GEORGETOWN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - It was moving day for Kristin Hood. Friday night, after the children from her Leaps and Bounds Learning Center go home, she too will finally be able to return to the place her children are much more familiar with. “So grateful,” said Hood.
The center, which is located just off of Williams Drive, was among the homes and businesses closed due to a gas leak. The problem was detected more than a month ago and affected 140 homes and businesses along Williams Drive. Friday afternoon, Atmos Energy told FOX 7 that 58 businesses and 64 homes currently remain evacuated.
Hood is happy about being among those allowed to reopen, although she is not in a rush.
“Very excited but we want to make sure everything there is done first as far as filling the holes back in because we can’t bring the kids back if they don’t have a playground to play on,” said Hood.
The holes were dug in order to vent gas that has been trapped underground. For the past several days the local Head Start Center has provided space for Hood.
Before that, she was given a room at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.
“At one point, we didn’t know where to go,” said Hood.
The chamber office is where, Friday morning, business owners who have been evacuated met with city officials. “The basic message was; one, as a community we do care,” said Chamber President Jim Johnson.
The other goal, according to Johnson is to establish better lines of communication. That includes helping the businesses communicate with their customers.
“The chamber this week or this weekend will launch a section on our website that’s going to provide an update on all the businesses, where they are relocated, how you can get a hold of them. we found out today when the power was cut off because of safety concerns their phones weren’t working. Cause their phones have to have power to run, and so you can call the business, it’s not going to go anywhere because the phones aren’t working,” said Johnson.
The meeting room was closed to the media during the gathering. Representatives from about 40 businesses attended. At times things got tense, according to Hood. “A lot of angry people a lot of people that had a lot of questions what is this going to do for our business is it gonna put a stigma on us, which is what we were asking too,” said Hood.
What is known; crews continue to install new gas lines through the evacuation zone on Williams Dr.
Vacuum machines are still pulling gas out of the ground. So far, more than a dozen business have been able to reopen, like the Aerospace company Terry Prentice owns.
“Awesome,it’s a relief it really is to be able to sit down and get the stuff you need,” said Prentice.
Officials with Atmos Energy were not able to say when this crisis will finally be over.
The committee reportedly is compensating for lost sales revenue, but it’s not know if it will be enough to keep everyone in business. “They have been helping us with our revenue that we lost with our current kids, But my question now is how are they going to quantify what I could have made from the kids that did not get enrolled for these 22 days because I was gone,” said Hood.
Emergency small business loans are not available because a disaster declaration has not been requested by the Mayor of Georgetown. Business owners were told the city will help organize a grand reopening party when the crisis is over. The city may also waive or eliminate permit fees for inspections that will be required for some of the businesses to reopen.