Tuesday, July 19, 2011

TOP STORY >> Agency starts giving help to cities, counties

Leader staff writer

Carol Crump-Westergren, Beebe’s clerk-treasurer, said FEMA reimbursed the city this week for the radio antenna for the police and fire department that was destroyed in the April wind storm.

The check, for $3,046.52, was the first the city has received, Crump-Westergren said, but she expects more to follow. The actual replacement cost was $4,062.03, she said. But FEMA only reimbursed 75 percent.

Beebe has already been approved for 75 percent reimbursement of the $18,570.21 it cost to replace the mangled lights at the ballpark, she said. And there is no reason to doubt the city won’t be reimbursed for 75 percent of the estimated $200,000 cleanup of the hundreds of trees that were broken or uprooted.

What she is learning, Crump-Westergren said, is that “It’s a process that takes a while. You have to go through several layers of FEMA.”

FEMA divides damages into categories and assigns projects to each one. Cleaning up the fallen trees and replacing the lights at the ballpark are Beebe’s two large projects but there are also several small projects, she said.

Mitigation is a top category but in Beebe the damage was caused by wind and no mitigation is possible.

Tamara Jenkins, director of White County’s emergency services, said FEMA has been all over the county surveying the damage and is currently working on the project worksheets.

Flood damage to the roads is the county’s biggest problem from the April storm but the project sheets FEMA is working on for the county also include, for example, the extra cost to the sheriff’s department of keeping deputies in Georgetown which was surrounded by water from the flooded White and Little Red rivers as it often is during heavy rains.

Some residents left before Hwy. 36 closed but many stayed and boated in and out.

Eddie Cook, director of operations for Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, said the city’s costs from the flooding were limited to a small amount of road damage, some overtime for employees and sand to fill sandbags in Des Arc to keep water out of homes there.

The city spent less than $100,000. He meets with FEMA and the director of the Lonoke County Office of Emergency Services on Thursday to start filling out the forms for reimbursement, he said.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin estimates damage to county roads at $1 million.

For FEMA purposes, the damage has been divided into about 500 projects.

Erwin said he is confident the county will be reimbursed 75 percent of the cost of much of the work that is ongoing now but not all. For example, the washed out Carson Bridge of South Kerr cost about $30,000 to repair and because it has received state aid in the past, it’s not eligible for federal money this time.

“All of that will come out of the county’s pocket,” Erwin said.

Asked if some other planned project would have to be put on hold, Erwin said no.

“The county saves $20,000 a month just in gas,” he said. “We had 14 employees driving vehicles home at night and we put a stop to that.”