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A boat belonging to Greg LeBlanc of Bridge City caught fire after a small explosion on Lake Sam Rayburn Saturday afternoon. LeBlanc and Brian Mathews were picked up by another boat and taken to shore. They are reported to have burns but were not seriously injured. KJAS in Jasper reports the explosion happened a little before 3 p.m. between Rattlesnake Island and Twin Dykes Marina. The Jasper County Emergency Corps towed the boat to shore and the Lake Rayburn Fire Department extinguished the flames.
West Orange-Stark Coach Cornel Thompson holds the Orange Rotary Club "Orange Bowl" trophy following another win against cross-town Little Cypress-Mauriceville.  The Mustangs won the game 29-12.  Joining in the photo-op with Coach T are principal Rod Anderson and Superintendent James Colbert.  More on the KOGT Sports page.

Pinehurst’s annual Senior Citizen Labor Day Picnic is Monday. The music this year may be the best ever. Pinehurst Alderman Mike Anderson identifies some of the artists as Kimberley Murray with Heart of Texas out of Austin and her husband Bob Manning will be performing. There will be food as City Administrator Joe Parkhurst shares the menu catered by Robert’s Meat Market for the picnic consisting of hot links, potato salad, chicken and sausage gumbo, watermelon, and cake. Soft drinks and water will be furnished as well. The picnic is a great time to see old friends at the grounds of the old Bancroft School. For those attending the picnic parking can sometimes be a problem. Parkhurst says the Sabine Federal Credit Union will allow parking at their location on Strickland Drive at 37th Street. Shuttles will then transport picnickers to Bancroft School for the picnic. The picnic is Monday from 10 until 2.

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Marriage Licenses Issued By The Office of Karen Jo Vance, Orange County Clerk For the Week of August 25, 2014 through August 29, 2014. Terry L. Guin and Gwendolyn G. Barbee, James M. Hester and Kayleigh A. Greenwell, Anthony W. Perkins and Cassie L. Kays, Joseph A. Guidry and Stormi N. Wright, David M. Coulter and Miranda D. Fisette, Brandon C. Harding and Vanessa M. Finley, Ryan A. Eversole and Kristina J. Broussard, Michael B. Woodruff and Jane M. Hooks, Mohammed I. Khan and Marissa R. Barnes, Kevin J. Loftin II and Deanna E. Pickering, Kevin B. Jimmerson and Linda F. Thompson, Matthew T. Amy and Stephanie E. Sander, Danny M. Washington and Monica R. Griffin.

David Self Ford has announced it is changing its name to Sabine River Ford. This, along with the construction of our NEW state-of-the-art facility will symbolize a new era for FORD in Orange County. Ross Smith, Owner since 2011 is very proud of the positive feedback he has received about the renovations already made and looks forward to beautifying Orange even more. Sabine River Ford will continue to support local charities and schools and the community.

Gnats, flies, roaches and even a bird have been a problem this summer for restaurants and food businesses, according to information from Orange County Health Inspector James Scales. He found gnats and flies at several of the 32 places he inspected during the first part of August. The bird was seen flying around the Wal-Mart in West Orange. Scales gave seven perfect scores of 100. The rating went to Kids and Company day care at 4034 Park Avenue in Orange; First Presbyterian Day School at 412 Ninth Street in Orange; Bridge City Pizza at 2198 Texas Avenue; Da' Shak catering on Mickler Drive in Orange; The Brown Estate in Orange; Charlotte's Shaved Ice at 110 South Main Street in Vidor; and Dairy Queen at 1780 Texas Avenue in Bridge City. Scales made a pre-opening inspection at Paradise Donuts at 5648 FM 408 in Orangefield. Other scores

The man convicted of murder for a car crash that killed a 16-year-old girl will spend 75 years in prison. The jury made that decision Thursday afternoon in Judge Dennis Powell's 163rd District Court. 32-year-old Kelvin Lee Roy of Beaumont was convicted on Thursday for killing Lexy Bertrand in the February 7 crash in Vidor.
The teen's mother, April Bertrand, spoke to Roy after the sentencing during the victim's impact statement and told him she hopes he realizes what he did. During the punishment phase, the mother described the girl as someone who loved life and helping people. Lexy helped take care of her three younger siblings and wanted to become a nurse. April said the family donated the teen's organs, including her heart, for transplants.
According to testimony in court, Roy had driven from Beaumont to Vidor on Interstate 10 and smoked the drug PCP. He turned off the interstate onto South Main Street in Vidor. His girlfriend was in the sedan and said she yelled out the window for help because he was driving fast and erratically. He said he was going to kill both of them and accelerated.
Vidor police testified the sedan went airborne at the railroad tracks and land across a Honda minivan driven by April Bertrand. The minivan was stopped at a traffic light by Old U.S. Highway 90 on the other side of the railroad tracks. The crash ripped off the passenger side of the minivan and tore the roof. Lexy was ejected and died a few hours later at a Beaumont hospital.
Roy testified he had remorse and prayed for the Bertrand family. His defense attorney, Malachi Daws of Beaumont, argued to the jury that Roy should be convicted of intoxicated manslaughter and not murder. Assistant District Attorney Krispen Walker was the prosecutor.

