Supervisors, FEMA rep address ongoing needs
By Ray Van Dusen
ABERDEEN – During Aug. 18’s board of supervisors meeting, Cynthia Brunson of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s governmental affairs introduced herself, which opened discussion about a pilot storm shelter program that launched last year and misconceptions regarding FEMA’s reach following disasters.
She said several people typically have questions mostly about housing following disasters.
“Sometimes they’re denied by FEMA for whatever kind of monetary assistance they’re asking for. There are other ways to get assistance if they’re denied and many times they just say, ‘I was denied, to heck with it.’ No, you keep going and at some point, there may be an SBA loan and if they’re not interested in that, there may be other areas.
“The unfortunate thing is they think FEMA or the government is going to rebuild their whole house. It’s not going to happen. They have an unrealistic idea of what is out there. What FEMA does is we get you back to getting back into the house. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get a dishwasher because it’s not essential, according to the government,” she said.
Board president Hosea Bogan mentioned one particular Amory who was denied by FEMA, saying there needs to be more information so people have an understanding of other options.
“There are a lot of people who when they’re denied, ‘What’s the next step? If FEMA denied me, is there another agency out there who can help me?’” he said of concerns he has received.
District 3 Supervisor Rubel West said a mindset with many people is FEMA is the all-out solution, but that’s not the case, which Brunson reinforced again later in discussion.
She noted how the county’s long-term recovery efforts will assist with housing needs. Applications are available through the Monroe Strong Facebook page, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (662) 640-1136.
County officials asked about the availability of storm shelters moving forward, but Brunson didn’t have an answer. Supervisors also talked about issues regarding a previous storm shelter pilot program the county is included in, saying no shelters have been placed to their knowledge and many applicants are still awaiting confirmation.
The program is closed to new applicants.
West said a representative from Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s office put pressure on FEMA regarding the programs, which helped for a little while but progress has stalled. Brunson said she will try to get an update.
Brunson also noted all residents of Amory’s Moore Manor have vacated the apartment complex due to damage from the tornado.
Water and park improvements
Aberdeen Mayor Charles Scott updated supervisors on water and park improvements, particularly an upcoming project to build a water tank alongside Egypt Road and upgrade the city water system’s 14 wells, which serve Aberdeen and rural areas around it.
The city and county each contributed $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, which was matched by a rural water fund through the State of Mississippi.
Bogan spoke on behalf of residents from the White Rock and Tumblin roads area, saying some have had issues with water service and their needs should be met. The water project will improve service throughout Aberdeen’s entire water system, including that area.
Some rural areas served by the city’s water department are served by the Aberdeen Electric Department, 4-County Electric Power Association and the City of Okolona Electric Department.
Scott said the city is working on improving communications to the neighboring power providers and pursuing further funding for generators in case electricity goes down at the wells.
“We’re going to do what we can to get to the last mile. They may be complaining to the wrong place. It’s one thing to complain but if it’s not to the right ear, there’s no solution,” Scott said.
Work towards advertising the water project is underway, but Scott is unsure when physical work will begin. He said the city also plans to pursue funds to work on the city’s lagoon and provide for an electrical substation on the north side of the city.
Bogan complimented Scott and the City of Aberdeen for pursuing grants and improvements.
Additionally, Scott talked about plans to pursue a grant for fitness equipment at Newberger Park, which is part of phase 2 of overall park improvements in the city. He also wants to make improvements at Acker Park.
“The grant wants you to create a walking/bike lane to connect two areas. With everything the sheriff’s department has going with its training center and plans for a basketball court and a walking track, it would allow us to connect the two,” he said of Newberger Park, adding it will include safe zones for pedestrians.
Additionally, he said there are plans to turn the former Black library near the park into a community center, and the Mayor’s Youth Council will be selling commemorative bricks for a walkway.
“This is a bold holistic plan, but our objective is to make improvements like we did at General Young Park to each one of these parks so they’ll have something unique,” Scott said. “When people come down Meridian Street, we want to show a different city and leave a lasting impression.”
Downrange, he wants improvements to be made at Morgan’s Landing and the walking track near Stinson Industrial Park.
Scott said the total cost of the Newberger Park project is $250,000.
He is asking for funding from the county’s standpoint and even though West expressed support of improvements, no action was taken.
During its previous meeting, supervisors approved a bid to equip six new Ford Expeditions purchased by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Due to more recent notification of a one-week difference for delivery and installation of equipment, supervisors approved to go with the lower bid instead.
Bogan was approved to donate $150 from his rural recreation fund for Nettleton’s citywide cleanup in late September.