Jack Stoffregen, chief public defender gave a presentation to the Orange County Commissioners’ Court Monday concerning the Fair Defense Act, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 26.044(b) and the Texas Government Code Chapter 791.

Some of the district judges in west Texas region got together in 2007. “They were concerned about two things, 1) quality of representation to death penalty eligible defendants and 2.) The cost to the counties to provide that representation, it’s just enormous.”

“A grant was requested from the indigent defense task force to start an office that only defends death penalty cases.”

“It was a pilot, test program,” said Stoffregen. They started in Regions 7 and 9; the main office was set up in Lubbock. Other counties kept calling, wanting to join the program, so it was expanded to regions 4, 5 and 6. The program is now being offered to counties in regions 2 and 3. Orange County is in region 2.

“It’s an insurance program is what it is,” said Stoffregen. He said the county’s’ cost outlay for 2012 would be zero as it is fully funded by the program grant and it would go up proportionally over the first four years with cost match funding. The county would not pay their full share until 2017, which would be $65,665. Currently Orange County’s cost would be $19, 699 in 2013; $26,266 in 2014; $39,399 in 2015 and $52, 532 in 2016. The formula used to determine costs is 50 percent based on total population and 50 percent bases on the percentage of potential death penalty cases filed with a minimum cost of $1,000. Stoffregen said the county’s cost could actually go down from there.

In 2009 Randall, Crane and Tyler Counties paid a total of $136,617 for Regional Capital Public Defender Office’s services. If they had not been part of the program, their costs would have been $557,060.

Commissioners’ court requested Stoffregen to present the program to Orange County Attorney John Kimbrough and the district judges.

Stoffregen readily agreed to the court’s request. “We try to invite all the prosecutors to the courts as well as the district judges. We want their input,” said Stoffregen. “Our biggest supporters are the judges and prosecutors.”

It is expected a workshop will be held at a future date concerning the matter after which it will be put on the agenda for a vote.

In other business, the court voted to implement a permanent transfer of a search and rescue boat bought for the City of Orange Fire Department with Homeland Security Grant program funds. The equipment was already on loan to the fire department and the transfer takes it out of county inventory.

Bills were paid totaling $115, 045.06 including $15,485.00 to Cleveland Construction, Inc., from the general fund for the new Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 facility and $8,933.98 to Memorial Hermann Baptist for supplemental Medicaid wire transfer.

No burn ban is in effect on the recommendation from the office of Emergency Management.

On the recommendation of Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt, commissioners voted to renew the contract with Five Star Correctional Services for the provision on inmate meals in the county jail. Last year the cost of meals through Five Star dropped from $1.79 per meal to $1.56, saving the county $50,000-60,000. The Sheriff said the new contract has a slight increase of just over one cent per meal, but the savings to the county outweighs the increased expense.

The court also awarded the bid on the CIAP Grant installation of on-site sewage facilities or tie-ins for the Orangefield and Bridge City locations to David’s Discount Plumbing.

Approval was given on the Disaster Recovery Round 2.2 application budget consisting of $3,780,000 for the swing bridge on East Roundbunch in Bridge City, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike; $829,805 for a county-wide planning study to include, but not limited to long term infrastructure development, economic development and overall strategic planning as it relates to county-wide growth and development; and $5,827,656. For road repairs left over from Hurricane Ike. The actual budget for the road repairs is 2.5 million, but was reduced to the 1.2 million to accommodate the available funding. They will finish what they can with the available funding. Total for the round 2.2 application budget is $5,827,656.

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.