Winter Weather Recovery Resources
Citizens of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County showed their resilience during and following the recent winter storm that caused multiple waves of icy weather conditions and snowfall in the Hill Country. While temperatures remained well below freezing for the better part of a week, our residents struggled through utility outages, water damage, and vegetative damage on their properties. While everyone is working hard to navigate the impacts of this winter storm, the City of Fredericksburg would like to offer some information to help homeowners, renters, and property owners during the recovery process.
Individual and Businesses
Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher filed a disaster declaration on February 14, 2021, as has Governor Greg Abbott. Gillespie County was included in President Joe Biden’s partial approval of the governor’s request for a major disaster declaration. This means Gillespie County has been approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Assistance.
The Governor and TDEM will continue to work to ensure the federal government provides appropriate assistance to individual Texans as well as to the state and local governments.
Individuals and business owners in counties approved in the President’s declaration, including Gillespie County, who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585. Low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to Texas businesses and residents as a result of the President’s recent major disaster declaration.
- Waiver of Permit Fees - As a result of the extreme weather conditions experienced over the last week, many citizens have sustained damage to homes and businesses. Understanding the magnitude of this situation, the City is waiving permit fees due to damages originating from the Winter Storm. For questions or permitting information, please contact Kyle Staudt or Michael Erwin in the Development Services Department or call (830)997-7521.
- Limbs and Brush - The City of Fredericksburg is encouraging citizens looking to dispose of fallen limbs and brush to proceed as they do with regular brush chipper service. Limbs and brush should be brought out to the curb for crews to collect. Limbs and brush should continue to be placed behind the curb and stacked for collection. Extra crews will be making rounds throughout town to collect these piles as quickly as possible, however, we ask that residents be patient as there are tremendous amounts of limbs and brush to collect. Limbs and brush can also be brought to the landfill and disposed of. The fee for disposal at the landfill is being temporarily waived through Saturday, March 27, 2021, in response to the winter storm event.
- Utility Bill Payment Assistance
- Water Utilities - For all customers experiencing challenges in paying their utility bills, the City will provide a 3-month payment plan upon request. Utilities will not be disconnected for non-payment. Additionally, if a customer will bring in an invoice from a plumber that repaired their water pipes or leaking faucets (or an invoice showing the purchase of plumbing materials), we will adjust their water bill.
- Sewer Utilities - Our sewer charges for residential customers are based upon their monthly average of water use during the months of December, January, and February of each year. Due to the increase in water use in February, sewer charges for this year will be based only on the average monthly water use during the months of December and January.
- Electric Utilities - We understand our electric utility customers’ concerns about increased electric utility fees they may experience. As a municipally owned utility (MOU) we are a retail customer and not subject to the very high increases that are being experienced by wholesale customers. We purchase our power from LCRA (65%) and AEP Energy (35%), and they assume the risks for the actual increases in power costs. City Electric Utility customers will be impacted by the increase in their use of power due to the extreme cold weather. The City will provide a 3-month payment plan for any customer who cannot afford this increase. Utilities will not be disconnected for non-payment.
Citizens are encouraged to complete the Texas Department of Emergency Management Damage Collection Survey. This will assist local jurisdictions with eligibility for potential federal recovery programs. The survey can be completed by going to tdem.texas.gov/warm. Please note: Reporting damage to TDEM is a voluntary activity, is not a substitute for reporting damage to an insurance agency, and does not guarantee disaster relief assistance.
- Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
- Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. Check your state or local government agency responsible for registering and/or licensing contractors. Get references from friends and relatives.
- Resist high pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
- Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities, including the City of Fredericksburg, require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for our state.
- Do not sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Do not sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
- Be wary regarding places you cannot see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.
The BBB is also warning contractors to beware of storm chasers who offer to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use the business’s established name, reputation, and phone number. They masquerade as a local business, collect the insurance money, and then move on, leaving the real business to deal with unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship, unfinished work, or unfulfilled warranties.
List of Resources
- Report scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker
- Read BBB’s Tips on hiring a contractor
- Apply for individual assistance - www.disasterassistance.gov
- Complete the TDEM Damage Survey - tdem.texas.gov/warm
- Tips for Ice Damage and Oak Wilt