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Jewell: No estimate yet

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By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson PostWilson’s top emergency management official said no official estimate of the cost of damages wrought by this past weekend’s floods was available yet, but he did expect the county to be approved for a disaster declaration in the coming days.“No estimate yet. We’re still trying to compile the assessment and submit it to the state tomorrow (Friday) afternoon,” said John Jewell, director of the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency. As the top EMA official for the county, he is responsible for submitting the damage assessments to the state once he receives the information from the various teams and compiles it to send to the state.The assessments cover businesses, government, and residences. The threshold to be considered for a federal disaster declaration is $350,000, he said, adding he was confident the county would surpass that amount.The damage, of course, is countywide with all parts of Wilson affected in some way.Jewell said among the assessments he had received as of Thursday afternoon were those regarding agricultural damage from the University of Tennessee Extension Office in Wilson which placed the estimate at $300,000 to $400,000.The road damage assessment was placed at $250,000. “That was not quite as high as we initially thought,” he said.There was no significant damage to the water and sewer systems in the county, which Jewell called “fortunate.”He reiterated he felt confident that Wilson would be declared a federal disaster area. “We know we’re over that,” he said of the $350,000 qualifying amount. “I feel like we’ll qualify. I don’t see a problem with $350,000.”The damage to the county is obvious, especially from the air, and Wilson was included in the 52 counties recommended by Gov. Phil Bredesen after he flew over the Middle and West Tennessee areas earlier this week to survey the affected areas.Jewell noted significant damage to boat docks on area lakes, and noted also the damage caused by rushing and rising waters that knocked out part of the railroad track used by the Music City Star and freight trains.The Nashville and Easter Railroad Authority suffered losses in addition to the track in that their office was affected by the high water to include damage to computers and the like.There are really three assessments that must be made, he said. They are local, state and FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency, and FEMA takes all the information and makes a decision on what to do.As for what type of assistance would be available once a declaration is made, Jewell said it would be in the form of loans, and in some cases local governments may receive grant monies from the federal government to take care of costs.Homeowners may be eligible for loans, and for homeowners who did not have any insurance, Jewell said FEMA will look at those.FEMA officials will set up a center locally, once a declaration is made, and a few sites have already been looked at and are being considered.“Everybody has to be patient,” Jewell said. “There’s 538 square miles (in Wilson County). It takes time. We feel like there is going to be a declaration.”Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at news@wilsonpost.com.
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