Road and Bridge Department:
- Culvert Policy - The Court, on the recommendation of County Engineer Clark Slacum, voted to change the existing culvert policy. Residents will now pay the full cost of culvert installation instead of the previous 33% of the cost. Based on historical data, this could generate up to about $140,000 per year. While generating the full $140,000 is unlikely, the County will at a minimum break-even for culvert installations instead of taking a loss.
- Road and Bridge Renovations - County Engineer Clark Slacum and the Court have various projects underway to repair, replace, or renovate bridges and sections of roadway throughout the County. Mr. Slacum has done a fantastic job in securing grant funds and matching funds from sources outside the County to accomplish these needed projects at an absolute minimum expense to the County.
Emergency Management Department:
- Debris Cleanup Contract Savings - Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Peabody renegotiated our debris cleanup contract. The savings to the taxpayer, depending on the size of the disaster, could be in the millions of dollars.
- Radio Tower Project - EMC Ryan Peabody is also working on a radio tower project in western Orange County. This project will help eliminate gaps in radio coverage for law enforcement, fire, EMS, and emergency management personnel. The project construction (valued around $1.4 million) should be fully funded through grants. The County and first responders should enjoy this capability at an annual cost to the County of about $1,000.
- Ham-Radios - EMC Ryan Peabody is in talks with local industry to secure free radio equipment valued around $ 8 0,000. The equipment would be used by volunteers to provide long distance radio communication capabilities should Orange County be isolated due to the loss of telecommunications in a disaster event.
- Disaster Declaration - The County, on the recommendation of EMC Ryan Peabody, issued a disaster declaration for Orange County in June. This declaration was in response to sustained flooding in parts of Orange County since May. This starts the process for Orange County and her residents to possibly be eligible for FEMA and state assistance to repair damage.
- ID Badges - EMC Ryan Peabody has developed a plan to issue ID badges to all County employees. These badges have built-in security features and will help expedite County personnel returning to the County after an evacuation event. Mr. Peabody secured outside funding to cover over 50% of the cost of the ID badge printer and the badges themselves.
Risk Management Department:
- Risk Management Insurance Review - Missy Pillsbury reviewed the County's non-health insurance policies through TAC. She identified items we were insuring that the County has not owned since 2003. In all, she was able to remove about $2 million in property from our inventory. This, and other efforts on her part, helped reduce the County's insurance premiums on those policies by about $120,000 a year. Those savings were used to purchase Public Official and Law Enforcement insurance for the County. These two new insurance policies should cover the County against wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful death, and excessive force litigation.
- Flood Insurance - Missy Pillsbury has worked for months to secure NFIP flood insurance for County buildings and property. This is important because this type of insurance is needed for FEMA reimbursement purposes. Missy, Kurt Guidry, and I looked though information on every County building and structure and the contents within them to determine the level of insurance required. Additionally, Missy had to secure current or updated elevation certificates for each of those pieces of property. We are currently awaiting a quote for the total cost of this insurance.
Tax Assessor Collector Department:
- Texas Scofflaw Program - The Court, on the recommendation of Lynda Gunstream, instituted the Scofflaw Program. This program allows the Tax Assessor Collector Department to deny vehicle registration for people who owe fines, fees, or taxes to Orange County. While it is hard to quantify the amount collected due to Scofflaw as that data is not directly tracked, the County has caught residents affected by Scofflaw. Delinquent fines and fees from justice of the peace, county court at law, county clerk, and property taxes are all areas eligible for Scofflaw.
- FEMA Properties - Maintenance Department Director Kurt Guidry identified dozens of pieces of property the County owns due to FEMA buyback programs after the hurricanes. The County is responsible for maintaining these pieces of property and cannot sell them. However, Kurt worked with Assistance County Attorney Doug Manning to develop a program whereby adjacent property owners can lease the property for a nominal fee ($1.00) from the County. This will help eliminate the County's expense in maintaining these properties during the lease period.
- Energy Efficiency Program - The County interviewed two energy efficiency program companies and selected Way Services to help Orange County with its first energy efficiency program. This program will help to reduce energy and water costs. The cost savings are then used to update County equipment such as air conditioners, lighting, and generators. The County is guaranteed to save money by Way Services and Way Services will pay the County for the difference between realized savings and projected savings.
- Policy Manual Updates - The Court, working with the HR Department, Lori Ardoin (who was with the Sheriff's Department but is now the new HR Director), and other department heads and elected officials, have reviewed each and every employee policy. A handful of the policies were updated within the last three years, but the vast majority were last reviewed 16 years ago (Oct 1, 1999). The new policies will incorporate changes in the law (i.e. types of discrimination) since 1999, updated wording to reflect the annual review, voting responsibilities of the Court regarding certain policies and benefits, and policy changes the Court instituted throughout 2015. The Court and HR Director Ardoin hope to have the new Policy Manual posted before February 2016.
- Health Fair - Through the guidance of former HR Director Minnie Hightower, the County held its first health fair. A total of over 100 employees and retirees attended during the 2 day event. Many received health screenings, literature, and presentations on how to improve their wellbeing. The County is already planning on holding the event again next year.
- Employee Health Incentive Program - The County entered into a health incentive program whereby employees must complete two out of eight basic, no-cost proactive health steps. The purpose of this program is to help incentivize employees to take ownership in their health care, create healthier employees, and eventually reduce health care costs to the County. If an employee chooses not to accomplish at least two of the steps, then that employee will contribute $40 per month to their health insurance premiums.
- Free Help - Minnie Hightower worked out an agreement with Workforce Solutions for the County to receive free help around the County. These individuals report to different departments to assist County business. Workforce Solutions covers the entire cost.
- Retiree Discrepancies - Minnie Hightower worked with the Auditor's office to identify ineligible former County employees receiving health insurance benefits. Two had left employment with the County, but did not retire. One passed away two years ago. The final one has been in jail for five years for embezzling from the County. Each one of the individuals cost the County about $7,500 per year in health insurance premiums. All told, Minnie Hightower has saved the County about $30,000 a year which it was spending unnecessarily.
These are just a few of the many accomplishments of Orange County in 2015. These do not even take into account the daily achievements of Orange County employees. We kept our fellow citizens safe through law enforcement, investigators, dispatch and jailers. We kept our economy moving with roads, bridges, an airport, and transportation. We provided safe living, working, and leisure spaces by dedicated environmental, health, code, parks, and mosquito control individuals. We provided health, mental health, and social services through our veterans' office and social services department. We maintained the scales of justice with judges, prosecutors, clerks, support staff, and adult and juvenile probation staff. We taught life and agriculture services through AgriLife. We provided fair and impartial elections by election administration personnel. And we kept all of the above possible with purchasing, records, mailroom, MIS, treasury, auditors, maintenance, tax collectors, human resources, and additional support staff.
Thank you for visiting our page of accomplishments. Check back throughout 2016 for more accomplishments by Orange County!
Stephen Brint Carlton
Orange County Judge
Orange County Judge
2015 County Accomplishments