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Commissioners approve Hurricane Harvey buyout agreement

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The Grimes County Commissioners Court held a Regular Meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11, and approved an agreement between Grimes County and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) and authorized the county judge as signatory. The agreement is for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR), Local Buyout, Harvey Round 1 Funding with a preliminary budget of $1,512,129 million. The item passed 4-1 with the dissenting vote cast by Pct. 4 Commissioner Phillip Cox.

The services of Grant-Works was procured in 2018 to assist the county with Hurricane Harvey infrastructure buyouts. Buyout Grant Manager Tyler Smith was present to answer commissioners’ questions.

Smith said, “The plan for the county’s buyout is to assist low-to-moderate income homeowners that were impacted by Harvey with voluntary buyouts that would allow them to sell their property for a pre-storm fair market value and qualify for housing incentives to help them with the cost of moving to new housing outside of the flood plain. What you have in front of you is our preliminary budget of how much money out of the entire $1.512 million will actually go to purchasing homes, property demolitions, assisting entities buying rental property and providing incentives for moderate income families.”

Of that figure, $181,455 are project delivery costs which includes “costs for case management, applicant intake and a broad environmental review, and other reasonable approved costs.”

Smith said that there are five buyout areas that intersect the flood plain and range from small lots with mobile homes to stick-built homes up to $200,000. He added that they have to verify that everyone who benefits from the program is low-to-moderate income. Incentives can be structured as a down payment, or as a reimbursement for those who don’t want the grant involved in the purchase of their replacement property.

He said, “We will buy as many homes as we can with the limited allocation.”

Emergency Management Coordinator David Lilly advised that two homeowners have expressed their desire to move forward, and reminding the court that the program is voluntary, Lilly said “Commissioners court made the determination that we would not use eminent domain option. This is strictly voluntary, and up until they sign, they have the option to back out and not take the buyout.”

County Judge Joe Fauth advised commissioners that a “downside” is that once a buyout occurs, the property becomes county property similar to an easement and can’t be redeveloped for housing.

In response to Commissioner Phillip Cox’s questions about homeowners assuming mortgage payments when they had none prior to Harvey, Smith said $280,000 was budgeted as incentives above and beyond the pre-storm market value to assist with moving expenses but there is no on-going monthly support.

Lilly added, “Our responsibility as emergency response and recovery personnel is that we try to help the citizen keep their expectations realistic. it’s going to help you but it’s not going to restore you. They’re probably not going from where they are now to a new location and have the exact same financial situation they had before the buyout. But the caveat is that until they sign, they have the option to decline the buyout.”

According to Lilly, Navasota chose not to participate in the Harvey buyout program.

Court adds third

Regular Meeting day

Commissioners approved the addition of the first Wednesday to the Regular Meeting schedule beginning February 2020.

According to Judge Fauth, a commitment by Fauth and Commissioner Phillip Cox to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments on the second Wednesday was a factor in the effort to lighten the second Wednesday agenda. Due to lack of courtroom availability, the third Wednesday or even weekly meetings was not an option.

Other court action:

•Approved consent agenda items that included the Treasurer’s list of claims and bills, payroll and budget amendments/line item transfers.

•Approved the employment of Kyla Gladson as the County Extension-Family Community Health position, with start date of 12-12-19.

•Approved a Resolution declaring Grimes County as a Gun Sanctuary county.

•Proclaimed Dec. 11, 2019, as Tree of Angels Day in Grimes County.

•Approved changing certificate pay for county employees from monthly to biweekly.

•Adopted revised criminal and misdemeanor court costs and fines pursuant to changes made during the 86th Texas Legislature to be adopted Jan. 1, 2020.

•Approved a Special Road Use and Indemnification Agreement with Southeast Drilling for CR 123.

•Approved a petition to abandon a portion of Fourth Street in Courtney.

•Rejected bids regarding an exchange of property in Iola.

•Received a Road and Bridge report from Engineer Harry Walker that included patch of county roads, culver replacements, filling washouts and mowing. The report included an update on ditch and drainage work, grant applications and subdivision work.

•Tabled approval of Collier Construction contract for new Justice Center pending peer review meeting with Vanir Construction Management.

•Scheduled workshop for Jan. 27, 2020, to review and update Strategic Plan.

•Received public comments from David Patrick regarding

Burn ban:

The burn ban remains lifted.