Officials agree to tornado cleanup

Monday, April 6th 2009, 11:19 am

By: News 9

LONE GROVE, Okla. (AP) -- Local, state and federal officials have reached an agreement that is expected to speed up the process of recovery from a deadly tornado that ravaged this small south-central Oklahoma town in February.
   Carter County commissioners and Lone Grove City Manager Marianne Elfert met with state and federal officials on Friday to determine the county's role in the cleanup effort and how the town will be shielded from incurring any costs. Elfert has said the city lacks the money to cover cleanup expenses.
   Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said they would advance the town $90,000 in "public assistance" funds to help pay for debris removal along the roadways, the Daily Ardmoreite reported. They also pledged an additional $90,000 in the future to complete the process, if needed.
   Public assistance funds are typically paid on a reimbursement basis and can cover infrastructure repairs and debris removal. FEMA usually pays 75 percent of the costs, the state covers another 12.5 percent and the participating county or municipality is expected to pay the rest.
   This past Monday, crews began cleaning up piles of debris that had been accumulating in the wake of the Feb. 10 tornado, which killed eight people. Some of the downed tree limbs were cut for firewood, and other limbs were ground into wood chips.
   Elfert said she was told that Commissioner Kevin Robinson would be doing some of the debris removal as a service to the city, "above and beyond the $90,000."
   Robinson said he would continue to do the cleanup, but he expected to be reimbursed by the city for 87.5 percent of his expenses. Robinson said he would be willing to absorb the 12.5 percent local cost.
   On Friday, the commissioners offered to take over the entire debris removal project in Lone Grove and be responsible for meeting the 12.5 percent local funding requirement. FEMA's contract is with Lone Grove, so the county will have to provide necessary documentation to the city so Lone Grove can reimburse them for expenses.
   "If the county does something that is ineligible (for FEMA reimbursement), the county will absorb the cost," Robinson said.
   The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management will monitor all documents to ensure they comply with FEMA rules and regulations, officials said.
   Elfert said the county's help is appreciated.
   "We'll reimburse you for everything you've done."

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