published Friday, January 20th, 2012

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann pledges Bradley County storm payments


by Chris Carroll
U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann R-Tenn., talks about his first 100 days in Congress as he meets with reporters in his office in the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building in downtown Chattanooga on Monday.
U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann R-Tenn., talks about his first 100 days in Congress as he meets with reporters in his office in the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building in downtown Chattanooga on Monday.
Photo by John Rawlston.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said the federal government would reimburse Bradley County for tornado cleanup costs within 90 days "if everything goes smoothly."

But emergency management officials said the county shouldn't expect an immediate windfall.

A news release sent by the congressman's staff said the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency will be "mailing reimbursement checks within the next 60 or 90 days."

"Just this month, FEMA [sent] the funds to TEMA and the state of Tennessee," the news release said.

That's not the whole story, according to TEMA spokesman Jeremy Heidt.

"I don't want the impression to be that they'll get a check for the full amount immediately," he said. "As they submit reimbursement paperwork, they'll get reimbursable money back."

Last April's tornado and storms damaged hundreds of cars, homes and trees, leaving local governments to pick up the wreckage with the promise of eventual federal reimbursement.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said Bradley, Cleveland and its utilities ran up a $10 million cleanup bill. At a roundtable hosted by Fleischmann last week, Davis said the federal government still hadn't paid up.

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Fleischmann said he would look into it.

Various kinks appear to be ironed out. Assuming "they've done all the proper stuff," Heidt said, local governments will begin receiving 75 percent reimbursements, not 90 percent as Davis said last week. The remaining 25 percent is split between local and state governments.

Fleischmann's news release quoted Davis thanking the congressman.

"I look forward to receiving the reimbursements from TEMA in the near future," Davis said.

Fleischmann said he was "frustrated" about the process, but ultimately happy that checks soon will be in the mail.

"It is important that we help those who provided the much-needed support in the immediate aftermath of the storms," Fleischmann said.

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