By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

Orange County Commissioners have approved the dispersal of thousands of dollars of funding to organizations which hold events promoting tourism in local communities within the county.

Orange County Commissioners Court approved a recommendation from the Orange County Economic Development Corporation for the distribution of $63,000 in hotel occupancy tax funds for the 2015 dispersal period. Funds for the 2016 dispersal period, which ends in connection with the fiscal year at the end of September 2016, will be distributed later this year for 2017 events.

A public hearing was held Tuesday afternoon, prior to the regular meeting of Orange County Commissioners Court, to allow Jessica Hill, the executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, to make recommendation to County Commissioners.

Hill stated a review committee met on April 29 to examine applications and consider the purpose of the requests and the amount of funding each respective organization requested.

“We were not able to meet all of the requested amounts, but we did our best,” Hill said.

Each organization which requested funding was approved. However, the review committee made recommendations on the amounts which should be allocated to the organizations instead.

One of the several requests approved on Tuesday included $5,000 to the Friends of the Orange Depot for renovation and restoration purposes of the Orange Depot Museum.

“These funds will go directly toward the abatement of lead paint from the depot,” said J. David Derosier of the Friends of the Orange Depot.

The Conn Park Complex in Vidor, which is the site of the Texas Bar-B-Q Festival each year adjacent to Interstate 10, received a funding amount of $12,500 for signage. The complex already has a pavilion with cement flooring constructed on the property, along with electrical outlets spread across the property for festival usage. A long range plan will be to construct baseball and softball fields.

The Heritage House of Orange County Association was approved to receive $5,000 in funding as it continues to renovate a building on its property, which could be opened to the public later this year.

“We are working on a building we acquired from the City of Orange,” said Leslie Williams of the Heritage House of Orange County Association. “We hope to be ready by September and have an open house event.”

The Gulf Coast Chapter of the Cajun French Music Association was approved for $6,000 in funding for its seventh annual Gulf Coast Cajun Music and Food Festival to be held in October, while the Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts was approved for $7,500 in funding to assist with its upcoming 2016-2017 season.

The Orange Amateur Radio Club was approved for $3,500 in funding for advertising for its 2016 Orange Hamfest event, while Orange County Rope for Kids was approved for $8,000 in funding for its annual event of the same name and facility costs associated with the event.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Posse received approval for $5,000 in funding for rodeo advertisement and facility costs, while the Orangefield Cormier Museum was approved for $6,500 in funding for maintenance of the facility and monthly expenses and the Orange County Historical Commission was approved for $4,000 for historical markers.

Two special allocations were made earlier this year due to time constraints. This included $8,000 in funding to the Vidor Chamber of Commerce for the 2016 Texas Bar-B-Festival, and $8,000 in funding for the Mauriceville Crawfish Festival by its organization. Both of these events were held in April 2016.

“I just want to commend the committee on their work in this process,” said John Banken, Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 3. “This was handled very professionally and well done.”

Hill stated another allocation of hotel occupancy tax funds will be made following the end of the 2016 fiscal year, but a four-to-six week application process will be conducted prior to any dispersal of funds.

In other news, Missy Pillsbury was introduced as the interim Emergency Management Coordinator of Orange County. Pillsbury was appointed to the position this past Thursday, May 12. Pillsbury also serves as the supervisor of the Orange County Airport.

According to Orange County Judge Brint Carlton, Ryan Peabody, the previous Emergency Management Coordinator, is no longer employed with the county.

The Orange County Commissioners also approved the 2017 holiday schedule for county employees.

According to Orange County Judge Brint Carlton, employees will receive 13 holidays during the 2017 calendar year with the majority of holidays being on a Monday or Friday in order to give employees extended weekends.

One change made to the proposed holiday schedule will be the removal of Texas Independence Day, which would be on Thursday, March 2, 2017, as a county holiday and “add it to” July 3, 2017, which is a Thursday. By adding it to the U.S. Independence Holiday on July 4, 2017, it will give employees a four-day, holiday weekend.

Commissioners approved the motion by a vote of 4-0.