Orange County Sheriff Calls August 20-26

The Orange City Council Tuesday voted to recommend Invista for a state enterprise zone so the company could get state sales tax refunds for development. Invista is planning to invest up to $250 million in its Orange plant, which has about 500 employees. Under the state program, a company that spends money to help protect jobs can qualify for the sales tax breaks. The company gets points for the designation because of the City Council endorsement. The designation will have no effect on the portion of sales taxes for the city and county. City Manager Shawn Oubre said the amount of the investment qualifies the plant for the double-jumbo designation. In other business, the council approved on first reading a new budget for the 2015 fiscal year that starts October 1. The new budget totals $26.7 million and has a slight increase in the property tax rate. There will be a 3.4 percent increase in the water and sewer rates. No one spoke during the public hearing for the budget.
Councilwoman Essie Bellfield suggested that the city needs to add an employee to get more activities for youth and senior citizens. Oubre asked what kind of job description the job would include and also where would the employee have an office. Other council members suggested that the new budget is being approved and doesn’t include a recreation position. They suggested that the city research the position and job for the 2016 budget year.
Also, the council approved a FEMA grant to buy out property and a house at 6728 Guy Lane in the Little Cypress area. Oubre said the $227,000 for the cost of the buy-out is paid 100 percent by FEMA. Documents show the purchase price for the house is $185,000. The buy-out was first approved by the Texas Water Development Board. Owner Jeff Glende said the house has flooded five times in the past 12 years because of natural drainage flows into nearby Little Cypress Bayou. He said development in the area, particularly along FM 1130 in the Bear Trail area, has caused more rain runoff than when the house was originally built in 1965. Under the buy-out, the city will own the property and no future development will be allowed. Council members suggested that the city could lease the land to nearby neighbors to use for gardening in exchange for mowing. Otherwise, the city will be responsible to keep the lot clean.

The Lutcher Theater’s 35th Anniversary Season gets underway September 9, 2014 at 7:30 PM with the music of Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. Tickets range from $35-$75 and are on sale now at or by calling the Lutcher Box Office at 409-886-5535. A singer, composer and actor, Lyle Lovett has broadened the definition of American music in a career that spans 14 albums. Coupled with his gift for storytelling, the Texas-based musician fuses elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, gospel and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers. Lovett has appeared in 13 feature films, and on stage and television. Among his many accolades, besides four Grammy Awards, he was given the Americana Music Association’s inaugural Trailblazer Award, and was recently named the Texas State Musician. Garden & Gun recently called Lovett “one of America’s most beloved singer/songwriters,” and he was featured in the coveted “What I’ve Learned” column in the February 2012 issue of Esquire. This show is sponsored locally by First Financial Bank. The Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts is located at 707 Main, Orange, Texas.

Last school year, Dayne Seay was one of the St. Mary art students who won in the "Treasures of the Texas Coast" art contest, sponsored by the Texas General Land Office. This past summer, Dayne traveled to Austin where an enlarged version of his artwork was on display in the South Central Gallery of the Capital Extension. You can now see it proudly displayed in the St. Mary Catholic School foyer. Dayne's artwork will also be featured in the 2015 Texas Adopt-A-Beach calendar.

Orangefield School Trustees approved Tuesday night cancelling the district’s November election and certified the three candidates running for the school board as trustees. Donovan Weldon, Jude Graffagnino, and Mark Wernig will be trustees with 4-year terms beginning in November. Weldon is currently on the school board and will start a new term in November. Graffagnino and Wernig will replace Jack Smith and Wanda Woods whose terms expire in November and did not seek re-election. The cancelling of the election will save the district approximately $5,000 according to Orangefield Superintendent Dr. Stephen Patterson. In other business the school trustees did approve a new compensation plan for the superintendent; giving Dr. Patterson the same across the board two percent pay increase they did all Orangefield school employees.

