Local leaders lobby in Raleigh for hurricane recovery funding, future support

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Local leaders travel to Raleigh to discuss hurricane funding (Photo: WCTI)

RALEIGH, NC (WCTI/WWAY) — City leaders from all over our area paid a visit to the state capitol today with one goal in mind, to be a voice for those still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Mayors from Wilmington, New Bern, Kinston, Wallace, Surf City and Boiling Spring Lakes Mayor pro tem Steven Barger came together and traveled hours to make sure lawmakers don’t forget the need for funding.

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“We need action. That means that we need funding,” said Kinston Mayor Don Hardy.

That dire need for funding is why these Eastern North Carolina mayors formed what they call an alliance – and headed to Raleigh together – to fight for funding together. New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw says with the need for recovery still so great in our region, we can’t afford to to miss out on a penny of state and federal help.

“This was a 13 million dollar storm for New Bern. We’re used to 3 and 4 million dollar clean ups. So this was going to financially devastate our city,” Outlaw said.

Also feeling the pinch, Boiling Spring Lakes.

Barger said Boiling Spring Lakes had just over $21 million in damages. They lost three dams, had excessive flooding, and people in temporary housing. So far, they have completed about $1.5 million of storm recovery but they’re trying to bridge the gap between city funding and FEMA funding.

The city of 6,700 people only has a fund balance of around $2 million, a far cry from what recovery will cost.

“You can see the problems we’re currently having,” Barger said. “We still have $18 million of work to do. Our ability to go forward and complete these recovery projects is really going to be hard.”

The need for funding goes beyond just recovery efforts. City leaders and lawmakers both agree that equally as important is improving how we handle the next storm, not if— but when— it comes.

“We need to be prepared, not a day late but a day early,” said Senator Harper Peterson.

”We are about 5 months away from Hurricane Season and we don’t know what’s going to happen in that point in time,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

And since heavy flooding during the hurricane left some people cut off from emergency responders, improving that transportation infrastructure is number one on the list.

“Probably almost half our land was covered by water after the hurricane. All our major roads pretty much closed, secondary roads. You couldn’t get around in Pender County,” said Pender County Commission Chairman George Brown. “Three road completely severed New Hanover County and Pender County from Raleigh.”

Even though the discussion  took place between state and city leaders, you too can be part of the alliance to help the area bounce back from Florence. One of the things mentioned  during that discussion is the difficulty small businesses are having after the hurricane.

Many have closed down or moved away— and that hurts our economy. By going to your local shops, cafes and restaurants, you can help rebuild our business— and our economy— and help make Eastern North Carolina that much stronger.