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Mid-County cities rally behind each other to fill potential safety gaps

GROVES — The city of Groves approved the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act this week.

Following in the steps of Port Neches, Groves City Council members approved the act with a slight alteration to the federal amendment.

First responders, city officials and public works directors unable to work due to an immediate family member contracting the coronavirus are covered for two weeks of paid sick leave, unless the needs of the city change.

The vote passed unanimously.

Groves City Manager D.E. Sosa said the biggest concern is losing first responder personnel, an already small workforce.

“We don’t want anybody sick,” he said. “We’re almost fully staffed for the first time in a long time, so we are taking extra precautions. We’ve done everything we can to get our police and fire departments as prepared as we can.”

Sosa said the city’s arrangement with the other Mid-County municipalities brings peace of mind during uncertain times.

Groves, Port Neches and Nederland are in a local agreement known as the Mid-County Municipal League. It has been in existence for more than 40 years, linking the cities under one dispatch.

In the event of any three cities falling short in emergency first responder personnel, the other two will provide additional and backup support.

“Whatever we can do to help our sister cities with, we will do,” Sosa said. “Apart we are small, but together we are almost as big as Port Arthur.”

Groves Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Billeaud said the league provides cushion in more ways than one.

“To us, at the fire department, it means a lot,” he said. “We are a small department. We’ve only got 14 guys here on staff and our volunteers, but if we have guys that fall ill and a lot of people out, we can rely on those others departments helping out.

“Even in a structure fire, we are only guaranteed two guys here, two in Port Neches and two in Nederland. We don’t always get our volunteers because those guys work during the day and can’t just leave their jobs, so it’s a big help to know that we have those other two cities helping support each other through whatever it is.”

The Mid-County Municipal League also shares an animal control unit, information technology department and water system.

On Monday, the Groves City Council approved a resolution extending the Declaration of Disaster, first ordered March 16 due to COVID-19. The resolution will be reevaluated at the next board meeting May 11.

Other agenda items included designating April as “Fair Housing Month” to ensure the city receives the $4.2 million in funds this summer for street and structure improvements.