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County to benefit from FEMA disaster declaration

The Pike County Commission got some good news on Monday, as members learned the state of Alabama has received a federal disaster declaration for the April 19 severe storms.

The declaration, which was awarded July 10, comes nearly 90 after the storms brought 90 mph straight line winds across the county, leaving a wake of devastation in their path.

“All together, our estimate of damages and the cost of repairs and cleanup from the storms just here in Pike County was $2 million,” said Herb Reeves, EMA director. “That includes Pike County, the City of Troy, the City of Brundidge, South Alabama Electric Cooperative and other agencies here in Pike County.”

For the commission, the declaration means officials can seek reimbursement for the expenses associated with the storm, including the controversial allocation of $350,000 from road and bridge funds and the rainy day fund to pay an outside contractor to help with debris removal.

Under FEMA guidelines, the federal government will reimburse 75 percent of the costs; the state usually reimburses 12.5 percent; and the county will be responsible for 12.5 percent.

“This is good news,” Reeves told commissioners during their work session.

Russell Oliver, Pike County Engineer, said the outside contractor has completed about 95 percent of the debris removal from roadways. “I’m hoping after (Tuesday) everything west of U.S. 2231 will be completely cleaned up,” he said. “The rest of the county is in pretty good shape. There’s just a few things left to clean up.

In other business on Monday, commissioners:

• Approved two personnel actions, one for the sheriff’s department and one for the road department.

• Heard a recommendation from County Administrator McKenzie Wilson to move employees in the tier II retirement program to tier 1,which will be considered at the next meeting. Shifting tiers, which was approved by the state Legislature, would allow employees to take advantage of additional benefits, including the option of retiring after 25 years with a guaranteed retirement income. It would increase costs to the employees by about 1.5 percent.

• Heard an update from Reeves, who said he is working on the hazardous mitigation plan and will present it during a public hearing in the July 27 work session. “One of the things we’re looking at is increasing shelters across the county,” he said.

• Reviewed a draft of the County Transportation Project for 2020-2021 presented by Oliver. Oliver said when this year is complete, the county will have resurfaced more than 73 miles of road in one year. “That’s a record for the county,” he said. The projects proposed for next year include repaving County Road 7707 from CR7718 to China Grove. The county has received an EDA grant for $250,000 to pave two miles of the road, and Oliver proposed using $400,000 from AEF funds to complete the resurfacing. The other project slated for 2020-2021 is the resurfacing of McLuretown Road.