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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

Minus FEMA checks, cash flow bugs OC 


Last updated 3/23/2021 at 11:44pm

Orange County Commissioners signed off on paying $3.6 million of weekly bills Tuesday, most of it thanks to Hurricane Laura.

The $2.7 million that went to AshBritt Environmental for hauling away debris from the Category 4 storm will be repaid by FEMA – eventually.

One of these days.

But the uncertainty of when the feds will open the money tap has Commissioners concerned.

They decided at their twice-monthly meeting to hold off spending $27,500 to replace a pickup truck with 180,000 miles on it being operated by the Mosquito Control Department, worried about a cash flow problem.

The expenditure was approved in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget but was to be delayed until January, after much of the county’s annual property tax payments have been deposited. But then Laura happened.

The purchase of more than $300,000 of road equipment and trucks for Road and Bridge Department was also delayed.

“When we went into the budget season, we had a good reserve. But we’ve spent all of it on Hurricane Laura,” County Judge John Gothia said.

The judge has said in the past the county had about $13 million in reserves last summer. That’s about the amount it cost to pay AshBritt and monitoring firm TetraTech to do the work required to haul debris out of neighborhoods.

“I don’t want us to be in a situation where we can’t service people because the equipment won’t run,” Gothia said. “Where the issues begin is if we get to the end of the year and we haven’t started receiving FEMA money yet.”


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