Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux wants to update the county’s rules for salvage yards and junkyards. The rules haven’t been revised in 14 years.

In recent weeks, people in the Vidor and Mauriceville areas have complained about junkyards in neighborhoods.

Last month, County Commissioners Court started assessing a $100 a day fine against salvage yard owner Steve Judy for his business on Hwy. 105 outside of Vidor. If Judy gets the yard up to compliance with regulations within 45 days, he will not be fined.

Debbie and Woody Dugas, who live near Judy’s yard, have been complaining to the county for months about the business and the traffic it generates.

Mrs. Dugas and Thibodeaux disagreed during Monday’s session about how the salvage yard rules from the Texas Department of Public Safety apply, compared to Orange County’s rules.

Also Monday, JoAnn Wieble who lives on Texla Road in Mauriceville complained about a salvage yard in her neighborhood. She accused the yard owner of letting toxic wastes into a bayou. Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton suggested she contact the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“If we tweak this (the salvage yard rules) is that going to mean that people operating today will be grandfathered in?) Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose asked.

But County Engineer Les Anderson said none of the existing yards in the county meet the regulations, so none currently have licenses. That means they would not be exempt to new rules.

Thibodeaux said the county doesn’t have the state authority for zoning, like cities, to keep salvage yards out of residential neighborhoods. The only protection homeowners might have is through deed restrictions, he said.

He said people usually move to rural areas to pay fewer taxes, and be free of city regulations. However, the lack of regulations sometimes backfires, he said.

In other business, Orange County Economic Development Director Bobby Fillyaw said the county is receiving even more money from the new hotel-motel occupancy tax than was estimated last year.

Fillyaw helped the county to get a special bill from the Texas Legislature last year to implement a hotel-motel occupancy tax of one-cent per dollar. The county, which began collecting the tax Oct. 1 at the start of the new fiscal year, is now considering how to spend the money.

Commissioners Court has agreed to form an appointed committee to review requests for the money and recommend expenditures to the court. The court will make the final decision on the expenditures. However, state law limits the spending of the special tax on projects to boost tourism and visitors.

Fillyaw said he originally estimated the county would collect $160,000 to $170,000 in hotel-motel tax the first year. However, the revenues for the first few months put the county on target to getting $180,000 to $190,000 in the first year. He said the revenues could go up even more because new hotels are opening, plus the summer months are the busiest for the hotels and motels.

Commissioners Court agreed that each of the five members of the court, one from each county precinct, plus the county judge, will appoint a citizen to the hotel-motel tax committee. The committee will also have a representative from the Orange County Economic Development Corporation and a member from the local hotel-motel industry.

Fillyaw said the local hotels and motels don’t have a formal organization at this time, but some of the hotel-motel owners would like to be on the committee.

Some of the ways the hotel-motel tax can be spent include boosting tourism or conventions to the county, promoting the arts, or enhancing historical preservation.

Thibodeaux said he already has a request from the Orange County Historical Commission for money to acquire new state historical markers.