Orange County has a new county engineer.

Clark Slacum, former engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation in Orange, was chosen for the position by the Orange County Commissioners’ Court in a special closed meeting Monday morning. The other candidates interviewed were Kenneth Wiemers and James Layne.

Slacum was chosen 3-1 with County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose voting aye. Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose voted no. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump was absent.

David Dubose nominated Wiemers first for the position. After a lengthy pause, Thibodeaux seconded the motion. The result was a 2-2 tie with David Dubose and Thibodeaux voting aye and Burton and John Dubose voting no.

“We had three highly qualified candidates,” he said. “I was thinking of longevity for the county. He’s not retired (Slacum retired from TxDOT). He’s here to go to work. He’s got to make it.

“All the candidates understand the job. I have no problem with Mr. Slacum. He knows our roads and drainage. Sometimes you’re worried about the candidates who apply but this time we had three good candidates.”

Slacum said he worked with Wiemer previously at TxDOT. Slacum currently works for Jefferson County and the new job in Orange County will cut back on his commute since he resides in Orangefield. His annual salary will be around $79,000.

Thibodeaux said it was a tough challenge deciding which one of the three candidates to hire since each is well qualified.

“It was a very tough decision. We had three highly qualified applicants. Top-notch in their fields. They all have good resumes. Two were with TxDOT. Two worked together there. Each brought something to the table. Each could had done it,” he said.

The commissioners assembled again for their afternoon meeting.

The commissioners approved entering into a written contract of employment with the Provost-Umphrey Law Firm concerning a claim against British Petroleum for economic losses sustained as a result of the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horzion oil spill disaster.

Attorney Joe Fisher said under the Oil Protection Act passed by Congress,is for recovery for purely economic damages from an oil spill. The settlement was reached with individuals and it affects four counties in Texas too: Orange, Jefferson, Galveston and Chambers.

For instance, the act covers items such as a seafood business ruined by the oil spill or seafood that was harmed. A court will set a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Fisher recommended Orange County and Jefferson County look into filing claims. Governmental entities can file for economic damages if revenue losses are demonstrated such as motel occupancy losses or a drop in tourism.

The county would enter into a 25 percent contingent fee contract, or as Thibodeaux explained, it would cost them $.25 on every $1.

Fisher said every parish in Louisiana affected has filed and there’s strength in numbers the more who file.

Thibodeaux said there may be a possible economic impact for Orange County they didn’t think of.

“I wouldn’t think of that myself because we’re not a coastal county,” he said. “But it may had affected things like was there a shortage of seafood? Did the prices go up?”

Mark Wimberley, maintenance director, presented a change order for the Shelter of Last Resort on FM 1442 that was approved.

Wimberley said he thought the facility was within specifications by contractor G and G Enterprise in filling the holes in the cinder block walls to add to the structural integrity of the building.

The work, however, was not in specifications and it will take two-thirds of the county’s contingency fund for the project to remedy.

“It will take up the lion’s share,” Wimberley said. “It’s on the shelter side of the project. It’s a very warranted change.”

The work was shut down at the shelter until the problem is solved. It would cost $79,000 of the $120,000 contingency fund.

Thibodeaux said the shelter side is being built like a bunker and that is where county personnel will be housed in the case of an emergency.

“I don’t want to skimp on that area of the walls,” Wimberley said.

The commissioners approved a 20 percent homestead exemptions rate, a $25,000 deduction for homeowners over 65 and a $25,000 deduction for disabled homeowners.

The court approved the purchase of a new 15-passenger van for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Commissary. The 2000 Ford van will be traded in.

The van transports inmates to work programs. The van will be paid for out of the Jail Commissary Fund.