David Ball – For The Record

There will be no countywide burn ban instituted this week in Orange County.

The Orange County Commissioners Court took no action for the burn ban to be instituted following the recommendation of Ryan Peabody, emergency management coordinator.

The burn ban was lifted last Wednesday. Peabody said the KBDI, which monitors fire danger potential, there was not a fire danger in the county.

John Banken, Precinct 3 commissioner, asked why there had to be an action by the court to put a burn ban in effect but not to lift a burn ban.

Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, said the reason is County Judge Brint Carlton or the commissioners court may issue a 72-hour burn ban. Carlton was absent from the meeting and David Dubose, Judge Pro Tem, conducted the meeting.

Peabody said the forecast looks good for the next two weeks and he doesn’t expect another burn ban will needed to be instituted.

The court next approved a series of items related to the November 3, 2015 Constitutional Amendment Election.

The propositions deal with homestead exemptions, repealing state officers must reside in the state capital, charitable raffles, private road construction and maintenance, wildlife conservation and sales and use tax revenue.

Early voting locations were also approved at the following times and locations:

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 23, and Monday, October 26 through October 30 at the Orange Public Library (main early voting location), 220 N. Fifth St. in Orange; Orange County offices in Mauriceville, 11867 Highway 62 in Mauriceville; Bridge City Public Works Building, 220 Nitsche in Bridge City and Raymond Gould Community Center, 385 Claiborne in Vidor.

The hiring of early voting and election day judges, clerks and workers were also approved.

Orange County will enter into an agreement with Blackboard Connect to provide a county notification service.

Peabody explained if an event happens at one of the plants or if a hurricane should land this system would send notifications countywide to people’s phones and cell phones.

The county was using the First Call system. That company has since been bought out and that system was a paid per use one that wasn’t used very often except by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers.

Peabody said he worked with Sheriff Keith Merritt to find a good replacement system that others used such as the Vidor Police Department who uses the Blackboard Connect.

The system will be secured under a grant at no cost to the county until the end of the year under a pilot program.

At the start of the new year, the county will join in on a regional grant until the end of next year.

Banken asked Peabody if he went through the assistant county attorney about the grant. Peabody said he did not because he didn’t want the county to be without a notification system.

The commissioners approved exploring the possibility of leasing certain properties owned by the county. These properties were acquired by Orange County in conjunction with the FEMA related buyouts arising out of Hurricane Ike.

Manning said FEMA would distributes funds to buy certain properties such as on bayous, but some may be in a subdivision. These property are on the county’s tax rolls as assets.

Furthermore, these properties weren’t put in the budget not to be maintained. Many of them require mowing.

Manning said some of these properties are now in bad shape with tall grass, pest infestation, etc. He wanted to know what the commissioners court was determined to do with the properties such as giving back to the cities, the county will be unable to sell them and they can’t be built upon because of their condition.

Some neighbors adjunct to the properties are interested in leasing the properties for various uses such as a garden or to park a trailer or a boat.

“I just need some guidance from the court,” he said.

One option was a 99-year lease to be maintained by the neighbor. It would be similar to Entergy Texas’ right-of-way lease at $1 per year.

Banken believes this is an unfunded mandate from the federal government.

“It there no way to give it back to the government?” Banken asked Manning.

Manning said there was not and the county would have to keep the properties for 250 years.

He said the county needs a policy where the properties can be leased to the owners next to them, but they must maintain them and they can’t be built upon.

Crump cautioned of an experience in the county where a neighbor to a property could no longer park his trailers on the property.

September was proclaimed as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and August 24, 2015 as Julie Rogers Gift of LIfe Program Day in Orange County.

Brian Shajari, deputy emergency management coordinator, was introduced to the court by Peabody.

Shajari is currently in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. He spent 13 years on active duty prior.

He has experience in intelligence, working with the NSA and other agencies, contingency planning and marine safety.

In fact, he worked at the Marine Safety office in Port Arthur for eight years and he worked seven hurricanes.

Shajari said he and emergency management have been keeping track of Hurricane Danny in the Atlantic until it completely dissipates. There are two other disturbances behind Danny that they are monitoring.

“We will keep the citizens of Orange County up to date,” he said.

He added he’s happy to be at his job with Orange County.