Public gets information at town meeting

By: Jael Pembrick - Staff writer

LAURINBURG — A town meeting and forum at Bright Hopewell Baptist Church on Thursday gave the public an update on the status of roads, schools and other areas after Hurricane Florence.

The church was packed from the front to the back with standing room only with folks frustrated over flooding, loss of power and lack of food.

“We had a housing problem before, the storm just made it worse,” said Kevin Patterson, county manager. “We are doing everything we can to deal with this historic situation and (have been) pulling assets across the U.S. to make it here.”

A representative from Laurinburg Housing Authority, Karen Leviner, could not answer all of the questions thrown her way. Many asked where they could go, would they be reimbursed for this month’s rent, and what could they do.

What she did report was that they know 28 families have to relocate and that the number of families will rise.

“Most families have been told if they need to pack and move because of mold,” said Leviner.

Representatives and officials from the city of Laurinburg council, county commissioners, local sheriff’s office and police department were present along with members from FEMA.

“We are asking that you keep your pictures of damage and receipts as proof and send copies to us,” said Scott Zaffram, FEMA liaison. “Once we collect it, with damage assessments, the county and the state representatives can go to the governor so he can make that request to the president.”

FEMA and local officials ask that anyone who has storm damage to apply for assistance. If Scotland County gets approved, those applications automatically get processed. Applications were made available for the public to sign up in the fellowship hall. Also, Zaffram recommends the FEMA app, which is available for Apple or Android users.

During the meeting, Health Department Director Kristen Patterson made an announcement that took many by surprise.

“If you stayed in the Red Cross shelter from Sept. 17 and on, the Health Department needs to check on people who stayed in the shelter,” said Patterson.

Department of Social Services Director April Sneed spoke to the public to clear up that only people who have received food stamps before can have them replaced right now.

“If we are declared for any programs like DSNAP, we will let you know. We will accept all applications,” said Sneed.

Sherriff Ralph Kersey reported that there are still roads they are finding that are washed out.

“Many people have been removing the cones we set out and accidents have occurred because of it,” said Kersey.

He said that many of his officers have been working 12- to 20-hour shifts to make sure people were safe.

Scotland Schools Superitendent Ron Hargrove spoke to ease parent’s minds about the safety of their children.

“We are working hard to get school started Monday, kids need normalcy. The cafeteria has been open to feed children breakfast and lunch since Wednesday,” said Hargrove.

When a parent asked why school would start again with the dangers of flooded roads, Hargrove said they were working on roads so children can get to school.

“I promise you as an elected official, children will not be on roads that are not safe,” said Herman Tyson, member on the Board of Education.

Near the end of the forum, Pastor Darrel “BJ” Gibson asked officials if they could meet with a smaller community formed team to discuss more in-depth topics and plan for the future. Patterson agreed.

Police Chief Darwin Williams left a resounding statement to encourage the crowd.

“We are not defined by our cloudy days… we will get through this together,” said Williams.

Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]

Jael Pembrick

Staff writer