CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On May 19, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Concurrent Resolution 44 (SCR44). It's a bill that will benefit Aransas County exclusively and it stems from the rebuild after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
SCR44 opens the door for Aransas County to sue their former insurance provider, Regional Pool Alliance (RPA). In the past, RPA has argued they have governmental immunity. This bill removes that.
"We approached the legislature to take away that immunity and that's what this whole bill was about," Aransas County Judge Ray Garza said.
The bill stated thatAransas County had been paying premiums to RPA from 2012 to 2022.
When Hurricane Harvey hit, the county owned property totaling over $37 million. Aransas County took the most damage, which added up to $125 billion across the Coastal Bend. Aransas County had the highest storm surge that reached 12.5 feet high.
Aransas County then submitted a claim to insurers through RPA.
The bill stated contractors began projects during the rebuild as RPA collected the insurance claims.
In late 2021, contractors began complaining they weren’t being paid by the RPA. In January 2021, Aransas County learned RPA, who represents many government entities, had pooled all the insurance money from everyone and didn’t divvy up the money and designate it to a specific project.
RPA told the county there was no more money, but Aransas County's rebuild wasn't completed.
“(RPA) It’s a risk pool that all government entities, they kind of join together to create this risk pool, so that we have lower insurance rates. And, for the most part in theory, it’s supposed to work good,” Garza said.
Garza took office this year, but as a county resident, he is fully aware of the extent of damage the county sustained.
Aransas County was left needing many more repairs.
“We had an aquarium that was insured, we have not received a dime for the aquarium," he said. "So, we’re running on five years and no aquarium. We have several buildings at our airport and several other buildings in the community that are not 100%.”
The bill states the courthouse annex, county tax assessor office and transportation station are among the buildings needing repairs. The aquarium, Garza said, had been a staple attraction in Rockport.
Garza also said what was also left out was $9 million the county has been waiting on for their new courthouse, set to be completed in January. They did got some relief with almost $5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Rough budget year this year, maybe next year," he said. "We just want to be made whole and we just want to be paid what we were supposed to be paid. It’s not just for me or the county, it’s for all of us, the whole community.”
Aransas County is working on the paperwork to sue RPA. Efforts to contact the RPA were unsuccessful.
If interested, read the full bill here.