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    Chapel Hill Town Council to vote on MLK development that could threaten mobile home park – The Daily Tar Heel - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    The Tar Heel Mobile Home Park is, to Jennifer Monter, her forever home.

    Monter, a food service worker at one of the Universitys dining halls, was born and raised in the mobile home park, which sits on a 14-acre lot behind a non-operational Marathon Service Station on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. She lives in one of the communitys 73 homes, which is also home to several of her family members.

    The propertys owner, Stackhouse Properties, plans to redevelop the gas station and build a self-storage unit on the property, which requires the relocation of several mobile homes.

    As of Tuesday, the Chapel Hill Town Council is set to vote on the projects rezoning proposal on March 10. Council members differ on whether theyll approve the project. But they agree the project doesnt align with the Towns land use goals.

    They also share the concern for the long-term security of the residents, as the developer has voiced its intention to sell the property and potentially displace the residents if the project is not approved.

    The people are my superseding concern, council member Allen Buansi said.

    Buansi said hell vote to approve the project, just as he did at the Feb. 24 meeting, where a split vote delayed the final reading until the upcoming meeting. The project entails a covenant that requires Stackhouse to preserve the mobile home park for the next 15 years, among other things.

    Other council members, like Hongbin Gu, worry approving the project will set a precedent for developers to manipulate the council and jeopardize the housing of residents of other communities, as well.

    This is the playbook to bully the Town Council into agreeing to whatever they want, Gu said.

    Stackhouse Properties did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the Daily Tar Heel by the time of publication.

    'Overall distaste' for the project

    In December 2020, Monter received a letter from Stackhouse about the project and an upcoming community meeting. The letter stated if the rezoning proposal wasnt approved, the park would be closed and the property redeveloped. In this case, residents would have until the end of August to remove their homes and search for another place to live.

    For us to be bombarded by these people, with their plan for having a storage unit and having people relocated, is just not appropriate, Monter said.

    Monter said though the residents are largely opposed to the project, theyve accepted that the project has to happen because they arent willing to give up their homes, their access to the school district or the tight-knit community.

    Eliazar Posada, the acting president and chief executive officer of El Centro Hispano, said the Tar Heel Mobile Home Park community reached out to the organization seeking support. He said workers from El Centro Hispano spoke with dozens of families and, despite an overall distaste for the project, the community asserted they wanted the council to approve the project.

    The owner is holding our community members and the families who are living in that mobile home park hostage so that he can get his buildings past the council, Posada said.

    Since Stackhouse bought the property and proposed the project in 2018, a lack of trust has existed between the owner and the community. Melissa Ginsberg, who moved to the park three years ago, said the property owner before Stackhouse was more involved in the community than other landlords shed had experience with.

    Whatever issue we had, wed go to him and hed help us, Monter said of the old landlord.

    A musician who spent years on the road, Ginsberg wanted to settle into an affordable home with her daughter. The old landlord, who had known many families in the mobile home park for decades, convinced her it was a family-oriented community. After she moved in, the park came under the management of Stackhouse, who implemented rules and managed the property with a different approach than what many were accustomed to.

    Ginsberg, who had to move to a different lot because of the project, said she doesnt see a need for a storage unit, but hopes the project will lead to improvements in the community. Whether through safer roads in and around the park, better lighting and amenities such as a playground, she said the community can come together to have the landlord make those changes.

    Though she said relocating in the park was difficult, the landlord offered those affected by the storage facility various options for moving lots, and shes happy with how the process went. Ultimately, she said she trusts the landlord.

    I want to believe that because of the covenant, the landlord is locked in to making the changes that theyre committed to, she said.

    Protecting mobile home park communities

    If the council approves the project Wednesday, the covenant provides that the property will remain a mobile home park until 2036. But the council is aware the Town needs to take steps to protect other low-income and vulnerable communities from similar situations.

    We need to go about the work of developing a proactive actual strategy so that if this does happen again, were prepared with good housing options for folks that enable them to stay in town and to continue to be a part of the fabric of our community, Buansi said.

    Gu remains adamant about voting against the project, saying the council can take short- and long-term reactions to protect the residents, such as extending an eviction moratorium until the Town could downzone the park into a district meant specifically for manufactured housing. Downzoning is a sort of zoning change that reduces the intensity of a propertys land use.

    We need to carve out a place for those people who have very limited resources to be able to live here, she said. I think that is a tool thats completely within our regulatory authority.

    Buansi said the council hasnt discussed such zoning, but that it wouldnt be a permanent protection for residents in mobile home parks. In a Facebook post, council member Karen Stegman said due to Dillons rule the granting of power to municipalities by the state the Town wouldnt be able to extend the statewide eviction moratorium.

    At the request of residents the organization spoke with, El Centro Hispano will recommend the Town approves Stackhouses proposal, but Posada insisted much work remains to be done.

    Posada said the Town and Orange County havent done enough to protect mobile home parks. Moving forward, he said the municipalities need to work on identifying tools to ensure mobile home park residents arent used as pawns by developers seeking approval on their projects.

    The recommendation comes along with an expectation that the Town will really sit down and prioritize low-income communities and folks living in mobile home parks across the city, he said, because its the first nor will it be the last time that our communities in mobile home parks are left at the short end of the stick.


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    Chapel Hill Town Council to vote on MLK development that could threaten mobile home park - The Daily Tar Heel

    Millions of Students Got Free Home Internet for Remote Learning. How Long Will It Last? – Education Week - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    After COVID-19 forced the nations schools online, thousands of districts scrambled to partner with internet service providers to cover the cost of broadband for low-income students. The result was a patchwork of temporary agreements that connected millions of families, often via innovative public-private partnerships.

    Now, though, many of those deals face looming expiration dateswith no clear answers about whether long-term funding will be available.

