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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Commissioners pay tribute to local Workforce


Last updated 2/6/2024 at 8:45pm

Orange County Commissioners Court Tuesday passed a proclamation making February Southeast Texas Workforce Month celebrating joint efforts to keep the county and regional economy booming.

Orange County Commissioners Court has declared February as Southeast Texas Workforce Month and the county's economic development director said there's reason to celebrate.

Megan Romero Layne, the EDC director, told the court just this month, the county added 80 new healthcare jobs with the opening of Christus Hospital-Orange.

The EDC in Orange County currenting has $12.5 billion in construction and planning projects, with another $73 billion in construction and planning for the rest of Southeast Texas.

Also, Lamar State College-Orange is now working with the Texas Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education to form a "pipeline" of skilled workers into the work force. With a new LSCO program that now has open enrollment for the fall, students will be able to get 60 college credit hours and two years of experience on the job.

In addition, Golden Triangle Polymers, the new $8.5 billion chemical plant under construction, will have another Local First job fair on March 7. The plant is a joint venture of Chevron Phillips and Qatar Entergy. Part of the county's tax abatement agreement included the company designating money for the Local First program to help local residents and business owners get jobs and contracts during the construction.

Layne also updated Commissioners Court on the tax abatement deal with Olson Engineering in Bridge City which expanded under a tax abatement agreement. She said the company went from a property value of about $295,000 to $3.7 million, adding a little more than $3.4 million in taxable property. The company added five more jobs this year.

She said the county is now in the third year of the tax abatement policy and the county will reimbure the company the $19,590 in county property taxes that were paid this year, which is 100 percent.

Also during the meeting, the court approved three more plat changes for housing development in the county. One was for subdividing 2.7 acres into two lots of the Dowers Addition in Precinct 4.

Another was for the Ravenclaw subdivision in Precinct 2 to subdivide 8.18 acres into two lots, plus the replat of 5 acres of Verrett Acres in Precinct 3. County Engineer Corey Oldbury said the plats met all county standards and were approved by the Orange County Drainage District.

County Judge John Gothia thanked Maintenance Director Curt Guidry and his crew for moving back the court's platform and podium from the wall. He said court members had only about three inches to push back their chairs when standing for things like the prayer, pledge, and proclamations.

In a report to the court, Guidry said crews were fixing things at the new Elm Avenue building. It was originally part of the old Southwest Bell Telephone offices and later used by the First United Methodist Church. The church last year donated it to the county to be used to help house emergency responders coming here after disasters like hurricanes.

The court approved a number of payments for bills, including $105,875 to the Texas Association of Counties for the medical, dental and life insurance for county employees, plus another $79,500 to Amwins Group Benefits for insurance of county retirees age 65 and older.

Another $21,653 went for contract payments due in February, plus $26,142 to Shaumburg and Polk engineering and planning for drainage improvements through the Texas General Land Office disaster recovery grants.

The court extended an interlocal agreement between the county and the city of Pine Forest in Precinct 4 for a project reworking drainage ditches in the Sugar Mill Road area west of Ten Mile Creek.

The sheriff's office received permission to use $11,770 from contingency funds to pay for an increase in price from three Ford Explorers that had been back-ordered since 2022. Judge Gothia said the court had to approve the expenditure.

County Engineer Oldbury was given permission to hire a new office manager for the Road and Bridge Department on February 20 rather than on March 4. The current manager is retiring at the end of March. Oldbury said the other employee in the office has had to be off work for approved reasons.

Also, the court approved spending $14,585 for switches for the updated security camera system at the Orange County Expo Center, which also serves as the county's emergency operations center during hurricanes and other disasters. The system has 136 security cameras.

The county will aos seek grant proposals to oversee the administration services for flood improvements through the Texas Water Development Board, along with selecting an engineering service for the grant projects. The court appointed a committee to review the proposals.


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