Harris County commissioners approve $200M in flood prevention grants, $18M in law enforcement raises


The grant process for several flood prevention projects and home buyouts is slated to move forward after receiving approval from Harris County Commissioners Court at its Tuesday meeting.

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe spoke at the meeting and explained the various agenda items that pertain to flood prevention. On Aug. 25, voters approved a $2.5 billion bond package for HCFCD, including matching funds for various state and federal grant programs.

Tuesday’s agenda included more than $200 million for flood control projects, Poppe said.

The projects include:

  • Accepting an amendment to an agreement for $81.7 million from the Texas Department of Public Safety for Federal Emergency Management Agency Hurricane Harvey home buyouts with a $32.3 million county match
  • An application for $62 million from Texas Department of Public Safety for Poor Farm Ditch and White Oak Bayou projects with a $21 million county match
  • A total of $9.4 million in infrastructure repairs relating to HCFCD projects

According to a press release from FEMA, the $81.7 million will help the county acquire 502 flood-prone homes damaged by Harvey-relating flooding. The land will be maintained as open space in the future, according to the press release.

The funds are the latest in a series of funding awards from FEMA to HCFCD.

Law enforcement raises

Commissioners also approved a raise for constable and sheriff’s office detention, communications and law enforcement officers effective Sept. 29.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who spoke at the meeting, said the raises total nearly $18 million.

Harris County Budget Officer Bill Jackson said at the meeting that about 5,300 officers will be affected by the raise.

“We [should]consider this adopting [as]the first step,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman said. “I don’t think we are competitive with surrounding law enforcement agencies.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Ellis agreed and said he believed all county employees should be better compensated in light of increasing poverty levels, which he said are increasing in Harris County at a greater rate than those nationally.

“It’s a first step, but it’s a big step,” Ellis said. “It ought to be a first step for Harris County employees in general.”

Ellis also said he would place an item on a future agenda for commissioners to consider a paid family leave policy for county employees.

Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said the raises will increase the annual salary for his starting deputies from $44,000 to $50,000, and it will provide for 3-to-5 percent raises for other deputies.

Herman said in a phone interview he appreciates the commissioners found space in the budget for law enforcement raises.

“After everything we’ve been through in the last year, I was amazed they were able to find the money for our first responders,” Herman said.

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Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of the paper in March 2017.
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