Commissioners’ Court approved the 2014-2015 budget Monday. This will be the final budget for County Judge Carl Thibodeaux who is stepping down after 20 years as judge. Thibodeaux said this year’s budget was easier that last year’s, but added the deficit was not as large believed by some and the county was able to pay all its bills all year long. The final budget figures for 2014-2015 show a total of $46 million with revenues adding up to about $45.5 million to operate the county in the new fiscal year. The court unanimously adopted the ad valorem tax rate of 54.4 cents per 100 dollars value which is virtually unchanged from this year. The vote to approve the county budget was split 3 to 2, with Judge Thibodeaux and Commissioners David Dubose and Owen Burton voting in favor of the budget as presented. Commissioners John Banken and Jody Crump voted against the proposed budget. Commissioner Crump echoed the sentiments of Commissioner Banken on why he opposed the proposed budget. Both expressed that not enough was done to cut the budget for the next fiscal year. Crump was grateful to the court, county department heads, and the county employees for their efforts to save money this year, but exclaimed that there was talk of implementing a plan and meeting with elected officials throughout the year which was never done. Crump concluded that he opposed the budget because there was more left out there the county could have gotten cut. Both Crump and Banken also opposed approving the salaries for elected officials in the county that were presented two weeks ago, with only Sheriff Keith Merritt getting a raise. Commissioner Banken said he opposed the proposed salaries. Banken stated, “There are some people out there that need raises, and I think a lot of people are making good money, but I think there are people out there that need money too.”
|One of these four Orangefield seniors will be crowned Homecoming Queen on Friday. From left: Brandy Ehrlich, Emilee Adrio, Macy Edgerly and Morgan Worthy. The Bobcats (2-2) host Newton (1-2) on Friday.|
|Boats were literally flying down the Sabine River as the City of Orange hosted the Sport Racing Series "Showdown on the Sabine" this weekend.|
Sunday night Orange Police were called to a residence on Edgemont in Roselawn. There they found a 33 year old man with stab wounds to the shoulder and rib cage. He told police he was stabbed by his former girlfriend, 29 year old Tara Hudson. Police interviewed Hudson, who told them that he was a former boyfriend, and that he came to her home on Childers and became upset when he saw that she had another man at her home. While they were arguing he took Hudson’s cell phone and left her residence. Hudson went to his mother’s residence on Edgemont to retrieve the phone. While there the two argued and Hudson picked up a pair of scissors and stabbed him twice after he would not give the phone back. Hudson was arrested for aggravated assault; however the victim said he would not press charges against Hudson.
|The wet weather finally went away Saturday, bringing sunshine to many events happening around the Orange County area.
One of those events was the 6th Annual Orange Peel Out Club Car Show to benefit OCAA Meals on Wheels.
Many cars from Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana were on display and you can see many of those in the KOGT Photo Gallery.
|Hannah Faulk, escorted by her dad Clay, was crowned the Bridge City Homecoming Queen Friday night. And the football Cardinals capped off the night with their first win of the season, a 25-14 win over the Liberty Panthers. See more scores on the KOGT.com Sports Page. photo by Thanh Ho|
Newcomb Pottery is considered one of the most significant collections of American art pottery of the 20th century, with each piece critically acclaimed and highly coveted. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has partnered with Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, to present the largest, most comprehensive Newcomb Pottery collection to tour the country in nearly three decades. Women, Art, & Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise is now on display at the Stark Museum of Art in Orange. The exhibition, which initially debuted at Newcomb Art Gallery in 2013 in New Orleans before launching the national tour, features more than 125 objects - the iconic pottery as well as lesser known textiles, metalwork, jewelry, bookbinding and historical artifacts. "Women, Art, & Social Change brings together a variety of objects created during the lifespan of the Newcomb enterprise," said Sally Main, curator of the Newcomb Art Gallery. "The finest examples of the pottery art form will be displayed alongside pieces that will come as a revelation to many - not only a rich variety of crafts but also photos and artifacts that breathe life into the Newcomb legacy."
|This pup is missing from its home on Evergreen near I-10. Please call 409-886-2448 if you've seen it.|
Steve Cagle of the Bridge City Police Department found a 3 year old boy walking down Texas Ave. Friday morning. Police had trouble finding the parents as they went door to door. Finally, they located his home on Darby Street. The mother was not at the home and the father was sleeping after working all night. Child Protective Services was called and child endangerment charges will be filed against the parents. A neighbor helped police find the parents after he said he had brought the child home before after wandering away.
