Owners of salvage yards in rural Orange County will have 90 days to comply with all county regulations and acquire licenses. Commissioners Court Monday approved a new set of rules and regulations for the salvage yards and junkyards after weeks of work and discussion.

Woody Dugas who lives by a salvage yard on Hwy. 105 outside of the Vidor city limits thanked County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, commissioners and Assistant County Attorney Doug Manning for their work on the new regulations.

“Don’t get lax on these laws again,” Dugas said.

Dugas and his wife attended Commissioners Court meetings since early this year to get the county to make a salvage yard near their home to clean up.

Though the county had rules and regulations for salvage yards, the rules hadn’t been updated in some 15 years. So Commissioners and Manning worked to get new regulations. Under the new laws, offenders can face misdemeanor charges and daily fines, or can be subject to civil lawsuits in either county or state courts.

In other business, commissioners approved demolishing 18 dilapidated houses and clearing the lots. The low bid was $101,019 from Inland Environmental. The county has received grant money to clean up houses damaged in Hurricane Rita in 2005 that were never fixed and left to rot. Neighbors of many houses have complained about the sites.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose said the cost is more than he expected. He thought the county could demolish and clear the sites for about $4,000 each, but the bid ended up about $5,500 each.

County health inspector Joel Ardoin said four of the properties may have asbestos, a carcinogen, and will have to have testing and possible special work to remove the material. That means the demolition will cost more.

The county still has some $300,000 to help pay for more demolitions. Thibodeaux said the lots will be cleared and then, maybe someone will build on the land and the county will get the lots back on the tax rolls.

Thibodeaux said he wants to call a meeting of the new advisory committee to review grant applications for the hotel-motel occupancy tax. The Orange County Economic Development Corporation has invited a representative from the Texas Comptroller’s office to talk about how the income from the special tax may be legally spent. State laws require the hotel-motel tax money to be spent to promote tourism or conventions, or for historic preservation.

The county last year implemented the occupancy tax of one cent per dollar on hotel-motel room rates. The state legislature passed a special bill to allow Orange County to start the tax. The city of Orange, along with other cities in the state, has had the tax for years.

Thibodeaux said some of the community service-oriented groups which usually get annual stipends from the county may qualify to get the hotel-motel tax money. He mentioned the Orange County Historical Commission, which approves and installs state historical markers, along with groups like MHMR or CASA.

County Engineer Les Anderson said he may need an additional $150,000 for his budget because of the increased costs of fuel. Most of the heavy equipment used in the road and bridge department, which maintains and builds roads, run on diesel fuel. That fuel is now more than $4 a gallon.

Last week, Thibodeaux said Commissioners Court needs to meet in a workshop to discuss the increasing costs of fuel for all departments. He has asked the departments using the most gasoline or diesel to try to cut back.