Commissioners cut ties with Way Services
Cutline: Ryan Smith, CEO of the Utah-based Recyclops, appears before Orange County Commissioners’ Court Tuesday afternoon to detail a new recycling program.
RECORD Photo: Dave Rogers
For The Record
Orange County Commissioners opened the 2020 fiscal year Tuesday by saying so long to a company many regard as a millstone – Way Services.
After talks going back as far as 2013 with the company, the county entered into a $5 million agreement in July of 2016 for new HVAC equipment designed to comply with state energy efficiency standards.
A salesman for the company guaranteed the county would save as much money on energy bills as it paid for the equipment and installation.
It later turned out that the county was forced to take the company’s word for savings, which was an unacceptable condition.
Way’s delivery of services was hindered by Tropical Storm Harvey in 2017 and a year later, former County Judge Dean Crooks railed against the deal made by the court led by his predecessor, Stephen Brint Carlton.
Tuesday, the county voted to terminate all further business with Way Services.
The county took out bonds to pay Way $5.4 million from March 2017 through June 2018, according to paperwork furnished by Pennee Schmitt, county auditor.
Another matter that raised the volume, if not ire, of Commissioner Theresa Beauchamp was a $100,742 check to Wendorf, Beward & Partners, the county’s grant administrator for federal and state relief after Harvey.
“We haven’t got nothing [from them],” she said.
“Are we receiving what we paid for.”
County Judge John Gothia told the commissioner that Orange County had received $14 million in FEMA reimbursements, at least.
“We have gotten some for the debris work,” he said, “but the debris mission is finished. Money for housing and mitigating our roads is what we’re waiting for, but it’s not Wendorf and Beward’s fault.
“They’ve done their job.”
He explained that the Texas General Land Office just announced at a meeting Tuesday the rules for passing out about $4 million in mitigation funds, money the county can use on projects to help counter future flooding.
“We’ve actually asked them [Wendorf, Beward] to slow down.”
So far, the county has paid Wendorf, Beward & Partners $1.8 million, according to another public information release by Schmitt.
That money is expected to come back to the county as reimbursement from FEMA when all Harvey bills are wrapped up, Commissioner Kirk Roccaforte pointed out.
“FEMA is very, very slow,” Commissioner Johnny Trahan said.
The county remains in state of disaster after Sept. 18-19 flooding from Tropical Depression Imelda. Gothia extended it for another 30 days at the Commissioners’ Court meeting held last Thursday.
Joel Ardoin, county emergency management coordinator, brought news Tuesday that Orange County was one of 13 counties in a state disaster area declared by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 19 that is eligible for a national disaster declaration.
It’s now up to the White House to decide.
Ardoin said an in-person assessment by FEMA, TDEM and county officials had determined Orange County had 2,271 homes damaged by water during Imelda.
He said one reason the county was at the head of the line for a possible disaster declaration was its online Imelda survey that pointed out 2,700 homes for the assessment to zero in on.
Gothia pointed out that the Orange County Drainage District is holding a series of meetings with citizens and state and federal officials in all four county precincts.
“We had one last night in Mauriceville that was very well attended,” he said Tuesday.
The October 1 commissioners’ court saw Schmitt authorized to pay $268,748 in weekly bills. The final September meeting, held Thursday, OK’d Schmitt paying $506,000 in bills with $147,000 of that going to Marsh Waterproofing for work on the County Courthouse Restoration project.
Also Tuesday, commissioners planned a future meeting for the two-dozen or so longtime county employees whose retirement payments could be negatively impacted by changes in the Nationwide Insurance Deferred Compensation plan.
Ryan Smith, CEO of Recyclops, a curbside recycling company originally from Utah, appeared to announce that Orange County citizens had already passed the 300-user threshold.
The company plans to do a twice-monthly curbside pickup for $10 a month, plus minor setup fees.
People interested in signing up can reach the company online at recyclops.com .
Information is available on the home page, which lists Orange County, Texas as a pre-launch location and instructs those interested to click on the Orange County tab to sign up.
The website says the company will contact registrants via email to let them know when service will begin.
Deborah Bednar and Sandra Hoke, leaders of Keep Orange County Beautiful, brought Smith to the meeting.