Residents of a rural Vidor street asked Commissioners Court to help clean out a dilapidated house that attracts drug users. The house even has a dirty, snake-infested swimming pool.

Jackie Reed said her 9-year-old daughter can’t ride her bike in the street or go unwatched to visit her grandparents next door.

“We shouldn’t have to live that way because of these people,” she told Commissioners Court.

Reed said the street was a “small, quiet neighborhood” until the problems developed at the house.

Commissioners agreed to have the Orange County District Attorney’s Office help by getting the house legally declared a health hazard or by collecting enough evidence to file criminal charges against the occupants. If criminal charges can be filed, the property could perhaps be legally confiscated, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said.
Thibodeaux said any kind of investigation or legal procedure will take time.

“Unfortunately, y’all have to live next door to it,” he told Reed and the neighbors.
The house is owned by an elderly couple who have not lived there since Hurricane Rita, more than two years ago, Reed said. People speed and drive up and down the dead-end street to go to the house. Also, strangers are in the neighborhood and have gone up to residents asking for gas or money. Recently, a car drove up into a yard and almost hit a house, she said.

Joel Ardoin, director of the county health and code compliance department, said he had looked at the property and sent a letter to the owners asking that the site be cleaned. He said the owners asked for an extension of time to comply.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton, who represents the area, said three people were recently arrested at the house for possession of narcotics and one on an outstanding felony warrant.

In other business, County Extension Agent Paula Tacker said her department had been awarded a $245,700 grant from the Stark Foundation through three years to expand the program for diabetes prevention, awareness and health education.
“Maybe we can get our community healthier,” Tacker told commissioners.

Commissioners Court approved a special interlocal agreement with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Orange, West Orange, Pinehurst, Bridge City and Vidor.

Sheriff Mike White said the agencies are forming a mutual aid co-op to help each other fight drugs. If the county acquires drug forfeiture money, the cities will also share in the proceeds, he said.

The project will help put more people on the streets fighting drugs, plus the officers will be able to share information, White said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose said he has received a number of complaints from residents in his area about blasting for seismic testing.

“I’ve never had this many complaints before about seismic testing,” he said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton and Minton of Precinct 4 have talked in recent weeks about people complaining after the seismic testing to search for oil and gas by Lake Ronel Oil Co.

Minton said the blasting charges being used seem to be stronger than have been used in the past.

Commissioners agreed to close the courthouse on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 2 to 5 p.m. so that each department can hold an employee Christmas party. Thibodeaux said a committee worked to decide on how county employees will celebrate Christmas and the committee recommended the proposal. Departments will stay open through the noon lunch hour that day.

Also Monday, Commissioners Court voted to give the local CASA, court-appointed special advocates, group $5,000 from the community fund in the county budget. CASA Director Jane Stephenson said the group, which helps abused children in the legal system, had never asked for county money before.

Also, the Heritage House Museum will receive $4,000 from the community fund and the Orange County Historical Commission, which designates historical sites, will receive $2,000. Thibodeaux said the museum and the commission were granted the same amount last year.

About Margaret Toal