Denison extends emergency declaration

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Denison City Council has agreed to extend an emergency declaration following winter storms last week.

Following the unprecedented winter storms last week, Denison is extending its emergency declaration for the foreseeable future.

Mayor Janet Gott initially issued a declaration of local emergency on Feb. 16 after storms dropped temperatures to historic lows and led to significant utility damage across the city. However, the declaration only lasts for one week without an extension by the council.

"So, the next move was to hold a meeting of city council so that you can approve this," Interim City Manager Bobby Atteberry said.

The vote by the council will extend the declaration indefinitely, and an additional vote by the council will be needed to end the state of emergency.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an order allowing Grayson County and 30 additional counties to join the 71 other Texas counties under a disaster declaration.

The emergency declaration gives the city access to a number of tools that will allow it to move quickly in response to the weather emergency. The declaration suspends the normal buying process, which can include a bid phase, and allows the city manager to directly purchase goods and services.

Likewise, it gives Atteberry the ability to approve purchases that would normally go before the city council for approval.

Atteberry said the declaration also could assist the city in getting state and federal relief funds in response to the disaster. 

"We want to assure ourselves that we can get reimbursement in this period, if it is available," he said.

Details on any relief still remain unknown nearly a week after the winter storms. Likewise, the city still has not had the time to assess the total cost of the disaster.

"We've been in a scramble mode for a week just trying to keep water in the lines," Atteberry said.

As of Monday evening, the city has discovered 71 water main breaks, and has repaired 54 of them. While work remains to be done, city leaders said Denison has made significant strides toward recovery.

"The good news is we have water in our system, we have water in our tanks and our pump station continues to operate as it has since the power came back on," Atteberry said.

Mayor Gott took the opportunity to thank both city staff and volunteers for their work in the recovery effort. Through the countless hours of work, Denison workers and residents alike helped each other weather the figurative and literal storms of last week.

"I could not be more proud of the things we have seen in our community over the however many days it has been," she said, applauding the work of the public works staff. "They worked in conditions that are not imaginable. I've heard stories that they were told to go home and they refused because that was their job and they wanted to make sure it continued."