PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 29, 2016) – In an effort to better inform the public, the City of Palestine has created a Transparency Portal on its website, cityofpalestinetx.com.
The portal, found on a tab on every website page, links the public to information on city government. The page includes information on the Mayor and City Council, council meetings, employee contact information, and press releases.
The Transparency Portal also includes financial information previously unavailable on the web. The financial information online includes policies, past budgets, past audits, check registers and financial reports to the city council.
The portal also includes information on property taxes and bond obligations. City staff created the portal as a way to create an easier web experience for citizens.
“Some of this information was online previously, but the portal gives residents and taxpayers an easier way to look at the city’s financials,” Nate Smith, Communications and Best Practices Officer, said. “We updated a lot of the financial data that was there previously and added more information.”
Steve Groom and Jeff Sheridan of the city’s Finance Department collected the financial information for the portal. The creation of the portal was a council directive in 2015, along the guidelines created by the Texas Office of the Comptroller.
“The City of Palestine's financials are meant to serve the citizens, starting with every budget, the issuance of every check, through to the end-of-year audited financials,” Groom said. “The purpose of a city isn't to make money, it's to deliver services and assure citizens the security of those services for many years to come. Since most citizens don't come to the City Hall Finance department, I think our transparency page shows we are trying to bring the information to citizens they should want if they decide they'd like to know what they get for their money."
Smith said the portal gives the city a start on earning transparency accreditation from the state. With continued improvements and updates, the city will continue transparency standards.
“We want to expand on the portal and add more information in the future,” Smith said.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 26, 2016) – The Palestine City Council approved further funding of a quiet zone through downtown Palestine.
The City of Palestine, along with help from the Palestine Economic Development Corporation, will ask the Federal Railroad Administration to allow a quiet zone at the crossings of South Magnolia and South Sycamore streets. The PEDC helped make the zone a reality through a $10,000 grant for an additional stop arm on South Magnolia Street.
Citizens National Bank also donated $10,000 for the quiet zone. Main Street business owners also pledged dollars to the costs. Greg Laudadio, PEDC Assistant Director and Main Street Manager, said PEDC board members “are aware of the importance of a quiet zone to downtown businesses.”
“The board was made aware of the monetary contributions that small business owners were willing to pledge towards this effort and decided to contribute $10,000 to help make it a reality,” Laudadio said. “It is obvious that businesses will benefit from this new quiet zone ordinance and the PEDC wants to be a partner in the project.”
The city contracted with engineering firm CTC to work with Union Pacific and the Federal Railroad Administration to create a quiet zone on South Magnolia and South Sycamore streets. According to federal law, only local governments and public agencies may establish a quiet zone.
The quiet zone will stop loud train horns passing through Palestine at the two crossings. According to the FRA, train horns have to be at least 96 decibels and can be as loud as 110 decibels. By comparison, a Boeing 747 jet taking off is 100 decibels.
To further ensure safety, Union Pacific asked that a second stop arm be placed on Magnolia Street. The railroad and the city agreed to split the $50,000 cost for the stop arm. The grants and pledges will be used for the city’s half of the stop arm. Union Pacific will install the arm.
In the quiet zone, residents could still hear train horns. Federal law dictates train engineers may sound the horn in emergency situations. Also, engineers must sound the horn when maintenance employees are working on the tracks.
Palestine’s quiet zone will be one of over 100 quiet zones in Texas, the most of any state in the country. According to two FRA studies, there is no correlation between quiet zones and rail accidents.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 23, 2016) – The public will get to have some fun with its city’s first responders at Palestine’s annual National Night Out, set for Tuesday, October 4, at the Palestine Mall. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., citizens will get the chance to interact with the men and women who work hard to keep all of us safe.
But National Night Out is more than just a meet and greet; it is a block party. National Night out is a good family fun event with deejays, food, and games. This year, the first 200 people who attend will get a National Night Out Awareness bracelet.
The purpose of National Night Out is to engage and empower citizens, according to Lt. Gabriel Green.
“National Night Out is always a fun time,” Green said. “The night is always a great opportunity for the public to see us as officers and firefighters.”
National Night Out started 33 years ago in Boston and had grown nationwide. According to the National Association of Town Watch, the parent organization behind National Night Out, 16,000 communities celebrate the program throughout the country, meeting with 38 million citizens and neighbors.
