CRISFIELD — The construction of new houses by the faith-based Somerset County Long Term Recovery Committee is coming to a close. A two-day celebration to thank those who stepped up after superstorm Sandy washed through the county is being scheduled for August.
The non-profit group that organized in late 2012 and partnered with 42 agencies is on track to build 21 replacement homes. Where initially it was expected to end operations and close the Kamp Kairos work camp on Sept. 30, board members are pursuing an opportunity with FEMA to be the Agency of Record for a project that will elevate homes out of the floodplain.
A memorandum of understanding will be signed once it passes legal review.
The plan is for FEMA to provide the funding to lift homes onto new foundations and coordination of this will be with MEMA and the SCLTRC’s construction manager, Kim Hopkins, who is committed to stay on for one more year. Work crews will be used as an in-kind contribution toward the resident’s 25 percent financial commitment.
Pastor Phil Huber, a key leader of the SCLTRC as coordinator of Lutheran Partners in Disaster Response, said some 25 homeowners met about the opportunity to elevate their homes and at least eight have remained committed to the process. “Eighty to 90 percent of the homes in Crisfield could stand to be elevated,” he said. Each will be raised two feet above the floodplain.
The work is not in direct response to the damage caused by the late October 2012 hurricane, but Pastor Thom Sinnott of Lutheran Disaster Response said these houses will stand ready for the next weather emergency.
Of the more than $4.2 million spent by the recovery committee, just over $1 million was from the Lutherans with the Episcopal congregations adding some $750,000. The American Red Cross injected more than $1.5 million which demonstrates the diversity of the donor pool which also included the United Way with more than $150,000.
What will also take place in the coming weeks is a discussion on what other projects the 501(c)(3) can support. “There’s certainly work to be done in Somerset County,” Pastor Sinnott said, adding that he would like to see it remain “an active group.”
For example there are vacant lots that were proposed to become affordable housing for families. A community housing group, similar to the Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Service, could also be established.
Pastor Huber said in his conversations with Mayor Kim Lawson, the feeling is that the city “hates to see a staff that is functioning and working, and not be here anymore when we still have some housing needs.”
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has restored some 220 houses damaged by Sandy and early on committed some $1 million to its efforts. Its volunteer coordinator anticipates continuing to serve the community to handle home repair projects. Ben Bottie said he sees “enormous need” beyond the Sept. 30 closing date and would welcome a continued partnership with the SCLTRC.
Whatever form the recovery committee takes, Sept. 30 is fast approaching and members will iron out a plan in the coming weeks. As for the celebration on Aug. 15-16, major funding for this is through the American Legion Stanley Cochrane Post 16, which is providing $2,000. Phil Riggin, a former post commander and SCLTRC board member, is leading the committee planning the events. He said there were a lot of people who did not meet the criteria to be a part of the county’s Sandy recovery program, and the SCLTRC has “been the safety net.”
The committee is currently compiling a file it calls “Legacy Project” to include all aspects of its work, and its organizational structure. It will be available should a disaster recovery group need to organize in the future. “This would be a great thesis for somebody to do,” Mr. Riggin said.
The next committee meeting is Aug. 10.
Richard Crumbacker is the General Manager of the County Times. He can be reached at RCrumbacker@newszap.com