District Clerk, Commissioner at odds over vacant position
When District Clerk Vickie Edgerly left Orange County Commissioners Court, she wasn’t smiling. She got in a heated discussion with Commissioner Precinct 4 Jody Crump over a vacant position in her department. Though the atmosphere was getting a little warm, the dialogue remained cordial.
Edgerly had come before the court to request permission to fill a vacant position that had been open since January. She said the position was open due to a retirement. The opening caused a domino effect of promotions with several employees moving up a step. Edgerly said she hasn’t requested the position to be filled yet, because all the new positions had a six month probationary period and that had just been completed. She said everyone had pulled together to cover the duties of the open position during the six months.
Crump said she was obviously doing a good job at covering the position because he hadn’t been getting any complaint calls and suggested the county could skip filling the position since commissioners were in the process of preparing the next year’s budget and is facing some deep cuts.
Edgerly contended her office has not had an increase in personnel in 17 years and she was not asking for an increase now, just wanted to get back to the number she originally had and was budgeted for.
“I still have some issues with filling any position that has been vacant almost a year,” said Crump.
Edgerly said anyone can step up and do extra duties for a time, but it was unfair to expect them to do so, because it was causing a hardship in the office. She and some of the others were not able to do some of the duties that are their job because they were spending so much at the counter helping customers.
She said the duties in the office have increased over the last couple of years when they took over imaging the files themselves, when before it was done elsewhere. She also said there are some additional duties that put a greater strain on the office.
“Our new jury system, although it is saving the county a lot of money it has also required more hands on from the people at my office up front to make it work, which we’ve been willing to do and that’s another reason why the training process for people moving up has been taking a lot more time.”
Edgerly said they are also spending more time assisting people who are filing court documents on their own. She said due to the economy, more people can’t afford attorneys and are filing paperwork themselves. She said this has increased to about 40-50 percent of the people.
Commissioner John Dubose of Precinct 3 asked Edgerly if she could hold off a couple of weeks until they had a better idea of what the budget numbers would be.
Edgerly said no because she had someone that worked before that could fill the position, but they wouldn’t wait. She also said there is training on new software that needs to be done and they are hoping to get that wrapped up.
Dubose’s point was they would hate to give permission to hire and then if it becomes necessary to cut the position, they would have to let them go. “We have never been in a layoff position in the county, and I don’t think we will be now,” said Dubose, but felt the delay was necessary just in case.
Crump moved to not fill the position. The motion died for lack of a second.
Dubose moved to table the decision until after the budget numbers are known, which passed.
Commissioners told department heads there are going to be cuts and if they had anything they could volunteer they were more than open to suggestions and it could save some cuts in other areas.
The county is in a deficit situation but is in good shape according to Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux.
The court is taking hard steps to remain fiscally sound when many municipal and county governments in the country are facing bankruptcies.
“We have been buying what we want and paying cash for it,” said Thibodeaux. He said now it is time to build back up the Capital Account.
They have held several budget workshops and recently slashed capital outlay in half resulting in $834,000 reduction, but that is still short of the 2.4 million they are trying to cut out of the budget. In a workshop Tuesday Thibodeaux said they may possibly have to freeze almost all capital outlay except for a few projects that have to be completed including the Shelter of Last Resort, some non-inventory items and leases, which are all copiers.
They also need to keep a $100,000 capital outlay contingency account for unexpected expenses that could happen.
Payroll will be addressed next week. Thibodeaux said there is a possibility they may have to freeze the matrix that is in place. The matrix is a table that determines when employees receive a pay increase determined by longevity. If it has to be frozen, employees scheduled to receive pay increases according to the matrix would not receive them for that year. Thibodeaux said they would fight to keep the matrix in place, but wanted to let departments know what might be coming.
Fuel consumption was also mentioned. Thibodeaux said usage may have to be prioritized. They are hoping to have the budget adopted on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 at the latest. They will adopt a tax rate to fund it the same day.
Commissioners will hold two public meetings in September with one to be held in the evening. The dates for those meetings have yet to be set.
Chris Pruitt of Pattillo, Brown & Hill presented Orange County’s Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year which ended Sept. 30, 2011. For that year, revenues were 1.6 million above what was expected and spending was 1.1 million under budget. “All and all, that shows conservative budgeting of about 2.8 million dollars under budget. So that is good news,” said Pruitt.
Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile
Patrick Beebe told commissioners he was notified last week that an isolated testing of mosquitoes in the west part of the county tested positive for West Nile. Additional treatments were done in that location and surrounding areas. There have been additional tests taken, but results take about a week to be received.
Early voting for general election set
Commissioners authorized early voting times and places for the Nov. 6 general election. Early voting will take place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22 through Saturday, Oct. 27 and Monday, Oct. 29 through Friday, Nov.2. Locations will be the Orange Public Library, 220 N. Fifth St., Orange; First Baptist Church Mauriceville, 11540 Hwy 12, Mauriceville; Bridge City Public Works building, 220 Nitsche, Bridge City; and The Raymond Gould Community Center, 385 Clarborne, Vidor.
Pictured: Commissioner Precinct 4 Jody Crump