The West Point Board of Mayor and Selectmen adopted a mutual aid agreement Tuesday that would allow the city to offer assistance to residents affected by disasters, such as tornadoes or floods.
Since Clay County was given a federal disaster declaration Monday, residents affected by the recent tornado are eligible to receive individual assistance for housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses not paid for by the homeowner's insurance or another assistance programs.
Several department within the city, such as the Electric Department and Public Works, are assisting Clay County in the clean up of damage caused by the April 27 EF3 tornado in Montpelier. This and any other assistance given from the city would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if requested by another government body.
The Mutual Aid Agreement doesn't require the city to give aid, but it authorizes the city to do so if a request is made for assistance.
Ward 3 selectman Charles Collins expressed his concern about part of the agreement that states the “rendering of aid is entirely at the discretion of the Aiding Signature.” Collins said he wanted to make sure that everyone who asks for assistance receives assistance, instead of aid being given to select individuals. Randy Jones, chief administrative officer, said the city will help as many people as they can with the resources it has. Mayor Scott Ross explained that discretion in this case means the city can send aid, such as manpower and equipment, if they have it, but if the city does not have manpower or equipment to send, then they don't have to send anything.
“We want to do what we can do, but we might just be limited by our resources,” Ross said.
The board also adopted an emergency declaration on the city of West Point due to the April 15 flooding that caused extensive damage to homes and other properties within the city. The declaration allows the city to work on private property in some instances to prevent further damage from flooding. The city can assist in the removal of debris, cleaning of ditches and flood damage clean up and is not required to get easements on properties work is performed on, although the city must ask permission from landowners to work on their property.
“What happened on April 15 is highly unusual. I've been told that we had places to flood that never flooded before,” Ross said. “I hope this will give us the ability to prevent that.”
Every 30 days, the board will have to look at whether or not the declaration should remain or be lifted. The Mississippi emergency declaration code states that cities and counties should terminate the declaration at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant.