Orange holds public hearing on dilapidated structures
The Orange City Council held a public hearing at their regular meeting on Tuesday morning to receive citizen comments on the proposed clearance and demolition of 21 substandard and dilapidated structures and clearance of properties.
Dr. Shawn Oubre reported the clearance and demolition is to remove blight from the area. The residences chosen are over 45 years of age.
The operation will be funded through the city’s community development block grant program.
All of the properties have been reviewed or are currently going through review by the State Historical Preservation Office and the Orange Historic Preservation Board.
The 21 structures are: 36 Putnam, 112 E. Tennessee, 308 New Jersey, 504 Middle, 606 North, 802 Texas Ave., 1005 Texas Ave., 1009 Cooper, 1205 Link, 1207 11th, 1210 and 1208 13th St., 1211 15th St., 1312 Burton, 1406 N. Hart, 1601 Curtis, 2037 Simpson, 2216 Westway, 2315 Alden, 2409 Riverside
2216 and 3318 20th St.
Oubre said over 600 units have been demolished by the city since Hurricane Rita. He added the dilapidated structures suppress appraisal values of neighboring properties. Some of the properties are in arrears for property taxes and the owners will have to pay an ad valorem tax.
Councilwoman Theresa Beauchamp said it seemed one area is being targeted in the city and then moving on to other areas after completion.
Oubre said the older homes are being done first and some are over 65 years of age.
Beauchamp said some of the structures are in The Cove. She added every time the city council holds a community meeting in The Cove, there’s blight.
Councilman Bill Mello asked Oubre if he has heard from the individual owners. Oubre said they have been notified to fix up the properties and the city is taking it from that point.
City Attorney John Cash Smith said this is being done according to state statute and the properties go before Judge Jerry Pennington in municipal court.
Councilwoman Essie Bellfield asked if there were any local contractors to do the demolition. Oubre said there are two or three locally and one or two in the city. She then asked if some of the wood from the structures could be used to build other structures. Oubre said the city has no authority over the contractor for him to cherry pick the wood since the city doesn’t own the properties. “If the contractor who bids sees something of value, it’s his choice to take piece by piece,” he said.
Bellfield also asked who will mow the properties. Oubre said 90 percent of them will end up on the city’s future mowing list and they would have to hire someone.
Councilman Larry Spears Jr. said it’s a good thing to keep Orange beautiful and he wouldn’t want to move here if he saw the dilapidated structures.
In other council business, a resolution was approved for the city’s participation in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Grant award of $314,365. Oubre said Orange is an entitlement city, they don’t have to go to agencies such as the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission for direct funding. The funding can be used for water and sewer, street pavement, social services improvements, etc.
Beauchamp asked if the grant would be used to build more HUD housing.
Oubre explained sine Ike Round 2.2 funding, a lawsuit mandated future dollars be advocated to low to moderate housing or the city would have to give back previous federal money and there would be no funds at the federal level. Oubre said the city tried to limit the number of units that would not increase the density or the number of units.
A final reading was approved granting a franchise to Enviro Waste Solutions, LLC to operate a commercial closed container garbage collection service in the city.
Also approved was the final reading of an ordinance denying the distribution cost recovery factor rate increase request of Entergy Texas, Inc.
A 2002 Chevy C6500 grapple truck was declared as surplus to be auctioned through Rene Bates Auctioneers. Jim Wolf, public works director, said the city obtained a new grapple truck and the old one will be sold by auction.
The grapple trucks picks up green waste and clearance and demolition debris. The truck was rebuilt three years ago.
During citizen comments, resident Sandra Bellon said there has been recurring problems of flooding with her home at 3809 Huntwick in the Hillbrook Addition. She said her house is the only one to flood in the neighborhood- four times in the last 10 years.
“It’s really been hard. My husband has health problems now. He and my sons did most of the work but they have jobs now and can’t do it,” Bellon said. She added FEMA in the past wouldn’t pay enough after the flooding. There is also a drainage ditch across from them that is clear-cut. If they build something there it will add to the flooding, she believes. She is asking for a grant from FEMA to help out.
Olshan Foundation Repair wouldn’t touch the house because of its size and shape. Bellon said they can’t continue to go through this and they can’t sell it as is and move. “We love Orange and we love our home. We don’t want to leave and we can’t walk away from it,” she said.
Oubre told the council Bellon gave him an idea when she mentioned Olshan.
The November 25 and the December 23 council meetings have been canceled due to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.