Comanche County seeking more FEMA money

LAWTON--Comanche County commissioners are asking state legislators and the governor to declare Comanche County a disaster area following last month's ice storm.

If Comanche County is declared a disaster area, the county can apply for more disaster money from FEMA.  As it stands now, FEMA is only paying for the first 72 hours of the storm.  Commissioners say the ice storm battered local roads, leaving them in desperate need of repair.

"It's basically the freezing and then the thawing that went on that's caused a lot of the cracking you're seeing on roads now," said District One Commissioner Gail Turner.  "We will have a lot of oil and chip roads we will totally lose."

As of now, Turner's district is asking for $25,000 from FEMA to cover the costs of labor, overtime, and maintenance during the first 72 hours of the storm.  District Three, or the Western District, is asking for $5,300 to cover the first 72 hours of the storm.  Debbie McDonald, speaking on behalf of Commissioner Susan Ulrich, said their costs were lower because they were able to buy sand at a cheaper price from a local resident.

Commissioner Ron Kirby said he plans on heading to Oklahoma City on Tuesday to meet with legislators and the governor.

"We have preliminary reports saying we'll be approved (by FEMA), however we've not been approved," Kirby said.  "We're not approved until we're approved."

Kirby said if the governor does declare Comanche County a disaster area, the County could get immediate funding from the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund, instead of waiting on FEMA.  If that happens, then FEMA would reimburse the Governor's Fund for the money given to Comanche County.

Following the 2000 ice storm, Comanche County waited six years to be reimbursed for damages and overtime.  Kirby said this time around that long wait shouldn't be a problem.

"The last time I think it was the fault of FEMA and the legislature itself for refusing to replenish the governor's emergency fund," he said.

Commissioner Susan Ulrich is set to meet with legislators on Wednesday during County Government Day at the State Capitol.  Commissioner Gail Turner said these meetings and securing the funding are crucial.

"Without this FEMA reimbursement we have so much damage that there's no way we'll be able to replace the oil and chip roads we have at this time because, economically, we just won't be able to."