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|Vidalia flood costs may exceed $3 million|
Mayor Hyram Copeland said the fight to save the buildings on the Vidalia riverfront from Mississippi flood waters may exceed $3 million and could reach $4 million by the time cleanup work is added to the tally.
"These are estimates," said Copeland. "Invoices are still coming in from contractors and for rental properties. We haven't received them all."
He said the primary goal once the water recedes from the riverfront is to get all buildings back into operation so that 300 jobs there can eventually be restored.
"I think we can do that within two weeks," he said.
In the meantime, he said the town is working with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for cost reimbursement.
"FEMA will cover the initial costs," Copeland said. "My understanding is that they will cover 75 percent of costs for the placement of the Hesco baskets" for temporary levee protection and "for all we did to prevent water from getting into the complexes. We're still talking to them about cleanup costs. I'm very optimistic they're going to continue to work with us on this."
The Mississippi River, continuing a slow fall, stood at 58.56 feet at Vidalia on June 1, more than 10 feet above flood stage. The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted in late April that the river would crest at 60 feet, then upped that crest to 65 feet in early May. Since that time, NWS lowered those crest expectations more than once.
On May 9, Vidalia completed a six-day levee construction project to protect the $75 million in public and private investment on the riverfront. Work crews have monitored and maintained the temporary levees for the past 23 days.
The Mississippi River crested May 20 at Vidalia at 61.8 feet. Flood stage is 48 feet.
Copeland said he is not sure what the financial losses will amount to for the businesses on the riverfront, including Comfort Suites, Riverpark Medical Center and Promise Hospital.
"They have lost revenue, their employees have had lost income and there will be some property loss," said Copeland.
"This cost these businesses a great deal of money each month they're closed. I think the hotel, hospital and doctor's complexes kept a few of their employees. We kept all of our employees. We had some of them doing other things."
He said there may be "a little damage as far as seepage water is concerned in the doctor's complex and in the hospital. I'm not sure how much."
Vidalia Riverfront Director H.L. Irvin said Tuesday that many of the events scheduled for May at the convention center were canceled and that all events for June have been canceled.
" I'm coming up with how much we actually lost in revenue for that time." said Irvin. "Hopefully, we'll be back in operation by July."
Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said "everything is holding good. We're expecting a slow fall on the river and are getting back into our normal routine. We're not out of danger yet but things are looking better every day."
He said parish roads outside the levee system will be in need of repair once the water recedes.
Concordia Director of Homeland Security Morris White said 145 structures -- basically homes or camps outside the levee system -- are under water or partially flooded in Concordia.
Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber said mortgage filings in Concordia totaled 500 in a two-week period, eclipsing the total normally filed in a year.
"The mortgages were made in most cases so homeowners could obtain flood insurance without the 30-day waiting period," said Webber. "I did mine for that reason and I assume most of the others did, too."
Fifth District Levee Board President Reynold Minsky said Tuesday that a traffic ban on the Mississippi River levee traffic will be lifted June 8.
He said by then the river is expected to be at 49 feet at Vicksburg, down from the record crest of 57.1 feet on May 19. Flood stage is 43 feet.
"We conferred with the Corps on this decision," said Minsky.
He said that workers continue to monitor sand boils and levee conditions but that overall "things are easing up a bit."
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