    There is a very good chance were going to see some people getting cut off, said Evan Marwell, the founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway, a broadband advocacy group.

    Theres mutual interest in solidifying many of the sponsored service agreements currently in place, Marwell said. Typically, such deals involve an internet service provider (ISP) offering discounted wireline internet connections or mobile hotspots to low-income families, with the local school district picking up the tab. The agreements have allowed schools to reach students for whom online learning would otherwise have been impossible, and EducationSuperHighway estimates that broadband providers have connected 3 million new K-12 students in the past eight months, more than all the new customers they added in 2019.

    The problem, however, is money.

    Funding typically comes from a combination of local philanthropists, city and state government, and the federal CARES Act, passed to provide coronavirus relief last March. Many of the resulting programs were budgeted for somewhere between three months and the end of the 2020-21 school year. Its unclear how many of those agreements have already been cut off. What is certain is that ISPs wont give families bandwidth for free after the external money runs out.

    We have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders, said Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas, who noted that his company is currently part of hundreds of K-12 agreements. No single company can fix this with a flip of the switch.

    As a result, districts are scrambling to figure out what happens next.

    The same is true for states that have struck deals with ISPs, and for local communities that have forged their own solutions, such as municipal-owned broadband networks. All say outside help is needed.

    Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway

    The most likely savior is the federal government. A newly established Emergency Broadband Benefit provides the Federal Communications Commission with $3.2 billion to help pay for internet service for low-income households, which should make a big difference in the short term.

    But even before that emergency benefit was formalized, many broadband advocates were pushing for it to be made permanent. K-12 leaders, civil-rights groups, and a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general are also calling to expand the federal E-Rate program, which currently subsidizes the cost of telecommunications services at schools and libraries, but not in families homes.

    Until stable funding is in place, many families will be vulnerable to a familiar squeeze, said Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. High-speed home internet is now essential to everyday life, but ISPs have yet to find the business case for providing unsubsidized service to an estimated 7 to 12 million students who remain disconnected.

    This is a market failure, Siefer said. We need federal solutions, so we can come up with a long-term plan for all households.

    Following is a look at the status of three key types of agreements the K-12 sector has struck with ISPs.

    The gold standard for district-ISP agreements is the $50 million Chicago Connected initiative, which the city school system described in December as the foundation for a permanent publicly supported system of free-high-speed internet for families living in poverty. So far, Connected Chicago has covered the costs of high-speed internet service from Comcast and RCN Corporation for more than 58,000 students.

    Three things stand out about the deal.

    First, it extends for four years, far longer than most comparable agreements.

    Connected Chicago also includes funding for a robust outreach effort, with the citys community-based organizations already contacting eligible families more than 220,000 times to answer questions, help with sign-up, and offer other services such as housing and food. Digital literacy initiatives will soon be added.

    Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago

    In addition, local philanthropistsincluding hedge-fund titan Ken Griffin, who contributed $7.5 million, and Barack and Michelle Obama, who joined the John T. and Catharine D. MacArthur Foundation in pledging $750,000have covered the costs of the programs first two years.

    Its a success story on the power of public-private partnerships, said Daniel Anello, the CEO of Kids First Chicago, a nonprofit parent-advocacy group that helped spur the effort with an April 2020 report that found roughly 1 in 5 Chicago children lacked home broadband access.

    Still, there are concerns.

    Kids First Chicago and others spent months pushing Comcast to improve its Internet Essentials offering, which typically charged $9.95 per month for 25 megabit-per-second download and 3mbps upload speeds. That service was not fast enough to support multiple videoconferencing sessions at once, many families found.

    The cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools are also on the hook for $25 million to cover the costs of the program in its third and fourth years.

    And most importantly, hundreds of other communities in smaller markets lack the bargaining power, deep-pocketed civic elites, and industry competition present in Chicago.

    In Worcester, Mass., for example, the city and school district spent months begging for help from Charter Communicationsthe only internet service provider available to almost all local households, 18 percent of whom are stuck with no internet access at all, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau found. The low point came last July, when the mayor, city manager, and school superintendent made public a letter theyd sent to the giant telecom.

    Our students should not be penalized for having the misfortune of living in a city served by your company, they wrote.

    In December, an agreement was finally struckfor service that costs $29.99 per month, in a deal that can apparently be terminated by the company with 60 days notice. (I would like to thank City Manager Augusts and Mayor Petty for their cooperation and collaborative efforts, a Charter spokeswoman said in a January statement.)

    Siefer of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance said such struggles highlight the need for new thinking on how to get reliable high-speed internet to Americas hardest-to-reach families.

    The ISPs have been in charge for decades, she said. What were seeing right now is a recognition that has not been successful.

    Some states agencies have tried to help.

    In Washington, for example, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has so far covered the cost of discounted internet service for 32,000 families in 209 separate school systems across the state. The price tag to date: $4.5 million, all of which has come via the federal CARES Act.

    OSPI has sent about 10 percent of that money directly to Comcast, Presidio, and Ziply Fiber, according to Dennis Small, the states educational technology director. The rest has gone to reimburse school districts across Washington that are paying those ISPs for service for low-income students.

    Small believes the pandemic has cast a harsh spotlight on long-festering digital inequities that wont easily be erased.

    We definitely see this as a long-term need, he said.

    The same is true in North Dakota, where the states Department of Public Instruction put up $500,000 in CARES Act funds and worked along with state information-technology officials and numerous ISPs to ensure home connectivity for mostly rural students.

    Dennis Small, Director of Educational Technology, Washington state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction

    Both states agreements expire at the end of this school year. Neither has long-term funding in place.

    A new round of federal coronavirus-relief funds approved by Congress and former President Donald Trump in December could help. So could the FCCs Emergency Broadband Benefit, which covers up to $50 per month of broadband service for eligible families (and more for those living on tribal lands.)

