Courthouse in need of community support

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader

Discussion regarding the renovation of the Orange County Courthouse centered on the progress thus far during the Tuesday morning meeting of Commissioners Court.

HDR Inc., the design firm behind the renovation plan previously approved by the Court, lined out the next steps needed in order to secure funding to move the project forward – two grants available to the county from the Texas Historical Commission that, if given, would cover 50-percent of the renovation costs.

HDR has until February 1, 2018 to submit the required documentation needed to apply for the grants. Part of this documentation would be letters of support from the general public stating why the renovations are necessary and also referencing other projects in the Orange area that have been successfully restored, like the train depot. Residents who are in support of the restoration are encouraged to submit these letters no later than February 1. If approved the grants would save taxpayers from footing the entire bill for the renovations. Mail the letters to:

Texas Historical Commission

Division of Architecture

Attn: Oliva Hillmer

P.O. Box 12276

Austin, Texas 78711

Two years ago, Orange County Commissioner Pct. 2 Barry Burton with representatives of Way Service met with Halden Tally and John P. Dineen, Jr. of HDR Inc. for a Master Plan for the restoration of the Orange County Courthouse.

According to a resolution passed by the court, Orange County recognizes the importance of the historic courthouse and its unique relationship to the community; and recognizes the need to preserve the historic courthouse.

Doug Manning led the invocation at his final Commissioners Court meeting as county attorney, preceding his retirement.

“I’m looking forward to this new chapter but sad to be leaving,” Manning said, mentioning that one of his first orders of business post-retirement was to ready his boat and make a dent in the local redfish population.

The annual delinquent tax collection report was then delivered by Steve Bird with Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, LLP who presented a 20-percent reduction in the amount of past due tax, down to $3.2 million due from $3.8 million for the previous period.

Michelle Tubbleville with Orange County Emergency Management gave a post-Harvey update on Orange County recovery information compiled by FEMA as of January 12,2018.

As of that date, 472 households remained in FEMA funded hotels, 4,229 flood insurance claims were submitted to the National Flood Insurance Program with a payout of $270.2 million, and $645.2 million in assistance has been given out to survivors. The full report can be viewed on the Facebook Orange County, Texas Harvey Recovery Information page. The public is encouraged to visit the Facebook page to find support for everything from disaster recovery to issues with temporary housing.

Tubbleville also stressed the number of volunteer groups still in the area assisting with rebuilding, including the Texas Baptist’s Men.

“They currently have 142 homes on their lists to be rebuilt, with 25 completed,” Tubbleville said. “Four groups are coming in each week in March to help rebuild.”

On February 1, there will be a Rebuild Southeast TX Disaster Recovery Meeting for all of Orange, Hardin and Jefferson County residents or organizations wishing to learn more about the recovery process thus far and how they may participate in rebuilding the area. It will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lumberton High School.

Sheriff Keith Merritt updated the commissioners on two new generators being installed for dispatch, 911 and the jail. The first set of tests, on Tuesday, were successful and, upon completion, the generators would provide “back-up upon back-up in case of a power outage,” according to Merritt.