State officials ask FEMA to reconsider aid for West, TX - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

State officials ask FEMA to reconsider aid for West, TX

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State officials aren't taking "no" for an answer. Monday, members of a Texas house committee said they will send a letter asking FEMA to reconsider the decision to cut off aid to the town of West. The town was rocked in April by a fertilizer plant explosion that claimed 15 lives.

One by one, shattered homes and structures in the small town of West are being cleared away. It's been two months since the fertilizer plant explosion. Monday, members of the state homeland security committee responded to FEMA's decision to not provide any additional money to help rebuild West.

"I think we were all a little taking aback. A disaster is a disaster whether it's manmade or natural," said Committee Chairman Joe Pickett (D) El Paso.

According to the rejection letter sent to Governor Rick Perry, FEMA officials have a different opinion. It was determined that a "major" disaster declaration is not necessary. State lawmakers on the house committee want the feds to do more.

"Well I think if you are a resident of West and your home has been destroyed and you've seen your neighbor's homes destroyed as well you'd think that's pretty major," said Committee member Tony Dale (R) Cedar Park.

The community has been promised about $16 million in federal aid under the emergency declaration signed by the president. But most of that is in the form of low interest loans as well as money to cover the cost of responding and removing debris.

It's estimated the federal aid will only cover about half of the $34 million in uninsured damaged and response cost. $17 million is also needed to repair roads and utility lines. West ISD expects it will take an additional $30 million to rebuild three schools. According to local authorities the tax base isn't strong enough to finance a large bond issue to pay for all the work.

Governor Rick Perry has 30-days to appeal the FEMA ruling and while a final answer regarding aid will eventually come investigators who classified the cause of the fire at the plant as undetermined are not optimistic their ruling will change.

"So there is a very good possibility it will never be determined," said state Fire Marshal Chris Connealy.

The committee has directed officials with the state Fire Marshall and DPS to come up with an easy way for residents to find out if a dangerous chemical facility is near them. A state-wide- registry will be developed, it will be posted on the internet and will be similar to the way sex offenders can be located.

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