Palestine will join communities across Texas celebrating National Night Out on October 4. Traditionally, National Night Out is celebrated on the first Tuesday in October in the state of Texas. Elsewhere across the country, the event takes place on the first Tuesday in August.
This year is the fourth year Palestine has celebrated National Night Out. Community Liason Officer Bernadette Capron said the department had enjoyed a great response from the community during the event.
“(The community) continues to come out and help support this event,” Capron said. “Walmart provides the hot dogs, Ben E. Keith provides the water, and we use many donations from local businesses as giveaways for the public.”
If you would like to become a vendor, volunteer, or donate, please go to the City of Palestine web page and fill out the form and mail, email, or return the form to the Palestine Police Department. For more information, please email Capron at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 903-731-8435 ext. 8614.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 22, 2016) – The City of Palestine has named Felipe Garcia, Michael Hornes and Rob Thames as deputy directors in the Public Works department.
“I am excited to have these guys help lead our department,” Public Works Director Tim Perry said. “These three deputy directors represent a wealth of experience for the City of Palestine.”
All three were selected after a rigorous promotion exam. A group of three judges with expertise in public works but are not affiliated with the City of Palestine judged the candidates on case studies and a five-year master plan.
Following the presentations, all the candidates sat for another interview with Perry, Human Resources Director Susie Streb and Interim City Manager Mike Alexander. Again, the candidates faced a case study. The combination of the presentation scores plus the interview process led to the selection of the deputy directors.
In July, the Palestine City Council approved a reorganization of the Public Works Department, merging utilities and facility maintenance with Public Works. Under the new structure, Perry will have three deputy directors. Those deputies will then manage areas of expertise in Public Works: Utilities, Streets, and Facility Maintenance.
Garcia has 30 years of experience in water and wastewater systems and will be the Deputy Director of Utilities. He will oversee the Water Treatment Plant, Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the Water Distribution team. Garcia serves as the supervisor of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and has experience with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Union Pacific railroad.
Since 2013, Hornes has worked for the City of Palestine in the engineering department. Hornes will be the Deputy Director for Facility Maintenance and will oversee engineering, facility maintenance, warehouse, information technology and the Civic Center. Hornes holds a Masters in Public Administration degree from Texas Tech, and has worked for the City of Lubbock and the New York City Parks Department.
Thames currently works in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and will oversee Streets as the Deputy Director. He will coordinate street construction and maintenance, waste disposal and vehicle maintenance. Thames has served the public for over 35 years in Commerce City, Missoula and Palestine. In 1998, Thames received the Gold Medal Award from the National Parks and Recreation Association.
All three deputies begin their full duties on Monday, Sept. 26.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 20, 2016) – On October 22, the streets of Palestine will fill with fun as the Hot Pepper Festival, the city’s largest event, kicks off with the annual parade.
“Although the festival is a month away, we have received many parade applications,” Heather Hrebec, Events Coordinator with the Parks and Recreation Department said. “The outpouring of support from the community has been wonderful.”
The parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Anderson County Courthouse, and winds through downtown Palestine before returning to the courthouse.
Applications for the festival parade can be found at the City of Palestine’s Visitor Center, Civic Center, or the Parks and Recreation Office inside the Palestine Mall. Groups can also drop off completed applications. Applications are also available online at cityofpalestinetx.com on the Hot Pepper Festival page.
This year, judges will choose winners in four categories; band, equine/carriage, automobile and float. A $300 cash award for overall best entry will be awarded.
The theme for this year’s festival is “Everything’s Hotter in Texas.” Hrebec said the idea came from committee members wanting to feature Texas as part of the festival.
“We are looking forward to a great day and lots of participation.”
This year, multiple-award winning entertainer Jack Ingram will headline the festival on October 22. Ingram, best known for his song “Barefoot and Crazy,” was the 2008 Best New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. Also performing will be Hunter Hutchinson and Randal King.
Ingram’s concert is just one of several new additions to this year’s Hot Pepper Festival. Events scheduled include , an expanded kids zone, and a Carnival sponsored by the Palestine Rotary club. Events slated include a BBQ cook-off, silent auction, music, food, vendors and more.
