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What It Takes To Be A Mayor

Archived in the category: General Info
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Jan 16 - 0 Comments

Dedication and Diligence Required to Govern a Small Town

Seadrift Mayor Elmer DeForest

Seadrift Mayor Elmer DeForest

Known locally as a hard-working man who puts in long hours, Seadrift’s Mayor Elmer DeForest will have served four two-year terms as Mayor come May, 2016. He came into office in June, 2008, inheriting the problems of a small community with a crumbling infrastructure and ever-increasing crime – the problems common to small cities with low tax bases and few funds. Mayor DeForest set about to try and turn the tide on these problems.

In 2008-2009, there were 29 burglaries and thefts reported, in addition to many other types of crimes. Many streets were, and some still are, beyond simple repair, along with many drainage issues requiring extensive work. The street budget at the end of fiscal year 2008 was $56,000.00.

Dealing with aging and deteriorating water and sewer systems is a big problem within itself, much less the maintenance needed to keep the water and sewer pumps, motors, electronics and process controls in operation. At the end of fiscal year 2008, the electrical cost for operating the water and sewer systems was $84,000.00.

It would seem that the Mayor’s task was daunting. It took a little while for Mayor DeForest to become more knowledgeable of the problems and issues and the systems the City was using. In 2009, Mayor DeForest appointed Councilman Wesley Hunt to head the Public Safety Department. Wesley had law enforcement experience and the Mayor’s instructions were simple to Wesley, “Fix it.” Over time, with increased police patrols, drug arrests, instructing officers to be trained in investigations and drug interdictions, the following year only one burglary was reported. In addition to solving the one, many previous burglaries were solved.

Mayor DeForest went to work researching grants that could help the City. While working late one evening on the computers at City Hall, a councilman asked the Mayor, “Do you ever take a break?” Mayor DeForest stated, “I shake every bush and tree to see what falls out for our community. Sometimes we hit home runs and sometimes we strike out.”

During his time, Mayor DeForest, working with City Council and other agencies, has increased the pace of replacing water and sewer lines, cleaning and digging drainage ditches, replacing plugged and collapsed culverts and rebuilding some streets within the limited budgets. The street and drainage budget has grown from $56,000 in 2008 to a total of approximately $500,000 spent on streets and drainage through 2015.

Working with grant writers, the City received two separate grants for wind turbines. The first was placed at the waste-water treatment plant, resulting in a reduction in electrical consumption. Later, a different wind turbine was acquired for the water system. The current 2015-2016 fiscal year, the budgeted amount for electrical consumption is $53,000, compared to $84,000 in 2008. The City created a Utility Contingency Fund shortly after the first wind turbine began operation. The electrical savings created from both turbines are deposited in the Utility Contingency Fund each month.

But the work is never done, says the Mayor, with plans to put asphalt caps on the streets that have been rebuilt, continue working on other street and drainage projects, adding water and sewer lines so lots can become developed, thus improving the tax base. The current challenge and the biggest budget item is to continue to improve drainage in certain areas of the City.

The City has only so much money to work with and can’t spend what it doesn’t have. When Mayor DeForest came into office, the City was operating in the red by the time August and September came around during each budget year (ending September 30). Before the fiscal year ended on September 30, 2008, Mayor DeForest implemented a spending freeze and only salaries and the bare minimum of expenses could be paid. It also required the Mayor and the Council persons over the departments to approve and the Council to authorize the Mayor to borrow money from the Contingency Fund the needed amounts to keep the city in operation. The Mayor stipulated that all borrowed funds be paid back, with interest, back into the Contingency Fund.

With tighter controls, the City began operating with a surplus at the end of each fiscal year beginning in 2011, with no need to borrow needed operating funds since then. The City still must be careful, as funding can be precarious and fickle. The Mayor shared that he had contemplated temporarily reducing manpower and cutting back City Hall hours by the end of August, 2008 due to the funding shortfall. Thankfully, he didn’t have to.

To be an effective Mayor in today’s world, one must keep abreast of the latest State Legislature changes and laws, be able to budget and foresee problems that may come up over the course of a fiscal year, and be able to adapt accordingly. Budget workshops and hearings can sometimes be long and tedious, requiring hours of number-crunching, and working with Council members to set priorities of where work needs to be done, versus funding availability.

