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Project to improve water, sewer services in western Gregg County
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Federal COVID-19 relief funds funneled through Gregg County will help the Liberty City Water Supply Corp. upgrade its system.

The project will bring “generational change” to the western part of the county served by the nonprofit organization, said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. Gregg County Commissioners this week agreed to kick in $3 million of what will be a total $6 million project. The county’s portion will come from more than $24 million in federal COVID relief funds provided by the American Rescue Plan.

Ray Player, president of the water supply corporation’s board, told commissioners Monday the project will upgrade the water and sewer system.

“Otherwise, we’re going to have to have a serious rate increase or we’re going to have to limit our service,” he said.

The Liberty City Water Supply Corp.’s service area is 25 square miles, Player said — half the size of the city of Longview and almost as large as the cities of White Oak and Kilgore together. It includes 9.5 miles of Interstate 20 frontage and 3.5 miles of Texas 31 frontage. The organization services 6,000 water customers and 2,000 sewer customers, including the Pct. 3 constable’s office, the Marvin A. Smith jail facility, Sabine schools, Gregg County Emergency Services District No. 2 and a portion of Kilgore.

General Manager Craig Sherwood said this week engineering and permitting for the project will begin immediately. He said construction could start in 2022, but that start date could be affected by supply chain issues or COVID-19 should it become more of a problem again.

The Liberty City Water Corp.’s water system was originally built in the 1960s and the wastewater system in the 1970s.

“Like all infrastructure, it’s aging over time. The key is to start replacing and upgrading things before you start having failures and interruptions of service,” Sherwood said.

The water supply corporation was able to maintain service through the snow storm that hit East Texas earlier this year.

“We’re growing, and I’m not sure we could pull that off two times in a row,” he said.

The planned work will include adding generators at locations where the system currently doesn’t have any. That makes the system more resilient and reliable, Sherwood said.

One of the main projects is to install 12-inch water lines on the system’s east end that is served by 4- and 8-inch lines. A new, larger pump station will replace the aging one on FM 1252 and a water line from there to Texas 31, tunneling under Interstate 20, also is planned. The wastewater treatment plant on Texas 135, which was built in the early 1970s, will be expanded.

Stoudt said the work will open up new areas of development, for housing and other projects.

“That’s kind of the exciting part of this,” he said, adding he had talked to Kilgore city officials and they support the project.

This project, and additional work the Liberty City Water Supply Corp. plans in the future, will provide better interconnectivity possibilities among area water systems, providing “redundancy” and capacity for growth, Sherwood said.

“A lot of the growth that’s going to happen in the future is going to be in our service territory,” and the water supply corporation must ensure it has capacity to support it, Sherwood said.

“We’re just trying to do our little part. We really appreciate the judge and commissioners court agreeing to partner with us to help make this happen,” he said. “It will help everyone, the improvements that we make.”

Longview ISD elementary campus holds grand opening for SmartLab
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Longview ISD’s Ned E. Williams Magnet STEAM Academy held its SmartLab learning facility grand opening Thursday, demonstrating how students are putting the specialty equipment to use.

The lab has been in use since the beginning of the school year, and a group of students visit it once a week, according to PYP Coordinator/Magnet Coordinator Christina Eagan.

The facility has equipment relating to robotics, computer graphics, circuitry and more, inspiring students to get creative with science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Eagan said the best part of the lab is the teaching process for the students, allowing them learn from their mistakes.

“The SmartLab is a way where the students have an opportunity to look at problems, think of solutions, think of inquiries and figure out what is the best way for them to do it. And what’s wonderful about it is that it gives them the opportunity to fail because then through that they reflect and go back and see what they might’ve done wrong and fix it to a better solution,” she said, adding this is something that can help students in their futures beyond the classroom. “It also gives them an opportunity to work with other students and groups.”

Eagan said the lab also allows students to experience hands-on learning, in contrast to what a traditional classroom offers.

“They love going in there and being able to do the different experiments. They like the fact that it’s not a just in-your-seat type of place and can do things with their hands,” she said. “This type of lab is really important for students who may feel like sitting in a more traditional sense can be more challenging for them. This gives those students an opportunity for a more hands-on experience and to be the stars of the classroom.”

According to Eagan, everything in the SmartLab is aligned to the standards of the state and has a full curriculum that comes with it.