To become a sponsor of this year’s Hot Pepper Festival, contact a member of the Hot Pepper Festival committee, or call the Parks and Recreation Department at 903-731-8435. Vendor applications can be found online at the City of Palestine’s page at cityofpalestinetx.com
PALESTINE, Texas (September 15, 2016) – Be on the lookout for cyclists next weekend as the El Camino 205: Texas Gravel Adventure spins it’s wheels with the 3rd annual event on September 24. The Camino205 is a long distance bicycle adventure ride through the Piney Woods of East Texas offering scenic views and a challenge to riders like no other!
Gravel adventures are taking off as new interest in this type of course offers a road less traveled. Race organizer and director, Dave Morrow chose Palestine after “my friends and I poured over paper maps and Google Earth. We searched out the best unpaved roads with beautiful countryside yet accessible from population centers. We settled on the Piney Woods around Palestine, Texas.
“A couple of riding forays into the area confirmed what we had found on the maps: the area has some great riding. It’s not flat; the views change constantly; the countryside has a sylvan beauty, filled with pine trees; and the cars are few and far between. Spanish missionaries coming up from Mexico pioneered a road, El Camino Real, in the area centuries ago. In fact, one of our checkpoints is at the site of a Franciscan mission built in 1690.”
The El Camino 205 offers the race in multiple distances with the most grueling at the maximum of 205 miles. In addition, there are also 105, 65 and 25-mile courses. Registration is now open for the race at www.camino205.com.
Race times begin at 6 a.m. on September 24 in Old Town Palestine for the 205 mile ride. The Camino 105 kicks off at 7 a.m. and the Camino 65 and 25 mile rides start anytime after 8 a.m. A check-in celebration with food, music and fun will be held in Old Town Palestine at 301 E. Crawford St. from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23.
“The gravel road experience, day or night, is completely different than mixing it up with cars on paved roads – so much more relaxing and close to the land,” Morrow said. “The Camino has about 7,100 feet of climbing over the 205 mile route - frequent short climbs to make things interesting but not impossible for a first time rider.”
“Palestine is excited to host this event for the third year in a row,” stated Mary Raum, Marketing Manager for the City of Palestine. “A race of this caliber will draw people from all across the country and each year we have seen it grow. With partnerships between the City of Palestine, Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce and Ben E. Keith Distributing, this event offers a unique opportunity for outdoor tourism to Palestine.”
For more information regarding the Camino 205, visit www.camino205.com.
AUSTIN, Texas – Palestine Court Administrator Courtney Acklin was among 45 court administrators, clerks, managers, and supervisors from municipal courts across Texas that graduated on August 10 from the Court Management Program (CMP) of the Institute for Court Management (ICM).
ICM is the educational arm of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) in Williamsburg, Virginia. NCSC, founded in 1971, is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership, research, technology, and education services to the state courts. The program was co-sponsored by the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center in Austin (www.tmcec.com). Since 2000, over 500 court professionals from across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have achieved certification.
Acklin is employed as the Court Administrator with the Palestine Municipal Court. Prior to participation in the CMP final seminar on Purposes and Responsibilities of the Court, Acklin completed five core courses in court administration: Court Performance Standards, Fundamental Issues of Caseflow Management, Managing Court Financial Resources, Managing Human Resources, and Managing Technology.
Acklin has worked with the City of Palestine for 11 years; seven of those with the court. In July 2014, she received her Court Administrator certification, one of 57 administrators in Texas. She also serves the Texas Court Clerks Association’s Education Committee. Acklin also teaches courses for the Texas Municipal Court Education Center.
The court administrators, clerks, managers, and supervisors completing the course of study were recognized in a ceremony held at the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, Texas. The certificates were presented in a ceremony by Presiding Judge Barbara Hervey of the Court of Criminal Appeals and Presiding Judge Ed Spillane of the College Station Municipal Court. ICM recognizes Acklin as a Certified Court Manager (CCM).
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 5, 2016) – Local Certified Healthcare Navigator Victoria Lara will be conducting informational seminars on the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning September 14.
Two informational meetings will be conducted at the Palestine Public Library, 2000 S. Loop 256, Suite 42, before enrollment begins on November 1. Walk-ins will be taken on some Thursday afternoons from November-January, beginning at noon.
Lara is a certified Healthcare Navigator with Anderson Cherokee Community Enrichment Services, ACCESS. She will be available to help individuals to navigate and register online for healthcare as well as other benefits they may not be aware they are qualified to receive.
This can be an opportunity to apply for one-stop shop for benefits. For questions about healthcare please call Lara at 903-661-3910 or 903-279-7463.
