Drug fund pays cop patrols
Sheriff Mike White will be getting four new patrol officers, along with equipment and patrol cars, paid for by the drug forfeiture fund.
Orange County Commissioners Court Monday approved the plan and agreed to pay for the salaries and costs of the extra deputies after a year.
Usually, the money the sheriff’s office is awarded through legal forfeitures of money connected with illegal drug actions, cannot be spent on salaries. But White has been working for a way to get the extra deputies to patrol the street. Commissioners last year rejected his request for more deputies because the county couldn’t afford the deputies with the new salary pay scales. He was able to use the rejection as one of the ways to be able to use the forfeited money.
White said the extra deputies will mean a maximum of six street patrols on duty each shift instead of five deputies. The patrol zones will be divided up so each deputy has less territory to cover, meaning emergency help will arrive faster. The sheriff said each deputy usually has a zone of 90 to 100 miles to patrol.
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose asked whether the sheriff’s office should change the patrol shift times to accommodate the times when more calls are made for assistance. White said his office has been studying the times for calls and will work to get the most efficiency.
The sheriff also said the four new deputies may not be on patrol until June 1.
Commissioners Court voted unanimously to hire the new deputies. However, Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton was absent from the meeting because of illness.
“This is a good use of drug forfeiture money,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton. “I wish we could have done this months ago.”
In other business, the court agreed to have Orange County participate with the Orange County Storm Water Quality Coalition, along with the city of Vidor and the Orange County Drainage District. The entities will help monitor run-off water into the Neches River and its streams. County Engineer Les Anderson will represent the county in the coalition.
Also, the court voted to buy one Dodge quad cab pick-up truck and seven Dodge Police Chargers for the sheriff’s office. The truck will be used by the pound master, who rounds up stray livestock. White said the Dodge Chargers with a police package have now been used by law enforcement agencies for a couple of years. He wanted to wait to see how the cars worked before buying them.
The sheriff’s office has been using Ford Crown Victoria sedans for patrol cars, but White said the six-cylinder Dodge’s will save three to four gallons of gasoline per car per shift. The fuel savings could save the county thousands of dollars through a year.
The cars are being purchased through a state-bid program with the truck costing about $33,700, and the seven police cars costing about $200,000.
Also, Commissioners Court agreed to fill a foreman’s position with the Road and Bridge Department after the recent death of the Precinct 3 foreman. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said the county will fill the position through promotion and the only new hire will be for a road worker.
The court awarded a contract to Cleveland Construction Co. for a low bid of $151,143 for Phase 1 of the repairs to the old Brown Hangar at the Orange County Airport. The 1940s-era hangar, built by the late industrialist Edgar Brown Jr., was heavily damaged by Hurricane Rita. The county is receiving Federal Emergency Management Administration money and insurance money.
Thibodeaux said he hopes the hangar can be declared a historical building and be eligible for grant money.