County joins disaster declaration for winter storm

A disaster declaration has been signed by Liberty County Judge Jay Knight related to the winter storm that impacted the area this week. The declaration is mostly a formality and will not trigger any funding opportunities unless federal or state funding becomes available.

In order to qualify for any potential funding, the County still has certain thresholds it has to reach for financial damages for the County and individuals. The County’s threshold is $294,251, which would be accumulated by damages incurred by city and county government. The State’s threshold is $38.975 million, an accumulation of damages of all counties impacted by the storm.

“There isn’t really a threshold for the individual level,” said Crista Beasley-Adams, coordinator of the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management.

When asked if Liberty County is likely to reach its threshold, Beasley-Adams said it is too soon to tell.

“I haven’t had a lot of reports of significant damage yet. Most people I’ve spoken to have insurance that will cover their damages. Right now we are still in response mode and haven’t moved to recovery mode. Once we are in recovery mode, we will have a better idea of where we stand.”

The winter storm differed from hurricanes, which usually cause the most catastrophic damage in Liberty County.

“In an event like a hurricane, we typically have culverts and roads damaged. Those aren’t being as damaged by this winter storm,” she said.

What could help the County reach its threshold is damage sustained to water wells and wastewater treatment plants inside cities, she added.

“This local disaster declaration is basically the County raising its hand in a room to say, ‘Hey, we need help over here,'” Beasley-Adams said.

As many Liberty County residents have already begun making repairs to their homes and businesses, Beasley wants to remind people to document their damage.

“Keep up with your photos and receipts. They might be needed later if the County qualifies for individual assistance,” she said.

HARTEL BUILDING CLOSED THROUGHOUT WINTER STORM

Bluebonnet News asked Liberty County Judge Jay Knight why the Hartel Building in Liberty remained closed throughout the storm and was not used as a warming center.

Knight said the building is still owned by the General Land Office and there are at least two more years remaining on the contract with Liberty County before it officially becomes a county building.

“The whole thing is it was never set up to be a public shelter. It was meant to be used as a shelter for first responders in the event that we needed a shelter for first responders,” he said.

When the winter storm was approaching this week, the OEM was asked by the Sheriff’s Office to house deputies, but the request was denied. Apparently, the reason is the building is currently designated as a courtroom by the Office of Court Administration.

“It can still be a shelter but it would require us to go back and revise it with the OCA,” Knight said. “When COVID-19 kicked in, we were lacking room for our courtrooms and we were granted the ability to use it for that purpose.”

To self-report your damages to the Texas Department of Emergency Management, follow this link:

https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/eb1ab4928205490182896d86783447d3

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