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Lou Ann and Monte McKinley enjoy the peace and the serene views of the Sabine River. They built a home along the river but the season of flooding has arrived. The two are employed at OCARC and these days they are spending their nights there, too. "I'm too old to get into a boat every morning," Lou Ann said jokingly. For river residents, spring is often the time they have to park their cars on the dry end of a flooded road and then ride a boat to their homes.
The McKinleys live off West Bluff Road in northeast Orange County. She said their house is on poles ten feet above ground. The river overflow hasn't gone high enough to get inside the house and isn't forecasted to. On Friday morning, the National Weather Service reported the river at Deweyville, a bit upstream from the McKinleys, was at 25.7 feet and is expected to crest at 26.1 feet. Flood level is 24 feet.
The Sabine River Authority is continuing to release water from Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lou Ann thinks it will be four to six weeks before the river subsides enough for them to drive cars to their house. She said when she was younger she didn't mind the boat rides every day to go into town for work. "It's part of living on the river," she said.
For the past four years or so, they haven't had to deal with the spring river rises, she said. Droughts in most of the state kept Toledo Bend well below capacity with no need to release water. This year, ample rains have fallen in the Northeast Texas area of the Sabine River Basin. In addition, Southeast Texas has had a lot of rain, including more than seven inches last Saturday.
Monte visited their house earlier in the week. Floods also drive snakes and other critters to higher places, including the houses on stilts and trees. "The snakes are really bad right now," Lou Ann said. She's glad she's away from those reptiles. "In my younger age, I was a lot braver," she said.
They'll make an occasional boat ride to the house to pick things up that the need. But otherwise, they're making a home now at OCARC. "We're blessed to have a place we can go," Lou Ann said.

On Friday at 10:29 pm, officers with the Orange Police Department where dispatched to 7014 N Hwy 87 (Cypress Plaza) in reference to an aggravated robbery. After investigation, a possible known suspect was identified after review of the surveillance video. Officers with the Orange Police Department were already actively looking for the same suspect in reference to a Burglary warrant and he was known to drive a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, with a known license plate. At approximately 12:10 am, officers located the suspect vehicle traveling northbound 2000 blk of 16th St. and attempted to stop the vehicle. The suspect vehicle did not stop and began to flee the area. Orange Police Officers pursued the vehicle into Beaumont where he would later drive into the Neches River. He was apprehended and taken into custody by the Beaumont Police Department. The suspect was identified as 32 year old Ronald Wayne Rice II, who was wearing the same clothing as the previous robbery. This incident is still under investigation by the Detective Division of the Orange Police Department.

Bridge City Police arrested Jerod Atkins, 30, of BC Thursday afternoon and have charged him with burglary of a habitation. Atkins was witnessed burglarizing a building and police located him at a convenience store where he confessed to the crime. The merchandise was returned to the owner and Atkins was brought to the Orange County Jail where a bond was set at $5000 according to Detective Danny Hodges.

A budget workshop Friday revealed a possible change that could effect people in Orange County wanting to get married. County Clerk Brandy Robertson shared with the Commissioners Court bills being considered by the state legislature that would affect her office. Robertson said there is a bill pending that would have the Secretary of State’s office in Austin take over the issuing of marriage licenses instead of the county clerk’s office. Robertson informed the commissioners that her office collected $37,620 for marriage licenses in 2014, half of that amount the county keeps for itself. County Judge Brint Carlton then questioned Robertson where couples wanting to get married would go for their license. Robertson said that issue has not been addressed in the pending legislation, which prompted Judge Carlton to wonder if the Department of Public Safety is ready to get into the marriage license business along with the driver’s license business. Commissioner Barry Burton added the court may want to pass a resolution and send it to the state legislature stating they believe marriage licenses should be handled on a local level. The Transportation Department also met with the Commissioners Court Friday to discuss its budget for next year. Valli Lott, Director for the Transportation Department, told the commissioners that her department has four vans each with over 100,000 miles on them. The vans are primarily used to deliver Meals on Wheels in the county. Commissioner John Banken foresees needing to replace those vehicles fairly soon. Banken was informed that four of the five county vans are used exclusively for the Meals on Wheels, and the commissioner suggested that when those vans need replacing mini-vans should be considered as replacements since they cost a lot less to operate in regards to fuel usage than the full sized vans. Lott agreed and added that other agencies with similar programs do use mini-vans for their deliveries. The county has provided the Meals on Wheels program for close to 30 years. Lott indicated the cost of the program is a minimum of $60,000 annually not counting the purchase of the vehicles.

