Final distribution approved

Published 6:17 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

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WINDSOR – A plan has been approved to disburse the money remaining in a relief fund established nearly two years ago to assist tornado victims in Bertie County.

By unanimous vote here Monday, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners accepted a plan from County Manager Juan Vaughan II to distribute the remainder of that fund (approximately $38,000) to the families who were impacted the greatest the August 2020 storm.

The relief fund was established one week after an EF-3 tornado packing winds of 140-145 mph, spawned off Hurricane Isaias, struck during the early morning hours of Aug. 4, 2020 in the Cedar Landing Road community near Morning Road and Woodard Road. That area was the most seriously impacted in the county with 26 homes totally destroyed. Two residents were killed and 16 were injured.

Countywide, 237 homes sustained damage to some degree. Other than the 26 that took a direct hit from the tornado, 95 others were deemed unlivable.

Within a few days of accepting donations, the Relief Fund had reached approximately $25,000. By late December of 2020, there was over $186,000 in the account.

There were several rounds of financial disbursement to the families displaced by the storm. That began in mid-to-late August of 2020 and the amount was based on the level of property damage (major, moderate, minor).

At this past Monday’s workshop, the county commissioners heard an update about Bertie citizens who were still without permanent homes due to the Aug. 4, 2020 tornado.

“We have four people still living in RVs [donated to the county on a temporary basis,” Rebecca Neil of Bertie County DSS explained to the commissioners. “They have been informed, verbally and in writing by certified letter, that April 30 is the last day; they have to be out of the RVs at that time.”

That April 30 deadline represents the end of a six-month extension that was approved earlier.

“We made contact with them this week,” Neil said. “One of the residents said she can’t move in until a non-profit organization finishes repairs [on damages to that residence caused by the tornado). Another resident said they are still looking [for a home to move to] and hoping they’ll find something soon. Another resident is looking to move into an assisted living facility. The other resident we can’t get in contact with.”

Neil added that one of the residents wanted to know if they could buy the camper (RV).

“They [campers] were gifted to us and we need to pay them forward [to others in need following a natural disaster],” said Commissioner Tammy Lee.

“I agree,” replied County Manager Juan Vaughan II. “And those campers aren’t meant as long-term residences.”

At that point of the discussion, Vaughan informed the board of the approximate $38,000 remaining in the county’s Tornado Relief Fund.

“I think it would be appropriate for us to distribute those remaining funds,” Vaughan suggested.

He recommended those funds be divided equally among the residents who were totally displaced by the storm, noting there were 16 families who were originally living in the RVs (campers). Though his “equal distribution” suggestion, Vaughan said each family would receive approximately $2,500 if the Commissioners approved his recommendation.

“I think it would be ideal to give that [money] to those families once they have finally vacated the premises of those campers. Twelve of those families have already done that,” Vaughan stated.

The Relief Fund came through private donations and did not include any taxpayer money. It was noted that the only involvement of the county was to oversee the distribution of that fund.

Commissioner Ron Wesson noted that the owner of the trailer parks that were impacted by the tornado also suffered revenue losses. He said those owners were “primarily uninsured.”

“They were probably as big as losers in this deal as anybody else,” he stressed. “We didn’t do that much for them.”

Vaughan said a portion of the relief funding was used to pay the monthly lot rent for the campers while they were in use on that privately owed property.

“I’m okay either way; if you think they [owner of the trailer parks] deserve something else, that’s fine; if not, we can go on with your [Vaughan] suggestion,” Wesson said.

On a motion of Commissioner Ron Roberson and a second from Commissioner Greg Atkins, the board approved the plan put forth by Vaughan.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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