Representatives from FEMA were in Bridge City Wednesday. The city held a forum at the Community Center. Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte attended and felt the meeting was constructive. “Our engineers asked some questions to the FEMA representatives, the FEMA representatives responded, they’re going to both go back and look at different things, and I believe it’s going to do a lot of good, I believe it was a real productive meeting,” Roccaforte said. FEMA was represented by Larry Voice and Steve Eberbach. Voice also thought the meeting was useful. He said FEMA is much clearer on what Bridge City’s concerns are, and what FEMA needs to do moving forward to resolve the appeals, and Voice thinks the city and its engineers are much clearer on some of the additional data FEMA is going to need to resolve these appeals. FEMA, the engineers hired by Bridge City, and the city all have work to do to get data for the other side in the appeal. Voice was asked if he could estimate how soon the Bridge City appeal would be resolved. Voice said he does not have a good time estimate, it really depends on what the city’s representatives come back with, there is some that can be quickly and easily resolved, some requires additional analysis and can take quite awhile to do that analysis. About 40 people attended the meeting including representatives from Orange County and other cities in Orange County.

Board members of the City of Orange Economic Development Corporation turned a routine budget review into a discussion about participation with the county's separate Economic Development Corporation. The city group pays the county development corporation $25,000 each year. But city board members questioned whether that money could benefit Orange citizens more by being spent specifically on Orange. "I feel like when it gets to a county level, the city is put on a back burner," said Shane Johns, who was appointed to the board in July. He suggested that perhaps the county group forgets that Orange donates money to that group.
The city's economic development corporation was established in 2002 after city voters approved a half-cent per dollar special sales tax designated solely to economic development. In the current budget year, the city group is getting $1.12 million a year from the sales tax. The city corporation will have a balance of $2 million in reserves with $1.65 million for future projects. The city's budget also pays for a full-time economic development director.
The Orange County Economic Development Corporation was set up in 2003 through the county government, the Port and Navigation District and the five largest cities in the county—Orange, Vidor, Bridge City, West Orange and Pinehurst. The county corporation has a full-time director and gets its money from contributions from the public entities. The port provides office space. Orange Mayor Jimmy Sims sits on both boards of directors. Sims said the county group has a lot of contacts and talks a lot about development, but doesn’t help the city. He said the city needs to start a line of conversation with the county group. City board member Dean Granger said the county group was started for cooperation and he hates to lose that. The local public entities will start their new budget year on October 4. City Economic Development Director Jay Trahan said the city would have to notify the county within four days about the payment to the county group. Instead of cutting off the city contribution, the city group agreed to look into getting more help from the county. Mayor Sims appointed Johns and Granger to talk with the county group.

Residents on Whippoorwill in Pinehurst have new sewer lines. What they also have is a bumpy ride home to their residences. City Administrator Joe Parkhurst updated the Pinehurst City Council the situation on the Whippoorwill Sewer Project is that the sewer lines are in and the new man hole covers are installed. The road surface on Whippoorwill is rough, rough, rough according to Parkhurst. Parkhurst confirmed with the council the contractor has not been paid off, and will not be paid until Whippoorwill Street has been repaired and is in better shape. Parkhurst and the city’s engineer have met with the contractor to explain what they expect done to improve the situation. Parkhurst also informed the council Tuesday that the 34th Street Lift Station Project has been completed. The lift station which is the main one serving Pinehurst was damaged during Hurricane Ike. Parkhurst says it is back in full operation now.

The Pinehurst City Council approved seven amendments to the city’s 2013-2014 budget Tuesday night. The net result was transferring about $33,000 from reserves to cover unexpected expenses this year including Pinehurst joining the British Petroleum Disaster Consortium and the Storm Water Runoff Consortium according to City Secretary Debbie Cormier. City Administrator Joe Parkhurst says Pinehurst is in good financial shape, but still has a drop in sales tax revenues. The city is about $14,000 short on the sales tax and a little bit behind on property tax. The city council renewed the contract of City Attorney Tommy Gunn for another year. Gunn starts his 26th year serving in that position. Final details are being worked out for Monday’s Senior Citizen Labor Day Picnic. Alderman Mike Anderson exclaimed the music will be special this year. The entertainment, food, and fun will be Monday from 10 until 2 at the grounds of the old Bancroft School.

