A1 A1
Prysmian Group plans $50M investment in Marshall facility

Prysmian Group is planning a $50 million investment in its Marshall plant, including equipment upgrades and the addition of 75 jobs, the company announced.

The announcement comes two weeks after the Harrison County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a seven-year tax abatement, which covers new capital expenditures. The two-part incentive proposal, valued at more than $1.2 million, was a joint effort between Harrison County and the Marshall Economic Development Corporation.

The county tax abatement portion has an estimated value between $650,000 and $720,000 over seven years. Marshall EDC’s part is a multiyear contribution of EDC funds totaling $575,000 as previously approved by the Marshall City Council in early September.

“As we invest to grow and expand our presence in North America, we recognize the importance of our Marshall plant, workforce and the products that are manufactured in this facility for our business and our region,” said Paul Furtado, chief operations officer at Prysmian Group North America. “These investments will expand our capacity, add new jobs and contribute to the economic growth of the area and the Marshall community. We are grateful to the authorities of the City of Marshall and Harrison County for working with us in making these investments possible.”

Prysmian Group’s Harrison County plant is its largest plant in North America and is where the bulk of the region’s renewable energy products are made.

Both Harrison County and Marshall officials expressed their excitement about the planned investments.

Harrison County Pct. 2 Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins and Harrison County Judge Chad Sims issued a joint statement saying they were both excited about the capital investment and job creation that Prysmian was committing to at the facility.

“Prysmian’s plant has been a large employer for years,” they said. “With this expansion it’s our hope that their business will continue to thrive for many more. While the county is foregoing initial revenue as an incentive to secure the expansion, the immediate effect will be employment of construction workers and thereafter company employees.”

Sims and Timmons also noted the expansion would benefit Marshall ISD and ESD No. 3 because of additional property tax revenues that will be generated.

Rush Harris, executive director for MEDCO, agreed.

“Prysmian Group is a major employer for our community,” Harris said. “With over 500 employees, they contribute over $24 million annually to our local wages. This addition will add $3 million more. Over half of the existing employees live in or immediately near Marshall. These employees contribute to the sustainability of our local and regional tax base. Economic growth is happening in our area, and we will continue to encourage private investment.”

Jeremy Spears, chairman of the Marshall Economic Development Corporation, said it was encouraging to see Marshall’s advantage of workforce training, logistics and affordability acknowledged and the community’s “willingness to work together to secure new investment and regional growth.”

“Prysmian has many options where to invest in their future,” Spears said. “We are honored they will be sharing that future with us.”

Tracy Andrus Foundation offers new mortgage assistance program

The Tracy Andrus foundation is rolling out a new program this week that will now offer assistance to community members who need help making mortgage payments.

Chardonnay Thomas, a case manager with the foundation, said that the new program is being officially rolled out today, and will offer assistance through the foundation directly to community members in San Augustine, Brewster, Cluberson, Fannin, Grayson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Lubbock and Presidio Counties.

For those community members located here in Harrison County, as well as Shelby and Sabine counties, Thomas said that they can go to through the Tracy Andrus foundation for more information on the program, and receive assistance through Endeavors, an emergency mortgage relief organization.

“We are very excited about this,” Thomas said, “It’s a great program, where anyone can go and receive help.”

She said that the program was created to assist those who were negatively affected by COVID-19, which includes a wide range of issues such as job loss, work reduction, pay reduction and more.

To apply, community members can go online to www.endevors.com, where they can fill out a brief application including contact information as well as mortgage information to get started.

“The application is easy, it takes almost no time at all,” Thomas said.

After the simple online application process, Thomas said that community members will either be contacted by an endeavor representative or by the Tracy Andrus Foundation depending on the property location. If eligible, the first assistance payment can be expected within 10 to 14 days after application.

Thomas said that the addition of the new program is exciting to the foundation, who since rolling out their rental assistance program this year has received a number of calls and visits about community members in need of mortgage assistance.

“One of the first questions I have to ask right now is ‘do you rent or own?’ because right now, we can’t help someone if they own their home,” she said.

The foundation’s rental assistance program was rolled out in May and offers assistance to community members with delinquent rent or utility bills.

