Walker County extends coronavirus disaster declaration by an additional week

Joseph Brown | The ItemWalker County District Attorney Will Durham and Office of Emergency Management Director Butch Davis provides an update on the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus to the Walker County Commissioners Court on Monday at the Walker County Courthouse. The county announced its first confirmed case of the virus Sunday afternoon, and subsequently issued a curfew order which began at 11:59 p.m. Monday night. 

While Walker County Judge Danny Pierce intended to extend the declaration of local disaster for public health emergency until further notice, pushback from a fellow commissioner led him to put those plans on hold.

The initial declaration signed March 12 was valid for seven days and activated the Walker County Emergency Management Plan. That plan was extended last week, but was set to expire Monday.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie White requested the judge extend the declaration to Monday, March 30, the date of the next scheduled Commissioners Court meeting, to give commissioners a weekly update on the virus.

“For us to stay in touch with what is going on, I have to have this declaration come up every seven days,” White said. “I have to have someone in this courtroom to get updates on what is happening.”

Ultimately, the court voted to approve extending the declaration to the next commissioners court meeting. The court implied that they intend to further extend the declaration at that time out of the best interest of the public.

“We have to be sure that we can recoup any federal disaster relief money, so it’s really important to keep this declaration active,” Pierce said.

COUNTY AWARDED $4 MILLION GRANT

Walker County has received over $4.4 million in grant money from the Texas General Land Office to replace roads and bridges that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

The money will come from the GLO’s Disaster Recovery Program Infrastructure Project fund. The grant will help fund repairs on Oak Trail Road, Raintree Street, Roark Road, Whippoorwill Street, M. Williams Road, Williams Road, Wire Road Loop, Koonce Road, Plantation Road, Phelps Creek Drive, Phelps Slab Road, Harding Street, Southwood Drive and Mike Slott Road. It will also help commissioners replace the Bedias flood gauge at the FM 247 bridge.

“It’s a reimbursement grant, so the only issue that we have now is coming up with the $4 million up front,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Bill Daugette said.

The next scheduled meeting of the Walker County Commissioners Court is planned for 1:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Walker County Courthouse.