Commissioners wrangle with permit issues
County commissioners heard Monday about a 300-mile carbon dioxide transmission pipeline being built from Louisiana to the south Houston area.
As reported late Monday by www.therecordlive.com, Brandon Honea, a representative of the audit, tax and advisory firm of KPMG in Dallas, said the pipeline would go through about 20 or 25 miles of Orange County.
The pipeline company, he said, wants to apply to the state comptroller’s office for “direct payment permits,” a plan that could net the county $26,500 or more if lawmakers go along with it.
“Typically when they’re buying items that are subject to sales tax, like pipe, they’re paying that tax to the vendor bases on where those vendors are receiving orders,” Honea said. “So if the vendor that is selling the pipe is in Houston, the vendor is collecting Houston tax on the sale of that pipe. What we’re proposing is that they would get a permit directly from the comptroller’s office in Austin that would allow them to buy that pipe tax free, not pay taxes to the vendor, and allow them to remit the tax based on where they use the pipe.”
The pipe will cost about $10.6 million, he said. The full expense of the project is about $900 million.
“There are other items subject to tax as well,” he said. “[The $26,000] is just based on the pipe itself.”
The direct payment permit concept is about 25 years old, however, new to Orange County, said County Attorney Doug Manning.
The concept has been successful in other projects throughout Texas, Honea said. Commissioners voiced no opposition and said they would consider the matter in the future after continued discussion of legal issues.
Another permit issue saw no action after Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose suggested exempting industrial sites from permit fees. An oil company that wants to put in a well was recently charged about $7,000, he said. Fees are based on the total cost of the project.
“I don’t think that was our intent, to get a bunch of free money like that,” Dubose said. “We want to encourage their development. Now, it is important that we know where these places are, and they should get a permit because we need to stay on top of that. This action [would not] say that they should not get a permit.”
Judge Carl Thibodeaux and Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton wondered why an exception should be made.
“Dominion paid a $4,300 fee as part of doing business here, and we have a company who comes here and balks and we have to look at changing our ways? I have a problem with that,” he said.
Flood Plain Coordinator Lisa Roberts added that recently, a railroad company paid a $7,500 permit fee to replace three railroad bridges.
“I understand where [Mr. Dubose] is coming from,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton, “We’re trying to encourage economic development.”
Burton and Thibodeaux suggested that, in the future, the group would consider whether or not to set a maximum payment fee, or a “cap” for permits.
Also Monday, Billy Pruitt with the Census Office told commissioners the 2010 Census would start in April.
“Because of the recent storms, we’ve lost some population, we’ve lost some property,” and that’s a concern, he said, since federal dollars are based on area populations. “We want to make sure everyone is counted.”
A good way to do that, he said, would be to form local committees to figure out how to count “the ones who don’t want to be counted.” Census information is not shared with offices such as the Internal Revenue Service or Immigration; however, “some people don’t want to take our word for that.”
The Census Office will send out surveys based on data collected in 2000, and expects to get about 60 percent of those back, he said. The rest will have to be collected door-to-door. About 75,000 census takers will be hired to cover Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and in most cases will live in the neighborhoods they canvas. Vidor City Manager Ricky Jorgenson has agreed, Pruitt said, to head up one area committee.
In other business, commissioners authorized the county attorney’s office to instigate a lawsuit charging violations of the Texas Water Code to property owners at 3372, 3404 and 3386 Ancar St. in Orange