“It helps them with their decision making, problem solving and being able to manage complex tasks,” she said. “In the lab, they are able to take a lot of information they are learning in the classroom and have materials and software to practice with it.”

The funding for the SmartLab was established with the help of Texas Council for International Studies (TCIS), according to Eagan.

TCIS operates six Longview ISD campuses as Senate Bill 1882 charter schools: Ned E. Williams, Hudson PEP Elementary School, South Ward Elementary School, Judson STEAM Academy, Foster Middle School and Longview High School.

Indiana man gets life in prison for shooting Kilgore woman to death on New Year's Eve 2017
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A man was convicted Thursday and sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing a woman on New Year’s Eve 2017 in Kilgore.

Dwight Patrick Scott, 55, of Gary, Indiana, was found guilty of killing Tracy Lynn Reedy, and the jury issued a punishment of life in prison. Reedy, 50, was shot five times and died in the parking lot below her apartment on Meadowgreen Drive.

The trial began Tuesday and concluded Thursday in the 188th District Court in Longview.

Judge Scott Novy said Thursday that Scott will have to serve 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole.

The Gregg County Criminal District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the jury heard evidence that Scott moved from Indiana to Texas to rekindle a relationship with a childhood sweetheart.

During an argument Dec. 31, 2017, Scott shot Reedy twice in the head and three times in the chest. According to the DA’s office, Scott took the time to pack belongings into his car before he fled to Indiana.

Clint Johnson, who was a Kilgore police officer at the time of the shooting, arrived on the scene and made his way up to check on a child in Reedy’s apartment.

“(He) was slumped over on the couch,” Johnson said during testimony Tuesday. “Upset and exhausted.”

Neighbor Kendra Choice on Tuesday described what she heard that night: a man and a woman arguing. She said she knew Reedy had a boyfriend but did not know him by sight.

While Reedy was yelling, Choice noted the man seemed to be packing up his vehicle.

“He was like ‘leave me alone,’ ” she said.

She said Reedy was holding a small baseball bat. After a while, she heard four to five gunshots.

“Sounded like a firecracker,” Choice said. She said she went downstairs and told someone, “I think Ms. Tracy got killed.”

Choice became emotional on the stand and described the man as continuing to pack up his car, making about three trips back upstairs to Reedy’s apartment.

“He was calm like nothing happened,” she said.

An arrest warrant for Scott, signed Jan 5, 2018, was issued on the murder charge. Scott was arrested in Gary, Indiana, and booked into the Gregg County Jail on Jan. 17, 2019.

“The jury assessed Scott’s punishment to life in prison for this senseless act of violence,” the DA’s office said in a statement.

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Longview Thanksgiving Food Drive to accept donations Monday
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The Longview Thanksgiving Food Drive is gearing up to accept donations during a drive-thru event Monday.

Charlotte Davis, chair of the annual food drive, said organizers will accept donations beginning as early as noon — although the event’s website lists the time from 2 to 6 p.m. — at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

Davis said most dry and canned food items will be accepted, including: green beans, corn, green peas, miscellaneous peas or beans, soups, pasta, canned meat, desserts, Jell-O, cranberry sauce, bread, canned fruit, miscellaneous vegetables, Kool-Aid and lemonade.

She added that the drive is short on brownie mix, Jell-O, cranberry sauce and fruit cocktail.

Large holiday meats such as turkeys, hams and hens also can be donated Monday, but those are the only refrigerated items accepted.

The goods will be sorted and filled into food boxes that will be distributed to families from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday. Davis said more than 1,000 boxes will be filled.

Similar to this past year’s food drive, pickup also will be a drive-thru event. Food boxes will be loaded into vehicles so families won’t have to come inside Maude Cobb.

Volunteers are needed Monday and Tuesday to help sort, fill and hand out food boxes. Volunteers must be at least 16 and able-bodied enough to lift the boxes.

Prequalified families had to fill out an application to receive a food box, Davis said. There were no eligibility requirements to qualify for food other than residence in Longview.

Leftover goods will be donated to local service organizations such as the Salvation Army, Caring and Sharing, Newgate Mission, Dream Center and Longview Community Ministries.

Community members can make food or monetary donations, Davis said. Food donations can be made either Monday at Maude Cobb or any day before Monday at any Super 1 Foods and Brookshires in Longview.

Monetary donations can be made through check or credit card on the food drive’s website at longviewthanksgiving.wordpress.com and during Monday’s .

Donations also can be made Monday.