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Stories Added - February 2009
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Hearings on disaster recovery funds begin in Coldspring
Polk County Enterprise - February 2009
COLDSPRING – The fi rst of three public hearings aimed at determining a method of distributing $70 million in Hurricane Ike disaster recovery funds was held in Coldspring last Thursday. The hearing, conducted by Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Executive Director Walter Diggles, was attended by county and city offi cials from San Jacinto and neighboring counties included in the 12-county DETCOG region. “DETCOG received the third largest allocation of recovery funds in the State of Texas,” Diggles said. Of the $1.3 billion received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for recovery from the damages sustained as a result of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly, 11 councils of government in Texas will receive funds to be allocated in their region. Among the top three councils of government to share in the funds, DETCOG will get $70 million, Houston-Galveston COG will get $814.1 million and South East Texas RPC will get $139.9 million. The remaining $1.3 billion will be split between eight other councils of government regions sustaining hurricane damage in the Texas Gulf Coast Region during 2008. “Texas was impacted by Hurricanes Ike and Dolly and a signifi cant tropical storm within a 52-day time frame. Hurricane Ike, the most damaging, was gigantic and powerful, 900 miles wide and the size of West Virginia,” Diggles said. As it rolled across the Gulf of Mexico, Ike grew from a Category 2 storm to a powerful Category 4 that unleashed a 20-foot storm surge that swallowed Galveston and other coastal areas, proving to be the third-most destructive storm to hit the United States. Hurricane Dolly, although less damaging only in absolute terms, had already struck the south Texas coastline as a Category 2 hurricane. It was the most destructive storm to hit the Rio Grande Valley in over four decades, according to Diggles. “Preliminary damage estimates for the 2008 hurricane season total more than $29.4 billion. To date $23 billion in non-housing related damages have been identifi ed as well as $3.4 billion of housing assistance needs,” Diggles said. In the DETCOG region, San Jacinto County, along with 11 other counties, 45 cities and one Indian reservation will share in the $70 million allocated for the region. Of the $70 million in ORCA funding, unincorporated areas of Polk County will be allocated $6,775,758 , the City of Livingston will get $1,258,420, the City of Corrigan will get $355,164, the City of Onalaska will get $269,757, the City of Seven Oaks will get $25,928 and the Alabama- Coushatta Indian Reservation will get an estimated $76,256 for a total of $8,811,613. The objective of the funds is to establish long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure, housing and economic revitalization in areas affected by hurricanes, fl oods and other natural disasters occurring during 2008. “DETCOG has determined that a direct allocation to local governments would be the best way of getting recovery efforts undertaken. Local authorities know best the needs of their area and who to use for contractors in getting jobs done,” Diggles said. Several people made comments during the public hearing, including Ned Muse with an engineering firm. “The Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) is proposing to take away some rights to select local engineering firms,” Muse said. Muse opposed ORCA’s proposal saying it would create more paper work and slow response time in getting rebuilding done if local engineers are not allowed to work on local projects. Jasper County Judge Pro-tem Willie Stark said he’s been through this process before. “DETCOG has a fair representation of the area. I do agree that we use local engineers and consultants who have a better knowledge of the needs of our citizens,” Stark said. “This gives us a good opportunity to do some good improvements in our area,” Diggles added.