County says no to FEMA mitigation plan

by Dwayne McClellan
News Staff Writer
Oct. 16, 2006

   A proposed federal mitigation plan is dead in the water as far as Dent County is concerned, as Dent County Commissioners voted 3-0 Thursday (Oct.12) to end the mitigation planning process.
   The motion was made by First District Commissioner Bobby Simpson and seconded by Second District Commissioner J.J. Tune.
The plan is being pushed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a way to develop a plan to help local residents in the time of natural or man-made emergencies. A Meramec Regional Planning Commission intern drafted it last fall.
   At a public meeting Monday, Tammy Snodgrass, MRPC environmental program manager, said the plan had several errors and inaccuracies in it, and she was in the process of cleaning it up.
   Simpson said that while the commission has been studying the issue, it's time to stop studying it and put an end to any planning. The reason, he said, is that people don't want it.
   "From all the phone calls I've received to everywhere I've gone, that's what I hear," Simpson said. "The public has spoken, and because of that we should put an end to any more planning."
   Tune and Presiding Commissioner Jim Biggs agreed.
"I personally don't think I made the wrong decision," Biggs said about his decision to authorize MRPC to draw up a plan. "I thought it might be a way to help the county, but if the people don't want it then I'll vote to end everything."
   Tune said while the plan has not been completely investigated and there may be some good things in the plan, the commissioners do represent the people. With this much opposition, the best thing to do is not to pursue it any further.
   "What we have is a fear of the unknown. We don't know how it would effect people," Tune said.
Presiding Commissioner candidate Darrell Skiles questioned the commission about the $5,000 bill from MRPC for writing the plan. He also questioned if the bill was legal because there was no vote taken to authorize the expenditure, and it wasn't recorded in the minutes.
Simpson said the commission would first vote to discontinue the planning, then discuss the bill and what to do with it.
   The vote today comes on the heels of a meeting Monday with the Salem Board of Aldermen at the Salem City Hall. Close to 200 people attended and were concerned and voiced their opinions and past experiences with FEMA, government control and how it would affect the county.
Snodgrass said Monday the plan would be written as the county wants it and there would be no forced planning and zoning.
   It could be December at the earliest or January before a plan would be ready, Snodgrass said.
Carol Lewitzke was concerned that federal control regarding building codes could supersede local control if the mitigation plans are put in place.
   "After what we saw what FEMA did or didn't do after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, why would we want them in Dent County," said Dr. Doris Stempniak during Monday's meeting.