by Dan Perrine, KOGT
A workshop for the Commissioners Court Tuesday was to discuss Orange County Buildings. The discussion centered around the use of the Veterans’ Office building by other departments in the county.
The Veterans’ Office is located on FM 1442 in somewhat the middle of the county. Flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey forced several offices in the Vidor area to be closed. Citizens in Vidor must drive across the entire county to visit offices at the Courthouse in Orange.
Discussions included moving the Social Services department to the Veterans’ Office which was in the damaged WIC building in Vidor and now is only available in the Administration Building in Orange. Director of Social Services Jennifer Haney spoke of the hardship on citizens required to drive almost 20 miles to speak with representatives from her office A Sheriff’s Office substation might also be moved to the building on FM 1442.
The building has additional office space to handle the departments which would move there, but the current phone system has already reached its maximum extensions. Maintenance Director Kurt Guidry has investigated the possible installation of a new digital phono system which could serve up to 48 digital lines and 16 analog phone lines. The estimated cost of the new phone system would be about $25,000.
The Commissioners Court requested Guidry to get a firm price and a date that the expanded phone system could be installed in the Veterans’ Office building. A decision will be made to move the other departments there when Guidry can provide the information requested.
The Court got some good news from the much anticipated annual financial audit performed by Weaver and Tidwell. The audit covered the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2018. Greg Peterson (below) with Weaver and Tidwell reviewed the 78 page audit for the Commissioners. Peterson informed that the county had a $6.9 million general fund balance which represents about two months of expenditures in reserves which is good.
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was very pleased with the report from the auditors. Thibodeaux stated Orange County is in good shape financially.
A decision on whether to proceed with replacing the roof on the District Clerk’s Office at the Courthouse will wait at least another week. Emergency Management Coordinator Joel Ardoin said FEMA is reviewing the whole Courthouse renovation project and may make a decision shortly on whether to expedient the project to repair the District Clerk’s office roof.
The problem is Orange County could lose FEMA funding for the whole project if it does any work not approved by the feds first. It is hoped a decision by FEMA will be made in the next 30 days.
The roof was put on the current District Clerk’s building in 1964. That roof has not been replaced even when the roof on the main Courthouse Building and the County Clerk’s building on the opposite end of the Courthouse were repaired in recent years. Guidry has estimated the cost of repairing or replacing the roof at $85,000.
The county has also been instructed by FEMA to use an architect with training on historical buildings to do the work. Fortunately, the county has such an architect with that expertise in Dohn LaBiche handling the renovations to the Courthouse façade.
No action was taken Tuesday by the Commissioners Court on repairs to the roof. It could be considered again on next week’s Commissioners Court agenda.
The Commissioners approved upgrading the Watchguard Fireboxes or firewalls on the county’s computers. The cost will be $48,912.
Justice of the Peace Chad Jenkins in Precinct Two was approved to purchase two Fujitsu Scanners for his office. The scanners cost $870.61 each.
Trust Property at 1307 14th Street in Orange was inherited by the county in May 2017. Guidry recommended the dilapidated house on the property be torn down. The Court approved that recommendation and requested Guidry get with the Road and Bridge Department to see if the demolish could be done by the county to save paying for the demo work.
Road and Bridge Engineer Clark Slacum received approval from the Commissioners Court on two minor plat changes. The first was to divide a 0.5961 acre tract in Precinct 1 in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction of the City of Orange at Old Highway 87 and Hudson Street into two smaller lots. The second plat was for 9.978 acres to be divided into three smaller lots in Precinct 2 at State Highway 12 and Breckinwood Street.