We update our local news twice a day every weekday (about 6am and 2pm) and occasionally at other times too.

We primarily focus on our three “home” counties – Matagorda, Jackson and Wharton counties, and also include items from slightly further afield if we feel them to be impactful on us all.

 

Edna Offensive lineman Pablo Almeda and running back slash defensive end Dreydan Ashford are continuing their football career at division III schools. Ashford signed a letter of intent to Trinity University located in San Antonio. Almeda is suiting up for Sul Ross State University in Alpine. The two former teammates will most likely face each other on the gridiron. The two schools played each other last season with Trinity winning 55-7 and they are expected to play each other again this season.

The El Campo Volunteer Fire Department is at half strength and they are accepting applications for recruits. According to President Kenneth Soch and reported by the Leader-News , the last two to three years the VFD numbers have been down. Currently with 32 on the staff, some more active than most, they have room for 64 on the roster. Would-be volunteers must be 18 years old, have at least a GED and a driver’s license. Criminal backgrounds will also be checked. Volunteers are only accepted in February and August of each year.

Louise senior Maizee Strelec built a boat and floated into the winner’ circle at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. She contructed the boat, complete with trailer, by hand as both an F-F-A project and a useful boat. Strelec designed it to be a shallow water bay boat, also known as a flats boat. The project took 6 months to complete and included a lot of blood, sweat and tears. She named the vessel “One-N-Done” to remind herself never to build a boat again.

A Wharton County jury in the 329th District Court handed down a guilty verdict Wednesday against Robert Allen Satterfield for the June 2018 killing of Ray Shawn “Baby Ray” Hudson Jr. The jury took about five hours to come back with a “guilty as charged verdict”. Ray Shawn “Baby Ray” Hudson Jr., would have celebrated his fifth birthday the day after he was murdered. His parents, 28 year old Ray Shawn Hudson Sr. and 24 year old Maya Victoria Rivera of Angleton were also murdered. The jury has one choice to make: life in prison without parole — or the death penalty.

A computer transition impeded the Wharton County Central Appraisal District, preventing accurate tax bills to be sent to some property owners — which might have been a shock for new homeowners or residents who made a mid-year property purchase in 2022 says Leader News. A lot of the homesteads and over 65 exemptions weren’t put on that should have been. The snafu is leading tax officials to make due with incomplete tax records and hand calculate last minute property tax values.

Last week the Jackson County Hospital District officially said so long to their therapy dog Ollie, who passed away in November from an aggressive form of lymphoma at only three years old. A post on the Jackson County Hospital District Facebook page said it all — RIP to our sweet Ollie, Your legacy lives on. You will never be forgotten. At the service, hospital folks introduced brother and sister duo Nova and Apollo, two young puppies who will be trained to comfort hospital patients in the near future.

El Campo volunteer fireman Clint Rothbauer was selected as the department’s 2022 Firefighter Of The Year. Rothbauer goes way back — he signed up with the El Campo Fire and EMS Explorer post when he was just 14 years old. The six-year ECVFD veteran says the award is nice but feels he needs to work harder to uphold the Firefighter of the year title, a challenge he’s up for. It’s in his blood – Rothbauer is the grandson and nephew of firefighters in the Hallettsville and Sweet Home Volunteer Fire Departments.

The Ganado School Board, and new Superintendent Dr. Brian McCraw, are improving a few things across the campus. Like new batting cages and covers for the baseball bleachers, more access to college for students, renovating the old gym, and new scoreboards for the newer gym. The project of building covers over the baseball bleachers is going to cost about $180,000 . The old gym will look like a new gym following a new roof, renovated wood floor, new safe bleachers, and a fresh coat of paint here and there.

Dust off your taste buds and get ready — Girl Scout Cookies are available in Southeast Texas from Feb. 11 through March 26. This year’s cookie lineup includes fan favorites such as Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties, and the addition of the new Raspberry Rally, the highly-anticipated cookie, which is available for online ordering only. Girl Scouts will be also host cookie booths at participating public locations around the region. Visit gssjc dot org to find a booth near you and for more information.

