Dave Rogers

For The Record

Like Mattress Mac, the Orange County commissioners want to “save you money!” and they think they have.

John Dineen, project manager for HDR and the county’s courthouse restoration consultant, said Tuesday that Orange County could qualify for 50 percent matching grants from the Texas Historical Commission for $900,000 of repair to the building and its roof.

He said some 85-15 grants were also available for general courthouse renovations, noting the county faced a Feb. 5 deadline on some paperwork in order to apply.

Among the paperwork needed were letters of support for historic preservation written by community members.

“This has been a long time developing, so thank you, Commissioner Burton, for getting this going,” County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said to Barry Burton, the commissioners’ point of contact for buildings and infrastructure.

“If all goes according to plans, this should save the county half a million dollars.”

Burton said the county should find out in April if it’s receiving THC grants.

“Once we know that, we’ll start figuring on the project management. I would hope we’ll be finished by the end of the summer – on the marble and the roofing.”

Commissioners’ Court met Tuesday for the second time in five days, as last week’s regular Tuesday afternoon session was delayed until Friday by ice storms.

This week’s session took part in the morning to accommodate a visit by the General Land Office. County and state officials were out to find sites for special trailer parks for FEMA trailers made necessary by Hurricane Harvey in August.

Michelle Tubbleville, county special projects coordinator, said Tuesday morning that 472 Orange County families are still living in FEMA-funded hotels.

She pointed to a Jan. 12 FEMA update that notes Orange County Harvey victims have received $645.2 million in benefits, 17,366 registrations for assistance have been approved and the National Flood Insurance Program has paid out $270.2 million for 4,229 claims.

She said the Texas Baptist Men who have been coming in waves to the area and staying at the old Navy barracks at the Port have 142 homes on their list to repair, with 25 complete.

Tuesday’s meeting began with a favorable report on the county’s delinquent taxes by Steve Bird of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, the county’s private tax collector.

The county had $3.2 million in delinquent property tax accounts in January, down from $3.8 million in July; and 8,870 delinquent accounts in January, down from 10,270 in July.

Delinquent taxes recovered for the county in the last fiscal year, $1,385,782, were an all-time high, Bird said.

While September delinquent tax collections were down more than 40 percent compared to last year, Bird said that was because of Harvey, and noted that first-quarter delinquent tax collections were up about 60 percent over last year.

In Friday’s meeting, commissioners okayed an annual salary of $96,366 for a candidate submitted by County Attorney John Kimbrough to serve as the court’s legal counsel.

That position had been held for two decades by Doug Manning, who is retiring from the county Friday. He has landed a new job, which begins next month, as purchasing agent for the Orange County Drainage District.

The suggested salary and its spot on the county matrix was for an attorney with 15 years’ experience. No name has been released as the attorney had not accepted the job as of Tuesday, Carlton said.

Also Friday, commissioners appointed Ida Schossow, Demetrius Moffett and Charlie Holder to the newly created Long-term Disaster Recovery Board, which will be a venture undertaken along with Jefferson and Hardin counties.