Miller County plans repairs through workforce development program, grants

The Miller County Commission signed an agreement Friday with the Central Region Workforce Investment Board (C-WIB) to hire temporary employees for road maintenance work in response to two flooding-prompted disaster declarations in 2013.

The work will be paid for through two U.S. Department of Labor grants. The first will provide $452,760 to address damage in the northern portion of Miller County sustained during Disaster No. 4130 in late May, and the second will split $652,527 between Miller and Camden counties for repairs related to August’s Disaster No. 4144. Miller County sustained most of its August flood damage in the southern district.

The arrangement comes at virtually no cost to the county, while bringing temporary jobs to the area.

“It puts people to work. That’s the key here,” said Miller County Presiding Commissioner Tom Wright.

C-WIB plans to employ about 90 workers over two years in $10- and $13-per-hour jobs between the two grants. Employees are limited to 1,040 hours of work before being replaced by new crew members to provide more temporary jobs.

“It’s good and bad. If you have good workers you hate to let them go,” Wright said. “It puts more people to work because crews switch every six months.”

The temporary employment through C-WIB also gives county officials an opportunity to evaluate workers for potential county employment in the future.

In addition to employees’ wages, the grants will fund the purchase of appropriate safety equipment for workers as well as rental of construction equipment.

“The only cost we have is supervision,” Wright said. “Our job is to point them to the sites.”

This project will address mostly smaller maintenance projects to keep roads passable and prevent them from sustaining further damage.

The county is still awaiting funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin making larger repairs, such as bridges that are still impassable and roads that are still limited to one-lane use. The process of identifying eligible projects began in November. Once approval for those funds comes through, FEMA will provide an estimated cost as well as a write-up of how the repairs should be made. Seventy-five percent of that cost will be covered by FEMA funds, with the other 25 percent paid for by combined state and county money. The county then will have 18 months to complete the work.

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