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FEMA opens disaster recovery center

Recovery specialists offer Harvey victims assistance at library

AUSTIN -- Although representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been working with local victims of Hurricane Harvey for the past week, the federal agency formally opened a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Friday at the Livingston Municipal Library, 707 N. Tyler Ave.

Located in the library’s parking lot, the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

The center was one of three opened Friday by the agency. Others were in Brazoria County in the city of Oyster Creek and another in Harris County in the city of Houston.

Disaster recovery centers offer in-person support to individuals and businesses in counties included in the Texas federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent floods.

Recovery specialists from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the state and other agencies will be at the centers to talk about assistance and to help anyone who needs guidance in filing an application

The SBA disaster assistance employees are committed to helping businesses and residents rebuild as quickly as possible. SBA representatives are available to answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program and help business owners and residents apply to SBA.

Disaster recovery centers are accessible to people with disabilities. Centers have assistive technology equipment allowing disaster survivors to use amplified telephones, phones that display text, amplified listening devices for people with hearing loss and magnifiers for people with vision loss.

Video Remote Interpreting is available and in-person sign language is available by request. The centers also have accessible parking, ramps and restrooms.

If possible, homeowners, renters and businesses should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center. Eligible residents may register for assistance the following ways:
Online at Disaster Assistance. gov.

Phone 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS-Video Relay Service) (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).

Via the FEMA app, available for Apple and Android mobile devices. To download visit:
fema.gov/mobile-app.

The following information is helpful when registering:
Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address).
Current mailing address.
Current telephone number.
Insurance information.
Total household annual income.
Routing and account number for checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into a bank account).
A description of disaster-caused damage and losses.

Disaster survivors can visit any of the centers for assistance. Locations of other recovery centers are online at www.fema.gov/DRC.

Help available from the SBA includes low interest disaster loans for businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Private non-profit organizations and churches also are eligible.

The SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to provide working capital to help small businesses, small agriculture cooperatives, small businesses engaged in agriculture and most private non-profit organizations meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations.
Home disaster loans also are available through the SBA to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and personal property including automobiles.

Those seeking these loans must have a credit history acceptable to the SBA and show they have the ability to repay the loans. Any physical loss loans and all EIDL loans over $25,000 require collateral such as real estate is available.

Loans can be up to a 30-year term with interest rates for home loans as low as 1.75 percent if the applicant does not have sufficient resources or the ability to borrow from non-governmental sources up to 3.5 percent for applicants who have the ability to provide for their own recovery.

Truck mishap shuts down U.S. 59 access road

NO INJURIES -- No injuries were reported Thursday following an accident on the U.S. 59 access road north of Livingston Junior High School. The driver of the truck-tanker rig hauling hazardous chemicals was making the U-turn under the U.S. 59 overpass when the load shifted and the turn rolled over onto its side. Although no chemical spill was detected, the access road remained closed until a cleanup crew arrive and removed the tanker. (Enterprise Photo by Albert Trevino)NO INJURIES -- No injuries were reported Thursday following an accident on the U.S. 59 access road north of Livingston Junior High School. The driver of the truck-tanker rig hauling hazardous chemicals was making the U-turn under the U.S. 59 overpass when the load shifted and the turn rolled over onto its side. Although no chemical spill was detected, the access road remained closed until a cleanup crew arrive and removed the tanker. (Enterprise Photo by Albert Trevino)

LIVINGSTON – No injuries were reported, but traffic was shut down at the north bypass of U.S. 59 on Thursday after a semi-truck carrying hazardous material was turned over at the access road U-turn.

Shortly before 2 p.m. on Thursday, the driver of a Slay Industries transportation truck was reportedly attempting to make the U-turn under the U.S. 59 overpass near Livingston Junior High School when the weight of the trailer shifted and pushed the vehicle on its side along the right shoulder.

No other vehicles were involved in the accident and the driver of the semi-truck appeared to walk away uninjured. No other injuries were reported at the scene on Thursday.

Law enforcement with Texas Highway Patrol, Livingston Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the scene shortly after. Livingston Volunteer Fire Department was also dispatched for assistance. All traffic was blocked near the north bypass during investigation and cleanup.

Although the liquid tanker was reportedly carrying hazardous material, the damage did not appear to cause any leaks to occur upon initial inspection by first responders and emergency management. As a precaution, traffic on the north bypass remained blocked until a cleanup crew arrived to property transport the tanker from the scene.

Drivers attempting to turn on the bypass that afternoon were forced to detour by traveling southbound on U.S. 59 and exiting into the feeder.

The accident remains under the investigation of Texas Highway Patrol.

9-11 Remembered

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The Livingston VFW Honor Guard (above) lower the state, national and Sept. 11 Memorial flags to half mast in honor of those who died during the terrorist attack in 2001. The ceremony was part of the annual 9-11 anniversary event held Monday at the Livingston City Hall. At left, Livingston Police Detective Leon Middleton rings the memorial bell in honor of the first responders who fell during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Volunteers, workers thanked for post-Harvey work

County dealing with Harvey’s damage

BY GREG PEAK
Editor
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LIVINGSTON -- From thanking volunteers and county workers to approving steps for debris removal, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was on the minds of Polk County commissioners during their meeting Tuesday in Livingston.