Marriage License: Issued by The Office of Karen Jo Vance, Orange County Clerk For the Week of September 15, 2014 thru September 19, 2014. Joseph R. Hamerly and Rachel A. Suire, Mohammad Shahab and Zakia Begum, Charles W. Riese and Sharon M. Bell, Mark S. Longuepee and Linda A. McCauley, Caleb P. Clark and Christina L. Zylks, Billy J. Brimer Jr. and Chanda G. Clark.
On Thursday, September 18, 2014, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Vidor Police Department, and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) worked in a joint operation to target metal theft related crimes in Orange County. The theft of certain metals, such as copper, has been on the rise throughout the Southeast Texas area and beyond. The goal of the joint operation was to eliminate and deter metal related thefts by targeting problem areas and suspects related to the crime, as well as educating local scrap businesses on the current laws regulating the industry. The operation began at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 18, 2014. Patrols were conducted in marked and unmarked vehicles throughout several areas of the county. Units also targeted the main thoroughfares to and from the local salvage yards with the intent to identify individuals involved in the illicit sell of metal to the salvage yards. The operation concluded at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. On Friday September 19, 2014, local salvage yards were provided with copies of the Texas Occupations Code 19.56 in an effort to ensure they were up to date on the laws that regulate the scrap metal industry. Despite the rainy weather, the agencies involved believe the 12 hour joint operation was a success. Officers made contact with 42 different individuals who helped officers establish information and names of those possibly involved in the sell of stolen metals. One felony theft of metals case was solved with information received during the operation. Additional information received may also lead to other cases being solved. Six individuals were arrested on unrelated charges, but their names were not released by the OCSO. Similar operations will continue throughout Orange County to target those criminals involved in the theft and illicit sell of metals.
As KOGT first reported Monday, the city of Orange has cut funding to the Southeast Texas Arts Council by over $31,000. The Lutcher Theater is funded by the Arts Council. Theater Director Jim Clark is asking the city council to reconsider cutting funds since the theater brings people to Orange from all over Texas as well as neighboring states Louisiana and Arkansas. Clark says the theater has a history of filling beds with heads from the shows presented and is the primary attraction bringing people into Orange. Clark says compared to similar sized theaters in Galveston, Texarkana, and the Dallas metroplex, the Lutcher Theater was already receiving less in hotel-motel tax funding. Clark specifically mentioned the bringing of entertainers like Bill Cosby and Lyle Lovett to the theater and the theater’s $1.5 million marketing as making an impact for the local economy and attracting people to Orange, Texas. Clark sent a letter to the Orange city council asking them to reconsider their cutting funds to the Southeast Texas Arts Council. Mayor Jimmy Sims has read the letter from Clark. Sims says he appreciates the concerns of Clark, but every year the city is challenged with the distribution of the hotel/motel tax and all the applicants would like the maximum amount they request. What happened this year according to Sims is the new addition of the Friends of the Depot getting a lot of support from citizens requesting funds. He adds there are more and more applications for funds including the Lutcher Theater, and it is hard to accommodate everyone so the city has to juggle those moneys around. Mayor Sims mentioned the Friends of the Railroad Depot funding and added that the Bass Master Tournament which was such a rousing success last year is coming back to Orange. This meant money needed to be funneled to the Chamber of Commerce to support it and ensure it is a successful event. Sims believes funds could be increased to the Arts Council next year. Sims said, “I appreciate Mr. Clark, I understand his concerns, but hopefully next year we’ll be in a better position to bring that funding back.” He concluded that the city staff recommended the hotel/motel tax money distributions and the council supported them.
A 32-year-old Orange man has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in the Eastern District of Texas. Jason Ryan Bickham pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography on Sep. 17, 2014 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn. According to information presented in court, law enforcement authorities were alerted by a citizen that Bickham had images containing child pornography on his cellular phone. Bickham provided officers consent to search the phone. A forensic analysis of Bickham’s phone revealed multiple images and videos of child pornography. Bickham was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4, 2014. This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Bickham faces up to 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
DuPont will be spending $100 million to expand the Sabine River Works plant in Orange. The company made the announcement Tuesday. According to a press release, the expansion will increase the plant’s capacity to produce ethylene copolymers. The plastic material is used in food packaging and demand for the product has increased. The announcement comes a month after the Invista plant received city approval to seek a state investment zone designation for a $250 million investment in its plant. The DuPont plant has about 900 employees. The Invista plant was originally part of DuPont's Sabine River Works but was sold 14 years ago when DuPont eliminated its fiber division. Invista has about 500 employees. Sabine River Works has been in operations since 1946. SRW Manager and Global Manufacturing Director Bobby Laughlin told KOGT, “DuPont’s increase in ethylene copolymers capacity at its Texas manufacturing facilities illustrates our commitment to the business and to the community. Investing in manufacturing here also helps provide long-term stability to the community. The main reasons for expansion at this time are we want to increase production of our specialty polymers which are high value and highly differentiated, and we are supporting our customers’ growth in their markets. This expansion is good for DuPont, and will further drive economic growth for the Orange community.”
