County commissioners stopped short Monday of approving a grant application for a Coast Guard-type vessel that could provide security at the Orange port.

Sheriff Keith Merritt said a Homeland Security grant specifically for ports does not require matching funds and would be at no cost to the county. A glitch in the agenda caused likely approval by commissioners to be moved to next week’s meeting.

The boat could be used for search and rescue missions as well, Merritt said.

“It will be a lot larger boat than what we have,” he said. “We’d pretty much be able to handle anything that came up … Two or three [people] is about all we can put in our [existing] boat now … and in this [proposed] boat you can put up to 12.”

Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley added, “We have a pretty good opportunity with this. We usually don’t go after port grants because they require a very high match. This is the first time I know of and there’s a 100-percent grant with no match at all.”
At present, the sheriff’s department has a marsh airboat and a nine-year-old search and rescue boat, Merritt said. 

“[We would be] applying for whatever the cost of the boat is,” Merritt told The Record. “And we actually don’t know that right now. Washington [officials were] supposed to call us today and give us a quote, but I didn’t want to do too much until we got commissioners’ approval. It’s going to cost more or less depending on the size of the boat. The [model] we’re looking at is probably 27 foot or 25 foot.

“We could use it with the Mexican navy, which routinely brings vessels to our port. Right now, Jefferson County or the Coast Guard escorts them in, and instead of another agency having to do it we’d be able to do our share of it. And that’s only one application.”

A consulting fee of $2,500, which the county would pay to Jeffery Ward and Associates, was not listed on Monday’s agenda, so an earlier motion for approval was withdrawn. The grant application item will be added to next week’s agenda.

Early voting information

Commissioners approved early voting times, dates and locations for the March 2 primary election. Times are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 16-20 and Feb. 22-26.

Locations are:

• Orange Public Library, 220 N. Fifth St. – Orange.
• Bridge City Public Works Building, 220 Nitsche St. – Bridge City.
• First Baptist Church, Mauriceville, 11540 Texas 12.
• Raymond Gould Community Center, 385 Claiborne St. – Vidor.