by Margaret Toal, KOGT
The Orange City Council Chamber was filled with a dozen rounds of applause Tuesday afternoon as good news rang out.
Family physician Dr. Marty Rutledge announced that private investors were building the Gisela Houseman Medical Complex with specialists, an operating room, an emergency room, and at some point, a “microhospital” with six to 20 in-patient rooms.
Mrs. Houseman, who is donating 20 acres of prime real estate for the complex, drew applause when she walked into the full council chambers even before a meeting began.
Later, Stacey Gautreau with Dow, announced the company, which now owns the former local DuPont plant, is donating $50,000 to the city to renovate Memorial Park with all the youth baseball and softball fields.
The good news and the cooling afternoon rains made people almost ignore that the air conditioning system in the council chamber was out. Apparently lightning took out the rooftop units.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors met first to approve Mrs. Houseman’s land donation. The EDC is investing grant money to build a boulevard into the Eagle Point acreage at the southeast corner of Interstate 10 and Highway 62.
The medical complex, which is to include doctors offices, will be the “anchor” investment to draw other businesses and offices to the now-undeveloped land.
The EDC money comes from a special half percent sales tax voters approved 17 years ago.
Orange has not had a hospital or public emergency room in more than two years since Baptist Hospital Orange closed.
Mark Frey, chair of the EDC board, said the development of Eagle Point has been in the works for two to three years.
The EDC board approved accepting the donation. When the city council met after the EDC board, the council also approved accepting the donation.
During the city council meeting, Stacey Gautreau with Dow public affairs, announced a company donation to the city. The former DuPont Sabine River Works officially changed in April to the Dow Sabine River Operation after a corporate merger.
Gautreau said when she came to meet local people in January, she drove with Mayor Larry Spears Jr., who is a Dow employee. He took her to the Memorial Park baseball fields. They sat in the stands and he told her memories of playing ball.
She said whenever she talked to people around town, they, too, had memories of being with family and friends at Memorial Field. Dow wanted to help the community spruce up the fields. In addition, the company will donate 100 volunteer hours to help the effort.
Of course, her announcement received lots of applause.
However, the loudest and longest applause, came at a bittersweet moment. Councilor Bill Mello received a standing ovation for his years of service. Mello, who has served 10 years on the council and is on the EDC board, has been fighting brain cancer. He has been attending meetings in a wheelchair.
Caroline Mazzola Hennigan (below), who beat Mello in a runoff race earlier this month, took the oath of office. Mello then left.
`Mary McKenna, who beat Annette Pernell for the Single-Member District 4 seat, was not at the meeting to take the other.