Orange County commissioners tackled money issues this week, namely the new fiscal budget and how to pay for proposed new buildings to replace those damaged by Hurricane Ike.
The CHAMPS multipurpose facility proposed for Farm Road 1442 was the center of Tuesday’s workshop. The present design will cost about $19.1 million.

County officials have been able to secure promised grant funds, but the county still has to come up with $9 million.

Add to the equation the problem of paying for new buildings for Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Janice Menard and the county’s Adult Probation office.

If it means freezing capital outlay for a year or scaling back the original CHAMPS design, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said, “The point is it’s got to get done.”

“I hate to piecemeal a structure … but all of a sudden we went from no county dollars [needed] to $9 million,” he said. “We don’t want to let the thing die on the vine.”

Maintenance Director Mark Wimberley will present refigured numbers on the JP3 and Adult Probation projects at Monday’s commissioners’ meeting. At that point the court will likely call for bids on both proposals, with the hope of keeping CHAMPS moving forward.

CHAMPS is an acronym for Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure. It’s original concept came from a group of volunteers dedicated to replacing the Hurricane Rita-damaged Old Timers’ Pavilion.

Commissioners eventually signed on to the project to provide the county with a centrally-located facility – similar to what other counties have which could host trade shows, youth activities, graduations and other events.

The volunteer group remains committed to the project and plans several upcoming fundraisers.

Budget discussions

The court reports $2.2 million which must be refigured to balance the budget.
August deficits are not unusual, Thibodeaux said.

The county escaped Hurricane Rita without financial damages, but Ike changed that in 2008 with about $1.5 million in lost revenues.

Present budget figures show beginning cash and investments at about $13.7 million, and a capital outlay/special projects budget of about $2.8 million – down from last year’s $3.4 million.

The deficit mainly comes from payroll adjustments and increases in group insurance rates, Thibodeaux said.