    It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries, said acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement after the program was adopted last month.

    But for now, at least, the emergency benefit will last only until the existing money runs out, or until six months after the federal government declares the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever comes first.

    It amounts to buying more time, said Marwell of EducationSuperHighway.

    Well make it through the end of this school year, and theres a decent chance we make it to the end of next school year, he said. But if we wait until then to deal with the underlying problem, were going to have issues.

    Hanging on the wall of Michelle Bourgeois office in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is a board with four questions:

    Is it supportable? Is it sustainable? Is it scalable? Is it good for kids?

    She believes the expanding broadband partnership between her school district and the City of Longmont, Colo., checks all four boxes.

    Were not just building a short-term solution with CARES Act funding, said Bourgeois, the chief technology officer for Colorados 33,000-student St. Vrain Valley Schools, north of Boulder. Im super excited.

    The main source of such optimism is Longmont Power & Communications, a nonprofit electric and internet-services utility that operates one of the countrys 330 or so municipally-owned broadband networks. NextLight, as the utilitys broadband service is known, offers some of the fastest internet speeds in the nation. The all-fiber network was built with $43 million in bond money, approved by voters in a 2011 ballot measure after a years-long fight to repeal Colorados industry-backed state law that excludes local governments from building or owning broadband infrastructure.

    Michelle Bourgeois, Chief Technology Officer, St. Vrain Valley School District

    Roughly two-thirds of Longmont internet customers now choose NextLight over commercial providers such as Comcast and CenturyLink.

    Even before COVID-19, Longmont Power & Communications was providing the service for free to several dozen Longmont families in need. After the pandemic hit, the utility added a discounted option that now offers 100mbps speeds for $14.95 per month. Both programs are open-ended, with no set expiration date.

    Now, Longmont Power & Communications and the St. Vrain Valley Schools plan to go further. In February, they received a $1.3 million state grant to build a mesh network that officials hope will eventually provide free wireless service to as many as 6,200 St. Vrain Valley students, many of whom are either homeless (and thus cant make use of wireline connections to a specific building) or live in apartment complexes or mobile-home communities where owners or managers refuse to bring NextLight fiber on to their premises.

    Other communities are undertaking similar experiments.

    In Pittsburgh, Pa., for example, a nonprofit called Meta Mesh Wireless Communities is working with local universities on a pilot program called Every1online. The group recently installed a wireless super node on top of the 535-foot tall Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburghs campus; repeater nodes to amplify its signal atop water and radio towers in surrounding communities; and small receivers on the outsides of roughly 450 homes served by three area school districts.

    The project is one way to begin to see Internet access as a human right, said Meta Mesh Wireless Communities Executive Director Adam Longwill in a November press release.

    Such strategies are unlikely to supplant the private, for-profit internet service providers currently dominating the market. Even in the areas served by the St. Vrain Valley School District, NextLight doesnt reach everyone; a local education foundation has covered the cost of Comcast Internet Essentials for about 70 area households, and the district obtained nearly 1,000 mobile hotspots, many from wireless carrier T-Mobile. Those efforts were recently extended for another six months.

    Still, many advocates view public and nonprofit internet service providers as offering an additional layer of connectivity for vulnerable families that COVID-19 has proven America desperately needs.

    Its important that everybody have equal and fair access to high-speed internet, said Valerie Dodd, the director of Longmont Power & Communications. Something has to change.

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    Millions of Students Got Free Home Internet for Remote Learning. How Long Will It Last? - Education Week

    The record-setting Texas freeze has come and gone. But the struggle remains for many in Austin – Austin American-Statesman - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Paulina Pineda|Austin American-Statesman

    See lines at Austin water distribution sites after Texas winter storm

    Austin opened 10 water distribution sites after a Texas winter storm caused widespread water outages. Here's what one looked like from above.

    Alyssa Vidales and Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman

    A few quarts of water simmered in a saucepan on Irene Carrillos electric stove on a recentafternoon as she prepared to take a bath.

    Boiling water was part of her new normal. She drove 20 miles a day to a friends house in Austin to fill 12 empty jugs with water from a hose and thenlugthem back to her home in Kyle. She boiled the water before using it to cook, clean and bathe.

    Carrillo and her family woke up to a flooded kitchen on Valentines Day. The pipes beneath her mobile home hadburst, as the winter storms blanketed Texas with snow and knocked out power to millions.

    Weeks later, she wasstill without water, waitingfor contractors to replace her plumbing. She wasn't sure when work would start.

    I recognize its not just me, its not just my block its the whole state, she said. But we cant live in these conditions.

    More: Texans are finding out home warranties might not fix what broke during storms. What to know

    As much of Austin moves on from the freeze, many residents still are dealing with the fallout of the winter event. Some people, like Carrillo, have gone weeks without running water. Some face hefty repair costs. And for many of them, the situation is worsened due to thefinancial squeeze of going without work for a week.

    More than 1,100 residents in Travis County have reported some type of storm damage to their homes to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which set up an online survey to better assess damage across the state, according to the agency.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved nearly $36 million in assistance to about 11,400 Texans statewide as of March 1, FEMA spokesperson Alberto Pillot said. FEMA was not able to provide a breakdown of claims by county.

    The Austin Disaster Relief Network, a group of 200 churches in the greater Austin area that is helping storm victims with financial and other relief, estimates 3,000 to 5,000 homes have busted pipes or other damage based on the number of calls for assistance the organization has received. About 500 people have put in a request for help with cleanup, debris removal or plumbing repairs, and the networkcontinues providing water to dozens of families without running water.

    Aid groups say theres great need for assistance in the community but because the devastation isnt as visible as that of a hurricane or flooding many might be suffering silently.

    You dont really see it, but that doesnt mean its not there, said Daniel Geraci, executive director of the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

    On Feb. 27, Carrillos kitchen floor was still soggy and caving from the flooding.

