County pushes forward on disaster recovery fund

Posted 9/24/19

Current and future grants from state and federal agencies dominated discussion at Monday’s regular meeting of the Madison County Commissioners Court, including a plea by County Judge Tony Leago for county officials to help facilitate next year’s U.S. census in order to avoid pitfalls such as one that recently saw the county return $480,000 in disaster recovery funds.

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County pushes forward on disaster recovery fund

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Current and future grants from state and federal agencies dominated discussion at Monday’s regular meeting of the Madison County Commissioners Court, including a plea by County Judge Tony Leago for county officials to help facilitate next year’s U.S. census in order to avoid pitfalls such as one that recently saw the county return $480,000 in disaster recovery funds.

“We had signed checks. It was a done deal, but we had to return it,” Leago said. The grant money had to be returned because of inaccuracies in identifying low-to-moderate income requirements from data acquired in the 2010 census, now nine years old.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that 70% of Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds benefit low- to moderate-income persons. Overcoming resistance to the census will help the county maintain a more accurate accounting of such people going forward, Leago said.

“We’ve got to take it seriously,” he said. “We’ve got to count those areas or we’re going to have this problem continuously.”

Part of the effort includes having county officials work on educating citizens about the census, dissuading them from notions that census takers will be looking for illegal aliens or other activity. There are also plans to form the Complete County Committee to aid in education and other efforts to complete the count.

The county did retain some funds under the CDBG DR-16 floods grant for area flooding in October. On Monday, commissioners agreed to contract with Jones and Carter Engineering to formulate a recovery plan and begin recovery projects.

“For many of the grants, you cannot move forward unless you have an engineer under contract,” Shelly Butts, the county’s emergency management coordinator told commissioners.

Commissioners also agreed to submit an application for funds under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which will require contracting with an administrator to guide the application. The administration of the application will cost the county $25,000 if the grant is approved, a cost the county would seek to split with the cities of Madisonville and Midway. Administration would cost $55,000 without the grant money, Butts said.

Funds from the $2 million HMGP, distributed by the Texas General Land Office, would go toward future planning against disaster, including road and bridge work, drainage, water supply, wastewater and educational efforts.

“This is something to lessen damages in the future,” Butts said. “Anything to make damages less significant.”

In other matters Monday, commissioners tabled action on a proposed $680,577 budget for the Madison County Appraisal District for 2020. The proposed figure represents a $51,137 increase from the 2019 budget after any unspent funds are returned to the county.

Commissioners decided to take no action on the proposal, holding for further review.

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