By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

Orange County continues to make efforts to improve its operations in all departments and took another step to do so on Tuesday afternoon.

Ryan Peabody, the Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator, addressed Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday and recommended moving oversight authority for Risk Management and Airport Departments to Commissioners from the Emergency Management Department.

He also recommended making the Risk Manager position, which is held by Missy Pillsbury, into an independent department head.

“Our current risk manager (Missy Pillsbury) is doing a great job,” Peabody said. “She manages grants that we receive as Orange County and does a great job with that. This will just move the position out from under Emergency Management and eliminate redundancy as we streamline operations.”

Peabody said Pillsbury would still work with Emergency Management as needed, and the move would not require any classification of the position.

Pillsbury stated she was fine with the change of oversight and commissioners approved the move by a unanimous vote. She received praise for her hard work as risk manager and for the county airport.

In other news, Sabrina Gray, Event Coordinator of the Orange County Convention and Expo Center, was prepared to address commissioners about hiring an employee for the facility. However, the agenda misrepresented the position as part-time while Gray stated it was supposed to be for a full-time position. Since it was incorrectly listed, commissioners tabled the item to be placed on the next meeting agenda.

Gray was able to speak to commissioners about another topic, which was a request for a wage increase from $8.76 per hour to $10 per hour for part-time help at the Expo Center.

“These positions are not like other county part-time jobs, where the employees work 29 hours,” Gray explained. “They are strictly limited to weekends, when we have activities at the Expo Center. It might be like five hours on a Saturday or Sunday, and they may work just one weekend a month or 3 weekends in a month. It just depends on the number of events going on.”

The funds for this wage increase would not come from county coffers, but would instead be supported through hotel and motel tax funds.

“The HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds are designed to put people into our hotels,” stated David Dubose, Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 1. “If this is what it takes to help make sure our events are successful, then we should do it.”

Jody Crump, Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 4, asked Gray if she was having difficulty having part time workers show up for events.

Gray said she has dealt with some minor difficulties in staffing, but she has been fortunate with three part-time employees to pull from for events.

“It’s really hard to get someone to be there, to leave their family on a weekend, for $8.76 an hour,” she responded.

The increase in the wage was only anticipated to be an additional $200 per year from hotel and motel tax funds for these positions. After some discussion, commissioners approved the change by a unanimous vote.

The next meeting of Orange County Commissioners Court, which was scheduled for 2 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 24, has been canceled. The next meeting will be at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1.