    Water seeped into the pantry, her bedroom and the closet. She had to pull out the carpet in her room, and parts of the walls were damaged, too.

    Carrillo lives with her two teenage sons, adult daughter, son-in-lawand 4-year-old granddaughter. Theymelted snow to keep the toilets running the first few days.

    As the snow melted, a friend who lives in Austin offered to let her fill up water jugs at her house and helped connect her with a local group that provided the family with bottled water and food.

    Carrillo filed a claim with her homeowners insurance.The claim for plumbing repairs was approved, but work is backlogged with few workers and materials available, she said. She has to pay a $200 deductible but expects insurance will cover the rest.

    She wasnt given a timeline of when work will start or be completed, but she hopes its soon.

    Its unclear how many people like Carrillo remain without water across the region.

    Was your home damaged?How to avoid scams in search for repair contractors

    'A basic human necessity': Countless Austinites still without water weeks after winter storm

    Officials with Austin Water and utilities in neighboring communities said theyve restored water service to customers but burst pipes or other damage could cause prolonged outages.

    Austin Water set up 12 stations at apartment complexes without running water across the city. The city had identified about 60 apartments and condos without water as of Feb. 27, Austin Water spokesperson Scott Sticker said.

    The number of single-family homes with plumbing issues is harder to estimate, the utility said. It currently doesn't have a way of tracking whether water is being used at a specific meter.

    Austin Water is connecting customers with plumbing damage to nonprofit groups that can assist with repairs.

    The utility partnered with the Austin Housing and Planning Department to help low-income and vulnerable customers with repairs through the citys emergency home repair program. Austin Water pledged $1 million to the program, and a total of $1.1 million is available to help residents.

    Eligible homeowners can apply for up to $10,000 to fix damage caused by the storm, including wall or floor removal, water, sewer or gas line repair, plumbing repairs and mold remediation. City staffwill review the applications and connect residents with one of seven nonprofits the city has partnered with to carry out repairs.

    About 110 people have applied for assistance in the first three days since the program launched Wednesday, department spokesperson Jorge Ortega said.

    Work is already underway in many homes.

    The citys Development Services Department issued 39 permits as of Feb. 26 for storm-related repairs. The bulk 21 of them were related to plumbing repairs, nine mechanical permits were issued for heating and air conditioning repairs, and nine electrical permits were issued, spokesperson Robbie Searcy said.

    The number of residents doing work probably is higher. Some smaller repairs dont require permits, and the Austin City Council voted Feb. 25 to waive certain permit requirements to repair leaky pipes. Residents can also begin emergency repair work without first obtaining a permit, though they are required to get a permit retroactively.

    TheAustin Disaster Relief Network is working with Plumbers Without Borders to repair pipes and with other groups to provide financial assistance to help residents cover repairs and utility bills.

    The network mobilized volunteers to help with cleanup and debris removal to allow crews to more easily access the damage.About 1,000 volunteers headed out to 100 homes in one weekend.

    One of those homes was Marilyn Laverdures.

    Not long after the power and heat went out in her South Austin home, Laverdure and her granddaughter heard a loud gushing sound.

    Water started coming through the vents in our downstairs ceiling like Niagara Falls, she said.

    Rooms throughout the house flooded, soaking the carpet. The water damaged the ceiling andinsulation in the attic.

    Laverdure, 83, and her 38-year-old granddaughter were without power for four days and without water for seven days.

    They drove to several stores in search of water, but they were all out. Then they saw a vending machine outside a local Sams Club that had bottled water, got a stack of quarters and bought about eight bottles. Their teenage neighbor brought them a pack of water.

    More: These are the bills the Texas House is prioritizing to target ERCOT and better prepare for future storms

    You dont know how much you miss water until its not there, Laverdure said.

    Running water has since returned, but she doesnt have hot water. Shes unsure if the plumbing issues damaged the heater or if theres another problem.She called her insurance company to file a claim but hasnt heard back. A local broker told her to go ahead and start repair work before mold startedgrowing.

    Laverdure saw a phone number flash across her screen encouraging people to call if they needed help with cleanup. It was the Austin Disaster Relief Networks.

    A group of about 12 volunteers showed up at her house Feb. 27, tore out the soggy carpet and cleaned up the home in about three hours.

    I called never expecting anything from it, she said. They came, and they were sent from heaven as far as Im concerned."

    Contractors came tocut out drywall from the ceiling and remove the baseboards. Fans are needed to dry out the wet walls, which could take up to five days, before repairs can start.

    As repair work starts, theres a sense of relief for some families whose lives have been upended by the storm.

    But now a new worry settles in how much will the storm cost them?

    Laverdure hasnt heard back from her insurance company, so shes not sure if her claim will be accepted. She hopes the company will pay for the bulk of repairs, but that still leaves her with a $2,500 deductible shes not sure how shell pay.

    I dont know how, but well have to manage something, she said, adding that shes on a fixed income.

    Dara Mariles wonders whether shell be on the hook for the water that came pouring through her wall after a pipe burst. Shes heard that people have been billed thousands of dollars after plumbing issues.

    Im nervous about what my bills are going to look like, she said. I dont know how many gallons of water came through the wall before I finally noticed and jumped out of bed.

    Mariles, who lives in Great Hills in Northwest Austin, woke up about 2 a.m. Feb. 16 to a strange noise. It was water gushing through the wall of her bedroom closet.

    Two inches of water flooded the first floor of her house by the time she shut off the valve outside, she said.

    She used a broom to sweep water out into the yardand the next morning put out a call on social media, asking her friends to help her call plumbers.

    The first two companies couldn't make it up the hill to her home with the roads still icy and slick, she said. A third company made it about two days after the pipes burst toassess the damage.

