“Let’s get our permits issued to rebuild,” said Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux at Monday’s commissioners’ court. It was a unanimous vote to accept the clarifications on the elevation issue causing much confusion among citizens and officials alike since Hurricane Ike.

In 1982 a document was drafted in the county requiring homes to be built a minimum of one foot above the base flood elevation. A new document in 1997 changed that minimum requirement of homes to be equal to the base flood elevation.

Doug Manning, assistant county attorney who advises the court, said he had carefully reviewed both documents.

“I came to the conclusion that actually the intent back in 1997 was to supersede the ‘82 regulation with the 1997 regulations,” he said.

“In my opinion the ‘97 document is the document that controls. It … mirrors the minimum standards established by the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner John DuBose asked how citizens would know what their base flood elevation would be.

“It’s stated on the FEMA flood maps,” said Manning.

Residents can check their elevation with Lisa Roberts, Orange County flood plain administrator, commissioners said. Basically, a home in flood zone A more than 50 percent damaged will need to be rebuilt at a minimum, the same elevation as the base flood elevation for that piece of property. If the elevation is 8 feet, the home has to be at least 8 feet (not 9 feet as implied in the ‘82 document). If the home is less than 50 percent damaged, it doesn’t matter what the elevation is: it can be rebuilt.

There are no requirements for homes in flood zones B or C because the land is already above the base elevation. The county requires permits be issued in all instances, but is waiving the fees at this time.

In other business, Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton suggested the county look at its investments. Some assets are invested in mortgage-backed securities through Fannie Mae and Wells Fargo, and with recent bailouts and mergers Burton thought a review was in order. Thibodeaux said a workshop would be set when a report is received from County Treasurer Vergie Moreland.

A freeze was set on capital outlay until after the first of the year with the exception of items regarding hurricane recovery and previously-approved contracts.

Dates for Hurricane debris removal were extended. Items must be at the curb by Dec. 31, with final debris pickup scheduled for Jan. 31. This includes building materials and white goods.

After a closed session, the court approved taking action against Ramona Powell of Vidor for reported illegal discharge of untreated sewer onto adjoining property.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.