Safe room participation plans needed

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Residents who had damage from Hurricane Katrina and elected tobuild safe rooms under a state and federal reimbursement programare encouraged to make a final decision on whether to proceed, acounty official said.

Lincoln County Mississippi Emergency Management Agency DirectorClifford Galey said residents have until June 10 to get the saferooms built and the paperwork in his office. However, the agency istrying to determine how much money will remain that could be usedby other citizens.

Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott announced recently anadditional $19 million has been appropriated to the FederalEmergency Management Agency for Mississippi safe rooms, boostingthe total of federal funding awarded to the program to nearly $36million.

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Galey asked all residents participating in priority one of the”Safe Room” program to contact him with their intentions. Priorityone applicants sustained some damage from the hurricane and wereaccepted for the initial phase of the program.

“It would help me to know if they’re going to use it or not,”Galey said. “It will also help the state and federal governments todecide when, and how much, they’ll have for the priority twoapplicants.”

Priority two applicants are those who expressed an interest inbuilding safe rooms under the program, but who did not sustaindamage from the hurricane, he said.

The safe room program reimburses qualified applicants up to 75percent of the cost of the structure and its installation.

“Safe rooms are proven to save lives,” MEMA Director Mike Womacksaid in a press release. “There are families in Mississippi who arealive today because they were in their safe rooms when tornadoesdestroyed everything around them.”

The Civil Defense office was swamped with applications in March2006 when the program was announced.

Forty-five applicants were chosen to participate in priority oneand program money was set aside to reimburse their costs, Galeysaid. However, only three applicants have completed their saferooms.

“I don’t have a clue on how many are working on them,” he said.”I need to know what their status is so the state can begindetermining priority two needs.”

More than 40 other Lincoln County residents qualified forpriority two funding.

“I get calls every day asking when the funding will be availablefor them,” Galey said. “As soon as we hear something from thestate, we’ll send out offering letters to those in prioritytwo.”