The Orange County Commissioners’ Court approved advertising for a Road and Bridge Department engineer at their meeting Monday afternoon, though the decision wasn’t unanimous.

Owen Burton, Precinct 3 Commissioner, voted no against the measure for what he thought was an action from the Texas Legislature dictating to counties what they must do regarding filling a vacancy for a county engineer. The final vote was 4-1.

The position has been vacant since former county engineer, Les Anderson, died in late February. Michael James has since been serving as road administrator of the department.

“The taxes are raised here in Orange County and I think the State of Texas is micromanaging us. They’re telling us how to spend our own taxes. The attorney general’s opinion on it (Section 252D) is ambiguous,” Burton said.

Burton’s reference to Section 252D of the Texas Transportation Code states:

(a) The commissioners court shall appoint a county road engineer, who must:

(1) be a licensed professional engineer experienced in road construction and maintenance; and

(2) meet the qualifications required by the Texas Department of Transportation for its district engineers.

(b) If the commissioners court is unable to employ a licensed professional engineer, it may employ a county road administrator to perform the duties of the county road engineer. The county road administrator must have had experience in road building or maintenance or other types of construction work qualifying the person to perform the duties of the position but need not have had any particular amount of professional training or experience in engineering work.

(c) For purposes of this subchapter, a reference in another section of this subchapter to the county road engineer means the county road administrator.

And, furthermore:

a) The commissioners court shall appoint a county road engineer, who must:

(1) be a licensed professional engineer experienced in road construction and maintenance; and

(2) meet the qualifications required by the Texas Department of Transportation for its district engineers.

(b) If the commissioners court is unable to employ a licensed professional engineer, it may employ a county road administrator to perform the duties of the county road engineer. The county road administrator must have had experience in road building or maintenance or other types of construction work qualifying the person to perform the duties of the position but need not have had any particular amount of professional training or experience in engineering work.

(c) For purposes of this subchapter, a reference in another section of this subchapter to the county road engineer means the county road administrator.

During discussion of the agenda item, Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose said he would love to leave things as they are, meaning James would continue running the department, but the best thing to Dubose is to advertise for the position and stay within the transportation code.

Douglas Manning, county attorney, added the county engineer must possess the same qualifications as a civil engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation. The fallback plan is to go with the road administrator position if no qualified engineer is hired.

“I’ve worked with the current road administrator (James) for 15 years and I have full faith he can do the job. Legally speaking, however, we need to hire a road engineer,” Manning said.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump echoed Manning’s sentiments when Crump rhetorically asked where did the county stand in legal terms.

David Dubose, Precinct 1 Commissioner, said the commissioners owed it to the citizens of Orange County to go out and advertise for a road and bridge engineer.

In other personnel matters, the court approved filling an open Tax Clerk II position in the tax assessor-collector’s office. They also approved providing $2,500 to hire three clerks as extra help in the department until two new clerks are hired and trained.

The court approved the purchase of a Massey Ferguson 5450 tractor with side mower for $63,410 for the Road & Bridge Department. The tractor was approved as a capital outlay expenditure for the department.

Commissioners approved the deletion of certain stolen items from the Parks Department, too.

An interlocal agreement between Orange County and the city of Pine Forest to enforce the city’s flood damage prevention ordinance was passed. Joel Ardoin, director of health and code compliance, said the county runs the program for Pine Forest, as the county does for several cities, since they do not have a program. Crump added this programs will be the same as the county’s flood ordinance.

Lynda Gunstream of the Orange County Tax Office said their office will be closed on Friday, March 23 for the transfer of equipment. The Vidor Tax Office will be opened that day to serve residents.

Mark Wimberley, maintenance supervisor, reported the adult probation building at Division Avenue and Border Street should be completed by mid-April and the shelter of last resort on FM 1442 is 50 percent completed.

Gene Smith with the veterans’ service office reported a free veteran’s legal clinic was recently held at the courthouse and it was “very successful.”

This is the first legal clinic of this type Orange County has hosted and the clinic’s personnel told Smith they would like to return very soon.

The office also hired Aleta Fox as a post traumatic stress counselor. Smith said she was doing a great job.

Also, Smith said many veterans have returned to the office to be served who in the past “threw up their hands” and said they wouldn’t come back.