Commissioners Monday gave F.E. “Gene” Smith, the new veterans’ service officer authorization to change work hours as needed to four 10 hour days a week. Smith wants to extend the hours the office is open to service veterans without requiring overtime. “The veterans’ service office is right now open 8-5,” said Smith. “We don’t feel like we’re providing service for all the vets. For the people who are working and paying the bills, we’d like to extend our hours from 7-5:30 with flexibility to, by appointment, work outside of that hour too, without involving overtime.”

Once Smith assured the court that he or the assistant service officer would always be there and the office was still going to be open Monday through Friday, the court passed the measure unanimously.

“I will say this,” said Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. “After we made the changes [at the veterans service office] the concerns and issues with the veterans’ office has just totally dropped off the radar. Every now and then there may be one or two come in and basically the veterans’ office has been absolutely correct in their handling of the situation. I commend you and your office.”

One of the main items on each week’s agenda has been the county burn ban. Monday commissioners removed the ban for a minimum of a week.

“By no means was it a drought breaker,” said Jeff Kelley of the recent rain in Orange County. He did determine it was enough to lift the burn ban briefly. Some areas of Orange County got three inches of rain, while some only received half an inch. Kelley said the average was a little over an inch.

The burn ban signs will be picked up and will be replaced when the ban resumes.

Doug Manning, the county attorney presented the court with the possibility of cutting and baling hay at the closed landfill site. Les Anderson, the county engineer had been approached with the idea by William Hamilton.

“TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) says it would not violate any of their rules as long as it does not penetrate the cap,” said Manning. Anderson said the cap in some areas of the landfill is only two feet deep. There is up to another foot of wood chips on top of the cap from trees that fell during Hurricane Rita.

“Normally, when anything like this offered, we have to put it out for bid,” said Manning. “The county has to mow [the landfill] two or three times a year anyway so, it’s a situation where, depending on the pleasure of the court, we would be able to relieve ourselves of the burden of mowing [the landfill] and possible earning a little bit of income on top of that.”

The court was concerned about how the hay would be loaded. If 18-wheelers were driving on the cap, Judge Carl Thibodeaux was worried the added weight could be enough to damage the cap.

“You could put the stipulation that you off load off the cap,” said Commissioner Precinct 2 Owen Burton. “With the hay shortage we have in the area I think it would be good to help the farmers and cattlemen.” John Dubose, commission precinct 3 said that was a good point.

Hamilton was in the courtroom and told the court he had looked at the site and said he would load bales off the cap.

The court gave Anderson and Manning permission to look into the matter further and to get written confirmation from TCEQ that the project would not violate any of their regulations.

Judge Courtney Arkeen of the 128th District Court had submitted a request to enter into a contract with Westlaw online services for the law library.

“It would cancel all the books and everything we’ve been getting for the judges and it would save the county $3,250 a year,” said Thibodeaux.

“The nature in which judges and lawyers’ research case law and statutes has changed over the last 10 years,” said Manning, explaining the benefits to the commissioners. “When I went to law school we actually had to learn to use books and you physically looked up laws in case books. That’s all online now and instead of looking through digests and then looking for the cases, you do a search query into a data base and it returns a list of cases that match that search word, just like you would with Google.”

Westlaw is the original publisher of most law books primarily used by judges and lawyers.

“Since it’s online you don’t have to take up a large amount of space,” said Manning. “It’s essentially what we did with the law library in the jail here about six or eight months ago. We went from $36,000 a year to $2,000-3,000 a year to provide inmate law library access as mandated by the consent decree.

“When you pull up a case on Westlaw online and you print it out, it literally looks as if you photocopied it out of a book,” said Manning. “It’s ridiculously simple.”

In other business Connie Cassidy was re-appointed to a two year term as the county purchasing agent.

A deadline of January 31, 2012 was set to close on all properties in the buyout program so that the Office of Emergency Management can meet the grant deadline.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.