FEMA denies aid to Texas for blast

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK and Associated Press

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 12 at 6:21 PM

WEST, Texas --  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the small Texas town where a deadly fertilizer plant explosion leveled numerous homes and a school, and killed 15 people.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA says it reviewed the state's appeal for the funds to help West. But the agency says the impact from the explosion "is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration."

West Mayor Tommy Muska says the money is needed to cover $57 million in damage, including $40 million to rebuild a destroyed school. The West Fertilizer Co. blew up in April.

The letter is addressed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and dated June 10.

Many homeowners and small businesses are receiving individual assistance from FEMA. It's the city and school district relying on the money to rebuild.

Mayor Muska heard the news late Tuesday night.

"I was thinking I didn't read it correctly, but unfortunately I was," Muska said.

What he read was a denial from the federal government for millions of dollars needed to rebuild.

"We have a budget of $2 million. This is a $17 million project. There's no way in the world we can pay for this by ourselves," he explained.

Mayor Muska says the money is needed to fix roads, build a sewage plant, a water well, and other infrastructure. The school district also needs help with its nearly $90 million in damage. Insurance will only cover $59 million.

"I need reassurance from the government that they're going to be here to help us," Muska said.

FEMA has given more than $7 million to individuals and small business owners through assistance grants and low-interest disaster loans, but by law the government cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance companies or other federal agencies.

"I'm just disappointed. I figured this was pretty much a no-brainer," Muska said. 

He says after meeting President Barack Obama at a memorial service in Waco, he had no doubt help would come.

"He said the town needs more towns like West," Muska claimed. "Unfortunately his words and actions are a little bit different. Instead of helping us, he's hindering us."

They have 30 days to reapply. Muska says that's exactly what they'll do.

West's superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford believes this is a temporary disappointment and the funding will come. In the meantime, students will rely on temporary facilities.

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