The potential costs of the recent rainy weather and its effects are becoming more clear across Pike County, and officials are hoping federal assistance will follow.
Pike County Emergency Management Director Doug Tackett told the News-Express that the county could be facing as much as of $1.5 million in damages related to mud and land slides that occurred across the county in late February and early this month. In addition to that figure, the City of Pikeville is also facing costs of nearly $300,000 related to slides in several locations across the city, including a major recreation area.
County and city officials are working through a combined list of 88 slide events at numerous locations. Representatives with the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in Pike County Monday to assess some of the damage.
Of the slides in Pike County, Tackett said, several have already been repaired so roads could be reopened.
“I talked to the state a little bit ago and they’re still working on numbers from all the different counties that have damages,” Tackett said. “When they get that done, they’ll send that to the governor. He then sends it to FEMA and asks for a major disaster declaration.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Pikeville City Commission, commissioners unanimously approved three proposals and one invoice payment to Jigsaw Enterprises for slide repair and remediation work in the city. The four items totaled $293,599.33, and included work to address slides or potential slides at the Pikeville Wastewater Treatment Plant, on city streets Summer Street and Kati Street, and at the horse barn at Bob Amos Park.
Pikeville City Engineer Brad Slone told the commission there are actually three slides that need to be repaired at Bob Amos Park; one near the horse barn and another two below it. Slone said the lower slides will have to be repaired before the upper slip can be fixed. City officials said they hope FEMA will help pay for the slides, but City Manager Phillip Elswick said it is difficult to secure federal aide for repairs related to landslides.
“It’s very hard to get reimbursed for slides through FEMA,” Elswick told the commission Monday.
In a follow-up interview Tuesday, Elswick told the News-Express that despite the difficulty, he believes FEMA will provide some assistance to the city.
“There’s a wealth of information they want, and they make it very difficult to prove (the slides were) a result of the disaster,” Elswick said. “I think they probably will help to some degree ... I feel comfortable they will reimburse. It’s just there are a few extra hoops you have to jump through to prove the slide was a result of the disaster.”
Elswick said Tuesday the slides on Summer and Kati streets are “extensive,” and while both roads remain passible, both have one lane blocked due to slides. He said the horse barn at Bob Amos Park is not in jeopardy, and the horses housed there are not in any danger. Elswick told the commission Monday that the payment to Jigsaw Enterprises for the work at Bob Amos will not repair that slide, but will go toward addressing it fully.
Tackett echoed Elswick’s sentiments, saying it can be a “long process” to secure federal aide due to the amount of paperwork usually associated with seeking reimbursement through federal funds for damage repair. However, thanks to a new app, called “GeoSync Go,” officials hope this year’s process can be handled more quickly.
“We helped develop the app through different disasters that’s happened through the years,” Tackett said.
GeoSync Go allows users to use a smartphone or tablet out in the field to take photos of different sites. The app uses GPS which marks a point on the map where the damage is located, and then applies those photos to the corresponding point on the map.
“Once everything is transmitted back here, I can then view the site and all its damages from my computer,” Tackett said. “It even allows you to update points, depending on whether or not that location has gotten worse or if it’s improved because someone has went out and already fixed.”
Even with the new app, Tackett said he still doesn’t expect to hear anything until late April regarding potential reimbursement from FEMA.
“If FEMA comes in, any kickoff meeting will probably be after Hillbilly Days,” said Tackett.