Sheriff’s union agreement reached

Orange County commissioners this week approved a $5,000 payment to the state Historic Bridge Foundation to nominate the Cow Bayou swing bridge to the National Register.

The bridge is one of the few swing bridges left in the state. It was to become a span bridge a few years ago until the Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation group got involved.

“They (the group) cannot apply from community participation funds or hotel/motel tax funds,” said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. “Or apply for any type of marker for the bridge until after they get their 501(3)(c) designation.”

The Texas Historical Commission will accept the nomination of the Cow Bayou Bridge to the National Register of Historic Places on Saturday, during the state board of review meeting starting at 8:30 a.m. at the 1861 Customs House in Galveston.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of properties significant in American history, architecture and archeology, according to the Register’s Web site. 

Properties successfully nominated and listed in the Register help stabilize property values within historic areas, aid in tourism initiatives and are afforded some protection from federal activities, according to the Web site.

At the commissioners’ meeting, Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose said the swing bridge on Roundbunch Road is also very old, but is under a different set of criteria because it’s not on a state highway.

Thibodeaux added that Orange County made a previous offer to the Texas Department of Transportation to designate the corner of Farm Road 1442 at East Roundbunch as an extension of 1442 – giving it state highway status. However TxDOT showed no interest in the plan, which would have been at no cost to the state.

“I thought it was a pretty good deal,” Thibodeaux said. “But they said no.”

The Texas Historical Commission will accept the nomination of the Cow Bayou Bridge to the Register Saturday during a state board of review meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the 1861 Customs House in Galveston.

Sheriff’s union negotiations ending

Orange County commissioners this week also met with sheriff’s union officials, with both sides believing they’d reached an agreement after four weeks of negotiations. 

To keep salaries up to date with those of other counties, the overall package would be increased by 7.22 percent per year for the next four years for $2,222.672 in all. 

A breakdown is $538,945 for the first year; $522,176 for the second; $561,036 for the third and $600,515 for the fourth.

Thibodeaux and Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose served on the negotiating committee – meeting with union members John Sierega, Mike Leleux, Clint Hodgkinson and Tom Ray.

“I’m happy we could come to an agreement the county and the union could live with,” David Dubose said.

Commissioners are expected to approve the agreement Thursday.

Also at this week’s commissioners’ meeting:

• Commissioners approved to remove the ceiling on sick leave for county employees. Under previous guidelines, employees got 720 hours for sick leave, which has been doubled to 1,440. Employees still get 480 when they retire, as with the old plan. Sick leave is available mainly for catastrophic illnesses and long hospital stays.

• Authorized early voting places/times for the Nov. 3 Constitutional Amendment Election as follows: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays Oct. 19-30. Locations: Orange – Orange Public Library, 220 N. Fifth St.; Mauriceville – First Baptist Church, 11540 Texas 12; Bridge City – Public Works Building, 220 Nitsche; Vidor – Gould Community Center, 385 Claiborne.

• Had a lengthy discussion with James Vincent, owner of a Vidor salvage yard at 2695 N. Main St. Vincent will pay $150 to have his business permit re-instated until Nov. 15, and in that time is required to build a fence to hide unsightly storage areas. At issue was a somewhat sticky guideline in the ordinance about foliage covering the area, which made his yard compliant when the foliage was grown, however, not compliant in the winter when the greenery was gone. Court advisor, attorney Doug Manning said it was simple: if you’re not compliant half the year, that means you’re not compliant. “What part of building a fence do we not understand?” he said. “It takes a few poles or some wood or some metal. It’s not rocket science.” “It also takes money,” said Vincent, who added he’d been ill for two years and couldn’t build the fence in that time. It was at first decided by commissioners not to issue Vincent a permit until the fence was built, however, Vincent said he had to do business in order to make enough money for the fence. Vincent continued to press the issue and was advised by David Dubose and Thibodeaux he was trying the court’s patience. After the vote was settled, Thibodeaux told him, “We’re on your side guy, but you’ve just got to cooperate.”