The Commissioners Court approved Tuesday the authorization of issuing a tax and revenue Anticipation Note in preparation of taking out a loan to cover county expenses through the end of the calendar year 2020. This does not commit Orange County to taking the $4 million loan which is the amount of the approved note.
County Judge John Gothia indicated Tuesday’s action is necessary in case the county needs funds to pay expenses until property taxes come in at the start of January. Currently the county is only obligated to paying the setup fees.
The need for the loan is because the cost of debris removal from Laura has just about depleted the county’s $12 million reserve fund. “We still think that we’re going to be hopefully able to make it without it, but because of the length of the process it takes to do this we have to be prepared, and this is part of that process,” Gothia explained.
Judge Gothia gave an update to the Commissioners that the county is still waiting for FEMA to declare Orange County has met the $38.4 million threshold to receive Public Assistance. Orange County Emergency Management has reported damage totaling $110 million which still needs validation by FEMA.
The Road and Bridge Department received the grappler truck which was funded by a grant from the Sabine River Authority. The truck will be used to clear remaining debris in areas of the county not covered.
Prior to the meeting the Court held a workshop on the county’s Tax Abatement Policy. The workshop lasted almost an hour with discussions of ways to amend the policy to better serve local vendors who would benefit from new businesses coming to Orange County. Local business owner David Jones suggested several changes during the workshop.
Later during the Commissioners Court meeting the policy was approved for another two years as amended by Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jessica Hill. “Primarily we wanted to focus on how we address local employment, the use of local labor, suppliers, and industrial representatives here in Orange County. We wanted to make sure we shored up that language to give them the best opportunity to compete for these projects,” Hill stated.
Updates were heard on the recovery from Hurricane Laura. Maintenance Director Kurt Guidry estimated repairs to the roof of the dormitory at the Orange County Jail will take another three weeks. Weather though could be a factor as rain is forecasted for several days over the next week. Guidry is working out the insurance the county will receive to pay for repairs to various county buildings damaged by Laura.
Work has been completed installing protective glass partitions because of the Coronavirus pandemic in several county offices opened to the public. The County Clerk’s Office, both Tax Offices in Orange and Vidor are complete. Guidry said the material is in and work should start shortly on installing the glass partitions in the District Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse.
The Sheriff’s Office was approved for the purchase of a surveillance camera and equipment for the County Jail. Chief Deputy Keith Reneau told the Court a blind spot in the cameras allowed one of the guards to be attacked by an inmate. The cost of the camera and equipment will be $5,068 and will be paid with Treasury Forfeiture funds.
Orange County was given an Excellence in Safety Award for 2019 by the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) during the meeting. Joe Szewczyk with TAC presented the award to the county’s Risk Management Supervisor Missy Pillsbury.
Szewczyk said the county had shown a significant drop in workers compensation during 2019. He added those numbers are dropping even lower for 2020 which is evidence of the significant efforts being made by the county for its employees to work safe.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-