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Prisoner transport taxes Sheriff’s office budget


Last updated 8/20/2019 at Noon

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt was granted permission to move some money Tuesday to pay for moving prisoners.

County Commissioners’ Court okayed shifting $9,700 from the accounts set aside for Sheriff’s Office janitorial supplies, lab supplies and uniforms to pay for bringing prisoners back from around the globe to face charges.

The sheriff explained that the county had in past years contracted with a nationwide service that ferried prisoners to and from Orange County. But that company went out of business in January.

He said that since then his deputies – two per trip -- had to travel as far as New York (twice) and Alaska to bring prisoners before judges.

“When the [Orange] courts find out they’ve been arrested, we’ve only got 10 days to go get them,” the sheriff said. “So we can’t get discount airline tickets.”

Merritt said his office was looking for another prisoner transportation service for the next budget year but so far had had no luck finding one.

Commissioners also agreed to return their “regular term” meeting to 2 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

That’s the one meeting per month commissioners’ court is required to hold. Orange County holds weekly meetings. All others are noted as “special meetings.”

All future meetings of the court – regular and special -- will be at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, barring unforeseen circumstances.

County Judge John Gothia explained that this was set once a year and was in effect for the next complete fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

A year ago, the court switched the only required monthly meeting to 10 a.m. Wednesday morning and moved all special meetings to that time as well.

When the switch was met by unanticipated complaints, the court switched all special meetings to 2 p.m. Tuesdays but was powerless to move the regular meeting.

Kurt Guidry, county maintenance director, reported that the courthouse marble project was complete. He said that contractors from Marsh Waterproofing had to repaint some areas that had been covered up by scaffolding.

Commissioners agreed to a proposed interlocal agreement between Orange County and UTMB to allow UTMB to utilize the office attached to Gould Park Community Center for WIC services.

Vidor has been without a WIC office since Tropical Storm Harvey two years ago.

“Prior to Harvey, WIC handled 1,210 cases. Two years later, WIC numbers had dropped to 639 cases,” Commissioner Robert Viator said.

“There are a lot of factors, but you’ve got to think the mileage from the west end of the county to the east end of the county was a big one.”

County Auditor Pennee Schmitt was ordered to pay the weekly bills, which totaled $202,000.


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