Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt asked the Orange County Commissioners to approve and accept a Memorandum of Understanding between the sheriff’s department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) for the reimbursement of resources to the joint operations/task forces.

Merritt, with the help of investigators in his office, explained that the sheriff’s department has developed a state of the art digital forensics lab complete with a trained investigator. They are able to analyze computers, cell phones, video and other digital media. He said there were only two other agencies in the area with these capabilities, Beaumont Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“The sheriff’s department is a member of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes against Children [ICAC],” he said. “It is the goal of the sheriff’s office to investigate online child exploitation cases.” A few months ago, the sheriff’s office joined the ICAC and it has already proved to be successful. The Orange County Sheriff’s office conducts online undercover investigations. One such investigation occurred on Sept. 23, 2010 in Orange. The suspect was possession of child pornography; a search warrant was issued and executed. Child pornography was found on the suspect’s computer and they found sexually explicit photos of a child younger than three years old.

“We are constantly looking for ways to lessen the burden on our county budget and the sheriff’s department budget,” Merritt said. “We help ICE investigate cases like this, they will reimburse the county for overtime expenses for our deputies.”

“I appreciate what you are doing to get these guys off the street,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose.

“Thanks for the hard work” said Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose.

Emergency Management

When the commissioners initially approved the buyout program, they tried to recover many of the expenses and man hours from the Road and Bridge department. The county applied for a grant to help cover these funds and they will receive over $300,000. However, when the utilities were disconnected from the residences that were bought out, the county ran into a problem with the gas company. “All they have to do is cap it off below ground,” said Jeff Kelley, emergency management coordinator. “We’ve been negotiating with them for months to get them to do this at no charge. Well, they’re going to charge us.” The county will have to cover 25 percent of the expense to shut of the gas to the houses and it will cost the county $1,725.

According to Kelley, the Hazard Mitigations Generator Program is about 80 percent complete. The county could work with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to backfill and leave the discovered fuel tank in the ground behind the county courthouse, however the county would have to install a monitor and monitor that tank forever. Removing it would cost around $58,000 to pull it out, which is still within the budget decided. The county felt it safer to remove the tank.

Kelley informed the court that Orange County has a very small chance of rain towards the end of the week. “We’ve seen a lot of low humidity out there and a lot of wind,” Kelley said. “I don’t think we need to take any action at the moment.” Kelley went on to explain that if the county didn’t see any significant change in the weather, a burn ban could be issued soon.

Road Reconstruction

Denbury Pipeline Company has offered the county $15,677 for damages to Church House Road and Mansfield Ferry Road due to truck traffic damages incurred during the construction of the pipeline. Les Anderson, county engineer said that the reconstruction of these roads is scheduled for this upcoming year.

The county signed a receipt and release for Denbury Pipeline Company which releases the company from any damages up to this point.

County Auction

The 2010 county auction was definite success. The commission was $6,780 and everything sold for $84,760. The county raised $77,979.20.

Other Business

According to the Texas Health and Safety code, all Emergency Service Districts must have an audit performed and provided to the Commissioners’ Court. The Orange CountyEmergency Services District # 1 in Vidor had their audit done by an outside source for the Fiscal Year 2009-2010. The audit showed that the OCESD #1 was under budget last year and they were able to add $25,000 to their contingency fund.

Judge Elect David Peck is required to attend three stages of continuing education that relates to official county business. According to Doug Manning, assistant district attorney, “it’s a proper county expenditure.” The education expenses for Judge Elect Peck will be paid by the county.

The commissioners decided to reappoint Terry Woodard, Jerry Lightfoot and John Morris to another two year term as Commissioners on the Orange County Emergency Services Dist. #1. “These three men have served on the board here for the last years two years and have done a wonderful job,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton.

The commissioners agreed to renew the contract between Orange County and Five Star Food Services for the meal service at the Orange County Jail. The new term shall be from Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011. No other or conditions have changed.

Total bills paid by the county for the week is $464,246.73.

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers