ELIZABETHTOWN — State legislators want to know what can be done to be better prepared for a disaster.
On Friday, Bladen County officials met with representatives from the state who have been tasked with advising legislators about unmet needs that still exist and what the lawmakers can do going forward. The group is visiting each of the 50 counties impacted by Hurricane Matthew and meeting with county leaders for feedback and suggestions. At Friday’s meeting at the courthouse were Bladen County emergency personnel, economic developers, elected officials, and county and town administrators.
Suggestions were divided into the following four categories: housing, economic development, infrastructure, and environment. Concerns and suggestions were thrown out, and the brainstorming session generated much feedback from those present.
Under “housing” were suggestions about identifying flood-prone areas and finding affordable housing.
Economic development concerns were plentiful. Several guests voiced issues with the hit Bladenboro businesses suffered and the lack of grant money available for help. Bladen County Emergency Services Director Bradley Kinlaw said his greatest need is state funds for volunteers.
“We just need more volunteers so we can get to calls quicker,” he said.
Generators were a hot topic among the participants. Several guests would like to see the shelters and water supplies equipped with generators, and one person said power needed to be back on to industries in a more timely manner. The idea of a central storage unit for generators to be shared was thrown out.
The suggestion shared by the most people, however, concerned the environment. No fewer than four of the people present had concerns, voiced one way or another, about cleaning out swamps and rivers. Big Swamp, South River, Black River, and Bryant Swamp were specifically named as problem areas.
“Having them cleaned out wouldn’t have prevented the flash flooding we saw with Hurricane Matthew, and I won’t say it would have prevented the later flooding, but I do think it would have emptied the water out more quickly,” said Kinlaw. “Rather than it sitting around for a week, maybe it would have been gone in four days. It’s hard to say how much it will help, but I definitely think it would help.”
After the meeting, county leaders and state representatives stayed around for an open meeting to hear from the public about its concerns. The representatives who led the meeting will be taking the concerns back to lawmakers.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.