Orange County emergency management officials seek additional applicants for their Hurricane Ike buyout program and will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the commissioners’ courtroom.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley said the meeting is the result of new state guidelines.

“We’re not starting a new buy-out program, but what we don’t want to do is leave somebody out that needs to be addressed,” he told commissioners in special session Monday.

The county has about $1.1 million left from a mitigation program provided by federal grant funds.

“We can continue to draw on that until there’s nothing left,” he said.

He added, “As long as we have an approved program running, we can ask for more money to continue that program.

“We have to gather up as many folks as we can find, get the paperwork taken care of and help them through this paperwork nightmare and get them stacked up and ready to go, then as we have money leftover in our program – we’ll use that to buy out as many of these as possible.”

According to Kelley, applicants must live in the incorporated areas of Orange County or the cities of Bridge City, Rose City, Pinehurst, Pine Forest, West Orange and Vidor.

All structures must meet “substantially damaged” guidelines, be in a mapped flood plain and not be listed or eligible for any historic register. For more information, call emergency management at 882-7895.

Election pay changes

Orange County election workers have always been paid according to state standards, and commissioners approved a request from Elections Administrator Tina Leverett to raise pay from $8 an hour to $8.50 an hour.

She was not so lucky with retroactive pay for any work done last week during early voting, as county legal advisor Doug Manning said it would violate the Texas State Constitution.

Feb. 22 was set as the first day under the new wages.

Leverett said workers will be paid by the county and reimbursed by the state through early voting and the March 2 Election Day, and paid out of the set county budget during the November general election.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said during open comments he wants to change county holidays during non-election years, since early voting or the election day usually falls during Texas Independence Day. He suggested county workers take Presidents’ Day off during election years and Texas Independence Day off during election years. The proposal will require commissioners’ approval.

“It will save the county a substantial amount of money in overtime,” Thibodeaux said.