    More: Strangers who became heroes: How Austinites helped each other weather the storm

    She melted snow for toilet water and had some bottled water to drink. A neighbor who was staying with relatives let her take a few gallons from their garage.

    Remediation crews on Feb. 22 pulled out soaking carpet that smelled of mold after sitting in water for days, removed wood flooring, and cut out baseboards and about 2 inches of drywall throughout the first floor. Mariles moved all her belongings into the garage.

    Crews set up several large fans so repairs could start once the house is dry, she said.

    Mariles, her 14-year-old son and their two dogs are staying at a nearby AirBnb that she rented for two weeks. Construction was expected to take about a month, she said.

    She filed a claim with her homeowners insurance that will cover the repairs after a $5,000 deductible. She doesnt have an estimate of how much the damage and remediation will cost but she says shes put about $50,000 worth of work into her home since she moved in five years ago, much of which was destroyed.

    Shes not sure if the insurance company will give her a hard time toreplace her upgraded floor or carpets.That could be an unexpected out-of-pocket expense she's not prepared to pay for.

    Homeowners with storm damage are encouraged to report damage and broken pipes to the state and federal government so that officials can better assess needs in the community.

    People can report damage to the Texas Division of Emergency Management online or by calling 844-844-3089.

    Residents can also apply for assistance through nonprofits, the city or FEMA.

    Reachreporter Paulina Pineda at or480-389-9637. Follow her on Twitter:@paulinapineda22.

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    The record-setting Texas freeze has come and gone. But the struggle remains for many in Austin - Austin American-Statesman

    Open Source: What’s the latest on Butler’s new wastewater treatment plant? – Richland Source - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written after Richland Source received an inquiry about the Butler Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant through our Open Source forum. Do you have a question you want our reporters to answer? Submit it here.

    BUTLER -- The Butler Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearing completion and will be operational in a matter of weeks.

    Cody Gerhardt, project manager with K.E. McCartney and Associates, said construction of the new plant is essentially finished and the pipelines are in place. Brand new pump stations have been installed at the sites of the Butler and Bellville village plants, which will be decommissioned once the new plant is online.

    All that remains is final testing and tying in the lines to the new system. The firm is currently in the "start-up" process, which involves testing each component individually before turning on the entire system.

    Gerhardt said start-up is nearly complete at the Butler pump station and scheduled to begin next week at the Bellville pump station. Start-up at the regional plant will begin the week of March 15.

    If everything goes according to plan, the plant will start serving the Clear Fork Valley by the beginning of April.

    The new facility will replace four antiquated plants with one new, high-tech operation, said Brian McCartney, president and co-owner of K.E. McCartney and Associates.

    The regional plant will serve the villages of Bellville and Butler, the Clear Fork Valley Mobile Home Park and the Clear Fork Middle and High School campus. The Blue Lagoon Campground is set up to be connected to the new plant at a later date.

    The new plant is designed to be highly efficient, processing approximately 550,000 gallons of wastewater per day in a facility measuring about 150 by 75 feet.

    The biggest winner in this whole thing is the residents, particularly entities that can have treatment at affordable costs," McCartney said. Being able to build one plant and combine the resources from those two communities, along with all the funding we were able to get, made it affordable for everyone."

    The Butler plant is one of the first regional wastewater treatment plants in the state, but McCartney and representatives from the Ohio EPA have indicated that the Valley is a leader in what will likely become a common practice.

    "When we went down to meet with (the Ohio EPA) and they said 'We've been looking for a project to kind of kick off doing this,' " said Matt Witter, water and wastewater utility services manager for K.E. McCartney. "It was just perfect timing."

    McCartney had been encouraging local leaders to consider regionalization for more than a decade. When Butler decided to replace its local plant, things fell together quickly.Funding came through from the Ohio EPA and leaders from both villages came to an agreement in just two months.

    The project cost approximately $13.3 million total, but Butler received $4 million in principal forgiveness from the Ohio EPA's Water Pollution Control Fund. Butler also received a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission, a $750,000 community development block grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency and a 30-year zero interest note from the Ohio EPA to fund the project.

    McCartney said cooperation from local leaders was crucial, including Butler Mayor Joe Stallard, Bellville Mayor TeriBrenkus and both village councils.

    In addition to more cost-effective operations, the new plant will bring an end to the stench that lingered near Bellville Elementary School when the old system became overwhelmed. It will also address inadequacies in the villages' current wastewater treatment systems, which allow pollutants to flow into the Clear Fork River.

    "The plant will do much better at removing nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the things that are being dumped into Lake Erie that are causing algae blooms," Witter said.

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    Open Source: What's the latest on Butler's new wastewater treatment plant? - Richland Source

    New Initiative Will Drive Investments To Black, Indigenous, And Communities Of Color In The Greater Seattle Region – PRNewswire - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    SEATTLE, March 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A coalition of funders is announcing a new, pooled fund that will drive investments to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-led and -rooted organizations, coalitions, and movements as a pathway for inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund for Inclusive Recovery aims to raise $50 million over the next five years.

    Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the launch of the COVID-19 Response Fund, which deployed more than $30 million to communities and organizations disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the creation of the Fund for Inclusive Recovery aims to bring the region together to address the widening inequities placed on BIPOC community members. The COVID-19 Response Fund galvanized thousands of donors and supported 375 grantees working across critical issues such as emergency financial assistance, childcare, mental health, food assistance, and more. The widening inequities in Greater Seattle threaten the region's overall growth. By investing in the most vulnerable communities, the Fund will foster shared prosperity and inclusive recovery that benefits everyone.

    "It's clear that COVID-19 and the economic slowdown have disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and immigrant people across King County and the Puget Sound, and the experience of the past year only exacerbated the inequities that have faced these communities for decades," said Tableau President and CEO Adam Selipsky. "Seattle has been Tableau's home for the past 17 years. We're proud to be a part of the Fund for Inclusive Recovery and help chart a more inclusive course for the region's post-pandemic future." Tableau, through Tableau Foundation, has made a five-year commitment totaling more than $1 million to the Fund.

