Red Springs hires agency to help with FEMA process

By Terri Ferguson Smith -

RED SPRINGS — Town officials have hired a firm to help them navigate the sea of paperwork ahead of them as they work to get life back to normal in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the flooding it caused.

The Red Springs Board of Commissioners during a special meeting Thursday voted unanimously to hire DMS, a firm that helps local governements handle applications to FEMA following disasters. The county has also hired DMS, which has offices in Louisiana, Florida and New York.

“It’s not an issue with FEMA,” Mayor John McNeill said. “It’s the sheer amount of paperwork and man hours that we really don’t have the people to do that.”

McNeill said DMS has many years of experience and will be paid with federal relief dollars, not by the town.

“Our area will be reimbursed at a 75 percent or 90 percent rate from FEMA,” McNeill said. “In the past, the precedent has been in a federal disaster that the state covers the remaining 10 or 25 percent. It should not be any cost to the town.”

Also on Thursday, the board approved paying non-exempt employees for overtime above 50 hours for the week of the hurricane and the following week, McNeill said.

Overtime for non-exempt employees is likely to be covered by FEMA, he said.

The commissioners also voted to purchase a used gravel truck.

McNeill said the town’s gravel truck was struck by another vehicle and totaled on Thursday. It was being used to pick up storm debris. McNeill said a rental truck could not be found nearby, so the commissioners voted to buy a used one for $60,000.

McNeill said the biggest hurricane and flood damage to the town’s facilities was to its electrical system.

McNeill said the town had about 95 percent of its lines back up within 72 hours. About 300 families served by Duke Power were without power for about a week, McNeill said, as repair crews couldn’t get to some of the transmission lines because of high water.

“I’m sure we spent $100,000 or more just getting back up in terms of transformers, lines and labor,” he said. “I’m just amazed at our own electrical crew of five, and how fast they were working to get our lines rebuilt.”

Red Springs had help getting power back from utility crews from Apex and from King’s Mountain.

“We were very fortunate compared to Lumberton and others,” McNeill said. “We never lost water and our water never had to be boiled.”

McNeill said it was heartening to see the level of support and volunteerism in the people of Red Springs and throughout Robeson County during the crisis.

“I could never be more proud of the citizens of our town and those around our town with all the help they gave neighbors. We had a shelter here and people went in and helped there,” McNeill said.

By Terri Ferguson Smith

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