A mechanical failure was determined to be the cause of this truck fire Monday at Wharton Ford on North Richmond Road. The Wharton Volunteer Fire Department was alerted to the fire at approximately 2:25 p.m. Meanwhile, Wharton Police officers, already on the scene, discovered the truck was 75% involved in fire and it was spreading to a nearby building. Wharton VFD upgraded the call to a commercial structure fire and Glen Flora and Boling volunteer fire departments were dispatched to the scene..

Due to the efforts of Van Vleck High School’s Agricultural Science advisors, Van Vleck ISD made history in being chosen to hold a state qualifying BBQ cook-off competition with the Texas High School BBQ, Inc. according to the BC Tribune. At a recent cook-off, teams were judged for Desserts, Beans, Chicken, Ribs, and Brisket. Two of the Van Vleck High School BBQ teams, Burnt Offerings and Spot On BBQ, did outstanding and advanced to compete at the state competition in May.

Senator Joan Huffman recently filed SB 645, which would increase the penalties for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl. Huffman is responding to the growing fentanyl epidemic in Texas and the nation. Huffman says since the beginning of Operation Lone Star, the Texas Department of Public Safety has seized over 353 million lethal doses of fentanyl — enough to kill nearly every person in the US. SB 645 increases the penalty for manufacturing or delivery of less than 1 gram of fentanyl from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony.

David Anderson an AgriLife Extension economist, Bryan-College Station, says inflationary pressure and the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history have combined to send egg prices upward over much of the last year. Prices reached $4.25 per dozen on average in December 2022 across the nation, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture retail egg report. A dozen eggs was $1.79 at the same time last year. Higher production costs like feed and fuel have contributed, but the top factor driving egg prices to record highs is an ongoing outbreak of avian influenza.

After almost 20 years of service, Wharton County’s chief appraiser left making room for a replacement from North Texas. Tylene Gamble, Wharton County’s chief appraiser resigned before Christmas according to Leader News. Gamble’s exit from the department was sudden, her letter of resignation was submitted in October, effective Dec. 16th. Irene Klein was hired as her replacement following a unanimous Central Appraisal District board vote last Thursday night. Kline comes to the Wharton C-A-D after serving for 30 years at the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District.

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity in 2023, the City of El Campo is looking for a motivated individual who values community spirit, integrity, and innovation to serve on the Board of Adjustment. If you are interested in serving, click on the link to complete the online Board Application Form — on the City of El Campo’s Facebook page. Applications must be received by 12 noon on February 7th. City Council will be making the appointment at the February 13th regular meeting.

Wharton Independent School District reported a power outage Monday morning on the Wharton Junior High and High School campuses. Centerpoint Energy advised the district that power would not be restored until a later in the day. Due to the cold weather, Wharton ISD decided to send junior high and high school students home. According to a Facebook post by the District , buses transported students home. Parents were also advised to make arrangements to pick up their students beginning at 9:30 a.m. using dismissal operations.

The first 2023 homicide in Bay City may be from the body found in a car last Tuesday morning at old Linnie Roberts Elementary school. The victim was identified as 25 year old Jared Aplin of Bay City and appears to have died from a gunshot wound. From what was discovered at the scene, this case is determined to be a probable homicide according to investigators. Detectives are seeking the whereabouts of a man named “Chris”, last name unknown, who is described as a black male, light-skinned, and is approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall.

Congrats going out to Bay City Police Officer Jerome Estrada, a police officer for over 7 years, who was promoted to the rank of Police Corporal at a promotional ceremony held at the Municipal Court last Wednesday. The 40 year old Estrada currently lives in Wharton with his wife of 20 years and two children. He’s originally from Rosenberg. Estrada is thankful for the support from his family and friends, and looks forward to continuing to serve Bay City in his new position of Corporal.

“You Ought To Hire Me” is the name of a Job Fair coming to the El Campo Civic Center on Valentines day. Up to 50 employers are expected to attend the free event from 9am to 12:30pm on February 14th. Some employers may be doing on-the-spot interviews, according to CDC Economic Development Specialist Beverly Supak and reported by Leader News. Organizers of the event are hoping for several hundred attendees prepared to apply for employment. Blue collar companies, military organizations and technical schools are among the list of employers.

The State of Texas rested its capital murder case last Tuesday afternoon against Robert Allen Satterfield, but not before calling the final witness after 11 days of trial. Johanna Bonilla, the mother of murder victim Ray Shawn Hudson Sr. was put on the witness stand. Bonilla testified the last time she saw her son and his family was after church a week before they died on June 10th, 2018. Satterfield is on trial for the shooting death of Ray Shawn Hudson Jr., who would have celebrated his fifth birthday the day after he was killed.