Mayor DeForest has brought more accountability and transparency to the City of Seadrift under his administration. It was once stated at a workshop meeting that there are now so many line items and it’s a lot to read. The Mayor’s response was, “That’s called transparency and accountability.”

Mayor DeForest appoints Council members over areas of the community in an effort to help solve problems and oversee their areas. Currently there are Council member Rainer Brigham over Public Safety, Geoff Hunt over Streets and Drainage, Peggy Gaines over Parks, Recreation and Historical, Buddy Cross over Harbors and Waterways, and June Cantrell over Public Utilities.

As Seadrift looks to the future, Mayor DeForest wants to have a hand in helping lead the City move into an era of growth that appears to be beginning, whether we want it to or not, meaning the type of growth that normally accompanies communities located on bays, lakes, etc. On the horizon, there are potential opportunities developing in and around the City for the City to take advantage of to enhance its position. At the same time, the City is confronted with the issue of a continuously aging infrastructure that must be dealt with sooner, rather than later. Some infrastructure issues in the water and sewer systems, to remain compliant with State and Federal environmental mandates, will need to be dealt with and will require some tough decisions by the Mayor and Council within the next two years.

With its fine school, churches, and businesses, Seadrift is a great opportunity to invest, retire, or raise a family.

Port O’Connor Chamber Chat by LaJune Pitonyak

Archived in the category: General Info, Organizations
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Jan 16 - 0 Comments
Port O’Connor Chamber of Commer Directors Left to right: Beverly Clifton; Ann Brownlee, Secretary; Sylvia Rodriguez; Mary Jo Walker, President; Darla Parker, Vice President; Donna Vuichard, Treasurer; Dawn Ragusin; Donnie Haynes; Mary Francis Bauer; Laurie Junek

Port O’Connor Chamber of Commer Directors
Left to right: Beverly Clifton; Ann Brownlee, Secretary; Sylvia Rodriguez; Mary Jo Walker, President; Darla Parker, Vice President; Donna Vuichard, Treasurer; Dawn Ragusin; Donnie Haynes; Mary Francis Bauer; Laurie Junek

The Chamber was excited to invite everyone to the December meeting, held at the Sanctuary and decorated by our volunteer Laurie Junek. It was a really nice turn out and enjoyed by all.

Plaques were presented to the Christmas Lighting winners along with, waking up with signs in their yards.
On behalf of the Port O’Connor Chamber of Commerce we would like to express our gratitude to all the POC Chamber Outdoor Christmas Lighting Contest entrants, both residential and commercial. Participation was up this year and it showed in the nice displays throughout town. We also express our heartfelt thanks to our judges; we couldn’t have done it without you!

Contest Winners are:
Best Commercial- Teresa’s Nail Salon
Best Spirit – Jerry & Cathy Osborn
Most Decorated-Sherry Roberds
Most Unique – Bernie Klein
Best Christmas Theme -Scott & Tiffany Brown
Best Coastal Theme-Robbie & Marie Hawes
Best Religious Theme-Billy & Margaret Ragusin
Best Overall -Robbie & Marie Hawes

Chamber officers were elected at the January 11 meeting. After receiving many requests to do so, Mary Jo Walker will again serve as President. Darla Parker was elected Vice President; Ann Brownlee, Secretary; and Donna Vuichard, Treasurer. The officers and all the Chamber Directors will be working together to meet the challenges of the upcoming year.

The Chamber is looking for many more people to get involved in what’s happening in our community. It takes everyone working together. February meeting will be on the 8th, 6:30 p.m. in meeting room of Port O’Connor Community Center.

New & Renewed Members:

Mr. Doyle Adams
10th Street Lodge
Hailey Lane R.V.Park
Cindy & Chris Hanson
Costa Bonita Properties,LLC
Hunter Junek
Kati May
Allen & Laurie Junek
Junek Tax Consulting
Dawn Ragusin
Vasquez Construction & Remodeling
Robert & Patricia Strong
Roger & Karen Krause
Ladd & Petra Hockey

PS: Hats off to Sharon Sanders and her elves for decorating and keeping watch on the Christmas Lights at King Fisher Beach, fantastic job!!!!

