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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Grant to help county deputies get pay raise

 

Last updated 4/2/2024 at 8:49pm

Orange County Sheriff's deputies will be getting a pay raise thanks to a rural law enforcement grant of $500,000. Commissioners Court Tuesday voted to accept the grant from the Texas State Comptroller's Office.

County Judge John Gothia said Sheriff Jimmy Lane Mooney decided to use the money to divide between the 114 eligible employees in his office. The county is supposed to get another $500,000 grant again next year.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Chris Sowell said the grant is "to help get the pay scale for rural officers up.

County Judge John Gothia said pay in the sheriff's office has gotten below pay for other law enforcement agencies and it has become hard to get new deputies to fill vacancies. "We can't fill them because of the pay."

The county is also getting a $1 million grant from the federal Community Development Block Grant program for recovery after Tropical Storm Imelda, which flooded part of the county. Kinard Estates off FM 1130 in Precinct 1 is targeted to get a new drainage system with the grant money, which will also cover engineering costs for the project.


County Engineer Corey Oldbury gave a report that included information on the East Roundbunch Swing Bridge. The bridge was opened and closed 52 times during March. Barge traffic has greatly increased on Cow Bayou with the construction project of the $8.5 billion Chevron Phillips chemical plant. Large pieces of the new plant are pre-constructed overseas and shipped to the U.S., then taken by barges up Cow Bayou to a specially-built loading zone. Heavy trucks then haul the pieces from the bayou down HIghway 87 to the construction site, about a mile away.


Oldbury said he has been in contact with the Texas Department of Transportation about putting up traffic spotlights by the bridge on the water to help the barge traffic at night.

The Chevron Phillips construction is across the highway from the Orange County Airport, and commissioners court accepted a gift from the corporation of two lights for signs.

The court also approved 12 property tax abatements on new houses in the Vidor area, though Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan said he thinks the special incentive is not needed now because the county has a lot of new homes being built.

The program was started by the city of Vidor several years ago when Robert Viator was mayor. He now serves Precinct 4 county commissioner.


Viator said the program was originally set up to encourage new homes to be built in dilapidated areas of the city and attract new residents. He said the program has worked.

County Judge Gothia said the home tax abatement is only for the building and the land is taxed at its appraised value. The abatements are for two years at 100 percent and then go down before ending after five years. He described it as giving private citizens an abatement like industries get.

Only the taxes for the city of Vidor, the county, and the Orange County Port and Navigation District.

District Clerk Ann Reed discussed pay rates for jurors called to duty in the state and county courts, including those for justices of the peace. District Judge Courtney Arkeen also attended and said she will work with the peace justices to get wording on how a day's pay will be calculated. Proposals include $44 per day for one day on call for jury duty, then $58 a day for serving on a jury. However, the court took no official action and will review the plan at a future meeting.

The court renewed a contract for the Orange County Radio Control Club to continue leasing land at the old county landfill off FM 1442. Precinct 3 Commissioner Kirk Roccaforte said the club, which uses the land and a pond for radio-controlled planes and boats, has made many improvements to the land.

Bills approved included $104,100 to pay the Texas Association of Counties or group medical and dental insurance for employees under the age of 65. Also $160,661 to pay for March and April benefits for the insurance of county employees age 65 and older.

The court also agreed to the $100,000 quarterly payment for the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, and $21,653 for the April payment to the University of Texas Medical Branch to operate the county health center on Cordrey Avenue.

 

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