By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Marsi Patronella was knee-high in concerns about floodwater in her neighborhood when she tracked down the floating Orange County Commissioners’ Court Tuesday afternoon in Bridge City.

“In Forest Heights, it continues to flood,” Patronella said, referring to the unincorporated community halfway between Little Cypress and Deweyville in northeast Orange County.

“We’ve had houses that have flooded repeatedly over the past year, and we just don’t know what’s going on, if it’s a drainage issue or what.

“We don’t even know if the commissioners are even concerned, because we do live so far out.”

Johnny Trahan is concerned.

The first-term commissioner whose Precinct 1 includes Forest Heights said he had scheduled a Wednesday meeting with Don Carona, general manager of the Orange County Drainage District.

This comes after weekend storms dumped a whole lot of the wet stuff in a short period of time – 6.5 inches by Patronella’s reckoning – and it backed up in people’s yards.

“I saw pictures on Facebook of people knee-deep in water over the weekend,” Trahan said. “I drove up there Sunday to see what was under water. I drove there Monday and the water had went way down.

“I went back today [Tuesday] to check out the drainage ditch. I was expecting to find something blocking it, but it was clean. It sure does zig-zag, though.”

Because of HVAC duct work being performed at the Orange County Administration Building in downtown Orange, commissioners held Tuesday’s meeting at the Bridge City city hall chambers.

Another issue led them to hold one of their weekly meetings at Vidor’s council chambers. Commissioner Barry Burton thanked Bridge City officials for hosting the court and said he looked forward to commissioners coming back for another session as they seek to make county government more accessible to those who don’t live near the courthouse in Orange.

Burton oversaw Tuesday’s meeting as both County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton and Commissioner Jody Crump, the judge pro-tem, were unavailable.

Carlton missed his first meeting of 2017 because of duty in the Air Force Reserve while Crump represented the court at a large Southeast Texas hurricane preparedness exercise held in Vidor.

While a couple of Bridge City residents took advantage of the court’s proximity to share their concerns with commissioners, Patronella made the longer drive to address her issues.

“It’s gotten worse over the last couple of years,” she said in an interview after court about the rising water in her neighborhood.

“That’s why we’re not sure what’s going on. We’re not sure if something’s changed. We don’t know if someone put in new culverts, if they’ve taken some out.”

Patronella said water had not made it into her house – yet.

“The concern is my parents, who live up the street from me in Forest Heights. They’ve lived there for 23 years and they’ve never had the water they’ve had just recently with the storm we had.

“We got 6.5 inches. I understand that with so much rain that we were going get some water, but the problem is that we’ve had more rain than that before with less flooding.”

Trahan was hopeful, but realistic.

“I hate to make any promises. I’m not sure we can make it better,” he said. “But the most important thing is to make sure we’re doing everything we can.

“See if there’s a better way we can make some improvement. We want to make it the best we can.”

Commissioner John Gothia of Bridge City-based Precinct 3 joined Trahan and Burton to give the court a three-member quorum Tuesday.

With a light agenda short on controversial topics, they voted unanimously for a no-cost plan to improve Old Highway 90 on the east side of the Neches River, to solicit and select a company to manage block fund grants, and to sign a contract with Houston-based HDR Inc. for a Master Plan for courthouse improvements.

The plan is required by the Texas Historical Commission, which could issue grants that would repay much of the cost of restoring the 1937 courthouse.

The contract OK’d Tuesday would pay the architectural firm an hourly rate not to exceed $47,000, Burton said. The tab for the restoration of the courthouse was estimated a year ago to be $300,000, he said.

Britt Barr of the Texas Historical Commission plans to tour the building Wednesday morning, Burton said.

“He wants to see it,” the Precinct 2 commissioner said.

“I think the important part of it is, that he’s heard about this. He’s being proactive, and coming to talk to us before we even submit a Master Plan.”