County completes tornado clean-up with no outstanding debts

1STOCK NEMS Chickasaw Co HOUS

CHICKASAW COUNTY – The project is complete, the bills have been paid and Chickasaw County has no debt on the books from the tornado of April 2011.
The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors received the final check for reimbursement from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency during the Aug. 5 meeting, closing the books on the storm cleanup with a zero balance.
The county was hit by two F-3 tornados in a 12-hour time span that caused 31 miles of destruction to homes, businesses and property from Woodland to Okolona.
County supervisors were tasked with the decision of how to tackle the clean-up efforts. They heard recommendations from outside contracting companies and took bids for debris removal, but ultimately decided to take on the project, enlisting assistance from neighboring counties.
Anderson McFarland is current board president and supervisor of District 1. He lived with the project day-in and day-out, both as a supervisor and as a resident whose home was destroyed. McFarland said the board’s decision to handle debris removal at the local level was the right one for the county.
“We thought the Corps (Army Corps of Engineers) was going to help us, but they turned us down,” McFarland said. “That’s when we actually decided to do it ourselves.”
The county had already begun the cleaning project while waiting for a response from the Corps of Engineers and had removed about 25 percent of the estimated 125,000 cubic yards of debris left in the aftermath of the storm.
The board heard from several contractors who priced the job at well over $250,000.
“They kept saying, ‘You can’t do it without this or that (equipment),’” McFarland said.
The board decided to proceed with clean up efforts with a combined county effort and found extra resources in surrounding counties who sent workers in to help.
The county qualified for a FEMA Public Assistance grant of $548,980 through a federal disaster declaration and EMA Director Linda Griffin kept all the records for expenses, assistance and volunteer hours.
After paying Lee, Calhoun, Pontotoc and Monroe counties for their efforts and tallying the reimbursement payments from FEMA and MEMA, the total expense for the clean up came in under budget at $530,000.
“We had continual reimbursements,” Griffin said. “We submitted project worksheets as each project was finished.”
The board received the final reimbursement on the project from Tracy Pharr of MEMA at the Aug. 5 board meeting, bringing the ending balance to zero.
McFarland credited Griffin for her organizational skills in working with the record keeping for MEMA and FEMA.
“She kept it all rolling,” McFarland said. “She knows the people and got in touch and had everything in place.”
Griffin, in turn, credited the board for their decision to take matters into their own hands, even though the process took longer than some would have liked.
“They took their time,” Griffin said. “It took a while, but they got it all done.”