Orange County will soon charge licensing fees for salvage yards and junkyards as officials find ways to deal with complaints from people who live by the junkyards. But any yard in the same site since 1987 will be exempt from new county rules.
Monday, Commissioners Court reviewed a proposed new set of regulations for the junkyards and salvage yards. Assistant County Attorney Doug Manning said the state legislature has “grandfathered” all rural junkyards before 1987 for county regulations.
Commissioners will vote on new regulations in May.
Junkyard owners who violate the rules could face Class C misdemeanor criminal charges with a maximum fine of $500 a day, or civil lawsuits to enforce the code.
In other business, County Treasurer Vergie Moreland said interest rates on county investments are at an all-time low. The comments during the same meeting as commissioners discussed dealing with gasoline prices being at an all-time high.
During a workshop on the proposed regulations, commissioners agreed to include a $100 non-refundable application fee for anyone applying for a salvage yard license. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said the fee will help offset the costs of the county inspecting the business. A county license for a junkyard will cost $300, with a $150 renewal fee.
The regulations will include having a minimum six-foot tall fence around the junkyard. Scrap and junk cannot be stacked higher than the fence.
Manning said the state minimum of an eight-foot fence applies only to counties with a population of 200,000 or more.
Also, the county will require the yards to have a gate with a maximum width of 35 feet. The gate must be closed by dark. Other regulations will include making the junkyards follow the federal and state regulations for wetlands. The county plans to prohibit junkyards within 1,500 feet of a pond, stream or river.
Michael Judy, who owns a yard at 5643 Main St. in Vidor, said a lot of property in the county has ponds and the rule could be restrictive. But Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton said some of the ponds are fed by underground streams and there is a possibility of polluting underground water supplies.
Debbie Dugas, a neighbor of Judy’s yard, commented on Monday that he has done a lot of work to clean his salvage yard, but she still complained about equipment and trucks being outside of his fence.
Commissioners agreed to have salvage yard license applications go through County Engineer Les Anderson. Thibodeaux said the proposed county rules will not deal with problems of rats, snakes and vermin in salvage yards. If a yard has those kinds of problems, the county could enforce state health and safety regulations.
In other business, Commissioners Court discussed on how to give the county Transportation Department more money for diesel fuel for buses. Diesel fuel has reached $4 a gallon and the department is running out of budgeted money. The current fiscal year doesn’t end until Sept. 30.
Thibodeaux said the Transportation Department should come back to Commissioners Court each month and the court will approve monthly budget amendments to cover the costs of the fuel.
The buses take senior citizens and the handicapped to appointments with doctors and shopping trips, including grocery stores and pharmacies. Thibodeaux said he has a problem with the county paying to take people to Parkdale Mall in Beaumont or Central Mall in Port Arthur. But the transportation director said few trips are made to the Port Arthur Mall and most of the trips to the Beaumont Mall come from Vidor. Trips are made daily from Vidor and three times a week from Orange to Beaumont for medical appointments.
Thibodeaux said Commissioners Court is going to have to deal with other departments running out of budgeted money for fuel costs. Parks Director Donna Scales said her department will run out of fuel money in June. The department uses more money in the spring and summer because of running lawn mowers and weed eaters. Also, the parks department sends employees regularly from Claiborne West Park between Orange and Vidor, to other county sites at Bluebird Fish Camp in Orange, and Raymond Gould Center and park in Vidor.
Treasurer Moreland in her monthly report said the county is now earning the lowest interest rates on investments that she has seen in her career of some 30 years with the office. The lower interest rates can mean the county may not have as much interest income as was budgeted last summer.