Marriage License: Issued By the Office of Brandy Robertson, Orange County Clerk For the Week of March 23, 2015 thru March 27, 2015. Corey L. Smith and Amy L. Nesom, David W. Freeman Jr. and Lindsey L. Bryant, Phillip C. Smith Jr. and Cristy A. Burnett, Ernest G. Bevelhymer and Holli S. Buxton, Alex J. Murphy and Amber A. Moore, Wesley B. Huffman and Regina D. Franco, Marlin L. Smith and Martha A. Smith, Everette Thomas and Leah A. Hudson, Matthew C. Beard and Lauren R. Noack, Colton D. Elliott and Jessi M. Coutee. Arthur J. McGee and Mariefe A. Mahilum.

On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, around 9:00 PM, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office conducted a narcotics search warrant at a residence located at 9380 Terri Road off of FM 1136 in Mauriceville, Texas. During the search of the residence, Narcotics Officers seized in excess of five pounds of high-grade marihuana, over 100 ecstasy tablets and numerous psilocybin (hallucinogenic) mushrooms that were packaged for sale. A total of eight persons were arrested during the warrant for possession of marihuana and possession of a controlled substance, and one person was arrested for outstanding warrants.

An administrator for the West Orange-Cove school district on Tuesday asked members of the Orange City Council to oppose a proposed state bill that would give school district's grades like A, B, C, D, and F. Dr. Wayne Guidry, director of curriculum for WO-C, said school ratings hurt poor school districts and in turn hurt the communities. "Show me your campus rating and I'll show you how poor your students are," he said. Districts with wealthy students score higher on the standard testing systems than districts with poor students, he said. "Labeling campuses has segregated our communities both ethnically and economically more than any other factor in the 21st Century," he said. more

On March 25, 2015, at 11:58 p.m., Lake Charles Police received a 911 call to the Golden Nugget Casino (2550 Golden Nugget Boulevard) in reference to a suspicious person. Upon arrival, Golden Nugget Security advised officers that the suspicious male, later identified as 41 year old Kevin Lynn Hill of Vidor, was in the parking lot shining a light into vehicles and that Hill was previously banned from the property. Upon coming into contact with Hill, Officers found him to be displaying erratic behavior and he became combative. During a struggle, Hill introduced a knife and was tased and arrested. While Officers were transporting Hill to the Lake Charles Police Department booking facility, he advised that he had ingested PCP (Phencyclidine). A short time later, Hill kicked out the rear passenger window of the police unit, causing damage to the glass and the door frame. During booking, Hill continued to be combative and for his safety, was restrained in the department’s safety restraint chair. A short time later, Officers observed that Hill became lethargic and was foaming from the mouth. Acadian Ambulance was contacted and transported Hill to St. Patrick’s Hospital where he later died. As with any in-custody death, the Lake Charles Police Department asked the Louisiana State Police to conduct the investigation. During the last two weeks, the Lake Charles Police Department had been in contact with Hill in reference to disturbances at Golden Nugget Casino. On March 17, 2015, Hill was arrested for trespassing and resisting an officer. During that incident, Hill again told Officers that he had ingested PCP (Phencyclidine). On March 18, 2015, Lake Charles Police Officers were again dispatched to the Golden Nugget for a disturbance involving Hill. Hill, who had been banned from the casino due to the previous incident, was arrested for trespassing.

Deweyville is still under a flood warning and the National Weather Service is now predicting the river will crest Monday at 26 feet. On Thursday morning, the level was at 25.7 feet. Flood level is 24 feet. Roads in the Indian Lake and River Oaks areas are prone to flooding at 26 feet. Flooding could also occur in river access roads in northeast Orange County.

Melissa Brewer’s class at Mauriceville Elementary wrapped up their “Fill the Bucket With Love” unit with an elegant dinner on Tuesday, March 24. The students received a certificate of excellence for the completion of their work and celebrated by dressing up for the day and having a nice noon meal. Students have been working on following the MVE C.A.R.E.S. school expectations, which states, “Here at MVE, our students are expected to be considerate, accepting, responsible, engaged, and safe.” They received beans to fill the “bucket of love” when they were caught following the school expectations or doing random acts of kindness. Once the bucket was full, the students earned a field trip to Claiborne Park.