An Old Landmark Is Disappearing by Walter M. Spiller

Archived in the category: Featured Writers, General Info
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Jan 16 - 0 Comments
Old Long Mott Dryer - 1988

Old Long Mott Dryer – 1988

The old Long Mott dryer building stood along the old tracks in Long Mott, Texas for at least 67 years. It was built here in 1947, and continued in operation for at least the next 25 years or so, until it finally ceased operations in the early 1970s. The old dryer served area rice and maize farmers alike in its heyday. After the dryer shut down, the colossal old building that housed it remained standing in place, pretty much undisturbed, for another 40-something years on up until the beginning of its demise in 2014.

Then in 2014, someone began the process of tearing the old building down. This proved to be a long, drug-out process. It has been being torn down, a little bit at a time, ever since. Over a year later, at the end of 2015, all but the inner core of the building is gone. In December, it looks like the only thing left is part of the grain bins that were originally part of the old building. It almost appears as if the old relic just refuses to give it up!

In a way, for me personally, it’s kinda sad to see the old thing go. As a child I was raised on farms out around the Long Mott area, and as far back as I can remember, the outline of the old Long Mott dryer dominated the western horizon out there. Before Carbide, now Dow Chemical, or any of the other plants that are here today were built in this area, the old dryer was the tallest thing on the horizon. I’m guessing that when the old building is finally completely gone, it will dramatically change the appearance of Long Mott itself, and the surrounding area in general.

As a teenager, I remember us hauling loads of maize to this old grain dryer. I remember pulling off the highway (S.H. 185) in the old grain-hauling bob-tail truck, onto a small drive that accessed a set of scales in front of a small scale house. A short stop there allowed for the weight of the load to be taken, and then it was on around the drive and under a large portico that stretched out in front of the dryer building. Under this structure was the “dump.” Here you placed the front wheels of your truck in a lift, and it proceeded to lift the whole front end of the truck up, allowing the grain to be dumped out of some opened doors in the tailgate. The grain came out of the rear of the truck and fell through some openings between some pipes that were spaced out across the opening of a pit. In the bottom of the pit, there was an auger that moved the grain from the pit, where, via an elevator belt and other augers, it ended up in some huge grain storage bins built into the building. There, the grain was dried, stored, and later loaded into box cars on the tracks out back to be shipped.

In the summer of 1966, I worked a summer job here for a while. Grain Inc. out of Corpus had just leased the old dryer from Southern Warehouse, and they needed workers to operate the facility through the grain season. It was hot, hard work, and the maize dust was atrocious, but it was a way to pick up a little cash before returning to school in September.

Dryer History

According to an article in a 1947 edition of the Calhoun County News, this grain dryer was originally built here in 1947 by two brothers, W.C. and B.M. Jenkins. However, the Jenkins brothers didn’t keep the dryer long (maybe one grain season), because in October of that same year (47), they sold the dryer and property to Southern Warehouse. Southern Warehouse then owned and operated the dryer for the next 19 years or so until they leased the facility to Grain Inc. out of Corpus Christi, in the summer of 1966. Then in May of 1967, Southern Warehouse sold the dryer to Grain Inc. i

Grain Inc. then owned and operated the facility for the next 5 years or so until they defaulted on the loan in April of 1973, and Corpus Christi Bank & Trust ended up with the property.

As far as I can tell, 1972 was about the end of this old dryer as an operating grain dryer. All indications are that the old building has sat empty since then (some 42 years).

Property History

The tract of land the old dryer building is sitting on today is a .74 acre tract lying alongside the old railroad tracts that run through here, the tract being approximately 320’ long by 95’ wide. In 2014, the tract belongs to Dallas Cady(since 2011). This property came out of what was originally railroad ROW.

The St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexican Railway Co. purchased a 6.89-acre tract along here from A.T. Perkins in May of 1911ii . It was a tract 100’ wide, centered along the railroad bed, by 3000’ long. It was described as the “Station Grounds At Long Mott” (there was actually an old depot along here at one time). In 2014, this is a 100’ wide stretch of land along the tracks (50’ on either side) from a point just south of Walter Pilgrim Jr.’s place, extending all the way south to Falksen Rd.

So, in March of 1947, the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexican Railway Co. sold W.C. and B.M. Jenkins this existing .74 acre tract iii , and they built the dryer on it. In October of that same year, the Jenkins sold the dryer and property to Southern Warehouse iv . Then in May of 1967, Southern Warehouse sold to Grain Inc.v, and Grain Inc. defaulted to Corpus Christi Bank & Trust in April of 1973vi .

