Commissioners Court discuss Harvey Repairs

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader

FEMA will not provide the county with any funding to pay for the rehabilitation of the administration building at Claiborne Park West, which has sat empty since Harvey.

“FEMA can’t justify why we need a building,” said Kurt Guidry, maintenance director for the county, during the Tuesday morning public workshop. “We’ve tried every way to secure funding and they say it’s not necessary. I said, well we need it for the park. And they said, well, close the park.”

As the county moved into the first week of the 2018 hurricane season, the public workshop was held to discuss just some of the damage suffered from a hurricane that took place during the 2017 hurricane season, according to Orange County Judge Dean Crooks.

“Like everyone else, we sustained quite a bit of damage from Harvey. We’re have issues with a lot of our county facilities, and today we’re here to discuss repairs and getting things back up to snuff and how we’re gonna do it,” said Crooks.

Currently anyone visiting Claiborne Park does not have a place to make reservations for either the pavilions or camping space and must rely on a drop box for payments.

A representative with Spaw Glass provided the court with an estimate of repairs that totaled $53,000. When members of the court questioned why the cost was so high, Jerry with Spaw Glass explained that the building had taken on three feet of water during Harvey and had sat unoccupied since then.

The bulk of the upfront cost would be for mold remediation just to get started on the reconstruction.

The court debated the merits of remodeling the park building versus just starting over.

It was suggested that the county would save more money by going with the remodeling option, as it would prevent having to pay to bulldoze the current building, move in temporary office space while construction took place, and possibly having to raise the elevation of a new building.

“The quickest and most cost effective method is this right here,” Commissioner Pct. 3 John Gothia said of the estimate, which was the lowest received to date.

Guidry said he would get numbers finalized and include what the county could do in house in order to bring the price down more, such as repairing some items with county labor. It was hoped to include the item on the next meeting agenda of the Commissioners’ Court.

Spaw Glass thought they could complete remodeling in four to six weeks if and when the pricing was approved.

Guidry also added the county had received insurance checks for Harvey repairs.

“We have received funding from insurance for repairs from NFIP for the Justice of the Peace building, WIC building, and the sheriff’s substation in Vidor,” said Guidry. “The amount covered is far less than the amount needed to cover repairs on the inside. For the JP building, the funds we received from TAC are approximately what it would cost to rebuild the inside of the building.”

Commissioner Pct. 2 Barry Burton said he was looking at possibly securing land for relocating those offices out of the flood zones.

“Even when they get 2 or 3 inches of water, the toilets don’t work, parking is substandard and you can’t get in or out of that building,” Burton said, adding that Vidor ISD has two acres near Vidor middle school and are looking into donating the land to the county, for construction of new buildings on Highway 12 to be near the school with easier access to Interstate 10.

Burton also brought up possibly expand the substation to make it multi-use in the event of another disaster, equipping it with showers and beds in order to serve the western part of the county.

In the meantime, the commissioners are looking to get temporary buildings in place while plans are made on what to do about the buildings, to give the displaced employees some relief. If the temporary buildings are the same square footage or less than the original buildings, FEMA may provide the temporary buildings at no cost.

Rebuilding the Justice of the Peace building would be a cost of approximately $1.125 million, and it would be approximately $985,000 for the sheriff’s substation and WIC building. However, some of that cost would be covered by federal money. Once a plan is in place for the buildings (i.e., land being secured, proof that the buildings will be out of future flood zones), funding can then be applied for. The county would have to come up with the costs themselves, up front.

As this was a workshop session, no final decisions were made on any issues.