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The Orange City Council Tuesday agreed to let the police department spend $72,780 for new video cameras and recording systems for patrol cars. Police Chief Lane Martin said the current car video systems are 12 years old and starting to break down. The money will come from the department's drug forfeiture fund. That fund has money the police have gotten after drug arrests. Martin said the new system will be able to download the recordings into the police computer system when a patrol officer drives into the station’s parking lot. The current system uses cards to record and the officers must then download the video. Public Works Director Jim Wolf reported that the East Town street improvement project has been completed. The city got $1.4 million in federal Hurricane Ike recovery grants to rebuild the streets. The East Town area was flooded during the 2008 storm. Wolf also asked the council to approve spending an additional $9,000 for the sidewalks at the Senior Citizen-Meals on Wheels center. Council quickly approved. The council also approved the final annexation of 116 acres off Martin Luther King Junior Drive. The land is owned by First Baptist Church and the church requested the annexation. Council had a closed-door executive session with an outside attorney to discuss contemplated litigation with the Stark Foundation. City Attorney Jack Smith has recused himself because he serves on the foundation’s board of directors. The city and the foundation have a disagreement concerning how much the foundation has granted to the city for the construction of the downtown riverfront project and performance pavilion.

Three Pinehurst residents, including two former council members, protested any move by the city of Orange to annex Pinehurst. They made the complaints to the Pinehurst City Council Tuesday night based on rumors. Mike Anderson, who said he had lived in Pinehurst for nearly 60 years, named a Pinehurst businessman and resident and accused him of promoting the consolidation of the two cities. Anderson suggested the man ought to move to Orange. “We the citizens of Pinehurst wish you well in your move,” he said. C.J. Huckaby, who previously served on the council and was an Orange County commissioner in the 1990s, said "a lot of people are upset" about the tale of consolidation. "Orange is a good city but that’s a different class of city. We're working class," Huckaby said. People in Pinehurst don’t want zoning, he added. John Clark also spoke against any annexation by Orange. The three spoke during the citizen comment time of the meeting. City Council members are not allowed to respond under the Texas Open Meetings Law because the subject had not been posted on the agenda. City Administrator Joe Parkhurst said Wednesday there is no truth to the rumors. An incorporated city cannot legally be annexed by another city. He said that if Pinehurst was to become a part of another city, the residents of Pinehurst would have to have an election to unincorporate. The proposition must pass by at least 50 percent. “I don’t see that happening,” he said. If that did happen, the city annexing an area would then have to go through the lengthy process of annexation, he added. Pinehurst City Council last night heard pleas from people living on 40th and 41st streets to get traffic to slow down. Residents on the two-lane asphalt streets are concerned about their children and dogs. Motorists use the two streets as shortcuts from Martin Luther King Drive and Interstate 10. Drivers sometimes go up to 50 mph. Police Chief Fred Hanauer said speed bumps could be used. However, studies show speed bumps can also slow down emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances. The chief said officers have been on the streets trying to get traffic to slow and have issued citations. City Administrator Joe Parkhurst said the streets do not have shoulders where police cars can park to the side for watch for speeders. Stops signs at the cross streets could also make the through traffic slow down. One suggestion was to see about closing the exit off the Interstate 10 access road that lets through traffic go on 40th Street. Hanauer will study different ways to get traffic to slow down. Councilmember Dan Mohon said safety for children comes first.

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. more

The County Finals competition of the 110th Miriam Lutcher Stark Contest in Reading and Declamation will be held at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the Lutcher Theater. Admission is free. Contestants in the two categories of Interpretive Reading or Declamation who won first place at the local level competitions that were previously held at each of the four participating Orange County public high schools will compete for scholarship awards totaling $15,000.00. All participants in the County Final will receive a watch commemorating the contest, which has been a tradition for the event for since its establishment in 1904. Teachers, classmates and administrators from the representative schools, as well as all members of the community, are invited to attend the competition, which is free and open to the public. The school-level winners who will be competing in the upcoming County Finals of the Stark Reading Contest are as follows: Bridge City High School- Declamation: John Ellis; Interpretive Reading: Jessica Bean; Little Cypress-Mauriceville- Declamation: Katherine Burns, Interpretive Reading: Alexander Borel; Orangefield- Declamation: Claire Trawhon, Interpretive Reading: Katy Swiere; West Orange-Stark- Declamation: Tristen Revis, Interpretive Reading: Kalairn Keaton.  Shown is a watch given to a contest winner in 1918.All participants in the County Final receive a watch commemorating the contest, as is tradition for the event for since its establishment in 1904.

