Fort Worth

Fort Worth City Council to Discuss Winter Storm Response During Work Session

The city manager will present an informal report about the response to apartment pipe problems that left residents without water. Relief is still available to families in need.

Texas Sky Ranger

It's been nearly two months since the historic winter storm rocked North Texas.

Even now, some residents are still reeling from the damage from burst water pipes and having no running water.

During a work session on Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council will talk about the city's response to several apartment complexes that were impacted by burst water pipes and the continued effort to help residents in need.

The city’s Neighborhood Services Department has been on the front lines of the pipe and plumbing crisis following the storm, helping provide and connect families to resources for the past seven weeks.

“We never expected it to impact us in this way. That storm just really took us all by surprise,” said Sonia Singleton, Neighborhood Services assistant director.

Her department was still helping people with rental assistance from the pandemic prior to the winter storm but when the disaster hit, their workload grew.

“My team believes in the work that we do, so it's been hard work but it's been ‘heart’ at work as well,” Singleton said.

According to an informal report by the city manager, code compliance was working with up to 25 different complexes with water issues two weeks after the storm.

Services specifically offered to apartments during the storm included warming shelters, transportation to warming shelters, blankets, welfare checks, water and other emergency services. Following the storm, supplies were brought to complexes experiencing water shut-offs due to the damage and a mobile shower unit was provided to the hardest hit locations.

The city said while there was pipe and plumbing damage all over the city during the winter storm The Reserve at Bellevue apartments had some of the worst.

Some Fort Worth apartment residents are being asked to leave their homes so that repairs can be made.

Texas Sky Ranger captured some of the lingering damage at the complex in recent days. Residents had no running water or hot water for weeks after the storm and service has been intermittent ever since.

Now, the entire complex is being vacated so that the apartment can make major pipe repairs. Staff said there is no estimate on when the repair work will be finished.

Staff also said while a deadline to vacate the premises was set for earlier this week, adjustments have been made to provide flexibility to some residents who are still in the process of being moved into hotels or temporary housing.

Gyna Bivens
Fort Worth Neighborhood Services Department and code compliance compliance responds to needs at The Reserve at Bellevue apartments.

Singeleton said the city has stepped in to help pay for hotel stays, security deposits and first-month rent in a new place. They've also brought supplies and connected residents with the city's emergency rental assistance program.

Neighborhood Services said councilwoman Gyna Bivens has also played a key role in helping residents at Bellevue, which sits in her district.

“She has been amazing. When we appeared on the ground, she was right there with us, championing this work because she cared about how people are living and about people having a voice,” Singleton said. “There seemed to have been an issue that was under the radar for whatever reason that she helped to bring light to pull more resources in.”

Bivens said during the work session, she will be asking about the current and future efforts to help residents.

Gyna Bivens
Fort Worth city council member Gyna Bivens, pictured right, has been working alongside Neighborhood Services to help residents in her district still struggling after the winter storm.

These types of discussions are important to plan ahead for the next big storm, Singleton said. While nonprofits and area agencies responded at a moment’s notice during the storm, she said it’s still worth putting together a more formalized response for the future.

"We need to make plans for the next response so that we can be better coordinated,” she said.

Neighborhood Services said Fort Worth residents in need should know that there is still help available to them through the city’s rental assistance program and other services.

“Unfortunately, we’ve learned of possibly three other apartment complexes that are experiencing some of the same conditions that the people at The Reserve at Bellevue have,” she said.

Click here for more information to apply for housing, rent and utilities assistance. You can also call 817-392-7563 for help.

Residents who need help with damaged water, gas lines or water heaters can visit the city's Winter Storm Recovery website.

The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is also fast approaching on April 20.

Renters can still apply for assistance to help cover financial losses and if they get denied, city officials said it can be appealed.

To apply for FEMA relief, click here.

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