FEMA money arriving slowly

Published 11:59 pm Monday, August 10, 2009

The county is still a long way off from collecting its portion of an estimated $5.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, County Engineer Darren Capps said Monday.

Capps said the county has received approximately $500,000 from FEMA to repair damages from the March and April flooding. FEMA officials are expected to complete their assessment of local damages this week, he said. Through FEMA’s public assistance program, 75 percent of the estimated damages are covered by federal money.

“We’ve got about 30 project worksheets left to finish,” he said. “But right now, we’re at $5.5 million (in damages) and still climbing. Money was slow to start coming in, but it’s getting better.”

Capps also asked the commission Monday to enter into agreements with the Alabama Department of Transportation. The two agreements are expected to bring in more than $400,000 to repair or rehab roads not covered by FEMA funds, he said.

The first agreement, which is for $142,985, would repair several sites under the jurisdiction of the Federal Highway Department; the second, which is for $265,000, is stimulus money and will be used for the widening and resurfacing of Page Road — a 1.2-mile section of road off U.S. Hwy. 84 near Ireland Trailer.

Also Monday, commissioners debated whether the District 3 shop in Florala should remain open when the county begins operating under a unit system. District 3 Commissioner Harold Elmore also asked authorization for his employees to report at the yard for work.

Chairman Lynn Sasser said he has received “many calls” from citizens suggesting the yard remain open since many city and county departments use the site as a refueling station. However, the other commissioners agreed the engineer should decide where road department employees should report to work, not the commissioner.

County administrator Brenda Petty recommended tabling the discussion until the next meeting so the commissioners could address each of the district yards, as well as develop a plan for implementing the unit system.

Commissioners agreed with Petty’s suggestion and stated the county will start operating under a unit system by the beginning of the new fiscal year, or Oct. 1.

When questioned by members of the gallery as to “what year,” each commissioner stated, “this year.”

In other business, the commission:

tabled a discussion on a policy regarding comp time for county employees.

approved an agreement to prepare a new Emergency Operations Plan. Grant funds will be used to cover the costs.

announced the intent to approve a retail liquor license for The Store, located on Hamner Road in the north end of the county.

awarded bids for a new Sheriff’s Office vehicle, seed and fertilize and steel pilings.

changed the next meeting date to Aug. 31.

announced it will seek grant funds to make the courthouse more energy efficient.