County renews tax abatement policy that helped get new plastics plant
Last updated 11/22/2022 at 7:48pm
Orange County Commissioners Court Tuesday renewed the county's tax abatement policy for another two years, days after Chevron Phillips-QatarEnergy announced an $8.5 billion new plastics plant here. The county gave a tax abatement contract to the company as part of an incentive package to attract the plant, which is supposed to bring up to 3,500 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs.
"My belief is the agreement is serving us well," said Precinct 4 Commissioner Robert Viator. He said a few things need to be adjusted, but those adjustments can be made during individual contract negotiations.
County Economic Development Director Megan Layne said the state requires every county with tax abatements to adopt a policy every two years.
She said individual tax abatement contracts do not require labor union members to be hired, as was done decades ago. However, the abatement agreements require companies "commercially reasonable efforts" to hire local contractors and suppliers.
Tax abatements became controversial in the county in 2019 and led to the resignation of a county judge. As the negotiations for a deal for the new Chevron Phillips plant were being made, then-County Judge Dean Crooks issued a statement about being leery of tax abatements to attract new industry. After community protests about his comments, he resigned.
The court also agreed to hire a consultant to give technical assistance for updating the county's rules and regulations for subdivisions, recreational vehicle parks, and platting. County Judge John Gothia said after the meeting the county is booming with new housing construction and will get even more as the new plant work goes along. The county needs to make sure the new housing construction and development has sufficient infrastructure services, including drainage.
In other business, commissioners agreed to appoint a committee to study fleet fuel and management for the county's vehicles, including the heavy equipment used by the Road and Bridge Department.
The court voted to advertise for a grant administrator to help the Mauriceville Municipal Utility District with a grant through the Texas Department of Agriculture.
The county will seek new bids on major renovations for the Orange County Jail. The project includes roofing, exterior painting, and new exterior doors. No bids were received after the county first advertised to find a contractor.
County Purchasing Agent Tim Funchess thank Commissioners Court for his job as he will be leaving. He was recently elected as Jefferson County treasurer, a position he once held, but lost. He told the court he had been a cancer hospital M.D. Anderson this week and had a good report. He said when he lost his Jefferson County job after an election, he was left without health insurance. He was hired by Orange County as his COBRA was running out. The Jefferson County job will begin January 1 after he takes the oath of office.