The Orange Leader
Concerns that the federal government is holding a gun to the city’s head were expressed during the Orange City Council meeting.
Council Member At Large Position 5 Bill Mello said he voted yes to confirming no objection to the submission of applications for housing tax credits to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for three low-housing developments proposed by the Housing Authority - Orange.
“I appreciate the people who voted no, for standing their ground,” Mello said Tuesday morning. “The city of Orange has a gun to their heads.”
Council Member District 2 Tommy Ferguson voted no for each resolution, while Council Member District 1 Theresa Beauchamp and Council Member District 3 Essie Bellfield voted no for the resolution concerning the Arthur Robison II housing development proposed for the 4030 Sikes Road location.
Residents complained during the public hearing that they were not having their questions answered.
Richard Harrington said he knows people are listening but no one is doing anything.
“Have soil samples been taken?” Harrington asked. “What about an Asbestos abatement?”
Executive Vice President of The ITEX Group LLC Chris Akbari said lead and Asbestos testing has been completed at the Pine Grove development location.
“A company from Port Arthur will monitor the air,” Akbari said.
Housing Authority Orange Commissioner Patricia Coppage said prior to the meeting the housing will use a voucher program such as Section 8.
“It is a more dependable financing,” Coppage said. “It does not have to be used in the city it is applied for in but does have to be used in Texas.”
Coppage also said Housing Authority Orange pays for housing for people in Houston.
“The state sees it as a state wide program,” Coppage said. “HUD is trying to help everyone, not just low-income.”
Coppage also spoke during the public hearing as a citizen who lives approximately two blocks from Velma Jeter Manor.
“The same arguments were raised then as now with Sikes Road,” Coppage said. “It did not manifest. We are hearing fears, not reality.”
Although, not everyone is convinced.
Council Member District 2 Tommy Ferguson said he just wants the truth.
“A man’s word is all he has,” Ferguson said. “They say one thing and next week, we get a letter it is changes.”
Ferguson is referring to the first public hearing where the council was told the proposed Arthur Robison II housing development would house 10 families and 55 elderly.
Akbari said that application was denied so a letter was sent to the council stating the 66 unites would be for families.
“I don’t want people in Orange to doing business like that,” Ferguson said. “You win either way - sue or do it your way. You have lied to us four times now.”
Ferguson said he had received a letter at his home after the first public hearing and said he has had enough.
He also said that he had a better vision for Orange than public housing, adding that the city already had twice the amount required.
“First it was replace one for one with better ones. I can’t argue with that,” Ferguson said. “It has to stop somewhere. Tell the truth. Stop forcing it onto people.”
The Housing Authority will pay $8,000 a year in lieu of taxes annually. Ferguson said that is the funds are available after the Housing Authority - Orange pays bills.
The resolutions were approved by a majority vote.
Construction is anticipated to begin on the three developments on February 1, 2014.