County hears from FEMA

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday, local government officials moved one step closer to receiving public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recent storm damage as they met with FEMA and state EMA officials.

Heavy rains and straight-line winds struck the state in the weeks between March 28 through April 3, and caused an estimated $3.9 million in damages locally.

At Wednesday’s meeting, which included representatives from the Covington County Commission, Florala Mayor Robert Williamson, Opp city planner Don Childre and representatives from Butler and Crenshaw counties, attendees were told hold to apply for funding that would help fund repairs in their respective locations.

Chris Newton, the state’s project assistance director, walked officials through the funding assistance application process and described how various projects could be eligible for funding.

Newton explained that under FEMA guidelines, local governments and organizations are eligible for 75 percent of the project’s funding cost and that “facilities” — or any structure where work must be performed — must be restored or replaced to their pre-disaster design, capacity and function.

“We are here to help you improve and restore your community,” Newton said. “We will be here until the work is completed.”

Newton explained projects are broken down into two overall categories — large projects and small projects.

Small projects consist of those costing less than $64,200 while large projects are those greater than $64,200 in cost. Funding is distributed for small projects upon approval. Funding for large projects is not distributed until the work is completed, he said.

FEMA can also cover costs associated with administrative work pertaining to projects, and in some instances cover the costs of new equipment and capital improvements, he said.

In the coming weeks, FEMA and local officials will be working to compile project worksheets for all projects throughout the county.

County engineer Darren Capps said it will be weeks before the paperwork portion of the project is finished.

“They’ve already been here to do the preliminary figures,” he said. “Now we will be working on our final totals for all of our projects. I hope that within a week or so, I can meet with the (FEMA representative) to get the ball rolling on our projects.”

Until all the calculations are complied, there is no way to know exactly how much the county is set to receive in FEMA funds, but in April, county administrator Brenda Petty said the county is depending on those funds to make its budget balance.