OC Commissioners consider terminating future retiree health benefits

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

By Bobby Tingle

The Orange Leader


Orange County Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of terminating health benefits for retirees during their meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioner Barry Burton expressed and interest in having the details in writing in order to make an informed decision.

Commissioner John Gothia agreed and added his concern about the impact on hiring quality employees to work for the county.

Reducing retirement benefits could redirect good employees to look for work elsewhere. The Court decided to postpone their decision in order to gather additional information.

As proposed, if passed, this decision will not affect current retirees or employee, only those hired after the proposal takes effect.

Orange County is trailing counties and municipalities in the surrounding area who have already changed their health benefits policy acoording to Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton.

Orange County currently pays about $5 million per year in health benefits with about $3.5 million paid for employees and their dependents and about $1.5 million for retiree health benefits.

The court proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and commissioners received blue ribbons to display in support of this cause. Sherri Pulliam with Child Protective Services and representatives of CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, were on hand to support this action.

Commissioner Jody Crump urged the court to also approve a proclamation recognizing April 4, 2017 as Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service in recognition of the sacrifice of time and energy individuals give to serve their communities.

Christina Ritter and members of her staff reported on activities of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office of Orange County for the previous quarter.

Ritter and her staff have organized 4-H projects, health and wellness classes and rendered aid to landowners promoting healthy lawns and effective yet safe pest control.

County Engineer Clark Slacum presented an Interlocal Agreement with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the court for consideration.

The Bailey’s road canal has a plug that has deteriorated and requires rebuilding. The TPWD requires access to a county right of way in order to repair the damage caused by flooding in 2016. The plug regulates saltwater intrusion into a section of the Bessie Heights marsh.

Slacum also proposed Twin Lakes Phase II subdivision, an expansion of residential housing unit development. Steven Gault reported that Twin Lakes Phase I has been completed and is 85 percent sold and 80 percent occupied with much of the proposed area having been spoken for. The court approved both proposals.