Road work awaits FEMA funding

Published 7:50 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Residents living on some of Pike County’s roads damaged in heavy winter rains last year may be wondering the same thing — why haven’t they been repaired?

The answer’s quite simple, said Pike County Engineer Russell Oliver: there is no money.

With promises of funding allocations from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the county has had to postpone its road work pending a disbursement of the funds by Congress.

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“We don’t have to go out and find the money and get reimbursed,” Oliver said. “We are waiting on the money because we don’t have the money to get reimbursed. Congress has failed to appropriate the money.”

Oliver said there are about 128 places in Pike County in need of these repairs.

But, some of the greatest problems are on Couty Road 7729 in Needmore and County Road 1144 in Shellhorn. Both of these roads have been closed because there is a need for more materials in order to complete the construction.

Also, a bridge on County Road 4423, while it remains open, is posted to limit traffic across it.

“They’ve been closed since last winter,” Oliver said.

Oliver said the FEMA funding wasn’t awarded all at once, but the final approval was given March 22.

“That’s going on four months now,” he said. “FEMA came in and we had many projects around the county where we had damage from the heavy rains and flooding, and FEMA came and stayed here for quite some time.”

Oliver said a minimal amount of road repairs can be done by the county road department. But the bulk of projects require supplies that in a tight funding year can’t be completed without Congressional approval.

Congressman Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, voted in favor of allocation of the some $5.1 billion in emergency spending from FEMA, but due to conflicts in the House and Senate, that money has yet to be appropriated.

“Nearly every corner of our country has seen some form of natural disaster over the last 15 months, and FEMA’s budget has been stretched thin as a result,” Bright said.

“Counties in my district are still awaiting their guaranteed relief from FEMA for disasters that occurred nearly a year ago.  This legislation will help FEMA meet its past obligations and give them ample funds to prepare for future disasters.  Communities across the country benefit from this emergency funding because no city, county, or state is immune to mother nature, and FEMA must be prepared to respond when disaster strikes.”

A spokesman in Bright’s office said the issue will likely come back in the next few weeks.

Until then, Pike County roads awaiting repair will have to continue to do just that.

The amount to be allocated locally will be about $800,000 and will cover all the damage, Oliver said.