|A woman from Orange is mad at Pinehurst for cutting down trees that she helped plant more than a decade ago. Sandra Cash, a longtime member of the Keep Orange County Beautiful Committee, discovered Wednesday that city workers from Pinehurst cut down several cypress, pine and oak trees in front of the Beall's shopping center on MacArthur Drive. Cash was instrumental in getting public and private grants, including one for $10,000 from the Texas Forest Service, to plant trees along MacArthur Drive. The group had a professional landscape design for the project. Pinehurst City Administrator Joe Parkhurst came to the site after Cash and her husband, Jim Cash, arrived to complain to city workers. more|
Dr. Philip Cantu, who has a now-closed medical practice in Pinehurst, has agreed to voluntarily surrender his Texas medical license. The agreement was made with the Texas Medical Board. According to the Medical Board's website, Dr. Cantu said he has a medical condition which precludes him for practicing medicine with reasonable skill and safety to his patients. The board said Cantu was under investigation for allegations related to his care and treatment of several patients. Federal and local law agents had a search warrant for Cantu's pain management medical office on July 24. The federal agents confiscated computers and medical records but he has not been charged or indicted on criminal accusations related to the medical practice. A few hours before the federal raid at the office, Cantu had been arrested for assault in Bridge City in connection with an attack on his girlfriend at his residence.
The 9-23-14 agenda for the City of Orange City Council Meeting is now online at www.orangetexas.net.
The Monday, Sept. 22nd meeting of the West Orange City Council has been cancelled. The next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, October 13, 2014, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Drought Monitor Sept. 2014
Drought Monitor Sept. 2013
The construction of new houses through a federal hurricane recovery grant continues to lead new construction in Orange. During August, the city issued building permits for four new hurricane recovery houses worth a total of $397,500. The houses are only for low-income homeowners whose residences were heavily damaged by hurricanes. A new billboard was the other major construction. M&H Outdoor installed an $80,000 billboard at 4090 Interstate 10. Superfood Mart and Laundry on 37th Street received a permit for a $15,000 new roof. Two residential permits for re-roofing were issued for a total of $20,000. Conrad Shipyard on Market Street got a $21,000 new fence. One permit for a residential fence worth $1,000 was issued. Four air conditioning-heating systems were installed for commercial businesses at a total of $22,400, with the largest $15,000 to Sabine River Ford for the new construction. Five residential permits with a total of $22,850 were issued for residential air conditioning-heating. One swimming pool permit was issued for the 3300 block of Montrose Street with the pool valued at $45,900. August was the first time the city issued permits for temporary banner signs. City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved new regulations for businesses using temporary banners for signs and advertising. The city issued four permits for banner signs. The city is not charging a fee to get a banner sign permit.
The director of the Lutcher Theater is asking the Orange City Council to reconsider its decision to cut off the theater from getting money from the city's hotel occupancy tax. Jim Clark sent letters to Mayor Jimmy Sims and other council members late last week. On Tuesday, September 9, the City Council, acting on a recommendation from the city staff, voted to cut $31,163 from the Southeast Texas Arts Council’s request. Last year, the city gave the arts council $50,000 from the hotel money. The arts council then granted the theater $30,000 to help pay for performances. Arts Council Director Sue Bard told the council about how SETAC gives money to Orange groups, with the bulk of it going to the theater.
In the letter, Clark points out that the state law requires the income from the hotel occupancy tax to go to activities that support more visitors to stay overnight in local hotels. He said that artists performing at the theater in 2013 alone rented more than 800 hotel rooms with many of the rooms rented for multiple nights.
The cut in the support for the Lutcher Theater comes after a dispute between the Stark Foundation and the city. At one time, the city council considered suing the foundation because of a dispute about the riverfront park development. The city returned a grant check from the foundation.
Clark said the Stark Foundation supports the theater by paying for the building and maintenance, along with the staff. Grants, along with corporate and private donations, pay for the performances. He said the Lutcher Theater, Inc., is a separate non-profit corporation from the foundation. The theater group pays for the performances and is governed by a local board of directors.
The City Council last week approved spending a total of $565,000 from the hotel tax fund in the 2015 budget that starts October 1. Most of the hotel tax budget, $378,000, is used to pay for the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. The hotel tax fund is expected to have reserves of $915,000 at the end of the budget year.
