More than a year after Hurricane Ike pounded Galveston and vicinity, a new surge of Federal money is beginning to flow into the community for rebuilding efforts. But local officials are expressing a surprising concern, reports Houston TV station KHOU: if residents don't step up and apply for help, the counties may lose their funds (" Houston-area counties risk losing millions in Ike recovery funds," by Alex Sanz). "Hurricane Ike damaged 75% of the homes and businesses in Galveston," KHOU reports. "Sixteen months later there is no good guess of how many homes and businesses still need repairs." But local officials say there is just a two-year window to spend the money — meaning residents need to apply quickly so that there will be time to complete the work while the money is still available to pay for it. And according to a story in the Houston Chronicle, the federal aid is coming too late for many residents. In a tour of the hard-hit Bayou Shores neighborhood of Galveston, the Chronicle learned than many residents have abandoned their properties, unable to hang on while awaiting funds for repair (" Too late to help," by Harvey Rice). While main streets in the town have been repaired and appear busy, back-street neighborhoods are pockmarked by abandoned houses, the paper reports. "It's scary at night," one resident told the Chronicle. Meanwhile, Houston TV station KTRK (ABC Channel 13) is reporting that Houston congressman Ted Poe is asking for a probe into how $60 million dollars worth of FEMA emergency grant money was spent in Chambers County in the immediate aftermath of the storm. According to the station, Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia allegedly directed much of the money to friends and relatives in the county's "old boy" network. Some of the money may have been wasted, the station reports: for example, thousands of dollars were reportedly spent for rent on property that was never used in relief efforts (" Former politician was paid big bucks for Ike cleanup," by Wayne Dolcefino). According to the station, a Federal investigation into the spending is underway: "13 Undercover has already sparked a federal corruption probe in Liberty County," the station reports, "and now the FBI is asking questions about Chambers County, too." KHOU reports that there is also a lawsuit in Chambers County by a local excavation contractor who claims he was frozen out of cleanup contracts in the county — contracts that paid a friend of Judge Sylvia four times the going rate for heavy equipment rental (" More evidence county officials profited from Ike disaster," by Wayne Dolcefino). In an email to Coastal Connection, FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap, a spokesperson for the Houston FBI office, said she could not confirm the Channel 13 story. "I am aware of the ABC 13 stories you describe," wrote Dunlap. "They asked us for comment and I can provide you with the same statement I provided to them: 'The FBI takes all allegations of public corruption very seriously. In fact, it is our number one white collar criminal priority, and we encourage the public to report any allegations of public corruption to the FBI at 713-693-5000. However, to maintain the integrity of our investigations, it is FBI policy that we cannot confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.'"