OC leaders thankful for no 2021 disasters
Last updated 11/23/2021 at 6:57pm
Orange County Commissioners, led by Judge John Gothia, made it clear what they're thankful for this Thanksgiving.
"The county is happy for getting through 2021 without any hurricanes or other disasters," the judge and four commissioners said in unison.
And they're hoping to start receiving federal reimbursements for money spent on 2020's Hurricane Laura early in 2022.
As usual, much of Tuesday's Commissioners Court meeting revolved around repairs to damage caused by past hurricanes and repairs delayed by the slowness and endless bureaucracy involved with receiving those repayments.
Kurt Guidry, county maintenance director, said supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus disaster have slowed repairs on the county airport caused by Hurricane Laura.
"Parts and equipment being delayed is becoming the new normal," Guidry said. "We're installing the new materials faster than we can get them in."
Airport repairs include building roofs, airplane hangars and one Precinct 3 building wrecked by Laura's 100-miles per hour winds.
Another Laura repair on hold is replacing marble on the front of the courthouse that was ripped off by the August 2020 storm that did its worst damage in Louisiana.
A paperwork problem between the Texas Department of Emergency Management, which works with the Texas General Land Office to hand off funds authorized by Congress for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the county's architect delayed that project.
But Guidry said the county's troubleshooter for federal grants, Melinda Smith of Tyler-based Traylor and Associates, was ironing that out.
And the courthouse front is just part of a huge courthouse project dating back to Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
It will cost $4.2 million and will include replacing 93 windows, fixing loose marble panels between the original 1937 courthouse and 1964 additions on each end for the district and county clerks, and replacing most of the doors.
New doors will have panic bars so that they will open from the inside and there's no chance of someone being locked inside, Guidry said.
Gothia added that project would need $250,000 up front from the county to tap the funds and money's tight for the county until the bulk of the 2021 property tax payments start coming in in December and January.
Speaking of which, Karen Fisher, the county's tax assessor-collector, reported the first month after the mailing of tax bills had resulted in nearly $700,000 in receipts for county government.
But 2021 tax bills aren't considered overdue until February; the announced payment of $688,822.36 equates to just 1.37% of the county's total taxes due on Jan. 31.
But then there are expenses to provide county services. The county acknowledged paying $58,209 in bills for the week of Nov. 16 and authorized County Auditor Pennee Schmitt to pay $435,230 in bills for this week ending Nov. 23.
County Treasurer Christy Khoury reported the county took deposit of $580,038 as its August 2021 sales tax allocation.
County Engineer Corey Oldbury explained temperatures had dropped too low to allow chip-sealing newly rocked roads but the county intends to continue working on the road prep between now and the spring's warmth.
He said West Bluff and Cajun Way have been made ready for the sealant first thing next year and work was scheduled to put new rock down on Conn, Mimosa and Hudnall roads.
Guidry said his department was working on repairing the gazebo in the Raymond Gould Park in Vidor.
Commissioners agreed that gazebo had been needing repair since Hurricane Rita in 2005.