Commissioners’ Court made several decisions at Tuesday’s budget workshop. Commissioner John Banken began the workshop by announcing the transferring of a mechanic from Clark Slacum’s Road and Bridge to Donna Minter’s Transportation Department. He said the new budget will just reflect that position is under Minter and the budget for Road and Bridge will have one less mechanic. Both department heads were in agreement with the change according to Banken. Tax Assessor Lynda Gunstream told the commissioners she will relinquish a clerk’s position in her office that became open because of a retirement. The elimination of the position will be a savings of over $37,000 in salary and benefits. The biggest discussion was over the $167,294 in requests for the Orange County Expo Center. Event Coordinator Sabrina Gray responded to whether some of the items could wait until a later date by saying the request for 100 additional chairs could wait, but the audio/visual equipment and just about everything else she requested she had an immediate need for. The requests were approved by a close vote of 3 to 2, Commissioners Jody Crump and Owen Burton voting against the requests. Commissioners heard a request from Dr. Roy Sanford with the AgriLife Extension Service for a color copier. Dr. Sanford says the color copier would enhance the presentations his office makes to agricultural groups, youth programs, and other organizations. The Commissioners’ Court agreed there was a definite need for the color copier, but at a cost of over $22,000 the court was not sure it would fit into this year’s budget. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux thinks the copier could be shared by the several county offices in the Expo Center facility. AgriLife shares the Expo Center with Emergency Management, Road and Bridge, and the Expo Center Event Coordinator Gray. All of which Thibodeaux guessed would have need for a color copier. The next budget workshop is the Tuesday after Labor Day, and the copier will be reconsidered at that time according to Judge Thibodeaux.

Orange County Economic Development Director Bobby Fillyaw had some good news for Commissioners’ Court Monday that an agreement has been reached with Southeast Texas Industries Group to build a new facility in West Orange. Fillyaw introduced the project manager Brent Strange to the court, and Strange explained the STI Group is planning to build a new shop on Foreman Road between Dupont Drive and FM 105. The facility will be a 350-foot by 100-foot shop on a 36-acre parcel of land. The shop will have six overhead cranes to assemble oil rig equipment and ship it out. Strange says the new facility will create 75 to 100 maintenance jobs, and that number could grow with increase work load which is steady right now according to Strange. The initial investment of the STI Group is $2.7 million. STI is shooting for the shop to begin operations by December, but definitely plan to have operations underway by January 2015.

St. Mary Catholic School students had the honor of learning lessons from Dr. Hoke at the science superstars workshops. These students will be presenting with Dr. Hoke throughout the school year which will include why the experiments work and how the experiments function. Student enjoyed gaining the knowledge taught by Dr. Hoke and are anxious to share their knowledge with others. Pictured – Back row – Thomas Nguyen; O’Shan Mitchell, Nicholas Wilson – Front row – Megan Do; Krystal Lester; Shelby Smith

The sound of breaking glass on a pickup truck woke up a resident in the Greenway Park area early Saturday morning. But the man was too late to prevent his neighbor's truck being burglarized. Orange police went to the 1800 block of Greenbrier at 3:41 a.m. Saturday. The neighbor said a loud "bang" woke him up. He looked out a window and saw a white man wearing a light-colored shirt and light-colored pants running away. A wallet was missing from the pickup truck.

Some school children didn't have their uniforms and new school supplies for the first day of classes. A woman on Sunday afternoon reported a burglary in which school uniforms, a backpack and school supplies were missing. Orange police were called to the 500 block of Burton Avenue at 1:16 p.m. Sunday. The woman said she had been gone from the residence about an hour and the doors had been locked.

The 8-26-14 agendas for the Orange Economic Development Corporation meeting and the Orange City Council meeting are now online at

A ghost clings to the banks of the Sabine River and for now, the Orange City Council is keeping that last bit of history. Water Street has disappeared into fenced areas of industry, but more than a century ago, it was one of the prestigious addresses in Orange. The Victorian-style mansion of Henry Jacob and Frances Ann Lutcher was at 806 Water Street near the current Port of Orange building. The Bancroft home was at 304 Water Street by Polk Avenue, near where the county now has a maintenance building. The Presbyterian Church, the chapter house for the American Red Cross and the Masonic Lodge were on Water Street. Earlier this month, the City of Orange was prepared to give part of Jackson Avenue and the last part of Water Street to Orange Shipbuilding and Higman Marine, two industries along the river that now have taken over what was once the roadway of Water Street. City staff said the companies use the roadway area and the right-of-way now, anyway. The city gave Orange Shipbuilding some of the Water Street land near Georgia Street four years ago. During the past two decades, the city has also given the busy shipyard part of Market Street for expansion. However, this time, City Councilman Tommy Ferguson said he hates to give away any waterfront property. The rest of the council agreed. Council members instructed the city staff to work out an agreement for the two companies to lease the small bit of land, but not give it away. more

