Through Richland County’s use of federal disaster recovery funds, a resident displaced by the October 2015 flood now has a new house to call home.
Judith Spry is the first of several flood survivors to receive a new house through the County’s flood recovery program. She was joined Thursday by family, friends and Richland County officials at a dedication ceremony to welcome her into her new mobile home near Cushman Road.
“I am so grateful for today,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m so happy that today is here.”
Richland County is in the process of repairing or replacing more than 300 flood-damaged homes using federal funding. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided more than $30 million to help Richland County rebuild from the historic flood. That funding is dispersed through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, which is overseen by Richland County’s Office of Community Development.
Appropriately, this week is recognized as National Community Development Week, which aims to celebrate how federal funding makes a difference in the lives of local people, like Spry.
“Rebuilding has not been easy,” said Richland County Councilwoman Yvonne McBride, who is Spry’s District 3 representative. “We’ve gone door to door in the community spreading our recovery efforts. The journey is far from over … but for the first home to be constructed in my district, I am beyond elated! We are simply grateful.”
Richland County Council has been a vital part of the flood recovery process. Soon after the disaster, Council allocated $1.5 million to emergency response efforts; directed staff to pursue federal funding assistance; appointed a “Recovery Chief” to facilitate the recovery process; and established the resident- based Blue Ribbon Committee, which continues to meet to make recommendations about flood recovery priorities.
Richland County Council Chair Joyce Dickerson, District 2 and Greg Pearce, District 6, who is chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, spoke at Thursday’s celebration. Together with Councilman Jim Manning, District 8, councilmembers helped Spry ceremonially cut the ribbon for her new home.
Although it’s been more than two years since the disaster occurred, Richland County is ahead of the average four-to-six year recovery timeline when involving federal funding, said Local Disaster Recovery Chief Mike King.
“I am grateful that the County’s recovery plan has been successful,” he said. “As a reflection of the guiding principles of FEMA National Disaster Recovery Framework; the plan stresses the importance of leadership, local primacy, engaged partnerships and inclusiveness, unity of effort, flexibility, timeliness, resilience and sustainability. We will continue to maintain these principles as we move forward in our recovery efforts and aim to keep our residents involved every step of the way. ”
Since notifying Spry that her application for flood recovery aid was accepted and she would receive a replacement mobile home, Richland County flood recovery staff worked closely with her throughout the construction process. Staff reviewed documents and contracts word-for-word with her; provided options for choosing flooring, cupboards, paint colors and siding, and kept her informed of the building progress and move-in date.
Spry said the first meal she’ll cook in her new home will be a celebratory feast.
“It’s going to be a big spread,” she said. “It’s going to be like Thanksgiving dinner, and you’re all invited. It feels good to be home.”