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Orange County takes first steps to Harvey buyouts


Last updated 6/12/2018 at Noon

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Orange County Commissioners agreed Tuesday afternoon that the county should participate in a buyout program for flood-prone properties.

They did not give specific details, because those have yet to be worked out by the government and Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, which is coordinating the program.

It was just the first step in the process, with SETRPC to fill in details later, but Emergency Management Coordinator Joel Ardoin explained there were three different programs for residences or businesses deemed eligible.

The first is FEMA buyouts, with FEMA paying 75 percent of pre-storm value and the other 25 percent paid by a match of the county’s community development block grants.

“With this one, we own the property and we have to take it off the tax rolls and can never do anything with it,” Ardoin said.

The second program is an acquisition by the Texas General Land Office, which would pay the owner the property’s post-storm value. In it, the county can resell the property, it can be re-used and the county gets to put it back on the tax roll.

The final option, Ardoin said, “is the elevation program.”

Orange City Council took the same step Tuesday morning, telling City Manager Shawn Oubre to notify SETPRC it plans to participate in the buyout program.

Details should be coming soon, Ardoin said.

He said “once they figure out” their method of distributing funds, “all the pieces of the puzzles will start coming together.”

The commissioners’ court followed the buyout decision with a resolution to proclaim June Men’s Health County in Orange County and Tuesday as the Gift of Life Program’s Men’s Health Awareness Day.

Gift of Life is providing $300 worth of healthcare screenings for free to uninsured and medically underserved men from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 30 at West Orange-Stark High School.

Those interested should call 409-833-3663 or go to to check eligibility and register.

Commissioners paid $698,000 of bills while taking in $459,000 for the county’s April sales tax payment and accepting $69,000 in unanticipated grant revenue from SETRPC.

They agreed to pay $94,000 immediately and $62,000 the next two years to purchase new voting equipment to replace outdated hardware and software.

A video about the new Express Vote Ballot Machines will be available online on the Elections Administration page on the Orange County website, County Judge Dean Crooks said.

Also, commissioners approved paying Spaw Glass contractors $11,600 to paint interior walls in the District Clerk’s office but took no action on a $104,000 budget transfer to pay for repairs the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace office because of an improperly worded agenda item.

Crooks asked County Management Information Systems Director Lisa Reeves for a report on possibilities for videotaping commissioners’ court meetings and uploading them to the internet for citizens to view.

“Transparency in government was one of the big issues I campaigned on,” Crooks said, “and some people can not make it to the courtroom. So this is something I think is important.

“I had discussed this with Lisa several weeks ago and wanted to hear her report on our options and find out how the rest of the commissioners felt about it and which direction they’d like to go.”

Reeves said she had looked at one turnkey provider that charged $74,000 per year for livestreaming meetings. But she said a $1,084 one-camera system from Maverick Communications that would allow the county to upload videos to its own YouTube channel was the best option she’d found so far.

Commissioners agreed.

“I don’t think we want to spend that much money,” Johnny Trahan said of the $74,000 plan, “so it sounds like me you’re going in a direction we want to go in.”

Approval for a video system could come as soon as next week.


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