Bus use for the Bassmater Elite Series Tournament was nailed down at the meeting of the Orange County Commissioners Court on February 23.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve using three county buses during the tournament to be held on March 1922. The decision to pay for fuel costs, however, was not unanimous with Precinct 3 Commissioner John Banken voting no.
Prior to the vote, Bobby Fillyaw, director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, said he spoke with representatives from the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission who ensured him the buses could be utilized for the event.
A temporary public transportation route was also established that will run from the MacArthur Shopping Center, down to Green Avenue, onward to the Orange Trade Days center on Simmons Drive.
Liability coverage has also been taken care of.
Banken told Fillyaw that Valli Lott, county transportation director, was not contacted at all during the week on proceedings.
“There was no okay from either (Bob) Dickinson or Shaun Davis (both from the SETRPC),” Banken said.
County Judge Brint Carlton said he previously spoke with Davis who approved their use.
The discussion next turned to fuel costs.
Lott said her department will try to use their propane buses for the route. It was estimated the propane buses get six to seven miles a gallon at $1 per gallon. Three buses each driving 120 miles a day would total around $180 per bus.
Lott added she could get some accurate figures on fuel costs after the court meeting.
Also, Fillyaw said drivers were paid $10 an hour for a total of $890 from the OCEDC two years ago at the tournament.
Banken then asked Fillyaw if he wanted the county to pay for the gasoline for the buses too. Fillyaw answered he didn’t want to pay for that cost but he would if it meant having buses for the tournament.
“We’ll find a way to pay for it,” he said.
Barry Burton, Precinct 2 commissioner, asked if the money for the fuel could be taken from Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax money. Fillyaw said that would certainly be a legal cost for HOT funds.
David Dubose, Precinct 1 commissioner, then made a motion for the county pay for the fuel provided costs not exceed $500 out of the contingency fund.
Banken said the court had to be consistent in giving out the money because other organizations were turned down in HOT money requests and the OCEDC is requesting to do the same thing as the others.
“I’m opposed to paying for the fuel,” Banken said.
Jody Crump, Precinct 4 commissioner, asked Fillyaw what the economic impact of the tournament was two years ago for the county. He answered it had a $3.2 million impact.
The commissioners also approved a preliminary plat for the Magnolia Ranch subdivision in Orangefield.
Project engineer Daniel Dotson asked the commissioners if they would approve any other option than having a deed restrictions about not laying pipes in the ditches. He added the developer could build a detention pond instead.
Dotson added other subdivisions in the county have laid pipes in their ditches. Banken replied he is basing his decision on the Magnolia Ranch subdivision and not other subdivisions.
“We have made mistakes before. A subdivision in Bridge City floods and the county has to pay a ton of money to fix it. That’s not fair to the taxpayers to subsidize,” Banken said.
It was agreed there could be a stipulation to increase the size of the pipe as needed.
The court approved appointing Minnie Hightower as personnel director.
Hightower currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi for the past seven years, but she’s originally from Galveston County.
She has 20 years experience in personnel matters.
She served as the Human Resources director at a Toyota plant that manufactures parts. She was also the HR director at Lowe’s and as the office administrator in the sanitation department for the city of Lufkin.
She said she found out about the job in Orange County from the Texas Municipal League website. She thought it would be a great opportunity to move back closer to home, particularly since her children are now out of school.
Her daughter also attended the commissioners court meeting with her. Hightower said she is Miss Mississippi Teen USA and takes high school courses online.
Both Dubose and Banken voted no to the appointment.
Dubose said there are two employees in the department with 20 years experience and they should have the opportunity to move up. Banken agreed and said there are people in the county who are already qualified.
March was proclaimed as Red Cross month in the county.
The American Red Cross flag/banner will be flown in the community during that time.
Some highlights from the proclamation reads it a time to recognize Everyday Heroes- those who reach out to help people in need, they work tirelessly to assist their neighbors when they need a helping hand, they offer comfort and they prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Photo – Minnie Hightower of Oxford, Mississippi was appointed as personnel director by the Orange County Commissioners Court at the meeting on Feb. 23.
She has 20 years experience in HR and she’s originally from Dickinson, Texas in Galveston County.