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Community group seeks organized assistance for flood victims

Friday, May 2, 2014 by Mark Richardson

A community organization called the Travis Austin Recovery Group (TARG), formed in the aftermath of the historic 2013 Halloween floods, is noting the six-month anniversary of the event with the release of a Draft Recovery Plan for the people and businesses affected by the disaster.


Though copies of the plan were sent to officials with the City of Austin and Travis County earlier, TARG is planning a news conference Saturday to discuss its plan to help the victims of the Oct. 31 floods that killed four people, damaged or destroyed more than 1,100 homes and businesses and caused than hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.


TARG was formed in February from several smaller groups that began working in the flood damaged neighborhoods shortly after the disaster, including a number of neighborhood organizations and groups such as Austin Common Ground and Lutheran Social Services.


TARG coordinator Lisa Fithian told Travis County Commissioners this week that the group is working closely with the people affected to meet their needs.


“One of the goals after disaster is have a long-term recovery group established for the purpose of coordinating the recovery work,” she said. “What we had after the disaster of the Halloween floods was a lot of people came and did a lot of neat work. But we found that there were four or five or six different agencies or nonprofits that were involved in the recovery and there was no single coordinated entity to do that.”


She said they work to fill in the gaps that other agencies can’t or don’t provide.


“Our job is to be here for the long term and try to bring all the resources we can to the table to meet whatever needs have not been met,” Fithian said. We’re now six months after the flood. And I don’t think there’s any one entity that could say exactly where everybody is at this moment.”


In its Draft Recovery Plan, TARG laid out a set of specific steps that local government should take to help the flood victims recover.


Some of the proposals for both the city and the county include:

·       Implement and promote an enhanced early warning emergency system;

·       Provide at least $105 million to offer a buyout to any residents in the 100-year flood plain;

·       Residents who choose not to accept a buyout now may stay in their homes and may – at a future date – accept a buyout under the original terms;

·       Provide funds to elevate homes above the floodplain in cases where residents choose to stay;

·       Provides assistance to flood victims, including case managers and independent real estate agents to assist them in recovering and relocating; and

·       Build affordable housing units in the neighborhood to make relocations viable.


TARG addressed Travis County Commissioners Tuesday, pointing out the aspects of their plan and offering to work with county officials to help with the recovery effort.


Steve Manilla, executive with the Transportation and Natural Resources Department, said staff in his division had responded to most of the points in TARG’s plan, noting in many cases that the county had already met many of the requests in the plan and was working on many others.


City of Austin officials have not specifically responded to the TARG plan, though several aspects of a plan put forth by Council Member Mike Martinez reflect some of the points in the plan. Members of the group have presented their plans to the Council’s subcommittee on health and human services.


On Thursday, Council approved nearly $700,000 to repair an Onion Creek subdivision bridge damaged during the flooding.


TARG’s news conference is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at 7444 Onion Creek Drive. A number of members of the TARG Coordinating Board, several first responders and local politicians including Congressman Lloyd Doggett, State Representative Donna Howard, Commissioner Margaret Gomez and others.

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