Court moves forward with Harvey aftermath

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was front and center at the Commissioners’ Court regular meeting on September 12, 2017.   Buddy Lofton, Project Manager affiliated with AshBritt Environmental out of Deerfield Beach, Florida addressed the court. AshBritt provided cleanup efforts for Orange County after Hurricane Ike in 2008 and has again been contracted by Orange County to lead cleanup efforts now.

Lofton provided an update of initial efforts establishing a priority cleanup list for hard hit areas, and requested further communication and coordination with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Commissioner John Gothia requested Lofton develop a pickup schedule by area and provide that to the EOC as well as to the Commissioners for further distribution.

Gothia said, “A schedule is going to be very helpful informing the public.”

Other usual and customary county business aside, the Commissioners’ Court unanimously approved payment to Old Orange Cafe for providing 3,000 meals per day to first responders during the period of September 5, 2017, through Monday, September 11, 2017.   The court then approved to end the county disaster declaration ending midnight, September 12, 2017.

Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said, “Ending the disaster declaration does not change what assistance individuals can receive from FEMA or other government agencies. All individuals can still do what they need to do.”

Commissioner Jody Crump lead the discussion for a need to research possibly purchasing two-way radios specifically assigned to key crisis individuals to avoid further communication difficulties experienced during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Crump said, “We experienced problems during the storm and we need to have a way of communicating with each other.”

Carlton said his cell phone was mostly “a paper weight” and could only receive information on a sporadic basis in certain areas of the county. It was agreed effective communication methods will be researched and brought before the court at a later date.

Carlton lead the public comments period, followed in turn by each commissioner praising first responders, law enforcement, military, Emergency Management personnel, county personnel, and citizens at-large, including multiple individuals and groups from out of state, all for their brave and selfless efforts pulling together, helping one another, and making sure people were safe, attended to, and fed.

In summary, Carlton said, “It’s been a tough couple of weeks. No one could have imagined or anticipated this event and its impact three weeks ago. Everyone did a great job.”

At other times, commissioners were visibly moved when giving thanks to everyone that helped in crisis management including but not the least of which military personnel and law enforcement. Commissioner Johnny Trahan said he was not only, “proud of our citizens working together but our military was outstanding. The Orange County Airport proved its value to the county because a great amount of supplies for Orange County citizens touched down at the airport.”

Commissioner John Gothia said, “2.8 million products were airlifted to the airport starting with 15 military personnel. At the end we had 200 military personnel and delivered aid to 18 different points of distribution throughout the county.”

Commissioner Jody Crump said, “How do you begin to say thank you? Thank you to everyone.”

Carlton finished by saying, “No-one was unaffected by the storm. We will continue to work together and we will come back from this.”