At their special court session scheduled Monday, May 6, commissioners approved a resolution appointing County Judge Carl Thibodeaux as the Orange County representative and negotiator with the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District Inc.
“I received a letter from the attorney for the corporation,” Thibodeaux said, “and there is a possibility we may be applying for $4 million in government grants to protect the coast from future hurricanes. Basically, what this resolution is for is to allow myself — I am the Orange County representative on the Board of Directors — to authorize the president of the board to seek this funding and to apply for this spending.”
He said he provided a letter to each of the commissioners explaining the necessity of the measure. Thibodeaux said he has already asserted to the board in question that Orange County has contributed funds to the restoration and installation of protective measures on the coast, so he believes no additional funds that could be requested as a match for the grant money should be necessary. However, if requests for matching funds for any future projects were made, the requests would be brought before the commissioners court for approval. Other counties potentially included in the grant request and coastal construction efforts include Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers and Jefferson counties.
According to Pct. 4 Commissioner Jody Crump, without the judge’s efforts, Orange County would have been excluded from the levee study leading to the grant that could provide funds in excess of $4 million to the counties applying.
“Probably last year, Judge Thibodeaux got involved with a levee study going on. The levee was actually specific to the coastal counties. They (the federal government) left us out because we are not a ‘coastal county.’ We are not actually on the coast. We are on Sabine Lake. The judge found out about the meetings, so he actually went to those meetings and found out what was going on and told them, ‘I don’t think you understand.’ He told them that we indeed did sustain millions of dollars worth of damage to homes and places like that. So they included us in that levee study and that levee program. We were fortunate enough to be extended the right to get into the program, and that extended actual grant dollars toward us that they had already approved for the program. Kudos to Judge Thibodeaux for seeing what was going on and getting us involved.”
Crump explained that there are two groups fighting over the grant funds. One group wants to build the levees and another wants to restore the coast. The Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District Inc. is meant to unify the efforts of both groups, according to Crump. He said he is in favor of working toward both of the goals, building levees to protect the coast and restoring the coast, and that is why he supports the corporation’s intent as he understands it.
In other matters, commissioners tabled two agenda items requesting action on entering into interlocal agreements for the inspection and abatement of public nuisances relating to dilapidated structures in Rose City and Pine Forest. The cities requested the county’s involvement because they are not able to afford the expense, according to Environmental Health and Code Compliance Department Director Joel Ardoin. Commissioners tabled the items in a previous meeting because they wanted to be reimbursed by the cities for any expenses incurred.
Commissioner John Banken said he did not understand why the county would enter into the agreements at all or why the cities themselves could not handle the matters on their own since they would have to pay the county for any actions taken in regard to the dilapidated structures. Ardoin said the cities do not have inspectors of their own and because they cannot afford the initial expenses involved in demolition of structures and clearing properties, they could not hire contractors to get rid of unsafe structures. Banken said before he could vote, he would need guarantees from both of the cities that the county would be reimbursed for work on the properties in question. Pct. 1 Commissioner David Dubose voiced his agreement. Feeling the language used in the interlocal agreements did not fully address the repayment issue, the items were tabled by commissioners once again.