Community members interested in the program must have an eviction notice or a notice to vacate, as well as a statement in their lease noting that the tenant can be evicted for an unpaid utility bill. Applicants must also have an annual income below 50 percent of the median family income determined by HUD in their respective county, and be currently delinquent in their bills to qualify.

The foundation also assists with rapid re-housing needs through its Family Support Services Division, as well as referring those in assistance to other organizations who can offer the services they need.

The Tracy Andrus Foundation is currently houses at 303 W. Burleson St. in Marshall, and community members can stop by their office or contact the organization at (903) 472-2762, or email AFaassist@gmail.com, for more information on the array of programs offered by the foundation.

Harrison County JP Mike Smith not seeking re-election

With filing for the 2022 ballot approaching soon, Harrison County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Judge Mike Smith announced Tuesday that he will not be running for re-election in the 2022 Primary.

“My retirement won’t come until the 30th of (December) next year, but I needed to announce this so if anybody wanted to file, I know the filing dates are coming up and if they wanted to file they would have that opportunity to file,” said Smith. “There has been a couple who have asked me about it, so maybe, hopefully they’ll have the choice of a person to vote on in the next election.”

And with election dates still up in the air, due to the ongoing redistricting process, Smith said he felt the timing was right to make his announcement.

“I wanted to do it now because they were unsure of election dates, and if they get the redistricting done then the dates would be the same as they usually are (in March), and if they don’t it’ll be later than that. But, just in case, I wanted to go ahead and do this, let everybody know,” said Smith. “I’m considering the process.”

According to the Texas Association of Counties, the justice of the peace presides over the justice court in cases involving misdemeanors, small civil disputes, landlord/tenant disputes and more. They also conduct inquests and may perform marriage ceremonies.

A Rewarding Career

Judge Smith was elected to the Pct. 3 position in 1989 after fulfilling a 37-year career as an educator and coach. He was sworn in Jan. 1, 1999.

“When the end is over, it’ll be 24 years, and I think that’s plenty for anybody to be a public servant,” the 76-year-old said. “I’m doing it for not for any particular reason other than the fact I think it’s time for somebody else to step in and do my job; and somebody that has more energy than I have, somebody that doesn’t mind getting up at 2:30 in the morning, going down on the interstate (for inquests), stuff like that.

“But it’s been a great job,” Smith said. “I’ve really enjoyed myself. I have enjoyed getting to know some people in my precinct very closely, and I just hope the next person enjoys it as much as I do.”

Smith said expressions from former Congressman JJ Pickle inspired him to pursue the public servant position.

“I actually was in the process of studying to be a lawyer. I took three years in pre-law in college and my last year I got really interested in the coaching profession through a job that I had in San Marcos where I graduated from,” said Smith. “JJ Pickle, he said that the JP office is the only judge in the State of Texas where you can come in and speak face-to-face with a judge without an attorney, and that got me interested.

“So, in each town that I coached in, I made friends with the JP, and I kept in touch to see if anything was changing and all that and then when I got ready to retire from the school system, this is what I wanted to do,” he shared. “And it just so happen that I was in a place in a time that God put me in when Mary Bess (Cole) was getting ready to retire.

“I won the election that year. I’ve only had an opponent one time since then. I take that as a compliment, not having an opponent,” he said. “I always thought that this would be something that I’d like to do in my retirement after I got through coaching.”

Throughout his career, Smith has prided himself on being fair.

“I think you have to go by the law when you’re making your decisions, but you also at the same time can administer the law on a fair basis where everybody knows you’re doing it fairly. And I think I’ve been able to accomplish that goal,” said Smith.

Most rewarding for him is being able to help others, he said.

“You have people come in and ask you for advice, and not on their tickets in your court, but ask you ‘Hey somebody did something to me over here and what should I do about this?’ And the older people would come in and they would ask me to read things and interpret it for them, and I got a joy out of that,” said Smith.

The judge is looking forward to continuing to enhance the Pct. 3 office during the remainder of his tenure.

“The first thing that I really want to accomplish before I leave for the next year is to make my office over in that building in Hallsville, make it secure for the people that work there,” he said, sharing they are in the process of a security overhaul since the office lacks the security measures that the other JP offices housed inside of the county courthouse do.

“I want to make it secure,” Judge Smith said. “We have some money in our security fund, and that’s what I’m going to zero in on here this next year.”

