Gov. Rick Perry on April 16 granted a request by the city of West for an additional $4.8 million in disaster grant assistance for recovery efforts in the West fertilizer plant explosion that occurred April 17, 2013.
Fifteen people were killed in the explosion, more than 160 were injured and more than 150 buildings were reported damaged or destroyed in the town of about 2,800 people, 20 miles north of Waco. Perry’s office said the grant is to help the city of West repair and rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the blast and assist with other important projects in the affected area.
“Last year’s tragedy touched the lives of every member of the West community and touched the hearts of all Texans,” Perry said.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, whose district includes West, said, “In reflecting on the year following this tragedy, I cannot help but feel pride in the incredible work of our local and state first responders, the continual leadership shown by Mayor (Tommy) Muska and his fellow city and county officials, and the resilience of the citizens of West. It is no surprise to see Texans pull together and rebuild like this.”
“Our hearts continue to reach out to the community of West and those affected by last year’s tragedy,” said state Rep. Kyle Kacal, whose district includes West. “We acknowledge with deep appreciation the tremendous response to the local rebuilding efforts and stand in solidarity as we continue to work towards the future of West.”
STATE TAKES POSSESSION OF RANCH
Texas Department of Public Safety on April 17 announced the State of Texas on Jan. 6 obtained a final judgment of forfeiture from the state’s 51st Judicial District Court in San Angelo, directing the State to take possession of the forfeited property known as the YFZ Ranch.
The final judgment, the DPS said, was the result of the Attorney General’s Office filing for the seizure of the YFZ Ranch property in 2012. The ranch, near Eldorado, was owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist community raided by local, state and federal agencies in 2008.
Schleicher County Sheriff’s Office and the DPS met with current residents of the property on April 16 and provided them with copies of the court orders applicable to the forfeiture, and the residents have agreed to vacate the property, the DPS reported.
Law enforcement personnel are working with the occupants of the ranch to take all reasonable actions to assist with their departure of the property, to preserve the property, and to successfully execute the court order, the DPS reported, adding that continuing activities on the property will include obtaining a court-ordered inventory of real property and protecting the remaining assets.
REPORT EXAMINES GANG THREAT
An updated Texas Gang Threat Assessment was released to the public by the Texas Department of Public Safety on April 17.
According to the DPS, the assessment provides details about the state’s approach to evaluating and classifying gangs in order to identify which organizations represent the most substantial threat.
The report reveals current gang membership across the state may exceed 100,000 individuals.
TRAFFICKING PANEL APPOINTED
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the state Senate, appointed seven senators to the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking.
Established in 2011 and renewed by the Legislature last year, the panel will build on its previous work by studying ways to further combat human trafficking and identifying services available to its victims, Dewhurst said.
Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, will serve as co-chair. On the panel are: Sens. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury; Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio; and John Whitmire, D-Houston. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, will name an equal number of House members to the joint committee.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association.