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Coalition turns to county for donation

Although Southeast Texas received millions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Rita last September, the national spotlight remained focused on the devastation in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina only a month before.

When federal aid began pouring into Louisiana and only trickling into Texas, local elected officials, community members and professional lobbyists took up the job of getting the word about Hurricane Rita to the lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

Monday the Jefferson County Commissioners Court will have a workshop to discuss making a donation to a group that helped to successfully secure hurricane recovery funds for Southeast Texas.

The Recovery Coalition of Southeast Texas is asking the county for a $50,000 donation to cover the cost of two lobbying firms that have met with legislators following Hurricane Rita.

Through contributions by local entities and philanthropists, the coalition has already raised more than $215,000. An additional $175,000 is needed to pay for the services of lobbyists through July.

“Rita was the forgotten storm,” Jim Rich, president of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and spokesperson for the Coalition, said. “The bottom line was that we needed a strategy and we got two firms that really helped us. Now we are just trying to finish the job.”

Rich said most of the cities in Jefferson County have already made contributions.

“Port Arthur gave $25,000, the city of Beaumont and the (Jefferson County) Navigation District each gave $25,000. Orange and Vidor have contributed too,” Rich said.

In other items at Monday’s meeting of the Commissioners Court, the purchase of a used aircraft for the Jefferson County Mosquito Control District will be discussed.

During the recent budget hearings for next fiscal year, the Mosquito Control department requested a newer spray plane to replace one that has been in service for more than 20 years. The cost of another plane, even a used one, is around $500,000. With this year’s mosquito epidemic in full swing, the need for another plane during this fiscal year has become a priority.

The court will also consider an agreement with Sunoco Logistics Partners LP to provide an economic develop incentive for expansions at the Nederland Terminal.

The company plans a $28 million expansion to construct new tanks that will bring the storage capacity up to 15 million barrels of oil.

The project received a tax abatement from the city of Nederland in May.