Dresden Board Signs Contract to Facilitate FEMA Funding
DRESDEN (January 18) — The City of Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen met in special session at the McWherter Civic Center on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, to discuss the possibility of contracting with a consulting firm to oversee FEMA information gathering and submission, maximizing the potential receipt of funds from FEMA and the application of grants to support rebuilding efforts.
Consulting Firm Contract
Mayor Jeff Washburn presented a proposal from Integrity Group from Tallahassee, Florida, to operate as a consulting firm to the City of Dresden for public assistance and cleanup of the city. The job involves overseeing FEMA field work, gathering and submitting the necessary paperwork for expense reimbursement, researching and applying for grants to assist in the rebuilding process, ensuring the City of Dresden and business owners receive the maximum amount of FEMA funding and any other tasks the City of Dresden deems necessary. The mayor explained the firm has been involved in this type of work for the past 15 years. Additionally, Integrity Group has been fully vetted for reliability and trustworthiness as well as competency to perform the tasks it will be charged with performing.
According to Mayor Washburn, the charge for this service would be paid for out of city funds initially, but would be submitted for reimbursement through the administrative costs built into the FEMA grants.
The mayor stated an exigent (temporary) contract would be entered into while advertising for requests for qualifications, and a full contract would be executed at the end of the advertisement period.
Alderman Gwin Anderson made a motion to hire Integrity Group as consultants for assistance with FEMA oversight, reimbursement requests, grant research and application submittal, the rebuilding process, and assisting other businesses through the same oversight process and allow Mayor Washburn and City Recorder Jennifer Branscum to iron out the details of the contract to be signed by Mayor Washburn.
Alderwoman Sandra Klutts asked if all concerns regarding the contract have been resolved. Mayor Washburn stated they would be resolved prior to a final contract being signed by both parties.
The motion passed a by a vote of 3 to 1 with alderpersons Ralph Cobb, Gwin Anderson and Sandra Klutts voting yes, and Alderman Kenneth Moore voting no. Aldermen Lyndal Dilday and Willie Parker were absent.
After receiving board approval, the city entered into a temporary 90-day contract with Integrity Group for consulting services. During the 90-days, the two parties are to hammer out a permanent contract for the duration of need of services. The company will provide consulting services regarding available FEMA funds and available grants for rebuilding the city’s infrastructure.
“During the 90-day period, the City of Dresden will be negotiating some of the terms of the contract,” Mayor Washburn said. “We felt like it was very important for the City of Dresden and its citizens to get these folks in place, at least on a temporary basis. We’re negotiating the reimbursement and when they get paid.”
Emergency Response Status
Mayor Washburn stated work was ongoing concerning cleaning up the community from the December 10, 2021, tornado that devastated much of the community, including the downtown area. He stated FEMA has declared a disaster for Public Assistance (emergency response) and Individual Assistance. This includes helping individuals and families to rebuild their homes, provide rent assistance, and cover relocation expenses.
However, he noted public assistance for the cleanup of government buildings and businesses has not yet been approved.
Mayor Washburn explained that there are three phases for federal assistance through FEMA:
- Phase 1 – The Emergency Phase;
- Phase 2 – The Recovery Phase; and
- Phase III – The Mitigation Phase.
Phase I, which is the emergency phase, was approved and carried out during the first week following the destruction caused by the tornado. It involved emergency response, including rescuing people and relocating them, and paying overtime for law enforcement and emergency responders.
Phase II, the cleanup and recovery phase, which involves a disaster declaration providing individual assistance for private citizens, has been approved. However, the City of Dresden is still waiting on approval of Phase II.
“We have not received the public assistance for the cleanup,” Mayor Washburn said. “We’re still waiting for funding to be approved, because there is no way the city could completely clean up the debris from all of the houses that were destroyed without government assistance.
“Volunteers are still coming in, and we still need volunteers to help people by doing odd jobs, helping people clean up their yards and those types of things.”
Phase III, which is the mitigation phase, begins three years after the disaster. This involves the federal government opening up funding for future loss related to weather events or disasters. That may include school safe rooms and other emergency response measures.
Assessing the damage, the mayor noted that there was no significant damage to buildings north of Main Street on the court square. However, he stated all of the municipal buildings and businesses on the city block south of Main Street (across from the courthouse) were destroyed or badly damaged and must be demolished.
“Structures along South Wilson, East Maple, Church Street, and Nelson Street, will also be demolished, except for the Frontier Telephone building,” Mayor Washburn said.
“We’re going to continue working toward getting the public assistance declaration for the cleanup,” Mayor Washburn said.
There have been new developments since Tuesday night’s meeting.
“Late Friday afternoon, FEMA set up shop at the Personal Development Center located at 8250 Highway 22 in Dresden,” Mayor Washburn said. This is an ideal location, due to the Tornado Recovery Center and Volunteer Center currently operating out of the same building.
“FEMA is going to be there from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. for about nine days,” Mayor Washburn said. Persons directly affected by the tornado that wish to apply for FEMA assistance in-person need to be diligent and go to the center and apply for that assistance. They may also apply for assistance online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).”
The public is warned to be wary of anyone soliciting them to sign up for FEMA assistance outside of the official sign-up website or phone number listed above, or at the designated sign-up location.
According to Darrell Habisch, FEMA Joint Information Center Manager, FEMA is in the grant business. From helping with medical expenses, hotel costs, rent payments, appliance purchases for homes during the rebuild process, there are a variety of grant funds available to those who were impacted by the December 10, 2021, tornado in Weakley County. Habisch said money is available to those who qualify and FEMA is not an insurance company. He added, grants are not income-based. FEMA representatives encourage residents impacted by the storm to stop by the Personal Development Center on Highway 22 in Dresden. The Center is located near the Weakley County Ambulance Service. FEMA does not request anyone to give them funds in order to receive funds. Funds may be direct deposited into a person’s account straight from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is also working out of the same location, and is taking loan applications for low-interest loans that will be available to individuals and businesses alike. The SBA services became available as a result of the Presidential Disaster Declaration for individual assistance (IA) that was signed on January 14.