Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

Orange officially got a new restaurant Tuesday – with a contingency – and a new housing subdivision.

All of which helped the medicine go down, that coming in from of a state-of-the-marketplace presentation by the city’s health insurance consultant.

The full city council voted unanimously to give final approval to a $200,000 EDC infrastructure and a $100-per-year, 25-year ground lease for the Boardwalk Grille, set to open next summer at 5th and Division Streets.

The “contingency” hiccup came after Councilman Patrick Pullen asked who was paying the taxes.

Initially, Jay Trahan, the city’s director of economic development, said restaurant owner Jake Lemoine was paying taxes only for the structure since the city will be owning the land for at least 10 years.

But City Manager Shawn Oubre asked for a timeout to huddle with John Cash “Jack” Smith, the city attorney.

After a minute or two of consultation, Oubre said the matter needed to be researched further.

Rather than table the item, council voted to approve it with the contingency on taxes.

“We’re getting a new restaurant,” council member Bill Mello said. “Now we need to support them.”

Council also voted unanimously to approve a preliminary plat for Cypress Shadows Estates Phase II subdivision near FM 1130 in the Mauriceville area.

The OK for the 35-acre, 22-lot addition came with a number of variances from city ordinances granted to developer Sam Peveto.

The addition will not have city water or sewer, but instead Peveto promises water wells and on-site sewer facilities for each lot.

With no city water, there will be no fire hydrants.

No city water also means no sidewalks because instead of underground storm drains, storm water will travel through open ditches to a retention pond built on site.

In the only other action items on a short agenda, council approved awarding Allco a contract for $196,000 for Wastewater Treatment Plant Rehabilitation Phase III. Allco’s was the lowest of three bids submitted to the city.

Lance Pendley of McGriff, Seibels and Williams, told council members the city should expect increases of 15 percent – which would add another half-million dollars to last year’s bill of $3.2 million the city paid to insure 199 employees and 272 spouses and children.

He suggested the city not send out requests for proposals to all five of the Texas insurance companies but rather to stay with Blue Cross Blue Shield for a second year and let Pendley negotiate a lower-than-average rate.

A year ago, the city’s 2016-17 insurer, United Healthcare, proposed a 28 percent increase for 2017-18, but the city switched to BCBS and only paid a 16 percent increase.

Pendley suggested the city consider the possibilities of going to a high deductible plan in 2020, which would lower premiums, or shift premium increases to employees and retirees, which would cause many to move to higher deductibles; or start a wellness program that would provide incentives to employees to get and stay in shape.

The city has until the end of September to approve its new budget. Oubre said council would get another update before having to decide.

Spears wrapped up the night congratulating city workers for the efforts required to keep Orange flood free during last week’s heavy rains that pushed water into homes in other parts of the county.

That came right after he declared that it was time for Orange to complete its cleanup from Tropical Storm Harvey.

“We are 10 months out from Harvey and I do think it is time for us to push code enforcement,” Spears said. “The focus should be on our commercial areas, beginning with 16th Street. That’s the entrance to our city and it’s gotten out of hand.”