As state DOT and county highway department crews continue to pick up and clear storm debris from along the county's right-of-ways, the county is making preparations to hire a private contractor to finish the job.
"Ninety percent of the debris 'eligible' to be picked up has already been hauled to the old rock crusher site at Carter Branch," said County Mayor Shelvy Linville this Monday night.
Only "storm blown debris" is eligible under FEMA and TEMA guideline for removal using 75 percent federal funds, leaving 25 percent of the cost to be divided between the county and the state of Tennessee.
"We've still got a big challenge out ahead of us," Linville told county commissioners.
A TEMA spokesman said that homeowners would be allowed to bury or burn storm debris if they had room to dig the hole on their property. A burn permit from the Department of Forestry is still required during this season of the year.
Commissioners asked a number of questions regarding the arrival of FEMA "trailers," which FEMA insists must be referred to as "manufactured housing."
The 14'X60' units "may be provided for tornado survivors if needed for temporary housing said FEMA public information officer Rita Egan on Monday of this week.
However, Mayor Linville has been told that there will be a three week to one month delay on the arrival of such temporary housing, due to testing for formaldehyde levels and to "air out" the manufactured housing units which have been in storage for as long as four years.
If and when such housing becomes available, it will be lent to the families in need of housing for eighteen months, with no cost to the tornado survivors other than utility connections and bills.
"FEMA is still assertively continuing to identify specific needs and housing preferences for homeless storm survivors," said the FEMA spokesperson. This includes looking out for the specific needs of persons in wheelchairs or with other disabilities.
"All reasonable means of providing temporary housing are being pursued," said Ms. Egan, a 17-year veteran with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But she stressed that people must register to be eligible for FEMA benefits. A mobile FEMA Recovery registration center is still in place at the National Guard Armory in Lafayette, and is open six days a week.
On the subject of FEMA "manufactured housing units," Ms. Egan said that "testing of the units is on-going, but FEMA does not have a time-frame for when this testing might be completed."
"We want people to be in safe, secure and sanitary housing," concluded the FEMA spokesperson.
For more information on FEMA and testing of the "manufactured housing" for formaldehyde problems, please see www.fema.gov
[Editor's note: due to space and time limitations, a more complete account of Monday night's county commission meeting will appear in Section B of next week's paper. The county commission meets again next Monday night, March 3 in the upstairs courtroom at the County Courthouse].