County re­ceives disas­ter fund­ing

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

New­ton County could re­ceive $3.1 mil­lion dol­lars from the fed­eral govern­ment af­ter re­ceiv­ing a pres­i­den­tial disas­ter dec­la­ra­tion fol­low­ing heavy rains.

Al­most 13 inches of rain fell on New­ton County the week of Dec. 23, caus­ing dam­age to 13 roads. Re­pair of the roads could cost the county $1.4 mil­lion, and spills at the land­fill could cost an­other $2.7 mil­lion.

Fol­low­ing the heavy rain­fall, New­ton County Chair Keith El­lis signed a lo­cal disas­ter dec­la­ra­tion, ask­ing the state for as­sis­tance. Nolan then sub­mit­ted a pre­lim­i­nary dam­age as­sess­ment to the state, in­clud­ing a rough es­ti­mate of what kind of dam­age had taken place and pho­tos of each dam­aged road, bridge and cul­vert.

When the county sub­mit­ted their as­sess­ment to the Ge­or­gia Emer­gency Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (GEMA), staff mem­bers were un­sure if it would qual­ify for a pres­i­den­tial dec­la­ra­tion. New­ton’s re­quest then joined 32 other Ge­or­gia coun­ties re­quest­ing help from the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (FEMA).

“Out of the 33 coun­ties, New­ton sus­tained in the top 10 for amount of dam­age from the rain events,” Nolan said.

Start­ing Dec. 23, 2015, a storm sys­tem stayed sta­tion­ary over New­ton County, caus­ing wa­ter to erode some roads and cul­verts and wash out bridges. On top of the dam­ages, the county’s pub­lic works crews also worked over­time, en­act­ing emer­gency pro­tec­tion mea­sures, in­clud­ing putting up bar­ri­cades and con­duct­ing es­ti­mates on the dam­aged ar­eas.

The roads dam­aged were: High Point on For­est Drive; Bent­ley Place Way; Elks Club Road at Dobbs Road; Sewell Road at More­house Road; Hen­der­son Road at the Jasper County line; But­ler Bridge Road near En­field Drive; Mills Drive near Smith Store Road; East End Road at Rail­side Drive; Dobbs Road near Elks Club Road; Old Post Road near Gaithers Plan­ta­tion and 2556 Hen­der­son Mill Road.

Along with the roads, New­ton County’s land­fill also sus­tained dam­age from leachate over­flow­ing into a re­ten­tion pond.

New­ton County’s Pub­lic Works En­gi­neer Ch­ester Clegg and New­ton County’s Pub­lic Works Su­per­vi­sor Chris Ma­clom, worked with Harbin En­gi­neer­ing to pro­vide a pre­lim­i­nary dam­age as­sess­ment on the land­fill to Nolan, who sent it off to FEMA.

“When all is said and done, we’re look­ing some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $2.7 mil­lion to­tal that could po­ten­tially be re­im­bursed by the fed­eral emer­gency man­age­ment agency to help with the sit­u­a­tion,” Nolan said. “Take in to con­sid­er­a­tion that it would have been an ex­pen­di­ture the county would have had to pay them­selves whether we re­ceive fund­ing or not.”

Thanks to the pres­i­den­tial dec­la­ra­tion, the county won’t have to pay for the dam­age it­self.

The dec­la­ra­tion cov­ers dam­age span­ning from the pe­riod of Dec. 22 through Jan. 13. FEMA funds were re­leased Feb. 26, Nolan was in an ap­pli­cant briefing March 4 and met with FEMA as­signed pro­ject work­sheet writ­ers in New­ton County Thurs­day.

“Pro­ject work­sheets are in­di­vid­ual re­ports of dam­age that are pre­pared by FEMA and sub­mit­ted by each dam­age re­im­burse­ment site,” Nolan said.

Each road pro­ject will have a pro­ject work­sheet pre­pared by FEMA writ­ers, who will be as­sisted by New­ton County pub­lic works em­ploy­ees. As prob­lems on the roads are com­pleted they will be 0re­im­bursed by FEMA, in­di­vid­u­ally per job.

Since the land­fill is so large, its prob­lems will bring re­im­bursed in­cre­men­tally, ac­cord­ing to Nolan.

The re­im­burse­ments for re­pairs will be paid in por­tions of 75 per­cent by FEMA and 10 per­cent by GEMA. New­ton County will be re­spon­si­ble for the bal­ance. Nolan said most of those ex­pen­di­tures can be cov­ered by in-kind ser­vices, such as the sub­mis­sion of pro­ject work­sheets ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions of jobs that need to be done.

Nolan shared the news of the pres­i­den­tial dec­la­ra­tion at the most re­cent board of com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing, to the sat­is­fac­tion of the board.

“You worked your fanny off to do it,” El­lis said dur­ing the meet­ing. “You’re one of the best em­ploy­ees we have and we have a lot of great ones.

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