City, county refine emergency plans

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Kilgore City Council passed several resolutions and ordinances at a regular meeting Tuesday, May 7, including an action plan to handle citywide emergencies and a budget amendment to cover several recent expenses.

Sgt. Terry Linder of the Kilgore Police Department and Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Kilgore told council members about Resolution No. 19-07, concerning the adoption of a 2018 Gregg County Hazard Mitigation Action Plan.

Linder said the creation of each county’s plan, which must be updated every five years, is mandated by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988.

“When the Stafford Act was adopted to give a path for funding for disaster recovery to jurisdictions across the country, it mandated local jurisdictions to create a Hazard Mitigation Action Plan,” he said.

“Fortunately, here in Kilgore, we fall within the one that’s done in Gregg County, which takes some of the financial burden off of us.”

The mitigation plan lists common disaster scenarios and ranks them by how much of a threat they pose to a particular city. For example, Kilgore ranks high for tornadoes and flooding but low on coastal erosion.

Disaster plans are then created to reflect a response to high-risk scenarios.

Once completed, the plan must be sent to the Texas Division of Emergency Management and then to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval.

“Unfortunately, it takes about one to two years to do that and then you’re always having to ramp up for the next five-year update,” Linder said of the approval process.

At 310 pages, the plan is cumbersome to update but contains valuable information, including historical data about disasters in the area.

The plan contains mitigation strategies to prepare for potential disasters and Kilgore is already taking most of these steps, Linder said. However, the plan recommends some specific strategies that can be hard to fund.

“It also gives some mitigation strategies, most of which we’re always doing, some of which we could be doing with mitigation funds if they become available. The last couple years most of that (funding) has gone for mitigation for hurricanes. It was a priority for ETCOG (East Texas Council of Governments) to put in storm shelters. That money was supposed to come, it was supposed to be a program for homeowners in this jurisdiction,” Linder said, adding the money was diverted to hurricane recovery.

“Once all the hurricane stuff gets done, the hope is the storm shelter stuff will come back,” Linder said.

Kilgore’s plan is tied into the Gregg County Hazard Mitigation Action Plan because most of the city lies in that county. Rusk County has a separate plan.

The council also discussed Ordinance No. 1741, a fiscal year 2019 budget amendment to pay for several issues.

This included an assignment of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds to pay for wayfinding signage in the city.

Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said this was simply an error of not assigning enough HOT money for the entire project at the outset.

Selleck said the ordinance would also cover a project to widen and improve Chandler Street which has expanded in scope and cost.

The original project called for tearing up all the asphalt on Chandler Street and replacing it with concrete while making it three feet wider.

In the process, city crews realized the utility infrastructure beneath the street would need to be replaced and curbing, drainage structures and new storm sewer boxes would need to be installed.

The initial cost for the project – $630,000 – would go up to a $1.1 million bid, adding $210,000 for relocating water and wastewater infrastructure and $360,000 for expanding the street and adding new curbing.

While the cost will increase and the timeline will extend, from a summer project to a possibly 8-month-long endeavor, Selleck said the new project will fall into the city’s “fix it once” approach.

“We don’t ever want to touch this street again,” he said, adding the new project will ensure it will be 30 to 40 years before Kilgore City Council has to discuss Chandler Street again.

Council members voted to pass the resolution and ordinances.

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