‘Word’ is out

Published 8:16 pm Friday, May 6, 2011

WINDSOR – Bertie County Commissioners received an update on the status of the county’s recovery from devastating tornadoes during their meeting here Monday.

In addition to hearing from county staff members and state emergency personnel about on-going recovery efforts, commissioners asked questions about the Federal Emergency Management Agency declaration and aid for citizens.

Bertie Emergency Management Coordinator Rickey Freeman spoke to the group first, offering his thanks for the support the board had provided.

“Thank you, commissioners, for your support,” he said. “Most of you have been there since day one aiding our efforts and doing everything you could to help.”

Freeman said that thus far, 166 Bertie County residents had filled out applications through FEMA and said the Community Relations Team from FEMA had been working to identify those affected and to inform everyone in the county.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked if residents had to register with FEMA and go through the process if they wanted help and Freeman said they would.

“How do we make sure they register,” Harrell asked.

Freeman said FEMA officials were doing a good job of going around to get the word out and that announcements had been sent to newspapers, television stations and radio stations.

“That’s great, but, for example, if I am a person that has lost my home and business, I’ve been working from sun up to sun down and I probably haven’t read a newspaper,” Harrell interjected. “How are we communicating with those people?”

North Carolina Emergency Management Area 2 Coordinator David Weldon told the board that FEMA officials had been throughout the county.

“They are doing a good job of getting the word out,” Weldon said. “If they haven’t been to a home, they don’t know it existed.”

Weldon said people had been out for eight days and that he was certain the majority of people knew about the FEMA program.

“I feel that everything that could be done is being done,” he added. “If you have of someone who has not been contacted, let Rickey know and we’ll make sure they are.”

Harrell said he knew there was some concern in the past about the FEMA application saying it was a loan application. Weldon said that had been an issue, but that was the paperwork that had to be filled out. He said if a loan was offered, it didn’t have to be accepted.

Commissioner J. Wallace Perry said he had seen the first FEMA trailer being brought in through the Direct Housing Program and said he was glad to see it.

Freeman said the Direct Housing Program was initiated because of the lack of available rental property and that it was temporary housing.

Harrell asked what was being done about water bills for those who were in temporary housing and Weldon said subsidies were given to pay for utilities.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb added that he had instructed the Bertie County Water Department that the county would work with those whose homes had been destroyed.

Following that presentation, Bertie County Economic Development Director Steve Biggs gave a report on debris pickup and said that was going well throughout the county. He said more would be done in the coming weeks.

Board members then praised the work of Weldon, Freeman and others in the county.