after Jones was interviewed by the Trinity City Council and offered the job.
Jones could have remained as sheriff until after the November general election when Brent Lee was scheduled to take office.
Lee, who defeated Jones in the Democratic primary runoff in April, was unopposed for sheriff in the November election.
The Trinity County Commissioners Court on June 19 appointed Lee to take over as sheriff. Lee noted that serving as the county sheriff had long been his dream. His father, the late C.M. “Dick” Lee held the post from 1966-72.
In mid-June, after receiving strong opposition from local leaders and a number of members of the Texas congressional delegation, TxDOT announced that it would moved the proposed I-69/TTC route back to the existing highway right-of-ways.
Although opponents charge that TxDOT has “left the door open” to return to a Trinity County route, TxDOT said in June they would follow the current path of U.S. 59 through Angelina, Polk and San Jacinto counties and would not bring the TTC into Trinity County.