Columbia County officials say that a $3.7 million federal grant announced last week is just the downpayment on total state and federal funds that could cover most of what the county spent on ice storm cleanup.
U.S. 12th District Rep. John Barrow announced on Friday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was sending $3.7 million to Columbia County to pay for the cleanup and damages caused by an ice storm that paralyzed areas of Georgia in mid-February.
“The 2014 winter storms left folks without power and our counties (were) left to foot the bill for cleaning up debris,” Barrow said in a statement. “I know how much the businesses and local governments need the resources FEMA is providing, and I’m glad that we were able to work together to make sure that they got the help they needed from the federal government.”
Columbia County Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker said the grant is only a portion of what is expected to come from FEMA and the State of Georgia to cover these expenses.Tucker explained that emergency management officials have formulas for reimbursement based on different time periods following a catostrophic event, such as the first 30 days, days 31-90 and days 91-180.
Tucker calculated the total cost for cleanup after the ice storm to be about $9.9 million. She said grants from FEMA and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) will cover at least $9.1 of that before all is said and done.
“FEMA and GEMA will also reimburse the county for the “Emergency Response” costs during the first 72-hours of the emergency,” Tucker said in an email.
“Those payment expenses have already been paid in salaries, so the actual cost factor to the county will be somewhere between $500,000 to $600,000.”
All told, grants and reimbursements should cover almost 95 percent of county expenses for the cleanup. Columbia County’s cleanup contractor collected a total of 535,086 cubic yards of waste, Tucker said.
By comparison, Augusta-Richmond County contractors collected about 726,000 cubic yards of debris, according to Augusta’s Deputy Administrator Steve Cassell. The city has paid more than $17 million in cleanup costs through June, which included more than $14.3 million to two contractors.
In June, Augusta officials said they expected FEMA will reimburse 85 percent of the funds for the first 30 days and 75 percent for the next 60 days of cleanup.
“The costs of cleaning up after the winter storms were a blow to our local budgets,” said State Rep. Ben Harbin in a statement.
“In times like this, we need the resources that are available to come to the aid of our communities.”