FEMA denies private property help, Government leaders to appeal

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. – Mountains of debris still fill Chatham County with nowhere to go in private communities, especially since other funds have been rejected.

“FEMA has denied pick up in these communities based on a lack of volume believe it or not,” Jesse Petrea, a Georgia State candidate, said. “We vehemently disagree with that decision.”

Tuesday FEMA sent a letter denying funds to support debris removal on private properties in Chatham County, including Thunderbolt.

One day after that, crews picked up half a million cubic yards of debris in the landings alone with a suspected other half a million to go.

“My staff and I are assisting Chatham County and CEMA and GEMA in the appeal process,” Rep. Buddy Carter, Georgia-R, said.

State and county leaders said they’re determined to get FEMA’s support.

“We feel strongly that’s it’s a health and safety issue to get this stuff off the right away,” Pat Farrell, Chatham County District 4 representative, said.

Right now, the state is footing 12.5% of the bill, but the county needs to kick in another 12.5%. It’s an issue that will be on the agenda at Friday’s county commission meeting.

“County commission has approved $10 million at the last meeting. We’re going to do another $3.5 this Friday,” Lee Smith, the county manager, said. “This project could be as high as $18 million.”

And the cost has grown much higher as this becomes not only a safety concern for those on private property, but a health issue for the nearly 280,000 people living in Chatham County.

The standing water left by the storm has created a boom in the mosquito population and has resulted in three cases of EEE virus this week alone.

“You can look around us and there are trees overturned,” Smith said. “The trees then create caps in the ground. You get water that rises, or when it rains, and that is a new breeding ground.”

Costing the county that much more money.

“We are spraying every day,” Smith said. “We already know we’re spending half a million dollars in additional spray. We’re spraying by road and aerial six days a week now.”

Over the next six days city and county leaders will go through the appeal process. Once that gets to FEMA it is unclear how much longer it will take to hear back from them.

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