01/08/17 — 90 days later: Part II Property owners in city sustain $15.7 million in hurricane damage

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90 days later: Part II Property owners in city sustain $15.7 million in hurricane damage

By Rochelle Moore
Published in News on January 8, 2017 2:29 AM

Property owners in the city of Goldsboro sustained close to $15.7 million in flood and storm-related damage from Hurricane Matthew in October.

The city of Goldsboro also experienced a cost -- estimated near $2.4 million -- for its preparation, response and recovery efforts. City officials anticipate those dollars will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The city's expenses are related to debris removal, costs associated with police and fire response efforts and repairs to public utilities, streets and sidewalks and the city golf course. Regular and overtime employee pay is also a reimbursed expense, said Kaye Scott, Goldsboro finance director.

"These are eligible expenses," Scott said. "We've never had any problems before, in the past submittals with any other storms."

The expense to residents and business owners is much higher. Across Goldsboro, city staff estimate that residential and commercial property owners suffered close to $14.6 million in flood damage and another $1.1 million in storm damage from Hurricane Matthew, said Allen Anderson Jr., Goldsboro chief building inspector.

The estimated damage is based on information provided to city departments, including inspections where property owners sought permits to make repairs to homes and other structures.

Following the hurricane, nearly 400 homes were condemned after widespread flooding wreaked havoc on properties throughout the city. The repair process has also been slow for many.

"We've got a lot of people who have got permits that are getting work done," Anderson said. "They're just going through the process of trying to get everything fixed. It just takes time. It's not a quick process."

Many property owners could be waiting on insurance claim checks, FEMA assistance or extra money to make the repairs, Anderson said.

The city of Goldsboro, which is working directly with a FEMA representative, can tap into FEMA funding, after Wayne County was federally declared a disaster area.

The city's estimated expenses include $880,000 for repair and replacement costs to public utility systems, $610,000 for citywide debris removal, and nearly $600,000 for repairs to streets and sidewalks.

Additional costs include $79,000 for bunker replacements at the golf course, about $98,000 for police and fire emergency assistance, including the purchase of a rescue boat, equipment and overtime hours, and about $70,000 for Elmwood Cemetery vaults and caskets. The costs could increase, leading to the overall estimate of nearly $2.4 million, Scott said.

During the storm, 36 cemetery caskets and several vaults located near ground level were pushed out and found floating, Scott said.

City staff were able to identify the remains inside of 18 caskets and the bodies were reinterred much lower into the ground -- in compliance current standards -- 18 inches below ground, said Rick Fletcher, Goldsboro public works interim director.

The remains of the other 18 bodies have yet to be determined, and DNA testing is planned in the coming weeks, Fletcher said.

The majority of debris removal throughout the city has been finished by three different contracted companies, with some work remaining to remove tree stumps and damaged trees, including more than two dozen in Stoney Creek Park, Fletcher said.

Damages to public utilities include electrical components at four wastewater pump stations, erosion loss at the water plant intake system on the Neuse River, and a pump regulator at the water reclamation facility, said Michael Wagner, interim public utilities director.

Street and sidewalk repairs have included road repairs along South Slocumb Street, near the back gate of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, where a portion of the road washed out during the storm. Replacing the road cost $89,850.

City staff, who have already started submitting documentation to FEMA, anticipate that reimbursement checks will start coming in soon.

Since Dec. 1, the city has submitted documentation for 18 projects and will continue the process until all recovery efforts are complete, Scott said.

"We have a FEMA rep assigned to us, and we make submittals to him," Scott said. "FEMA's been great to work with."