Public access computers are available free of charge to the public with a valid library card. Please call the Palestine Public Library for information on how to obtain a library card, at 903-729-4121.
Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Dates
- Wednesday, September 14 – 1 p.m. (Informational Meeting)
- Wednesday, October 12 -1 p.m. (Informational Meeting)
Thursday Walk-in Dates 2016-17
- October 27: Noon - 5 p.m.
- November 10: Noon - 7 p.m.
- December 1: Noon - 7 p.m.
- December 15: Noon - 5 p.m.
- January 5, 2017: Noon - 7 p.m.
- January 19, 2017: Noon - 5 p.m.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 1, 2016) – The City of Palestine Parks and Recreation Department will host the Fall Citywide Community Yard Sale on Saturday, Sept. 17 in the Palestine Mall parking lot.
The fall sale follows the very successful spring sale also at the Palestine Mall. This is the first year the mall will host the yard sales. According to the department, approximately 1,800 to 2,000 people came for the bargains at the spring show, and they expect a larger turnout for the fall event.
“Last year, everyone had a good time,” Parks and Recreation Director Roy Crouch said. “The mall is such a fantastic location.”
Admission into the sale is free, but those wanting to sell items must purchase a booth space. Booth spaces are available for $25 and cover the size of two parking spaces. Vendors must be self-contained, and provide tables, chairs and shade.
Proceeds from booth rentals and concessions will benefit the 2016 Hot Pepper Festival. The festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 22.
To make a booth reservation, call 903-731-8435, or 903-723-2026. Space is limited, and no late applications will be accepted.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 2, 2016) – The City of Palestine is seeking members for current and upcoming vacancies on several boards and commissions. The Mayor of Palestine appoints all members of the boards, and the City Council approves the appointments. These boards include:
Tourism Advisory Board
The Tourism Advisory Board is seeking five members to fill its seven-member board. Members should be residents of the City of Palestine, but up to three members could live outside the city if the Mayor and City Council determines it is in the city’s best interest. Regular board meetings are on the third Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m.
Airport Advisory Board
The Airport Advisory Board has three members up for appointment on its seven-member board. Members serve two-year terms, but may continue to act after the term is completed until a successor is appointed. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms unless approved by a majority of the City Council. The board meets at the Palestine Airport Conference room on the second Tuesday on the second month of each quarter.
Buildings and Standards Commission
The Buildings and Standards Commission is seeking four members for its seven-member board. Members must be residents of Palestine. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms unless approved by a majority of the City Council. The board meets when called by the Development Services Department.
Main Street Advisory Board
The Main Street Advisory Board is seeking four members of its seven-member board. Members should be residents of the City of Palestine, but up to three members could live outside the city if the Mayor and City Council determines it is in the city’s best interest. Regular board meetings are set for 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.
Parks Advisory Board
The Parks Advisory Board is seeking three members for its seven-member board. Members must be residents of Palestine. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms unless approved by a majority of the City Council. The board meets on the first Tuesday of every month at noon inside the Parks and Recreation offices at the Palestine Mall.
Texas State Railroad Authority
The Texas State Railroad Authority is seeking a member of its board. Board members are selected from Rusk and Palestine, the two stops on the Texas State Railroad. Regular board meetings are set for 5:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month and alternates between Rusk and Palestine.
Palestine Library Board
The Palestine Library Board is seeking two members for its seven-member board. Members should be residents of the City of Palestine and serve a three-year term. The Library Board advises the Library Director and the City Manager on policies and programs at the library. Board meetings are at 11:30 a.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the library.
Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals
The Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals is seeking a member plus two alternates for its seven-member board. Members must be residents of Palestine. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms unless approved by a majority of the City Council. The board meets when called by the Development Services Department.
Historic Landmarks Commission
The Historic Landmarks Commission is seeking three members for its seven-member board. Members must be residents of Palestine. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than two consecutive terms unless approved by a majority of the City Council. The board meets at 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month in the City Council chambers.
Planning and Zoning Commission
The Planning and Zoning Commission is seeking three members for its seven-member board. Members must be residents of Palestine. A member of the board may not be appointed for more than 10 successive years. The board meets at 1:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month in the City Council chambers.
Applications are available online at cityofpalestinetx.com
, or for more information, contact City Secretary Teresa Herrera at 903-731-8414.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 2, 2016) – The City of Palestine will soon have an additional invitation to its visitors, this time on Main Street.
