Orange County commissioners in special session this week accepted a land donation from the CHAMPS group to take advantage of a grant and a less-costly environmental survey.

The Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure project on Farm Road 1442 will replace the Old Timers Pavilion destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005. The CHAMPS facility will include rodeo grounds, a softball field, shooting range and community center – as well as a new county Emergency Operations Center.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley said that, had the land transfer not occurred, the facility grounds would have been considered on two tracts of land, therefore requiring two separate environmental studies. The county can only afford matching funds for one study, he said.

Eventually there will be a land-use agreement between CHAMPS and the county, said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. He added that commissioners strongly support the CHAMPS structure, as it has the potential not only for local use but to bring in out-of-county dollars to local restaurants and hotels.

“This project is being watched very closely across the state,” Kelley said. “The state’s been encouraging public-private partnerships for the last couple of years and they’ve seen some success stories. And ours is one … Well they’ve been encouraging these public-private partnerships but nobody’s really figured out how to crack the nut to make it work … so there’s lots of folks waiting to see how we handle these issues.”

CHAMPS plans a major fundraiser in the future, Thibodeaux said.

Allie Payne limit change

Citizens who sent in a request to change the speed limit on a portion of Allie Payne Road had their request approved Monday.
The speed on as “S” curve on Allie Payne east of Texas 87 will be changed to 20 mph. County Engineer Les Anderson called the request reasonable.
“The speed limit on a normal county road is 30 mph, and if you want to ride this curve you have to drop your speed regardless,” he said.

Child abuse prevention proclamation

Some 280 blue balloons were released outside during the meeting, one for each child who died of abuse and neglect in 2009 and including one orange balloon representing Orange County, in a brief recess. 

Thibodeaux said the recess was unusual for a commissioners meeting but worthy of the services Child Protective Services provides, as the court proclaimed April Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“This is a fight that we’re all in together,” said Johnny Westbrook, investigation supervisor for Orange County CPS. “And the community plays an integral part in that fight. Without them being active and being on the watch for child abuse and neglect, it would make our jobs that much harder.”