By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – Bell County Emergency Services Coordinator Dennis Baker told county commissioners Monday morning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had denied the county's request to count the storms starting May 23 in the presidential disaster declaration that has allowed private residents to obtain federal aid in rebuilding.

The defined time of the disaster remains June 16 to Aug. 4. The FEMA decision means the county has to foot the entire bill for about $700,000 in infrastructure damage to roads, utilities and other public structures and facilities.

If the federal agency had allowed the earlier storms in the time frame, the county could have tallied the damages to try to qualify for federal aid.

"The calculations would have been chancy, anyway," Baker said. "The threshold, no matter what the allowed time frame would have been, was $730,000, and I don't know if we could have showed that much damage. But we would have tried."

Baker said infrastructure damage was about equally divided between storms and flooding before June 16 and thereafter, so the June 16 cutoff definitely disqualifies the county.

The city of Killeen, however, did get FEMA's assistance in a mitigation program to buy land along Nolan Creek where a number of mobile homes were flooded. The city will keep the land vacant to avoid repetition of the problem.

"Some governments put park land, possibly hike and bike trails, in such areas," Baker said. "I don't know what Killeen will do." City officials did not return calls about the issue Monday afternoon.

The county's current disaster status allows private citizens to seek low-interest loans to replace or repair damaged structures.

In other matters, commissioners approved a request by the Exchange Clubs in Temple and Killeen to proclaim September as Shaken Baby Syndrome and Child Safety Awareness Month.

Maureen Jouett, president of the Exchange Club of Killeen, said the clubs have been distributing brochures about shaken baby syndrome in doctors' offices and other places and making teddy bears available to injured children.

"People don't realize that even shaking a child in play can have damaging consequences," she said.

At the request of County Extension Agent Dirk Aaron, Baker and other health and safety officials, commissioners designated September as Disaster Preparedness Month in the county.

Aaron announced Nov. 7 as the date of the annual public exposition of the Bell County Coalition on Disaster Preparedness in the special events room of the Bell County Expo Center. He said 75 people attended last year.

Commissioner Richard Cortese praised the plans, saying, "People need to know how much local authorities do to be ready for any disaster, from major ice storms to plane crashes to epidemics. Even veterinarians are involved."

Also Monday, the court approved the reappointment of Bill Holmes of Belton for a two-year term as the county's volunteer representative on the seven-member board of the county tax appraisal district effective Jan. 1.

Commissioners renewed two memoranda of understanding concerning the county's involvement in juvenile matters:

Between Bell County, the Bell County Juvenile Board and juvenile judge, and the boards of the independent school districts of Academy, Bartlett, Belton, Florence, Holland, Killeen, Rogers, Salado, Troy and Temple for the operation and administration of the Bell County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program for the 2007-2008 school year;

Between the county, its juvenile board and judge and the Killeen ISD board for 2008-2008 educational services at the Bell County Juvenile Detention Center.

Commissioners renewed memoranda of understanding with Lone Star Legal Aid regarding protective orders, the assistance program for family law cases, and lawyer magistrate services for the juvenile court. The legal aid programs help people without retained attorneys get documents through the court system without snags and delays.

They set the 2008 annual holidays as New Year's Day, a Tuesday, Jan. 1; Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 21; President's Day, Monday, Feb. 18; Good Friday, March 21; Memorial Day, Monday, May 26; Independence Day, Friday, July 4; Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1; Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 13; Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11; Thanksgiving, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 27 and 28; and Christmas, Thursday and Friday, Dec. 25 and 26.

They approved a schedule of 2008 fees for sheriff's, constables' and other legal services. They approved a contribution rate of 10.16 percent for the Texas County and District Retirement System.

In issues presented by county engineer Richard Macchi, commissioners adjusted prices for hot mix asphalt and liquid asphalt paid to various suppliers and released a letter of credit for $42,367 for Wells Ranch Phase IV in Precinct 4. On the request of neighborhood residents, they approved installing a yield sign on Allena Lane at its intersection with Frederick Lane in the Woods of Cedar Oaks and imposed a 30-mph speed limit on Deer Run in the Creek Place subdivision.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557

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