Orange County considers future Vidor loop
A moment of silence was taken at the start of Commissioners’ Court on Monday, Jan. 10 for the loss of Judge Derry Dunn’s mother and the shooting in Tucson, Ariz. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux informed the court that the Texas State Flags and the American Flags in all of Orange County will be flown at half-mast until nightfall on Friday, Jan. 14. All county and state offices across the State of Texas will have their flags flying at half-mast until nightfall Friday as well.
The Vidor Loop
The idea of a FM 299 loop, otherwise known as the Vidor Loop, has been on the books for quite some time and was designed to help alleviate traffic on State Hwy. 105 between Connor Road and Walden Street. Sponsors and private investors are needed to get this project underway.
Duane Gordy with Cherokee Development said that “this was brought to our attention by [Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT)]; it’s one of several projects that’s gotten held up over the course of time for several different reasons.”
The TXDOT sets a block of funds aside to be repaid through the pass-thru toll mechanism. It’s not a true toll, but it a shadow toll that merely counts the amount of automobiles that will travel on the road. Reinvestment comes from the private developers and the economic growth that the loop could bring in.
“School districts would generate revenue out of it,” Gordy said. “The city of Vidor has an opportunity to generate revenue out of it. The water board generates revenue out of it and the county generates revenue.”
One of the advantages in working with private entities for this project is that the project can be broke down in segments small enough that local vendors can participate in the construction. Cherokee Development facilitates the project and works with TXDOT to get it done with local vendors.
In some cases, there is a user fee to use the road. In this case, there are general revenue dollars that have been made available over a span of time by the state to repay the construction of the project. “Those dollars, in turn, are used to repay investment of the private developer who put the project in place.”
If more volume comes over the roadway than anticipated, the state has a maximum dollar they are willing to repay every year to the construction of the project. There is also a minimum they are willing to contribute to that as well. This project could pay for itself in ten years rather than 15 years most projects like this take.
Documentation and the application can be ready within the week for the county officials to review.
Randy Redmond from the TXDOT district in the Beaumont Area said that “we have a draft of environmental assessment that we’re working the bugs out of and coordinating the details with the federal highway administration for final environmental clearance on [this project].”
“There was a lot of support at Pine Forest and the motorist that travel FM105 through Vidor,” Redmond said. “Just in real simple terms, we have a project of local interest, as FM 299 is; the local government or developers come in and propose a project to TXDOT. We’ll fund it, we’ll get it built, and y’all will pay us back a certain percentage of what we build. Normally, the top dollar value is the value of the construction project.”
If the road is not built, there is no expense. If the road is built, the county would repay construction cost out of the revenue generated by those driving on the road. The county is not required to put any money up to get the project underway. The only money requested is the money generated by the project.
TXDOT would handle the maintenance of the road.
“It’s got to be all up front, every single bit of it…before this court can make a decision,” said Thibodeaux. “I can’t speak for the commissioners, but myself, personally, will not participate unless everything is laid out on the table upfront, long term liabilities, everything…mowing the grass in the ditches.”
“I can you tell you that in the application for the pass through toll, all of those questions are addressed and are very transparent in the application,” Gordy said.
The commissioners agreed to fill out the application for this project under the exception that they will be able to back out of the project before May 2011.
Butch’s Salvage and Garage
County Engineer Les Anderson approached the court to seek action on renewing the license to James D. Vincent to operate Butch’s Salvage and Garage located at 2695 Main St. in Vidor. Vincent’s permit was effective through Jan. 4. He was required to pay a fee and submit a renewal before Jan. 5, which he did.
“I have received reports in the recent past stating that he wasn’t in compliance, that a vehicle had been left out over night,” said Anderson. “Each time we receive these types of reports, we contact him. In my knowledge, he has worked to comply with the county.”
“It’s directly in my precinct and I pass this gentleman’s place of business every day going home and on my way out,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump. “I have seen situations not in compliance on regular occasions.”
“During the time he’s operating, it’s not a big deal unless he’s got them in the street and in the right away,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose.
Many have had an issue with the vegetative barrier on the north side of Vincent’s property. Assistant County Attorney, Doug Manning said that, according to government statue, for counties until 200,000, they can use vegetative material for fencing.
“The question that arisen on a couple of occasions is whether or not that needs to be intentionally planted shrubbery,” Manning said. “We would certainly say that qualifies as vegetative barrier. The question I’ve been faced with is when the property owner lets the brush and debris grows to shield the view, is that the same thing? I’m looking into that to see if there is any judicial clarification to what constitutes proper vegetation.”
“Last time I was up here, y’all wanted me to build a fence, and I did,” said Vincent. “It’s still standing. There’s a fence all the way to the very back. I’ve had Les out there a dozen times and I’ve told him, ‘if there’s anything I need to do, tell me now’ and he’s told me everything is in compliance with what I was told to do. I’ve tried and done everything there is do that y’all have asked me to do.”
Orange County citizen Woody Dugas said “I called Les Anderson two months ago and asked when Butch’s license will expire and he told me in April 2011. Today he comes over here and says he’s license expires on Jan. 5. I have no problem with Butch operating. The only problem is that he is constantly out of compliance. The citizens of Orange County and, especially, my precinct come to be all the time and complain about these junkyards. I’m not out to put this man out of business. All I want him to do is stay in compliance.”
“I’m tired of dealing with this every single year,” said Thibodeaux. “It’s ridiculous. [Vincent] trying to do what’s right and I’m catching the heat. Let him have his business. He has the right to do business but he has to stay in compliance.”
Three of the four commissioners voted to renew Vincents license. Crump was the only one who voted ‘no.’
Texas Shelter Initiative
$52 million was set aside to build shelters along the coast of Texas. “At this point, the state is very positive about helping us with our 1442 project (C.H.A.M.P.S),” said Jeff Kelley, director of emergency management. “We don’t have any figures from them yet. I feel like it would have been washed out if they didn’t feel very positive about it.”
The state mitigation officer told Kelley last week that he felt it was an extremely good project and if it were left up to him alone, he would write the check.
“This would complete the building for us,” said Thibodeaux. “We really have a project that’s ready to go, a project that’s already drawn up, a project that’s already fixing to go out for bids, a project that’s totally within the parameters of what the state wants to done. Instead of the state coming and starting from the ground up, we’ve already got ours drawn up, got ours planned, and we’ll already start construction on the building itself. It would be a perfect partnership with the state and it would actually save the state money. They would spend a lot more money building a whole new shelter somewhere if we didn’t have this project. It’s going to finish the governmental side of our building.”
The only requirement the state will not waive is that finished floor elevation has to be 24 feet. The proposed finished floor elevation is currently 22 feet. The commissioners agreed that the proposed finished floor elevation should be changed to 24 feet so they won’t have to deal with this problem later on.
Bills paid this week totaled $351,672.10.
The court approved the transfer of $175 from Miscellaneous Fees and Services to Registration, Seminars, and Conferences so that Frankie Walters would attend the 2011 Texas Aviations Conference.
The County Auditors final financial report showed an increase in revenues and decrease in expenditures.
Thibodeaux signed a Non-Revenue User Agreement with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority at the request of the Orange County Sheriff’s department. This agreement will allow free toll passage for authorized emergency vehicles.
Paula Anders, transportation director, asked the court to amend the current Transportation Drug and Alcohol Policy to include the new regulations of the revised CCF to include testing for ecstasy. The court approved said amendment.