File Photo:  Jessica Hill, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation

 

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

So much for tearing down and replacing the pavilions for day-campers at Claiborne West Park.

County commissioners heard Tuesday that with FEMA failing to fund the total effort, Kurt Guidry, county maintenance director, has found an architect who says a total tear-down is no longer required.

“We had a structural engineer declare the buildings were unsafe and had to be torn down,” Guidry reported. “Well, that mitigation grant fell through, and yesterday, another architect we’ve used for county work, Dohn LaBiche, gave us a letter that said the buildings could be renewed if we just change out the post and shore up the firepits.”

Guidry said the county can replace all the posts in the three pavilions that have been taped off since last year for $4,000 in parts with labor from his five-man maintenance department.

The bathrooms can be fixed, too.

Which is good, since the county determined it would cost about $80,000 to buy the portable restroom facility that it had considered as a temporary fix until new permanent facilities could be built.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners welcomed a new county extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, Jeff Huckaby.

Huckaby has spent the past 29 years as ag science teacher in the Orangefield, Brookeland, Buna, Hardin-Jefferson and Kirbyville school districts. Besides being an FFA advisor, Huckaby has served as assistant principal in Buna.

“He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table,” said Eric Zimmerman, district extension administrator for Texas A&M AgriLife.

In other county news, Tina Barrow, county elections administrator, called the turnout for last week’s state constitutional amendment election “outstanding.”

She noted that the 6,090 Orange County voters who cast ballots on 10 amendments proposed by this year’s Texas Legislature more than tripled the number that voted in 2017, the last amendment election.

In 2017, nearly two-thirds of the voters took advantage of a two-week early voting period. This time, more people came out on Nov. 5 election day (3,430) than voted early (2,660).

Locally, a big amendment in the news was one pushed by State Rep. Dade Phelan, keeping state officials from redirecting funds that were designated for flooding mitigation projects.

Also, Jessica Hill, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, is advertising for a new assistant.

The business development manager job will pay between $20 and $25 per hour, depending on experience, Hill said.

Both County Judge John Gothia and Commissioner Johnny Trahan, who represents the county among the 14 voting members of the EDC board, said Hill needs administrative help as she operates a one-person office currently.

“She’s pretty well overwhelmed,” Trahan said of Hill. “A lot of stuff is already happening, especially now.”

Hill says she works as “a leased employee” of the county, meaning she falls under the county’s human resource department but her salary is paid by all EDC member organizations.

Those the county – which is the biggest OCEDC sponsor — and the cities of Pinehurst, Bridge City, West Orange, Orange, Vidor, Sabine River Authority, Orangefield ISD, Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Orange.

The current wooing of an $8 billion Chevron Phillips Chemical plant takes up much of her time, Hill admits, but there are plenty of other projects in play, as well.

“I’m still pushing forward on it,” she said of her work with Chevron Phillips. “I’m in communications with them all the time and we’re finding fewer and few obstacles in going forward.

“We’ve got three other projects we’re working on that are relatively far along — industrial projects that we’re finalists for. It’s important how we leverage those projects and investments for the benefits of the citizens.”