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Commissioners Review Disaster Aid Bills

By D.C. Koviack

The Wyoming County Commissioners on Tuesday morning started their regular bi-weekly meeting by reviewing the bills from county municipalities for disaster relief. Thus far, about $63,648 has been received: $13,000 from Hurricane Irene damage and the remainder from the damage from Hurricane Lee.

FEMA will reimburse the county 75 percent of the amount they claim; PEMA generally pays most, if not all, of the remainder. “That’s if they have money, it’s up to them,” noted Commissioner Tony Litwin.

The county is responsible for securing the health and safety of disaster victims within the county by providing portable toilets, potable water and dumpsters. Then, explained Litwin, the municipalities step in with further assistance.

The possibility of paying these bills from the Siltex Fund was discussed. This fund, started many years ago after the sale by the county of Siltex and other environmentally damaged properties, was earmarked to assist in environmental disasters. Currently there is about $150,000 in the fund. After some discussion, it was decided to pay the disaster bills from the General Fund and reimburse the General Fund when FEMA and PEMA reimburse the county.

Should FEMA and PEMA be late in doing that, or not cover all the costs, the shortfall can be made up by taking some money from the Siltex Fund. The specially designated 911 fund for Emergency Assistance, about $84,000, will not be used.

The latest figures list 3,200 homes damaged or destroyed by the two Hurricane/Flood events in September. Some homes, noted the commissioners, might be seasonal homes and therefore not eligible for FEMA assistance.

About 600 people have submitted FEMA and PEMA aid requests. Renters can also get help through FEMA to reimburse them for lost furnishings and to rent another home. “But there aren’t any rentals available,” noted Commissioner Judy Mead.

The commissioners added that they do not know when any FEMA trailers or other forms of temporary housing for those displaced by the flood might be available.

In other business, Children and Youth’s (C&Y) Marie Anderson presented some good news to the commissioners. She explained that placements have dropped in the past two years and that drop is finally being seen in a lowering of expenses. This means that the county’s funding of C&Y will be going down from $500,000 a year to $400,000 a year. “Our overall costs are down, too,” explained Anderson, who added that some changes in funding streams and programs has also helped them cut their expenses. The C&Y budget for 2012-13 is approximated at $2,185,000. The agency receives both state and federal funding in addition to county money. The proposition last month concerning daycare consolidation in the Commonwealth is still up in the air, reported Anderson.

The commissioners signed off on the 2011 Entitlement for the county’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This year’s funding from the state comes to $242,528, down from last year. The entitlement amounts have dropped steadily over the last decade. There were two projects for the CDBG funding this year, but Tunkhannock Borough has withdrawn its request and declined its award for a handicapped access project of about $52,000. This leaves just a curb cut project in Factoryville Borough ($6,000) and Housing Rehabilitation throughout the county to use up the Entitlement money. Because there has been such a huge waiting list of homes whose owners want to participate in the Rehab Program, the extra money, which is now diverted to Rehab, will come in handy. Although it’s unlikely the Rehab waiting list will be eliminated, it is hoped that this year's extra funding will mean many more homes can participate.


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