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County tells FEMA OK to use Hardison for Response Center

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Federal Emergency Management Agency may use the Marshall County Hardison Office Annex as a flood response center if it wants to, according to a unanimous vote by county commissioners on Monday night.

Commissioners unanimously voted to suspend their rules so they could vote on a resolution that says FEMA requested assistance with location of a temporary base for use as the Disaster Recovery Center. Commissioners authorized County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett to execute a contract for FEMA with the county. The county's Emergency Management Agency director, Bob Hopkins, was made Liggett's agent for the accommodations.

That technical step was followed by other steps taken Tuesday morning by Hopkins to make the building, parking lot and his conference room available so FEMA may help area residents get relief from storm and flood damage suffered April 30-May 3.

A schedule establishing when FEMA might use the Hardison Office at College Street and Franklin Road at North Fourth Avenue had not been set by late Tuesday morning, according to FEMA spokesperson Cleo Howell. If an Emergency Response Center is established there, might not be open until the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, FEMA has a center open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week in Columbia at the Maury County Park, Howell said. And over the weekend, FEMA had Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers moving to and from various counties in Middle Tennessee.

"We have motor homes with satellite connections," he said. One was in Lawrenceburg on Friday. It was scheduled to be in Waynesboro on Sunday.

"We really encourage people to apply," Howell said Friday afternoon at the Tribune on the Lewisburg public square and before visiting Hopkins at the Hardison Office Annex.

"Anybody who suffered damage from the storm should apply," Howell said.

Grants of up to $29,900 may be awarded, but Howell cautioned that figure should not be seen as the amount the agency will award. A variety of factors are used when making a determination on what the government regulations allow when awarding grants for flood relief payments.

"Each case is treated on an individual basis," Howell said.

Speaking from his experience with previous disasters, Hopkins explained that federal help had been based on how high the water was in a house, but that was before FEMA became a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Still, the physical facts of floodwater and floor joists haven't changed.

"That wood will wick the water up into the house," Hopkins said. "Until that is dried out and treated, it is questionable because of things like what we didn't used to pay attention to like mold.

"I don't know what FEMA's answer is to that," Hopkins said. "I'm sure I'll find out here in the next few days."

On Saturday morning, two employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Hopkins inspected flood-damaged properties in Marshall County, the county EMA director said that morning.

The three traveled around the county "to see what they can do to help people," Hopkins said. "We've got nine places scattered throughout the county, some in the north end, some at Belfast and other places."

On Wednesday last week, Marshall County was added to a list of nearly 50 counties declared disaster areas. It was in response to a request from Gov. Phil Bredesen for federal assistance to Tennessee because of the deluge three weeks ago.

While no decision had been made by 10 a.m. Tuesday on whether FEMA would establish a temporary office in Marshall County to help owners of flood ravaged properties, Howell directed readers to FEMA's web site: fema.gov with links to disaster declarations and the agency's toll-free phone number: 1-800-621-3362.

In a related development on Tuesday, Bredesen requested a designation from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of natural disaster for agriculture in 13 counties across middle and west Tennessee as a result of the historic rainfall and devastating floods that began April 30. The 13 counties include: Benton, Chester, Dickson, Fayette, Hardeman, Hickman, Humphreys, Lauderdale, Lewis, Maury, McNairy, Perry and Stewart.

"A secretarial disaster designation will help bring more federal assistance to farmers who experienced significant crop and livestock losses and damage to farm infrastructure as a result of the storms and flooding," said Bredesen. "I'm glad to make this request and hope it will help lessen the impact to our farmers and rural communities hit hard by this catastrophe."

For those counties already covered under a presidential declaration, farmers are also eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans. Assistance for livestock losses and emergency conservation assistance to help rehabilitate damaged farmland is also available to eligible farmers.