A 19-year-old driving a large sedan was given a ticket for failure to stop and render aid after Orange police said she hit the back of a motorcycle on an Interstate 10 access road. The driver of the motorcycle, 39-year-old Cambridge Courtney Kelly of Orange, was taken by Acadian Ambulance to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont with a knee injury and some cuts and bruises.  The accident was about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in the 2400 block of Lutcher Drive near the Toyota dealership. Officer Holland reported that a Ford Five Hundred was traveling westbound in the outside lane. The sedan hit the rear of the motorcycle, causing Kelly to fall off. The sedan traveled away and the driver did not stop. Holland said Alia Ronetria Roberts of Orange was given a citation for failure to stop and render aid.

Wayne Thomas Guidry, director of curriculum with the West Orange-Cove CISD, will become the new District 2 council member of the Orange City Council. Guidry is the only person to file for the special election to fill the unexpired term of Tommy Ferguson. Ferguson is running for mayor and will have to relinquish the District 2 seat whether he wins or loses. Ferguson will serve until May 9 when the special election was set for the same time as the general City Council election. Guidry will take the oath of office in May with the newly-elected mayor and other council member.

Two people who live in the neighborhood by Solomon Johnson Park told the Orange City Council they don't want more basketball courts near their houses. Ruby Richard, who lives on Second Street, said the courts should be moved to the nearby Navy Park, which is larger. She said the corner at Second and Turret streets is hard to travel because of the traffic caused by one basketball court. When the city adds two more courts, the traffic will be worst. Susie Murray, who lives next to the park on First Street, said her husband is a Viet Nam veteran who has post traumatic stress disorder. Noises like firecrackers and gunshots trigger his stress, she said. The one basketball court already draws loud noises, profanity and gambling, she said. Murray also said Solomon Johnson Park does not have parking. People drawn to the additional basketball courts will end up parking at the Orange Trade Days site, the former Weingarten's shopping center, across the street. She said the owner of the property does not want people parking there and he will be calling police to have the cars moved. more 

Madeleine Fuselier, an alumni of St. Mary Catholic School and presently a junior at Kelly High school, presented a service project to St. Mary Catholic School students and staff. Fuselier is organizing to collect uniforms, shoes, and funds for Catholic schools in Cameron (West Africa). She is focusing first on an elementary school that will soon be built in the village of Nkar. Fuselier’s family befriended a priest named Father Eugen Nkarzedze a few years ago when he visited Saint Mary Catholic Church. Father Eugen says that building the new school in Nkar is an "immediate way of showing the radical Islamic group that we are not giving up on Western and Christian education." Offering children a chance to receive a Catholic education helps spread peace and love in the world, as opposed to hatred and violence.

On Tuesday March 24, 2015 at 3:55 p.m., the Pinehurst Police Department responded to the 2400 blk. of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in reference to an accident involving a pickup truck and motorcycle. The accident occurred in front of Pinehurst City Hall and Police Department. David Matthew Lester, 38, of Pinehurst, was traveling Southbound in the 2400 Block of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on a 2007 Ducati motorcycle. Raymond Arthur, 78, also of Pinehurst, was traveling Westbound on Pheasant Dr., in a 2004 GMC pickup truck. Mr. Arthur failed to yield right of way at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and Pheasant Drive and drove in front of Mr. Lester. The motorcycle and driver struck the right rear portion of the pickup truck. Mr. Lester, who appeared to have serious injuries was transported by Acadian Ambulance to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital where he is listed in stable condition in ICU. Mr. Arthur was issued a citation for failure to yield right of way. The Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department responded and assisted in the accident. Incidentally, Pinehurst Police dispatcher, Leslie Werner, who is a certified paramedic and was on a break, was able to walk across the parking lot and assist in stabilizing the patient.

The annual Pinehurst Spring Cleanup Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 11. The Pinehurst City Council met Tuesday evening and approved the second Saturday in April for the citywide cleanup day. The city will accept trash and items to be thrown away between 8:00 AM to 12 Noon on April 11 in front of the old Parker Lumber store. The committee appointed to help find a new City Administrator updated the council during the meeting. The committee has reviewed the original 23 applications for the position and has reduced the list to the top six applicants. The committee intends to interview those six candidates Thursday and Friday. The final two or three applicants will be chosen by the committee and presented to the Council. The City Council will interview the finalists and make the decision on the new city administrator, possibly as early as the next Pinehurst City Council meeting on April 14. Sandersen, Knox and Company presented their 2013-2014 city audit Tuesday evening which the council accepted.

