Feds Approve Texas' Request for West Recovery

A vehicle near the remains of a fertilizer plant burning after an explosion in West, Texas, near Waco.
A vehicle near the remains of a fertilizer plant burning after an explosion in West, Texas, near Waco.

The West community will receive additional federal funding to rebuild following the explosion of a fertilizer depot in April that killed 15 people and flattened much of the town, Gov. Rick Perry announced on Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided millions of dollars in aid immediately after the explosion, but the agency initially rejected the state’s request for additional financial assistance. The state’s appeal, submitted in early June, has now been approved, and President Obama has signed a major disaster declaration for the area, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

“This, along with the disaster relief funding provided by the Texas Legislature, will help this community rebuild their infrastructure, school district and public works as quickly as possible,” Perry said in a press release.

During the regular legislative session, the lawmakers also appropriated $15 million to the governor’s office for disaster recovery for communities like West and Bastrop, which battled a devastating 32,000-acre brush fire in 2011.

Following the approval of the state's appeal, it was announced that $3.2 million of the Legislature's disaster recovery funds will be appropriated to West.

"One of the core responsibilities of our government is to deliver assistance to its citizens in the wake of a disaster," state Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, said in a statement. "The people of West have been extremely patient throughout this process, and I'm pleased that they will finally being seeing the necessary funding assistance they need in order to rebuild their community."

Federal funding will cover rebuilding the town’s infrastructure, roadways and the school district, all of which were damaged by the blast.

Josh Havens, a Perry spokesman, FEMA will send a team to West to work with the community in assessing potential projects that will fall under a reimbursement process for rebuilding costs.

FEMA has appointed Kevin L. Hannes to serve as the federal coordinating officer for the recovery operations in the area, according to a press release from the White House.

West Mayor Tommy Muska previously told The Dallas Morning News that additional funding was needed to cover an estimated $57 million in damages.

West families affected by the blast previously received direct federal funding and assistance for emergency housing, according to a statement from FEMA Press Secretary Dan Watson. FEMA also covered 75 percent of costs associated with debris removal and "emergency protective measures." 

Watson said the major disaster declaration was signed after reviewing additional information provided by the state in its appeal.

The Obama administration said local governments and certain private nonprofit organization will be eligible to receive federal funding on a “cost-sharing” basis to repair or replace damaged facilities in McLennan County and implement hazard mitigation measures at the state level.

FEMA will foot the bill for at least 75 percent of approved costs.

Obama signed an executive order on Thursday to improve the oversight of dangerous chemicals nationallydirecting federal agencies to redefine standards and improve communication with state and local officials to prevent similar disasters.  

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