The leadership of the American Red Cross Beaumont and Orange County Chapters are pleased to announce that Chester R. Jourdan, Jr. has been selected as the new Executive Director. Jourdan will assume his new responsibilities on Monday, August 18, 2014. As Executive Director, he will serve in a leadership role to improve the resiliency of the communities served by the Red Cross. His leadership will help community members to respond to and recover from natural and man-made disasters as well as promoting the growth, quality and constituency of Red Cross programs and services throughout the Golden Triangle and Deep East Texas Counties. “Chester was selected for this position based on his fundraising expertise, community involvement and knowledge working with the private sector, not for profit organizations and local governments throughout Southeast Texas. We are excited to have someone with his experience to help further the mission of the American Red Cross in our communities,” said Steve Vetrano, Chief Executive Officer, Texas Gulf Coast Region of the American Red Cross. Most recently, Chester was Executive Director of the South East Texas Nonprofit Development Center in Beaumont. Prior to returning to Texas, he served as the Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission in Columbus, Ohio. Chester also served as Executive Director of the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission in Beaumont. In that role he addressed regional initiatives by promoting collaboration and cooperation with government and private sector interests. He was also engaged in the relief efforts for 27,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees and helped lead efforts in the evacuation, relief, recovery and rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. After he and his family relocated to Columbus, Ohio Chester returned to Southeast Texas to volunteer for two weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Look Left and "Cast Your Vote"

The Rotary Club of Orange is proud to host and introduce Salome’ Poirault from La Rochelle, France as their 2014 Rotary Youth Exchange Student. Salome’ will begin her exchange living with Bryan and Jennifer Burtsfield and their family. Jennifer is the current President of the Rotary Club of Orange. She will also have the opportunity to live with at least one and possibly two more families this year before completing her exchange. She will also be counseled throughout the year by Rotary Counselor/Coordinator, Sue Denosowicz. Salome’ will attend Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School and will be classified as a Senior. The Rotary Club welcomes her with open arms and knows that the community of Orange and the people who live here will prove to be one of the best experiences she’s had. “I am thrilled to live with my new family in Orange, Texas” said Salome’. “I am looking forward to learning about the culture of the United States. This has been a lifelong dream for me.” The Rotary Youth Exchange Program allows a foreign student to live with host families and attend school locally for one year. Participating in this program as a student or a host family helps everyone to understand and see a different way of life, learn about a different country and culture. In particular, it allows people to see people in other parts of the world, as not better, not worse – just different – and almost without knowing it, people begin to develop a better understanding and respect for others around the world. For many participants, the “exchange adventure” has been a fascinating growing experience.

The Orange City Council is considering a $27.6 million budget for the new fiscal year. More than half of that amount will be spent to pay salaries and benefits of city employees. The city has 194 full-time workers and two part-time. Many of them work for the police and fire departments. City Manager Shawn Oubre presented a break-down of the expenses in a letter to the council. The city pays 58.5 percent of the budget on personnel. The next largest expenditure category is for maintenance and services with 24.1 percent. Those items would include keeping the water and sewer departments running, plus the police cars and fire trucks in good condition.
Debt service takes up 10.8 percent of the budget. Debt service is the payments the city makes each year to pay back loans acquired through issuing bonds.
The city spends 3.9 percent on capital outlay. The category covers the purchase of equipment like dump trucks and police cars.
Supplies for operating the city departments takes up 2.7 percent of the budget.
The City Council will have a public hearing on the proposed budget during a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the auditorium next to the Orange Public Library. The proposed budget has a slight decrease in the property tax rate and a small increase in water and sewer charges.

Lamar State-Port Arthur conferred 122 degrees, certificates at Summer 2014 Commencement. Lamar State College-Port Arthur awarded 59 two-year associate degrees and 63 certificates of completion at its Summer 2014 Commencement Ceremony held Friday, August 15 at the Parker Center in Port Arthur. Carl A. Parker, a member of the Texas Legislature for more than 30 years and for whom the Parker Center was named, was the keynote speaker. Much of his talk focused on Dr. W. Sam Monroe, who is retiring later this month after four decades as president of the college, and the work the two men did to grow Lamar State College-Port Arthur. Those graduates from Orange County include- Orange: Jacob Blain Viator (Kinesiology), Blair Bishop (Vocational Nursing), Deborah Ruth Duke (Vocational Nursing); Bridge City: Erica Rae Green (Surgical Technology); Michael McElroy (Instrumentation Technology); Breanna Nicole Smith (Surgical Technology), Kathryn Ann Beebe (Vocational Nursing); Vidor: Jill Annette Kunst (Vocational Nursing).

What's happening around town?  Check the Happenings page!


2014 Atlantic Hurricane Names
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