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
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.'"