By Stan Welch
Mayor Mack Durham took the town of Williamston’s problems with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) up the chain of command this week, meeting with members of U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan’s staff at the municipal center.
The dispute over the town’s claims for flood damage suffered two years ago continues. Mayor Durham says that FEMA first estimated $450,000 worth of damage from the torrential rains in the fall of 2015. Of that amount, the town expected to pay a twenty per cent match, which the state offered to help with.
But when FEMA made their final offer, it was for just $75,000, an amount Durham called ‘ridiculous.’ “We’re hoping the Congressman and his staff can perhaps assist us by letting us know if there is additional information that we need to provide. But our town experienced virtually unprecedented flooding and clearly seventy five thousand dollars is not an adequate amount.” Durham said he also hopes that the state honors their commitment to pay part of the matching funds.
Durham said that he raised other issues with the Congressman’s staff, including some of his thoughts for building the community, from increasing the quality of life, such as creating a public venue for concerts and other cultural events.
On a more mundane basis, he also referred to his wish to work with TriCounty Technical College personnel in creating a municipal apprenticeship program, designed to allow town workers, especially those in the public works department, to increase their skills, extend their education, and attain certifications in various areas of expertise.
“Of course, as the employees rise through the program, which we think would be the first in the state, they will command better wages. But the benefits of turning a job into a career, and retaining trained, experienced help will be worth it in my opinion. We are outsourcing too many projects that we should be able to handle in house. We can’t do really major projects. We simply don’t have the manpower. But I think we can anticipate and manage foreseeable pay increases much better than we can emergency big ticket repairs.”