The opponents of the proposed Matagorda Ship Channel expansion declared victory in December when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew an environmental assessment it used in its project plans, according to the Victoria Advocate. A coalition of groups claimed it was an inaccurate assessment of the environmental impact of widening and deepening the Matagorda Ship Channel. The groups used a university study as evidence to show the Corps had underestimated the potential destruction of oyster reefs and seagrass beds.

The Wharton ISD Board of Trustees on Thursday opened a discussion about moving the school district to a four-day school week..according to the Journal Spectator. The district emailed parents with a survey regarding the four-day school week. Deputy Superintendent Denise Ware also gave a presentation to the board on the benefits of a four-day school week based on her research with districts already doing it. 41 Texas schools have adopted the four-day school week so far.

The Bay City Main Street program is hosting the 7th Annual “Wild Game and Wine Camofest” on Saturday from noon to 6 pm in Historic Downtown Bay City. Cooking “guides” will provide locally caught samples of wild game, fish and fowl and food inspired by Texas wines. You can enjoy samples of wine from local wineries, live entertainment, shopping with festival specialty vendors, Texas beer and wine and activities for the kids. Many retail merchants of Downtown Bay City will open their doors with discounts and specials too.

Three tornadoes roared across Southeast Texas on Tuesday, leaving damage across multiple counties, according to the National Weather Service. The agency also confirms that a tornado touched down for 45 minutes in Fort Bend County on Tuesday. The report rated the tornado as an EF0 with an estimated peak wind of 70 mph.The tornado touched down near FM 1994 and Fairchilds-Long Point Road, about five miles east-southeast of Needville. Most of the damage was uprooted trees or broken limbs, downed fences, and minor damage to roofs or siding.

A password breaker and portable x-ray machine are the latest weapons in the El Campo Police Department’s war on drugs Leader News reports. Criminals who carry smart phones and tablets, sometimes store data about their operations. Recent court resolutions allow authorities access to those records using a search warrant when it is determined they have probable cause. The second piece is a portable x-ray device that will be carried in the department’s drug vehicle, allowing them to x-ray compartments looking for contraband. Council approved the purchases in its last get together.

In local school news, congratulations to Van Vleck High School student, Emily Rodgers, for placing 5th out of 23 for the recent Voice of Democracy State Competition Contest. Marco and Jadira, two first graders from Linnie Roberts Elementary School, were given $25 Gift cards for Perfect Attendance for the Fall Semester. Holy Cross Catholic School offers a computer program called Mathletics, where students can compete in math with their classmates as well as with other students from around the world. And Blessing Elementary Student Council members recently purchased $417 worth of new recess items with money raised from the Gobble Grams last November.

A 33-year-old El Campo man is in custody and undergoing an evaluation after barricading himself into a Shimek street home Tuesday afternoon, according to Leader-news. The armed gunman held police at bay in a rain storm for several hours before finally surrendering to authorities. Myatt and Northside elementaries were placed into lockdown due to Webb Street’s proximity to Shimek Street, but the gunman never made any effort to go in that direction. Police Chief Gary Williamson reported no one was hurt, thank God.

Wharton County has added one more road to its no-through truck traffic zone ordinance — CR 410. A public hearing was held Monday, and it was unanimously approved following the hearing following two people who spoke in favor. In November, commissioners court created no-through truck traffic zones on portions of county roads 406, 407 and 408, south of FM 1162 on the southeast side of El Campo. Resident and local business owner Larry Janik was the first to speak in favor of the ordinance and did Earl Mason, who also lives on the road.

The Morales Community Center is holding its annual Frito Pie Fundraiser at the Center on Friday. Serving will start at 6 p.m. with the auction starting at 7. Donations for the food will be accepted at the door and the money raised by the event will be used in maintenance and preservation of the building and grounds. Many homemade food items along with other handmade items will be up for sale and there will be door prizes given out too.