    "This is a defining moment for our region, and for philanthropy, which has both a responsibility and an opportunity to do things differently. The inequity in our community has been laid bare for all of us to see and we must rebuild with equity as our guiding principle," said Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, an early supporter of the Fund. "For too long, those who have been the least well served by our systems of care from schools to housing, healthcare, justice, and beyond have been denied the power to change them. We must ensure the voices of those most impacted by COVID and by racial injustice are guiding the work that we do to ensure we are the inclusive, resilient, and broadly prosperous community we can be."

    The Fund is being led by a Community Advisory Group, consisting of a diverse cross-section group of leaders from communities most impacted, reflecting a range of perspectives and strategic expertise from across the region. This group will provide strategic guidance into program priorities and processes, as well as the Fund's approach to impact assessment and accountability measures, ensuring that the Fund invests critical philanthropic dollars in the best way possible to reach our goal of a more equitable region.

    The Fund for Inclusive Recovery is also rooted in research conducted in partnership with The Bridgespan Group, who worked closely with the COVID-19 Response Fund Community Advisory Group to prioritize areas for short-term investment and long-term, systemic change. The striking and intensifying racial disparities in health, well-being, and economic security are all underscored in the report and in data collected by outside entities.

    The US Census Bureau reported that, by late October of 2020, Black and Hispanic households in Washington State had much less confidence than white households that they could afford rent. King County's own data revealed that COVID-19-related deaths, hospitalizations, and cases have been significantly higher in many BIPOC communities than among white people. To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC communities in King County, we invite you to read the research we recently released in partnership with The Bridgespan Group linked here.

    Housed at Seattle Foundation, the Fund for Inclusive Recovery brings together cross-sectorpartners to collectively tackle challenges and create meaningful impact in the Greater Seattle region. Early contributors include the following (alphabetical order): Norm and Lisa Bontje, The Butler Community Foundation, Deloitte LLP, Delta Dental of Washington, DOWL, Orion and Jackie Hindawi, The Raikes Foundation, The Seattle Mariners, Tableau Foundation, and Umpqua Bank, with $7.7 million and counting raised so far.

    To learn more about the Fund for Inclusive Recovery, visit


    Several individual philanthropists have also made significant early gifts to the Fund. These include Tanium CEO Orion Hindawi and his wife, Jackie, who recently relocated to Seattle from the Bay Area. "As we settle into our new home, our family is extremely grateful for the opportunity to coordinate with Seattle Foundation to make a quick investment during this critical time," stated Hindawi. "We are hopeful that the Fund's focus on impact-ready investments to those most affected by the pandemic will drive both short-term and systemic change in the Seattle community."

    "Resources can be transformational for our communities, if we can ensure that we're leading it, and we're guiding how it's done," said Sili Savusa, Executive Director of the White Center Community Development Association and Community Advisory Group member. "We need funding that's bold, guided by the wisdom of leadership of BIPOC communities that we know is already in place. The Fund for Inclusive Recovery is our chance to show what impact can look like if we do this work together."

    "The COVID-19 pandemic made our region's disparities impossible to ignore. This is a critical moment for our community, and it's important we continue coming together to support those closest to the solutions. Inclusive recovery will require us all to reimagine a different future for Seattle, one that centers on those most impacted by the effects of COVID-19," said Tony Mestres, President & CEO of Seattle Foundation.


    Seattle Foundation ignites powerful, rewarding philanthropy to make Greater Seattle a stronger, more vibrant community for all. As a community foundation, it works to advance equity, shared prosperity, and belonging throughout the region while strengthening the impact of the philanthropists it serves. Founded in 1946 and with more than $1.1 billion in assets, the Foundation pursues its mission with a combination of deep community insight, civic leadership, philanthropic advising, and judicious financial stewardship. Read more at


    For media inquiries, please reach out to Malia Mackey at [emailprotected] or 206.734.0053 (mobile).

    SOURCE Seattle Foundation

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    New Initiative Will Drive Investments To Black, Indigenous, And Communities Of Color In The Greater Seattle Region - PRNewswire

    County tears down mobile home in Maxton as the result of nuisance abatement case ruling – The Robesonian - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    A mobile home on Jefferson Road in Maxton is demolished Wednesday after its owner failed to comply with a court order to move or demolish the structure as the result of a nuisance abatement case involving the Robeson County Sheriffs Office and North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcements Nuisance Abatement Team.

    Courtesy photo | Sheriff Burnis Wilkins

    MAXTON Crews were out Wednesday morning demolishing a property on Jefferson Road that was known for its long history of criminal activity after a county nuisance abatement case ruling was issued.

    The mobile home situated on property at 136 and 178 Jefferson Road had a history of fights, drug violations, and was the subject of calls to the Robeson County Sheriffs Office. Robeson County Superior Court Judge Gregory Bell entered a consent judgment against the home on Nov. 16, stating it was to be demolished by Feb. 1 or moved at least 10 miles away from the current location.

    Owner Wallace Locklear did not comply with the order, leaving it up to county officials to demolish the home on Wednesday, Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said.

    Prior to this lawsuit, the property was known for continuous drug activity, disturbances, fights and shootings. The Robeson County Sheriffs Office worked jointly with the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcements Nuisance Abatement Team to bring peace back to this community, Wilkins said in a Facebook post.

    The demolition of this property demonstrates to the community that violence and illegal drug activity will not be tolerated, he wrote.

    On April 8, three people were arrested in connection to an April 7 shooting at the home that left one man hospitalized. Among charges issued were possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and assault by pointing a gun at a law enforcement officer.

    The case is one of many crimes connected to the home, according to county officials.

