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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Damage to area counties in the millions of dollars

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

(Photo)
This pin-filled Izard County map in the Office of Emergency Management shows the location of roads, bridges and culverts damaged by recent flooding. OEM Director Bill Beebe is pointing to a site where the repair cost will be more than $100,000. FEMA visited Izard County this week to survey damage as it works to determine whether Arkansas counties will qualify for disaster assistance. Photo by Richard Irby
On Monday, May 9, Izard County showed the extent of its flood damage to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, as the disaster assistance agency works to determine which Arkansas counties have enough damage to receive federal aid.

At the May 3 meeting of the Izard County Quorum Court, Judge David Sherrell indicated his office was already prepared for the visit.

"They are so busy," said Sherrell, "we are picking out the 10 to 12 worst problems and we'll show them those spots and the pictures and everything else (documentation) that we've got and then they'll move on."

During the May 9 inspection, FEMA confirmed Izard County has enough damage to qualify for federal aid.

"We know we've had $575,000 worth of damage," Sherrell told The News. "We don't have firm estimates on what it will cost to fix most areas. I expect we'll easily top $1 million in damage."

Sherrell described one instance in which about 300 yards of a county road was totally washed away. The county has brought in 62 loads of limestone rock, just to get it back to passable condition.

At the Office of Emergency Management, Director Bill Beebe pointed to a county map covered with color-coded pins.

"This shows all of the damage we've come across so far," Beebe explained. "Things like washed-out roads, damaged culverts and bridges."

Two orange pins identify sites where repairs are expected to cost more than $100,000.

Two green pins mark better news, locations where repairs should be less than $50,000.

The majority of pins in the map are pink. They identify more than 30 areas where the county knows there is damage, but has yet to establish firm repair estimates.

"We are counting on FEMA's help, because we obviously just don't have the money to make the repairs on our own," said Beebe.

The Judge's office is working closely with the county road department and emergency management to document the damage and repair estimates.

The county wants to be ready to file claims as soon as they are available, since there is a lot of paperwork and waiting involved in getting government reimbursement.

FEMA was also in Sharp County on May 9, where it found a level of damage to qualify it for assistance.

Representitives of the federal agency were to be in Fulton County on Tuesday, May 10.

After nearly two weeks of emergency work to make roads passable enough to allow all residents to get to and from their homes, Sherrell hopes crews will be able to move to the actual repair stage this week.

"Roads are rough and we understand they are rough. A lot of people have complained that we haven't got out there and fixed their roads. Our main concern has been getting people in and out. Once we get that done, we'll start fixing," Sherrell told Justices of the Peace.

While he has worked on flood response, the Judge has been dodging raindrops -- in his office.

The Judge told Quorum Court members the courthouse roof has "leaked terribly" during the deluge. Stained ceiling tiles in Sherrill's office are proof leaks have reached all the way to first-floor offices.

Sherrell has applied for grants to fix the courthouse roof.

While paying for flood damage repairs is a big concern, a major improvement to one county bridge is a sure thing.

Justices approved a resolution to accept an Arkansas Community and Economic Development grant to replace the Piney Creek bridge on County Road 80.

The old bridge has long been outdated and at least one death has occurred at the bridge, when a vehicle was washed off of it.

The plan for a new bridge shows the structure will be higher and wider with larger culverts, which will allow more water to flow under the bridge in rain events.

Judge Sherrell indicated during the meeting that work to prepare an RFP, a Request for Proposals, for a new county communications systems has fallen behind because of the flooding emergency.

According to Sherrell, to seek bids, the county will need to decide what type of radios to use in the new system.

Basic UHF radios cost about $500 to $600 apiece, but a new main tower and repeaters will have to be built to use them.

If the county uses the state's AWIN (Arkansas Wireless Information Network) system, the state will provide and maintain the communications system. The disadvantage of joining AWIN is, radios cost about $3,000 apiece.

The radio cost will make it expensive for county agencies and volunteer fire departments to obtain the radios.

Further discussion about the communications system will continue next month.

The June meeting of the Izard Quorum Court will take place at 6 p.m. on June 7, 2011.



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