Janna Fullbright of The Spindletop Center poses with the Orange County Commissioners’ Court on Monday afternoon. May was proclaimed as National Mental Health Awarness Month in the county.

Temple-Inland, Inc./International Paper in Orange is expanding thanks to help from the Orange County Commissioners’ Court. The commissioners approved an $80 million tax abatement with the company up to and over four years. There is also an additional four-year abatement on a declining scale of 80 percent, 60 percent, 40 percent and 20 percent for a full eight-year abatement.

Holly Smith, controller at Temple-Inland, said this expansion will make the Orange mill more competitive in the paper industry. The mill produces liner board for corrugate boxes which are used for Ebay and Amazon, food and produce.

Bobby Fillyaw, director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, said the abatement will allow new investments into the facilities.

The mill’s employment base will remain the same, but there will be an increase in the number of contractors and construction crews on site. There are more than 300 employees at Temple-Inland. Construction will begin sometime in 2014.

“This will be used for efficiencies, upgrades and mill safety,” Smith said.

Temple-Inland is not eligible for the school tax abatement. Fillyaw said the good thing about abatements is the county cannot lose anything they don’t have yet in the form of tax revenue. Additionally, Orange County may ask other entities to join them in the abatement.

Commissioners also approved an agreement for the provision of a law enforcement canine.

Keith Merritt, Orange County sheriff, said one of the dogs retired in September 2013. The department has been waiting for the new dog to pass its certifications and this agreement is a reinstatement of the original one made in 2009 made with Deputy Christopher Frederick.

The canine is funded in the OCSO budget. The new canine will back up another canine and bring the department’s strength up to two. Approved was establishing a commercial truck speed limit of 20 mph on the streets in the Echo Forrest area off of FM 1131.

Clark Slacum, county engineer, reported there are 99 residents who live in the subdivisions with their children playing outside. The current posted speed limit is 30 mph and trucks going to and fro to a nearby sand pit pose a potential risk at that rate of speed.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said he wanted the entire subdivision post 20 mph signs. Slacum added the lower speed limit will also lessen wear and tear on the roadways.

Jody Crump, Precinct 4 commissioner, said he has been receiving complaints about the commercial trucks driving through the neighborhood.

Streets with the new 20 mph signs are: Claire St., Bradley St., Armon St., Regina St., Hoffman St., Carla St., and Love St.

Commissioners are awaiting a definite price before purchasing a sand spreader for the Road & Bridge Department. Slacum said they are entering the heavy season of road construction and it would be an improvement to spread sand and to prime  a road sprayed with asphalt.

Drivers currently must drive through the asphalt. Crews could cover up the asphalt before using the chip spreader. Sand could also be spread on icy bridges and roadways. It would be attached to the dump truck. The rough figure for the machine is $10,000.

Slacum also announced there will be a free hazardous waste collection event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 17 at Bridge City Intermediate School, 1029 W. Roundbunch Rd. The event is sponsored by the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Items accepted include: Batteries, Paint, Varnishes, Solvents, Pesticides, Fertilizer, Tires (Scrap tires will be collected at no charge for the first eight. A $1 fee is required for each additional tire. Over-sized tires are not accepted. Automotive Fluid, Used Oil and Filters, Cleaners, Swimming Pool Chemicals and Mercury.

Materials not accepted: Electronics, Appliances, Explosives, Ammunition, Garbage, Medications/Pharmaceuticals, Scrap Metal, Smoke Detectors, Exit Signs and Medical Waste.

Russell Gauthia, a Bridge City resident, said he rented the Orange County Expo and Convention and Hospitality Center on April 5 for his daughter’s wedding/reception. He said everything went great at the center except the court approved rate changes before the wedding.

“We weren’t expecting it,” Gauthia said. “Sabrina (Grey, event coordinator), she would handle it. She did not handle it. She grouped us with everyone else at commissioners’ court. It wasn’t cut and dry.”

The Orange County Commissioners’ Court approved requested rental rate changes for the Orange County Convention & Event Center at their regular meeting in April.

One week later, the commissioners approved applying the rate reduction price to pending event contracts signed prior to April 7, 2014. However, an item for a requested refund to a previously held contracted event due to the rate reduction price was denied 4 to 1 with only County Judge Carl Thibodeaux voting in favor of the refund.

The request for the rate change was made by Grey. She said the changes were necessary to remain competitive with other venues. Thibodeaux said the item will be placed on next week’s agenda for reconsideration.

Commissioners approved amending the lease between the county and the Orange County Radio Control Club to use a pond on the premises for radio controlled boats.

Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, said It’s a family-friendly activity and the club has been good tenants. The activity will not adversely impact the premises.

Lastly, May was proclaimed as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

The proclamation read:

WHEREAS; mental wellness is an essential part of overall health, and WHEREAS; the commitment and support of people with mental illness through healthy lifestyles can lead rewarding lives in recovery, and WHEREAS; stigma and fear of discrimination keep many who would benefit from mental health services from seeking help, and WHEREAS; we must encourage relatives, neighbors and friends to recognize the signs of a mental health problem and guide individuals to appropriate resources and recovery support services, and WHEREAS; individuals with mental health illnesses make important contributions to our families and our communities, and WHEREAS; Spindletop Center, Baptist Hospitals of SETX Behavioral Health Center and Mental Health America of SETX ‘ will host a Mental Health Fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13 at the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 9th Ave. Janna Fulbright, public relations/marketing for the Spindletop Center, said one in five residents experience some kind of mental health disruption over the year. The Spindletop Center serves the counties of Orange, Jefferson, Hardin and Chambers.