Chuck Fleischmann talks FEMA money and redistricting with Bradley leaders

photo Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis, second from left, talks Thursday during a roundtable meeting with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., center, at the Cleveland / Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - More than eight months after a tornado devastated Bradley County, the local government still is awaiting cleanup money from Uncle Sam.

"Any FEMA people in the room today?" Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis asked during a transportation and infrastructure roundtable hosted by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.

Nobody said anything, so Davis leaned across a crowded boardroom table and plowed ahead, simultaneously thanking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance and wondering where the agency's reimbursement was.

"I'll really love them when I get a check," he said.

FEMA promised 90 percent reimbursement to local governments that helped with debris removal, Davis said. Workers cleared the last of the damaged trees, houses and other debris in July, but representatives from Bradley County, Cleveland and its affiliated utility companies said FEMA still hasn't repaid up to $10 million.

"I didn't know anything about the funding issues," Fleischmann said from the head of the table. He later promised to look into the situation.

The who's-in-charge FEMA discussion took on greater significance when Fleischmann brought up the redistricting process to audible sighs. Under a plan approved Thursday by the Tennessee House, Bradley County is split between the 3rd and 4th congressional districts.

All of Bradley County has been in Fleischmann's 3rd District.

Fleischmann shares Jefferson County with U.S. Rep. Phil Roe and Roane County with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, both Republicans. He said he'll keep about 40 percent of Bradley County under the new plan, adding "there are some advantages" to having two members of Congress represent a county.

"And there are some challenges, no question about that," he said. "I live right down the road in Ooltewah. It's going to be interesting - I'll be able to drive maybe 15 minutes and not be in my district and drive 21/2 hours north and be there."

DesJarlais represents the 4th District. The GOP-led state Senate is expected to approve the redistricting plan today.

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