FEMA not funding private road cleanup in Chatham Co.

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - We're following up on the news that Chatham County's application for storm debris cleanup on private roads has been denied by FEMA.

This decision affects people living on privately maintained roads or streets, or in gated communities in certain areas of Chatham County. The FEMA representative explained to me that the determination whether or not to clean up private roads and neighborhoods depends on each case.

Chatham County has been working for weeks to clear debris from the public roadways of the unincorporated areas of the county, which is a process they estimate will take several more months, but on FEMA and the state's and local governments dime. But for the people living on private roads or in gated communities in those unincorporated areas, their debris removal will come at a cost to local taxpayers, unless FEMA reverses their initial decision.

"If they show that the debris poses an immediate threat to the life, public safety or health of the community, they have to have some kind of documentation. If they can show that there is a threat, then they must submit that appeal within 60 days of receiving that determination," said Alexa Lopez, a FEMA spokeswoman.

Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter gave us the news Tuesday that his office is helping Chatham County appeal FEMA's decision to deny the request for reimbursement on private roads and gated communities debris cleanup.

A spokeswoman with Chatham County says they aren't going to comment on that decision, or on their plans moving forward until after this week's county commission meeting.

Tybee Island filed an application separately from Chatham County's. There are nearly 90 percent of roadway designated as private on the island, but only one gated neighborhood. Without the guarantee of some degree of federal reimbursement for debris pickup on those private roads, the City of Tybee would have to pick up the tab. To avoid potentially taking millions out of reserve funds, Tybee is waiting to hear FEMA's decision before they touch the piles of debris that still remain along, and at the ends, of private roads.

"We are still trying to get an answer from FEMA. We know they have turned down Chatham County, and that's being appealed, so we are still kind of holding out, and waiting on that. Our last resort is to go in there is a city and move the debris out of the street. That's going to be a while," said Barry Brown, Mayor Pro-Tem, Tybee Island.

"You never know what's going to happen, what the cleanup will look like, and I think knowing that there will be an unknown is something that we are all very aware of now. Hopefully, the city will be able to come up with a solution," said Amy Gaster, who lives down a private lane on Tybee.

The mayor pro-tem says council will have to talk about solutions soon, especially if FEMA denies their application like they did Chatham County's.

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