By Derek Spellman
NEOSHO, Mo. — Newton County has been turned down for a public-disaster declaration by the federal government in connection with the May 10 tornado, but the state is appealing that decision, officials said Wednesday.
Gary Roark, the county’s emergency management director, provided that news during a multi-agency review of the county’s storm response on Wednesday in Neosho. The declaration would have allowed Newton County to be reimbursed for the cost of debris removal and disposal. It would also have allowed Newtonia, for example, to seek assistance in rebuilding its destroyed City Hall.
Individual homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the May 10 tornado are eligible for federal assistance under a private-sector disaster declaration that was issued a couple of weeks after the tornado.
But Roark said the county apparently did not qualify for a public declaration because, according to the formula utilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it needed to have sustained about $7 million in damage and recovery costs. The formula factors in elements such as actual damage sustained and population.
A damage assessment completed by FEMA and the State Emergency Management Agency put the county’s total damage and cleanup costs at more than $6.6 million. Roark said he thought the assessment underestimated the cost of debris removal. The assessment estimated countywide debris removal at $2.6 million.
“It is a big deal to us,” Roark told those gathered for the disaster response review, including representatives from relief agencies, utilities and emergency responders. “There is still a lot of debris out there.”
Susie Stonner, a SEMA spokeswoman, said the state has appealed the denial on Newton County’s behalf.
Stonner said the appeal included additional information about Newton County and its recent weather woes that SEMA officials think will bolster the county’s case.
For example, SEMA has submitted additional demographic information showing that the county is more rural than simple population figures might show. The state also has detailed the severe weather, some of which triggered disaster declarations, in the county over the past couple of years to illustrate hardship, she said.
Stonner said SEMA does not know when a decision on its appeal will be made.
Jerry Carter, presiding Newton County commissioner, said county officials are exploring all their options in terms of debris removal.
He said the county will help residents, but that it will have to prioritize cleanup projects into those that demand immediate attention versus those that do not while awaiting word on the appeal.
“We don’t intend to give up,” Carter said.
July 22 is the deadline for homeowners and renters to register with FEMA for assistance because of damage sustained during the severe storms in May. To register with FEMA, people may call (800) 621-3362.
By Derek Spellman
- Local News
Cherokee County hires first full-time economic development director
Cherokee County moved forward with plans to expand its focus on economic development recently by hiring its first full-time economic development director. Janet Miller, the former director of the Economic Development Center at Laredo (Texas) Community College, was tabbed for the job.
State Farm awards grant to Royal Heights educator for recycling project
Nasha Robinson, a counselor at Royal Heights Elementary School in Joplin, has received a $1,500 grant from State Farm Insurance to lead a semester-long service-learning project about recycling.
Playground in Pittsburg close to becoming reality
A $25,000 grant and several small private donations this week brought the goal of Phase 2 of an accessible playground closer to reality, organizers of the project said, but a few thousand more is needed to help close the gap on the cost of shipping.
Salvation Army: Secret Santa drops two hefty gifts
Secret Santa struck earlier than usual this year, according to Joplin Salvation Army Lt. Jamie Curry. Curry said the donation usually comes closer to Christmas.
Second plea deal struck in Joplin murder case
A second defendant has accepted a plea offer in the Jacob Wages murder case, agreeing to testify against the suspected shooter, Daniel Hartman, in exchange for a lighter sentence.
SLIDE SHOW: Snow almost over, but cold heads lower
When the snow stopped falling Friday afternoon, road-clearing crews across the Joplin area started getting an upper hand on the weather. But that could be short lived. More flurries and light freezing drizzle are forecast for tonight through Sunday morning.
Boeing deal takes flight; most area lawmakers support incentive deal for new Boeing plant
Southwest Missouri legislators almost unanimously endorsed an economic incentive package this week that is aimed at luring Boeing Co. to the state to build its 777X commercial jetliner. The bill passed the House by a vote of 127-20 on Friday, and follows Senate approval on Wednesday.
Cold places more demand on area homeless shelters
Local shelters expected increased demand on Friday, with overnight temperatures expected near zero and the lingering snow. Overnight temperatures in the teens are forecast for the rest of the weekend.
Special prosecutor named in family’s beef with police
A special prosecutor has been appointed for the misdemeanor cases of a father and son arising from a family member’s suicide in March and a resulting imbroglio with Joplin police and paramedics.
Nature center’s interim director promoted
Donna Whitehead, interim director and business manager of the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, has been promoted to the position of director of the center.
- More Local News Headlines
- Cherokee County hires first full-time economic development director