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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

County sticks Feds with high food tab


Last updated 6/28/2022 at 6:07pm

Things would really suck the breath out of you if Orange County suffers another storm like Hurricane Harvey.

But first responders and others working out of the Emergency Operations Center at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center aren't likely to complain about the eats.

County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to pay $30 per meal for four meals a day – or $120 per day per person -- for Disaster Food Services served at the EOC.

L3S BBQ & Catering, a business headed by chef Mike Lemoine, former owner of the Boardwalk Cafe in downtown Orange, was the only business to submit a proposal after Requests For Proposals went out, County Purchasing Agent Tim Funchess said.

"I think that's pretty high, $30 per meal," Commissioner Theresa Beauchamp declared.

"Just so everybody knows," Commissioner Kirk Roccaforte explained to the non-county employees in the audience, "we're talking about these guys pretty much stay there. They supply the utensils, they supply the food, they supply the drinks. They are 24-7 pretty much during a disaster.

"Now I'm not trying to make it sound better. But I want everyone to know, that's not going to be cheap from anybody."

Judge John Gothia brought a sweetener to the discussion.

"Generally, that's refundable," Gothia said, indicating that FEMA would reimburse the county's meal expenses during a disaster.

Morgan Taylor, the county's point person for FEMA rules and paperwork, told the judge accepting LS3 BBQ's proposal was proper.

"We're showing that we went out for procurement and followed the (FEMA guidelines). We did reach out to multiple people in Orange County to let them know about the opportunity."

"As long as we follow the FEMA guidelines," Gothia agreed.

"Everything's going up," Taylor said of the price.

Gothia said that during a disaster he provided a daily headcount for the caterer to use to prepare meals.

"The number of meals we serve (each day) depends on the size of the disaster," Taylor said. "It could be just (county EOC workers) or 1,500 people, like Harvey."

Asked after Tuesday's Commissioners Court about the fourth meal of the day, Gothia said that besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, a midnight meal was prepared mostly for law enforcement personnel.

"I don't see we have a choice," Commissioner Robert Viator said.

"I don't like it but we'd be in trouble if we didn't have any food for the first responders," Roccaforte said.

"We'd get no help," Viator agreed.

Money the county won't get back was the $1.5 million paid in weekly bills for June 28.

Good news is that much of that money -- $482,000 – was reimbursement to contractors from grant funds and another $50,000 came from storm insurance settlements or drug forfeiture funds, not from the general fund.

A year-plus without a disaster and a $10 million FEMA reimbursement check received for Hurricane Laura expenses left the county in position to add a new position as Fleet Risk Management Coordinator.

The position will pay $47,424 per year ($22.80 per hour) and allow the county to centralize information about the vehicles and heavy equipment under the control of various departments.

"Hopefully, centralizing it into a system will help with reimbursement and Morgan's grant stuff," said Lori Ardoin, Human Resources Director.

Ardoin said currently she and County Risk Management Director Missy Pillsbury have joint responsibility after an auto wreck or other accident.

"They report to HR if there's an injury and to Missy with the cars," she said.

Said Gothia: "We've been trying to do this for two years, but disasters keep getting in the way."

Ad valorem tax payments in May put $558,732 in county coffers.

Commissioners agreed to pump $100,000 from the county's contingency fund into the Sheriff's Office fuel, oil, gas and grease account.

Chief Deputy Mark Dubois said the SO was originally budgeted $200,000 for fuel, oil, gas and grease for the entire fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

"That budget was based on average of $2.20-something per gallon, but now it's $5," he said. "Nobody predicted $5 a gallon. Plus, we're getting billed about $5 more per oil change."

Joel Ardoin, Emergency Management Coordinator for the county, reported the county had 112 new cases of COVID, 19 of which were confirmed with 93 probable. Three new cases resulted in hospitalization, one of those despite being fully vaccinated.


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