More than 220 residents from across Jackson County poured into public meetings sponsored by the county’s Board of Supervisors and the Planning Department to discuss new flood elevations and building requirements following Hurricane Katrina.
“Everyday the Planning Department answers dozens and dozens of questions about new flood elevations and building requirements,” Michele Coats, Jackson County planning director said. “Because of this need for information, we knew these public meetings would be in demand. It was nice to see so many people come out.”
Along with county officials, FEMA specialists were on hand to explain how to read their new advisory flood maps and answer questions about the National Flood Insurance program.
The first meeting was at Ocean Springs Middle School in mid-February. Almost 150 residents attended with questions ranging from building requirements to explanations of basic FEMA terms. The second meeting was a week later on the east side of the county at the Escatawpa Community Center. Katrina flood victim Candy Amos said this meeting was a top priority for her and asked questions about how to pay for raising her home.
"My flood insurance will pay up to $30,000. I have had estimates telling me to raise my home which will cost more than $62,000. So, how am I supposed to meet that?" she asked.
Coats responded that she was eligible for financial help through the Mississippi Development Authority’s Block Grant or the Hazardous Mitigation Grant program.
"The mitigation grant program has a section that covers the cost difference to elevate your home," Coats said.
It was those types of questions and answers that impressed FEMA representative Sam Venture who attended the meeting.
“That’s the moment when an official and a resident get on the same page. You can tell quality information is breaking through the confusion of new maps and new requirements. We are honored that the County asked us to participate in these public meetings,” Venture said.
The final meeting was held in the hard hit St. Martin community. Residents who missed the meetings can still get answers by calling the Planning Department at 228-762-6095 or visiting its temporary offices at the east end of the Fairgrounds.
Residents can also review FEMA’s advisory flood maps and view the charts used at the public meetings by visiting the county’s website (www.co.jackson.ms.us) and clicking on the Hurricane Katrina recovery page.