Preston County Commission owed FEMA funds

KINGWOOD — The check isn’t in the mail yet, but FEMA cleanup funds from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy are closer to arriving, state officials told the Preston County Commission.

The county is awaiting a reimbursement check for $22,611 that was approved in January by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and sent to the state, County Administrator Kathy Mace said.

On Wednesday, Preston Emergency Management/911 Director Duane Hamilton went to Charleston, to the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, to ask about the money.

Mace said she and Hamilton had spoken earlier with Gregory S. Myers, public assistance officer with the state division.

“He said that everything had been taken care of, everything had been submitted, that it was in the auditor’s office for processing, and we should have it next week,” Mace said.

Then came an email from Myers to Mace on Wednesday advising the process could take from four to six weeks.

“I was taken back when I got the email, because he certainly didn’t indicate to me it was going to be four to six weeks,” Mace said.

Myers did not respond to an email Thursday requesting an explanation of the disparity in processing times.

“I’m not surprised,” Preston Commission President Craig Jennings said Thursday. “In fact, I’ll be more surprised if in six weeks we have a check.”

“Typical big government,” Preston Commissioner Dave Price added. “If you owe them, you’d better pay up today. If they owe you, then what are you going to do about it?”

Jennings called the episode evidence of why people should push for more local control in government.

“Can you imagine if the Preston County Commission owed somebody $20,000? I can’t even imagine us taking that long to do anything. It’s just unbelievable,” he said.

“Nine times out of 10, most people would have given up on it by now. And that’s probably what they were hoping, truth be told.”

Sandy ripped through Preston County six years ago, blocking major roads and leaving thousands without electricity. The county commission was authorized by the state to hire local contractors to clear the roads of storm debris.

Preston sought reimbursement for $90,586.96 and has received $67,940.22 to date. Only $35 of the claim submitted was rejected.

In June 2017, Mace was notified that inspectors would begin verifying that the debris was removed from highways and placed at locations approved by the state Division of Highways.

Preston County documented the cleanup with before-and-after photos.

Mace was told later the state had lost the paperwork the county sent, including the photos. Mace resent copies of the information.

Mace said she plans to follow up with the state auditor’s office.

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