“Don’t let anybody tell you that we’ve dodged a bullet,” said Hunter referring to Hurricane Harvey, a storm that in just 56 hours grew from a regenerated tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico into a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in the area late on August 25, 2017. “We were the first to be hit by a Category 4 hurricane, and I have never seen such togetherness and camaraderie as we experienced in our community immediately following landfall,” he told a group of about 30 people at the Flour Bluff Business Association regular monthly meeting held October 11, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff. In attendance were council members Paulette Guajardo and Greg Smith, County Commissioner Brent Chesney, Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Thelma Rodriguez, and FBISD school board members Michael Morgan, Jennifer Welp, and Shirley Thornton.
Hunter spoke of how he fears that our area will be forgotten in a few weeks. “They’re already doing it in some ways,” Hunter said referring to the individuals and agencies who have been fundraising and providing assistance for storm victims. “Paul Simon came into the area, but not here. There was even a benefit held in Austin – for Houston.”
“Port Royal looks like a MASH unit with outdoor showers, management under a tent with computers, outdoor bathrooms. But, guess what? They’re holding a press conference at 1:30 today to give a positive plan of when they’re going to reopen. This is how the Coastal Bend and South Texas are responding. I want everyone to know who we are and how we’re setting the example for the rest of the nation,” he said referring to the multiple natural disasters occurring across the United States. Hunter went on to say that he and Brent Chesney had visited almost all of the towns in the Coastal Bend hit by Harvey. He explained that there is still a great deal of work to be done and that people showing up with tools ready to work is what is needed more than anything else.
Hunter went on to talk about the effect of the storm on local schools. “Right after the storm, Port Aransas had no school. Nobody from government was communicating to my area – again. I got on the phone to the Commissioner of Education, who did not call me back. So, I called the governor’s office, and all of a sudden I got a call from the Commissioner of Education, who has never talked with me since I’ve been in office or since he’s been in office,” he said. Hunter then related that he suggested to the commissioner that a hotline be set up so that parents could get information regarding what to do if their child’s school was closed. “He said this was a good idea, and the hotline was created,” said Hunter. (That number is 512- 463-9603.)
“Flour Bluff must be applauded. They took in Port Aransas kids. I don’t think the state realizes what you’ve done. You’ve used your local tax dollars to take care of people. You, the taxpayer residents, took the burden. For that I am grateful, and it shows what a great community you are. Gregory-Portland did it for Rockport. You need to be helped, not forgotten. So, I’m going to ring the bell more than you’ve ever heard over the next two years. I’m talking about school funding. We fund schools through property taxes, but you can’t levy a property tax if there’s no property. I get a kick out of seeing all the appraisal district vehicles out there. What are they appraising? Some people in Port Aransas received tax bills last week on houses that are no longer standing. In the next legislative session, we’re going to have to take up school funding to figure out what the real formula should be,” said Hunter. He also spoke of how illogical it is to impose the state test on districts affected by the storm. He added that he was making no headway in this area.
Hunter then talked about another hot topic for the next legislative session, mental health. He explained how it is a real concern, not just a “touchy-feely” topic. Hunter related a story about displaced children who lost everything in Harvey, including all their clothing and toys. These items were replaced through donations. “When the recent rains came, these children cried to their teachers that they needed to go home to put their new clothes and toys on the bed so that they wouldn’t lose them again,” he said. “These are feelings of families and children that the rest of the state doesn’t understand. I’ve had public officials cry in my arms because they have nothing. This affects a person’s mental health, and this is a serious issue that needs to be funded.”
Seven days after the storm, the health department called Hunter to let him know they would be spraying for mosquitoes. “They were going to spray only as far south as Refugio. I asked them if they knew who got hit first,” he said. As a result, they sprayed Nueces, San Patricio, and Aransas counties.
Hunter then spoke about the top complaints after Harvey. The first two involved FEMA and TWIA. The third was the Red Cross and their refusal to serve Ingleside. “The fourth was debris hauling, but that seems to be going since most of the haulers have contracts with FEMA. At one point the road to Port Aransas had a quarter mile long, 25-foot high pile of debris.” Hunter also explained that he personally experienced eye abrasions from irritants in the area and that asbestos fibers that are floating around could be the problem.