West Orange police have filed a charge of indecency with a child against a 57-year-old man arrested ten days ago for possession of child pornography on a cell phone. Precinct 1 Judge David Peck set a bond of $100,000 on Glen McCormick of West Orange. McCormick is accused of exposing his penis in front of a 10-year-old step relative as he rubbed the child. The child's mother walked into the room and saw the two as they were watching television. The mother called police.

 - Orange police are looking at surveillance video to connect a suspicious person with an attempted break-in at 16th Street business. Officer J.T. Gillen reported that he was on patrol at 4:12 a.m. Sunday when he heard dogs barking and checked around. He saw a black Chrysler 300 leave a parking lot by Affordable Home Furnishings, 1110 N. 16th Street. Gillen followed the car and stopped it a few blocks away for traffic violations. He gave the driver two tickets for the violations. He also took photographs of the driver and the cart. Then he went back to check at the business. Someone had smashed a plate glass window with a large concrete brick that was left on the sidewalk. However, no one got inside.
 - Monday night, a worker for a contractor at DuPont on Chemical Row told Orange police that her 2012 Camaro had been stolen while she was at work. The woman said she had left the silver and black car locked in the contractor's parking lot at 7 a.m. When she returned at the end of the day, the car was missing.
 - Orange police detective Sgt. Robert Estrello on Monday recovered a pickup truck reported stolen from Baytown. Estrello said he was patrolling in an unmarked car at 3:26 p.m. Monday on Simmons Drive. He saw the pickup truck turn on Green Avenue with giving a turn signal. The truck turned out to be reported stolen. The driver said he borrowed the truck from a friend and drove to Orange for the day. The man was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia after Estrello found a crack pipe inside.

Orange County Commissioners Court Monday unanimously voted to terminate veterans service officer Gene Smith. He asked for a reason, but commissioners said state law does not require them to give one. Before the official vote for the termination, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said "All in all Gene, I want to say it's very unfortunate that it's gotten to this point, but you've blasted this court on the web, on Facebook. You've called them a kangaroo court. You've totally disrespected them on the Facebook and that came back to me." The termination came after a struggle between commissioners and Smith that grew particularly intense at the end of February. Smith asked to hire an employee to replace one who was retiring. The county has been facing a $3 million budget deficit and commissioners have tried to save money through different policies. One started in 2013 was to make every department head get court permission before filling a budgeted vacant position. The day Smith asked for the replacement, the court passed a policy to wait six weeks before filling a vacant position. Smith told different news outlets and others that the Commissioners Court was hurting veterans and making widows of veterans suffer by not getting benefits. The veterans service office helps military veterans and their families get government benefits. The office helps with the applications and gets medical care from veterans hospitals and clinics. more 

The WOS Fillies held their Spring Filly Banquet Tuesday night and announced the Line Officers for the 2014-2015 school year. From left to right: Mercedes Fezia- 1st Lieutenant, Dajana Adams- 3rd Lieutenant, Avelia Self- Co-Captain, Kimberly Thompson Scott- Director, Tianna Mims- 2nd Lieutenant, Breanna Istre- Captain.

