The Fulton County Quorum Court unanimously passed a resolution Aug. 8 to continue working on its pre-mitigation plan.
Terry Gray, head of the mitigation with Arkansas Department of Emergency Management in Little Rock, told members of the Fulton County Quorum Court that passing the plan would benefit the county.
"Several years ago Congress passed the Disaster Mitigation Act," Gray said. "This act provides federal funds to communities for disaster relief."
Gray said a provision in the act gives communities the opportunity to apply for special federal grants if they adopt a pre-mitigation plan.
The purpose of a pre-mitigation plan is to identify ways a community can improve its environment to reduce the damage that could be caused by a natural disaster, he said.
"Congress decided it makes sense to have a plan already in place," Gray said.
Examples of pre-mitigation planning includes projects such as building a safe room at the high school to protect students from a tornado or replacing a bridge that might wash out during a flood, Gray said.
"The purpose of these plans is to reduce the costs and damages associated with a natural calamity, and improve the lives of people who live in these communities," Gray said. "Let's fix the bridge before it washes out."
He said these projects are funded through pre-disaster mitigation grants and inclusion in the Hazard Mitigation Program. The grant money is disbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Several citizens expressed concern over provisions in the federal grants.
Mary Rivera, a concerned citizen and member of the Fulton County Natural Resources Planning Committee, said the money offered by the federal government for these projects comes with a price tag.
She said many of the grants offered through this program have strict environmental guidelines.
"If we adopt this plan it requires us to take partnership with non-government, environmental groups," Rivera said.
Rivera said those guidelines include the creation of green space, the changing of county zoning laws, government acquisition of personal property and the loss of personal property rights.
She said the guidelines would hamper economic growth and take authority away from local government.
"I hope this doesn't turn into a power grab in which we have no voice," Rivera said.
Gray said if the county decides to pursue a project with FEMA funds and it requires private property, the land owner would have to agree to sell the property; it couldn't be taken from him. He said environmental protection is a key element in all pre-mitigation projects.
Rivera said under FEMA regulations the public is supposed to be involved in the creation the pre-mitigation plan.
"There was one 45-minute meeting that hardly anybody knew about," Rivera said. "That constitutes community involvement?"
Gray said before the plan is finalized the community will have a chance to give input.
There had been some speculation that if a pre-mitigation plan isn't passed, Fulton County won't receive any federal money for disaster relief.
"Will we lose any of our funding for disaster relief?" Justice of the Peace Gary Phillips asked Gray.
Gray said even without the plan, the county would still receive public disaster grants to help recoup repair costs if the county experiences a natural disaster.
The county has until November to approve a pre-mitigation plan with the state, Gray said.
In other quorum court business, the court voted to buy two lots behind the Fulton County jail for possible future expansion.
The lots owned by Ron Plumlee were purchased for $5,000 apiece. All members voted in favor of buying the lots except Phillips who abstained.
Salem Baseball and Softball Association Director James Coffman asked the county to pass a resolution enabling the community to proceed with plans for a new sports complex.
Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said there are grants available to help fund the project, but a government entity such as a city or county can only apply for them.
Coffman said in order to get grant money for the project, the county must submit a long-term building plan and have a 20-acre property ready for purchase.
He said the new sports complex would have four lighted baseball fields, a basketball court, skateboard ramp, playground, walking trail, bathrooms, concession stand, parking lot and other amenities.
Coffman said the association hopes to pay for the project with in-kind labor donations, state grants and donations from local individuals and business. He said the project could take up to five years to complete.
"No matter how long it takes or what we've got to do, we need to do this for our kids," Coffman said.
The court unanimously passed the resolution.