Some Bridge City residents will be spending Thanksgiving in a tent, but should have a roof over their head by Christmas according to Federal Emergency Management Agency Director, Robert David Paulison. 

FEMA and Orange County officials broke ground Tuesday on a park site for FEMA temporary housing. 

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte and United States Congressman Kevin Brady were present with FEMA officials as shovels of dirt were turned signifying the start of the project.

Located next to Acadian Quarters on north John in Bridge City, the 39 unit community park will be landscaped with plenty of green space and privacy fencing, said Paulison. “We’re  going to make sure this is a site everybody will be proud to live in for the short time they’re here and the community will find it acceptable also.” His goal is, “to give everyone a safe place to live,” while they rebuild their homes after Hurricane Ike. 

“I think it is important that the first community site is launched here, in Orange County, in Bridge City,” said Congressman Brady. 

“There is a need for these types of sites,” said Judge Thibodeaux.

“There are issues where a park size trailer or a full size trailer won’t fit on somebodies lawn for one reason or another. These people need a place to live; to get back to normalcy in their lives as quickly as possible.”

They have a priority list for those that will be moving into the new community.

“There are several homes like the judge said, that cannot put even a park model on their lot. We still have about 20 people living in tents,” said Paulison. “They do not want to move to apartments we have. They’re to far away, frankly, and I would make the same decision, so those are getting a little more priority.”

There are two other sites in Orange County being prepared. Permitting is an issue with getting them up and running. 

“We are not going to come in and shove anything down any bodies throat.” Paulison said, “We’re going to work with the community like we did with the mayor and the judge to pick a site that is acceptable with everyone.

They have been putting homes in existing commercial trailer parks, but there aren’t enough spaces to fill the need. “We’ve got 1400 families, but that is just onesies and twosies and we need to do more, so that is why we are doing sites like these,” said Paulison
Paulison said generally it is about 18 months that someone is in a home, but sometimes longer.

The biggest lesson FEMA learned from Ike is to work with the community. They also are not going back to travel trailers because of the formaldehyde issue. Each unit is tested before it enters the state. They also learned the Park Model homes were more difficult to place on peoples’s property than travel trailers, so it took a little time to figure it out.

Thibodeaux said, “The communication lines have been opened, there are a lot of issues taken care of by FEMA, there are numbers now the citizens can contact. FEMA has gone back and contacted individuals that were rejected for one reason or another in the beginning.”  According to Thibodeaux, this is a positive step forward in recovery.

Roccaforte said, “Everyone in Bridge City is looking at the rebuilding part of their home now, there are very few left in the mode of cleaning up. A lot of them are pretty much on their way and we’re looking a lot better, the business district is looking better and I’m feeling a lot better everyday of the way it is coming along.”

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.