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Franklin Co. receives federal disaster designation

July 07, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County was among five additional Pennsylvania counties to receive a federal disaster designation Thursday, making victims of last week's flooding eligible for grants and other assistance to repair their homes.

County Director of Emergency Services Jerry Flasher said Thursday night he received a call from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency that the county had been approved for private property and housing assistance in the wake of the storms that destroyed or damaged scores of homes, primarily in the Northwood, Village Green Manor and Lincoln Dell mobile home parks in Greene Township.

Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration officials toured those sites Wednesday and determined that, by federal standards, 153 mobile homes were destroyed, 31 heavily damaged and two dozen more damaged to a lesser degree, Flasher said Wednesday. Fourteen houses in those areas also sustained major damage, he said at the time.

"Keep in mind, there's over 50 private properties outside the three primary areas that were not included in that number," Flasher said Thursday.

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Flasher met again with FEMA officials Thursday morning and went on a second tour of the affected areas, he said.

Still left to be done is an assessment of damage to public property, such as roads and public utilities, Flasher said. The assessment will be completed by the end of the day and be presented to FEMA officials on Monday, he said.

That assessment so far has identified damage to some roads, storm water drainage systems and sewer facilities, Flasher said. If the county receives a disaster designation for public property, then municipalities, municipal authorities and nonprofit organizations could apply for federal assistance to make repairs, he said.

"My staff and I have been working continually 24 hours a day since last week to coordinate the emergency response and take our case to Gov. (Ed) Rendell and the president" that the county should receive the disaster designation, Flasher said.

For residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed, the disaster designation could mean grants for temporary housing, home repair, home replacement and permanent housing construction, according to The Associated Press.

The three mobile home parks toured by federal officials contain more than 200 mobile homes. Utilities have been restored, and many people have returned to their homes to begin cleaning and repairs.

The next step is for FEMA to set up a disaster recovery center where eligible residents can go to apply for federal assistance, Flasher said Thursday.

"It will be up to the property owners ... to apply for the assistance," Flasher said.

"Hopefully, that process will be expedited," he said of setting up a disaster recovery center.

Since the flooding, the American Red Cross has been delivering hundreds of meals a day to people in the affected areas and providing other assistance.

"The Red Cross has done a tremendous job," Flasher said of the team headed up by Laura DiPasqua of the Greater Erie Chapter. The Red Cross has been operating out of Chambersburg Area Middle School.

"Their response team is from all over the country, including an individual from Puerto Rico," Flasher said.

Rendell had sought federal help for 34 counties and declared a disaster in 46 counties. Thursday's designation raised to 15 the number of counties now eligible for federal aid.

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