Dave Rogers

For The Record

Hurricanes and floods have left the city of Orange with more to deal with than damage and debris.

They’ve spawned a paperwork monster.

But city council took action Tuesday to slay that monster by voting to add a new employee to Orange’s Finance Department.

The minimum annual salary for the new position will be $34,000 and the maximum of $46,000, with the total annual costs running between $52,000 and $74,000.

“It will cost the city more in expenses if we don’t have this person to handle filling out the paperwork properly, because under grant administration, FEMA will end up penalizing us,” council member Brad Childs said just prior to joining the unanimous vote.

Cheryl Zeto, Finance Director, told council she was asking to add a fifth department employee after workloads have increased because of more stringent state and federal laws.

Most of these relate to FEMA and disasters, such as last summer’s Tropical Storm Harvey. She pointed out that Sherry Jackson, Accounting Manager, was still working on FEMA reimbursements from Hurricane Ike, which occurred in 2008.

The new hire would work primarily as Jackson’s assistant.

“This position is desperately needed,” Zeto said.

She noted that the city’s official 2016 audit by Charles Reed & Associates had pointed out that the finance department was understaffed for the amount of work it was responsible for.

“Sherry Jackson is the only one who knows the FEMA requirements,” Zeto said. “She has other duties, but since the storm hit us, she has just been slammed.”

Debris has been the other constant irritant since the Aug. 29-30 storm and some of it still remains to be hauled off.

The city’s debris contractor, J&B Enterprises, had shut down operations after making two passes of the city, Shawn Oubre, city manager, explained.

He said, though, that FEMA would reimburse 90 percent for the city to use its own two grapple trucks to make one more sweep of the city for “eligible” residential and commercial debris.

Oubre explained that debris eligible for reimbursement includes the storm-damaged walls and furnishings “you take out of your home.”

Any debris created by reconstruction or by contractors is ineligible.

Council members OK’d the final city-wide sweep, saying residents who still needed pickup should have their storm debris within 10 feet of the curb by Feb. 1.

Oubre pointed out that the use of the city trucks would force alterations and delay in their usual rounds of picking up normal yard and home debris and the city manager made a plea for patience from residents.

More information about the February haul-off will be available on the city’s Facebook page, Orange Texas Gov.

In other action, council approved a two-year contract with firefighters that includes a 2.5 percent raise this year and 2 percent pay hike in 2019.

Council members approved the Orange County Tax Abatement Guidelines for 2018-19.

They named Demetrius Moffett and Tiffany Bell to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and named four to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Cullin Smith and Jamie Wilson were re-appointed and George Mortimer and Weldon Smith were appointed, all by 7-0 votes. Wilson fills the unexpired term of Michael Smith, which expires in September 2018, while the rest will serve until September 2019.