FAIRMONT — Town officials concerned about the future for residents whose homes were damaged in flooding are discussing whether residents should take federal money for repairs to their homes or wait for a buyout.
At the Fairmont Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Town Manager Katrina Tatum said 12 families in Fairmont were flooded out of their homes by Hurricane Matthew and she has been working with them to get help from FEMA. The question is whether families who take money to repair their homes will later be eligible for a buyout program if FEMA decides to go in that direction.
Tatum told the commissioners that in her meetings with FEMA, she has asked if accepting help to repair homes would disqualify residents from a buyout program later but she has not received a definitive answer.
“One lady has a check for $23,500. All she’s got to do is get back in her house and be happy,” Tatum said. “Well, it’s in a flood zone. She’s going to have to maintain flood insurance and I think she’s going to go back in there.”
Tatum said if more than half of the eligible residents take money to rehab their homes, that will effectively end efforts for a buyout program.
Tatum said he is advising residents not to take the money but to wait and see. She acknowledged that it’s difficult to hold off on accepting a payment when a person has the check in hand and they’re sleeping on somebody’s couch or staying at a motel.
“They are between a rock and a hard place — they’ve got to use the money to get in the house,” said Commissioner J.J. McCree.
In other business, the commissioners discussed but did not take action on a request by Commissioner Charles Kemp to give town employees a 2 percent pay increase. Kemp said he and McCree had requested a 3 percent salary increase for all employees when commissioners adopted the current budget in June but the board opted for a 2 percent increase.
In addressing the board, Kemp said he knew that finances might now allow for the raise but he wanted employees to know that they deserve it.
Tatum said currently the budget won’t allow.
Kemp said he is willing to wait and see if the town gets reimbursed by FEMA for its overtime expenses due to Hurricane Matthew.
“I suggest and recommend to our manager that when our financial picture is more clear we are kept advised and address this issue then,” Kemp said.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.