Power could be cut to Ike damaged homes

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The electricity will be turned off in two days. The homeowners say they've already been denied permits to rebuild, even though they can't live in their houses. And they say the decision by the city makes the road to recovery even more difficult.

City officials say they're doing this because they don't want residents living in dangerous situations. But those residents say they think the city is being simply insensitive.

More than two months after Hurricane Ike, Stacy Hernandez still has a shell of a home. It's not because of a lack of effort, but because she was denied a building permit. But what makes her even more frustrated is that she says the city is adding yet another road block.

"It should be our decision if we want to stay or go," Hernandez said. "We shouldn't be forced out of our homes."

On November 11, the city mailed out letters saying it will begin cutting utilities to any home that suffered substantial damage. On November 21, any home with damage assessed at more than 50% of the home's value will lose power. About 84 letters were mailed out to residents living mostly on the west side.

Any home with substantial damage can be elevated to meet new standards. If not, it needs to be demolished. The city says it hopes its letter encourages residents to start making tough decisions.

Kemah City Manager Bill Kerber said, "We're not just going to send CenterPoint a list and say, 'Go pull these in the middle of the night while they're sleeping.' That's not our intent. Our intent is to get everybody in compliance with the rules and regulations."

But residents say the deadline is simply too stringent. With just two days left, some homeowners are not sure what will happen if the power goes out.

Hernandez asked, "How can they do that? You know, isn't that a violation of people's rights?"

The city says it's not automatically going to cut off power in the next couple of days. It says it's first going to send out teams to assess the needs of residents. It also says that residents can work out an agreement with the city, but the city has to hear from them first.

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