Richardson official reacts to FEMA's refusal to reimburse damage caused by Oct. 20 tornado

The Oct. 20 tornado affected 949 structures in Richardson. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Oct. 20 tornado affected 949 structures in Richardson. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Oct. 20 tornado affected 949 structures in Richardson. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)

Richardson received word earlier this week that the federal government has denied Gov. Greg Abbott’s reimbursement request for millions of dollars of damage caused by the Oct. 20 tornadoes.

Richardson was one of several North Texas cities hard-hit by the storm. Close to 1,000 structures were affected and thousands of residents were left without power. In December, the city estimated a total recovery cost of about $4 million.

Deputy City Manager Don Magner called the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision disappointing but said Richardson was prepared for this outcome. In December, staff announced it would set aside funds to cover local damage.

“While this is unfortunate news, it just means we will have to go use that reserve to reconcile and finish out our infrastructure buildout,” he said.

Save for a couple of screening walls and some traffic signals, about 90% of the damage to public infrastructure in Richardson has already been repaired, Magner said. The remaining items should cost about $800,000, he said.

If FEMA had approved the governor’s request, staff would have asked City Council to decide how best to spend the $4 million, Magner said.

The initial thought was that those dollars could bulk up the city's fund balance, but with nationwide shutdowns hampering revenue collection in cities nationwide, that money may have been used to buttress the city’s response to the coronavirus, Magner said.

Magner said he suspects filing inconsistencies across affected entities may have caused FEMA to misjudge the amount of damage sustained by the storm.

“It does seem that there were some questions about other agencies and what they filed and how they filed it,” he said.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins took to Twitter April 7 to express his willingness to join the governor and Richardson’s Office of Emergency Management in working toward an appeal.

Magner said he is hopeful an appeal will help FEMA see the bigger picture.

“We stand by ready to do anything we can to help FEMA better appreciate the situation,” he said.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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