Some East Texas counties not satisfied with federal hurricane relief

By Lane Luckie - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - More than four months have passed since Hurricane Ike slammed portions of East Texas.   Thousands of residents are receiving federal aid to help with damages, but local governments are still waiting on their share. $1.3 billion has been allocated for Texas to distribute to storm-damaged areas, but some East Texas counties aren't satisfied with their cut of the check.

Buildings were destroyed and debris was everywhere. East Texas felt the brunt of Hurricane Ike and recovery has been expensive, leaving local government to foot the bill.

Lufkin Assistant City Manager Keith Wright said, "We were affected not only by the storm. We were affected by their people, their citizens, that came to East Texas for a place to stay while they were trying to avoid Ike."

Over a billion dollars in federal money is coming to Texas, distributed through the Office of Rural Community Affairs, but not without problems. "We have issues trying to administer this money and these grants. We have to work back through the State which is going to be a very cumbersome process," said Wright.

Wright said East Texas is getting the raw deal because DETCOG's portion of the money is based on estimates, not actual damage figures. "Nearly eighty thousand people and we're only getting $3 million. You have some counties with 25 thousand people in the whole county and they're getting $8 million."

Being shortchanged could stall infrastructure improvements, creating more problems during a disaster. "You could have one car on Loop 287 and bring our evacuation to a halt," said Wright.

More relief money in City and County coffers would be well-spent. They're considering establishing a mass shelter that is better able to meet local evacuation needs. "In order to do this better or to have the facilities, we need some type of public facility that would aide us in that sheltering process," said Wright.

While none of the nearly $60 million allocated to DETCOG has physically changed hands, they are hoping to ask for a bigger slice, by the time it does.

A public meeting will be held next Friday, February 13th, at the Angelina County Courthouse to allow the public to give their ideas on how the money should be spent.