During the Sept. 14 Wharton City Council meeting, concerns about the organization arose during council’s discussion of turning over a property at 210 Wilkes Street to the Wharton County Recovery Team (WCRT).
Councilwoman Alice Heard-Roberts asked, “I have heard several different things about them. They have passed their audits? Do we know if they are still building homes?”
Roberts explained the reason behind her questions regarding the organization, saying “If I have heard rumors, I know some other (council members) have. I know that we are a part of the city and I don’t want the city to be mixed up with anything that could come back on us.”
Wharton Community Development Director Gwen Teves responded by saying, “There’s no possibility for (WCRT) to turn around and sell the property for profit. I feel that it is beneficial for the city to turn over the property to the organization to improve the city’s west end area.
“The homes that are being built (by WCRT) are more appropriate to the family size of their clients. All of the residents have received homes due to their previous homes falling apart from multiple floods. All of the properties that (WCRT) have built on the west end have been very nice additions to the area. I think it’s a boost to the neighborhood.”
Council members voted to approve the city and mayor to proceed with turning over the property to the organization.
The County Gin reached out to WCRT and offered an opportunity for the organization to address concerns and rumors.
“There seems to be misinformation spread throughout the community about what we are doing,” WCRT Administrator Faye Watson told The County Gin. “I also fell victim to entertaining rumors before I joined in March 2020. I thought that I would step in and uncover a mess, but that simply wasn’t the case. I have nothing but great things to say about the previous administrator.
“The WCRT along with the West End Initiative have been able to provide 16 families with new homes, as well as countless repairs to homes and many immediate needs met. We are beautifying the city and improving living conditions and the lives of our clients through our efforts.”
When Watson agreed to assist the organization, she and the organization’s board members implemented policies to improve the application, building and employment processes, as well as a transparent communication agreement.
“This organization was still in creation once Hurricane Harvey hit,” she said. “At the start of any process, there are going to be kinks and hurdles to work through and overcome. That wasn’t any different for WCRT, only the organization didn’t have to wait for the need to be here. The previous administration faced some challenges for funding and the grant and application processes.
“Once the board realized there were issues and heard rumors of possible dishonesty, they did the right thing in contacting a firm to perform an audit. While that audit was being performed, construction was stopped. We were able to use that audit to streamline the process. That audit also proved rumors to be untrue.
“Our larger funding partners are kept up-to-date and continue to offer their blessing and support to our mission. We can now continue to work toward helping our community recover.”
Watson said anyone wishing to volunteer or any person with questions can contact her directly.
“We have an open door policy,” she said. “Of course, we protect client’s privacy, but I am happy to answer any questions concerning funding, our organization and projects. I quite enjoy the opportunity to showcase what this organization has been able to accomplish and future projects.
“We were approved to build an additional six homes, which is why we requested the 210 Wilkes lot from the city. That lot would be used for one of our approved clients.
“We were granted permission to do some larger repairs to homes as well. So, if there is anyone still recovering from Harvey, please reach out to our office.”
The Wharton County Recovery Team office is located at 307 W. Milam Street in Wharton and can be reached by calling (979) 531-3170. To view the organization’s mission and to obtain applications visit www.whartoncountyrecoveryteam.org.