Photo: Jim Wolf, Orange Public Works director, shows off a floor plan for new Orange City Hall on 16th Street. Wolf says renovation of the former First Financial Bank building will begin in April and be complete by mid-summer. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Drainage, development, City Hall, oh boy.

Jim Wolf, Orange’s public works director, and his employees are staying busy with all of them, making steady progress as he recently reported to City Council.

“We feel good about where we’re at with our scope of work,” Wolf said.

“Are we moving ahead? Yes.”

Wolf presented council a list of 46 projects and gave a status report on each.

The most obvious ones involve Coopers Gully, 16th Street and I-10 and the new city hall and the former Orange Natatorium.

Workers pour and finish concrete for the Coopers Gully lining project going on alongside Simmons Drive in Orange. The $2.3 million project is being paid for with federal funds.

The Coopers Gully project, which runs from 20th Street across Simmons Drive to the Sabine River, is winding up Phase 1. It’s a $2.3 million project to put a concrete lining on the drainage ditch which has been clogged with grass and debris in previous rainfall events.

The Richard Drive Water Plant, on Orange’s west side, is complete except for some landscaping. 

“The water is really flowing now,” a workman at the site said Monday. “This has made a big improvement.”

The northern end of the project is awaiting the arrival of the next batch of community development bond grants.

The final 12 projects on Wolf’s list are dependent on an estimated $21 million of hurricane mitigation grants and $14 million of CDBG grants.

“Those are funding sources for Harvey grants,” Wolf said. “You don’t know what’s going to be approved until it does.”

Wolf has set July 1 as the date he expects Orange to open its new city hall, which will be located in the former site of the First Financial Bank building on 16th St.

The bank, which is moving into a smaller building it constructed next door, has its original building under lease from the city through March.

On April 1, the city will begin painting, flooring and replacing furniture in what will be its new home after 75 years in the former in the former Edgar Brown Jr. mansion on Green Street.

City finance, customer service, human resources and its Convention Visitors Bureau will be moving from Green St. to the new city hall. Some space will be leased to others, Wolf said.

The “Green House” will be gutted, he said, and offered for sale.

At the south intersection of 16th Street and I-10, the city has finished a project to reroute 15th Street and sewer lines to make room for a four-lot project that will include a Chick Fil-A restaurant.

The former Natatorium will be converted into a recreation center with basketball and volleyball courts as part of an $8 million list of bond projects.

Other projects include $3.1 million for street improvements, $800,000 for a new pavilion at the Orange Boat Ramp, $600,000 for a fire truck, $257,000 for street and landscaping and $200,000 for a new emergency generator for city hall.

“We can’t start those projects until they sell the bonds in April or May,” Wolf said.

Work to repair the boat ramp boardwalk is set to being, $350,000 of drainage work for Cypresswood Village II development is ready to start while the Richard Drive Water Plant is complete.

The Westside Water engineering contract, a plan to tie the water plant in the northwest quadrant of the city to the airport in the southwest side, is in the design phase, Wolf said.

Work has been completed on a Cherry Street storm sewer and projects for Owens Road, Dawnwood Drive and West Bluff Road are under contract. Landscaping around the Riverfront Pavilion downtown has been completed.

Eagle Point Boulevard, a road from Highway 62 to access a new car dealership and other proposed business, is in the design phase.

The Eagle Point development will offer a western edge of Orange development along the highway while the project to re-do the highway between Adams Bayou and Simmons Drive will mark the eastern edge.

Wolf has asked TxDOT to include a pair of obelisks, like the ones at the end of the Purple Heart bridge in Beaumont.

“One would go on the east end of the project, at Simmons Drive, and one at the west end, Adams Bayou,” he said.

“That would signify, ‘Boom! You’re in Orange, Texas.’”