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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Gothia talks about honor at Governor's Mansion


Last updated 4/30/2024 at 9:20pm

Orange County Commissioners Court Monday paid tribute to the Orange County Disaster Rebuild committee that recently won a state award for volunteer work. County Judge John Gothia said a glass sculture award to the group from First Lady Abbott, along with a proclaimation in their honor from Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan will be displayed at the courthouse. Members present Tuesday were Lori Ardoin, Michelle Tubbleville, and Russell Bottley.

Orange County Judge John Gothia told Commissioners Court about a magical spring evening at the Governor's Mansion in Austin as a county-operated disaster rebuild group won an award at the 40th annual state tribute to volunteers.

He said First Lady Cecelia Abbott was gracious and friendly to the honored guests and even let her dogs out, all four of them. He recalled one, a puppy about a year and a half old, jumping on the first lady and she pushed it away, "like anyone with a dog."

Commissioners Court met Tuesday for a session routine business and started out with the recognition of the Orange County Disaster Rebuild team. Members Lori Ardoin, Michelle Tubbleville, and Russell Bottley attended to show off the award, which will be displayed in the courthouse. Other members are Ida Schossow, Lanie Brown, Steve Jones, Lacey LeMoine, and Julie Reid.

Judge Gothia said he mingled with other volunteer honorees. "I thought ours stood out far and above. We're one of the only ones that do what we do."

Orange County Disaster Rebuild was formed in May 2018, a few months after Hurricane Harvey flooded houses and businesses across the county. Charitable groups were sending volunteers and grants were available to help homeowners who had not insurance or not enough to fix their houses.

Gothia said he and Commissioner Johnny Trahan talked with emergency officials, who advised that the county needed someone to coordinate all the recovery efforts.

The commissioners hired Tubbleville and assigned a grants writer. Gothia said they got flack for creating another county position, but the results have been worth it.

Since Harvey, the disaster rebuilt has raised $3.2 million to be used to help individuals. The program led to new houses for 131 in Orange, 42 in Vidor, six in Bridge City, si in West Orange, and six in Pinehurst. Also, $420,000 has been spent to replace destroyed furniture and appliances.

Commissioner Trahan said he has seen some of the ceremonies held when the property owners are given the keys to a new home after losing almost everything they owned. "If it doesn't move you, you're not alive," he said.

Disaster Rebuild also has coordinated more than 2,500 volunteers from across the country who have come to help.

After Harvey, the county also had to deal with flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda, Hurricanes Laura and Delta, plus three tornadoes. Disaster Rebuild has helped the victims in those disasters, too.

Commissioners Court Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month with the 500 for Life organization of motorcyclists accepting the honor. The group promotes safety for motorcyclists that includes educating drivers of cars and trucks to make sure they are looking twice for motorcycles before they turn or change lanes.

Harley-Davidson has more than 1,200 chapters in the U.S. and more than 1 million riders, a member of the group said. Adding in other motorcyclists puts a lot of them on the roadways.

Commissioners Court also honored Economic Development Director Megan Layne with a proclamation for May 6-10th as National Economic Development Day.

Commissioners Court also issued a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month for the 500 for Life non-profit group of motorcyclists who promote all drivers to look twice for motorcycles.

The court again delayed acting on awarding a contract for a computerized road work system for the Road and Bridge Department. Two weeks ago, Assistant County Attorney Denise Gremillion told the court she needed to review the contract.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Chris Sowell said Gremillion had found wording in the contract to be changed. The court postponed a vote for a new contract approved by the attorney.

Bills approved for payment included $79,482 for the monthly insurance payment for retirees 65 and older medical benefits. Also, $3,450 to Claybar Funeral Home and $1,500 to Memorial Funeral Home to cover indigent burial expenses.

The court also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the West Orange-Cove CISD to provide "available resources" during an emergency.

Also, the court approved the renewal of an agreement with the sheriff's office and the state that allows the local sheriff's office to acquire surplus equipment.


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