Clark said the theater last year had 24,000 people attending evening events, 12,000 students from Texas and Louisiana attending the Children's Series, and 14,000 people attending dance recitals, graduations and lecture. He attached to his letter to Mayor Sims a list of statistics on the hometowns of theater patrons. He pointed out that many of the ones from out of town spend a night in a local hotel, shop at local businesses and eat at local restaurants. The information includes that the Luther Theater, Inc., has raised and spent more than $15 million to bring entertainment to Orange since it opened in 1980. More than 836,400 people have attended Lutcher Theater events in downtown in the past 33 years.
|The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Bridge City and Vidor Chambers of Commerce and launched a “Shop Orange County” campaign. This campaign is designed to educate our local citizens about the many advantages to keeping our local dollars with our county retailers. This multipart series will focus on the different advantages that shopping locally will bring to our community. more|
Bridge City approved its new budget for 2014-2015 Tuesday night. The city council adopted the budget which includes a tax rate of 47.8 cents per 100 dollars value. With the current fiscal year coming to a close in the next two weeks Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte looks back at an eventful year for the city. Roccaforte said the city has improved a whole lot of things especially the moving forward with the appeal of the FEMA flood maps. He mentioned the city’s efforts to get control of the brown water problem Bridge City has experienced and believes the work will continue to resolve the problem. The street repairs completed this year been very nice to do according to Roccaforte. Bridge City also extended its extra-territorial jurisdiction with annexations extending all the way to the Neches River. Road repairs have been done for a large percentage of the streets in Bridge City the last 12 months. Crews are finishing up, but Mayor Pro Tem Danny Cole told City Manager Jerry Jones and the city council he has received some complaints about a few streets in his neighborhood. Cole said the sides of the streets were making it difficult for some people to mow their yards along the edge by the streets on Meadow, Turner, and Morning Glory. Cole’s concern was that the road crews have left that area. Jones informed Cole and the council that all the street sides will be cleaned and that they certainly will look at the streets Cole mentioned. Jones has said that between 90 to 95 percent of the streets in Bridge City will have had some work done on them by the end of the year.
Six food businesses or services received perfect health scores during the first half of September. Orange County Health Inspector James Scales visited 17 businesses during the first two weeks. Two of the visits were for pre-opening inspections and Scales did not give scores. Four of the perfect scores went to schools: Little Cypress Intermediate School, Orangefield Elementary, Bridge City Middle School and West Orange-Stark Middle School. Other perfect scores went to Wal-Mart on North Main Street in Vidor and Traditions Daycare on Highway 62 in Orange. Pre-opening inspections were made at Kimbo's Concessions, 2752 Highway 12 in Mauriceville, and Crystal Seafood, 1609 16th Street. The lowest score for the period was 77 and went to Wok D'Lite on Strickland Drive. Other scores
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The state comptroller's office has announced that statewide, the sales taxes were up 7.5 percent for this August compared to the same time last year. Even Pinehurst had an increase in sales tax collections for August. Pinehurst, which has had steady drops in monthly sales tax receipts, is getting $50,421 this month, an extra $997 in sales taxes from last year. Still the city remains slightly behind in the year-to-date comparisons. Pinehurst, Orange, Bridge City and Vidor have a 1.5 percent sales tax, as does the Orange County Emergency Services District No. 3 for the Little Cypress area. The city of West Orange has a 1.25 percent sales tax while Orange County has a 0.5 percent sales tax. A spokesman for the comptroller's office said unusually large increases or decrease are the result of quarterly payments or because of corrections in past mistakes in which the money was sent to another entity. The receipts for the month and year to date are:
Bridge City: $107,178 for the month, a 20 percent increase. $1.008 million for the year to date, a 9.13 percent increase:
Orange: $296,415 for the month, a 23.4 percent increase. $2.72 million for the year to date, a 5.21 percent increase.
Pinehurst: $50,421 for the month, a 2 percent increase. $522,852 for the year to date, a decrease of 2.7 percent from last year.
Vidor: $187,617 for the month, a 24 percent increase. $1.83 million for the year to date, a 9.92 percent increase.
West Orange: $78,143 for the month, a 4.84 percent increase. $816,587 for the year to date, a 7.33 percent increase.
ESD No. 3: $30,681 for the month and $291,597 for the year to date.
Orange County: $417,300 for the month, a 28.98 percent increase. $3.5 million for the year to date, a 1.83 percent increase.
As the sun began to rise in Orange on September 13, the wind was coming in from the northeast. But if the citizens were thinking they might be getting a fall cool front, they were wrong. That Wednesday ended as the most deadly day in local history as a hurricane with winds blew more than 100 miles per hour landed in the small town that was already suffering from a loss of local men after the Civil War. The year was 1865. The Texas Hurricane History by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that 25 people died in Orange, killed mostly by falling debris and flying timbers. The town was leveled with 196 of 200 homes demolished. more