A little more than $620,000 will be devoted to Orange County first responders in the New Year through the Homeland Security Grant Program, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelly told county commissioners in their last session for 2008.

The county has put in for radios, computers and in-car video systems for various jurisdictions;  and tracking equipment to allow school districts to account for students in the event of an evacuation, Kelly said. 

Also, the city of Orange will likely receive a mobile building to be used in search and rescue training, he said.  “Cities in Southeast Texas essentially compete for this money,” he said. “This year we actually hit one out of the park; $620,000 is sort of the lion’s share of this money.” 

Also on the wish list is a new mobile command unit, which would give the county three. The old trailer used by Orange County will be transferred to Vidor emergency management. “Using the three together, we’ll put one on the north side, one on the west side and one on the east side and should be able to cover the entire county,” he said.

The meeting was Precinct 1 Commissioner James Stringer’s last, after many years on the panel. In 2009, the court will have a rarity: two pharmacists (Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose and Judge Carl Thibodeaux) and two cousins (David Dubose and Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose).

Although much of Stringer’s send-off took place in a recent reception (see separate story this issue), John Dubose commented, “I think we disagreed more than we agreed, but I do appreciate your support.”

Thibodeaux added, “When you first came on the commissioners’ court, everyone said, ‘Oh man, Thibodeaux and Stringer will never get along.’ But it has really been a pleasure … I think we worked together very well. We didn’t always agree but it was always in the best interest of the county.”

In other business, commissioners voted to open the county landfill to accept household trash on Wednesdays and Saturdays through the holidays. Wednesday, Dec. 23, does not count because it is considered a holiday. Hurricane debris will not be accepted.

Charles Britten told the panel that waiting until the landfill opens Jan. 5 might be too long for some residents.

“Obviously it’s going to be a busy time with the holidays,” he said.

“I’ve taken some non-hurricane items out to be dumped and been told by the landfill officials to put it on the side of the road and let FEMA pick it up. I’m pretty much against that because it’s not hurricane debris … I have Waste Management services … But sometimes during the week that’s not enough.”  

Also, responding to a request from county engineer Les Anderson, commissioners agreed to lower the speed limit on South Burton Road from 30 mph to 20 mph.

“South Burton Road has a limited right of way,” Anderson said. “The road is narrow and it’s got several turns on it. With the RV park that went in recently, it increased the traffic.” 

In appointments, commissioners approved three seats for the board of Orange County Emergency Services District 2. Under recommendation of Fire Chief Charles Uzzle, Carroll LeBlanc and Ricky Bodin will remain on the board. 

A third slot will be filled by Jimmy Franklin.