After returning a grant projection of a $400,000 reimbursement for basement repairs at the Orange County Courthouse, FEMA has upped that to $48,800 and Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Kelley is confident he can get more.

The basement was flooded during Hurricane Ike, and the county wants to build a new, elevated structure near the courthouse to house basement items, including a new elevated generator.

Unfortunately the extra dollars added by FEMA is still short a few hundred thousand from Kelley’s original request, mostly because of weird FEMA regulations.

For instance, calculated into Kelley’s original request was equipment cost and usage, however, FEMA said since those costs went into other courthouse repairs they cannot be tacked on to another request.

In essence, FEMA said, couldn’t pay for the equipment use twice.
Kelley told commissioners in special session Monday he was optimistic in getting more out of the government, and will meet with FEMA officials late this week.

“The fact that they’ve exceeded their own BCA (benefit cost analysis) shows that they’ve lost their own argument,” Kelley said. “I still feel like we’ll get more money.”

In addition, County Maintenance Director Mark Wimberley told the court FEMA’s calculated space of the new building is only about half of the existing space.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux wondered, “Aren’t we rolling the dice with 400 grand then?”

“I think we can win the spare footage argument,” Kelley said, “because [the government] is required to build an area equal to or greater than the original area.”

When the repairs do begin, Wimberley said the courthouse would not be usable for at least a few days. It is hoped workers can complete that part during a holiday period.

In other business Monday, commissioners issued a proclamation naming October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Cindy Fertitta, chairwoman of the Violence Prevention in Disasters Task Force, said 136 women lost their lives last year in Texas with domestic violence as the cause.

That figure rose to 200 from January to September, 2009, she said.
The task force was formed after Hurricane Ike to study how evacuations are affected by violence reports. A recent workshop sponsored by the task force showed that violence reports decrease during evacuations because of relocation issues and other factors.

Fertitta reminds residents that, after evacuating during a disaster, to monitor their children at all times, stay alert to their surroundings and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Two more workshops are slated for the last two Wednesdays of October from 2-3:30 p.m. The first one is this week in Lamar State College-Port Arthur’s Carl A. Parker Multi-purpose Room, 1500 Procter St. in Port Arthur; and the second Oct. 28 in the Dr. Richard L. Price Auditorium of the John Gray Center at Lamar University in Beaumont.

For more information, e-mail, call the Rape and Suicide Crisis Center of Southeast Texas at 832-6530. To report abuse, call the 24-hour hotline 1-800-7-WE-CARE.