“I’m trying to make that place as secure as I can possibly make it and still keep it as open as I possibly can,” he said.

Smith said he doesn’t have any advice for his future successor, but he’s pleased he was able to fulfill the duties well.

“Like I said I’ve never had somebody walk up to me and tell me: ‘Hey, I really want your job,’” said Smith.

“I’ve had a lot of people walk up to me and tell me I don’t think I could do your job, mostly because of the coroner work that you have to do. So, I just took pride in the fact that I did a job that a lot of people didn’t want to do,” the JP said.

Offices up for re-election

In addition to the office of Pct. 3 justice of the peace, other countywide positions up for grabs for the 2022 election include: district attorney, county clerk, county judge, county court-at-law judge, district clerk, county treasurer, Pct. 2 county commissioner, Pct. 4 county commissioner, Pct.1 justice of the peace and Pct. 2 justice of the peace.

Candidates reportedly have to file for office by Dec. 13. The filing period opens Nov. 13.

Marion County establishes guidelines for redistricting

JEFFERSON — The Marion County Commissioners Court approved important matters related to redistricting at their Monday meeting.

“Redistricting is a very important part of all government,” said Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur. “I think moving forward is that we need to get a game plan together and implement it.”

In a unanimous vote, the court approved an order establishing criteria for redistricting of political boundaries. The 14-list criteria outlined in the order are examples of fundamentally important issues that should be considered in redistricting plans.

“The Commissioners Court expresses its intention to measure any plan submitted for consideration by this set of criteria, and to base any eventual exercise of discretion upon the foregoing criteria,” the order states.

According to the order, the plan should ensure that all applicable provisions of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, the Voting Rights Act, and the Texas Election Code are honored.

Additionally, the plan should be drawn in such a manner that the maximum deviation from an ideal size, as determined by dividing the total population of the county divided by four (the number of single member districts that compose the commissioners court, by not more than five percent for any single precinct, or a total top to bottom deviation (percentage of deviation below and above the ideal size) of not more than 10 percent, the order indicates.

“The plan should address minority representation, and if at all possible, in conformity with constitutional standards, avoid retrogression in the percentage of population and voting age demographics consistent with existing minority representation,” the order states. “The plan should avoid fragmentation and preserve minority communities of interest to the maximum extent possible. These communities of interest should be recognized and retained intact where possible. Only when the overall minority population of the county is sufficiently large to require more than one minority district should minority populations be divided, and only then to the least degree possible.”

The order goes on to say that the plan should not, however, attempt to unreasonably join geographically remote minority populations into a single precinct unless there are strong and genuine connections between these communities as reflected by common schools, churches or cultural ties.

Other criteria include:

  • The plan should seek compact and contiguous political boundaries. Physical boundaries of cultural or economic significance, such as rivers, multi-laned control access highways or turnpikes, which tend to divide populations in fundamental ways, should be recognized or, where possible, should only serve as necessary to achieve recognized objectives. To the maximum extent possible, clearly recognized boundaries, such as streets and highways, should be used to facilitate ease of voter identification of boundaries, as well as election administration.
  • Where possible, well-recognized and long used election precinct boundaries should be retained intact or with as little alteration as possible.
  • Election precincts in the plan should be sized in conformity with state law.
  • The plan should afford incumbent office holders with the assurance that they will continue to represent the majority of individuals who elected these incumbents, and all incumbents’ residential locations should be retained in their reformed precincts to ensure continuity in leadership during the remaining term of incumbents to the extent possible.
  • The plan should address fundamental and necessary governmental functions, and to the extent possible, ensure that these functions are enhanced rather than impaired. For example, county road mileage should be balanced to the extent possible between the resulting commissioner precincts. Election administration should not be unduly complex as a result of election boundaries.
  • The plan should ensure that election voting precincts under that plan do not contain territory from more than one commissioner’s precinct, justice precinct, congressional district, state representative district, state senatorial district and state Board of Education.
  • The plan should attempt to locate polling places in convenient, well-known locations that are accessible to disabled voters to the maximum extent possible.
  • If the reduction of polling places can be accomplished, without impinging upon voter convenience and minority voting rights, such reductions can be considered.

The order allows for citizen input, as well.