“If you have concerns in any of these areas, let my office know. And just know that there’s a lot of fraud and scams going around. If someone is knocking on your door asking you to sign something, think twice,” he said. Hunter had such an experience because of the Equifax security breech. He received multiple notifications that he had made a FEMA claim, which he had not. A group got his information and sent in two FEMA applications with his identifying information and address but a fake phone number and email. “What happens is that FEMA issues checks to the Green Dot Bank. Even when I got the Texas Rangers to contact FEMA, they wouldn’t talk to them. This is your tax money being sent to thieves,” he said. He explained that the Green Dot Bank is an internet fund where the money is deposited and then just disappears. He told of how these groups also get credit cards in the victims’ names and do an address switch through the U.S. Post Office. “You need to have a banker do a credit check to see if anything has been opened in your name without your knowing it,” Hunter suggested.
“The final thing is that we learn from these situations. I will be working quite a bit with the schools to make sure their protected in the next session. I am worried that we’ll have public officials from other areas of the state trying to tell us what to do, which we don’t need. We’ll have funding proposals that don’t apply well here. We’ll have new thoughts on education and curriculum that don’t apply here. We’ll have new catastrophe management concepts that don’t apply here. And I’m sure we’re going to see wind storm reform come back. So, just be ready. My plan is to protect the area,” Hunter said. He also reminded everyone that desalination would be discussed at the Ortiz Center on November 2 with an update on Hurricane Harvey to be given on November 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. John Sharp of Rebuild Texas will be coming in to discuss the aftermath of the storm in Nueces, Kleberg, Aransas, and San Patricio counties.
“Don’t tell people we’re shut down,” Hunter said. “We are turning around. This negative will prove to be a positive. I’m proud of all of you and of this community. You continue to set the tone for the area, the state, and the nation. We will keep the effort moving, so contact us if you need anything.”
Other FBBA Business
- October 20: Funtrackers Trunk or Treat Event from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the parking lot. For details visit the Funtrackers website: https://funtrackers.com/event/trunk-or-treat/
- Flour Fest: will be held at Parker Park on Graham Road from Noon to 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, October 28, 2017. This family-friendly event will feature live music, food trucks, Kids Zone, local vendors, safety demonstrations by ESD#2 Firefighters, and the Flour Bluff Citizens Council kid-and-dog costume contest, Fur Fest. FBBA would like to thank the Flour Fest sponsors: County Commissioners Brent Chesney and Mike Pusley, Michael Morgan of State Farm, Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites, Javier Wiley of HEB, Dr. Hassan of the Children’s Center, Walmart #490, Whataburger #123, and the Flour Bluff Citizens Council.
- Flour Fest Kids Zone Events:
1:00 Corn Hole Contests (candy and toy prizes)
1:30 Sack Races (candy and toy prizes)
2:00 Three-legged Races (candy and toy prizes)
3:00 Fur Fest: This event is open to kids 12 and under with dogs of any age. Prizes will go to Scariest, Cutest, Funniest, and Best Couple. Dogs must be on leashes at all times. No biters, please. Judging begins at 3:00 p.m. Prizes awarded immediately following judging.
4:00 Egg and Spoon Races (candy and toy prizes)
- 4:30 4-Way Tug of War
5:30 Pastry Wars (First 15 contestants to sign up in the 10 and under, 11 to 16, and 17 and up categories will compete for Walmart gift cards.)
Bounce house all day
- Tire Recycling Program: The FBBA, in conjunction with Nueces County and DeGoLa Resource and Conservation Development District, will host a tire recycling program on Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., to The FBBA encourages everyone to take part in this program since the city will not pick up tires during the brush and bulky item pick up.
- FBBA Board Elections: Three board members are up for re-election. They are Roshan Bhakta, Tom Hollingsworth, and Jonathan Vela. Dr. Hollingsworth will not be seeking re-election. Elections and succession planning will take place at the November general meeting. Nominations may be submitted to Jennifer Welp.
- Membership Drive: If a new member joins in the last quarter of the year, the annual dues of $65.00 will include the following year.
- Community Christmas: This event will take place December 8, 2017, at Funtrackers. Toy boxes will be set out in November at area businesses. Let Jennifer Welp know if your business is willing to accept a box for toy donations. This is an opportunity for the businesses to give back to the community we love so much.
- Next FBBA General Meeting: Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at Raceway Cafe’ at Funtrackers
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.