The city of San Marcos held its third Flood Recovery Town Hall Meeting, inviting the community to share flood-related needs in order to submit an Action Plan to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development program.
The city’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Needs Assessment and Action Plan was awarded by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro in February. The $25 million grant is to meet the remaining needs of San Marcos following the significant flooding in May and October 2015.
Jared Miller, city manager, said this meeting is a part of the HUD process to administer the CDBG-DR funding, create the Action Plan and inform residents of the national objectives and eligible activities.
“It will solicit information (and) input for council to consider as we work to identify solutions, projects and activities that the funds are going to be spent on,” Miller said. “There are a lot of eligible projects.”
This portion of building the Action Plan is called the Needs Assessment. All CDBG-DR activities must be clearly addressed to a direct or indirect impact of the flood and meet a national objective such as prevention or elimination of slums or blight, urgent needs or low-to-moderate income. Eligible activities include housing, infrastructure, economic development and prevention of further damage to affected areas.
Marisa Mason, AECOM disaster recovery consultant, assists San Marcos in managing flood recovery and distribution of the grant. Mason said all CDBG-DR grantees must identify and prioritize the unmet needs for long-term community recovery. Then, the city will assess the situation, estimate unmet needs and prioritize them.
Mason said if a victim of the flood has received funding from another source, the CDBG-DR cannot duplicate that funding. In this light, it is crucial for people to record their financial assistance from other sources such as FEMA, insurance or religious organizations.
The CDBG-DR is in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program requirement. Therefore, in order for the funds to be given to areas that were hit the hardest and within the 100-year flood plain, elevation of the damaged or destroyed structure is required. Additionally, once repaired or rebuilt, the recipient of the funding will be required to have flood insurance.
“We are trying to start on the right foot with this funding and make sure that you are compliant with the requirements,” Mason said.
A survey given to attendees addressed issues like what the city should be giving the most funding and attention to. For many residents, infrastructure was the top priority.
“It basically amounts to cosmetic surgery. It’s after the fact. It’s replacing Sheetrock and insulation and the whole thing,” said a San Marcos resident. “I think it would be wise to use that ($25 million) to take care of infrastructure.”
Many residents were concerned about when the funding will be made available, stressing the issue of time pertinent needs that have yet to be taken care of.
“Most of this audience here looks like retirees,” said a 79-year-old San Marcos resident who has lived in her home for almost 50 years. “This is well and good that we are planning to prevent this in the future, but to help people right at this moment—it isn’t going to happen. I may not be alive when they settle this. It’s that tragic.”
City administrators said it would be irresponsible to comment on a time frame, as they are still in the early stages of planning.
“It’s a long-term event. These funds are to be expended within six years,” said Collette Jamison, assistant city manager. “We know that the needs that are going to be documented are far greater than the amount. This money may not be prioritized for every need, but then when we have all the needs documented, we will be able to find out what we need to do to meet those.”
Miller said it is the first time doing this and they are working as quickly and as hard as they can. He said his intention is not to give the impression the project will be on the ground this year, but they are not going to let anything languish if they have anything to do about it.
There will be a 14-day public comment period where the entire community can look at the Action Plan that is developed and submit comments. The Action Plan will then be sent to HUD Sept. 8 for review, comment or approval.