New facility planned in Old River-Winfree

Old River-Winfree was arguably one of the hardest-hit areas in the aftermath of 2008’s Hurricane Ike. Now, through the dedicated actions of city personnel, the next time a hurricane comes through town some creature comforts will be available to those who need them.

A groundbreaking took place Nov. 1 on a new facility located behind the community building at 4828 FM 565 North. The facility, when completed, will house showers and restrooms, as well as an emergency generator that will supply power to the entire community center should it be needed. In the future, washers and dryers will be available for clothes as well.

The facility is due to be completed somewhere around Feb. 1, said Spencer Carnes of Carnes Engineering.

The 1,200 square foot building will be divided into a men’s area and a women’s area, with three showers and three toilet areas in each section. The facility will also be handicap-accessible, with two handicap restrooms available in addition to shower modifications.

Another benefit of the building is that, once completed, it will make a good staging ground for first responders in the area, Murphy said.

The building is coming about thanks to the hard work of the city staff. “Right after Hurricane ike, there were government grants available to communities like ours,” said city secretary Linda Murphy. “We applied through the Texas Department of Rural Affairs to see what help we could get for the city.”

Led by Mayor Joe Landry, the city went through the application process for a CDBG Disaster Recovery Grant, aided by David Baker of Public Management, and eventually got the good news that their planned project had a green-light.

“We got this grant on our own; it wasn’t a county grant,” Murphy said. “The mayor and city council pursued this grant and helped it come to fruition.”

The total amount approved was $433,638, Murphy said, which was enough to cover the creation of this facility. “The next time there’s a hurricane or other disaster and the community is without power, they’ll have a place to come to get a hot shower and some air conditioning.”

The Old River-Winfree area was without electrical power for 16 days following Hurricane Ike, Murphy said, a fact that greatly influenced the decision to erect the structure. “People are going to stay after hurricanes in this part of the world,” said Baker. When those things happen, you need a place to shower, to sleep or just sit in the air conditioning for a while.”