During their meeting Monday, Orange County Commissioners continued their fund raising efforts by considering the services of American Municipal Services for debt recovery.

Amanda Stucker, of AMS, told the court their services would be at no cost to the county. Instead, the debtor would pay their fees associated with their county debt. After the debtor is located through county information,  cell phone records, driver license and other databases, they are contacted about settling their debt. Their debt could come from things such as unpaid fines or taxes. AMS attempts to collect the debt on behalf of the county. However, even if the debtor refuses to pay, the county owes the company nothing. According to Stucker, most debtors claim to like AMS since once they enter into a payment agreement, the warrant which may have accompanied the debt is suspended. Once the bill is paid in full, then the warrant is dismissed.

Commissioners were very receptive to the idea of collecting on the unpaid money due to the county and decided to enter into a contract with AMS.

Karen Jo Vance, the county clerk, has stated as of Nov. 18, in her department they have $477,638 due in fines and court costs with about 1,240 defendants. Following the meeting, she began e-mailing AMS and plans to use their services as soon as possible.

In recent weeks, commissioners have been reviewing each requests from the various departments for travel to other locations for training. They announced during a recent meeting they were looking to cutback on expenses following the large $3 million deficit budget. In the next meeting, commissioners took action allowing only mandated travel by county employees. It was stated since the start of the budget year, there has been a “mass exodus” of employees incurring traveling expenses to obtain training and commissioners were only trying to hold down “unnecessary” travel. A motion was made to put into effect immediately that all department heads are to make a list of mandated travel for the budget year up through the last day of Sept.

Banken suggested instead of three people from a department attending training, that only one attend and they train the others. In addition, there was an inquiry if “webinars” could be done instead of traveling.

“Last year Orange County spent $143,000 on travel,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner John Banken during a previous meeting.

This week, County Engineer Clark Slacum was the next department head to request permission to travel. He informed the court the travel was necessary to maintain his position as county engineer with licensing hours. He will travel on January 6th though the 8th to San Antonio for a Texas Transportation Forum. There is a $225 fee plus hotel fees to be paid by the county. In attendance will be other people from TxDOT, the Federal Highway Administration along with others from various cities and counties.

In addition, Slacum will travel to Anahuac for a free seminar of Texas Coastal Best Management Practices Session.

In other county business, commissioners granted permission for the Child Welfare Board to transfer $18,275, the funds collected from jury fees, to purchase Christmas gifts for children in the foster care system. The money collected was from jurors who elected to not accept their money for sitting on a jury and instead donate it.

In addition, $27,516 was transferred in the Emergency Management department from the line item of general machinery to another line item in order to provide funds for the remainder of the 2012 Homeland Security Grant Program.

Frankie Walters, Risk Management/Airport Supervisor, was presented with the Advanced Professional Development Series Certificate. The certificate issued by FEMA represents the highest level of education and honor.

In a public hearing before the meeting, commissioners discussed with Bobby Fillyaw, of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, the adoption of an order to create a Reinvestment Zone located along the river, south of the Port of Beaumont and Orange County property. The order will allow for a tax abatement within the reinvestment zone. They later adopted the order.

Plus, they further discussed the action by allowing the EDC to impose a $1,000 application fee. This will help offset costs of things such as an Economic Impact Study. They also imposed a Sunset Provision which will be good for one year, although it can also be removed at any time as well.

Commissioners voted to adopt the 2014 COLA TCDRS Plan for county employees retirement fund. The latest one year contract will remain the same on  January 14 with the employer contribution rate without a COLA at 3.84 percent with all other employee benefits and employer matching rate of employees deposit rate of 7 percent and a matching rate of 200 percent.

Commissioners met in closed session to discuss the Sheriff’s Employees Union Contract. When the meeting resumed it was  announced , there was no action taken.

Mark Wimberley, operations and maintenance director, informed the court on the latest happenings of his department. He told the court all county departments are moved in and are operational at the Shelter of Last Resort located on FM 1442. The contractors are working on completing punch list items. The general contractor is scheduling specified training on various systems. The county is looking to install cameras with the security contractor and they are designing available footprints of rental spaces for the event manager.

Wimberley said he is also working with the purchasing department on alternate means of the facility’s landscaping. It was suggested they contact the Master Gardeners about the issue or use jail inmates to work on the landscaping.

Last to take the podium with a report was Joel Ardoin, of the Orange County Environmental Health and Code Compliance department. He informed the court, under code compliance, in the months of Sept. and Oct., there were 171 environmental investigations, 90 follow up investigations. In addition, there were 97 food service inspections, 11 court cases filed. In code compliance, there were 86 development permits issued, 18 new home construction permits, and 32 permits issued for mobile homes.