Galveston County has until the middle of 2019 to finish more than a dozen Hurricane Ike recovery projects. If it can’t complete the projects, the county could end up with millions of dollars unspent from grants made after the historic storm that made landfall 10 years ago.
Galveston County Commissioners on Monday approved an amendment with the Texas General Land Office that extended the deadline for a $31.6 million disaster recovery contract from Dec. 31 to June 30, 2019.
The extension allows more time to finish more than a dozen infrastructure projects funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development block grants awarded to the county after Ike.
The extension was a disappointment for county officials, however. The county has asked for the deadline to be extended to December 2019, County Engineer Michael Shannon said.
The county has 13 projects funded by the block grants underway, Shannon said. Five of them are under construction already, but the remainder are in various stages of design. With less than a year to complete those projects, getting them done will be difficult, Shannon said.
“We’re moving forward with all the projects,” Shannon said.
During a meeting Monday morning, Shannon told county commissioners that “time was of the essence” to complete the projects.
It’s unclear what the penalty would be if the county missed the mid-2019 deadline. It’s possible the county would need to pick up the entire cost of the incomplete projects, or only receive partial reimbursement for them.
During a workshop meeting Monday, commissioners talked about ways to to try to move the projects along faster, including using county funds to expedite environmental reviews for some projects.
At least one proposed Ike project, a drainage basin in Gum Bayou in Dickinson, has been delayed over concerns about damaging timber rattlesnake habitats.
The lengthy review required to assess the threat to the snake means that project is unlikely to be completed under the Ike program, Shannon said, although officially the county is still weighing its options.
It’s possible the county will seek another extension for the projects to the end of 2019 — and some commissioners called for such a move as they passed the amendment unanimously on Monday.
“We should probably see if we can try to get the extension,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Ken Clark said. “I’d like for us to continue to seek out a further out date.”