Agenda not posted, cancels Commissioners Court
The regular meeting of the Orange County Commissioners Court was canceled Monday due to the meeting’s agenda not being posted on the county’s website, according to County Judge Carl Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux said open meetings law states for counties with a population greater than 65,000, agendas must be posted online 72 hours prior to the start of the meeting. County personnel forgot to post the agenda.
Thibodeaux said this is the first time for this to happen in 20 years with him serving as judge.
The predominate issue listed on the agenda was the discussion and possible action concerning and establishing any or all proposed Transportation Reinvestment Zones (TRZ).
It was reported in the November 26, 2014 edition of The Record the Orange County Commissioners Court last addressed the Vidor Loop at a public hearing on November 24.
The hearing was in regard to creating one or more TRZ in conjunction with the proposed FM 299 in Vidor.
Duane Gordy with the Community Development Education Foundation was on hand with maps of the proposed zones and to answer answer any questions commissioners and/or citizens had on the matter.
He explained the TRZ needs to be in place to capture reinvestment opportunities that will arise from the development of the new roadway.
“They have to be there in advance of growth, or you don’t capture anything,” Gordy said. “There have already been three projects identified that make this necessary,. It doesn’t have to be about the one project. The zones can be used to facilitate more than this transportation project.”
He added TRZ are about the ability to capture revenue growth in advance of the project happening so the county can put dollars aside to meet transportation needs.
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said his objection was the county being required to front the $40 million to pay for it and the county was in no position to do that.
“Nobody in the court is against the loop,” he said.
Thibodeaux added the county wasn’t in a position to pay for the project.
Gordy responded he didn’t see that happening.
“At this point, we don’t believe there is going to be a financial institute that is going to require that guarantee,” he said.
According to Gordy, if the language is drafted correctly in the original paperwork of the proposed regional mobility authority (RMA), the county would not be liable. A RMA is a political subdivision formed by one or more counties to finance, acquire, design, construct, operate, maintain, expand or extend transportation projects.
Gordy said the RMA is responsible for acquiring the financing and with other projects he has worked with, he implied the downside really doesn’t exist. He said there has never been a project that did not experience economic growth.
David Dubose, Precinct 1 commissioner, said from the numbers Gordy supplied he didn’t see how it would be paid for otherwise.
Dubose said it appeared the county would be assuming a shortfall of $1.5 million every year until 2018 according to the numbers the commissioners received.
“This is something I find hard to pass on to other members of the court coming up at a later date, long-term debt,” he said.
Gordy said those numbers were gathered around three years ago when it was just being looked at as a pass-through toll.
“Since then, we’ve learned of more growth and development that might be more readily available,” Gordy said.
He implied there is potential industrial growth with the development of infrastructure in that area.
“I’m all for a 299 Loop. I’m not for the county paying $40 million to pay for a loop,” Dubose said.
Some citizens of Vidor were concerned the loop would just have businesses relocating out of the city and moving north, while Jimmy Smith, a Vidor Realtor, said Vidor is experiencing a boom and he foresees 20,000 people moving into the area.
He said some of the property along the proposed loop would become high dollar waterfront property which would bring many tax dollars into the county and be very positive for Orange County.
Though the regular meeting was canceled, Thibodeaux and the court took the time to honor Owen Burton, Precinct 2 commissioner, for his 12 years of service to the county.
Burton did not run for reelection and he will be succeeded by his nephew, Barry Burton.
“We (the commissioners court) deal with 95 percent of issues the Orange County population doesn’t want to deal with,” Thibodeaux said in recognizing Burton.
Burton said his proudest moments while serving on the court was the recovery made from Hurricanes Rita and Ike and how the people of Orange County rebounded.
“I want to be remembered as someone who couldn’t solve all the problems, but I tried,” Burton said.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Owen Burton, second from left, receives a plaque from County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, center, for his 12 years of service. Burton didn’t run for reelection and he will be succeeded by his nephew, Barry Burton.
In the background is Burton’s ever-present cowboy hat on the hat tree.
RECORD PHOTO: David Ball