    Robeson County doesnt just decide to tear houses down because of criminal activity, County Attorney Rob Davis said. The intent to do so is motivated by factors like criminal history at the site, and the complaints and fears of community members.

    For example, one community member said she was afraid to let her child play in the yard because of activity at the Jefferson Road home, he said.

    These are the houses with the ones that are repeat offenders, Davis said.

    The county often contacts the landowner first to get nuisance issues under control before taking the drastic step of demolishing a home, he said. If things dont change, then more steps are taken.

    When you start talking about tearing somebodys house down, you get their attention, said Gary Locklear, a county attorney.

    Locklear said he has no knowledge of a home being torn down in an abatement case because of crimes in the past three years he has served as a county attorney.

    In 2020, the county was involved in three nuisance abatement cases and four public health abatement cases to prevent mass gatherings at public establishments in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Davis said.

    And it isnt finished with nuisance cases yet. Three other cases are in motion, with two landowners agreeing to cease nuisances at their homes, he said.

    In similar cases, not every landowner is responsible for nuisance issues at a property, he said. In some cases tenants renting the property might be the culprits.

    The county attorney hopes the Jefferson Road case sends a message to others that if they engage in similar activities, they are taking a risk.

    Sheriff Wilkins also said more action is to come in nuisance abatement cases.

    When elected I spoke of ridding our communities of crime and grime. This is an example of that occurring as this area of the county has endured criminal activity for far too long, Wilkins said.

    Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [emailprotected]

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    County tears down mobile home in Maxton as the result of nuisance abatement case ruling - The Robesonian

    Big Trucks and Bad Fires | News-Examiner | – The Herald Journal - February 11, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    If you are searching for a way to give back, like lots of water and enjoy driving big trucks, this could be your gig! Bear Lake Countys Fire Chief Mark Parker is always looking for new recruits. Both Bear Lake and Rich county and the communities in each echo those sentiments: Bring your enthusiasm and a strong work ethic to your local fire chief to ask about joining the department.

    Between February 1 and 7th, Bear Lake Countys and Montpelier Citys fire departments combined to learn and polish skills at the former Montpelier City Hall building. Montpeliers Fire Chief, Steve Higgins, obtained permission from the buildings current owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to use the structure for training then invited the countys personnel to join the hands-on training. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to train using an existing structure of that quality, said Chief Parker.

    In full turn-out gear which weighs approximately 80 pounds, the 30 to 35 firefighters practiced forcing entry by opening walls and locked doors. The expected solution to locks is to break through using axes to make holes but in this situation, Nick Higgins, a fire captain from Montpelier City, advised trainees to pop latches or remove hinges to gain entry, then close the door to delay a fires advance. Steel doors were also breached using similar techniques and access through overhead doors was demonstrated. Hand-held thermal-imaging cameras were employed to search for victims. Additional training at the old city building will focus on placing and advancing ladders, hose relays and pulls and other subjects that are otherwise needed at two in the morning in the dark, so it is nice to be able to do this in a controlled environment, said Chief Parker. These are skills we dont often get to practice, he added. He is requesting the County Commissioners to likewise allow county and city firefighters to use the old courthouse for training purposes before it is demolished, tentatively slated to occur in February.

    Chief Parker recalled the Ovid fire two weeks ago where the fire department was called out around midnight when it was reported that a haystack was burning. When engines arrived with the usual group of 18 to 25 people per call, they found a fire that began in the wellhouse behind the haystack where a heater and pump malfunctioned then spread to a 100 to 150 gallon propane tank as well. Often, the initial report turns into a more complicated scenario with property and, sometimes, lives are in danger. Training in the soon-to-be-razed city structure is an invaluable tool for both those who have been firefighters for decades and for new recruits.

    When asked about the August 2020 fire at the Sweetwater Mobile Home Park, Chief Parker responded that, They were lucky and should buy lottery tickets! He explained that Garden Citys and Laketowns firefighters were becoming overwhelmed and it was important that the working relationship among the fire departments and districts is good so each can help others whenever needed. In that instance, access was difficult on narrow dirt roads and many homes lacked visible addresses. Water was running low and, fortunately, the Idaho trucks carried their own water which was both exactly timed and extremely necessary. In addition to multiple structures burning, there were propane tanks exploding. Chief Parker warmly complimented Garden City Fire Districts Chief Wallberg who has a fantastic department and an excellent rapport with Bear Lake. Parker added that the former interlocal law enforcement compact was helpful and The state line means nothing in emergencies because we have lives to protect on both sides of the line. We do the same things so we need to get back to an agreement to work together. He is grateful for Bear Lakes strong volunteer corps and the equipment which allows the department to respond to emergencies of many types. He encouraged citizens to both join a fire department and to report fires in their vicinity because, Well respond and take care of it.

    Even if you are not fire fighter material, do your part to help your local heroes and heroines. Chief Parker asked all residents to be sure house numbers are easily visible and that fires are reported ASAP. Finally, he issued a reminder that before striking a match for an outdoor fire, first call for a burn permit.

    Contact Mark Parker, Bear Lake County Fire Chief, at 208.317.6292 or Garden City Fire District Chief Wallberg at 435.881.6313 for more information and to discuss becoming a fire fighter in your community.

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    Big Trucks and Bad Fires | News-Examiner | - The Herald Journal


    Prestigious honor long recognized as broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, also administered by Columbia University

    NEW YORK, NY (February 9, 2021) NBC 4 New York / WNBC was honored with the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for The Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic, an extensive, six month collection of breaking news, feature, and memorial stories that captured the rapid evolution of the novel coronavirus from public health threat to full-blown health crisis in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.Awarded this evening, this is the first time WNBC received the top broadcast news honor in its storied history.

