Columbia, MO -- The weather was not kind to eastern Missouri this year. Tornadoes in April were followed by floods in May. On May 6, President Bush declared five Missouri counties a disaster area. As rains and flooding continued, more counties, including Iron, were added to the declaration. That designation opened the door for a number of federal programs designed to aid individuals, business owners, and local governments repair the damages from winds and floods.
In Ironton, county seat of Iron County, the community swimming pool was ready to open for the summer season on Mother's Day, May 12. But Mother Nature had other plans. That night, torrential rains caused Strouts Creek to surge out of its bank, inundating the city's park and swimming pool. Rampaging waters destroyed 132 feet of fencing around the pool. More than a foot of mud was left in the pool bottom. Inside the concession stand, water a foot deep ruined the motors of the refrigerators; all the food had to be destroyed. In the toddlers' playground, all the wooden equipment was contaminated and had to be destroyed. A large limb in the surging waters cracked the motor that circulated, chlorinated, and filtered the pool's water.
Ironton, seat of Iron County, is a small community. As Nancy Brawley, City Collector, explains, "We've got no show, no roller rink, nothing for the kids but this pool." Once a shared project with neighboring Arcadia, Ironton took over complete management of and responsibility for the pool several years ago. Now 16 cents of every real estate and personal property tax dollar the City of Ironton collects goes into the Parks and Recreation fund for the pool. There was little leeway in the city's budget for repairs.
But there was help available. Under a presidential disaster declaration, if a jurisdiction is designated eligible for Public Assistance, as Iron County was, affected local governments are eligible to apply for federal funds to pay 75 percent of the approved cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities. This includes publicly owned parks and recreational facilities.
The program is administered by the state, in this case the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), with FEMA paying 75 percent of approved, eligible costs. The state and the applicant share the remaining 25 percent. Under the Missouri disaster declaration, the state will pay 10 percent and the applicant 15 percent.
As work on the park and pool continued, Ironton submitted a Request for Public Assistance for funds to repair the park and pool and replace destroyed equipment and supplies. Working with inspectors from both SEMA and FEMA, city officials itemized the damage, accounting for material and labor costs for repairs and clean up, and replacement costs for damaged and destroyed equipment and fencing.
Ironton's community pool re-opened, clean and re-supplied on June 1. The city will be reimbursed most of its out-of-pocket expense as total eligible costs were determined to be $27,403; the federal share of $20,553 was obligated on July 23.
The motor that circulates and filters the water has temporary repairs. It should last until the pool closes for the season, when a new one will be ordered. Colorful new washable playground equipment is on order and will be set up on higher ground. City workers will haul and spread fresh gravel to save delivery charges.
"This is all the kids have got. We didn't want to see it closed," Nancy Brawley said. "Now, you've got to see it to believe it."
For more information on Public Assistance and other FEMA disaster recovery programs visit www.fema.gov.