Newton County could receive $3.1 million dollars from the federal government after receiving a presidential disaster declaration following heavy rains.
Almost 13 inches of rain fell on Newton County the week of Dec. 23, causing damage to 13 roads. Repair of the roads could cost the county $1.4 million, and spills at the landfill could cost another $2.7 million.
Following the heavy rainfall, Newton County Chair Keith Ellis signed a local disaster declaration, asking the state for assistance. Nolan then submitted a preliminary damage assessment to the state, including a rough estimate of what kind of damage had taken place and photos of each damaged road, bridge and culvert.
When the county submitted their assessment to the Georgia Emergency Management Association (GEMA), staff members were unsure if it would qualify for a presidential declaration. Newton’s request then joined 32 other Georgia counties requesting help from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
“Out of the 33 counties, Newton sustained in the top 10 for amount of damage from the rain events,” Nolan said.
Starting Dec. 23, 2015, a storm system stayed stationary over Newton County, causing water to erode some roads and culverts and wash out bridges. On top of the damages, the county’s public works crews also worked overtime, enacting emergency protection measures, including putting up barricades and conducting estimates on the damaged areas.
The roads damaged were: High Point on Forest Drive; Bentley Place Way; Elks Club Road at Dobbs Road; Sewell Road at Morehouse Road; Henderson Road at the Jasper County line; Butler Bridge Road near Enfield Drive; Mills Drive near Smith Store Road; East End Road at Railside Drive; Dobbs Road near Elks Club Road; Old Post Road near Gaithers Plantation and 2556 Henderson Mill Road.
Along with the roads, Newton County’s landfill also sustained damage from leachate overflowing into a retention pond.
Newton County’s Public Works Engineer Chester Clegg and Newton County’s Public Works Supervisor Chris Maclom, worked with Harbin Engineering to provide a preliminary damage assessment on the landfill to Nolan, who sent it off to FEMA.
“When all is said and done, we’re looking somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.7 million total that could potentially be reimbursed by the federal emergency management agency to help with the situation,” Nolan said. “Take in to consideration that it would have been an expenditure the county would have had to pay themselves whether we receive funding or not.”
Thanks to the presidential declaration, the county won’t have to pay for the damage itself.
The declaration covers damage spanning from the period of Dec. 22 through Jan. 13. FEMA funds were released Feb. 26, Nolan was in an applicant briefing March 4 and met with FEMA assigned project worksheet writers in Newton County Thursday.
“Project worksheets are individual reports of damage that are prepared by FEMA and submitted by each damage reimbursement site,” Nolan said.
Each road project will have a project worksheet prepared by FEMA writers, who will be assisted by Newton County public works employees. As problems on the roads are completed they will be 0reimbursed by FEMA, individually per job.
Since the landfill is so large, its problems will bring reimbursed incrementally, according to Nolan.
The reimbursements for repairs will be paid in portions of 75 percent by FEMA and 10 percent by GEMA. Newton County will be responsible for the balance. Nolan said most of those expenditures can be covered by in-kind services, such as the submission of project worksheets administrative functions of jobs that need to be done.
Nolan shared the news of the presidential declaration at the most recent board of commissioners meeting, to the satisfaction of the board.
“You worked your fanny off to do it,” Ellis said during the meeting. “You’re one of the best employees we have and we have a lot of great ones.”