County addresses safe rooms, grants

June 15, 2013

County Commissioners this week heard presentations on grant funding related to tornadoes. One was for the construction of safe rooms, the other for housing assistance.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry said that he and Precinct 1 Commissioner James Deaver have been “inundated with calls” from people in their precincts who want to install safe rooms in the event of a tornado such as the one that destroyed much of Rancho Brazos on May 15.

Francisco San Miguel, senior emergency preparedness specialist for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), addressed the court about a safe room rebate program that pays up to $3,000 for homeowner safe rooms.

NCTCOG recently took applications for safe rooms for those living in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. The application portal was closed after just four hours, during which time 825 applications were filed for 400 available spots.

Next week, NCTCOG will open the application portal again to allow applicants to join a wait list. The wait list will be a tool in assessing the demand for the program when the NCTCOG applies for more federal funding.

After more funding has been received, the NCTCOG will begin to notify, on a first-come, first-served basis, applicants who are accepted.

Criteria for applicants, and other information, can be found at www.nctsaferoom.com.

The county is putting the finishing touches on its required Hazard Mitigation Plan to submit to the NCTCOG. Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Young said it has been a year in the making.

“It’s a long, drawn-out process,” Young said.

He stated that people who build safe rooms can make them as “elaborate” as they want.

“You can make an underground house, if you want,” he said.

Young also said that there are safe rooms about the size of a gun safe that can be placed inside a garage and can hold four or five people.

Young said that the NCTCOG has had an overwhelming response to the safe room opportunity.

“They’re pushing to find additional grants to make it available to everyone that wants to be involved in it,” he said.

housing assistance

In other action, the court passed a resolution for the county to apply for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ HOME Disaster Relief & Housing Recovery Assistance.

Local governments can apply for the grants, which are made available in conjunction with natural disasters and are for low-income households.

“It’s only going to be good for about 10 or 11 homes,” said Berry, referring to the Rancho Brazos neighborhood. “I think it’s really important that we do that. I think there’s going to be people that don’t have those resources or avenues that we might can help by this grant.

“Everybody’s trying to look under every rock to find funding for these people.”

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