LUMBERTON — It’s been slow going, but progress is being made to repair the damage done by Hurricane Matthew to the city’s public housing and to get displaced residents back into the homes.
The storm that struck in October damaged 267 of the 729 units operated by the Housing Authority of the city of Lumberton, said Adrian Lowery, its deputy director. To date 11 of the damaged housing units have been repaired and can be occupied. Ten of them were repaired by the authority’s maintenance personnel and one by a contractor.
“So we’ve got the number down to 256 units off line,” said Lowery, who joined the authority in April.
“Right in the middle of the aftermath,” Lowery said with a wry smile.
One of the damaged units in Turner Terrace became home to a displaced family on Wednesday.
Billy Wayne Lindsey, his wife and their two children were living in Turner Terrace when Hurricane Matthew struck on Oct. 8. They went outside after the storm passed and saw floodwaters rushing into the housing complex. They left before before the water engulfed their home.
For a while they took advantage of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that allowed them to live temporarily in a motel. Then time ran out on that option.
“We were homeless,” Lindsey said.
They returned to Turner Terrace when they learned a repaired unit was available.
“I thank God for ya’ll,” Lindsey said.
The authority hopes to have more damaged units ready for occupancy soon. Repairs to seven units were scheduled to be completed by Friday of this week.
The authority’s board approved on June 19 a contract for repairs to 28 three-bedroom units in Weaver Court, located off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Lowery said. That contract should be signed soon, with a goal of having the work completed in 90 days.
“Weaver Court is the first site we really hit hard and focused our attention to get up and running,” Lowery said.
Once those units are repaired, the authority will concentrate on repairs to 23 other Weaver Court units, he said. If all goes as planned, there should be less than 150 units left to repair as of Jan. 1. The units at Myers Court and Hilton Heights may never be repaired because the complexes have been designated as being below the flood plain. Elevating and repairing the units may prove to be too costly.
Some of the current rehabilitation work is being done by the authority’s maintenance personnel, who also must perform their daily duties, Lowery said. The authority also is making use of a Lumber River Council of Governments program that finds work for displaced workers.
Still, progress can be slow, in part because of the governmental process of identifying needed repairs, writing up work projects and getting them approved, receiving money to initiate the work, and then bidding out contracts.
“There is a lot of things that play into when you’re working with FEMA,” Lowery said.
The authority has received $927,818. 75 from FEMA, Lowery said. The authority has developed $3.4 million in work projects to present to FEMA. If the projects are approved, FEMA will issue 75 percent of the cost to complete each project. The other 25 percent will come from FEMA via the state government.
“The HACL has been very appreciative of all the support from the federal, state and local governments,” Lowery said. “The city of Lumberton has been a great help.”
The authority is leasing from the city a building on Sycamore Street for use by its administrative staff. The storm and resulting flooding forced the authority to abandon its administrative and maintenance building in Hilton Heights, on King Street. The maintenance staff was relocated to Rozier Homes on Seneca Street.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.