Sheriff Keith Merritt received approval in commissioners’ special session

Monday to apply for a federal grant that could see at least one new hire among

Orange County deputies.

The CHP grant (Cops Hiring Program) would pay three years for a new hire’s

salary, as long as the county picks up an additional fourth year.

There have been 6,000 CHP applications, only about 500 of which will be

awarded, Merritt said. His department is fully-staffed, he said, however there

are overtime issues to consider.

“I know it’s a good deal, but like any grant there’s a lot of strings

attached,” Merritt said. “I know in four years … the county would

pick it up but it’s hard to say what kind of shape the county’s going to be


County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said he’d like to see the grant go to an

overtime position which covers security at the temporary Adult Probation

building (the original location was damaged by Hurricane Ike).

“For what we’re spending on overtime now, we’ll [gladly] pay the 12

months at the end of the grant period,” he said.

The new position would be at starter’s salary, also saving money for the

county, Merritt said.

Dry weather watched

Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley told the court there is no

cause for a countywide burn ban yet, but “we’re getting there daily.”

He cited recent low humidity, windy/dry conditions and not much rain during


“There’s been quite a bit of acreage burned in Orange County in the

last two weeks,” he said. “It’s not bad yet but it’s getting bad.

We’re not in drought conditions yet but we’re abnormally dry.”

Annual hurricane exercise

Kelley also reported his office along with other county jurisdictions would

conduct an annual hurricane emergency simulation May 11-13 at the Emergency

Operations Center in the old AT&T building. The state will provide a model

scenario to work with, he said.

Day of Prayer

Commissioners issued a proclamation declaring Thursday, May 6, as National

Day of Prayer. Local ceremonies will get underway at noon Thursday on the steps

of the Orange County courthouse. For more information, call 883-7740 or