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County jail lauded by risk managers


Last updated 11/29/2017 at Noon

Dave Rogers / For The Record

Orange County Jail was highly praised Tuesday by risk management consultants for the Texas Association of Counties.

“They’re really taking a lot of proactive steps in trying to ensure everyone’s safety in the jail,” said Terry Pickering, former Bastrop County sheriff and one of TAC’s law enforcement consultants.

“Overall, it’s operated in a very professional manner.”

The appraisal came as part of the weekly Commissioners’ Court meeting in the Orange County Administration Building.

Missy Pillsbury, county risk management coordinator, presented the visit by a quartet of TAC representatives under the agenda heading of “Update and review of Texas Association of Counties Risk Management Pool services provided to Orange County.”

Along with providing advice and training for county officials, TAC provides liability insurance.

Orange County, which had self-insured against liability claims until found liable for the $3.1 million wrongful death judgment against the jail it paid out earlier this year, is among TAC’s newest insurance customers.

In all, five people have died in the custody of the Orange County Jail since 2011. But the jail has passed every year’s surprise inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards since Sheriff Keith Merritt began his job in 2009.

Robert Ruiz, TAC claims manager, said his association insures law enforcement for more than 150 counties. He said that in 2012-2016, jails accounted for half of all claims and 70 percent of the money paid out from policies covering the law enforcement agencies.

“You can never eliminate the risk. You just can’t,” Ruiz said. “What you can hope to do is be proactive, mitigate the risk and try to minimize that impact.”

County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton and other members of Commissioners’ Court congratulated Merritt for the review.

Merritt, in turn, thanked his employees, who were represented at the court session by Jail Administrator Capt. Don Harmon and his assistant, Lt. Jim Eiselstein.

“It’s the staff,” Merritt said. “We have a wonderful staff back there.

“It’s a very unpleasant job at times, and very demanding. But they show up every day and do that job, and do it well. I’m proud of all of them.”

Harmon introduced Eiselstein to commissioners. He brought more than 30 years of jail staff experience when he recently moved to Harmon’s staff from the Jefferson County Jail.

”I couldn’t have picked a better person to run the jail than Capt. Harmon,” Merritt said. “The lieutenant [Eiselstein] does bring vast experience in jail operations and we’re very fortunate to be able to have him.

“With the lieutenant and the captain, we’re in very good shape at the Orange County Jail.”

County extends debris-to-curb deadline

Orange County has extended to Sunday, Dec. 6 the deadline for residents to have debris from Tropical Storm Harvey placed on the edge of the roadway.

The projected completion date for this second round of pickups is Dec. 18, said Antonio Lee of D&J Enterprises.

The county has also announced guidelines for private property debris removal:

Storm generated debris on open access private roads, private roads with locked gates and residential private property may be eligible for removal.

Applicants should fill out and return by Friday, Dec. 8, the Right of Entry form available at Orange County Convention and Expo Center, 11475 FM 1442, or available to print from the internet at

Expected completion of debris removal for eligible applicants is Dec. 30.

Residents are encouraged to contact Orange County Office of Emergency Management at 409-882-7895 with questions pertaining to debris removal.

FEMA, SBA application deadlines are Thursday

Thursday, Nov. 30, is the deadline to apply for Hurricane Harvey victims to apply for assistance from FEMA (for homeowners) or Small Business Administration (business owners).

To find out about eligibility, call 800-621-3362 or go online to .


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