|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Hurricane was top story of 2008
Trinity Standard - January 2009
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in 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 occurred during the final six months of the year.)
TRINITY – A major hurricane and the death of a sheriff were among the stories that impacted the lives of Trinity County residents during the second half of 2008.
Hurricane Ike slammed the county in September, leaving one dead and massive damage to trees and power lines throughout the county.
And in November, the county lost a sheriff who had served it for only five months when a one-car accident south of Trinity claimed the life of Brent Lee.
The seventh month of 2008 got underway with the announcement that the popular July 4 street dance would return as part of the Independence Day celebration.
The event was not held in 2007 due to the death of its longtime sponsor, Tim Holloman, but local car dealer Art Walker agreed to take on the event as part of a city-wide holiday celebration.
Walker and the Trinity County Go Texan Committee also resurrected the holiday barbecue cook off, which also had been sponsored for several years by Holloman.
In mid-July, county officials reported the theft of $36,000 from the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace’s office in Trinity.
County Auditor Sheila Johnson reported the apparent theft and made a number of recommendations to prevent future losses -- all of which were accepted by county commissioners and Pct. 3 JP Bobby Nicholds.
The JP told commissioners that a former clerk has taken the money and that District Attorney Joe Ned Dean was investigating the matter for possible prosecution.
Also during the month, East Texas Medical Center agreed to assume the cost of a $1.6 million clinic building that was being built by the Trinity Memorial Hospital District.
ETMC was scheduled to lease the building from the hospital district once it was completed and under the agreement, the district would still own the building but ETMC would use it rent free during the course of its lease agreement. The current lease is set to expire in 2027.
At the start of the month, Trinity school officials announced that 10 vacant staff positions -- including seven for teachers -- would not be filled for the 2008-2009 school year due to budget cuts.
School officials said they were working to close a $1 million gap between expected income and expenses and that the staff cuts were one of the steps they were taking to reduce expenses.
Also during August, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) came to Trinity to meet with local fire and police officials concerning the rising cost of fuel.
Brady expressed concern that the recent sharp rise in gasoline and diesel costs could cause major disruptions to fire and police budgets and wanted input from local officials on the matter.
Local residents breathed a sign of relief at the start of the month when Hurricane Gustav swerved and missed the East Texas region.
The storm had been predicted to sweep through the area and cause “catastrophic flooding” but turned and made landfall in Louisiana instead.
However, the relief of the Gustav miss was short lived when another Gulf storm, the even nastier Hurricane Ike, began moving toward the Texas coast.
While Ike wobbled out in the Gulf and appeared to be turning more to the south, it came ashore at Galveston late on Sept. 12 and swept through Trinity County on Sept. 13 on its way north.
The massive storm cut through all of East Texas, knocking out power from Beaumont to Houston and north.
The storm caused one local death -- Lee Standridge, 22, of Crystal Beach. The man and two friends had evacuated from the coast as Ike advanced and were straying at the home of one of the men’s parents in The Landing subdivision off FM 3188 near Trinity.
The three were on a 14-foot, flat bottomed boat checking trot lines about midnight on Sept. 12, as the storm approached. The rising wide flipped the boat and Standridge became separated from his two friends.
His body was recovered from Lake Livingston on Sept. 15.
In addition to claiming one life, Hurricane Ike left the area in the dark for about a week as electrical workers from as far away as Canada moved in to rebuilt the power grid.
Power in Trinity was restored just in time for the 59th Annual Trinity Community Fair, which was held Sept. 19-20.
While the lack of power in other areas of the county -- coupled with the clean-up effort -- caused attendance to fall sharply for the fair, local FFA and 4-H students were able to raise over $54,000 from the sale of their livestock entries.
Katlyn Van Dyke, a senior at Trinity High School, also was crowned as the 2008 fair queen during the event.
It was during September that county leaders learned that the $6.6 million courthouse renovation project was going to be delayed due to changes being sought by the Texas Historical Commission (THC).
THC, which was providing a $5 million grant for the work, had changed project administrators for the Trinity County work and the new person wanted additional changes to the renovation design.
Initially, construction on the courthouse project was expected to begin in November but officials learned that the start date would come sometime after the start of 2009.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, some good news came out of the city when local officials announced that a 40-room motel was to be built on part of a 14-acre tact owned by the city.
Under the deal put together by the Trinity Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, a Budgetel motel would be build on land off Highway 19 South.
The city agreed to donate four acres for the project. While the motel would be given a year to begin construction, city officials indicated construction probably would begin sometime in early 2009.
During its October meeting, the Trinity County Commissioners Court voted not to hire a contractor to perform hurricane debris clean-up. Instead, the commissioners agreed to handle the work themselves.
Trinity High School also celebrated its annual homecoming in October. Senior Kevin Cossey was named as homecoming king while senior Emily Johnson was elected as the homecoming queen.
As the month began to draw to a close, tragic news arrives that a Trinity County Deputy Sheriff had been critically injured in a one-car accident near Trinity.
Deputy Henry Giles, 35, sustained head and other injuries when his patrol car struck a deer, went off the highway and collided with a tree.
Giles was taken by helicopter ambulance to East Texas Medical Center -- Tyler and still remains hospitalized.
A near record voter turnout was recorded for the Nov. 4 general election as voters turned out in mass for the historic presidential race.
While Illinois Senator Barak Obama won the national race to become the first African-American elected to the office, local voters heavily favored his Republican challenger, Arizona Senator John McCain.
McCain was given 67.7 percent of the Trinity County vote.
Also in November, the Trinity County Commissioners Court voted to lease additional office space in Groveton for the sheriff’s department.
The county already had planned to lease four buildings to house other county offices during the planned renovation of the courthouse but decided to add a fifth building to allow the sheriff to move his offices out of the Trinity County Jail.
All five of the buildings were still being renovated and the new office space for the sheriff was not expected to be ready until early 2009.
The following week, county officials were told by their architect that the courthouse restoration project could be delayed by almost a year.
Initially, the county had hoped that construction would start in November 2008 but the county’s architect, Michael Gaertner, indicated that it could be delayed until August 2009.
More tragic news came on Thanksgiving Day when Sheriff Brent Lee was killed during an early morning one-car crash while responding to a call in the Pinecrest Estates Subdivision south of Trinity.
Lee, who had been appointed to the post in June, had been elected to his first full term in the November general election.
December got underway with the announcement that negotiations conducted by Trinity County Judge Mark Evans with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) officials appeared to have gotten the courthouse renovation project back on track.
County officials had been told in November that the start of construction could be pushed as far back as August 2009 but a meeting between Evans, the project architect and THC official in early December moved the start of construction to mid-March.
In other county news, commissioners voted in December to name Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Ralph Montemayor as the new Trinity County sheriff.
The appointment came on Dec. 11 after commissioners interviewed six candidates for the job.
Montemayor, who had served for almost 26 years as a game warden in Trinity County, was appointed to hold the office until the next general election scheduled for November 2010.
Also in December, Trinity County and much of East Texas experienced a rare snow fall.