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County’s hands are tied by Bentley’s decision

Published 9:32pm Monday, August 19, 2013

The Dallas County Commission has until Sept. 1 to decide what to do with the $56,166.06 the county will receive from the state due to damages caused from Hurricane Isaac and the flooding experienced last September.

Dallas County Emergency Management Agency director Rhonda Abbott explained to the commission last week that because the state has changed the way they are handling mitigated funds, it has drastically limited their options for how they can spend the money.

Typically, Abbott said, the county would submit a letter of intent requesting funds for storm shelters, weather radios, sirens or anything associated with mitigating disasters. This time, however, Gov. Robert Bentley specified the funds are to be used for community storm shelters or residential storm shelters.”

“There is not enough money with $56,000 to build a community storm shelter,” Abbott said, meaning the funds will have to be used towards residential storm shelters. “It seems unfair that they’re limiting us to residential storm shelters.

Abbott said only five percent of the money can be spent on weather radios, which would not be enough and noted the money could only be spent on roads that need assistance that have never received any type up federal money.

Dallas County engineer Coosa Jones told commissioners every road that gets washed out in flooding, or needs assistance in some way, has already received some amount of federal money.

“They’re leaving us no option really, but to go with residential storm shelters,” Abbott said.

Abbott said she thought Baldwin County may have given their money back, and if that is the case, she will call the state to see if they would give Dallas County additional money to allow for one community shelter.

“If we do residential shelters, the resident has to have anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000 up front to pay in full for that shelter. I just don’t see that happening in Dallas County,” Abbott said, adding a residential shelter is on private property and the landowner must be willing and ready to pay up front. “The people that can afford to have shelters already have them, and the people that can’t afford shelters and need them, don’t have $5,000 up front.”

With their hands tied and a decision needed, Abbott recommended the commission go with residential shelters, noting she will make a request for additional funds in the letter.

“With this money we could probably do maybe eight shelters. It’s really unfair for them to come in with these priorities,” she said. “If I call the state and can receive some additional funding to do a community shelter, then we’ll do that. I really feel like a community shelter would be more helpful to people.”

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