Then in June of 1973, Corpus Christi Bank & Trust sold the property to Green Lake Grain Co.vii, and in June of 2011, Green Lake Grain sold to Dallas Cady. The property is currently owned by Steve Williams, who purchased it in February, 2015.

Early Property History

This old dryer tract is out of the Jose Miguel Cortez Grant. Cortez was granted this league on April 6, 1835. By March of 1882 the property belonged to the Indianola & City Land Co. (F.S. Stockdale & D.C. Proctor, trustees). That year (1882) the Land Co. sold Henry J. Bierman the upper half of the J.M. Cortez Leagueviii. Then in June of 1902, H. Bierman deeded this upper half of the league, along with parts of the lower half to his wife, Fredricke C.F. Biermanix, and in September of 1909, Mrs. Fredricke C.F. Bierman sold Preston R. Austin about ¾ of this league (3,044.4 acres) containing land where the old dryer tract is today.x Then in November of that same year (1909), P.R. Austin sold Albert T. Perkins the 6.89-acre tract here that became the “Station Grounds At Long Mott” xi, and in May of 1911, Perkins sold the tract to the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexican Railway Co.xii who, in turn, built the railroad through here.

i Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 234, pg. 43
ii Calhoun County Deed Records Volume X, pg. 55
iii Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 58, pg. 212
iv Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 58, pg. 624
v Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 234, pg. 43
vi Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 280, pg. 333
vii Calhoun County Deed Records Volume 281, pg. 492
viii Calhoun County Deed Records Volume L, pg. 176
ix Calhoun County Deed Records Volume R, pg. 425
x Calhoun County Deed Records Volume W, pg. 252
xi Calhoun County Deed Records Volume W, pg. 536
xii Calhoun County Deed Records Volume X, pg. 55

Long Mott Dryer - November, 2015

Long Mott Dryer – November, 2015

Long Mott, Texas

Long Mott is a community just south of the junction of State Highway 185 and Farm Road 2235 (5.7 miles from Seadrift) in western Calhoun County.
The site was settled by German immigrants in 1853. The first settlements were on the shore of San Antonio Bay in the vicinity of two large motts, called the Upper and Lower motts.

The Upper Mott was the larger and longer of the two, and when a post office was established for the community in 1887, it was called Long Mott. Frederick W. Roemer was the first postmaster.

Other early settlers of Long Mott included Dr. John and Anna Mary (Braentegam) Roemer. Guy Mission was an early black resident.

A school was established in Long Mott as early as 1892, and the first teacher was Harriet (Reeves) Thayer. In 1904 one teacher taught eleven students at the community.

By 1914 Long Mott reported a telephone connection, a lumber company, two general stores, and 200 inhabitants; at that time it was served by the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway.

In the early 1930s Long Mott reported seventy-five residents, and by 1939 its schools had six teachers instructing 133 white students, and one teacher instructing eighteen black students.

The community population was reported as seventy-five through the 1930s and 1940s and then rose to 100 in 1952.

By 1955 the Long Mott school district had been incorporated into the larger county school district, and Long Mott students were bused to Port Lavaca schools.
The population peaked in 1968 at 125, and then from 1970 to 2000 was reported as seventy-six.

-Texas State Historical Association

Island Life… by Clint Bennetsen

Archived in the category: Featured Writers, General Info, Island Life
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Jan 16 - 0 Comments

Nasty Weather and a Bad Leg Injury

Greetings from the island everyone. I hope all of you are doing well and adjusting to this early wet winter that we are having thus far. The Fall forecast had predicted a colder and wetter winter than normal, and up to this point it appears that those comedy team of meteorologists may have stumbled upon a proper guess! Even a blind hog occasionally sniffs out a nut. . .

I’m trying to stay stocked up on propane thru these colder winter months, taking one or two empty tanks to be filled every 7-10 days that I venture across the bay for supplies. Nothing worse than having several back-to-back hard blowing cold northers, and running out of propane for heat when I cannot make it in. As far as I know, propane doesn’t go bad when it sits for an extended period of time in those tanks, so might as well have a surplus supply of it on hand, especially during the winter. I refer to it as my electricity in a bottle. I know one thing, those cats have figured out that under the warm quilt and feather comforter is the place to be during those nights of temps in the 30’s! Not so dumb after all.