Last week Mike Rivet officially took over the role of Executive Director and Site Manager overseeing the Formosa Plastics Corporation in Point Comfort. He is replacing Vice President and General Manager Rick Crabtree who is retiring. Rivet graduated from Louisiana State University in 1984 and joined Formosa Plastics Corporation, Louisiana in 1985. Rivet has worked closely with outgoing Vice President and General Manager Rick Crabtree for many years. He is excited about his new role at Executive Director and Site Manager and anticipates a seamless transition.

The Luther Hotel in Palacios, built in 1903, is temporarily safe from demolition following a judge’s ruling delaying demolition until after Feb. 2nd. In reality the destruction of the Luther Hotel is still not off the table – but it’s at least not going to happen this month. A charitable group, the Ed Rachal Foundation, is under contract to buy the Luther Hotel on terms that it be torn down. The foundation wants to build something new in its place – but the Palacios Preservation Association is trying to convince the foundation to restore the building.

On Tuesday morning the Bay City Police Department received a report of a suspicious vehicle at the former Linnie Roberts Elementary School. Bay City ISD Officers were initially dispatched to the call and located a deceased male inside the vehicle. The Bay City Police Department Patrol Division responded as well as Crime Scene Investigation teams. The deceased, 25-year-old Jared Aplin of Bay City, appears to have died from gunfire. Police seek help from the public. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Bay City PD.

Eight Wharton County Junior College instructors are receiving the 2023 National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Awards. Recipients include Gary Bonewald, instructor of emergency medical services; Geoffrey Shine, instructor of government; Nicole Parks, instructor of mathematics; Dr. Hector Weir, instructor of Spanish; Dr. Jessi Snider, instructor of English; Peter Anderson, instructor of geology; Dr. Kelly Wallace, instructor of physical therapy assistant; and J.B. Groves, instructor of computer science. In May, recipients will be recognized during the annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence in Austin.

The Wharton Chamber of Commerce will honor Wharton’s own with three awards presented at the 104th Annual Banquet on March 9th. The award recipients will be: Baird Properties – Business of the Year. Fritz Zarate – Educator of the Year – and Karen Smith – Community Service Award, according to the Journal-Spectator. This years theme is “The Groovy 60’s” and music will be provided by DJ Joey Pennington. Grab your bell bottoms and check your mail soon for a banquet invitation.

The Wharton County Job Fair will be happening February 14th at the El Campo Civic Center. The fair offers a special opportunity for local companies or organizations to find qualified people to work — or for people to find a new job or career. Nearly 60 exhibitors will be seeking applicants to fulfill their workforce needs. Those who attend the job fair should dress for success, and bring along a resume. Entry to the job fair is free and Exhibitor space is free. February 3rd is the registration deadline.

Highly Innovative Fuels USA, of Matagorda County, was chosen by Trade & Industry Development for its 2023 CiCi Awards, which honor 30 projects – 15 in the “Corporate Investment” category and 15 in the “Community Impact” category. HIF was chosen for the “Corporate Investment” category. The recipients of the awards are recognized for their creation of new jobs, retention of current jobs and generation of economic growth accrding to the Sentinel. All the winners are projects that were announced in 2022.

The Victoria Independent School District board of trustees approved a one-time staff retention bonus along with updated policies regarding emergency planning, complaints and discipline in accordance with the Texas Association of School Boards’ policy guidance last Thursday night. The board also received and approved a clean audit for the last financial year. The bonus is designed to help not only with retention but recruitment. This year’s retention bonuses range from $4,000 dollars for teachers and administrative staff to 1500 dollars for teacher subs and admin staff.

Hundreds of law enforcement personnel and supporters gathered in the El Campo Civic Center last week to honor the brave men and women who keep the residents safe — according to Leader News. The Wharton County 100 Club hosted the banquet this year along with the 2023 membership meeting. Awards were given to members of Wharton County’s Finest including El Campo Police Sgt. Arnold Terrazas, who was chosen as the El Campo Police Department’s Officer of the Year.

TheTribune is reporting Bay City is really getting a Chick-fil-A according to the Bay City community development corporation. The citizens wanted it and now are getting it. CDC Executive Director Jessica Russell says the luring of Chick-fil-A is a big move for the city and will pay huge dividends on the economic landscape of the community. Russell calls Chick-fil-A the holy grail of fast serve restaurants and says it is something that everybody really wanted in town. The new Chick-fil-A will be located next to the LaQuinta Inn.

