By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Bell County commissioners are urging those affected by last week's flooding from Tropical Storm Hermine to move forward with their recovery efforts instead of waiting for potential future assistance from the federal government.

The issue was addressed Monday during the regular commissioners' meeting.

According to county officials, Texas has not yet been granted a FEMA disaster declaration and, even if it is, any assistance could be weeks away and most likely would not be enough to "make them (flood victims) whole."

"The system doesn't work that way," Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown said.

It was noted the statewide threshold of total damages must be reached to qualify for a disaster declaration from FEMA. The federal guidelines call for 800 homes with "uninsured" major damage and nearly $27 million in uninsured infrastructure damage.

In Bell County, 152 buildings in Bell County were destroyed in the flood, including 109 mobile homes, 38 single-family dwellings and five businesses, officials said. Also, 65 single-family homes and 29 businesses suffered major damage, with 21 other homes and three businesses reporting minor damage. Another single-family home and a multi-family unit were "affected" by the flood.

There is no current total on how many of those structures were covered by flood insurance.

While the local numbers do not appear to meet the guideline, county officials said the overall damage statewide might make a difference.

In the meantime, county officials said those who suffered losses should go ahead and work with their insurance companies and rely on their own resources and private non profit organizations to help in the recovery process.

Commissioners suggested flood victims document their losses by taking photos of damage and keeping receipts, including for related hotel stays. Such documentation will be helpful when requesting assistance, they said.

Officials also cautioned the public about the potential for mold in homes and businesses affected by the floodwaters. Excessive moisture and standing water can contribute to the growth of mold, which can cause health issues.

On a related matter, the commissioners' court heard an updated bridge and road report.

The bridge on Armstrong Road, which has basically become an island unto itself, will take "a couple of months or longer" to repair, officials said.

The rest of the roads impacted by the storm are open, although most have minor or superficial damage. County officials said repairs to those roads, which are being prioritized, will take some time.

In other business, county commissioners:

Approved a proclamation designating September 2010 as Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child Safety Awareness Month in Bell County, proposed by the Exchange Clubs of Killeen and Temple.

Took no action on an order restricting outdoor burning, thereby allowing the burn ban to expire Monday. The ban had been temporarily lifted through Sept. 12.

Approved contributing up to $1,000 in support of the 2010 disaster management course, "Disaster Management for Public Service," to be offered Oct. 27-28 at the Harker Heights Activities Center.

Approved ratifying agreements with Lochridge Priest for ductwork replacement at the juvenile facility at 4800 E. Rancier Ave. in Killeen, and with Belfor Property Restoration and Blackmon Mooring for repairs, cleanup and document restoration.

Approved giving a 30-day notice to the Bell County Tax Appraisal District on the termination of the month-to-month lease for the Tax Assessor/Collector office space in the district's building.

Approved a contract with Invision Window Tinting in the amount of $21,282 for the application of Huper Optik sheeting on the east, west and south windows of the historic courthouse.

Approved ratifying a change order with Corporate Facilities Management for the repair of three additional roof drains at the Killeen Annex in the amount of $2,384;

Approved a modified State Energy Conservation Office grant contract pertaining to mechanical renovations at the historic courthouse. The changes limit SECO's oversight to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning control system and authorized the county judge to execute necessary documentation;

Approved an agreement with Bell County Public Health District for payment of fiscal year 2010-11 member contribution to the Health District Fund of $150,070.

Advice for flood victims

Bell County officials offer the following recommendation for local flood victims:

Call your insurance agent.

Call local officials to report flood damage.

Take photos of damaged items to document their condition.

Take good photos or use a video camera to record damages. Include water mark photos showing how high the water rose. Take interior and exterior photos to record damage.

Make notes and voice recordings to accompany photographs.

Make visual, written and voice records for each step of salvage procedures.

Keep receipts of all expenditures, including repairs and cleaning costs. This will help with possible reimbursement.

Throw out all food and other supplies that may have become contaminated or come into contact with floodwater.

If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again.

Have the electrical system checked by an electrician before turning the power back on.

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