Three men from Orange and one from Houston were arrested Sunday night in connection with an armed robbery of customers outside a casino in Vinton, Louisiana. The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office reported that 19-year-old Jacoven D. Levi of Orange has been charged with armed robbery with a handgun and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 19-year-old Darius M. Mikel of Houston, along with 19-year-old Donald F. Griffin-Gosey and 22-year-old Darrius J. Arnold, both of Orange, have been charged with principle to armed robbery with handgun. According to Calcasieu deputies, two men went to a parked car in the lot of the casino about 11 p.m. The victims said they were sitting in the car when the two men came up with one of them holding a handgun. The robbers demanded money. The two took cell phones and wallets and fled. A description of the robbers was broadcast to deputies. They spotted the two described man traveling westbound on Interstate 10 near the state border with Texas. Deputies said Griffin-Gosey and Arnold were passengers in the car. Deputies recovered the stolen cell phone and wallets, and also found a handgun. Levi was arrested in Orange in December in connection with stealing USPS packages that had been delivered to a house in the Old Orange Historic District during the day time.

On Thursday, April 17th twenty-one choir students from Bridge City High School traveled to Baytown to compete in the UIL Concert and Sight Reading Contest. The students prepared three pieces of three different languages (English, French and Hebrew), and were given a rating of “superior” or “1” on stage. The students involved were Rikki Bodin, Ariel Scogin, Alicia Smith, Karli Pruitt, Kayla Foster, Hattie Lebleu, Kayleigh Collier, Khristie Griffis, Hannah Hall, Alex Hargrave, Macayla Santana, Olivia Satir, Chelsey Chaffin, Annie Hankins, Bryana Simmons, Hannah Story, Desiree Jeanise, Paige Rucker, Allie Leath, Destiny Lee and Keona Collins. The choir is directed by Haleigh Wolford.

An emergency room doctor had his Lexus SUV stolen sometime Thursday night. But an alert Orange patrol officer found it at a 16th Street business Saturday evening. A 28-year-old man was arrested. The doctor called police at 6:50 a.m. Friday. He said he had parked the 2012 Lexus SUV in the west ER parking lot about 6 Thursday evening. He had left a set of keys in the center console. The SUV had a number of items inside, including an iPhone, laptop computer and tennis racquet. Officer J.T. Gillen reported that he saw the SUV parked on the side of O'Reilly's Auto Parts store on 16th Street at 7:36 p.m. Gillen knew the vehicle matched the description of the stolen one. Three men and a woman were in the SUV. 28-year-old Demarcus Fitzgerald Wagner of Orange was arrested for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The other three people were not arrested.

At approximately 1:50pm, there was a one vehicle motorcycle crash on FM 1442 near Orange that claimed the life of an Orange woman. A 3-wheeled motorcycle was traveling southbound on FM 1442 and the driver lost control as she entered a curve. The vehicle traveled off the roadway striking a fence and then a tree. The driver of the motorcycle, Ramona Tolman, 44, was pronounced dead at the scene. The 14 year old passenger was transported by medical helicopter to UTMB in Galveston with serious injuries. Both driver and passenger were wearing helmets. DPS continues to investigate this crash.

Centerpoint Energy has contractors installing digital gas meters that can be read from a distance of half a mile away. The City of Orange has been gradually installing digital water meters and Pinehurst has been considering similar meters. The meters mean workers will not have to go into backyards or side yards to check for usage.

Two teenagers were arrested Thursday morning after a resident on West Cypress Avenue returned home to discover that the house was being burglarized. Orange police arrested the men a few blocks away on Pine Avenue, which runs parallel to Cypress. An observant neighbor had called police about two suspicious men running down the street. 17-year-old Revelation Ratorious Demetry Shepherd and 18-year-old Stevin Deandre Austin have been charged with burglary of a habitation. Precinct 1 Judge David Peck set a bond of $25,000 on each of the men. Orange Officer T.P. Pruitt said a woman who lives in the 1200 block of West Cypress went home about 10 a.m. Thursday and saw two men running east from her back yard. Her back door had been kicked in and the door jamb was broken. Officer Pruitt said cell phones, jewelry, watches and a knife stolen from the house were recovered. The house is two blocks west of another Old Orange Historic District house that was burglarized during the day on Tuesday. About $10,800 worth of electronics and jewelry were stolen. No charges have been filed in that burglary.