Volunteers, with the help of local businesses, will begin work on a new mural in Downtown Palestine. The mural will be on a currently sparse building wall at the intersection of Spring and Magnolia streets. Main Street Advisory Board Member Dana Matthews will begin work on the mural during the Labor Day weekend.
The inspiration for the mural came from a trip to San Marcos, Texas, where murals decorate its historic downtown landscape. Matthews said the trip last summer opened her eyes to what is possible in Downtown Palestine.
“We were all taking pictures in front of them,” Matthews said. “I love to paint and as soon as we got home, I decided to get something on that wall.”
The mural, Matthews said, is “elaborately simple,” and will feature a welcome to Downtown Palestine message. Matthew’s hope is the mural will draw visitors and residents downtown as a photo destination.
“I hope it inspires more murals downtown,” Matthews said.
The mural would not be possible without sponsors, who donated money and materials to make the mural possible. Citizens National Bank, Sherwin-Williams of Palestine and Red Hat Rentals were benefactors to the mural. Citizens National Bank owns the building and the wall, and donated its use for the mural.
“Many times we rely on donations and the generosity of local businesses for the supplies and services we need to be successful,” Main Street Manager Greg Laudadio said. “The best we can do to repay them is to thank them publicly and recognize their hometown pride and support.
“These sponsors understand the importance of community partnerships. We are lucky to have businesses like these in our town. This mural project would not be possible without the support of Sherwin-Williams, Citizens National Bank, and Red Hat Rentals of Palestine.”
For more information on Downtown Palestine and Main Street programs like the Art Tracks sculpture program and Façade Improvement Grants, visit the City of Palestine’s website at cityofpalestinetx.com
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 1, 2016) – The City of Palestine will spray for mosquitoes on Friday, Sept. 2 or Saturday, Aug. 3.
The city designated seven areas for spraying. The areas selected for spraying include:
• Neighborhoods on North Variah and Pinewood streets, and Timber Drive;
• Neighborhoods from U.S. 79 to Wanda Street to the north, and southeast to First Baptist Church;
• Neighborhoods north of South Loop 256 extending to South Royall Street, and west to Gillespie Road;
• Neighborhoods south of the Union Pacific car shop, to West Cook Street, east to South Hickory Street and west to McNeil Street;
• Neighborhoods north of West Oak Street to West Lacy Street;
• The City of Palestine Water Treatment Plant.
A full map of the areas selected for spraying can be found on the City of Palestine’s website at cityofpalestinetx.com.
The City of Palestine contracts its mosquito spraying needs to Vector Disease Control International. Residents can make mosquito complaints to the City of Palestine Development Services Department, Health Division, at 903-731-8492.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 1, 2016) – The Palestine Library Friends book sale is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Palestine Mall, 2000 S. Loop 256. The book sale will be held on the same day as the Citywide Community Yard Sale in the Palestine Mall Parking Lot.\
Books donated to the library or retired from library use will be available for purchase. A variety of titles and subjects will be available. The Palestine Library Friends support the library by raising funds through projects like quarterly book sales and membership drives.
All proceeds benefit Palestine Public Library. For more information, please call the Library at 903-729-4121.
PALESTINE, Texas (Sept. 1, 2016) – The City of Palestine has announced the Labor Day holiday schedule for city facilities.
The following city offices and facilities will close Monday, Sept. 5 and will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, Sept. 6:
• City Hall, which includes Customer Service, Municipal Court, Finance, Development Services, Public Works, Utilities, City Manager’s Office, Police Administration, City Secretary, Human Resources, Streets, Emergency Management Office and Warehouse Services.
• Palestine Economic Development and Main Street Offices
• Palestine Parks and Recreation Offices
• Palestine Civic Center Offices
• Palestine Visitor Center
• Palestine Public Library will close Saturday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 5. All library materials (books, CDs, and DVDs) can be returned 24/7 in the book drop located on the curb outside of the Mall’s main entrance.
The following city offices and facilities will be open:
• The Palestine Mall Concourse and Mall shops will remain open on Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The following is scheduled from Public Works:
• City garbage/recycling services will run as scheduled
• The compost site on Spring Street will be closed on Saturday, Sept. 3.
• To report after-hours and holiday water/sewer/road issues that require immediate attention, please contact City Hall at 903-729-2254.
Residents are asked to dial 911 for emergency issues.