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DETCOG discusses hurricane recovery

LOCAL JUDGES RECOGNIZED -- As part of its 50th anniversary, Deep East Texas Council of Governments officials recognized three former Polk County judges (L-R) Wayne Baker, Peyton Walters and John Thompson for their past service to the organization. The three were honored Thursday during the DETCOG board meeting hosted by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas near Livingston. ( Valerie Reddell photo.)LOCAL JUDGES RECOGNIZED -- As part of its 50th anniversary, Deep East Texas Council of Governments officials recognized three former Polk County judges (L-R) Wayne Baker, Peyton Walters and John Thompson for their past service to the organization. The three were honored Thursday during the DETCOG board meeting hosted by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas near Livingston. ( Valerie Reddell photo.)

BY VALERIE REDDELL
Contributing editor
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INDIAN VILLAGE -- The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas welcomed the Deep East Texas Council of Governments on Thursday for a meeting that included updates on economic development, hurricane recovery and solid waste programs.

Executive Director Lonnie Hunt reviewed initial numbers for the Temporary Direct Housing Program for residents displaced by Hurricane Harvey. DETCOG will administer the program under an interlocal agreement with the General Land Office.

Recent numbers from FEMA that Hunt shared with DETCOG members indicate that 10 Polk County families have been declared eligible for the temporary direct housing program.

Five other counties in DETCOG also will be in the program — 20 families in Jasper; 32 in Newton; 44 in San Jacinto and six in Tyler County.

The program has a budget of just over $6 million, Hunt said. That includes nearly $200,000 for direct lease; $91,446 for lease or rent in multi-family housing; $1.7 million for RVs; $3.4 million for mobile home units, just over a half million for permanent housing and $200,000 for administering the program.

The amount allocated to permanent housing in this short-term program is to cover repairs that return structures to safe, sanitary conditions, Hunt said. Those funds do not return homes to their prior condition.

Hunt also advised that the program seems to be moving a bit faster than similar programs following Hurricane Ike.

Hunt pointed out that this is one of many FEMA programs that helps with disaster recovery.

To qualify for the temporary direct housing program, applicants needed to have $17,000 in damage.
“Somewhere shy of 500 applicants said they have over $17,000,” Hunt said. “Already our region has received almost $18 million in direct aid to victims. Of those, 245 initial applicants have said they are taken care of. The rest are still in the process.”

Many of those people who are helping themselves will be back to apply for assistance in a long-range program.

“That money takes longer to come,” Hunt said. “This (temporary) program makes sure that people have a decent place to lay their head at time.

“We finished the last Ike house in February 2017, that’s eight and a half years,” Hunt said. “Texas is cracking the whip to move this program along.”

DETCOG praised the Alabama Coushatta Tribe for its financial assistance immediately after the storm.

In Jasper and Newton Counties, 191 families were helped

DETCOG also took a moment to recognize former Polk County officials who helped launch the organization 50 years ago.

DETCOG President Lynn Torres announced that DETCOG was honoring former Polk County Judge Peyton Walters with a Founders Award.

Walters was a member of the charter board of directors and continued to support DETCOG after leaving office and joining the staff of former Congressman Charlie Wilson. Walters and his wife now live in Maryland, Torres said.

She also recognized the late Mickey Reily, a former mayor of Corrigan, for his service with DETCOG.
The DETCOG president also recognized John Thompson, the former Polk County Judge who served as DETCOG president while Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Livingston. Thompson was unable to attend due to recent knee replacement surgery, Torres said.

In other business,
• Jo Ann Battise, Chairman of the Alabama Coushatta Tribal Council will serve as a DETCOG director, and that Groveton City Councilman Ralph Bennett would join Trinity County Attorney Joe Warner Bell to represent Trinity County.
• The Emergency Preparedness Take force will allocate $20,000 in uncommitted fund to the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office, as the highest scoring grant that did not receive funding.
• Lonnie Hunt reported that DETCOG has selected an architect to design the new building for DETCOG headquarters which will be owned by the nonprofit Forest Country Development Corporation and located in Lufkin. The proposed contract with the architect is currently under review by the U.S. Economic Development Corporation.

Copyright 2016 Polk County Enterprise