No disaster relief for those affected by recent flash flood

Suzette Lowe

County residents will not qualify for disaster relief for damages suffered in the June 10 flash flood.

According to a report made to the Jackson County Commission at its June 16 meeting by Walt Smittle, director of the Office of Emergency Services, the damages incurred do not reach the threshold of $2.8 million dollars as required by the state.

Smittle said the worst damage was to the Pentecostal church on Claylick Road. The fitness center also reported major damage as well.

“We had a few others that had water damage and three dwellings were a total loss, along with seven vehicles,” Smittle said. “We think we’ve received the majority of reports from those affected, so the total estimate is about $250,000, well below the state standard.”

Smittle said that Ripley and the surrounding areas received 3.79 inches of rain.

“In about 45 minutes, from 8:30-9:15 p.m., we received 3.09 of those inches,” he said.

The 911 Center received multiple calls for assistance and information. While that is to be expected, Montana Boggess, director of 911, said the two dispatchers on duty did an outstanding job handling the stress and pressure of the emergency situation.

“My two dispatchers that night, Diana Santiago and Cory Walters, calmly addressed every call. They were able to give our emergency responders the information they needed, while reassuring the public,” Boggess said. “Their training made this possible and I’ve very proud of the job they did.”

Captain Benjamin Hersman of the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department sent a letter of commendation to Boggess for the work of the 911 center during the flood. She shared this with the county commission.

In part, Hersman said, “They were continuously checking on us to be sure we had sent someone to each call. This allows us to do our job knowing that someone is watching out for us and making us feel safer in a dangerous environment.”

A number of resignations were approved by Commissioners Dick Waybright and Mitch Morrison. Commissioner Mike Randolph was not in attendance.

Two assistant prosecutors, Jim Griesacker and William Longwell, resigned, effective May 18 and June 11, respectively.

Contacted later, Jackson County Prosecutor Kyle Moore said the process of replacing the two assistants is in place.

While he cannot comment on personnel matters, Moore said his office is continuing to work efficiently and will be fully staffed soon.

Commissioners also acknowledged the resignation of Steve McClure, coordinator of the Quick Response Team (QRT). The QRT responds with assistance for drug overdoses, providing Narcan training and rehabilitation resources.

Troy Bain, director of Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, said that the work of the team will continue. Due to the fact that this service is funded by a grant that expires this year, the coordinator position will be addressed if that grant is renewed.

County employees will no longer be allowed to work from home as of June 16. An amendment to the Jackson County Commission Emergency Policy Declaration stipulated that all county employees ‘shall return to their normal work stations effective June 16, 2021. The use of remote or at home work will no longer be utilized.’

The emergency policy was initially enacted due to the restrictions and guidelines of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Commissioners approved the appropriation of $12,000 from the 2020-2021 county cleanup funds to the Jackson County Solid Waste Authority. The funds are expected to be used to repair the baler which bundles recyclables to be shipped. The county-wide cleanup, which could not take place in the current fiscal year ending June 30, is tentatively planned for October.

The retirement of Danny Skeen from the Jackson County assessor’s officer was also acknowledged. Skeen retired with almost 20 years of service.

The next meeting of the commission will be Wednesday, June 23, at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse.