New plan will save Atmore thousands

Published 5:12 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Last week President Bush announced the federal government would cover 90percent of disaster recovery expenses for municipalities rather than the traditional percentage they have paid in past disasters.
"In most disaster situations, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost, leaving the remaining up to states and localities to pay," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a prepared statement last Wednesday. "I am pleased that the federal government's share has increased to 90 percent easing the burden of localities, which have already seen great financial strain as a result of Hurricane Ivan."
According to information provided by Shelby's office, the additional funding will be retroactive to Sept. 15 of last year and will come from the Federal Public Assistance Program.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell was aware of the efforts to up the coverage and is pleased with President Bush's decision.
"We have seen that and were aware they were working on that," Shell said. "Riley has indicated that the state would pick up part of it."
In fact, the state may take up the other 10 percent. According to Shell, Riley has also announced a cost sharing plan to help with debris removal and repairs.
"We are hoping with the two we will not have to pay any of the money ourselves," Shell said. "That will make a big difference in what we were going to have to do prior to this. We were going to have to pick up 25 percent."
U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) believes this will keep cities from having to stretch their budgets to the breaking point.
"The financial impact on many of the communities in the First District and throughout the state as a result of this devastating storm has been severe, and recovery efforts have greatly stretched the financial resources of these cities and towns," Bonner said in a prepared statement.
Savings of this magnitude could allow the city to be more financially ahead than it had originally planned after the storm.
"It will mean that we don't have to dig a little deeper or tighten our belts any tighter," Shell said.
The city has already contracted work for debris removal that would be covered by this new plan.
"We've already let one contract for debris removal for $100,000 and that would cost us $25,000 without this," Shell said.
According to information from Bonner's office, FEMA's Public Assistance Program will help pay for debris removal and emergency protective measures as well as road and bridge work, water control facilities and other utilities, structural damage to buildings and equipment, and repair for parks and recreation facilities.

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