FEMA to reimburse city

Published 12:11 am Friday, July 15, 2011

NATCHEZ — After months of waiting, the city can apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be reimbursed for money spent through flood recovery.

Gov. Haley Barbour made the announcement Tuesday, and 12 other counties in Mississippi were also made eligible to receive those reimbursements.

Through the state of emergency declaration — which was made several weeks ago — FEMA could only offer reimbursements for protective measures, like the cost of sandbags and workers’ overtime pay.

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Individuals could also apply.

“(FEMA) did an emergency declaration for protective measures to enable local entities to protect themselves,” Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said. “The difference is, an ‘emergency declaration’ means there’s not a true disaster yet.”

Now, though, Owens said, FEMA has “upgraded” to include the cost of things like debris removal, road repairs and rebuilding infrastructure.

FEMA will pay 75 percent of the total cost, he said, while the county and the state split the remaining 25 percent and pay 12.5 percent each.

City Engineer David Gardner said Adams County would probably apply for approximately $85,000 in reimbursements, but the city’s flood expenditures are still being tallied.

Public works totals haven’t been factored into the estimated cost yet, Gardner said, but the pumps that had to be rented to pump wastewater from Under-the-Hill and the rehabilitation of the lift station there would probably be the mostly costly factors.

However, applications won’t be available until after today when leaders will have sat through an informational “kick-off” meeting, Gardner said.

The city had to spend a certain amount of money before the flood recovery or public assistance funds were available, Owens said.

“Once (FEMA) realized we met our threshold — $112,000 — in protective measures and damages, that’s when they went ahead and (added public assistance),” he said.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Spokesman Greg Flynn said the state also had to meet a threshold of $3.8 million in protective measurements and estimated damages before counties could be looked at individually.

“We’ve been working very closely with the county to document costs and keep records for when it got approved (for public assistance),” Flynn said.

“We had to wait for the water to recede so FEMA damage assessment teams could actually get on the ground to go in and get the proper numbers.”

Reimbursements won’t be dispersed until a few months after the applications are approved, he said.

“It takes several months depending on how large of a project it is,” Flynn said.

Without the public assistance reimbursements, he said, Mississippi counties might have a struggle rebounding from the flood.

“I’m very thankful that FEMA saw our need,” Flynn said. “The budget is tight nationally and in Mississippi, and it’s really going to help (those counties) get back on their feet a whole lot faster.”