WINDSOR – It was the phone call that Bertie County and Town of Windsor officials were waiting for.
Shortly past high noon on June 1, the Golden Leaf Foundation in Rocky Mount contacted Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer to share some good news in the aftermath of two major flooding events in September and October of last year – the Foundation opted to award a pair of disaster recovery grants totaling nearly $575,000.
According to Sauer, $72,707 is awarded for the Cashie River Basin Drainage Study, one that seeks planning solutions and technical recommendations to protect families and businesses in the river’s basin drainage area through the development of strategies for storm water control and flow diversion in Cashie River watershed.
The largest grant is for $500,000. That grant is awarded for the planning and design development for a multi-use facility to support the public library and cooperative extension programs. Both the Lawrence Memorial Public Library and the Bertie County Cooperative Extension office building were severely flooded during both major weather events last year. Those buildings were also severely impacted by floodwaters from other storms over the past two decades.
Since late September, Windsor and Bertie County Boards of Commissioners have spent countless hours seeking disaster recovery funding from state and federal legislators as they sought to rebuild facilities as well as properly planning for future flood events.
Sauer noted this difficult work will continue for the next two to three years at a minimum, and the town and county citizens are fortunate to have the community leadership joining forces to seek grants and utilize resources from across the state.
Most evident to date has been the support from East Carolina University and North Carolina State University in seeking planning solutions and technical recommendations to protect families and business in the Cashie River Basin Drainage Area.
On May 19, Windsor Mayor James Hoggard, County Board Vice Chairman Ernestine Bazemore, Commissioner Tammy Lee and Commissioner Ron Wesson met with Golden Leaf Foundation Executive Director Dan Gerlach at the Bertie Early College campus to press the case for Bertie County residents and businesses. During the meeting they reviewed the county’s four Golden Leaf applications: $72,707 for the Cashie River Basin feasibility study; $300,000 for EMS Station One to supplement FEMA’s pending project request of $284,299; $1.9 million for the relocation and construction of a new public library; and $1.1 million for the replacement of the Cooperative Extension Building.
Sauer said one important outcome of the discussions with Gerlach was the collective thinking toward development of a joint use facility to support both public library programming and cooperative extension services in a single building.
Meanwhile, Mayor Hoggard commented, “The Cashie River feasibility study is the single most important driving force for the town’s future and successful redevelopment, and we are grateful to have the county commissioners as our partners.”
Vice Chairman Bazemore emphasized “that we must work together to re-establish our library services and the full complement of cooperative extension programming as soon as possible.”
Commissioner Ron Wesson reminded the group that “we must continue to press upon our federal legislators the importance of bringing FEMA dollars to Bertie County.”
Commissioner Tammy Lee spoke strongly in favor of rebuilding EMS Station One, saying, “I am thankful that Mr. Gerlach understands our needs and brought a representative from NC Department of Commerce who indicated that there may be additional funds to make up the difference if the FEMA grant is not adequate for our needs.”
Bertie County Commissioners Board Chairman John Trent missed the May 19 meeting and summarized ,“this has been a team effort from day one last September, when the first floodwaters hit Bertie County on Long Branch Road in Colerain. And for eight months we have been talking with FEMA, sometimes fighting with FEMA, and always standing shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Hoggard to support our citizens in Bertie County.
County Commissioner Stewart White, who has led other disaster recovery projects noted, “recovering from these floods will take years of work to complete. In my experience, we need to dig in, work hard and remember this will be a long road for Bertie and the Town of Windsor.”
The Bertie County Board of Commissioners and the Town of Windsor Board of Commissioners will be scheduling a joint meeting the second week of June to review flood recovery priorities and planning for community resiliency funding and redevelopment projects.