Barbour County officials met at the county Office of Emergency Management Tuesday to learn about their eligibility for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance and to file reimbursement requests following the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said the City of Philippi does not yet have a definite estimate, but he suspects the damage figures will be at least $100,000. Cindy Hart, the interim director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the OEM might be able to ask for about $80,000 in reimbursements.
"This event was a lot larger than the last one," Hart said, comparing Sandy with a destructive storm in July.
Representatives from Broaddus Hospital, Family Resource Network, the cities of Philippi and Belington, the Health Department, the Barbour County Board of Education, Mountain Hospice, the Junior Fire Department, local public service districts, emergency medical squads and more gathered in a room of the Office of Emergency Management for a FEMA webinar about the process of filing the paperwork for reimbursements.
Dr. Joseph Super, the superintendent of the Barbour County school system, said about $11,000 in school system food was either donated or lost. According to his estimates, about $8,700 of food owned by the school system was donated to shelters, and $2,100 or more was lost because of the storm.
"That could be a low estimate on the loss," Super said.
For Barbour County Schools, those initial estimates only include the food. Super said some vehicles were in constant use to help with the storm.
"If I had the checkbook, I'd write you all a check for everything that you did through the storm," Hart said to the officials representing various agencies within the county. "People in this county don't know how lucky they are to have the people in this room sitting here. Every agency in this room, it's just amazing what everybody did."
Hart said that agencies could submit requests for reimbursement on the gas that was spent driving to deliver water and to be of assistance during the storm. However, those agencies would be reimbursed for the gas that was used rather than spent. Agencies would need to report their mileage, along with the make and model of the vehicle used.
Agencies wishing for reimbursement of the gas used to fuel generators would have to provide specifics about the kilowatts, wattage and hours of use for the generators.
An assessment will be conducted to review the storm and discuss how to improve efforts in the future. Hart said she doesn't yet have a date for the meeting, but it will take place some time next week. She said the county has not had the meeting because about 20 residences are still without power, and she didn't feel it was right to talk about the end of a disaster that has not ended for some.
Although the storm declaration is still in effect, Hart said a period of time has been declared for which agencies can make claims for reimbursement. The dates are from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. Agencies can claim equipment that had to be replaced or will have to be replaced because of the storm.
Hart said the Office of Emergency Management had to purchase three chainsaws and two radios.
She said that only non-profit agencies qualified for reimbursements. Agencies must have accumulated a minimum of $1,000 in damage costs to file a claim with FEMA.
Overtime can be reimbursed as long as it is not part of an employee's regular work hours. If an employee worked a day that he or she was not scheduled to work, that payroll may also be claimed as long as valid proof is submitted, Hart said.
After submitting the paperwork for the claims, each agency will be contacted by a FEMA representative. For questions about individual claims, call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA.
Hart said this week that to make a damage claim for an individual, the property owner would have to make the claim on their home owner's insurance. She said frequent calls have been coming in to the 911 center from people wanting to report a claim.
A new website, www.Barbour911.com, is available that contains information that could be beneficial in the instance of another storm or emergency. The website instructs viewers how to create a 72-hour kit for storm preparedness, provides information about boil water advisories, will provide directions to hospitals and shelters and more.
At Monday's Barbour County Commission meeting, Cindy Hart said she hopes the reverse 911 call system will be operational in about two weeks. The system is designed to call landlines and cell phones in the event of a storm or emergency with automated information about shelters, water and more. By recording one general message, an official can inform a database full of call recipients at once.
Commissioners and Cindy Hart also reviewed the idea to build a one-stop storm shelter at the Barbour County Fairgrounds. The shelter would have all the necessary requirements to house and feed a large number of people and would be centrally located so citizens would never have to question where the shelters are.