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Commission may vote soon on buyouts, acquisitions

BEAUMONT — The Jefferson County commissioners took a step closer to determining whether to go forward with either an acquisition or buyout program for the unincorporated areas of the county.

The commissioners unanimously approved specifications for a request for a grant proposal and contract grant administration program Monday.

“Today was about contracting someone who could administer one of those programs,” County Judge Jeff Branick said. “We can participate in either of the programs — just not both.

The county has been trying to gather more information on the programs before putting it to a vote before the commissioners.

The buyout program would allow the county to buy homes that sit below the flood levels in the unincorporated areas of the county at pre-disaster market value.

However, a buyout program also requires the county to hold the property in perpetuity and would be responsible for maintaining the property, which would be more expensive for the county and would further limit the amount of homes that would be selected for the program.

In an acquisition program, the county is allowed to purchase homes at post-disaster market value. The county would be able to have the home demolished and sell the property after environmental tests check for asbestos and lead-based paint.

Branick said he prefers the acquisitions program because it is more cost efficient for the county and would allow more homeowners to participate. The county has $2 million available for either program.

Branick said he believes the commissioners will have a chance to vote on either program within the next few weeks.

Wiggins: No word

Precinct 1 Constable Charlie Wiggins had not informed the commissioners Monday of a decision about running for the seat he now holds, Branick said.

“I haven’t heard from him,” Branick said. “It’s something I would like to have cleared up as soon as possible.”

Branick asked Wiggins to step down as a candidate for constable after the newly appointed constable decided to add his name to the ballot for November’s election. The move broke a verbal agreement Wiggins had with the commissioners who appointed him as an iterim and broke protocol that an appointed member not run in the next election.

During the commissioners’ court Aug. 10, Wiggins said he would become deputy constable if the commissioners decided to replace him from someone within the precinct.

Commissioners Brent Weaver and Eddie Arnold, along with Branick, voted for Wiggins after former Constable Earl White quit to become the Beaumont fire chief. Commissioners Michael Sinegal and Everette “Bo” Alfred voted for Deputy Constable Joe “QB” Stevenson.