After 10 months of wrangling with FEMA over courthouse basement repairs, county officials received assessment numbers that aren’t what they applied for.

The original estimate submitted by the county was for about $840,000, to build a new elevated structure that would avoid the kind of flooding caused by Hurricane Ike.

After FEMA dropped the ball several times, such as losing important paperwork, officials told the county only about $400,000 would be appropriate.

“Because we’ve already returned the courthouse to pre-storm conditions, essentially what they’ve (FEMA) told us is that if we’d sat on our hands for 13 months – and had a courthouse that didn’t function for 13 months – then they would come through and pay for the whole thing,” Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley told commissioners in regular session.

Kelley said he will consider filing an appeal. Incredibly, he can find no record of anyone having filed an appeal for what is called a “FEMA 406 project.” “It would set a precedent,” he told commissioners.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, who in the past has made his displeasure of FEMA well known, commented, “They do nothing for 13 months just sitting up there in Washington.”
In the mean time Kelley said he and Maintenance Director Mark Wimberley will determine the best use for the $400,000 and get plans underway.

Claiborne oil request
Alan Prigge, representing the Magnum Producing Co. of Corpus Christi, told commissioners the company wants to build a road to a drilling site Magnum owns in a heavily wooded area north of Claiborne West Park. Magnum officials, however, can’t figure out the best way for trucks and transports to enter the park.

Magnum’s work would not be a nuisance to park visitors, Prigge said.

Magnum wants to use one half of the existing public park entrance, since two possible eastern entrances it had considered are not feasible because of an above ground pipeline and deep-sloping wooded areas. Magnum would pay to have the entrance widened, Prigge said.

Thibodeaux said the county wants “to be good neighbors,” however, using the public entrance would “cause a security issue for our park.” Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton added,

“Not only that … it would disrupt use of the county facilities.”
Prigge agreed to return to Magnum with a plan to build the county a new public entrance. The company would then be able to use the existing entrance.

Block grant aid
Commissioners approved to send a letter of intent to take part in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. According to a letter sent to Thibodeaux from Susan Combs, Texas comptroller of public accounts, Orange County could be eligible for $100,000. Her letter further reads, “The purpose of the program is to provide funds to units of local and state government … to implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions in their communities.”

New filing fee
After the state Legislature recently passed SB 1685, which gives counties the option of adding a filing fee of up to $5 for district court records, commissioners hosted a required public hearing. District Clerk Vickie Edgerly said that, as required by the bill, the fees would be placed in a technology fund that would help subsidize imaging and record preservation services. No one spoke out against the proposal, later adopted by commissioners at a fixed rate of $5. Fees for additional services still vary, Edgerly said.

Additional funds will help her office’s archival expenses caused by restoration problems from Ike damage.

According to SB 1685, the fee can be charged for “the filing of a suit, including an appeal from an inferior court, or a cross-action, counterclaim, intervention, contempt action, motion for new trial or third-party petition.” The new fee takes effect immediately. The bill was signed by Gov. Perry in June.

New stop signs
Commissioners agreed to place stop signs on Pleasant Drive at the corners of Croom Road, Pope Street and Dalton Street. County Engineer Les Anderson said residents had petitioned for the signs, and his office and sheriff’s officials approved of the idea.