Wharton County Commissioners are holding a hearing this morning at 9:45 to hear resident’s concerns over heavy trucks on CR 410. The get together follows a similar decision in December banning the trucks off of CR 406-408 with concerns about unsafe drivers and dust covering properties. Thi morning residents will have their time in front of commissioners to make their voices heard before the court takes any action the matter.

It’s date night or family night tonight in Bay City as the 15th Annual Chicken Fried Steak fundraiser dinner is happening tonight. A great time should be had by all who attend. Kids under 10 can stay and enjoy the festive music for free, as no wristband will be needed. The annual chicken fried steak event benefits the Crisis Center, a community-based, volunteer-supported organization that provides shelter and support to victims of family violence, child abuse and sexual assault in Matagorda and Wharton Counties.

The only survivor of a plane crash outside Yoakum was able to breathe on his own and communicate through pen & paper Wednesday morning after suffering serious injuries. The survivor and four others aboard the single-engine aircraft were all members of the same church in Tennessee. Harvest Church Pastor 45 year old Kennon Vaughan of Germantown survived the crash and was in stable but serious condition at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Four people including the pilot were pronounced dead at the crash site.

The Edna high school track is being refurbished ahead of the 2023 track season. The track used to be blue but now it is gray. The reason for the color change is the new gray color will stay and look new longer. According to Edna superintendent, Robert O’Connor, the process of respraying the surface, paint, labor and materials will cost the school district $120,000. The potential cost for replacing the entire track could cost close to one-million dollars. The project is expected to be done today with the athletes able to get on the track on Monday

On Tuesday Wharton County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Loves Truck Stop in Hungerford to investigate a diesel theft where multiple people attempted to use “skimmer” cards at several diesel pumps. When deputies arrived Roberto Marin of Houston, and Luis Mancias of Katy took off on foot. Deputies captured and arrested the two fleeing suspects and arrested Luis Enamarado also of Houston. In total, the suspects pumped $647 dollars worth of diesel. All three were transported to the Wharton County Jail.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department closed TX-1 in Galveston Bay to commercial and recreational oyster harvest as of Tuesday. This area was previously closed on Jan. 7th by the Texas Department of State Health Services due to elevated lab results. This closing is based on samples recently collected by T-P-W-D showing low abundance of legal-sized oysters. TPWD has worked with the oyster industry to develop criteria for closing areas to harvest. All areas currently closed to harvest will continue to be monitored and will reopen when criteria thresholds are met.

The El Campo City Council last week honored John Leal as the 2022 Employee of the Year. He was hired in July of 1990 and started as a boom mower operator assigned to cleaning ditches. Now his title is “CDL licensed equipment operator 1.” His main job is to clean up El Campo streets, as the operator of the city’s street sweeper. Leal is also the go-to guy when the city needs someone to take on a task – sewer issues, water issues … hauling equipment …and much more.

The Boys & Girls Club of Bay City and Matagorda County will close its doors on January 27th according to the Tribune. Board members of the club voted 11-2 at a special meeting recently to begin the process of dissolving the organization. There were several factors, including outdated facilities at the club’s location at the old Pierce Elementary, a failure to come to an agreement with Bay City ISD on a shared space model, and the inability to conclude a pending merger opportunity with Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston. The club was founded in 2010.

Dog poisonings have returned to the Louise community with the Wharton County sheriff asking for the public’s help in finding the poisoner — according to Leader news. Calls to the sheriff’s office are coming in as animals are getting sick and dying. There is no dog catcher in the rural area and no restrictions on allowing animals to run at large. Individuals who poison non-livestock animals are subject to a third degree felony under the Texas penal code, and could serve between two and 10 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines if it’s a first offense.

Wintertime fishing continues to be good in the Palacios area. The three local rivers continue to be the best fishing areas as its been colder than normal the last few weeks. 3/8 ounce leadheads rigged with DSL in Magic Grass and Blue Moon have been the best colors for river trout and reds, according to Captain Aaron Wollam of the Palacios Guide Service

Wharton County’s new treasurer took a shot at the aging technology and software to upgrade the county’s efficiency — a new investment aproved by the commissioners court recently. Commissioners and the county judge unanimously gave Treasurer Audrey Scearce the power to invest county funds, with no motions or discussion, according to Leader News. Scearce says she need to get a feel for what the software needs are before making changes.