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May 17, 2013

ADECA bringing $49 million for tornado relief

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs announced a second round of funding, $49 million, coming to communities in North Alabama who suffered tornado damage from April 27, 2011 at a meeting in the Cullman City Hall on Tuesday morning.

ADECA Program Manager Shabbir Olia said the funding will be spent to rebuild damaged areas following the disaster that devastated many towns in North Alabama. Cities and counties will be responsible for turning in project suggestions to ADECA.

“In essence this is a second round of funding for tornado damage, the first round we received $24 million and this time around it is for $49 million,” Olia said. “Congress said this money has to be spent to recover things that were damaged from the tornados in Alabama. What we did with the first amount was fund some of the hardest hit communities like Hackleburg, Cordova, Phil Campbell, Tuscaloosa City and County and Dekalb County. This time we will continue to do that, but widen out and do more recovery projects in more communities.”

When asked, what portion of the $49 million would be given to Cullman City and Cullman County, Olia said it depends on how many recovery projects are submitted.

“We don’t know that, it will depend on what kind of projects we get from Cullman,” Olia said. “The city and the county will have the opportunity to send us the projects and actually we were talking to the Cullman Mayor before the meeting and he mentioned that he had a project that we will look at it. This will be the opportunity for people from the City and the County to come to us with anything for recovery projects like road damage, damage to public buildings, sewer, drainage or it can be houses. We do understand there was widespread damage throughout North Alabama.”

Many smaller communities expressed concern about the lack of funds the could receive in comparison to larger cities. Blountsville, a town in Blount County, was represented at the meeting. Blountsville town council member Dennis Beavers said funds are vital because many small communities are already financially struggling.

“We want to make sure that the local towns get their fair share,” Beavers said. “There are a lot of infrastructure problems, housing problems, and  needs that still need to be met that have not been met. We hope when the criteria comes out, it will help the small towns in North Alabama. A million or two million dollars for a small town would help significantly, because most small towns are strapped for dollars now-especially in tough economic times and after a tornado. A lot of small towns are struggling just to meet their needs and provide basic services.”

Olia said in order for people or groups in Cullman City or Cullman County to receive funds to rebuild or fix tornado damaged areas, they must submit the recovery project suggestions to their local leaders who in turn will pass them to ADECA.

“All projects have to go to cities and counties leaders,” Olia said. “If there is a businesses out there that has been damaged or wants to re-open, they would have to go to the cities and counties and be before them and get themselves included in the recovery projects. At this time we don’t have any deadlines, so if the cities or counties have projects, come to us and within the next 30-45 days. We will formalize the projects even more by then.”

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 270.

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