City approves funding for tornado relief efforts

Dallas City Council Cheryl Jordan Dallas Central Appraisal District
Dallas City Council Cheryl Jordan Dallas Central Appraisal District

 

 

 

By DIANE XAVIER

The Dallas Examiner

 

The Dallas City Council approved $60 million in funding for tornado relief efforts at its briefing meeting held on Nov. 6.

On the night of Oct. 20, an EF-3 tornado ripped through an 11.5 mile radius throughout North Dallas causing major damage. The damage included destruction to 106 residential and commercial buildings, and major damage to 287 buildings, minor damages to 356 buildings, and 156 buildings were affected. A total of 905 residential and commercial buildings were impacted.

There was also a lot of debris on the roadways that had to be cleared.

Roadways were unpassable with wires intermingled with debris. Traffic lights were also damaged.

Fire Station No. 41 was a total loss and Fire Station No. 35 along with the Walnut Hill Recreation Center incurred major damages. Three Dallas libraries incurred minor damages as well. The total loss for these buildings amounted to $14.6 million.

Elizabeth Reich, chief financial officer for the city, said uninsured losses and expenses for the city amounted to $45.4 million. Uninsured losses and expenses include traffic signal and signage repair and replacement, debris removal and monitoring contracts, insurance deductible, equipment, contracted services, material expenses and leased equipment.

“The City Council authorization is required to establish appropriations for spending,” Reich said. “Based on short and long-term estimates, spending is expected to be approximately $60 million with insured spending for facility repair and replacement to cost $14.6 million with a $750,000 deductible from Risk Reserve. Uninsured spending is estimated to be $45.4 million which is up to 75 percent from federal/state reimbursement and at least 25 percent from Emergency Reserve.”

Reich said the city may be eligible to receive federal and state reimbursement of up to 75 percent of eligible uninsured costs with a $38.5 million trigger.

“All public entity uninsured losses for the event count toward the trigger,” Reich said. “ After the Federal Emergency Management Agency finalizes the damage assessment, the governor may recommend a Presidential Disaster Declaration through FEMA, which the president must approve for funding to be available.”

Reich said for uninsured losses, damaged traffic lights had the highest costs with about a loss of $30 million.

Rocky Vaz, director of Emergency Management for the city, explained the steps the city took to clear the roads of debris with the debris strike team which is made up of a team lead, 311 Agent/Logistics officer, code inspector, Oncor representative, police squad, saw teams, heavy equipment, collection teams and a safety officer.

Vaz said the Cities of Fort Worth, University Park, Allen, Richardson, Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mesquite sent teams and equipment to aid Dallas strike teams in their response to the tornadoes.

“Saw teams cleared trees, poles, and wires,” Voz said. “The heavy equipment teams used bulldozers and bobcats to clear debris and piles from streets and collection teams used boom trucks and dump trucks to clear massive piles of debris from the roads. It was reported that these teams completed three weeks worth of work in three days. When a strike team cleared a road, transportation engineers were dispatched to the street to ensure all the signals and signs were in place to safely open the road.”

Vaz then explained the steps it takes for a county to have a disaster declaration.

“When multiple jurisdictions within Dallas County are impacted by a hazard, the county judge may declare a disaster and a County Disaster Declaration is sent to the governor, who may declare a State Disaster,” Vaz said. “This activates the full resources of the state. If the threshold for uninsured losses is met, the Governor may request a Federal Disaster Declaration routed through FEMA Region VI to the President.  A Federal Disaster Declaration allows Federal funds for cost-share reimbursement.”

Both the county and state have declared a disaster in this tornado incident.

“FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management conducted preliminary damage assessment and this is the first step to determining if the statewide $38.5 million threshold is met,” Vaz said. “The PDA was concluded on Oct. 31, and we are awaiting results from FEMA for a Presidential Disaster Declaration. If a Presidential Disaster Declaration is granted, the city will become eligible for public assistance.”

Council members also approved the Dallas Central Appraisal District to offer some tax relief to homeowners impacted by the tornado by reappraising  property damaged in the disaster area.

Reich said the next steps include to establish additional emergency mutual aid agreements and to seek additional ratifications as necessary.

“We will seek FEMA and insurance reimbursements as necessary,” she said.

The public can also help through donations to the city of Dallas Emergency Relief Fund and through the Red Cross. People can also help by volunteering through the Red Cross Action Team at Voly.org

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