City staff asking council to approve $8.5M for emergency prepares in upcoming budget

San Antonio – Ask many San Antonians what they remember about February 2021, and they’ll likely tell you it was traumatic.

Gabriel Cardenas recalls the rolling blackouts and long lines at H-E-B and other grocery stores.

“It was like storm, on top of a storm, on top of a storm on top of like, literally like, snow on the ground. So it was intense,” he recalls.

It taught him the need to stash unperishable food and water away, to be prepared for any future emergencies.

City staff is also looking to be better prepared and is asking City Council to approve $8.5 million in next year’s budget to address shortfalls highlighted during the winter storm.

Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, says the recommendations were the result of the mayor’s special committee to review the city’s preparedness and resiliency for any future storms.

She explains the city has hazard emergency and basic emergency plans, but what happened in early 2021 was unique.

“We do have plans in place that we follow and they have worked and they work. We just didn’t have a plan for a cascading event like the one we did in February,” she said.

Here’s how the $8.5 million will be put to use.

  • Replacement of critical building systems at key public safety facilities
  • Purchase of generators for some fire stations and police substations
  • Identify 4 resiliency hubs across the City
  • Resiliency study/analysis
  • Community emergency preparedness education

Two key issues will be creating four hubs — at citizen centers, or schools — that would be used as shelters with water, and power independent of the power grid. The second will be ensuring that fire stations and police stations have power generators so they don’t go down; about $3 million will go to that upgrade.

The city’s most likely common threat is flooding. Villagomez says the city has plans to control flooding that will be included in some bond projects in the upcoming months.

City Council is expected to vote on the city budget on Thursday. If the funds for the emergency plan are approved, community input will be needed.

“Input is going to be critical during this process it’s important that we can hear from the community so we can make those decisions that are going to work for our residents,” she said.

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Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.