May 2020

The COVID-19 affliction stalled businesses, separated families, and even claimed some of our loved ones, but it shall not dampen our spirit to serve. 

At Precinct 4, we continue to find new ways to serve you and respond to this unique disaster. Your Encore! staff members went from planning senior activities and trips to feeding the hungry and serving our seniors from afar. We recently converted Mangum-Howell Center into a Houston Food Bank sorting site, packing nearly 2,400 meals on our first day. These special employees also called countless seniors to ensure they remained safe and had adequate food and supplies. Our seniors responded by creating protective masks for first responders and Precinct 4 employees. We’ve distributed these masks far and wide. I now alternate wearing my special Star Wars and American eagle-themed masks with pride! 

We also serve essential workers and our most vulnerable community members. My Community Assistance Department staff and Road & Bridge crews recently worked with Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co. to deliver thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to Texas Children’s Hospital and first responders throughout the precinct. A big thank you to Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co. for this donation! You can read more about this feel-good story in this edition of E-Corner .

While many Precinct 4 staff members head out into the community, others work hard to provide quality programs and educational resources to keep you entertained. For the first time ever, we offer virtual programs, videos, and learning resources on our social media pages and website. I encourage you to download some of these tools to use on your own at our parks or at home. Follow us on the Jones Park, Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, Mercer Botanic Gardens, and Precinct 4 Facebook pages to check out some of our programs and to participate in fun, online activities. Learn about nature, history, gardening, the cultural arts, and more. 

Gov. Greg Abbott laid out a plan for our economic recovery that helps businesses safely reopen while mitigating the spread of the virus. In the next few weeks, Harris County Public Health plans to operate COVID-19 testing centers in Tomball and Humble. We depend on anyone who suspects they may have COVID-19 to get tested. We can beat this virus if everyone continues to maintain social distance, practice proper hygiene, and wears protective gear in public. 

Thank you for your cooperation and sacrifice. Let’s keep safe and get our momentum back!

Featured Articles
Kissing Tree Now A Famous Tree of Texas

Precinct 4’s Kissing Tree has long been recognized in the community for its colorful history and prominent location along T.C. Jester. But Texans across the state may also come to know the tree now that the Texas Forest Service designated it a Famous Tree of Texas this month.

The elite historical designation is meant "to memorialize those trees which have been witness to some of the exciting periods and events in Texas' frontier history,” according to the original Famous Trees of Texas book published in the 1970s.

To secure the tree’s designation, Laura Medick, who heads Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project, traced the tree’s history back hundreds of years to Herman Strack, a German settler who came to the United States in 1848. According to Strack family records, Kissing Tree marked Strack’s homestead and blacksmith shop. When Earnest Strack, a descendant of Herman Strack, inherited the property, he opened a restaurant and wedding hall near the tree in the 1980s. The tree became so popular among couples that it became known as the Kissing Tree. 

When a convenience store bought the property years later and threatened to cut the tree down, Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle intervened. Precinct 4 bought the property and converted it into a small park. Guests are welcome to visit the park and take photos with the historic tree at 5707 Louetta Road.

Read more about the Kissing Tree on the Famous Trees of Texas websites here.

Testing Sites Open In Humble, Tomball

Harris County Commissioner R. Jack Cagle recently announced the opening of two COVID-19 testing sites in Precinct 4 in Tomball and Humble.

Harris County Public Health opened the first testing site in Tomball on April 14. That site will perform testing on registered visitors April 27-29. A second Public Health testing site opened in Humble on April 20. The Humble location will continue testing registered visitors from May 7-9.

Each site is expected to handle as many as 100 tests per day, with that number increasing daily. The addresses of the sites will be provided to those successfully completing their registration, but will otherwise remain undisclosed to discourage unregistered visitors. Unregistered visitors will not be tested and will be turned away by security officials.

To determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19, please click here . Those deemed to be at risk for coronavirus will be given a code and phone number to call. After a telephone consultation, those still deemed to be at risk will be given another unique code and information on where and when they are to be tested. Those assigned for testing should bring a photo ID and any other information requested by the phone screener. Walk-ins will not be tested.

Those with questions may call Harris County Public Health at 832-927-7575 for more information.

Precinct 4 Partners With Whitmeyer's Distilling Co.

Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co. used to be in the business of peach whiskey and bourbon, but now it’s dedicated to protecting lives.

The north Harris County distillery recently partnered with Global Healing and Harris County Precinct 4 to deliver thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to Texas Children’s Hospital and local first responders. 

The distillery began making the antibacterial solution in March after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a message calling for alcohol makers to help boost the dwindling supply of hand sanitizer. Chris and Travis Whitmeyer, the owners of the distillery, decided to answer the call. 

