October 4-10 was proclaimed as “National 4-H Week” in Orange County by the Orange County Commissioners Court on Tuesday afternoon. From left, bottom row, Christina Ritter, county extension agent; Sierra, Travis, Austin, Melanie, Abagail, and Ashlee Krebs, county extension agent. RECORD PHOTO: David Ball 

David Ball – For The Record

In a surprise move, it was announced by County Judge Brint Carlton that Minnie Hightower, Human Resources director for Orange County, was leaving after being employed with the county for nine months at the Orange County Commissioners Court meeting on the afternoon of October 6.

Hightower will return to Mississippi. Her last day with the county is October 23. She added she will work at an auto manufacturing business which is her background.

“I’ve felt not so welcome by the community here,” Hightower said. “My daughter received some racist comments in Walmart. Also, two elected officials told me they didn’t like they way I came into the job because I was an outsider and I was told so. I’m not as thick-skinned.

“We have some great employees here. Hopefully they will not be deterred.”

She said working in the auto industry is in her background and it’s something she is passionate about.

John Banken, Precinct 3 commissioner, was absent from the meeting for the second straight week.

In other county business, the renewal agreement between the county and Republic Services for solid waste collection and recycling services was renewed fro November 1, 2015 through October 31, 2016.

Connie Cassiday, purchasing agent, said the terms and conditions will remain the same and this is a contract extension.

Funds out of contingency capital outlay were approved to purchase a jail fire alarm system.

Carlton said this is a new system to replace the old one.

Sheriff Keith Merritt said the original bid in July was $56,000 and the offer good for 30 days. He added he didn’t know if the price would remain the same unless something unforeseen happened.

Jody Crump, Precinct 4 commissioner, asked the sheriff he thought the cost may be as high as $64,000. Merritt said he didn’t know.

County Auditor Mary Johnson recommended the approved amount be up to $60,000. The motion passed.

Elections Administrator Tina Barrow requested funds out of contingency capital outlay be used to purchase a Vote Counting Tabulation Machine in January 2016. The current voting machine was purchased for the county n 2005.

The bid for the new machine is $117,775 with $5,000 back with a trade-in.

Crump asked if a voting machine could be purchased at an auction instead. Johnson said the county will never know if they don’t look into the matter.

Barrow said it would take three weeks for the voting machine to arrive after being ordered and must be set up by January 2016 at the latest.

Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, said he will research the matter and see if the county can sell their current voting machine. He believes, however, it may be safer legally to trade it in.

The commissioners approved filling a tax clerk position in the tax assessor-collector office that will be vacated on Oct. 19. Lynda Gunstream, tax assessor-collector, also requested the mandatory six-week waiting period be waived due to the immediate training needed for tax collection season. She added three’s no vacation or sick leave to pay out.

Crump asked if this was registered with the waiver committee. Hightower answered there is no committee.

“They haven’t met in over a year. It’s not a real written policy,” she said.

Crump said the committee was accepted as a policy. Merritt said the policy is different for elected officials.

Treasurer Christy Khoury said the policy was never put in the book.

During open court session, Carlton said he received a call of appreciation from a veteran who complimented Mark Hammer and his staff at the Orange County Veterans Service Office for their help.

Manning said there has been public interest in long-term leases on FEMA buy-out properties in the county and he thanked Kurt Guidry, maintenance supervisor and his staff for doing a good job in heading this program.

Resident Ginny Denham of Orangefield lives on Debra Lane. She complained of poor road conditions with pot holes, broken spots, etc. since sewer lines were laid. The road was patched by work crews but they could only go a short distance on the road because of the poor condition.

She said she made several phone calls to the Orange County Road & Bridge Department and was told they either had no money to fix the road or they would put it on the list.

Denham added she is circulating a petition to get the road repaired.

Clark Slacum, county engineer, said they will get to Debra Road as soon as  they’re done with their work in the city. He added that road was built with fly ash several years ago which “does not hold up.”

Lastly, a proclamation was issued recognizing October 4-10 as “National 4-H Week” in the county.

The proclamation read Orange County Commissioners Court is proud to honor the 4-H Youth Development Program of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for 108 years. This admirable program seeks to provide a learning experience for the whole child, including head, heart, hands, and health, helps young Texans to acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes to enable them to become self-directed, productive, and contributing member so our our society.

Its more than 607,000 urban, suburban, and rural youth participants, ranging in age from eight to 19, hail from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and truly represent a cross-section of the state. The program undoubtedly could not have achieved the success that it has today were it not for the service of its more than 29,000 volunteers, who have given generously of their time, talents, energies, and resources to the youth of Texas.