AT A GLANCE:
The City of Vernon will have a Budget Workshop at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, in the City Hall Council Chanbers.
VERNON — City Council members heard a plea for help from one resident struggling with flood water and heard a report from Hammers and Hearts, a Christian volunteer group helping Vernon residents rebuild.
“Everybody has seen the flooding that is every where,” said resident Martha Moore, “but my property has flooded three times since July 3.” Moore said the problem is with her drainage culvert, which is half full of dirt. Moore resides at 2883 Dawkins Street in Vernon, and she said the water was backing up under her home and into her outbuildings.
“I would like to have someone come out and look at this ditch and see if anything can be done,” Moore said. “I can’t continue to strip out skirting and bleach everything down every time it rains 10 inches.”
“In 50-plus years, I have never seen flooding like this,” said Council Member Gwen March.
Moore said she had been on the phone with county and state officials, and everyone she talked to said they had nothing to do with her ditch problems.
“We can get someone out there,” Councilman Tray Hawkins said. “We can clean the ditch for you.”
Ben Tarpley of Live Oaks, Fla., founder of the volunteer group Hammers and Hearts, reported to the council that his group, along with Catholic Charities and the Northwest Florida Baptist Association and the Methodist churches were beginning to organize work parties to help repair people’s homes.
“The infrastructure was declared an emergency by FEMA, but people’s homes were not,” Tarpley said. The church volunteers are on hand to help the city residents with work. About 100 people have requested assistance from the volunteers, Mayor Michelle Cook said. Tarpley said the group is working on raising funds and organizing work parties.
“Hammers and Hearts began in Joplin, Mo., when that town was wiped out by a tornado,” Tarpley said. “The disaster you folks here have is just as devastating to your residents, but it isn’t as dramatic as a tornado.” Once the water goes away, so does the media attention, but people are left with homes to rebuild.
The volunteers work on private properties, but will not work to rebuild rental properties, Tarpley said.
People interested in volunteering to help Hammers and Hearts with cleaning and construction should call Tarpley at 478-258-7585.
Residents wanting to be added to the list for assistance should call the county Emergency Management Office at 638-6203.
The council also heard from Fire Chief Tim Barnes that the city’s two fire trucks, the tanker and the engine, were involved in an accident Sunday night.
Barnes said the two trucks were on their way to a car fire in Ebro when the fire engine started to skid in the rain after braking to avoid a vehicle which had suddenly stopped in front of the truck in the roadway.
“They didn’t pull over, they just hit the brakes when they saw us,” Barnes said.
The fire engine turned sideways on Highway 79, and the tanker truck was unable to stop and struck the fire engine.
Barnes said he would be surprised if the fire engine was not totaled by the insurance company.
Barnes also said they were very lucky in that no other vehicles were involved in the accident and no one was seriously injured.
The city is temporarily without a fire vehicle, and Barnes could not say how soon the city fire trucks could be returned to service.
Engineer Nolan Baker of CDG Engineering of Dothan gave the council a brief report on the status of the city’s efforts to get FEMA funding to help with infrastructure repairs. “We have a list of projects to submit, but this is just a ballpark list to get us going,” Baker said. When asked how soon the city could expect to see money coming from FEMA, Baker said, “It’s a slow process.”