Commissioners support cities to control heavy industrial traffic
Last updated 3/7/2023 at 5:58pm
Orange County Commissioners Court voted to support the cities of Orange and West Orange in getting special state legislation approved so the cities can enforce heavy commercial truck laws as they prepare for the giant $8.5 billion construction project at the ChevronPhillips chemical plant.
Also, commissioners agreed to add Alfanzo Circle off Tulane Road to be maintained by the county. The move came after residents complained the potholes were so big that school buses were refusing to travel down them. Research showed the roadway had been maintained by the county in the 1950s and was never formally taken off the maintenance list.
After approving the legislation to let Orange and West Orange enforce commercial truck limit laws, County Judge John Gothia said the move is needed because of the massive construction project.
The Orange City Council last month voted for new commercial truck regulations and set truck routes within the city. The city wants local law enforcement to be able to monitor the weights and registration of the heavy trucks that will be hauling in equipment and materials to the 1,000-acre plant site off Highway 87 South between Foreman Road and FM 1006. The city will need approval from the state legislature to enforce the truck regulations.
County Judge John Gothia said there will be "significant" traffic in West Orange and Orange because of oversized and extra-weight truck transports. The traffic and wear on city streets will bring "extra expense" to the cities. Also, some of the commercial trucks may inadvertently travel on streets in residential areas.
The legislation, if approved, will allow the city to check weight limits and equipment. Orange City Manager Mike Kunst attended the meeting and said Gothia covered the issues.
Residents on Alfanzo Circle off Tulane Road asked for help to fix their roadway. Curt Labove said he had been filling potholes with his tractor, but the heavy truck traffic after Hurricane Harvey left the holes too big for him to fix. He said school buses were now refusing to go down the street. That has led to children having to get off the bus at a curve on Tulane Road.
Assistant County Attorney Denise Gremillion said her researched showed that the circle was originally part of Tulane Road and back in the 1950s, the county had it on the county-owned road list to maintain. She said she could find no records that the county had never removed the road for maintenance.
"It is still a legal county road," she said.
Alfanzo Circle is in Precinct 2 and Commissioner Chris Sowell said he has been working with the residents after the school bus problem. He learned the road was not included in the county's regular list of county-owned and maintained roads.
He said somehow, when Tulane Road was changed years ago, Alfanzo was taken off the list. All the residents have Tulane Road mailing addresses, he said.
County Engineer Corey Oldbury said he can patch it or bring it up to county road standards.
Gremillion said adding Alfanzo to the county road maintenance list will not set a precedent for other non-county-owned roads.
The county is in the process of working with the homeowners in Battlin Bear Estates subdivision to repair their roads. The subdivision in Precinct 1 has private roads that were never accepted by the county to meet its standards to be maintained.
Under state law, the county can charge a pro-rate rate to the property owners to cover the costs of fixing their roads.
Commissioners Court also approved a proclamation for American Red Cross Month. County Judge Gothia said he saw the regional Red Cross director out in the rain the January night a tornado traveled across the county. He pointed out the many services the Red Cross provides, besides disaster help. Those services include assistance for veterans and those in military services along with their families.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Johnny Trahan said he thinks county and other local officials accomplished a lot of business with state agencies and state legislators during the Golden Triangle Days in Austin last week during the Texas Legislature's biannual session.
Gothia said the gathering gave them a chance to have 11 meetings in three days to talk with officials on local needs. He pointed out the new construction for the ChevronPhillips plant and other projects that will change the county.
"We're going to have growing pains and we need to address those problems," he said. An influx in population with the construction and operations of new plants will mean "people need restaurants, places to go, and places to learn," he added.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kirk Roccaforte thanked the Road and Bridge Department for helping clean up and remove the debris after the January tornado.
Gothia said he was at a recent county judges training seminar and as other county judges talked about having a disaster declaration in the past five years, he pointed out Orange County has had 10 disaster declarations in six years. Those have covered hurricanes, tropical storms, and two tornadoes.
In other business, the commissioners approved spending $47,334 from the general fund to Silsbee Ford for a 2023 Ford F150 Super Duty pickup truck for the Operations and Maintenance Department. Also, $152,770 from the Road and Bridge budget for a BOMAG foot-pad roller for road repairs. Another $91,204 from the Road and Bridge budget will be spent for two 2023 Ford F150 Super Duty pickup trucks. In addition, the sheriff's office will spend $41,200 from the forfeiture fund to Silsbee Ford for a 2023 Ford Explorer.