People getting flood insurance on May 1 or later should be getting the breaks in prices that were approved last month by President Obama and Congress. The changes in rules will offset the drastic increases for many people brought about by the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act. Homeowners who have been paying some of the more expensive rates may eventually get a refund. FEMA will be working to adjust the rates based on new criteria. Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte has been part of a nationwide coalition trying to get the Biggert-Waters Act changed. "It was definitely an effort through the whole U.S., not just here," he said. "You don't have to be on the coast to be hit" with the large flood insurance increases. He said all 50 states have areas that need flood insurance. Bridge City was facing drastic changes because most of the city flooded during Hurricane Ike in 2008. The National Flood Insurance Program was started about 45 years ago with the federal government underwriting flood insurance because private insurers would not cover the costs. The federal government drew flood plain maps in the 1970s to determine rates for flood insurance. Homeowners of houses built before the flood plain maps were paying rates as if they didn't. Under the Biggert-Waters Act, they would be paying prices based on the actual elevation and flood hazard. Most of Bridge City flooded during Hurricane Ike in 2008. That meant many houses were going to see drastic increases in annual flood insurance rates, some up to $10,000 a year. Roccaforte said those rates would affect the growth of the city. For instance, someone who owns a house outright is not required to buy flood insurance. But government-supported mortgages are required to carry flood insurance. Roccaforte said banks were reluctant to loan money for people to buy houses in Bridge City because the flood insurance could make the house too expensive. Under the new changes to Biggert-Waters, the federal government will subsidize the higher costs, saving the homeowners the costs of the higher rates. Roccaforte said the subsidized costs will be only for homesteads. People with second houses or businesses will see gradual increases in flood insurance rates, about 25 percent per year, instead of a one-time jump. Congress approved the Biggert-Waters Act as a way to make up a $24 billion deficit in the Federal Flood Insurance Program. The program had been solvent until 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. The storms and floods since then had sent the program into the deficit. The increased prices were to offset the deficit. Roccaforte said Bridge City is still appealing the new flood plain maps that were drawn in 2012.

Local Weather Radar

Orange County Health Inspector James Scales spent time this month at schools and gave a bunch of A+ grades. During the first part of April, Scales inspected 25 food businesses or service places, including 13 school cafeterias. All but two cafeterias had perfect scores of 100. The other two still had high scores. West Orange-Stark Middle School had a 97 because of not having a certified food manager on staff. West Orange-Stark Elementary had a 94 because a couple of live roaches were found at the steamers. The school district's director of food services has already had a pest control company treating the area. In addition, the cafeteria needed a certified food manager. The schools with perfect scores were North Early Learning Center, Oak Forest Elementary in Vidor, Vidor Elementary, Mauriceville Elementary, Little Cypress Junior High, Bridge City Intermediate, Orangefield Junior High, Little Cypress Elementary, Bridge City Middle, Vidor Middle, and Vidor High School. More 

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

Staff members from the cities in Orange County, along with County Engineer Clark Slacum, met to discuss how to meet regulations on storm-water drainage in the bayous and the streams. The entities have joined together, along with Lumberton and Hardin County, to hire the engineering firm of Carroll & Blackman to help. The gathering met at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center Wednesday. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is setting rules to keep run-off water clean when it is discharged into the bayous and streams. The run-off comes from storm sewers and drainage ditches. Slacum told KOGT's Glenn Earle that the condition of the bayous and streams around the county is "pretty bad." Some of the ways to keep them clean is to prevent silt and topsoil from construction sites running off. In addition, people need to stop dumping hazardous chemicals and oil into the drainage ditches.

An Orange man was arrested Monday on warrants from the Leesville Police Department for allegedly stealing firearms and a vehicle, among other things, according to a release. Ricky J. Ashworth II, 18, was wanted in connection to two separate incidents in late 2013, according to a department release. One incident involved a stolen vehicle, cash and a firearm, while the other incident involved a firearm stolen from a vehicle. According to Thetowntalk, the vehicle eventually was recovered in the Sulphur area, and an investigation between the department, the Sulphur Police Department and the Calcasieu Sheriff's Office led to warrants being issued for Ashworth's arrest. According to the release, Ashworth confessed to both incidents. Ashworth was booked into the Leesville City Jail on two counts of theft of a firearm, simple burglary, theft of more than $500 and theft of a motor vehicle. Bond was set at $12,000.

