Montgomery County Commissioners Court to seek waivers for use of disaster recovery funds

Montgomery County Commissioners Court met for its first monthly meeting this morning and discussed and approved a resolution to seek waivers from the mandated Low to Moderate Income thresholds in order to spend disaster recovery funds on areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said restrictions on Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—which are known as LMI mandates—are making it hard for areas of the county to receive more assistance.

The resolution calls on state and federal leaders and agencies, including the Houston-Galveston Area Council, to seek exceptions to these guidelines and enable any local governmental entity the ability to determine the best use of recovery funds in the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort now and in the future.

"Our community in some areas was heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey," Noack said. "There's a lot of money that is out there, but it's hard to use it because it is in LMI constraints. We drafted a resolution and the county attorney has reviewed it. We just need to let people know we need these funds and we need to be able to have them without strings."

James Stinson, general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency, said after The Woodlands and the surrounding area experienced major flooding due to major storms in the past year, the organization has identified projects that could help with drainage issues in the future.

"Following the April and May [storm] events of 2016, our organization has done a number of neighborhood improvements that have had a substantial impact on improving drainage,"Stinson said. "We still have areas in The Woodlands and other areas of Montgomery County that are impacted and have not been corrected due to funding. In my area, there are two distinct neighborhoods where 150 or more homes are impacted during major storms. We are looking and requesting funds to help implement a couple of improvements."

Stinson said a project that has been identified is along Bear Branch, a major drainage area. Stinson said the WJPA has identified an improvement in the neighborhood that would cost between $7 million to 9 million.

"This would improve draining for well over 150 homes, a number of those which have flooded on numerous occasions," he said. "Some of these neighborhoods could really have improved drainage with some assistance and funding."

Noack said he hopes that by signing the resolution, more funding for improvements could become available.

"These LMI requirements take away the opportunity for us," Noack said. "Flooding doesn’t know if you’re rich or poor and when the water starts to rise ... it's going to take advantage of you. It’s really frustrating to know when you have teams of professionals that worked hard to come up with ideas, but because we can’t meet this arbitrary number that the government puts in place, then we can’t even use our own tax dollars in our community. It’s just wrong and we need help to get that fixed."