VERNON — Mayor Michelle Cook informed City Council members that the city sustained $2.1 million in damages during the Fourth of July weekend flooding, and officials are hoping the region will be able to meet the $26 million requirement for FEMA assistance.
“The West Florida Baptist Association disaster team is canvassing for folks who need help with damage to their homes,” Cook said. The disaster team, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention, has volunteers available to help with demolition of damaged structures.
“They don’t do any construction, but they can help demolish things, so if people need help getting rid of damaged structures they will assist them,” the mayor said.
The West Florida Baptist Association Disaster Relief Unit may be contacted at 638-0182.
The city also has to decide where to collect the debris from the flood damage, Cook said.
“We’ve had people calling asking if they could put stuff in the dumpster here at City Hall where they’re working on our roof,” she said. The county is no longer under a state of emergency, she said, and Waste Management would not pick up residential debris such as wet carpets or damaged lumber.
“Maybe we should talk to Waste Management and see if there is something they can do,” Councilman Tray Hawkins said.
Cook said one of the determining factors the city would face in getting federal assistance is documentation of expenses. “Document, document, document,” she said. “We want to know how much it is costing to clean up. We’ve gotten some calls from people, but we want to know what it’s costing, so hopefully more people will call in.” She also asked that people send any photos of flood damage to City Hall from their phones and cameras.
The flooding also affected City Hall and the old high school, including the gymnasium, which has been closed.
Resident Dwayne McDonald asked the council if he could reopen the gymnasium for children to play basketball now that the floor has dried. One hallway in the old school is still holding water from the flood, City Clerk Dian Hendrix said, and the public should not be allowed access to the hallway due to safety concerns.
Hawkins suggested sealing off access to the hallway with a tarp, and McDonald asked if the youth could not access the gymnasium from the back door, avoiding the hallway and the front entrance.
The council agreed to allow children to return to the gymnasium, as long as the door was secured in the evening.
The city’s Fourth of July celebration has been rescheduled for Aug. 31 due to the flooding, the mayor said, the city will have to pay a $550 penalty for changing the date of the fireworks show.
“We tried to push it back even further, but that was the latest date he was willing to go,” Cook said. She added that the Tourism Development Council would consider on Monday what to do about the grant the city had requested for July 4.
“Hopefully we can reapply and get the remainder of the funds for the Labor Day weekend,” Cook said.