As people were walking in the spring sunshine Monday at Northway Park, an armed man was robbing the convenience store across the street. Orange police report that the store at 4710 Meeks Drive, the intersection with Clark Lane, was robbed at 12:30 p.m. Monday. Detective Captain Cliff Hargrave said a man with a pistol went into the store, demanded money and ran away after getting cash. The robber was described as a black man wearing a black shirt, dark long pants and a black bandana over his face.

Budgets were the primary topics of discussion for the Commissioners Court Monday. Then speaking of primary Commissioner David Dubose of Precinct One said he would not be running again in another primary as he announced at the end of the meeting he would not be running for County Commissioner in the next election. Dubose stated he made the announcement this early so that anyone interested in running for the position would have the opportunity to begin getting ready to run for this office. Dubose would not elaborate, but did say the reason he was not running again was personal. The Road and Bridge budget will be discussed further at a public hearing in the next week or so. County Engineer Clark Slacum wants to revise the county’s policy for building culverts and driveways. County Judge Brint Carlton said the county is losing money with every culvert it builds under a policy that dates back to 2005. Carlton informed that the county only charges $200 to build a driveway or culvert, but the cost to the county is closer to $600 in material and labor. The county’s fee is also so inexpensive it takes business away from commercial contractors that cannot match that price. Carlton observed, “Orange County cannot continue to use the same policy if it loses money every time it does something.” The commissioners approved calling a public hearing possibly next week to discuss the options that Slacum is proposing to implement. A date for the public hearing was not set. Human Resources Director Minnie Hightower was approved to post for a position of a clerk in her department with the stipulation that after the six to ten weeks to receive applications the court could still deny filling the position because of next year’s budget. The court allowed Justice of the Peace Precinct One David Peck to pay two employees at a level 5 since it was within his budget, but again with the stipulation that come the next year’s budget it may rescind the higher funding for those positions. Commissioners approved the Mosquito Control District to purchase three budgeted capital outlay items and the Expo Center to purchase five budgeted items for conventions that the county can rent to persons using the facility.

 - A robber with a knife woke a sleeping couple early Monday morning inside a house on Lilac Street in Roselawn. However, the robbery attempt at 3:20 a.m. failed when the man in the house tricked the crook. Orange Police Captain Cliff Hargrave said the resident told the intruder that his wallet was in the kitchen. The two went to the kitchen, where the resident grabbed a knife and pulled it on the robber, who then ran off.
 - A snatch-and-grab thief stole an iPad from an autistic youth who was playing on his grandmother's front porch. The grandmother called Orange police a little before noon Friday to her house in the 1400 block of Burton Avenue. The grandson had been sitting on the porch playing on his gray iPad when the thief struck.
 - The Orange fire marshal is investigating a car fire as arson. The Dodge Magnum at a house in the 2800 block of 20th Street was found in flames about four hours after the owner found a car burglar inside of it. Orange Police Officer J.L. Goins said the car's owner came home at 2:25 a.m. Saturday and saw a man inside the car. The burglar had broken a window to get inside. The owner and burglar got into a fight. The car's owner said the burglar ran away and was threatening him. Then about 6:30 a.m., the owner's uncle called him to tell him the car was on fire. Flames were coming out of the car when the Orange Fire Department arrived.
 - Two burglaries were reported to Orange police on Sunday. A woman living in the 3500 block of Ridgemont Drive called at 5:46 a.m. She said was at work when her mother called to tell her the front door to her house was open. Apparently someone kicked the door in and stole a TV. Then at 6:39 p.m.  Sunday a resident in the 2400 block of Golden Oak Drive called to report that someone got into his backyard storage building and stole an Echo straight-shaft trimmer.  If you recognize the man in the photo please call Orange Police at 883-1026. Damaged properties reported during the weekend included a broken rear window on an SUV at 610 Burton Avenue reported at 4:24 a.m. Friday. A man staying at Studio 6 hotel at 2502 Highway 62 discovered at 8:54 a.m. that someone during the night had smashed the rear window and windshield on his car. In addition, dents were on the passenger and driver's side doors. Friday afternoon at 5:56 p.m., a real estate agent discovered that two window panes and a screen were broken at a house in the 500 block of Hydrangea. Nothing was reported missing.