The brothers started by donating a 32-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer to each distillery visitor, but expanded their operation after connecting with two important partners. Global Healing donated chemicals like peroxide and glycerol to help the brothers increase production. Harris County Precinct 4 led the delivery of the product and helped identify first responders and school districts in need. 

The brothers said they initially planned to produce only 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. That was three weeks ago. “Here we are several hundred thousand gallons later,” said Travis.

Take the City Nature Challenge

Are you looking for something fun and free to do during the COVID-19 shutdown?

Join Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve and Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center in documenting the diverse species that inhabit the parks during the annual City Nature Challenge, a four-day, worldwide nature survey this month.

More than 190 cities around the world, including Houston, Amarillo, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio, will come together to look for nature in all its forms, from wildlife and plants to fungi. 

Although cities have competed against each other in the past, this year’s City Nature Challenge encourages participants to embrace the healing properties of nature together.

The event will run April 24-27. Participants are encouraged to visit a park or photograph nature wherever they find it, whether it’s from a window or in a parking lot. 

To participate, download the iNaturalist app and record your observations. Use your smartphone to photograph wild animals, plants, or fungi, and upload them to the app. Look for interesting or uncommon varieties to help document the most biodiversity.

For more information, click here .
Answers to your FAQs: What is a Justice of the Peace

If you ever contest a ticket or file a lawsuit, chances are you’ll end up in justice court. In these instances, it pays to know how the local justice system works.

The Texas Constitution specifies that counties may have one to eight justice of the peace precincts, based on population. Harris County includes eight precincts and 16 justice courts led by a justice of the peace. 

Justices of the peace are elected officials who serve four-year terms or are appointed to fill a vacancy. These justices preside over cases involving misdemeanors, civil disputes, landlord/tenant disputes, and more. They also conduct inquests and may perform marriage ceremonies. 

Judges Lincoln Goodwin and Laryssa Korduba serve as justices in Precinct 4. Although the boundaries of justice precincts and commissioner precincts differ, those in Precinct 4 share approximately 70% of their area.

To help educate residents about the duties of a justice, we asked Goodwin and Korduba to answer commonly asked questions about what they do. Click here to read answers from Goodwin and here to read answers from Korduba. 

You can learn more about Harris County’s Justice of the Peace courts here .

Precinct 4 in the News: Battle Oaks Come to Willis Woods Cemetery

Willis Woods Cemetery, a historic African-American cemetery dating to the 1870s, now features five famous oak trees along its borders.

The trees will help mark the once-neglected cemetery hidden behind the Lakewood Forest subdivision.

Donated by Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project, the saplings are descendants of the Battle Oaks of the University of Texas.

The trees date back hundreds of years to the opening of the University of Texas in 1883 and have been designated as Famous Trees of Texas by the Texas Forest Service.

In honor of this ancestry and their new role marking an important historic site, Commissioner R. Jack Cagle dubbed the saplings the “Cemetery Oaks.” 

You can read more about this important donation in the Houston Chronicle .

Commissioners Court Votes for New Restrictions on Road Funding

The Harris County Engineering Department is developing a new county transportation plan that could drastically affect how transportation funds are divided and spent by precincts.

The 2040 County Transportation Plan could debut as early as February 2021. Before the plan is released, the engineering department will begin data collection and public engagement this summer. 

In the meantime, a majority of Commissioners Court members voted to put new restrictions on how current mobility funds could be spent, with Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle voting against the measure. The restrictions will force each commissioner to divide mobility funding among road projects in seven categories and prevent them from moving funding from one category to the other. The vote also reduced Precinct 4’s share of the funding to 25%, down from 30.8%. 

Read more about how the restrictions could impact Precinct 4 in the Houston Chronicle.
Request a Road Repair

Did you know Harris County Precinct 4 has the largest road and bridge maintenance area of any precinct in Harris County? With 5,366 lane miles spanning 2,628 linear miles, that’s long enough to travel across the United States twice, and we’re still growing! 

To keep up with all the repairs, Precinct 4 features a convenient online request form. Precinct 4’s Road & Bridge Department handles a variety of repairs along public rights-of-way -- including potholes, broken curbs, and clogged ditches --as well as routine maintenance like mowing and tree trimming. If you are a Precinct 4 resident and would like to request a repair in your community, click here .

Otherwise, download the Harris County Service Request app to request a repair from anywhere in the county.

2020 Census Now Online

If you’ve been waiting to cross the 2020 Census off your to-do list, now is the time. It only takes a few minutes, and you can respond online, over the phone, or by mail. 

Anyone who doesn’t respond can provide their answers in person when Census takers begin visiting homes across the United States May 27–Aug. 14. 

Census data will help determine how more than $675 billion is dispersed throughout the United States. When the population is undercounted, communities may miss out on tens of thousands of dollars for schools, health care, infrastructure, childcare support, and more.

To take the Census online, click here.

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