“We had an extraordinary county-wide response to this,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “We had county employees come forward and say, ‘Where do you need me?’ We also had retirees and folks in the labor pool come forward to donate their time. And you can’t say enough about the volunteer fire departments.”

The judge also had words of praise for the work of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s game wardens, Polk County Sheriff’s Department deputies and staff and the local constables’ offices for the time they spent assisting people uprooted by the flood waters generated when the hurricane pushed waves of heavy rainfall through the region.
“We had elected officials and their staff turning out to open and manage the shelter and help with the evacuees while at the same time they were able to keep their offices open and functioning,” Murphy added.

The judge added there are just too many people who stepped forward to volunteer their assistance to name, but singled out the work of the Center of Hope in Livingston which is serving as a central location to receive and distribute donated clothes, food, water and other supplies to those in need.

Murphy also expressed her thanks to the four commissioners for their efforts to keep roads open during the crisis. She noted they shared equipment and employees to work on critical areas when the high flood waters damaged roads and bridges throughout the county.

The commissioners indicated much work is needed to repair the damage to the road network and indicated the public has been patient thus far.

“I just want to thank the county crews for their hard work and TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) for the needed materials,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said.

“I’d like to echo that…from all of us,” added Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis as he pointed around the table to his nodding fellow commissioners.

In other Hurricane Harvey related action, the commissioners approved a list of overtime hours generated by county employees during the disaster and authorized the Office of Emergency Management to proceed with debris removal and to contract with a monitor to oversee the removal process. Commissioners indicated they hope that the cost of both items could be reimbursed to the county under FEMA grant funds that will be awarded to counties like Polk that are included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration.
Budget, tax rate

In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved the new $30.1 million budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins on Oct. 1. They also formally adopted the tax rate of $0.6561 per $100 in assessed value. While this is the same rate adopted one year ago, it is considered by law to be a tax increase because it will generate more income due to the rise in property values.
Prior to the meeting, commissioners held a public hearing on the budget that last about one minute when no local residents appeared to comment either for or against the spending plan.

Voting boxes
At the request of County Clerk Schelana Hock, commissioners approved the consolidation of the voting boxes for the Nov. 7 constitutional amendment election. During that election, Texas voters will be asked to decide on seven proposed changes to the state constitution.

Due to the expected low voter turnout that has occurred during such elections in the past, the county normally consolidates its 21 voting locations into five. Hock said the only change from past consolidations will be the use of the Soda Baptist Church as a location instead of the Indian Spring POA Building, which was damaged in a fire earlier.

Voting locations for the Nov. 7 ballot, and the voting precincts that will use them include:
-- Livingston City Hall, 200 W. Church in Livingston: Voting precincts 3, 4, 7, 16, 18 and 21.
-- Onalaska Sub-Courthouse, 14111 U.S. 190 W in Onalaska: Voting precincts 5, 6 and 17.
-- Escapees Care Center, 159 Care Center Drive south of Livingston: Voting precincts 1, 2, 15, 19 and 20.
-- Sechrest Webster Community Center, 100 W. Front Street in Corrigan: Voting precincts 8, 9, 10 and 11.
-- Soda Baptist Church, 8135 U.S. 190 W near Livingston: Voting precincts 12, 13 and 14.

Records plan
Commissioners also approved a plan presented by District Clerk Bobbye Richards for the preservation and restoration of the district clerk’s records, which date back to the creation of the county in 1846. A $10 fee was once again authorized to be collected to help pay for the records preservation.

During a public hearing held prior to the regular meeting, Richard explained that the $10 fee generates about $7,500 per year which must be used for records preservation.

She noted that the plan was put into operation last year but must be approved annually by commissioners along with the $10 fee.
Under the plan, starting with the oldest records, the pages of docket books are being removed from their original bindings, stabilized, placed inside acid-free clear plastic covers and then returned to a modern book binding. At the same time, the pages are copied and digitized so they may be accessed by computer.

The actual court case files also are going through this process of preservation.

Richard said they received a bid $700,000 to do all of the aging, and fading records but that kind of funding was not available so she elected to proceed a little at a time as the money became available.

Other business
During the meeting, the commissioners also:
Authorized Sheriff Kenneth Hammack to apply for a grant that would fund the purchase of rifle-resistant body armor for his department. It was noted that if the grant is approved, there would be no local matching funds needed.

Approved the renewal of a contract with Barbara Hayes - Medical Revenue Services, Inc. - for the administration of the county’s indigent health care program.

Approved the sale of a number of tax foreclosure properties including 10 lots in Precinct 1 subdivisions; two lots in Pine Harbor in Precinct 2; and three lots in Precinct 4 subdivisions.

