Now Open

Now Open

These photos, from Glaveston resident Veronica Hugger's photo gallery blog of "Now Open" signs (currently at 51 photos), reflect the town's feisty spirit. If you can't read these, you need glasses. There's good news and bad news in coastal Texas, as Galveston struggles to come back from the devastation of Hurricane Ike. On the positive side, stores and other businesses continue to open their doors and welcome customers back. But these small successes run against a background of trouble -- namely, big layoffs from the University of Texas Medical Branch, one of the island's anchor employers. The center's research operations — big revenue sources — are almost 100% recovered from the storm's effects. But health care services offered there have been slashed. "Twenty percent of the school's doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, and other employees have been permanently laid off," says a story in the Austin American-Statesman — 2,450 people. Another 600 people have quit. Physical facilities are still in disrepair, the paper reports: "Only 70 of 133 elevators are operational. The first floor of the main clinical site, John Sealy Hospital, where the blood bank and kitchen were wiped out, has been stripped to the aluminum studs. Meals for patients are cooked outside under a tent." Galveston officials traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to ask for federal dollars. They're hoping that FEMA will waive the requirement for local government to pay a share of repair costs to infrastructure and government buildings, and they also hope for millions of dollars in support for public works spending as part of the federal economic stimulus package. And hope is what they came home with — but no promises, at least not on the record. Tom Lazardo, chief of staff for Texas Congressman and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul, said only that the group had made a "strong case" for 100% federal reimbursement. Meanwhile, however, while the federal government searches for "shovel-ready" construction projects to fund, federal payment is reportedly being held up for services already rendered during the emergency response to Ike and its aftermath. The Associated Press reports

that vendors are complaining about $134 million in unpaid bills, dating back to the earliest days of the response to the September 13, 2008, storm. The Texas Windstorm Association, on the other hand, has paid out almost a billion dollars in claims, the AP said. And that money is helping to keep roofing contractors busy in the Houston area, reports Houston's Channel 2. In the long term, of course, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) — the state's insurer of last resort for homeowners who can't find insurance on the private market — will itself need to recover. That item is high on Governor Rick Perry's agenda, reports the Insurance Journal. The insurance industry is calling for state action to put TWIA's funding on a more solid basis.