The duck hunters in the area have been in heaven the past several weeks. Literally thousands of ducks, I believe mostly redheads, have been flocking to this south shoreline, turning the surface of the water black with their numbers at times. On some early mornings it sounds like D-Day on Omaha Beach with all the shooting. I’m not a duck hunter at all, never fancied the idea of sitting in miserable weather to shoot a few, but I’ll certainly accept any that fellow islanders drop off at the house for a meal of fresh fried duck breasts.

I suffered a fairly severe leg injury in the most freakish way on the morning of Dec. 13th. A fresh norther had just blown in, so I went outside to secure an additional line to the boat, a common practice in windy weather conditions out here. While I was walking back to the house, I stopped on the front porch deck for a moment, when in an instant, a tremendous brief gust of wind, easily 60-70mph, (later determined to be a small twister that damaged several island houses), ripped out the screws securing a section of 3/4” plywood and hurled the plywood edgeways into my right calf. Oh my goodness, the pain was terrible, and the swelling immediately began.

I was very fortunate that I didn’t suffer a broken leg, but the hard impact created a severe hematoma. After two separate trips to the walk-in clinic, I finally received medical help from Dr. Mondolfi, who drained the swollen hematoma of 150cc (5.07 ounces), of coagulated blood. . it was so gross! The wound is now healing properly and should be fine. Thank you so much, Dr. Mondolfi and your staff, for the help! It was just a freak accident that happened in the blink of an eye, and by the grace of God it wasn’t any worse.

Well that’s it from the island for now, everyone take care and have a great day.

Sixty Years Together Is Something Special! by Kelly Gee

Archived in the category: Announcements, General Info
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 14 Jan 16 - 0 Comments
Kenneth & Grady Jean Clark pictured on their 25th Anniversary

Kenneth & Grady Jean Clark pictured on their 25th Anniversary

Kenneth and Grady Jean Clark celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this week with a lovely dinner at Flemings Restaurant in San Antonio. This special event was planned by their children Kimberly Clark and Henry Anderson. The guest list included Henry’s wife Judy, family friends Kim Lines, John and Kathy Yearwood, niece Mary Usrey and her husband Steve. Son Steven was unable to join them this time. The guests of honor were surprised by the crowd, but had a great meal and outstanding service at one of their favorite places on their special day. It was a extraordinary way to celebrate the many years of life they have shared so lovingly.

Kenneth and Grady Jean both grew up in Port O’Connor after moving here as very young children. They fell in love and married in Port Lavaca 60 years ago this week. They raised their children here, and helped with lots of others family’s children over the years. They have been well known for giving to others and lending a helping hand in the community. No matter the need, they were ready and able to help out and are loved by many for their generous spirit. They ran successful and well known local businesses including a waterfront hotel, restaurant and marina, a busy boutique, a bait shop and a shrimp and oyster house. Kenneth’s parents first established Clark’s Marina in 1917, Kenneth expanded and the next generation is continuing the tradition. You can find son Henry there most days, working hard serving our community with the family tradition of excellence. The Clark home on Harrison is a beautiful oasis and a singular picture of earlier POC development in a class by itself. The front pond is a bird paradise, and free range deer are often seen feeding the park like yard.

Kenneth and Grady Jean were instrumental in the growth and development of our POC Community. They were part of building the Community Center, have been mainstays of support in First Baptist Church, and are an active part of many other community groups and activities including Warriors Weekend, Chamber, Service Club, and others. For years, they have made their home, their pool and their resources available for use and enjoyment by our community, even at sometimes significant cost and sacrifice to themselves. When Kenneth retired from his daily schedule at Clark’s Marina, they were absent from Port O’Connor quite a bit for about ten years. They traveled, built a beautiful 2nd home in Colorado, and did what Kenneth describes as ‘playing full time.’ After selling the Colorado Clark annex, they returned to full time POC life and Kenneth loved to spend pre-dawn mornings at the Marina seeing fishermen off for a good days catch. Billy Ragusin, a lifelong employee and friend, told me, ‘they are the best kind of people,’ and those who have had the privilege and the blessing to know them would agree wholeheartedly. Happy 60th Anniversary to a special couple that is integral to the history and ambiance of Port O’Connor, Texas.

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