Citizen voices concerns for vacant lot; EDC gives WO Council update

Published 7:02 am Wednesday, October 9, 2019

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


WEST ORANGE — Deana Laughlin is concerned for her safety due to an abandoned house at 919 Elkport in West Orange.

“No one has lived there since 2017,” Laughlin said at the Monday evening West Orange City Council meeting during Public Comments. “It is out of code. Vagrants are staying there.”

She added she is concerned for her safety when she has to check her mail at a cluster mailbox near the lot.

“I ask you to have to brush hog,” Laughlin said. “I never had a problem with snakes before. I have already killed two and seen three more.”

Mayor Roy McDonald referred her to Dean Fuller and Mike Stelly.

“We cannot speak on it at this time,” McDonald said, referring to the Texas Open Meeting Act.

The Act does not allow the council to discuss items not listed in the agenda.

Orange County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jessica Hill provided an updat during Public Comments.

“We are four years in an industrial project known as the Flag Project,” Hill said. “It is known as the Chevron Project. We are at a holding pattern on our side at this time. We have not negotiated any incentives at this time, despite what you may have heard. They have all their due diligent permits.”

Also as part of the project, legislation was passed to permit a land swap with DPS located near State Hwy. 87 and Farm to Market Road 105 so Chevron may have the land. 

Hill also referred to the announcement of the funding for a wastewater treatment  plant last week.

The City of West Orange will receive $5 million to support the design and construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.   The City applied to the U.S. Department of Commerce for this grant after Hurricane Harvey and has recently been notified of its award, which will be administered by Traylor & Associates, Inc. out of Tyler, Texas.  This new facility will support new and existing industrial customers in the area, as well as offer long-term resiliency, particularly during disasters. The grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $1.25 million in local funds and is expected to help create 520 jobs in the area, and spur $5.8 billion in private investment.

“The waste water project spun out of this project,” Hill said. “With the potential investment we were able to procure the funds.”

It also allows for a second opportunity at BP restore funds, according to Hill, which would be used for a regional waste water system before water is discharged into locations such as Adams Bayou.

“We have an additional $1.5 billion projects considering Orange,” Hill added. “We have some looking at 30-40 acres with other industrial companies already located on Chemical Row.”

“Great things are ahead for the community,” Hill said.

Mayor Roy McDonald asked Hill to be placed on the agenda next time so the council could ask questions. 

Mike Stelly confirmed she had requested to be on the agenda.

“I am willing to come back and answer any questions the council may have,” Hill said.