County uses new polymers plant money for parks, recreation
Last updated 4/11/2023 at 7:24pm
Some of the $2.4 million building permit fee Chevron Phillips paid to the county is being used to improve parks and recreational sites. Monday, Commissioners Court approved new playground equipment at Claiborne West Park and improvements at the Raymond Gould Community Center.
The $8.5 billion Golden Triangle Polymers plant is now under construction off Highway 87 South between Foreman Road and FM 1006, known as "Chemical Row."
County Judge John Gothia said each of the county's four precincts is being allocated $120,000, for a total $480,000 of the money.
Raymond Gould Community Center is in Vidor and Precinct 4 Commissioner Robert Viator said the money will be used to rebuild the walking trail and to improve the bathrooms.
In addition, $120,000 was allocated for Claiborne West Park, which is 453 acres of ball parks, recreation areas, and nature trails. The money, along with $7,713 in donations, will be used to buy new playground equipment. The park is on Interstate 10 east of Orange and west of Vidor It is in Orange County Precinct 2.
Precinct 1's park is the Blue Bird fishing area off Simmons Drive in Orange. The park has docks and boat launches into Little Cypress Bayou that lead into the Sabine River. The parking lot was recently repaved and other improvements made there.
The court also issued proclamations to recognize Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in Texas.
Codie Vasquez, director of CASA, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates group that helps abused children navigate the legal system, said Orange County had 1,027 confirmed cases of child abuse last year. Of those, 47 were in "high enough danger" to be removed from their residences. She said CASA is always looking for adults to volunteer to help the program.
The court gave CASA permission to do the annual child abuse pinwheel display on the courthouse lawn. Each pinwheel will represent one of the 182 children in Texas who died last year because of child abuse. Vasquez said that "thank goodness," none of those deaths were in Orange County in 2022.
Bikers Against Child Abuse joined with CASA and also received a special court proclamation. The members of the non-profit group wore motorcycle biker vests adorned with patches reading things like "No child deserves to live in fear," and "No child is too far." The group will have a BACA Heroes event the last weekend of April.
The county has good news in that the annual Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) payment is $627,150, rather than the $450,000 the county budgeted to be spent for the year.
The fund is from the U.S. Department of Interior and is for areas in oil and gas production along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Judge Gothia said the money can be used for improvements for drainage, water, and transportation. Most of the county's share goes to the Road and Bridge Department, which includes maintaining some ditches for drainage.
Commissioner Precinct 1 Johnny Trahan questioned the increase in the cost for the county's flood protection insurance, which went up $70,000. He said the county had removed the courthouse basement, which is not used, from coverage to save money. He asked if some of the expense was for the new building off Elm Avenue and Sixth Street in Orange that was donated to the county by First United Methodist Church.
The building was built for Southwest Bell, which was later AT&T, and the acquired by the church as the Malloy Center. The building has rooms and bathrooms to house out-of-area first responders and volunteers who come to Orange County to help after disasters like hurricanes.
County Maintenance Director Kurt Guidry said the county had the elevations of the building professionally calculated and they area above the flood level. However, the county removed the 10-foot x 10-foot utility building, which was below the level, from the insurance. The utility building has a washer, dryer, and two water heaters, he said.
Judge Gothia said the increased cost in flood insurance rates is being felt by everyone in the county.
Orange County Economic Development Director Megan Layne reported Olson Engineering of Bridge City has met its contractual agreement for a tax rebate for its 2019 expansion. This is the third year of 100 percent tax rebate, then the rate will go down to 75 percent, and then 25 percent. The company this year is entitles ot $19,813, she said.
The company's new headquarters off West Roundbunch Road is valued at $3.7 million, she said. The company has increased the number of jobs from 95 to 123 during the past year.