Commissioners: ‘Force is not an option’; court opposes ‘evac. bill,’ sets culvert discounts
Orange County Commissioners this week passed a resolution opposing state Senate Bill 12, which if passed by the House and enacted into law could have residents paying rescue costs if they ignore a mandatory evacuation order.
They could also be forcibly removed from their homes.
Manpower should be used for safe passage, said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux.
“Our goal is get everybody safe out of Orange and follow up with those that did not evacuate,” he said. “Hopefully with what happened – in Bridge City in particular [during Ike] – people will be more aware of evacuation notices from now on.”
The fact that the bill, authored by Sen. John Carona of Dallas County and Sen. Dan Patrick of Harris County – two areas barely affected by Ike – also perplexed Thibodeaux and Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton.
The bill does not keep in mind, they added, that a lot of people evacuated for Gustav and couldn’t afford to leave for Ike.
“There is a cost involved,” Thibodeaux said. “I cannot force someone to be moved from their home.
“The state could tie something to this if I don’t force them out of their home; we don’t have time for that. Sheriff [Keith] Merritt will tell you – he’s been through [hurricane aftermaths] just like I have … The state could really help problems by changing some of their operational rules. Hopefully they’ll think about it that way.”
Also, he said, the bill does not just apply to hurricanes. For example, he said, someone who gets in a wreck on Interstate 10 and has to be extracted by the jaws of life could be billed for emergency services.
The court’s resolution will be sent to Rep. Mike Hamilton (R-Mauriceville).
In other business, commissioners approved a 10-percent discount for senior citizens and veteran property owners installing culverts. At present the county charges $10 per foot.
Residents must be 65 and over, or a veteran of any age who can show proof of discharge. They will also be required to show proof of property ownership.
“That way ‘Uncle Harry’ can’t get you a discount,” Thibodeaux said.
Fees are not retroactive once a permit is paid for. Ironically this will apply to the property owner who brought the idea to the court three weeks ago through his commissioner, Burton.
Apparently he didn’t wait on the court’s decision and has paid the full fee under the old rules.
In school news, commissioners authorized Merritt to apply for a COPS Secure Our Schools grant (SOS) in partnership with the Little Cypress-Mauriceville district.
About $400,000 is available and the district will match 50 percent, said LC-M’s Jim Armstrong.
The funds will address campus security, among other initiatives, he said.
“We have recently put in some security cameras and hope to put in additional security cameras at different campuses,” he said. “In so doing the sheriff’s department will have a kind of ‘first-look eyes.’ If we had an emergency at our school … they can bring that up through the [World Wide] Web and have access and have ‘visual’ on our campus. So that not only enhances response time but most importantly, efficiency – and hopefully that will help secure our campuses.”