Wilmington City Council to vote on additional $8.5 million in Florence recovery funding

Wilmington City Council to vote on additional $8.5 million in Florence recovery funding

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington continues to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence a month after the storm, but now it’s the city’s bottom line that is taking the beating.

At its Monday, Oct. 15 agenda briefing, the Wilmington City Council discussed several measures of continued funding for recovery after Hurricane Florence. During Tuesday’s regular meeting the council will vote on a funding measure for an additional $8.5 million for debris removal, building repairs and employee pay.

“This event really was quite a lot more costly than most of the hurricanes in recent memory,” said Communications Director Malissa Talbert.

Debris removal in particular, which is estimated to cost upward of $20 million, is a major driving factor in that high cost.

City staff said the $8.5 million will be pulled from the city’s debt service fund, rather than the general fund, but the city will still be able to meet its obligations.

In addition to the debris removal cost, the city will need up to $5 million to repair damage to city facilities. Part of that will be a $250,000 contract with ServPro to mitigate water damage at the Wilmington Convention Center — another item on Tuesday’s agenda.

According to the agenda, the convention center sustained significant water damage from leaks and water blowing in through the windows and vents. The water damage then led to mold in the walls and carpets, along with other issues from the climate control being off for at least five days.

“We’re still assessing the convention center," Talbert said. "We don’t know quite what the extent of the damage is. We are doing an initial appropriation at this meeting, $250,000, to just pay for the initial clean up. We’re, again, still doing an assessment, but we’re very fortunate that even though that sustained some damage, most of our other buildings in the city really didn’t significant damage.”

FEMA and the state are expected to reimburse the city for the majority of those costs, but it could take up to two years.

Documents found by WECT indicate construction costs on top of the water mitigation may cost an additional $260,000.

On top of the recovery efforts, a portion of the funds up for a vote Tuesday would be used to give city employees who worked the storm a reward for their efforts.

“It’s not just our job, it’s our community,” Talbert said. “So tomorrow night one of the appropriations, a small amount, is to provide a bonus for the hourly employees, sort of our front line workers who were out there doing clean up, really almost during the storm, certainly soon there after.”

Employees who are exempt, or not hourly, will be getting additional time off.

Talbert said the city came into hurricane season with about $30 million in reserves, and even after everything from Florence, the city still has plenty to spare in case of other issues that arise.

“We have a very healthy savings account,” she said, “and we do that just exactly for things like this, because we are a coastal community.”

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