Ike 360: ‘things are coming back’

In the year since Hurricane Ike, Bridge City officials have kept up with permit records in the “A” Flood Zone – the area most hit by the storm surge. 

Out of 634 of those property owners, 200 have not been heard from yet, said City Manager Jerry Jones.

“In the very near future we’re going to be sending out a letter and find out what those new numbers are,” he said.

City officials have yet to receive any of the $9 million promised by the Office of Rural Community Affairs, but are anxious to get started with rebuilding, Jones said.

“All the plans are basically done,” he said. “We are waiting on contracts to the engineers and the consultants. I visited with ORCA yesterday and those contracts are supposedly being mailed out now. So we’re hoping we can get started on those project relatively soon.”

Those repairs include 11 miles of street improvements, repairs on two generators and installation of at least 13 new ones and sewer line upgrades.

“In Bridge City we have a lot of areas that, when they get a lot of rain, the sewer lines fill up; and what we want to do is reduce that infiltration,” Jones said.

Some lines also need to be cleaned from debris that washed inside during the storm.

School officials, with a new school on the way to replace the Sims and Hatton campuses, expect a larger-than-usual enrollment this year. Jones said that could be because of an influx of younger buyers moving to the area.

“What we are seeing are a lot of older property owners that don’t want to spend the money to rebuild,” he said. “We’re seeing younger people come in and buy these houses at a reduced rate then fix them up, and since we are building a new school they are interested in our district.” Some younger buyers are also purchasing property for rental purposes, Jones said.

Business wise, Jones said things “ … look real good right now. Things are coming back.

“The CVS is opening soon, McDonald’s has rebuilt and we have the new hotel coming in (an Econolodge).”

Economic Development Corp. Director Bobby Fillyaw said that, while it is known that some businesses are coming back and that people are moving to the area, exact figures aren’t available. For instance, he said, one woman was rebuilding her business, but then passed away. 

Another business closed, but soon another one moved in. 

And other businesses that are rebuilding have not re-opened yet.

“We know there’s been an influx of people – but we can’t say ‘It’s 5 percent in this area or 10 percent in this area,” he said.

Likewise, Orange City Manager Shawn Oubre said figures were scarce for the city of Orange and the hard-hit Cove area. “In the Cove we’re aware that some have left and some still have pending insurance claims, but we don’t have a figure or measure as to who or how many came back,” he said.

FEMA’s Ray Perez said that 930 people in Orange County were still in FEMA trailers out of about 2,000 who applied for and received them. 

According to a new FEMA Web site, (www.fema.gov/ike), as of Sept. 7 in Orange County, $68.2 million in grants has been funded for individual assistance to 8,039 eligible applicants; housing assistance grants of some $55 million to 7,052 eligible applicants; and small business loans of $96.8 million.

Other Orange County grants include (applicants listed are in the FEMA system only): 

• Debris removal: Eligible applicants, 17; monies funded: $17,651,107.55.

• Emergency Protective Measures: Eligible applicants, 145; monies funded: $9,862,851.34.

• Road Systems and Bridges: Eligible applicants, 11; monies funded: $2,480,659.36.

• Water Control Facilities: Eligible applicants, 2; monies funded, $52,117.89.

• Buildings, Contents, and Equipment: Eligible applicants, 276; monies funded: $12,859,517.82.

• Parks, Recreational and Other: Eligible applicants, 58; monies funded: $559,968.80.