Crooks takes the bench

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, May 9, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader

Tuesday was the first Commissioners’ Court meeting with Dean Crooks presiding since being named as interim Judge following the resignation of Judge Stephen Brint Carlton in April. He will hold the position until December 31, but, as the only candidate remaining for County Judge will continue on as County Judge on January 1, 2019.

The first order of business at the meeting was to proclaim May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Lane Fortenberry, Public Relations and Marketing Administrator for Spindletop Center, addressed the court, and stated that one of the many ways his group is helping the community in addition to mental health services needed year-around, is by also offering post-Harvey support, including funds recently received by the state to provide support groups for the community.

“We are continuing to support Harvey relief efforts. We are going to have more support groups for people still dealing with Harvey,” Fortenberry said. “We hope people will continue to speak up and come to us.”

Sheriff Keith Merritt provided the results of the recent unannounced jail inspection on April 19. All compliance was met and the inspection passed.

“Every year since I’ve been sheriff, I can’t tell you how proud I am of the jail staff for what they do back there. It’s very good, they’re very professional, they do their job,” Merritt said.

Michelle Tubbleville with Emergency Management told the Court that the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at the Orange County Expo Center in Orange was still receiving numerous individuals daily seeking help after Harvey.

Jody Crump, Commissioner Precinct Four, encouraged residents to continue to go to the Disaster Recovery Center, saying, “There are still exceptions being made in certain cases. So I still encourage everyone out there, if there is something still going on (from Harvey), go to the Disaster Recovery Center again. See if you fall into an exemption somewhere. While they’re still here (FEMA), take advantage of it.”

Support was also given by the Court for flood control projects which will benefit the western portion of Orange County. Mayor Cathy Nagel and Kevin Singleton of the City of Pine Forest presented upcoming projects to alleviate future flooding in and around the Pine Forest area.

There will be early voting for the primary run-off election on May 14 through 18, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is for the Democrat run-off for the governor’s race.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners welcomed Judge Crooks.

“I’d like to thank you all for welcoming me, and helping me along in this,” Crooks said. “Also a lot of folks that work here at the county for helping me to understand things a little bit better, I appreciate it. In light of that, I had a meeting this morning, and we were talking about fixing a few things. We were talking about possibly streamlining things to get things done in the county, so we can concentrate more on the things that taxpayers are paying us to do, so we may be looking in the future to having a workshop to get your (the public’s) input on it, so we can think of a better way to get things done.”

Of his first day on the other side of the bench, Judge Crooks said, “I feel pretty good. I’m more concerned about getting things done at the county. A lot of the work that gets done is not up here (on the bench), but I’ve been focusing on getting things done. Most of my first week has been focused on recovery from Harvey. Getting our reimbursements done, and preparing for the next hurricane season.”