‘Burt’s Stand’ to change hands

Guy and Joann Priddy of West Orange own several retail business where their son Brett Simpson, 23, has worked. Now Simpson will take a crack at running his own business. 

He let out a light, celebratory cry Monday when approved by commissioners to run the courthouse concession stand. “Thank you,” he said.

The stand has been operated by a visually-impaired person since the ‘60s when the late Frances Staley ran it. In 1979 it passed onto Burt Hardwick, who once had a stand at the Orange post office. He ran the courthouse counter until he retired this year because of health reasons.

“I really want to work there,” Simpson said after Monday’s regular commissioners’ session. “I still want to be a DJ and will try to do that on weekends.” 

When he first takes over the stand, now to be known as “Brett’s Stand,” Simpson will have help from family and friends. He is active with the Texas Federation for the Blind, attending regular meetings for the last few years. 

“[The stand] is not a big moneymaker,” said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. “But I think it’s a good opportunity for this young man.”

As far as legalities go, County Assistant Attorney Doug Manning said it was simply a matter of changing out one agreement with another.

“Our agreement is actually with the Texas Commission for the Blind, so to the extent that we put another person there we just extend the original agreement,” he said.

Simpson received a 2005 Joan LeTulle Courageous Heart Award, named for a 1994 Lamar University Distinguished Alumni recipient. He is a 2006 graduate of Port Neches-Groves High School, a former PN-G Student Council member and Key Club member.

Apparently, Hardwick had a contractual relationship with vending machine suppliers at the courthouse and the county administration building. 

Simpson will have to be given an ID number for state business purposes – a relatively simple process – and will be required to sign new contracts for supplies.

“I think it’s a very good situation,” Thibodeaux said.

The Priddys plan a fundraiser at their Shave Ice Delite stand on Western Avenue, to sell snow cones from 2-7 p.m. July 22 with proceeds going to the Texas Federation for the Blind. 

According to Joann Priddy, the Texas Commission for the Blind may now actually be called the DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) Division for the Blind.

Also Monday, Mosquito Control’s Patrick Beebe said the county’s first plane to spray for mosquito’s is undergoing a certification process. A final inspection is planned for Wednesday of this week, after being rescheduled from July 1.

“Basically we got bumped,” Beebe told commissioners. “If all goes well, this could be the final inspection.” He said he suspects there will be some “lag time” before final approval, at which point the county can apply for “137 Inspection,” perhaps in no more than a few weeks.

The 1981 Cessna is set to be piloted by Patrick Bourke when it begins spraying.

Inspections can get down to often tedious details, said Manning and Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose, both licensed pilots.

Dubose described a recent inspection on his plane that complained about a placard on the gas cap that lists the number of gallons the plane can hold. It apparently could not be read by inspectors..
“How would you ever know that you need to do that?” Dubose asked.

Beebe said his department has made maps of area beehives, to avoid spraying those areas. 

“We are required by law not to expose the bees,” he said.

Area beekeepers are asked to call Beebe’s office (670-4104) to report hive locations.

“There is one problem,” Beebe said. “What I call the migrant beekeepers. What they do is move their bees down here from the north during the winter for warmer temperatures. They’ll lease land from local landowners … then in the spring or summer they move the bees back up north. I feel like with those individuals they need to check the areas they’re moving into to see if there is an organized mosquito control program.”

In other business, Emergency Management’s Jeff Kelley recommended the countywide burn ban stay in effect. According to the latest Keetch-Byram Drought Index used by the Texas Forest Service, Orange County continued in the 600-700 range. (800 is the maximum score, indicating most severe weather). The index is used to study soil moisture to calculate wild fire risk. Residents can be cited for illegal burning.

The little bit of rain we had earlier in the week brought us down 50 points, but already we’re back up from that by 30 points,” Kelley said. “If you look at the county as a whole, we’re still 10 to 25 percent down on rain for this time of the year.”

He added, “I think a good deal of folks are adhering to the burn ban.”