In an effort to retain its federal funding, the Blue Ridge City Council this week moved to update its Hazard Mitigation plan.
According to Council Member Rodney Kendall, the template for the plan comes to the city through GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), the state extension of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The plan is designed to outline ways to handle city operations in the event of a hazard. However, the plan differs from an Emergency Management plan. An emergency management plan addresses the process of handling an emergency, while a hazard mitigation plan addresses the process of recovering from an emergency.
During its work session Tuesday morning, Mayor Donna Whitener and Council Members Rodney Kendall and Harold Herndon reviewed a series of plan items. In a letter to the mayor and council, City Attorney David Syfan recommended a review of these items, saying some items could impact the city’s budget. In his letter Syfan referred to them as action items.
According to the discussion, the city has already addressed several items on the list, while others require council’s attention. Whitener noted that items such as a flood insurance plan, upgrading to narrow band communication and engineering studies for various flood areas have already been completed, a total of six out of twenty items.
Other parts of the plan, however, may require further consideration. For instance, the public notification system, which City Administrator Bill Sowers explained was the 911 system, could cost the city anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. A flooding plan could cost $150,000 and the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program, $11,000. The plan also requires cities to keep generators in case of power outages. Here, Whitener noted that during the last power outage the senior center was without power, asking if the city had any back up generators. Sowers said the city only has portable generators. Kendall suggested obtaining army generators, saying a grant may be available for such a purchase. According to the discussion, the cost of supplying generators for the city is approximately $850,000.
As she reviewed the list, though, the mayor questioned the widening of state route five, included as part of the plan. As such, Whitener said she needs more clarification, adding that she would need to collect more information.
The cost of each item would be split between all entities. Additionally, grants are available for several of the items on the list, Whitener said, but did not identify which ones. Whitener also said that she has not been informed of a deadline for the completion of the plan.