The Bridge City Chamber of Commerce announced the Students of the Month for March at their monthly networking coffee held at Burger Town. Brittany Dowdle was chosen as the Orangefield Student of the Month and Jayden Trahan was chosen as the Bridge City Student of the Month. Dowdle is ranked 28th out of her class of 121 students with a 3.91 GPA on the OHS scale and is the daughter of Chad and Tracey Dowdle. She has been involved in Student Council, Library Club, InterAct, Band, National Honor Society, Color Guard, Yearbook staff, FCCLA, Meet in the Middle, Education (Ready, Set, Teach), Science UIL, Calculator UIL, News Writing UIL, Headline Writing UIL, TAFE. Dowdle has received Big O Awards for World Geography, BIM, Advanced Journalism, Ready, Set, Teach, and Perfect Attendance. Her community service includes being a volunteer for Shangri La, Band Booster club, Lion’s Club Carnival, school blood drives, Special Olympics, Relay for Life, and Adaptive Sports for Kids. Dowdle plans to attend McNeese State University majoring in nursing. Trahan is ranked 4th in his class of 188 students with a 4.73 GPA on a weighted 4.0 scale and is the son of Ricky and Teri Trahan. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Bridge City High School Marching and Concert Band, UIL Math, Science, Number Sense and Calculator, Academic Team, Chess Club. Trahan has been on the President’s Honor Roll, Sweepstakes Band, Band Vice President and Squad Leader, All-Region Band participant and All-Area Contest Participant. His Community Service includes being an avid participant in Relay for Life Cancer Walk. Trahan plans to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lamar University and eventually go to the University of Texas for Aeronautical Engineering.

Construction on new public housing apartments on Sikes Road and Velma Jeter should begin in the summer. Housing Authority Director LaNita Brown said residents at the old Velma Jeter complex off Allie Payne Road have been given notice to relocate. Demolition of the houses on the site now should start in June.
Brown gave updates on progress to the housing authority's board of directors Tuesday. She said the housing authority has had the closing on the Velma Jeter and Sikes Road projects. The closing date for the new Pine Grove apartments will be in May.
The housing authority is using federal hurricane recovery grants, along with special bond financing, to replace old apartments, some more than 60 years old. Some of the old Arthur Robinson apartments off Burton Avenue in East Orange will be demolished. Those replacement units will be built on Sikes Road off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive north of Interstate 10. Residents nearby, including an affluent subdivision, have protested and fought against the new location. None of the protesters attended the meeting Tuesday.
Guy Goodson, the attorney for the housing authority, said the Texas General Land Office has approved another $1.75 million to the housing authority for the Pine Grove apartments. Those apartments on West Park Avenue near Adams Bayou will also be demolished for new units.
The construction date on Pine Grove had to be delayed as the housing authority needed to get more money. The General Land Office has been distributing the hurricane recovery grants.
The I-Tex Group of Port Arthur will be the construction contractor for all the new apartments. The company also manages the housing authority's James Zay Roberts apartments that opened two years ago at part of the Arthur Robinson grounds.
During the meeting Tuesday, Board Chair Mike Combs suggested that the board consider banning smoking inside the new apartments when they open. “I’m not opposed to smoking. That’s everyone’s personal decision,” Combs said. But he doesn’t allow people to smoke inside his house and he thinks no one should smoke inside the apartments that “will be new, clean and never been smoked in.” Board member Patricia Coppage said people smoking outside may leave trash and litter on the grounds. Another suggestion included perhaps setting up smoking and non-smoking apartment units. The board will consider the smoking situation at future meetings.

Schnauzer found at Bridge City Middle School.  Contact Ashley
 Thomas [ashleythomas08@yahoo.com] if it is yours.

Zeus is missing from Hi Ho addition at Basset and Grouse.
 He doesn't have a collar on. Call Matt at 998-1917.

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