Deciding where to spend Hurricane Ike funds

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The commissioner's courtroom was packed in Angelina County today as concerned citizens piled in to make their voices heard about the $70 million in federal relief set aside for East Texas. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments will be responsible for splitting the money among 12 counties.

Dozens of people stood up today to testify why they need more disaster relief money for their areas, but Angelina County Judge, Wes Suiter, tells us the money the Office of Rural Affairs gave the DETCOG region will have to do for now.

"It's like we said, we can all argue about that, we can always say Trinity County got more than Angelina County or Angelina County got more than Houston County or vice versa, but, we need to move on. We need to get the funding out here," Suiter said.

When that funding does arrive, Angelina and Nacogdoches County plan to use some of it to build a mass shelter.  If ORCA approves the shelters, DETCOG said they could be ready for the 2010 hurricane season.

They cited Hurricane Ike and said it kept students out of class because schools were used as shelters. Although it's a sensitive subject, DETCOG said the people of East Texas made their job a little easier today.

"I think when counties and cities understand the sense of fairness, your leadership ability to make sure that all counties and cities are treated equitably. They seem to get that picture," DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles said.

Suiter said Angelina County's cut of the money from ORCA is only a drop in the bucket. DETCOG expects another round of relief from Washington soon, but East Texas lawmakers are ready to fight for more money to make sure East Texas gets what it needs.