Town Engineer Gene Sellers presented the board with two phases of Hurricane Rita recovery, which includes street improvements and the allocation of nearly $1 million in awarded funds to go toward the construction or remodeling of the police and/or fire stations.
Nearly three years after Hurricane Rita impacted the town of Erath, the town has received funding to repair some of the damage caused by flooding and heavy winds. Sellers explained to the board that the first phase of the long-term recovery project is to repair streets damaged by Rita. This phase will begin after the federal department conducts an environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the success of the repairs, and to highlight any potential problem areas, i.e., flooding, elevation and drainage. Sellers said the EIS is set to begin this week, and repairs will soon follow.
The second phase of the recovery project was discussed by the board, along with Sellers, who decided to spend the awarded $909,868 to go toward the construction of a new fire station, or stations, in order to accommodate elevation requirements and accessibility. Sellers explained the $909,868 can be used to construct a new facility, otherwise the town would only receive 50 percent of the appraised value of the existing facility, which was appraised at $90,000.
Erath Mayor George Dupuis stated that the board can decide to use $45,000 of the allocated funds to renovate the existing fire and police facility, but no more because of the 50 percent of cost stipulation.
Police Chief Gerald Hebert said he is happy with his facility the way it is, and to choose to help the fire station would automatically give him more room at the current police station.
“I want to put the money to better use,” Hebert said. “I don’t need to build a new building.” Therefore, the board discussed constructing a new fire station, which is a need in the area.
Fire Chief Wayne Mouton said the existing fire station is in desperate need of repairs to the walls, roof, and interior, which has survived two floods and the heavy water damage that followed two hurricanes. In addition, he said, in order for the fire station to receive a better rating, he needs covered truck bays for his six trucks, and without the bays he will not get credit for the newly purchased equipment the department acquired this year.
The board asked Sellers to look at the new fire station in Kaplan as a starting point for the Erath fire station to possibly be built on the town’s old nursing home property. Sellers explained that it may be possible to construct a new fire station and remodel the police station utilizing the total amount of awarded funds. The board voted to move on devising plans for a new fire station without delay in order to spend the money that took three years to get there.
Before adjourning, Police Chief Hebert recommended installing a new stop sign to slow down Margaritaville traffic through the adjacent neighborhoods, and announced adding two police officers to the police reserves, Jason Nguyen and Chad LaPointe. Hebert also noted his department received 32 calls for fireworks, which were banned by a restricting ordinance, but added he did not issue any citations. The board agreed to mail a letter to residents prior to July 4 and December, to let them know about the ordinance and the penalties associated with it.