|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - January 2010
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
Goodrich opts out of county emergency plan
Polk County Enterprise - January 2010
LIVINGSTON – The City of Goodrich has opted out of the emergency operations plan that will be forwarded to state officials in Austin, Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Shine said during Tuesday’s session of the Polk County Commissioner’s Court. Shine said the basic Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a large document drafted many years ago based on a template from state and federal officials that make plans See for Polk and Trinity counties to plan for and mitigate damage from natural or man-made disasters. “After Hurricane Ike, FEMA recommended several changes and those have to be approved by the state and then every local jurisdiction has to sign off on them,” Shine said. “The City of Goodrich decided not to. They said it takes too much authority away from them,” Shine said, referring commissioners to two letters sent to Goodrich Mayor Pro-Tem Nita Gokey and each city council member. County Judge John Thompson advised Gokey in a letter dated Jan. 6 that expressed his concerns about the decision by Goodrich officials to face future disasters without mutual aid from the county. Thompson said the EOP documents included long-standing mutual agreements between Goodrich and all other cities within the county. Leaving Goodrich out of the EOP “could negatively impact the city’s federal grant funding, disaster response resources and recovery services for its citizens,” Thompson’s letter continued.
Shine added that Polk County’s “advanced” status provides grant funding that pay half of his salary as well as his assistant, Courtney Comstock. Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet then asked Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis if he had any input in Goodrich. Willis answered, “No.” Overstreet then made a motion authorizing the plan to be submitted to the state and honoring Goodrich’s decision to opt out. The plan was seconded by Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis and passed unanimously. “We really wish they hadn’t done that,” Thompson said following the vote. “We have to honor their request so we really don’t have another option.” “If something happens, we’re still going to help them, though,” Purvis said. “You’re right,” Thompson said. Disappearing street signs and a lack of addresses on many rural residences is affecting response times in smaller scale emergencies. Overstreet said his precinct saw a marked increase in thefts and vandalism of county street signs. “I found some of Commissioner Purvis’s signs in a pile in my precinct,” Overstreet said. “I don’t want to blame it all on youth, but someone has to be seeing these signs be vandalized.” Thompson said missing signs were one of former commissioner Dick Hubert’s No. 1 topics. “We need citizens to keep an eye out and report,” Thompson added.
Sheriff Kenneth Hammack added that his department would be following up on the missing signs and what signs go missing most often. Early efforts by census addressing have identified 2,500 homes that do not have the 911 address displayed where it can be seen by EMS, fire or law enforcement officers responding to an emergency, according to Shine. A state law that took effect in September defines knowingly failing to display the address or refusing to display it as a Class C misdemeanor. Shine said Justin Cude with AmeriCare EMS said ambulance response times are often delayed because no address is displayed. Hammack added that deputies have to spend time hunting down houses. “There was an alarm call in my neighborhood the other day. I happened to be in the front yard when they came by and pointed out the house. We get a number of alarm calls for that house, but there’s no number,” Hammack said. Oftentimes dispatchers have to pull maps on their computers and give turn by turn directions and describe the house. “If the number is on the house, the deputy can clear the call a lot more quickly and move on to the next one,” “Hammack said. Another consequence of improper addressing could hit Polk County in the pocketbook. “Each person that is missed in the census costs the county about $10,000,” Thompson said. Those delays in searching down houses also create additional costs. If a deputy spends 30 minutes searching for a house, the county pays for that half-hour, Thompson pointed out. Purvis said it should not be up to county officials to force property owners to post their address. Shine said urging property owners to post an address is a public protection issue, like wearing a seat belt. Purvis took issue with seat belt laws too. “Child safety seats are one thing, but it should be up to the man whether he puts it on or not,” Purvis said. “It’s not up to us to tell them.”