Tax rate proposed, FAA warned
Commissioners Monday set a proposed tax rate for the county’s new fiscal year. They also had strong words for the Federal Aviation Administration to present paperwork that would get the mosquito plane flying.
The tax rate will not actually be established until a Sept. 21 commissioners’ meeting. Public hearings are set for 10 a.m. Sept. 10 and 1:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in commissioners’ court, 123 S. Sixth St.
Commissioners approved a proposal of .58000 per $100 valuation, but emphasized that the adopted rate will not go that high. Under the proposal, taxes for an average-priced home would be $376.
“I don’t anticipate any problems,” said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. “I don’t think any of us would go that high, unless we get hit with something major.”
The highest rollback rate, in which a special election could be called by a citizens’ petition, is .57101. One likely adopted rate is just under that figure at .57100, in which the owner of an average home would pay $370.
Mosquito Control Director Patrick Beebe told the court that an FAA certificate, promised twice to the county by the federal organization, is still holding things up as far as getting the plane in the air.
He said he has been assured by a woman at the FAA the certificate should arrive in his office by the end of the week. Immediately after that, the plane can begin regular spray runs.
“Tell her if we don’t [get the certificate] we’re going to invite her to a barbecue in Bridge City at 6 o’clock in the evening,” said a mostly-serious Judge Thibodeaux. “She has to wear a bikini and can’t use any ‘Off.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose echoed that sentiment, saying that at last week’s Bridge City football game, he was, “ … chewed on by mosquitoes and chewed on by the people.” He added, “I’m up to ‘here.’ There’s just no reason for this.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner David Dubose, who is also a pilot, told the court, “The FAA has two speeds. If you don’t like the first one, you’re sure not going to like the second one.”
“We’ve been patient enough,” Beebe said. “I think if we don’t receive [the certificate] by the end of this week, we should use whatever options are available to us.”
“I put them in my category of FEMA,” said Thibodeaux, a strong critic of FEMA after hurricanes Rita and Ike. “We’ve got a pilot and had all the required inspections, and the plane’s on the ground with a bunch of chemicals that aren’t being used.”
It’s been two years since commissioners approved the plane’s purchase. Eventually they gave the nod to buy a 1981 Cessna and, later, hired pilot Patrick Bourke.
In other business, commissioners:
• Set next week’s regular session for 2 p.m. Tuesday, to allow for the Labor Day holiday.
• Also, they approved a request by Precinct 2 Constable Rob Strause to spend some $13,000 on radar units – two of those hand-held and one towable. The hand-held units can display a motorist’s speed on a sign at the top of a law enforcement car, and speeders can be waived over by an officer at the scene. The sign’s reading, along with the car, is also videotaped. The towable unit, Strause said, acts as a deterrent and compares for drivers the posted speed along with their current speed. “This just goes as another step to try to slow some people down,” Strause said. “It will let the people in the neighborhoods feel a little more secure and a little more happy with what we’re doing.” Strause said he’s received speeding complaints on Turtle Road, Tulane Road and Concord Street, among others. Precinct 2 includes part of south Vidor, a section of Farm Road 1442, all of Pinehurst and Orange’s Roselawn addition and most of Mauriceville.
• Approved expenditures recommended by the Orange County Hotel Occupancy Tax Committee, which include: $7,500 for the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, $12,500 for the Heritage House, $5,000 for the Leaf and Petal / Ivy League Garden Clubs, $6,000 for the Orange County Economic Development Corp. and $1,500 for the Lutcher Theater. Out of $162,244 available the rest – about $132,000 – will go to the CHAMPS (Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure) project on Farm Road 1442. The proposed facility will replace the Old Timers Pavilion, which was destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005. An 11-acre strip of land owned by the county is envisioned to include rodeo grounds, a softball field, shooting range and community center. State law specifies use of hotel occupancy taxes only for use with convention or visitor information centers, registration of convention delegates, sporting event expenses that substantially increase economic activity at hotels, certain portions of sporting facilities and shuttle services for convention activities. Use also includes advertising, promotions of the arts and historical preservation activities that directly promote tourism and the convention industry.