Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

New plant has already spent $53 million here

The new Golden Triangle Polymers plant has already spent nearly $53 million in Orange County and has spent $17.6 million on local companies for contracted work.

Officials from Chevron Phillips, owner of the $8.5 billion plant site being readied for construction, gave the figures in their first quarterly report to Orange County Commissioners Court Monday.

However, even though commissioners were pleased at the industrial news, the meeting had a touch of sadness. Commissioners Court said goodbye to the Orange County Salvation Army Captains Frankie and Jan Zuniga. The couple has been transferred to McAllen, Texas.

The court issued a proclamation in tribute to the couple and presented them with a plaque of appreciation for their local work. No other local Salvation Army captain in recent memory has received such a tribute.

The Zunigas moved to Orange with their two young daughters in the summer of 2017, weeks before Hurricane Harvey flooded most of the county and left hundreds homeless. The Zunigas, veterans of Salvation Army life, had never overseen such a disaster.

Since then, the county has experienced more hurricanes and even two tornadoes. Through each disaster, the Zunigas and the local Salvation Army have assisted in helping families and individuals.

Commissioners and County Judge John Gothia praised them for their work. "We have certainly together have gotten through trials and tribulations," during the past six years, he said. "You served Orange County extremely well."

Frankie Zuniga said the plaque belongs "to all the people in the background supporting us." He praised the local army's staff and volunteers.

Jan Zuniga said "Orange County has been very much a part of our lives." The family has relatives in Florida and when they travel from McAllen there, they will be sure to stop in Orange for their favorite things, mentioning the Blue Bird Fish Camp hamburgers.

"We thank you for taking us in and allowing us to be part of your family," she told commissioners.

During the Chevron Phillips presentation on Golden Triangle Polymers, Heather Betancourth from the corporation gave a financial and jobs report for the first quarter of the 2023. The report is the first, and the quarterly reports are required as part of the tax abatement deal with the county.

She said they included figures from the last quarter of 2022, though work at the 2,000 acre site started before the company made the final announcement in October that the plant would be built here.

At the end of 2022, the company had spent $32 million. In the first quarter this year, the company has spend close to $21 million. In addition, the company reports expenditures of nearly $527,000 on "small credit card purchases" like caterers bringing meals to the site.

Individuals looking for jobs should contact Texas Workforce Solutions, where they will be assessed for their skills and experience. Some have been referred for extra training. Chevron Phillips has also worked with LSCO and public schools to assist with needed training.

Vendors and contractors must also go through a company process to be approved to submit bids. Once they are approved, they will be able to bid on items and services needed. The Local First website will give instructions.

Judge Gothia mentioned that part of the county's agreement with the company included giving local workers, contractors, and small vendors chances to bid on projects and purchases.

Betancourth said the corporation's Local First program was set up for Orange County. It is a joint project including the county, Texas Workforce Solutions, and Lamar State College Orange to get county residents jobs, sales, and contracts with the company.

A couple of Job Fairs have already been held and another one is set June 24 at the Orange County Expo Center on FM 1442. Individuals, vendors, and contractors will be able to get information on how to get jobs or business for the new plant.

Betancourth said "local" is described as people living in Orange, Jefferson, Newton, Jasper, Hardin, Tyler, and Chambers County, along with the Bolivar Peninsula area of Galveston County.

Other business included the court unanimously passing a resolution in support of the new countywide voting center system, first implemented earlier this month. Elections Administrator Donna Alford said the election went well and the resolution will be sent to the Texas secretary of state.

The secretary of state's office gives final approval to conducting the countywide polling place system and the resolution is part of that process.

Judge Gothia said no one knows the status of possible state legislation to disband the central voting system in the state. The Texas Senate approved a bill to eliminate the system, but it must also be approved by the state house of representatives and the governor. Only days are left in the current legislative session.

The court also approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to repair three small bridges considered in "poor" condition. The bridges are at Sandy Creek on South Burton Road, Anderson Gulley at Terry Road, and Caney Creek at North Tram Road.

TxDOT is using federal Highway Bridge Relacement and Rehabilitation money for the repairs. The county will have to pay for any right-of-way land needed or to move any utilities. Precinct 4 Commissioner Robert Viator said he has learned those kind of TxDOT projects are worth the small amount of money the county might need to pay.


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