First FEMA check arrives

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia’s pockets started to sag a bit more this week when the Federal Emergency Management Agency handed over a check for $684,000 to help pay for flood expenses.

“This is a tremendous relief,” Mayor Hyram Copeland said. “Now that we have this money in, we can go ahead and send in our forms for the rest of the reimbursement.”

Copeland said the $684,000 check was put into Vidalia’s general fund to reimburse the town for its flood-related costs, and the city has already sent in the second reimbursement request for approximately $700,000.

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“After the first check, we still need another $1.2 to $1.4 million for all the work and repairs,” he said.

Copeland said the city would get an answer on the second reimbursement check within the next few weeks.

While city officials work to secure reimbursements, Womack and Sons Construction of Harrisonburg has remained hard at work and a week ahead of schedule fixing the damage done to the riverfront.

“We have really been blessed with good weather for the debris removal,” he said. “It has been hot, but (Womack) has been doing an excellent job, and things have been moving fast.”

Copeland said the clean-up crew has already finished one side of the riverfront.

“All the Hesco (Bastion) baskets have been removed from the north end near Comfort Inn Suites,” Copeland said. “From there, we are going to take down the remainder of the baskets at Riverpark Medical Center.

After Riverpark, Copeland said Womack will remove the remainder of the baskets at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, and then Promise Hospital.

“We are hoping to be at Promise toward the end of next week,” he said. “After that we just have to remove the baskets in front of the water wells.”

Copeland said after the final Hesco baskets are removed, the crew will begin clearing the roadways, sidewalks and infrastructure of the remaining dirt and debris.

“We have some work to do on the riverwalk itself, and we also have to check the drainage and buildings,” he said. “We also have some work to do on a bathroom on the south end of the riverfront.”

Copeland said after the work is complete, the riverfront will be back to normal.

“We are looking at another two to three weeks to finish,” he said.

Even with some baskets still in place, Copeland said life on the riverfront is already getting back to normal, especially with the convention center hosting the Markets Food and Lifestyle Show this weekend.

“We are open for business,” he said.

“We are just ready to have everything complete.”