CHIPLEY - There's 13 pots of money available to help Washington County recover from the impacts of Hurricane Michael. Local officials learned Monday evening that if they want to make use of the funding, they have to take initiative to get it.
"It is a project-based plan," said Ted Everett, Director of the Washington County Economic Development Council. The county will not be given a lump sum of money to distribute equally to each municipality, he said, adding "each municipality will have to have its own projects backed up by documentation; they will have to present that documentation to the agency that they want funding from."
Emerald Coast Planning Council representative Ada Clark made a presentation to the roughly 40 attendees of the meeting held at Florida Panhandle Technical College, including those from Wausau, Caryville, Vernon, Chipley, and the county's Board of County Commissioners.
The county is looking at five projects. In no particular order: establish a new shelter facility, sewer infrastructure for the City of Chipley spray field project, solidify communications systems, make sure back-up generators are available and operable, and establish non-state road road infrastructure that can sustain a local emergency personnel route in the case of another natural disaster -freeing up State Roads 77 and 79, particularly, during an emergency or crisis situation.
Washington County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Tray Hawkins said the county prioritized the projects based on how great of a benefit each would serve to the residents of the county. He said the county is organized, prepared - in a partnership with the municipalities - to pursue the funding.
"We're not obligating any of the money of tax payers money unless we have the projects turn-key ready, shovel ready," Hawkins said. "We feel very confident through our legislative partners, that our projects will be recognized ... because they will benefit not only Washington County, but the entire state."
There is no set amount of money in each pot, per se, however, the opportunity to get funds for projects that will repair and prepare the county and its municipalities is available. It will take initiative by each applying entity.
Similar to the recovery counties of Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, the funding will be provided on terms that the applying governmental agency has properly documents the breadth of the project. A few months ago, local officials were given a first-hand account of the amount of work that went into acquiring funding to recover from the 2004 storm. Even 14 years later, those counties are still using federal funding to continue recovery and development.
"This is not going to be a short term remediation, it is going to be a long term remediation," Everett said. "We want to be better than when the storm came. It's all about making things better, so that if another storm comes, we can protect our citizens better."
Another meeting will be held in the next couple of months, he added.