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FEMA workshop details recovery help

MEADVILLE – County and city officials from the surrounding areaswamped a conference room at the Southwest Mississippi Planning andDevelopment District offices here Thursday to attend a FederalEmergency Management Agency workshop.

The FEMA Long Term Community Recovery Division held the workshopin conjunction with SMPDD and the Governor’s Commission to identifyweaknesses, evaluate and propose suggestions on the improvement ofexisting land, land planning, building and landscape design, safetymeasures for litigation and innovative public-private partnershipsto rebuild following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Representatives from many state and federal agencies gave shortpresentations on programs they have available either to directlyhelp in the rebuilding and recovery or to indirectly provide aidthrough grants or loans.

Lawrence County Community Development Association Director BobSmira said, as an economic developer, he was already aware of thevarious standard programs, but did not know what was available fordisaster assistance.

“I learned some things,” he said. “It was good to have contactwith the agency people and to learn specifically what theirdisaster funds could be used for.”

Lincoln County District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts said itwas a good program packed with a lot of information.

“We just weren’t prepared for (Katrina), and all agencies needto be better prepared in the future,” he said.

Lincoln County District Five Supervisor and Board President GaryWalker agreed. He said during his term as board president, whichonly began earlier this month, he would like to see the countystore some fuel and generators in preparation for a futuredisaster.

District Four Supervisor Doug Moak and Lincoln County CivilDefense Director Clifford Galey also attended the workshop.Brookhaven was represented at the conference by Mayor BobMassengill.

Many of those in attendance expressed concerns that it seemedthe agricultural impact of the storm had been overlooked. It was aconcern shared by Brian Sanderson, assistant director of theGovernor’s Commission.

“Timber has received some appropriations – I don’t have a number- but I didn’t see any other agricultural support (in the recent$29 billion appropriated by Congress for disaster recovery),” hesaid. “We’re all disappointed by the federal agriculturalsupport.”

However, Sanderson said, the Katrina recovery appropriationshave already become the largest allotment of federal dollars evermade to any state. And, he added, it is possible some agriculturalsupport will still be forthcoming.

“That is a hole that has yet to be filled,” he said. “I feellike, at some point, it will be.”

In a separate matter, Watts at several points questionedspeakers about road assistance. He said the influx of permanent andlong-term temporary residents has put more pressure on an alreadyweakened Lincoln County road system. Many of the roads, he said,are 35 to 40 years old and the supervisors’ requests for state andfederal assistance seem to be virtually unheard.

“Our county is filling with people; and I’m afraid our roadscan’t handle it,” Watts said. “We need help.”

Later, Watts said he believed some help may be forthcoming.

“I think the infrastructure is on its way,” he said. “It’s justgoing to take time to get it there.”