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Experts identify $70M in FEMA filings


Last updated 11/13/2018 at Noon

Dave Rogers

For The Record

A total of 44 Orange County homes damaged by last year’s Tropical Storm Harvey have qualified for federal buyouts or elevation.

Nancy Beward of Wendorf Beward & Partners, the county’s grants administrator, and Phil Hampsten of Hampsten Consulting were in Orange Tuesday for a Commissioners’ Court workshop and delivered those figures among many.

This week’s regular Commissioners’ Court meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Hampsten is the county’s expert on working with FEMA on buyouts and elevations while Beward has been busy looking for infrastructure applications that have a benefit cost ratio of greater than 1, a requirement for being reimbursed.

A total of 23 homes have qualified for elevation at a total cost of $3.9 million (about $169,000 each).

Five of the homes are in Vidor’s 77662 zip, four are in Bridge City (77611) and the rest are in Orange (77630 and 77632).

The federal-local split is 75-25 and homeowners have to come up with the 25 percent. So, the federal share for the 23 homes is $2.9 million and the local share $1 million.

Hampsten said 19 homes qualified for buyout and the total cost here equals the homes’ pre-flood values.

That’s a total cost of $3.5 million (about $175,000 each) with FEMA’s share $2.6 million and the local share $860,000.

Homes OK’d for buyouts include 10 in Vidor (77662 and 77670) three in Bridge City, one in Rose City and five in Orange.

The elevation qualifiers have a BCR (benefit cost ratio) of 1.02 and the buyout qualifiers are at 1.52.

Beward found a total cost of $29 million to fund improved neighborhood drainage in 23 neighborhoods and a $19 million cost to replace tank car culverts in 43 neighborhoods.

She identified a $450,000 project to install generators at the road and bridge precinct yards, $5 million needed to elevate evacuation routes, $320,000 to storm-proof critical county facilities and $1.1 million to stabilize the Neches River bank along Four Oaks Road.

The total cost of all applications is $63.1 million.

Of that, the federal amount would be $47.3 million and Orange County would need to come up with $15.8 million.

Months of reviews will take place before the money is allocated and only some of the proposed projects will be authorized.

But Hampsten and Beward will be pushing the paperwork forward.

The county’s tax abatement policy will be revisited for the third time in two months at Wednesday’s commissioners’ meeting.

Commissioner Barry Burton put on the agenda an item regarding a resolution “establishing and renewing the guidelines and criteria for tax abatement agreements.”

County Judge Dean Crooks has been on the losing side of two 1-4 votes on his motions to install time and dollar limits in the county policy.

But previous discussions have included concessions by other commissioners and EDC Director Jessica Hill that language should be tightened up, particularly regarding hiring workers and buying supplies locally.

Treasurer Christy Khoury will present a deposit of $377,000 in the county’s account, representing September sales tax receipts.

The official canvass of returns in the Nov. 6 election is expected.

Commissioners voted last week to move the citizens’ comment from the end of their meetings to the beginning.


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