By Tia Lecorchick staff writer
County Manager Michael Lamar said at the recent Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting that the recent snow and ice storm cost the county $100,000.
“That’s a lot of money, but most of it is not directly from damage, but the cost of extra man-power, fuel usage, and equipment usage,” explained Lamar. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal personally called Ellen Warren, BOC member, to check in on how Morgan County was holding up during the storm.
“I really appreciated that he took the time to reach out to us,” said Warren. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assessed the condition of Morgan County after the storm on Feb. 19 to determine whether or not the county is eligible for aid.
According to Gwen Ruark, emergency management director for the county, FEMA is currently evaluating each county of Georgia affected by the storm.
“It’s all based on the population of each state and determining a certain dollar amount, which is the threshold of the state, which means the state must have spent more than their determined threshold in order to receive federal funds,” explained Ruark.
In order for Morgan County to become eligible for federal funds from FEMA to reimburse the costs of the storm, two criteria must first be met.
The state of Georgia as a whole must have spent over their designated threshold for the year, which is over $13 million, and then the state will classify Georgia as a presidentially-declared disaster.
Then, each county affected by the storm will have had to spend over its particular threshold, which is determined by population, in order to be eligible for federal funds. Morgan County’s threshold is $62,800, which we exceeded by nearly $40,000.
“If we are determined a presidentially-declared disaster, that opens the floodgates to federal dollars to reimburse us for the extra costs spent because of the storm,” said Lamar.
“It would be great to get reimbursed by the federal government.” FEMA is still in the process of tallying all the counties’ expenses and have yet to deem Georgia a presidentially-declared disaster, but if they do, then the governor can request assistance.
Although the storm was costly, the BOC was proud of how the county handled the unusual inclement weather.
“We got very lucky,” said Lamar. “We had few accident reports and no injury reports. We got nowhere near the amount of ice places like Augusta had to deal with.”
Lamar noted that the amount of power outages in Morgan County were minimal compared to other regions.
According to Lamar, there were 88 reports of power outages from Central Electric customers and 18 reports of power outages from Georgia Power customers throughout the county.
Considering Georgia Power estimated that 7,000 power outages occurred throughout Northeast Georgia and 554,000 across the state, Morgan County avoided the worst of the power outages, said Lamar.
The county utilized the Code Red System which uses phone, e-mail and text messaging to release pertinent information to Morgan County residents, and social media to provide updates about the storm to the public.
According to Lamar, 5600 people were reach through social media alone. “In terms of citizen outreach, I think we did a really good job of getting the wold out about what was going on during the event,” said Lamar.
All the county departments, including the fire, law enforcement, roads and bridges, public works, and emergency medical services, worked together to minimize the effects of the storm.
“Through technology and gathering at a centralized location, we were able to respond to the community’s needs very quickly,” said Lamar. “We treated the roads and spread salt in a very timely manner.”
“I want to say thanks to the county for doing such an amazing job. We did great during both storms. I just hope there isn’t a third storm to test us further,” said Andy Ainslie, chairman of the BOC.