After Hurricane Katrina, the city of Meridian had 1,500 downed trees and 1,000 homes damaged. Of those homes, 300 received major damage and 30 were destroyed. In light of this and other problems brought about by the storm, a preliminary estimate shows that recovery efforts in Meridian alone will costs more than $3,000,000.
To help with the costs, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith says the city is prepared to take out any needed short-term loans. He says the good news is that FEMA will reimburse most of the money. The bad news is that it could take some time before the city receives it.
"In the past it has taken as long as four years to get a final reimbursement from FEMA," says Smith.
In fact, he says the city is still waiting for FEMA reimbursements for Hurricane Ivan and three separate floods which occurred last year.
In the meantime while the city waits for the reimbursements, Mayor Smith says the stretch in funding could create some strains and possibly a tax increase.
"We certainly do not anticipate one but I would be very foolish and presumptuous to stand here and to tell you that I know the future and I know the demands and say unequivocally anything about future revenues. ?
Meanwhile, the good news is that unlike in New Orleans, which is having to handle financial woes through layoffs, administrators in Meridian say layoffs or hiring freezes are not planned. However, what is anticipated is the opening of a FEMA office in Meridian. The question now is when.
"We continue to push that and as soon as we have an answer we'll tell you," says Smith.
If things go well, Mayor Smith says that answer could come by this weekend.