Process begins for securing funding for relief
by David Atchison
May 16, 2011 | 2898 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Berry Culpepper, a Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistant coordinator, far right, speaks to Pell City officials about recouping emergency disaster funds for storm related costs incurred by the city. David Atchison/The Daily Home
Berry Culpepper, a Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistant coordinator, far right, speaks to Pell City officials about recouping emergency disaster funds for storm related costs incurred by the city. David Atchison/The Daily Home
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PELL CITY — State and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives met with city officials Monday morning so initial funding for immediate emergency response can be secured.

“This is the first step to getting money actually rolling in for you,” said Anne Compson, Alabama Emergency Management Agency public assistant coordinator.

She said all FEMA money is channeled through the state, which will allocate emergency disaster funds to counties and municipalities hit by the deadly storms that rolled across the Alabama on April 27.

Berry Culpepper, a public assistant coordinator for FEMA, and Jack Huggins, a FEMA project specialist, also attended the 2 hour meeting Monday in the council chambers at City Hall.

EMA federal and state officials helped city officials calculate initial cost estimates for emergency services.

City, state and federal officials cautioned that this is only the initial cost estimates for emergency services in Pell City and nothing else. The estimate of $118,000 did not include debris removal or estimated repair costs to public facilities.

The estimate did include overtime costs for city fire, police and street department personnel, who worked around the clock after straight-line winds moved through Pell City during the early morning hours of April 27. The cost estimate also included expenses for vehicle and equipment use during the initial emergency response.

“If you err, err on the side of caution,” Huggins told city officials about calculating the city’s emergency response costs.

City Clerk Jennifer Brown told officials the city did not want to over estimate costs, but wanted the estimate to reflect real costs incurred by the city for actual emergency services related to the storm costs.

She said the city is in good financial shape, but wants to tap into emergency disaster funds so its general fund is not drastically hit by the unexpected and costly storm damage expenditure.

“We have a general fund we can dip into, but we want our money back,” she told federal and state officials.

Culpepper said it was best to get as close to the actual costs for emergency services so the city does not have to repay large sums of money to the federal government.

“If we’re doing this, I want it to be right,” Brown said.

She told federal and state officials that police logged 435 overtime hours, Fire Department personnel worked 395 overtime hours, and the Street Department accumulated 76 hours of overtime for “emergency services.”

“This overtime has nothing to do with debris removal,” Brown said.

Culpepper said if the estimate is low, the city can still recoup its actual expenditures for emergency services related to the storms.

Federal and state officials said they have also met with officials from Riverside, Ragland, Moody and St. Clair County, and are organizing a countywide immediate needs fund kickoff meeting in the next two to three weeks for every city and affected by the storm and tornadoes and St. Clair County.

Culpepper said FEMA plans to hold the kickoff meeting in the Pell City council chambers at City Hall for all St. Clair County entities affected by the storms, including the Pell City School System.

“We have to get a hold of everyone and see what day is good for them,” he said.

Culpepper said FEMA will assign a project specialist for Pell City, and the next meeting will incorporate “public” needs funding related to debris removal and other related storm damage costs incurred by St. Clair County, as well as all municipalities and towns within the county.

He said FEMA has a debris removal team that will attend the kickoff meeting, which works strictly with matters related to debris removal.

“I look forward to working with you guys,” Culpepper told Pell City officials Monday. “We’ll get more details of the kickoff meeting out soon.”

Compson said Pell City should receive its initial check for emergency response expenditures within the next three or four weeks.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.