Judge: no forcible removal from homes
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said this week he’s still getting questions about a new state law that takes effect Sept. 1 that gives county judges the power to force residents to leave a mandatory evacuation.
Thibodeaux reiterated that, as mentioned in several recent press releases and conversations with the media, he will not go along with the legislation.
“The words [of the law] say ‘may forcibly remove someone from their home’ if they refuse to abide by a mandatory evacuation order,” Thibodeaux said. “I will not do that and get involved in that – with removing anyone with their home. If they choose to stay, we’ll explain to them and try to talk them out of it, and have them understand that we can’t be responsible for their safety … We’ll do what we can to get them through the crisis, but cannot guarantee their safety and they have to understand that.”
Residents who choose to stay through a crisis are on their own, Thibodeaux said. “We will have enough to deal with and cannot be concerned with individuals and families. Now if somebody’s life gets in danger, there’s not a first responder in this county that will turn their back on you.”
Hurricanes in their early stages sometimes produce a false sense of security, unlike wildfires in California and West Texas, he said.
“If you look out your window and see a wall of flames 100 feet from your house, you don’t have to be convinced to leave,” he said. “But in a hurricane – it’s sitting out there in the Gulf … and so when you call an evacuation the storm surge is 72 hours away, or 48 at the least.
“I’m not going to call Sheriff [Keith] Merritt and have him go get someone out of their home. It’s just something I disagree with very strongly.”
Thibodeaux made the comments at this week’s regular commissioners’ session.
In other business:
• Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton said he’d like to see an audit report from Emergency Services District 4. According to a state statue, ESD’s are required to file audits before the beginning of the fiscal year. “For accountability and transparency purposes, I just think it’s something we need to be doing,” Burton said. “I’m not accusing anybody of anything. I know we fell into some hurricanes and might have fallen behind.” Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose abstained from voting since he is a financial consultant to the district. He added that his CPA business is not the district’s auditing firm.
• Rob Madding, former Vidor schools’ superintendent, was approved to replace Tray Haney on Vidor’s ESD 1 board of commissioners. Haney resigned Aug. 2.
• Thibodeaux set several departmental workshops for Friday. There will likely be a 5 percent tax increase to offset lost revenue caused by Hurricane Ike’s aftermath. As it stands now the budget is still about $1.5 million short, Thibodeaux said. “We’re just going to have to sit down and look at things to cut,” he said.