As FEMA sends notices to trailer-dwelling families who rented before Hurricane Ike, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux told commissioners in regular session Monday they might get calls from constituents about it.

FEMA is sending out letters alleging breached agreements which required signers to pledge and subsequently verify efforts to find a new place to live.

Applicants will be given the chance to correct non-compliance issues within 15 days.

Households have 60 days to appeal the decision.

While seeing the issue from both sides, Thibodeaux said he found it odd that some Hurricane Katrina victims are still in mobile homes.

“When you question FEMA on that, they say it’s a different story,” he said. “I’m not sure what that difference is.

“Our people have gotten off dead center and they’ve repaired their county and repaired their homes – and they’ve tried to find a place to live in with neighborhoods they want to live in and not be forced to live in an area they do not want to live in.”

An example of the latest complaint would be where a family moves to Jefferson County, however, their kids were going to school in Orange County, Thibodeaux said.

“In the end you’ve got to look at their side (FEMA)  – that the renters have had time to find a place to live and that was the [original] agreement. It’s fixing to get pretty interesting and will be devastating to some families in Orange County.”

• Thibodeaux received an e-mail last week from Walter Diggles of the Deep East Texas Council of Government saying Orange, Jefferson and Hardin counties were eligible for Social Services Block Grants still available from Hurricane Rita recovery.
The amount is undetermined at this point and limited to services provided for people, Thibodeaux said. Examples would include reimbursements to county trucks that sprayed for mosquitoes following the storm, or to the sheriff’s department for man hours relating to medical transport of patients.
“Whatever [the amount] is, it’s welcome because it’s money we don’t have now,” Thibodeaux said.

• Commissioners approved an agreement between the sheriff’s office and Deputy Christopher Fredrick, for Fredrick to use his drug-sniffing dog Kilo in county investigations. Fredrick trained the dog and brought him to the sheriff’s office from the Vidor Police Department. The county already has one dog, Shadow. Both are of the Belgian Malinois breed, described as smaller versions of a German shepherd. “The dog belongs to [Fredrick],” Sheriff Keith Merritt said. “This [agreement] will allow us in the future to have two canines. We don’t plan to get more any time soon.”
The second dog would come in handy regarding vacation/sick leave issues, he said.

• Thibodeaux noted Monday’s ribbon-cutting for the Port of Beaumont’s Orange County Wharf, on the port’s Orange County side near Rose City. “Hopefully this will encourage more construction and development on the west end of the county,” he said. The first ship there on the multi-million dollar wharf’s inaugural day was the BBC Chartering vessel Colorado, hauling steel from Brazil. BBC Chartering is an international business with offices in Houston, New Orleans, South America, the Middle East and Asia.