Columbus City Council unanimously voted Monday night to begin the application process for two federal hazard mitigation grants to address flooding damages.
Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), both grants are aimed at reducing future damages from flooding and improving the city’s infrastructure, said Joe Dillon, the city’s hazard mitigation manager.
The council’s vote Monday night gives Dillon the green light to work out a detailed plan — including the project costs and estimated timeline — which he will bring back to the council for approval before submitting the applications, he said.
One of the grants is the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant (BRIC), which can be used for the city’s building code improvements, hazard mitigation planning and other mitigation-related expenses, according to FEMA’s website. The grant comes with a 25-percent match from the city. If approved, the city could receive up to $600,000 from FEMA and match it with up to $200,000, Dillon said.
Government entities need to submit detailed plans for the grant and compete against each other, Dillon said. The application deadline is Jan. 29.
“It’s a very competitive process,” Dillon said. “… We believe we’ve got a good chance at it. It can be up to an $800,000 project.”
Dillon also hopes to apply for the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant, which can only be used to purchase and demolish public and private buildings located in the flood zone that are prone to repetitive damages and covered by the national flood insurance program, said city engineer Kevin Stafford.
According to the city’s hazard mitigation plan, which was last updated in 2013, there were 60 buildings within city limits located in the flood zone that qualified for the grant, Stafford told The Dispatch. The national flood insurance program made a total of 184 payments for the repeated damages those buildings suffered, he said, which adds up to $1.7 million.
The grant, Stafford said, helps the federal government reduce the high insurance payouts.
“They are trying to help themselves out,” Stafford said of the federal government. “Instead of continuing to pay out on these losses, they are just saying, ‘hey, we may participate in this property … and get rid of it, off of our concern list.'”
There’s no set amount on how much the city would receive, Stafford said, but he will work with Dillon and identify owners of flood-prone buildings who are willing to accept the payout and sell their buildings to estimate the cost of the project.
Dillon will be paid $92 per hour for time he spends working on both applications. On each application, his salary will not exceed $10,000 and is reimbursable through FEMA, he told The Dispatch.
The city also completed an application for a FEMA grant in the amount of $374,528, which reimburses the city for some of its COVID-19 related expenses on personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and the loss of revenue due to the closing of rental programs at the Trotter Convention Center and other recreation programs, Dillon said.
Street paving project
Stafford also received unanimous approval from the council to award the city’s $6.5 million street paving project to the lowest bidder. The city will take bids at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at City Hall, he said.
The city issued a $6.5 million general obligation bond in July to cover the costs of the street paving project, which aims to repair more than 100 streets in poor conditions throughout the city. The city is expected to repay the bonds over 15 years.
The estimated paving cost, Stafford said, is roughly $5 million. Neel-Schaffer, which is contracted as the city’s engineering company, will also be paid 5 percent of the construction cost.
Three contractors — Columbus-based APAC, Columbus-based Falcon Contracting Company and Tupelo-based Murphree Paving LLC — will be vying for the project, Stafford said. If the weather allows, whoever is awarded the contract may start construction by the end of the year.
Conflict disclosure: Managing Editor Zack Plair took part in editing this article. He is currently involved in legal proceedings with the city of Columbus.
Yue Stella Yu was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.