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December 12, 2006

eNewsletter from the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal

www.charlestonchronicle.net/recovery

 

Economic Development Program

Coastal communities are currently applying for $500 million to fund economic development projects related to Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi Development Authority is administering the Economic Development Program, which is funded by $5.4 billion in Community Development Block Grants handed down by Congress for hurricane recovery efforts.

 

The funding will be used for three purposes: traditional economic development ($340 million), rebuilding downtown commercial areas damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina ($150 million) and community planning for the six coastal counties ($10 million).

 

 

Reducing the Cost of Flood Insurance

 

It really pays to protect your home or building from the risk of flood. Homeowners and communities who take added measures to protect their property from flood damages are rewarded with lower rates under the National Flood Insurance Program.

 

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides federally-backed flood insurance for residents in flood-prone areas, offers lower premiums on residential structures designed with flood mitigation features beyond NFIP minimum requirements. For instance, building a home just one foot higher than the community’s flood elevation ordinance requirement can result in a substantial reduction in flood insurance premiums.

 

The Mississippi Development Authority is providing elevation grants to compensate homeowners for the added costs of protecting their homes from flood. Applicants for the Homeowners Assistance Program are eligible for up to $30,000 to raise their homes or rebuild their homes to higher elevations.

 

Communities can provide their residents with lower flood insurance premiums by participating in the NFIP’s Community Rating System. The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. Participating communities receive points for undertaking flood mitigation activities and are given a classification based on points received. The classification determines the flood premium discount received by the community.

 

Waveland recently moved up to a Class 5 ranking, the highest CRS rating in the state. The Class 5 ranking will result in a 25 percent discount in flood insurance premiums for Waveland residents. Only three percent of CRS communities nationwide have achieved a Class 5 ranking, and a total of only four communities are ranked higher than Class 5.

 

All residents are encouraged to protect their home from the risk of flood, even if their home is not located in a designated floodplain. For more information on the NFIP, go to www.floodsmart.gov. Communities seeking information on the Community Rating System should visit the CRS Resource Center at http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/CRS/.

 

KaBOOM! Playground Build

KaBOOM! has committed to build 100 playgrounds in two years for Gulf Coast communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Bay St. Louis was the site of the first Operation Playground build in December 2005. As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was being commemorated, KaBOOM!, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems and Hands On Network built 10 new playspaces in just four days, investing more than $1 million. By the end of 2006 they will have completed 31 playgrounds with the help of over 10,000 volunteers and numerous corporate and municipal partners. Twenty-one of these projects have taken place in Mississippi and projects are being scheduled for next year, including a build in Gautier on January 30th. 

 

KaBOOM! also is holding its University of Play in New Orleans from February 8 through February 10, 2006. This conference will provide attendees with information on the tools and resources available to build and promote playspaces in their communities. The focus will be on playgrounds, skateparks and sports fields. Various workshops will be held on topics such as refurbishing an existing playground, fundraisers, grant writing and more.

 

More information on KaBOOM! can be found on its website, www.kaboom.org.

 

Alternative Housing Pilot Program

An announcement is expected soon from the Federal Emergency Management Agency concerning the Alternative Housing Pilot Program. Congress appropriated $400 million in June 2006 for the development of alternative approaches to disaster housing. Five states are competing for a share of the $400 million: Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Alabama.

 

The State of Mississippi has led the movement to find a more suitable replacement for travel trailers and mobile homes as long-term emergency housing. The first alternative housing designs were created at the Mississippi Renewal Forum, convened by the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal in October 2005. The cottage design produced at the forum generated substantial interest from around the country on the issue of disaster emergency housing.

 

Since that time, the State of Mississippi has actively pursued the issue of replacing travel trailers for its residents. In June, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran successfully proposed the allocation of funds to support alternative temporary housing solutions.

 

The state has collaborated with an expert team of architects and organizations to create alternative housing solutions, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University, the Federation of American Scientists, and the architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss.

 

Master Urban Forester Program

The Mississippi Urban Forest Council is offering free training to communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The Master Urban Forester Program will provide 25 hours in urban forestry training to South Mississippi residents. In exchange, trainees must perform 25 hours of community service in their community.

 

Urban forests are the trees and other vegetation that grow in places where people live, work and play. This includes areas ranging from small communities in rural areas to large cities. Trees on public and private land, along streets, in residential area, parks and commercial developments are part of the urban forest. This training is designed to help residents better understand and communicate the advantages and expenses associated with the growth and management of urban forests.

 

Training will begin in January 2007 on a first come, first serve basis. Materials will be included free of charge. For more information, contact the Mississippi Urban Forest Council at 601-856-1660 or email Executive Director Donna Yowell at .  More information on the Mississippi Urban Forest Council can be found on their website, www.msurbanforest.com.