State may see FEMA funds to help offset storm recovery costs
Aiken and Barnwell counties may have a combined $6 million worth of damage caused by the recent ice storm that ripped through the area last week, according to Aiken County officials.
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has set a $6.4 million minimum in damage statewide to receive a disaster declaration, which would result in federal aid that would help cover recovery efforts.
FEMA is expected to assess the storm damage in Aiken County this week, according to County Administrator Clay Killian.
The County has to meet approximately $560,000 worth of damage, but Killian said the County expects to easily exceed that amount.
He said about $500,000 in damage to residences and other structures around Aiken County have already been calculated by local assessors.
On Tuesday night, Aiken County Council passed several resolutions in response to the winter storm that caused hundreds of fallen trees and large limbs and left thousands of residents without power.
Formal consent was given to a declaration of a state of emergency in Aiken County, a resolution was passed to enter into an agreement with Southern Disaster Recovery for debris removal and the execution of an agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation for emergency debris removal were all unanimously approved by Council.
Council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to amend the current operating budget to provide emergency funding to respond to the winter storm.
Accounting for all of the debris, as well as keeping record of man hours, equipment usage and anything related to cleanup efforts, is key to obtain a FEMA reimbursement, Killian said.
“We're going to show them (FEMA officials) everything we can to make sure they understand the magnitude of this storm,” Killian told Council on Tuesday night.
A state of emergency was already declared by County Council Chairman Ronnie Young on Thursday, after the storm struck the area, so that the County could start the recovery process. Council later asked to ratify the declaration, Killian said.
The declaration jump-started an agreement with Greer-based Southern Disaster Recovery, which was already a contract that was in the works before this storm came through, Killian said.
This recovery group has responded to a wide variety of disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The County is still working to clear roads of storm debris and hopes to have that complete by the end of the week, Killian said.
Both Killian and Council thanked Aiken County staff members, as well as other organizations, that have stepped up in the past week in response to the devastation caused by the ice storm.
“Everyone has been really amazing through all of this,” Killian said. “It's just been something else. It's been a busy six days, and we have a busy few months ahead of us.”
Any local businesses interested in joining the recovery efforts are encouraged to visit Southern Disaster Recovery's website at www.southerndr.com.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.