“Citizen input should be encouraged, but in order to minimize cost and to have sufficient information to evaluate such proposals fairly, the county will only consider proposed plans submitted to the county for evaluation by individual citizens or groups if the proposed plan is submitted to the county in a commonly used GIS format, such as .SHP, .MAP, .KLM, .GPX, .MDB, along with maps and demographic data sufficient to address voting rights concerns,” the order advises.

The order was unanimously approved by the commissioners court, with Pct. 4 Commissioner Charles Treadwell making the motion and Pct. 3 Commissioner Ralph Meisenheimer seconding it.

Judge LaFleur said the court plans to schedule public hearings in the near future to consider public proposals concerning redistricting.

“It’s very important to hear from the people, and I treat that as my No. 1 priority,” said LaFleur. “All forms of government should work for the people.”

LaFleur said while he’s new to the process of redistricting, he’s grateful to have an experienced commissioner on board.

“As I have never been a part of the redistricting process, we are very blessed to have a knowledgeable commissioner on the court, Commissioner Charlie Treadwell, who has been through this process a few times and we will lean on him for his experience,” said LaFleur.

Prosecution to rest in trial of former nurse accused of murder; defense to present evidence
  • Updated

After 11 days of testimony and presenting evidence, the prosecution will officially rest its case Wednesday morning in the capital murder trial of a former East Texas nurse accused of killing four patients at a Tyler hospital.

William George Davis, 37, of Hallsville, is accused of injecting air into patients’ arterial systems while he was a nurse at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital in Tyler, causing their deaths, according to 2018 and 2021 indictments.

Davis is accused of killing John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenaway and Joseph Kalina. His trial began Sept. 28.

The jury heard from the state’s remaining witnesses for nearly five hours on Tuesday before ending just after 1 p.m. The defense’s attorneys will begin calling witnesses Wednesday after the prosecution has officially rested.

Dr. William Yarbrough, a pulmonologist and professor of internal medicine in the Dallas area, testified Tuesday about his opinions on the case and provided expert testimony from his 40 years in the medical field.

He said the arterial system moves blood away from the heart, and explained to the jury the process of blood flow to the brain, blood pressure and typical strokes.

Yarbrough reviewed the brain scan images of Greenaway, Kalina, Clark and Lafferty as well as a patient Davis is accused of harming in 2017, Pamela Henderson.

Yarbrough testified there were significant defects at the surface of the brains, which is the working part of the organ. He said the air found inside their brains was always at the surface.

For each patient, Yarbrough testified that air injected into the arterial system of the brain was the cause of brain injury and death. While looking at Greenaway’s brain scan, he said the arterial line would be the most likely way of air coming into the arterial system.

On different dates in 2017 and 2018, the patients had unexplained neurological events while having otherwise routine recoveries from their heart surgeries. Air was found in each of the brain scans taken after the complications.

Yarbrough said he ruled out blood pressure issues or any other cause besides the injection of air. He also testified these events had to happen after the surgeries because the complications occurred after they began to recover.

While answering questions from the defense, Yarbrough said the bulk of his work is spent representing hospitals in medical malpractice suits.

Yarbrough said he was able to determine if the patients’ brains had air, not another form of gas, by viewing the brain scan images. He testified he’d never seen air in the arterial system of the brain before being a part of this case.

The defense noted Yarbrough’s previous reports called air in the arterial system a probable cause of the patients’ deaths, but his report just before the trial said the air in the brain was the definitive cause.

Yarbrough said Christus Trinity Mother Frances and the district attorney’s office didn’t ask him to make a certain opinion on the patients’ medical records.

Dr. Kennith Layton, a radiologist who specializes in diagnostic radiology and neuroradiology out of Dallas, returned to testify Tuesday morning for questions from the defense.

Layton said hypotension can commonly cause a stroke in patients but he didn’t see a hypotensive state that was significant enough to cause the stroke events in the patients Davis is accused of killing or harming.

The brain is able to accommodate periods of low or high blood pressure, Layton said, noting that hypotension would have to be very profound for five to 10 minutes to cause brain damage.

The defense noted Layton wrote down air and/or a toxic substance being injected as the reason for the gas in the brain and damages in his reports.

“I think it was air but I can’t exclude the fact that another substance could’ve been injected,” Layton said.

He testified he can definitely tell that the substance in the patients’ brains was gas.