Public input is needed to update the Liberty County Hazard Mitigation Plan during a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Liberty County Courthouse Annex board room.
The plan is updated every five years and identifies hazards — like flood areas, hurricanes and active shooters — and outlines how to fix those problems and reduce long-term risks. The Liberty County Hazard Mitigation Plan committee is inviting all local residents to express their concerns and review the plan.
Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Hodges said that the county is responsible to have a hazardous mitigation plan.
“It’s a pre-written thought process. If we were to have a major event, like a catastrophic hurricane, what are some things we already know that are going to be problematic? You can have bridges that flood during heavy rain. If you know that if (it floods) during heavy rains, then it’s going to be problematic during a catastrophe,” Hodges said.
The plan focuses on issues that have been long-lasting problems in the area and need repair. It is a comprehensive plan in which all entities play a role, Hodges said. Having a plan in place allows for the county to receive mitigation funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deal with problems such as drainage, wind, rain, tornadoes, vulnerable housing and evacuation.
Hodges said the main purpose is getting everybody in a safe area, but the mitigation money allows the county to make that area safe rather than always moving people out of an unsafe area.
Mitigation funds are received in different ways. If the county’s plan is approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and then FEMA, funds are released about a year later. If a disaster happens, like a hurricane, the county would receive 20 percent of the cost of the storm in mitigation funds to repair damage.
Hodges said Liberty County hasn’t been hit directly by a hurricane in 100 years. However, if a hurricane disaster happens elsewhere in Georgia, Hodges said that the federal government will still send mitigation funds because everything is processed as a state.
“We had ice storms in the upper-northern part of the state. It made Georgia available for mitigation funding, not just that area but all of Georgia,” he said. “A lot of times, we don’t get near as much money as they did where it happened, but you get some mitigation money that gets turned loose that you can do some projects with. It may not be a direct impact in your backyard, but you get the benefits of it by having this (mitigation plan).”
Hodges said that after receiving those funds, the committee will go through the list of priority projects and repairs and choose which ones to do based on the amount of funds.
There sometimes are stipulations with certain funds, in which they can be used only for specific projects. Hodges gave the example that if an ice storm occurred, the federal government might release funds for only cold-based repairs. Mitigation funds also go towards education projects, repetitive-loss buyouts and training for active shooters.
“When one of the schools goes on lockdown, it’s full of students, but when you go to the front door, it looks like it’s closed down, and that’s the whole purpose. But all of that is things you can do (with mitigation funds),” Hodges said.
Public feedback is needed to help identify problems that are possibly overlooked and missed.
“A lot of times, people don’t feel like they have a voice. They’ll say, ‘How come nobody thought about this or thought about that?’ They have an opportunity at this meeting to voice a concern,” Deputy Director for LCMEA Larry Logan said. “So it’s very important for them to come out. They can come out and look at the plan and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t being considered.’ Then the writers at that time can go back and make adjustments.”
Hodges said that the mitigation plan belongs to the people
“We want to be able to say what they (the public) like about it,” he said. “Not only that, but we would like them to know what we’re doing. They’re welcome to come and look at what we’ve done so far and just be a part of the project.”
Logan wants the community members to think about the plan and ask themselves how things can be done better and what should be added and also critique the plan.
Liberty EMA will take calls to answer questions about the hazard mitigation plan before the meeting. Call the EMA at 368-2201.