By Sonya Campbell

Harker Heights Herald

Bell County -Residents who suffered losses from the Sept. 8 flood must wait to find out whether the federal government will provide them with any funding assistance.

The issue was among the topics discussed during the county commissioners' court meeting Monday.

At that time, it was noted differences between state and federal definitions of "destroyed" could dampen Bell County's prospects for receiving federal aid. But damage assessments from the other 39 Texas counties affected by Tropical Storm Hermine could potentially be enough to help Bell County residents qualify for federal aid, Emergency Management Director Dennis Baker said.

Results of recent assessments indicate 149 homes in the county were damaged in the flood. Of that number, 66 were reported to have minor damage, 45 major and 29 were destroyed.

Only "uninsured homes" deemed destroyed or majorly damaged count toward federal disaster declaration eligibility requirements.

Baker said the number of homes in the county with uninsured losses has not yet been determined and he noted vacant homes aren't eligible to be counted.

In regard to the definition of "destroyed" when referencing mobile homes, he said the state considers the home destroyed when water covers the floor.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines stipulate more than 12 inches of water must have been in a mobile home for it to be considered destroyed, he said.

On another financial matter, the commissioners' court authorized the Bell County HELP Center to apply for a TXU Assistance Grant to help low-income people pay their utility bills.

Judy Morales, the center's director, said August was a difficult month for many people, particularly those living on fixed incomes.

She said people are "lining up" seeking assistance after getting a one-month bill for as much as $500 and $600,

In other business, the court:

Approved extending the county's contract with Fort Hood to house "inmates of high value," from Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011. To date, the county only houses one such inmate: U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is alleged to have killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in a shooting on the military post Nov. 5, 2009.

County Judge Jon Burrows said the Army post does not have a stockade and instead uses the county's facilities.

"We are their stockade," he said.

The county jail has the capacity and the manpower to handle the job, as well as an expanded infirmary.

Tabled an order to restrict outdoor burning. It was noted many people in the community still are cleaning up debris from the storm,

Approved a contract with Corporate Facilities Management LLC for the construction of an animal control facility after granting an exemption from the bidding process,

Approved an agreement with Corporate Facilities Management LLC for the renovation of the Bell County Annex on 2nd Avenue in Belton to house the Tax Assessor's Office, which was displaced by the flood. Other county offices, including adult and juvenile probation, will be housed there, as well,

Approved submitting a Notice of Intent to participate in the Texas Department of Agriculture in the application for a county grant for Implementation of Feral Hog Abatement Technologies,

Opted to make no changes to the sheriff's and constables' fees. "This is not the year to be making changes to the fees," the county judge said.

Contact Sonya Campbell at or (254) 501-7557.

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