The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 24, 2012

Joplin to seek FEMA extension for displaced families

By Debby Woodin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin city administrators will ask that temporary housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to tornado survivors be extended for seven months.

The City Council voted 8-1 in its informal meeting Monday night to approve a request for an extension.

The city’s request will go to the State Emergency Management Agency, which will forward it to FEMA.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday said he would support the application.

During a news conference to announce a $1.6 million federal grant for Will’s Place at Ozark Center, Nixon said he was aware that the request was being considered, and that he would officially concur and would work with federal agencies to help Joplin however he can.

City Planner Troy Bolander told the council that the current housing contract with FEMA expires Nov. 9. He asked to file a request to extend the housing for seven months, based on city projections that enough affordable housing would be built by then to accommodate those who have not yet been able to leave FEMA housing.

Bolander told the council that 586 families had used FEMA housing at the peak of displacement after the 2011 tornado, and that so far 420 have been able to find homes or apartments. He said 166 remain.

“According to FEMA, that is a good sign,” Bolander said, because the last of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago have only recently left FEMA housing.

He said that according to information from caseworkers regarding those who remain in the FEMA trailers, about 99 families will be able to relocate soon, but it is projected that 67 other families need affordable housing that is being built or will be built in upcoming months.

City Councilman Bill Scearce, who voted against asking for the extension, said there are people who probably would not leave the housing voluntarily because they are staying there free.

Bolander said FEMA has the authority to start charging rent based on income. He said FEMA also will allow occupants to buy the trailers in which they are living, but those would have to be located in or moved to a trailer park if they remain in Joplin.

In its formal meeting, the council approved measures to proceed with the design of two new fire stations to replace two destroyed by the tornado.

Fire Chief Mitch Randles told the council that eight architectural firms submitted proposals.

He recommended Paragon Architecture and CR Architecture and Design for design plans and engineering of Station No. 2, to be built at the northeast corner of 13th Street and Schifferdecker Avenue. The firms designed the new Station No. 6 that opened this year at 5302 W. 32nd St. Randles said the new station would look similar but be smaller than the 32nd Street station. It will replace the one that formerly was located at 2216 S. Maiden Lane. The fee will be 6 percent of the total cost of the project, which is estimated at $1.1 to $1.4 million.

A contract with Sapp Design Associates Architects for the plans for the replacement of Station No. 4 also was approved. That station was located at 2010 E. 15th St. and will be moved to 3402 S. Hearnes Blvd. Randles said he intends for that station to be designed with a historic look that would suit Main Street.

Councilman Jack Golden asked if the city could earn an Insurance Services Office rating of 2 if a seventh station were built.

Randles said it would take a few more pieces of equipment to get the higher rating. He said he has worked toward that by spreading out the locations of the replacement stations. The destroyed locations grouped the city’s fire coverage too closely toward the center and north parts of the city, Randles said earlier.

The council also approved a bid for a fire rescue truck for the 32nd Street station at a cost of $296,063 from Pierce Manufacturing Inc. Randles said that is the final item needed for that station. The truck will carry various pieces of rescue equipment.

Widening projects

RIGHT-OF-WAY ACQUISITION WORK can proceed for widening projects on 26th Street, Schifferdecker Avenue and Maiden Lane as a result of City Council action Monday.