Orange County took several small steps Wednesday to be prepared to accept a Community Development Block Grant involving Hurricane Harvey. Still to be decided though is whether the county will choose Buyout or Acquisition in reference to homes that are in areas considered to be flood zones.
The Commissioners Court appointed Emergency Management Coordinator Joel Ardoin to handle the application and the environmental certification for the block grant submissions. County Auditor Pennee Schmitt will be responsible for the financial and funding aspects of the grant.
Consulting advisors for the county updated the Court on details of the almost $11 million grant through the Texas General Land Office (GLO). Phil Hampsten requested the Commissioner Court have the paperwork completed and ready for Wendorf Beward and Partners to submit to the GLO by July 31. Hampsten said the deadline for submitting the application is August 25, but wants to get Orange County in early to be near the top of the list.
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and the Commissioners had several questions for the General Land Office concerning the Acquisition program being offered by the GLO. Hampsten and Nancy Beward promised to meet with the state agency in the next week to attempt to get some answers. This would allow the Court to make its decision at the next meeting on whether to choose Buyout or Acquisition.
Commissioner John Gothia said he has almost decided which he favors for citizens who want to be part of the program. He needs to know what the county can do with properties after purchase in the Acquisition Program, and what citizens can do with it after the purchase.
Under the Buyout Program, the property once purchased by the county must remain undeveloped with nothing on it for several decades. Gothia admits he is leaning towards the Acquisition Program. Approximately 30 homes in the county could be eligible for the Acquisition Program.
In a related matter, the Commissioners Court denied an extension of the FEMA Alternative Procedures Pilot or 428 Program. Joel Ardoin recommended dropping the 428 Program because instead of expediting the recovery it slowed the process down to a crawl.
The Records Management Department will be getting some new equipment to preserve county records. Department head Regina Cameron was approved to buy a new NB Reader Microfiche Jacket Filler and a refurbished Microfilm Reader Printer. The purchase of the two items will be over $27,000 and are covered by Cameron’s budget.
Constables Lannie Claybar and Mark Jones both requested new radios for themselves and their deputies. All the constables and the Sheriff’s Office use Motorola radios of three different models that will be going to a new system shortly which will make the older models obsolete.
Claybar only has older model radios. Jones does have two of the newer models. The Commissioners Court approved Claybar to purchase two of the new model radios with encryption status for up to $8,000. The Court said it will review the radios used by the Sheriff’s Office and all of the Constables during a workshop. A decision on the purchase of more radios would be made for next fiscal year’s budget.
The disbursement of salaries at the Orange County Courthouse became a formality Wednesday. Judge Thibodeaux recommended passing an order that means the Commissioners Court no longer needs to approve processing the payroll every two weeks or each pay period. Senate Bill 354 was approved this past session of the Texas legislature and automatically deposits the salaries for the county’s employees. The Commissioners unanimously approved the judge’s request.
A replat of 8.52 acres out of the Manshack Place plat was approved by the Court. The property is located in Precinct 1 and will be divided into two tracts of 3.40 acres and 5.12 acres. Both tracts will have roadway access on State Highway 87.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-