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Agency takes lead on storm recovery

BEAUMONT — The Jefferson County Commissioners unanimously approved naming Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund as the county’s long-term recovery group Monday.

Branick said the organization had multiple conversations with commissioners over the past few months.

“I want to thank them and the various members of their board for agreeing to undertake this,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said. “We have a long history dating back to Hurricane Rita. I’m thankful that we are going to get the Red Cross to provide some additional funding for the additional administrative assistance that is going to be needed.”

The Beaumont-based group started in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita and is responsible for distributing $6.5 million since.

Branick said he looks forward to drawing down on some of the money from disaster philanthropy and Rebuild Texas.

The LTRG will be responsible for distributing philanthropic funds the county receives.

The county’s search for a designated LTRG hit a road block in June when the organization Help! I’m Hurting! withdrew from consideration after Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal raised concerns about the group’s transparency.

The Port Arthur-based group pulled away, stating they did not want to further divide the community.

Commissioners also approved the budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“I want to commend my fellow commissioners, but also every elected official in the county,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Brent Weaver said. “It’s because of them we have been able to maintain our tax rate over the last eight-10 years. There hasn’t been a lot of bouncing up and down from year to year.

“If you look around at the other counties, we have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, tax rate. For us to be able to provide the services that we do, maintain that tax rate and balance the budget, that’s not just us up here. That’s everyone in the county.”

The county will maintain a tax rate of $0.346049 per $100 valuation.