Barry, Lawrence counties get disaster declaration

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Officials: Area not likely to see immediate FEMA impact

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Saturday night that President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration for 60 counties in Missouri, including Barry and Lawrence.

The declaration limits assistance to schedules A and B, which Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton said covers only things like debris removal and sheltering. He said the vast majority of Barry County's damage is in other areas, mainly roads.

"Ninety percent of our damage is schedule C and below," he said. "And, we have some road districts still assessing their damages."

According to Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Lawrence County is in the same boat, as she said damages as of Monday were at about $1.2 million, and five road districts still had not reported.

"We have about $760,000 from road districts so far, and for cities we have about $415,000, mostly things like parks and streets," she said. "Part of Marionville's water treatment plant's electronics got wet, and there's some park and fencing issues."

Witt-Schulte said she expects Lawrence County to be close to $1.5 million in damages, as each road district is averaging about $75,000, and five road districts still have not tallied total damages.

Witt-Schulte said although there was a shelter set up in Pierce City, the current declaration does not do anything for it, as only two people used the shelter and it was closed down merely two hours after opening.

"That's just how people in this community are," she said. "They take care of each other, so we don't have to bother with that much."

While there will be little immediate effect from FEMA, Compton said he is confident the county will qualify for public assistance, and possibly individual assistance, after a damage report submitted Tuesday is reviewed and FEMA officials survey the worst of the damage over the next two weeks.

"If we get individual assistance, those individuals may be eligible for grants up to $33,000 to provide safe housing," he said. "But, individual assistance requires a different threshold, the impact threshold."

Compton said the state's threshold for public assistance is $6 million, and Barry County would have to meet $126,000 in damages to get a wider-reaching declaration.

Witt-Schulte said Lawrence County's threshold is only about $130,000, which is has already surpassed.

"By the time the whole state gets evaluated, I can't imagine us not getting more assistance," she said.

Compton said individual assistance qualification is more unpredictable.

"To me, we had a better chance at individual assistance in July, but of all the FEMA programs, that's the hardest to nail down and do," he said.

Witt-Schulte said in Lawrence County, nine mobile homes and 20 houses saw damage, and all but one was insured.

Compton said total damages in Barry County are estimated at $1.5 million, without including the figures from flooding in July. More refined numbers will be submitted this week, and Compton said FEMA officials should be in Barry County sometime in the next two weeks to look at damage.

"Some of these areas have to dig for damage to qualify for a program, but we have a long list prepared," Compton said. "We have a plan of action to give the FEMA representatives a feel for damages throughout the county."

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