BENTON - Beginning one year from Jan. 1, communities and counties that fail to plan for disasters can expect to get no help from the federal government, according to Joe Burton, Scott County E-911 administrator.
Burton said the federal government has changed the criteria for awarding disaster relief funds. To remain eligible for federal disaster funds, every community and county must have a written hazard mitigation plan in place by Jan. 1, 2004, Burton said. "It's a nationwide thing, not just the state of Missouri."
All incorporated municipalities will be considered a "community" and will be required to have a plan in place, according to Burton.
Counties and cities who do not come up with a plan by the deadline "will get no funding from the federal government should a disaster happen," Burton noted.
Other states have already opted not to draft plans and participate, according to Burton. "They said they didn't have the funds to write their plans and put them into place."
Scott County is among the five Missouri counties selected from this region to receive financial assistance for their plans.
The Bootheel Regional Planning Commission will write plans for Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Cape Girardeau counties. "It's going to be a major task for the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission," said Burton. "The best part for us is we won't have to put any money into it."
The cost of drafting the plans will be covered by the State Emergency Management Agency.
Counties bordered by the Mississippi River were selected for assistance based on their past flooding disaster declarations, Burton said, although past federal buyouts of flooded property make it likely Cape and Scott counties will not have future flooding claims from the river.
Burton said they will need to form a committee made up of representatives of the county's communities to advise the BRPC on their needs.
Once completed, each county or community's plan must first be approved by SEMA and then by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Then we'd be set for getting funding," said Burton.
Plans will typically include things like putting up warning sirens for tornadoes, establishing building codes which consider the area's potential disasters, flood control measures, and even commerce mitigation in which businesses plan for ways to stay open in the event of a disaster, Burton said.
Counties and communities will not be forced to actually implement their plans because most won't be able to afford it, Burton said.
When federal mitigation funds are allocated, however, they will go toward implementing items appearing in approved plans while measures not appearing in the plans will not be funded.
In other Scott County news:
* The west end of County Highway 504, closed recently by county commissioners due to a rusted out culvert at Blue Ditch, should be open in time for the holiday weekend, according to Commissioner Jamie Burger.
County road and bridge crews are slated to replace the pipe today, he said during Tuesday's county commission meeting.
Burger also reported the bridge on County Highway 427 south of Morley should be open soon with crews just waiting on guard rails.
* The courthouse will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.