Vidor City Manager Mike Kunst is the lone finalist to become the new Orange city manager. The Orange City Council Tuesday morning named him to the position after receiving applications from around the country.
The council will later work with the consulting firm SGR, which oversaw the search, to get a contract and salary. Kunst said he may start the new job October 1, which is the first day of the city’s new fiscal year.
Kunst is from Orange County and is a graduate of Vidor High School, plus he holds two degrees from Lamar University. His bachelor’s degree is in history and he has a master’s degree in public administration.
In addition, he served has served years in the Texas National Guard and did two tours in Iraq.
Vidor was his first job as a city manager and he has been in the position for six and a half years. He said he was a funeral director for 20 years, including working at Dorman Funeral Home in Orange.
The position was vacant since this past October when Shawn Oubre resigned to take a similar job in another city. Oubre, who was hired as Orange assistant city manager in 2005, had also been city manager in Vidor.
City Planning Director Kelvin Knauf has been interim city manager for the past 10 months. He did not apply for the position.
In other business, the council agreed to set a tax rate for the 2020. The rate is 80.7 cents per $100 valuation compared to the current rate of 80.5 cents per $100 valuation. However, the city will advertise the rate as an 8 percent increase because of state law and the effective tax rate.
The city will advertise the proposed rate and the council will have a public hearing and two separate readings before it becomes official. The council could opt to lower the rate but cannot increase the rate from the official proposal.
The council tabled a zone change for a lot in the Old Orange Historic District after Knauf said the council could change the zoning ordinance to accommodate the planned development.
Penny Wheeler has bought the block of land between 10th and 11th streets, and Elm and Pine avenues. The block has two dilapidated houses and Wheeler plans to make a development of shops, an Airbnb, and a cafe. Half the block is zoned commercial but the other half is residential. The cafe and shops cannot operate in a residential zone.
During a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting earlier this month, some neighbors said they like Wheeler’s plans, but they are reluctant to have the land zoned commercial because of the possible commercial development a future land owner would be able to do.
The city’s Historical Preservation Commission, which must approve exterior changes to buildings in the Old Orange Historic District, previously gave a certificate of appropriateness to Wheeler’s plans.
Knauf said the council could amend the zoning ordinance to allow the city’s Board of Adjustments to decide on development in some areas. He said the process would take about 60 days.
Wheeler said she could wait for the change.
District 4 Councilor Mary McKenna, who lives in the historic district, said the neighborhood is excited about having the coffee shop and cafe.