Burn ban continues
Orange County will soon have its first airboat, to be used in emergencies, water rescues and investigations.

Commissioners Monday approved Sheriff Keith Merritt’s proposal at no cost to the county. Merritt said that through the government’s General Services Administration (GSA), the airboat can be bought from money recovered in drug raids or drug-related investigations.

“It’s an ongoing effort to try to beef up our emergency equipment,” Merritt said. “[This will be] not only for the sheriff’s department – but we will make it available to any agency in Orange County that may see the need for an airboat, which obviously could have come in very, very helpful during Hurricane Ike; not only for rescues but with a lot of the debris. With the caskets that floated up into Orange County from Louisiana, even some of the mudboats that we tried to utilize to get them in the marshes were not ever able to get them.”

GSA is an agency available to state and federal authorities.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose wondered, “Do you have a place to take this equipment in the event of a hurricane?”

“We’ll find a spot,” Merritt said. “We’re not going to leave it here – that’s for sure.”

In other business Monday, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley told the court the countywide burn ban, in place since June 24, would continue. 

A study by the Texas Forest Service using the Keetch-Byram Drought Index showed Orange County to be in the 600-700 range.
The index is used to study soil moisture to calculate wild fire risk.

Residents can be cited for illegal burning.

Also Monday:

• Commissioners decided the county should join a system among Texas counties that allows courts disabled by a disaster to continue operation in another county.

“It’s a plan of continuity for the courts to continue to operate in the event of something happening,” said County Assistant Attorney Doug Manning, legal adviser to commissioners. There is a cost for any county that uses another county’s facilities, Thibodeaux said, however, that works both ways. “We become part of the system, which means we could take somebody,” he said. “Let’s say Jefferson “County loses theirs and we don’t lose ours, or say a tornado hits north of us … they can use ours … it’s a mutual-aid type thing.” Dubose added, “I can see where that would be important, like when the courthouse burned down in Newton County a few years ago.” The program’s full name is the “Interim Plan to Ensure Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency.”

• Commissioners approved funds to install a system in justice of the peace offices that would allow payments through an online software program. The cost to each of the four offices would be a one-time fee of $125 with no annual maintenance fee. Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Derry Dunn told the court the move would simplify the previous system of an offender “calling in” a credit card. “Here we can just swipe [the card] and it will be posted in the data system in each case,” he said. “It will collect all the data and at the end of the day, we can post 40 to 50 payments in one ‘click’ as opposed to one-at-a-time.”