Overtime, Cleanup, Repair Expenses Add Up After Twister

How much does it cost to have a tornado visit your city?

The Dallas City Council approved spending $60 million on emergency expenses associated with the EF3 tornado that struck Dallas on Oct. 20.

The council decision, made at its Nov. 6 meeting, will help address the cleanup and damage to the city’s infrastructure wrought by the storm.

City chief financial officer Elizabeth Reich and office of emergency management director Rocky Vaz were among the city staff who updated the council on the progress in cleaning up.

“We just can’t say enough about how well everyone at the city has come together and worked around the clock.” -Mayor Eric Johnson

Reich told the council that about $45 million of that $60 million would be going to infrastructure damage, removing debris, and labor – specifically overtime.

The city needed to hit a $38.5 million threshold to qualify for federal aid. It nearly hit that in the $30 million it took to replace destroyed traffic signals and signs.

“Then we have emergency protective services we have been doing since the storm, all the labor cost, the equipment cost, the overtime for police and fire, and all of sanitation, public works,” Vaz said.

Fire Station 41 on the southeast side of Royal Lane is a total loss, city staff said, and Walnut Hill Recreation Center and Fire Station No. 35, as well as the Park Forest, Forest Green, and Preston
Royal libraries all sustained damage. Cumulatively, it’s estimated at a nearly $15 million loss.

The city does have insurance on those buildings, however, with a $750,000 deductible.

Nearly 400 structures in all were destroyed or heavily damaged, Vaz told the council. In total, 905 structures had damage.

A little more than $11 million to cover costs will come from the city’s emergency fund, which has a balance of $35 million.

However, Reich said she was planning on replacing that money in next year’s budget, as she keeps a watchful eye on a potential recession.

“I don’t know when, but I want the city to be prepared for it and potential flattening of revenue,” she said.

The city staff said it expected FEMA to kick in about $34 million.

The council was effusive in its praise for the city staff and crews that worked through the emergency.

“We just can’t say enough about how well everyone at the city has come together and worked around the clock,” Mayor Eric Johnson said.

The council also voted to ask the Dallas Central Appraisal District to reassess damaged properties and adjust tax bills accordingly, joining Dallas County commissioners who voted to do so the day before.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, former Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy.

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