City reacts to storm, OKs budget
PHOTO: Orange City Council voted to allow recreational vehicles and travel trailers on residential property for a year homes damaged by Tropical Storm Harvey are being repaired.
Dave Rogers / For The Record
The City of Orange passed a proposed budget of $38 million for 2017-18 at its city council meeting Tuesday morning.
But the focus of the first city meeting held after Tropical Storm Harvey’s record flooding was on reacting to the storm.
City manager Shawn Oubre said he expects D&J Contractors to begin removing debris from city residences in “five to seven days after we give the OK.”
Council voted that OK Tuesday.
Councilman Bill Mello was the first to compliment city workers for their work during and since the storm passed Aug. 30 and left record flooding in its wake.
“The city of Orange never did quit working throughout the storm,” Mello said. “We didn’t lose water or gas.”
Ninety-five of the city’s 195 employees had water in their homes, councilman Brad Childs said. “But they still kept working, kept the city running.”
He also noted, “Our city water stayed at 100 percent, stayed drinkable, while the city of Beaumont [water] went down, which included closing the hospitals there.”
Mayor Jimmy Sims counseled patience for the citizens.
“It’s going to be a long process,” he said of the storm recovery. “We’ll work together as a city and get it fixed.”
The final hurdle for the city regarding debris removal was approving a company to monitor D&J’s work, as required by FEMA. Council voted Tuesday to hire GP Strategies Corporation and Thompson Consulting Services to provide that monitoring.
Only residential debris hauling will be reimbursed by FEMA, Oubre said.
“This is not for businesses, non-profits, apartments,” he said. “We don’t get reimbursed for picking up things that are not in compliance, and we’re not going to do it.”
The city manager said residents must sort and properly position debris for the contractor to pick up with a grappling claw operating from the curb.
They are to be in four distinct piles, with no trash bags allowed unless they are see-through. The piles are for C&D Waste (construction and demolition materials); White Goods (refrigerators, stoves, washers, freezers, etc.); Green Waste (tree limbs, etc.); and Hazardous Waste.
The vote on the budget was 6-0 to fund the city beginning Oct. 1, based on a proposed tax rate of 71.774 cents per $100 value.
Council member Larry Spears, Jr., was absent Tuesday.
The tax rate will be finalized Sept. 26.
Much of the meeting focused on cleanup from Tropical Storm Harvey.
Council voted to allow recreational vehicles and travel trailers on residential property for a year while damaged property is being repaired.
The city is asking that RV and trailer owners obtain voluntary permits to tie into the water and sewer system.
Those permits are free during that year. Additionally, council voted to waive for 90 days the fees for building permits for rebuilding necessitated by the storm.
As a part of its 2017-18 budget, the council also approved motions accepting health, dental, vision and life insurance policies for its 195 employees.
The only change from last year was for medical insurance, purchased from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, said Cheryl Zeto, city finance director.
The $3.1 million annual premium for medical insurance amounted to a 16 percent increase for the city over last year.