Monday, January 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>White County is cleaning up

Leader staff writer

Although White County has been declared a disaster area, the damage likely was not severe enough for the county to qualify for state aid. Tamara Jenkins, White County Office of Emergency Management coordinator, said Friday the estimated cost of repairs must be at least $2 for every person in the county. Since White County has about 67,000 residents, the damage estimate must be at least $134,000. “All we declared for was roads and bridges and it doesn’t look like we’ll meet our quota for that,” Jenkins said.

White County Judge Michael Lincoln said so far the damage has totaled only about $20,000, which includes the cost of gravel, equipment and wages. Three areas haven’t been inspected because they are still under water – Arthur Kirk, West Vinity and Bradford Bottoms. But it is unlikely that damage there will be bad enough to meet the $134,000 threshold to qualify for 35 percent reimbursement from the state. The entire bill will be a paid out of the $5 million road department budget.

Gov. Mike Beebe has declared seven counties a disaster area due to flooding. If he declares the whole state a disaster area because of a combination of flooding and the ice in the northern part of the state, then White County also would be eligible for federal disaster relief but only if the damage estimate exceeded the $134,000 threshold that would make it eligible for state aid. Lincoln said that while the state requires damage of $2 for every resident, the feds require $3. But if that level is reached, total reimbursement would have been about 75 percent of the cost.

“If you don’t verbally declare (a disaster) you don’t get anything, so we decided to be on the safe side and declare,” Lincoln said, adding that if bridges had washed out, the county would easily have met the state requirement for assistance.