Financial projections for Orange County governmental entities will be a mixed bag for 2014.

Most city administrators are somewhat optimistic about the upcoming year with some exceptions while the county has some work to do to get back on track after a budget shortfall.

Orange County

Judge Carl Thibodeaux said major roadwork throughout the county will soon begin. The county received $2 million for the project from Hurricane Ike Round 2.2 Disaster Funding from the state.

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux

On a down note, Thibodeaux said regular operating expenses are very high and the county is trying to make cuts there.

Also, payroll and employee benefits expenses are up and the county is seeking other solutions to that challenge. He added, the employees are the county’s greatest asset.

The county commissioners approved joining Bridge City in appealing new FEMA flood zone maps.

On the revenue side of the equation, Thibodeaux said they appear to be stable.

“We survive on property taxes. There’s a little increase in sales tax. We need to increase optional revenues,” he said. “Budget issues are tough. I’m doing the best I can do to balance the budget.”

Thibodeaux concluded his remarks by wishing everyone a prosperous and healthy New Year.

City of Orange

The last three months of 2013 were busy for the city, setting the course for 2014.

The city council approved, though not unanimously, to go forward in building Arthur Robinson II complex on Sikes Road, Pine Grove on Park Street and Velma Jeter on Allie Payne Road.

Construction hasn’t begun yet and there are rumors voiced at the public hearings of legal challenges to the project.

Also pending is the city joining other local governmental entities to try to protect residents with upcoming revisions to flood insurance.

The pending flood insurance study that will affect homeowners flood insurance rates and future construction costs through the new flood maps and new elevations, according to City Manager Shawn Oubre.

The law firm of Lonee G. Harper & Associates of Louisiana will file an appeal on behalf of participating entities with FEMA concerning the pending study. Total costs to all entities is not to exceed $85,000 for the research, preparation and filing of the appeal.

Construction shall take place on Cherry Avenue between 10th Street and 2nd Street involving four acres in a 100-year floodplain. The street is 60 feet wide and 2,900 feet in length.

The proposed project includes overlaying exiting bridge decks(s), installing guard rail and object markers, applying a one-course asphalt overlay to a street, adjusting valves, manholes and inlets to final grade as necessary and performing site work associated with the construction.

Proposed street and bridge repairs will restore and ensure the function of the roads for primary access and emergency vehicle use, according to the city’s public works department.

This project in the amount of $100,000 and is in addition to the East Town Street Improvements- a grant funded for disaster relief through the Texas General Land Office.

The final reading was approved of an ordinance authorizing participation with other Entergy service area cities with the Public Utilities Commission.

Entergy’s heavy transmission lines from power stations will merge with ITC Holdings.

The Southern Professional Outboard Racing Tour tunnel boat races will continue next September in Orange after council approval.

The proposed dates are from September 19-21, 2014. A total fee of $40,000 for the boat races was requested by SPORT Race Producer, John Schubert. A $5,000 payment is to be submitted by July 1, 2014, but no later than July 15, 2014.

A second payment of $10,000 is due by August 30, 2014, and a final payment of $25,000 is to be submitted on September 19, 2014.

Lastly, The Southern Professional Outboard Racing Tour tunnel boat races will continue next September in Orange after council approval.

The proposed dates are from September 19-21, 2014. A total fee of $40,000 for the boat races was requested by SPORT Race Producer, John Schubert. A $5,000 payment is to be submitted by July 1, 2014, but no later than July 15, 2014.

A second payment of $10,000 is due by August 30, 2014, and a final payment of $25,000 is to be submitted on September 19, 2014.

Jay Trahan

Jay Trahan

Jay Trahan, director of the Orange Economic Development Corporation, expects an increase in motel occupancy and the possibility of a concert on Saturday night of the event.

The Deep South Racing Association, DSRA, staff has requested for the city to host boat races at the city boat ramp from May 31-June 1, 2014.

DSRA requested a promoter fee of $8,000 with $4,000 due upon execution of the agreement and $4,000 due on May 31, If the event must be canceled, fees will be deferred until DSRA and the city reschedules the event.

Cancellation of the event will be determined by weather and safety issues for the races begin.

DSRA estimates 50 competitors from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. These races will be more like a drag race rather than the oval route of the SPORT races.

West Orange

City Manager Michael Steely said the city will use the $1 million in Hurricane Ike Recovery Funds to replace drainage culverts and to demolish abandoned homes in the city.

One onus added to the city is a new federal unfunded mandate regarding storm water run-off. Stelly estimates it may cost the city an additional $10,000 a year.

Another challenge is meeting rising employee health care costs.

West Orange also joined the other area cities and counties in appealing the new FEMA floodplain maps- a cost not anticipated by the city.

Sales tax are down for the city, Stelly said. He’s hopeful that a new Super Walmart to be built in Bridge City will help with sales tax.

Overall, the city’s finances are stable without needing to raise taxes or to diminish city services.

Pinehurst

City Administrator Joe Parkhurst said work will begin laying new sewer lines on Whipporwill Street and rebuilding the Lexington Street Bridge on January 6. The funding for the projects is from Hurricane Ike Round 2.2 funding.

On the second week in January, the city will begin receiving bids to rehabilitate three lift stations on 34th Street, Broad Street and Warbler Street. Parkhurst said the projects will help with water flow.

Joe Parkhurst

Joe Parkhurst

As with West Orange, Pinehurst may be faced with a $14,000 a year expense that wasn’t budgeted due to the federal mandate on storm water run-off.

Plans are for the city to enter into a consortium with other cites to hire an engineering company to monitor the storm water. The city would otherwise have to hire an additional employee at $35,000 a year in salary and $25,000 in benefits.

In regard to the new FEMA flood maps, the city opted not to join the coalition because only six residences bordering Adams Bayou and the drainage ditch were flooded from Hurricane Ike.

Parkhurst said the appeal would cost $85,000 and total costs could add up to $1 million. Individual property owners can instead complete a survey for $400 for the actual elevation and then appeal.

Sales tax is currently down for the city, but Parkhurst is optimistic it will soon rise after three new businesses  and a restaurant open up. Phelan Investments is also looking at bringing in some national chains stores to fill in vacant spaces at Pinehurst shopping centers.

“It will be a good year for the city. We have good plans, long range plans. It will be a better place to live. Hopefully it (revenues) will turn around. I see the glass as half full,” Parkhurst said.

Bridge City

Bridge City is most affected by the new FEMA floodplain maps.

City Manager Jerry Jones said 75 percent of Bridge City lies in a flood zone under the new maps. He believes those readings are inaccurate because FEMA is using data for a 500-year storm.

“We could spend quite a bit on appeals, proving each appeal,” Jones said. “We’re taking things one step at a time. The county and all the cities have joined in except for Pinehurst. The projects and maps are unrealistic.”

Jones said the city’s goal with the appeals is to get 70 percent to 80 percent of Bridge City out of the flood zone.

Pertaining to infrastructure projects, Bridge City is using its disaster relief funds on the sewer plant, lift stations and a number of streets. Thus far, $18 million worth of work has been completed with $3 million left for the last phase of Ike Round 2.2.

The city is also looking to build a new sewer plant using funds through the Deep Water Horizon class action suit for Texas.

Some other bright spots are the building of the Super Walmart and a Raceway Filling Station.

Jones added the revenue coming in is good for the city with no increases from last year and the possibility of an increase this year.

“Things are great. We need to get the flood plan maps corrected and our projects finished up. We have more stores than before Ike. The population is up and I think the Super Walmart will help,” he said.