By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

Commissioners approved a new policy on Tuesday which will hopefully prevent any future problems with bill payments on the rare chance a meeting is not held.

Orange County Commissioners unanimously approved a new policy Tuesday afternoon, which will continue until Sept. 30, 2016, the end of the current fiscal year, to help make sure certain county bills are paid when a situation arises and a meeting of Commissioners Court cannot be held.

On Dec. 29, 2015, the last meeting of the calendar year for Orange County Commissioners, the meeting was canceled because a quorum was not in attendance. Two commissioners were out of town and one commissioner was ill, thereby canceling the meeting and prohibiting the court from approving the payment of bills, one of which included the county’s fuel bill.

A special workshop session was held on Tuesday morning, where Orange County Judge Brint Carlton presented options on how this issue could resolved should it ever occur again.

“Basically, what we did today was pass an order to pay bills in the event Commissioners Court doesn’t meet for some reason,” Carlton said following Tuesday’s meeting. “It has nothing to do with our budget or funding. It’s just because we didn’t have a quorum to meet on December 29th, so the bill was already late by the time we approved it.”

An issue which complicated the matter was the fact the bill was sent to the old billing address of the fuel company instead of the new address, which changed in late 2015.

“That was no fault of the staff,” Carlton said. “We haven’t been using the return mail envelopes which are sent with the bill. Instead, we used a different envelope and sent it to the old address that we’ve always used.”

Christy Khoury, Orange County Treasurer, asked the Court if it could request all envelopes remain with the bills, which eventually find their way to her office for payment, in order to help avoid such a dilemma in the future and to help reduce costs to the county by utilizing the supplied payment envelopes.

Douglas E. Manning, county attorney, stated implementing such a policy guaranteeing the payment of select bills would be a good idea.

“This is something we should consider for a couple of reasons,” Manning said. “This is just preparing for an occurrence that happens very rarely, where it maybe comes into play a couple of times every few years.”

The new policy will not be utilized for all Orange County expenses, but it will include utilities, Internet, phones and cell phones, fuel charges and credit cards, many of which are used by Orange County Sheriff’s Office employees when making long distance business trips and prisoner transportation.

“There’s not always a Shell station, where we are going,” said Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt. “So, that is when we have to use our credit cards.”

Carlton stated any claims, which are paid outside of a Commissioners Court meeting, would be reviewed and ratified at a following meeting.

Manning advised Commissioners Court to review and implement these orders each budget year to potentially prevent any further problems.