County could discount culverts for seniors
County commissioners will consider discounts for senior citizens installing culverts in a future meeting, possibly by next Monday.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton said in special session this week that Percy Foreman in the Vidor area has installed 80 feet of a 100-foot culvert on his property. Foreman has already paid $800. The county charges $10 per foot.
“He’s 85 and a combat veteran of World War II,” Burton said. “He looked at it as if it was a permit, and he’s trying to cover a ditch that had some water in it.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton said he sympathized with Foreman and commended him for his service to the country, “ … but I’m afraid if we open up something like that then we’re going down a slippery slope.”
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux added that the court can’t change set policies on request, but he wouldn’t be opposed to setting future discounts. “We have to have some kind of basic fees for installing culverts,” he said.
He suggested senior citizens could get a 10-percent discount on culvert structures, much like how seniors’ taxes are “frozen” when they turn 65.
“I think that would be fair,” he said. “A lot of people have hardships. But when you’re developing your land, there are certain costs involved and this is one of them.”
Burton added, “I guess I have a passion, or compassion for combat veterans. I feel like we owe them a lot … actually that touches me more than being a senior citizen. But I understand the court’s situation as far as making exceptions.”
In other business, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley was commended for speaking at the International Hurricane Conference in Nassau. Although conference officials paid for Kelley’s expenses, Thibodeaux said local gossip had it that the county did.
“There were some people … irate that Orange County had funded his trip to the Bahamas and that goes to show you that some people only hear what they want to hear,” Thibodeaux said. “I don’t think they understand what was covered in the media. The media covered it very well … but [people] just chose to twist it around and start controversy … Those individuals should have been happy that one of our employees got invited to speak at an international conference. But they’re trying to make waves and cause problems. There weren’t any taxpayer dollars involved and, in fact, there were expenses to [Kelley] out of his own pocket for this trip. I do commend him again for going there and speaking on behalf of Southeast Texas. I saw his presentation this morning in the office and it was a very positive presentation promoting Southeast Texas. He was definitely an ambassador to this area.”
Kelley said he talked largely to meteorologists unaware of the devastation in Orange County caused by Ike.
“I spoke … with respect to some of the major issues that we had,” he said. “Particularly unexpected issues and our solutions for those; lessons learned during Hurricane Ike and some corrective measures for those – and also gave a rundown on the amount of damage and rescues that took place here in Orange County.”
He was also able to compare notes with his counterparts and colleagues, he said.
“We do that constantly as emergency managers. As a matter of fact I was with my counterpart for the city of Galveston, who was also invited down there and is a very close friend of mine. We had not had the chance since the storm to actually sit down and talk. We’ve e-mailed and talked on the phone – but hadn’t had the chance to sit down and have a two-hour conversation.”
Also at the meeting, commissioners gave approval for Purchasing Agent Janell Duchamp to advertise for bids on ATM machines at the county courthouse and administration building, both in Orange; and the sub-courthouse in Vidor. The ads will run for two weeks and companies will have a week after that to return a bid. Officials hope the machines, once introduced to the buildings, will help expedite fee payments.