Orange County commissioners this week approved demolition by road and bridge crews of two county offices damaged by Hurricane Ike: the former road and bridge building, 106 S. Border St.; and the former adult probation office, 902 Division Ave.

Some items still have to be removed from the buildings, said County Engineer Les Anderson, who added in Monday’s special session he wants to begin the wrecking process soon.

As for possible traffic congestion during demolition, Anderson said there would most likely be one lane open at all times.

“We’ll coordinate through the city of Orange … to make it safe so there won’t be any concern,” he said.

Meanwhile, the county is waiting to hear from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) regarding the Ike-damaged Woodmen of the World building, located near the structures to be razed.

The Heritage historical group had, prior to the hurricane, used it as a museum.

Commissioners want to do a “land-swap” between the county and Heritage board of directors, and use the “Woodmen” location as what County Judge Carl Thibodeaux calls a “footprint” for the new adult probation office.

However, the THC first wants to evaluate preservation issues concerning the building.

According to a letter Thibodeaux received from THC, nothing can happen to the building for at least 60 days.

In other business Monday:

ª A local Data Advisory Board, created in the last state legislative session to account for criminal case dispositions (or disposals), was established by commissioners. The board is required by the Code of Criminal Procedure, which says a board must prepare a reporting improvement plan. The idea is that once a case is entered into the computerized criminal history system, the disposition must also be reported/entered into the system. The goal is to improve the speed of criminal prosecutions. The board consists of several officials (or an appointed designee by that official) including from the offices of sheriff, district attorney, district and county clerks and the police chief of the largest municipality in the county (in this case – Orange). The board must also include representatives of the county’s automated data processing services office.
The board must report its plan to the state by June 1.

• Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley said he plans to meet with FEMA officials Wednesday to again discuss repairs to the Orange County Courthouse basement, the last of the county’s mitigation projects concerning Ike – and one which never seems to go away. The county wants to build a new, elevated structure near the courthouse to house basement items, including a new elevated generator.  But after applying many months ago for some $900,000, FEMA only wants to reimburse a little more than $400,000.
There’s “a little bit of contention” on FEMA’s part, Kelley told commissioners. Still at issue is the replacement building FEMA wants to pay for, which is too small, according to Kelley, to hold all the basement items.  Other problems include FEMA’s vision of the new building’s doorway, which Kelley says is too small and many basement items won’t be able to fit into it. He said he was confident the county will get more than FEMA wants to pay. “I don’t think we’re going to get the $900,000 up front like we wanted, but I also don’t think our deficit will be as much,” Kelley said.