Orange County has grant money to help tear down dilapidated houses damaged in Hurricane Rita, County Judge Pro Tem John Dubose said Monday.

Dubose is Precinct 3 county commissioner and was presiding over Commissioners Court because County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was out of town on county business. Dubose said the county has $320,000 in grant money left from hurricane projects and the money can be re-directed to pay to demolish houses.

Homeowners can sign with the county to have their houses demolished and the debris removed at no cost and no lien placed on the property. Dubose said the program will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis.

“I think there will be a number of people” interested in the program, Dubose told The Record Newspapers.

The county has had complaints from people living in rural areas about dilapidated houses and buildings damaged in the 2005 hurricane and left to mold and rot. The dilapidated buildings pose a health hazard, attracting rodents and insects.

Dubose said the county has about 200 of the dilapidated buildings in the rural areas and it costs about $3,500 each to tear them down and remove the debris.

Last week, the county had a hearing on declaring some of the dilapidated buildings as a public nuisance. If the county pays to have a building demolished and removed, then the property owner is billed for the cost. If the owner doesn’t pay the bill, the county places a lien on the property, meaning the bill must be paid if the property is ever sold.
Dubose said the grant money can pay to have the dilapidated buildings removed without a charge to the owner or a lien on the property.

“I think this will be good for a lot people,” he said about the grants.

The county will seek bids on the demolishing eight to 10 houses at a time because the cost is cheaper, he said. He hopes the county can get bids in the next few weeks. The grant money has to be used by August.

“It’s not enough (money) to do all, but it’s a start,” Dubose told Commissioners Court.
In other Commissioners Court business, Sheriff Mike White was set to ask for county help in getting utilities installed to a temporary sheriff’s substation in Mauriceville. White said he had a trailer set on the site where the previous office, damaged in Hurricane Rita, has been. He said the trailer was set up so a patrol officer and a deputy could use the office and take reports.

But Dubose said the county has a question on whether the trailer has been installed on some of the Texas Department of Transportation right-of-way.

“It’s not that we don’t want to do this; it’s a concern. Is this going to be a problem for us?” Dubose said to White.

County Engineer Les Anderson said he went and looked at the site and the question of right-of-way depends on where the measurements are made.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton, who represents the Mauriceville area, said some of the old townsite maps have “been a mess.”

White said he didn’t know the site had any possible problems.

Also, Patrick Beebe, director of the mosquito control district, said the concrete foundation for the new hangar for the mosquito control plane, along with the loading area, has been laid. Also, the prefabricated hangar has arrived and is being erected. Soon, the county will advertise for a pilot for the aerial mosquito spray program.

Dubose and Beebe said they have received telephone calls from pilots wanting information about the job.

Beebe said the aerial spraying program should be ready by early summer.
Commissioners Court will meet Tuesday, March 4, at 2 p.m. The courthouse will be closed Monday, March 3, for Texas Independence Day, which is March 2. The day is a state holiday.