|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - April 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Disaster relief approvals coming just ahead of hurricane season
Polk County Enterprise
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) says disaster relief projects are approved for 93 percent of the Texas communities impacted by Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Dolly in 2008. Unfortunately, Polk County is still stuck in the 7 percent undergoing further “technical review.” Polk County is waiting for about $8 million out of a pool of $447 million dedicated to rebuilding damaged infrastructure such as streets, storm drains and sanitary sewer systems. Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Shine says TDRA has come to mean “Terminal Delay of Resources Allocated.” “FEMA used to be known for its bureaucratic delays, but TDRA has won the contest and gets the golden crown.” About $37.7 million in round one funds are headed for communties within the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. Of that total, the City of Livingston will receive $946,055 for generators in public buildings and lift stations. Corrigan has been allocated $440,938. The approval does not mean the check is in the mail, however. It merely green-lights agencies to move forward with lengthy contracting processes, according to Livingston officials. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, TDRA and regional councils of governments are continuing to wrangle over round 2. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments met last week and held a closed executive session with attorneys to discuss possible litigation over a proposal by HUD to take $30 million from Deep East Texas and send it to the Houston/ Galveston area and Orange. A proposed settlement allocating an additional $17 million from money set aside for statewide health care facilities to Houston/ Galveston and Orange seemed likely to be approved as of press deadline Wednesday. DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles was in a meeting with HUD and TDRA at Gov. Rick Perry’s office in Austin. Some procedures to determine fund allocation during the disaster recovery have irked Deep East Texas officials. Among those was a determination that of the 12 counties in Deep East Texas, only San Jacinto County was classified as a low to moderate income county. In other counties, smaller areas would meet requirements but not the county as a whole. Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt disputed that finding by pointing out that in small communities, everyone uses the same water distribution system, sewer lines and roads. When those systems fail, they fail for everyone in the community, rich or poor. Round one allocations for housing are being handled by DETCOG for all 12 of the counties it serves, according to Shine. Since those funds have not been disbursed, Polk County Emergency Management office has been using volunteer work crews to repair damaged housing for low income or disabled Polk Countians. The county received about $207,000 to use for supplies for those repairs and Shine expects that fund to be exhausted before the housing project ever gets started. The 2010 Hurricane Season is set to begin June 1. Noted Hurricane forecaster Dr. William Gray predicts the upcoming season to be busier than 2009. He predicts 11 to 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes, three to five of them becoming major storms and two or three making landfall.