Denison submits nearly $900K in winter storm costs to FEMA

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Crews with the city of Denison work to repair a water line that was damaged during winter storms in February. The date, the city has submitted nearly $900,000 of expenses related to the storms to FEMA for reimbursement.

Denison city leaders are tallying up the price tag for the costs associated with the February winter storms that left many residents cold, in the dark and without water for days. City staff have submitted more $900,000 in expenses related to the storm to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes that some of these costs will be reimbursed.

"At the end of the day, it is going to be hard to tell (the cost) until we know what FEMA is going to approve," Interim City Manager Bobby Atteberry said Monday.

These unseasonably cold storm inundated much of Texas with record breaking low temperatures, which dropped below zero and remained there for nearly a week, while blanketing much of the state in layers of ice and snow.

These storms wreaked havoc across the state as record demand strained the electrical grid and forced utility providers to institute what were intended to be rolling blackouts in order to conserve power. However, some  instead found themselves without power or heat for hours to days at a time.

The blackouts were meant to avoid some key infrastructure, including water treatment and production centers. However, these some of these locations did lose power, which led to a loss of water service for many residents as equipment and major pipelines froze over.

Many cities like Denison spent days following the storm working to restore service and repair water mains that were damaged by the extreme temperatures, resulting in great expense.

The topic of cost came before the Denison City Council Monday during a budget amendment item for the second quarter of 2021. In total, the amendment added $439,400 of expense from the storms to the utility fund budget for the year.

Atteberry said the majority of the expenses related to manpower and supplies during the storm. In addition to utilizing city crews, Denison also hired outside contractors to assist in the recovery and repair following the disaster. The city also rented generators to maintain power at key facilities.

Finance Director Renee' Waggoner said the city has submitted $892,752 in expenses to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement, however it remains to be seen how much will be accepted and reimbursed. If all of the expenses are accepted, FEMA could reimburse 75 percent of the cost, or about $669,000.

"Hopefully in the near future I will have a report to share with you on that," she said.

Other budget amendments for the second quarter include ongoing response and mitigation for the COVID-19 pandemic and $126,000 related to the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program.