What's happening around town?  Check the Happenings page!

Forty percent of the food service establishments inspected during the first part of March received perfect health scores. County Health Inspector James Scales went to 15 places with six getting a score of 100. Four of those were schools, one was a day care center and one was a restaurant. The lowest score was a 79 and went to a convenience store in Orange. The schools with perfect scores were Little Cypress Junior High, West Orange-Stark High School, Oak Forest Elementary in Vidor and Vidor Elementary. Also getting perfect scores were the Once Upon a Time Child Care in Bridge City and the Gumbo Hut in Bridge City. Scales also made an unscored pre-opening inspection for the Cardin Snow Cone Stand on West Roundbunch Road in Bridge City. Other scores and demerits were

The City of Orange is experiencing a possible scam for the inspection of fire extinguishers and fire alarms.  There have been two separate incidents where someone has posed as a person of authority.  The first incident was at a business in the 1100 block of 16th  where a man posed as a representative from the State Fire Marshal’s office and was there to inspect the fire alarm.  The second incident occurred at a business in the 2700 block of 16th where a man posed as a  representative from the Orange Fire Department wanting to inspect the fire extinguishers.  At the incident in the 2700 block of 16th the person told the clerk that he was there to inspect the extinguishers and for the extinguishers that were out of date and needed to be re-inspected, he could take care of them for a price of $29.95.  In the case of the business in the 1100 block of 16th, this person posed a an authority from the State Fire Marshal’s office.  In the event the State Fire Marshal comes to conduct an inspection of your business, which is rare, they will not be inspecting just the fire alarm panel and/or fire extinguishers.  The Orange Fire Department does conduct fire inspections but they will be easily identified by their uniform and will be in an official City of Orange Fire Department vehicle.  The Orange Fire Department does not perform inspections on outdated fire extinguisher or fire alarms and does not charge a fee for inspecting the business. Inspections of fire extinguishers and fire alarms must be performed by a state licensed inspector. The state licensed inspectors are required to have their license on them at all times.   In the event this person stops by your business and attempts to conduct an inspection please inform the authorities and try to get a physical description of the subject, his vehicle and direction of travel.   If you have any information on this person please contact the Orange Police Department at 409-883-1026 or the Orange Fire Department at 409-883-1050.  Update: The company is out of Converse, Texas called Alonzo Fire Suppression Services. They are licensed with the State Fire Marshal’s office, but they do not have a permit to operate within the City of Orange. If you encounter this vender, you are welcomed to contact Battalion Chief John Bilbo, Fire Marshal for the City of Orange at 409-988-7360 or 409-883-1050, prior to allowing him to conduct business at their property. The Orange Fire Department mailed letters to local business last week in reference to upcoming fire inspections. This vendor is not associated with nor indorsed, by the Orange Fire Department to conduct fire alarm and or fire extinguisher inspections.

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Fees at the citizens’ collection station at the landfill could be going up in the near future. Clark Slacum the county engineer oversees the collection station at the Orange County landfill and says the company that disposes of the debris collected has changed to Republic Services. The change in companies has also seen an increase in fees charged for emptying the dumpsters citizens use to dispose of their items. The current fee charged citizens to use the landfill is $20. Slacum met with the Commissioners Court this week in a budget workshop and was given the go ahead to bring a request to Commissioners Court to raise the fee charged citizens to use the collection station to $30. Annually the Orange County Road and Bridge Department constructs about 350 culverts and driveways. County Engineer Slacum says his department is losing money to the amount of several hundred thousand dollars every year between the cost of material and man hours compared to the fee charged citizens for doing the work. Slacum indicates the county currently charges $200 for the average sized driveway. Many commercial contractors charge several times that when constructing an entrance to a new property, which is why many citizens request the county to do it. Slacum updated the Commissioners Court of the deficit during the budget workshop this week. Slacum believes to break even his department would need to charge $600 to build culverts and driveways. He added the money saved in one year would be close to the amount needed to purchase a new chip spreader or maybe even a Gradall. New models of both pieces of equipment are very much needed in the Road and Bridge Department.

Bob Hall Road in Orange is closed where it runs under Interstate 10.  TxDOT says it will be closed approximately 90 days.

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