BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (January 7) — During the February 7, 2022, meeting of the Dresden City Board, Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn gave an update concerning the latest developments regarding recovery efforts in the aftermath of the December 10, 2021 tornado that caused extensive damage to local homes, businesses and municipal buildings, as well as public and private property.
According to Mayor Washburn, several of the businesses destroyed by the tornado are going to be rebuilt and some will even be expanded. Additionally, new businesses are planned, which he said, “will make Dresden bigger and better than ever.”
Among those businesses being rebuilt are: Donnie Essary Automotive Center; Vaughan Brothers Hardware; Kountry Korner Market and Restaurant; Smart Dollars Salvage Grocery; The Dresden Enterprise newspaper office; and a business at the site of the former New Century Hotel (Majestic Restaurant).
According to Mayor Washburn, new businesses will include: a lumber company, second hardware store, meat market and two additional convenience stores.
New houses, duplexes and triplexes are also planned for construction to meet the city’s growing housing needs.
The mayor stated Weakley County Tax Assessor David Tuck predicts property and sales tax revenues will be down in FY 2022-2023, due to the loss of businesses and residential structures, but will increase significantly during the following fiscal year.
Mayor Washburn mentioned bids are being taken to demolish all of the buildings on the south side of the court square. Once this is accomplished, plans call for cutting down the hill on which these structures stand and leveling the ground for new construction.
The mayor said the Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance signed by President Joe Biden will help with tornado recovery regarding public buildings, while the recently signed Private Declaration will assist local citizens impacted by the storm.
In order to facilitate municipal grant applications, the city has 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.
Integrity Group will serve 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. The contract allows Mayor Washburn and City Recorder Jennifer Branscum to iron out the details of the contract, before a permanent agreement is signed.
According to Mayor Washburn, the charge for this service will be paid for out of city funds initially, and later, submitted for reimbursement through the administrative costs built into the FEMA grants.
As for the private sector, United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR), has been contracted to handle grant applications submitted by local citizens, who are now eligible to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance.
Assistance includes: temporary housing, such as rental assistance or reimbursement for hotel costs; grants for the repair or replacement of a homeowner’s primary residence (portion not covered by insurance); and other uninsured or under-insured disaster-related expenses, such as the repair or replacement of personal property, moving and storage fees, childcare, medical and dental expenses and certain funeral costs.
Mayor Washburn advised citizens not to “get ahead of FEMA or their insurance provider” by doing work on their properties before the damage can be assessed for grant funding and/or insurance settlements. If this occurs, they may lose funding.
For more information on Tennessee’s disaster recovery, visit www.tn.gov/tema.html and www.fema.gov/disaster/4637. Those affected by the tornado may also follow FEMA on www.facebook.com/fema and Twitter @FEMARegion4.
After applying with FEMA, citizens may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In times of disasters, the SBA offers low-interest loans for businesses, homeowners and renters. There’s no obligation to accept a loan, but you may miss out on the largest source of federal disaster recovery funds if you don’t apply. Information about low-interest SBA disaster loans and application forms are available online at SBA.gov/disaster. You may also call 800-659-2955 or email DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. If you use TTY, call 800-877-8339.