Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt will be getting an addition to his fleet of boats and vehicles. He will be getting a military surplus armored all-terrain vehicle. Commissioners Court on Monday agreed to let the sheriff get the vehicle, which is being offered free to the county. Merritt said the new acquisition will replace one the county got in 2009. That one needs mechanical work and it will be too costly to fix. The armored vehicle is 21 feet long, 8.5 feet wide and 12 feet tall. It weighs about 50,000 pounds and gets about 4 miles per gallon of diesel. Commissioners asked questions about rollovers and whether the vehicle could go under utility lines. Merritt said the vehicles had rollovers reported when being used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the roads here are in better condition, he said. In addition, the under-armor, meant to protect against land mines, will be removed. Merritt said the vehicle can be used by SWAT members in a situation when they are under gunfire. The vehicle can also be used for high-water rescues. Precinct 3 Commissioner John Banken asked that the sheriff use the vehicle properly and not like the federal government has done in Nevada. The vehicle is now in Sealy, Texas. Merritt said the Orange County Drainage District is providing a wide-load trailer with truck to go and pick up the vehicle.
The early voting box in Orange will have a new location for the primary runoff races in the Republican and Democratic parties. The runoff election will be Tuesday May 27 with early voting from Monday May 19 to Friday May 23. Orange County Commissioners Court Monday approved the locations and times. Elections Administrator Tina Barrow said a petition is going around the county to have early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and if the petition is turned in, the county will have to grant the request. She said it will be easier to set the early voting hours for the 12-hour period, rather than go back and reset them. Previously, the early voting had been 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for some extended hours on Tuesday evenings. Barrow said the Orange Public Library, where early voting has long been conducted, cannot have its employees there to open it that long. Barrow said Lamar State College-Orange President Dr. Michael Shahan offered the collegeís campus for that early box. State law requires that one early voting box be located in the county seat. She said the college will help the county set up the box in the Wilson Building, which is on Green Avenue at the corner of Fourth Street. The other three early voting boxes will remain the same as usual. They are the Bridge City Public Works Building, Mauriceville First Baptist Church and Raymond Gould Community Center in Vidor.
In other business, County Engineer Clark Slacum reported that grants from the Texas Department of Transportation will be used to rebuild Trainer Road and North Tram Road. The state agreed to give counties the grants to repair roads that have been damaged by heavy equipment used in the oil and gas industry. The county will be getting about $474,000. Slacumís plans call for rebuilding 2,006 feet of Trainer Road from FM 1442 at a cost of $52,474.95. North Tram Road will be rebuilt from the Vidor city limits to the intersection with Sawmill Road. The cost to rebuild 13,711 feet of the road will be $421,495.61.
In other business, Commissioners Court agreed to give the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce a $16,000 grant to hold the third annual Do It in Orange Fishing Tournament. The money will come from the special hotel-motel tax charged to people who stay in local hotels. State law limits the use to promote tourism. John Gothia with the chamber told commissioners about the tournament and making Orange County become a fishing destination. He said the tournament has been extended to two days to encourage participants to stay in local hotels. In addition, the chamber has participants put their receipts from local hotels, restaurants and fueling sites for drawings to win prizes. The tournament is set for June 14 and 15.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT.com-