Bridge City moves forward since Ike
It’s been five years since Hurricane Ike came to town, but according to City Manager, Jerry Jones, the city’s recovery has been “pretty phenomenal.”
As the storm approached, and looked certain to come to Southeast Texas, city officials took a gamble and planned ahead for generators. The day after they returned, the generators arrived which allowed them to get the sewer/water plants and lift stations up and running with the much needed power.
City officials have worked with homeowners and torn down about 100 houses that were damaged in the storm. There are about 15 more houses on a list to be torn down within the next few months. The homeowners have qualified for a program which assists with the costs. There are still other houses to be taken care of as well.
Five years after the storm, the city is still doing government funded Hurricane Ike related projects. City officials received $3.2 million from FEMA as recently as last week to continue on their many projects.
As a result of all the funds received, about 85 percent of all the streets in Bridge City are being reconstructed, according to Jones.
The city initially got money for immediate needs. But, larger amounts for bigger projects didn’t start until later. The first check was given to the city in June 2009.
“At the time we did what we could and for some items we were later reimbursed, but the majority of projects had to wait,” Jones said.
Initially, money was used to clean out the ditches, which were filled with debris, to allow for better water flow. They also used the funds for debris cleanup of the sewer systems in an effort to get the city up and running. The city was able to get the water and sewer up and running within 24 hours.
The city received about $18 million from FEMA grants to do a sewer rehabilitation. They spent the money cleaning sewer lines along with the other parts of the sewer system. In addition, they repaired or replaced the lift stations, manholes, pumps, motors and controls due to the salt water intrusion. In addition, new generators were added to the water/sewer plants and all major lift stations.
Overall, it took roughly $21 million to get the city back to where it was before Hurricane Ike.
“It’s great. We are appreciative to get everything back where it was,” Jones said.
However, he added, what city officials are the most excited about is the city population is growing again. Since the storm there are 65 new houses in Bridge City.
But, it has been a long road to recovery. Of the nearly 3,800 houses in Bridge City, all but 16 were left unlivable. A large percentage of residents have recovered. The businesses also managed a come back. However, some left the area. The former Pizza Hut may be gone, but has been replaced by Pinehurst Barbecue.
Overall, it has been a long drawn out process, but in the end worth it, according to Jones.
“It’s remarkable how far we have come,” Jones said. “But, it could not have been done without the citizens.”