Approved the order setting elected officials salaries, expenses and allowances for the coming budget year.

Received and recorded and order from the district judges setting the compensation for the county auditor, assistant auditor, district court reporters, court coordinators, bailiffs and labor pool staff.

DISASTER ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR INDIVIDUALS AFFECTED BY HURRICANE HARVEY


FEMA DISASTER ASSISTANCE REGISTRATION & QUESTIONS

LIVINGSTON -- U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) will make his staff available at the Livingston Municipal Library, 707 N. Tyler Avenue, through Saturday, Sept. 16, to assist Polk County residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, as well as, people displaced to Polk County from neighboring counties.

The staff began working out of the library on Monday, Sept. 11, and will be there through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Saturday, they will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They will be able to assist storm victims with their FEMA disaster assistance registration and answer questions regarding FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster assistance. Staff will be located at the public access computer area in the library.
The Texas Workforce Commission also will have staff available at the library to assist Polk County residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, as well as people displaced from neighboring counties in applying for Disaster Unemployment Assistance through Saturday.
The Center of Hope is offering transportation assistance for those needing to go to the library to register for FEMA disaster assistance or to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. For scheduling, please contact The Center of Hope at (936) 327-7634.

For additional transportation assistance, please contact the Brazos Transit District at 1-800-272-0039. Please call 24 hours in advance to schedule transportation.

FEMA Disaster Assistance registration also can be completed online at www. disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. Applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance can be completed online on the Texas Workforce Commission’s website at the following link: www. twc.state.tx.us/jobseekers/disaster-unemployment-assistance or by calling their tele-center at 1-800-939-6631.

Local volunteers feeding flood evacuees

FOOD FOR EVACUEES -- Local church volunteers delivered free homemade dinners and dessert for flood evacuees affected by Hurricane Harvey staying at motels in Livingston last week. Pictured are Beverly Cadwell and Juana Leigh Baker of Life Vine Church serving trays full of barbecue at the Holiday Inn Express. Many of the motel guests include Polk County residents forced from their homes by local flooding. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)FOOD FOR EVACUEES -- Local church volunteers delivered free homemade dinners and dessert for flood evacuees affected by Hurricane Harvey staying at motels in Livingston last week. Pictured are Beverly Cadwell and Juana Leigh Baker of Life Vine Church serving trays full of barbecue at the Holiday Inn Express. Many of the motel guests include Polk County residents forced from their homes by local flooding. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)

BY ALBERT TREVINO
Enterprise staff
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LIVINGSTON – Hundreds of flood evacuees staying at Livingston-area motels last week received much-needed assistance, provided and delivered by local church groups.

Several local churches recently organized to donate home-cooked meals and essential items for an estimated 450 flood evacuees affected by Hurricane Harvey that reportedly checked in to La Quinta, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, America’s Best Value Inn or Motel 6 in Livingston.
Volunteers from the church groups have donated generous amounts of their homemade dinners and desserts to be delivered each day to the hotels. The groups have also worked in coordination with the Center of Hope to provide clothing and other essentials items to evacuees.

In addition to those coming from Houston and surrounding areas, many hotel guests are Polk County residents who were also forced out of their homes due to the heavy floods.

Shortly after the hurricane, some of the church groups had already began delivering food and other items to hotels. Leadership from the local churches later held a meeting to better organize their efforts to meet the needs of all the chain hotels in Livingston.

One of the lead organizers for the project, Kristy Murphy of Life Vine Church, has been coordinating with other churches and groups to help cover the needs of evacuees at each hotel.

“Everyday, I go to the hotels and see what their need is.” said Murphy. “If we do not have it at our church, I go to Center of Hope or contact First United Methodist Church. Collectively, we all meet their needs. Then every night, we have a hot dinner served at the hotels.”

Meals have been donated by several local churches, including First United Methodist Church, Life Vine Church, First Baptist Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church and Midway Church.

Other groups have donated to the cause, including teachers from Big Sandy Independent School District and Clifton Chevrolet in Corrigan. In addition, more than 200 meals were reportedly provided to evacuees and F.E.M.A. employees by First Apostolic Church in Goodrich.
Dinner items donated to the hotels have included barbecue, tacos, enchilada casseroles, baked potatoes and more. The hot meals have been much-appreciated by the evacuees, according to Murphy.

“They are definitely not eating just sandwiches.” Murphy said. “They just really feel like it is the only good meal they get a day.”

The volunteer groups will continue to provide food and other items this week, with many families expected to stay at their hotels rooms much longer.

“It looks like they will probably be in the hotel for two more weeks.” said Murphy. “Some of them do not have a place to go home to. They go in the daytime to work, then come back to the hotel exhausted at night and just need a good hot meal. We honestly feel like there will continue to be a need.”

The churches are currently seeking meal donations of primarily casseroles and desserts, which can be stored and later delivered. Those who would like to donate food can contact Kristy Murphy at (936)-933-0975.

Those wishing to make donations of clothing or essential items can contact Center of Hope at (936)-327-7634.