DENHAM SPRINGS – The City of Denham Springs received a long extension for completion of debris removal, but how much FEMA will pay remains uncertain.
Mayor Gerard Landry, who spoke at the Feb. 2 meeting of the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club, said he is working to get FEMA to foot the bill for the pickup of construction-related debris.
“This is a disaster, and all that stuff wouldn’t be in these yards if we didn’t have a disaster, so we’re arguing with FEMA to have them pick up the new debris,” Landry said.
He believes his city’s residents have felt the worst brunt of the issues with FEMA.
“I attribute that to the extremely slow response from the beginning, and I’ve been passionately outspoken about that slow response and the ridiculous rules,” Landry said.
He said he is seeking support from Congressman Garret Graves and U.S. senators Bill Cassidy to bring more support to residents of Denham Springs.
Landry wants a change in the protocol for disaster management. He believes changes to the Stafford Act would help make response more flexible.
“It will take an act of Congress to change it so FEMA has the ability to adjust to each disaster,” he said. “No two disasters are created equally.”
The state will receive the first $438 million in flood relief money in March or April. The additional $1.2 billion will arrive in July or August.
Landry fears the demographics that fit the HUD guidelines for relief money do not fit those of Denham Springs.
“It’s very important to put up a fight to get what we need so we can go back home, take care of our kids and let them go back to school,” he said.
Financial issues also pose a challenge for city government.
Landry said he does not want to get comfortable with the continuous hikes in continuous hikes in sales tax revenue. He believes the streak of increased tax dollars month to month since September will eventually subside.
“People will eventually stop buying sheet rock and cars,” he said. “We may ride a wave for a year or so, but we’ll eventually see it taper.”