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FEMA: Weather caused $600k in damage to local roads

Rain and freezing temperatures caused $600,000 in damage to Chilton County roads this winter, based on Federal Emergency Management Agency assessments. The county could receive a comparable amount of money to repair affected roads, pending the appeal of a presidential declaration.

County Engineer Tony Wearren met with FEMA damage assessment teams, and together they identified more than 20 county roads that sustained damage from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15.

The National Weather Service said the 15-day period was one of the coldest in the state’s history. The prolonged freezing temperatures, coupled with abnormal levels of moisture freezing underneath roadways, caused widespread damage to local water systems and roadway networks.

“We have about $600,000 worth of damages that was evaluated and looked at by FEMA,” Wearren said. “If approved, this money would go toward the repair and resurfacing of paved roads.”

Chilton County was not among the 15 counties included in Gov. Bob Riley’s Feb. 1 request for a declaration. The initial request included Blount, Chambers, Cherokee, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Lamar, Marion, Randolph, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Winston counties. The initial request was denied by FEMA, however.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is actively working with the Governor’s Office and local emergency management agencies to submit an appeal to reverse the decision. If FEMA accepts, the state will request that 10 additional counties be added to the original declaration request. These are Chilton, Calhoun, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Fayette, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence and Walker counties.

The state has 30 days to appeal, and FEMA has 90 days to respond.

“If Chilton County receives a declaration for this event, the federal [level] will pay 75 percent of the cost of approved projects, the state will pay 15 percent and the county will be responsible for 10 percent,” said Lauree Ashcom, AEMA Deputy Public Information Officer.

Wearren said many of the damaged roads are paved with chip seal. He added that projects would involve the repair of certain spots rather than the resurfacing of entire roadways.

“We feel like our claims are legitimate, and they (FEMA) agreed with us,” Wearren said.

Without assistance, it could take as long as two years to repair the damage, he estimated.

Chilton County EMA Director Bill Collum said people can call their representatives and senators about the county’s need for assistance.