Fee waivers speak loudly

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The issue: Valley Grande officials have waived permit and inspection fees for families rebuilding after February’s tornado.

Our position: This is a meaningful way to help homeowners.

Rebuilding after a disaster is hard at best.

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First, there is the trauma, the fear that occurs when a tornado or hurricane strikes. People look at the rubble that was once a home or workshop or vehicle and go numb.

Some suffer injuries and must recover from the physical pain. Heap that on top of attempting to dig through what is left to regroup; to begin again.

Starting over means having to deal with official red tape requiring hours spent over voluminous forms for insurance and assistance and loans.

Starting over means having to cope with the financial burden of loss and rebuilding.

In February, a tornado struck Summerfield. Two businesses and 11 houses were destroyed. About 30 other structures were damaged.

Because most of the homes in the Summerfield area were insured, the location did not meet Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for a declaration of emergency.

The only assistance available to many of these people who suffered losses came as a Small Business Administration loan, a low-interest loan.

The state does not have a disaster fund.

But Valley Grande officials reached out to their neighbors in a meaningful way. The Valley Grande City Council voted Monday to waive permit and inspection fees for residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornado.

The money is not a grand amount. For a $50,000 house, depending on the square footage, the permit to build would cost about $1,000. Add to that four inspections of about $75 each.

That’s a total of $1,300.

But to many people who have lost everything, $1,300 seems like $130,000, and the gesture of the city officials, especially in these hard economic times, is like $1million.