    Covering the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak was one of the toughest challenges our newsroom had ever faced. As our journalists came to work every day, they were personally coping with the effects of the virus on their families as well, said Amy Morris, NBC 4 New York Vice President of News. Every member of our news team played a critical role. Our mission was to inform our viewers and along the way were also able to find some moments to share incredible stories of hope. Its a story that continues to touch all of us deeply, which makes this duPont incredibly special to all of us at WNBC.

    The awards committee specifically recognized the station for having created a 360 view in real time of the coronavirus pandemic, with courageous and thorough reporting on the viruss explosion in New York City.4pm and 11 pm news anchor David Ushery, a member of the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame, accepted the prestigious Silver Baton on behalf of the station.

    Throughout the pandemic, WNBC viewers turned to local news in record numbers. Our news team was there throughout it all, delivering vital and at times, life-saving information, said Eric Lerner, President and General Manager. This special recognition by Columbia University is fantastic. Our team earned it and deserves it.

    NBC 4 New Yorks duPont-winning coverage took Tri-State viewers inside the major decisions that impacted our day-to-day lives, from school shutdowns, neighborhood lockdowns and restrictions on many small businesses, such as bars and restaurants. Investigative reporting brought to light the lack of PPE available for first responders and front-line workers, black-market attempts to profit amid the shortage and the burial delays faced by morgues and funeral homes. Community-focused features such as Grateful 4 You highlighted the unsung heroes in our communities, giving viewers hope during a difficult time.

    Groundbreaking reporting also placed a spotlight on important trends and emerging concerns within the community, even ahead of the attention and action of health officials. NBC 4 New Yorks I-Team was the first to bring the rare, deadly condition in children called MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) into the public eye, prior to the attention of health regulators and subsequently leading to government action.

    This is the second major national honor awarded to NBC 4 New Yorks news team in the past four months. In October, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) honored WNBC with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for top large market television newscast.

    For more information on NBC 4 New York, visit

    About NBC 4 New York / WNBCNBC 4 New York / WNBC is the flagship station of the NBC Owned Television Stations division of NBCUniversal, serving the New York Tri-State area with an unparalleled commitment to broadcast excellence for more than 75 years.

    The station features New Yorks largest investigative reporting team, the I-Team and includes Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Award-winning journalists who successfully track down the answers to the questions most important to viewers. Storm Team 4, the stations trusted weather team, utilizes the most accurate and the most powerful weather technology available to keep Tri-State viewers informed and safe when severe weather strikes. This includes StormTracker 4, the only commercial high-frequency S-Band dual polarization fixed Doppler weather radar operating in the Northeast.

    In addition to NBC 4 New Yorks primary channel, other programming outlets include COZI TV, the stations multicast channel, and out-of-home platforms, including TV screens in taxi cabs, elevators and aboard New York-New Jersey PATH trains. The station also delivers news and information across all platforms, including its dedicated website, mobile app and social media platforms.


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    Wreaths Across America Announces Start of the Mobile Education Exhibit’s 2021 National Tour Homeland Security Today – HSToday - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Wreaths Across America (WAA) is proud to announce the start of the 2021 national tour for its Mobile Education Exhibit (MEE). The MEE will hit the road this month in Maine and head Southwest towards Texas for both private and public scheduled events.

    The goal of the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit is to bring community together and teach patriotism while remembering the service and sacrifice of our nations heroes, said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America. However, over the last year, in light of the current health crisis, we feel this exhibit has taken on even more meaning by providing the opportunity for people to safely participate in something that is both educational and inspiring, while supporting and giving back to the communities it visits.

    The MEE achieves this goal by bringing the local community, veterans, active-duty military and their families together through interactive exhibits, short films, and shared stories. The exhibit serves as a mobile museum, educating visitors about the service and sacrifice of our nations heroes as well as to serve as an official welcome home station for our nations Vietnam Veterans.

    When the MEE pulls into your area, all veterans, active-duty military, their families, and the local community members are invited and encouraged to visit, take a tour and speak with WAA representatives and volunteers. They can also share more about the national nonprofit, and the work its volunteers do to support our heroes and their communities year-round.

    To host the MEE in your community, whether it be for a parade, a school-related or veterans organization, or a public or private event, visit make a request.

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    Wreaths Across America Announces Start of the Mobile Education Exhibit's 2021 National Tour Homeland Security Today - HSToday

    Construction Workforce and Home Manufacturing on the Horizon – Leech Lake News - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Development Division (LLTDD) is asking for feedback as part of its feasibility study for a vertically-integrated construction workforce program. We are seeking survey participants with construction experience or those wanting to pursue a construction-related job and are open to working in Leech Lake Reservation (LLR).

    The survey is accessible at, or you may scan the QR-code below with your mobile phone. It should only take around 10 minutes of your time. You will be eligible for a $100 prize by doing so (there will be five $100 drawings).

    If the vertically-integrated construction workforce program is shown to be feasible; its development will help increase employment, housing development, and homeownership opportunities in our communities. The Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) will provide four- to five-week construction trades training certification courses to educate the workforce laborers needed to manufacture home panels and to develop needed construction trades to build housing homes within LLR. Collaborations between LLTC and non-profit agencies and private sector contractors also ensure a path towards on-the-job trainings and apprenticeship programs. The Leech Lake Financial Services (LLFS) role will be to assist potential homeowners with a budget, proper credit score, savings plan and guidance to keep them on the right path.

    This effort being led by the LLTDD is funded by the EDA with the following partners: LLTC, LLFS, and regional and state networks such as Region 5 Development Commission, Widseth, Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program, and Sweet Grass Consulting, LLC.

    If you would like to chat with someone regarding this survey or project, please call Michael Brydge, Principal Director, Sweet Grass Consulting, LLC at 540-448-1826 or email at [emailprotected]


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    Construction Workforce and Home Manufacturing on the Horizon - Leech Lake News

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