Orange County commissioners have approved recent changes to the articles of incorporation of the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District, a nonprofit government corporation designed to address a levee study.

In addition to Orange County, already signed on with the district are Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston and Jefferson counties. 

Harris County officials made their bylaw changes last month.

The amendments were looked over by attorneys Doug Manning, representing Orange County; and Alan Sanders for the Orange County Economic Development Corp., which is pursuing its own levee study. EDC recommendations can later be incorporated into the recovery district’s master plan.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said in this week’s regular commissioners’ session that the Sierra Club, an environmental group, may have concerns about how the levee will affect ecosystems, however, those will likely be directed at coastal counties with beachfront properties and residents.

“A storm surge protection system can be built for Orange County,” he said. “And the marsh will still be totally exposed to Sabine Lake or the Gulf of Mexico. All we have to do is work out a system to allow tidal flow inland back and forth and get the fresh water into the marshes on the other side of the levee system. Orange County will have different issues to deal with than the other counties have. Galveston and Chambers are the ones that are going to have a tough time.”

Thibodeaux was set to attend a meeting with representatives of the other five counties Friday in Galveston, however, it was canceled because Brazoria County has not signed-off on the Harris County amendments. 

A new date has not be set.

The item could be on the Brazoria commissioners’ agenda on March 23, Thibodeaux said.

The Harris County amendments include:
• eliminating the right of the corporation to own real or personal property, issue bonds, notes or other debt obligations without the express consent of the sponsoring counties.
• limiting the right of the corporation to enter into any agreement in excess of $600,000 without approval of all six commissioners’ courts.
• expiration of the agreement in 2020, so that it would “not exist into perpetuity.”

CHAMPS funds, road upgrades approved

The county has received a letter allocating about $12.3 million from the first phase of a long-ago applied for Community Block Development Grant, now under the Texas Department of Rural Affairs.

Emergency Services Coordinator Jeff Kelley said the majority of funds are for the multipurpose center project on Farm Road 1442, also known as the CHAMPS building (Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure).

“We have a long list of roads, including the elevation of Bailey Road and some funding in there that … should be available for engineering [projects],” Kelley said.

EDC Director Bobby Fillyaw told The Record the news of the CHAMPS funding, was in his opinion, the best to come out of this week’s commissioners’ meeting.

The proposed facility will replace the Old Timers Pavilion, an oft-used structure 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. 

It will also house a new Emergency Operations Center to replace the one in the old AT&T building, which served the county well during hurricanes Rita and Ike. Studies have shown the need for a better, more central location in the county. 

The center may include offices for the agriculture department, which sponsors 4-H and other programs; and meeting rooms for senior citizens’ groups and other organizations.