Orange County officials will continue to monitor for a possible burn ban, commissioners said in special session this week.

The county also moved the process forward to demolish the downtown Woodworker’s Building, or Woodmen of the World Lodge.

Although a low pressure front and some rain helped keep Texas Forest Service levels in the moderate range, Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley said a 14-day outlook shows the county jumping into the Keetch-Byram Drought Index’s 600-700 level, just one below the most extreme level.

“I don’t see anything major to indicate – and have not heard from any fire departments over the weekend of anything major – to indicate we should take action,” Kelley said.

Building demolition

Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Orange for the county to provide materials and maintenance regarding destruction of the Woodmen Lodge.

The structure is across from the Orange County Courthouse and has been deemed unsafe. It was being used as a museum before incurring damage from Hurricane Ike.

According to Orange City Manager Shawn Oubre, the Texas Historical Commission has approved the plan. In a letter from the commission to City Planner Jimmie Lewis, state officials said that although they did not want to see the building come down, they approved of the demolition because of the estimates the museum had to repair.

The building is also listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

“Mr. Lewis stated that if there is not a consulting party requested, as we had on the Central Fire Station, the state has the authority to grant demolition,” Oubre said. “If the state wanted review from the national level, they or a consulting party can make that request.”

Oubre added, “The city is not responsible for costs that the county incurs in the demolition. The agreement is for the county to pay for expenses that they incur.”
According to the Register’s Web site, the building’s architect was Charles Nemits, and the style is “Mission/Spanish Revival.”

The Cow Bayou Swing Bridge recently became the seventh property in Orange County to be listed on the National Register. Not counting the Woodmen Lodge the others are the W.H. Stark House, the Lutcher Memorial Church Building, the Navy Park Historic District, the Joseph and Annie Lucas House and the Sims House. The Rainbow Bridge, part of which is in Orange County, is among 41 Jefferson County listings.

Meeting time change

Next week’s commissioners’ court is set for 9 a.m. Monday, June 21, so that commissioners David Dubose, Owen Burton and John Dubose can attend continuing education sessions.